“ Address: Theodor-Heuss-Allee 2 / Bremen 28215 / Germany / Tel: 49-421-696400 „
~Come on Courtyard, Make my Day~
The two most wonderful words which every traveller loves to hear are surely those that make up the magical expression 'free upgrade'. Admittedly there's a world of difference between a free upgrade in a swanky hotel or on a long haul flight and a free upgrade at the Travellodge or on a European flight but nonetheless, hear those two words and your spirits will almost certainly leap and that's what they did on my first visit to the Courtyard in Bremen.
I arrived at about 10pm at night. Most good upgrades come from late arrivals - mind you most "Sorry madam we gave your room to a tramp and you'll have to transfer to the other side of town to sleep in a cardboard box" experiences also arise out of late arrivals so it's not a tactic to play lightly. Stepping into the massive zig-zag shaped lobby I was taken aback by just how stylish the place was. I've always rather liked Courtyard hotels and their big brother brand Marriott is my favourite hotel chain so I shouldn't have been surprised but seeing such a lobby that looked like a set from an Elle Deco photo shoot was quite a surprise - particularly in Bremen of all places.
Entering by the very slowly rotating door at the Railway station end of the hotel, you pass the bar and restaurant with lots of dark wood, dozens of funky red lampshades and a handful of cute little curved seating 'booths' each with its own flat screen TV set into the walls. The reception desks are straight ahead and are quite small and I've subsequently found that check out in the morning can be a very time consuming business. The hotel occupies two buildings with a covered linkway between them. One of these is a protected building - the Lloyd Building - which dates back to 1913, whilst the other is a new construction. To date I've only been in the new building, which Courtyard refer to as the 'conference building'.
With my check-in completed, I bought myself a beer from the fridges in the hotel's 'Marketplace', a small area close to reception which is stocked with drinks and snacks. The hotel has fridges in the room but rather than stack them with stuff you don't actually want, you can buy things downstairs and then take them back to your room to keep cool.
~To the Room!~
Beer in one hand, suitcase in the other, I headed for the lifts where the room card is needed to activate movement. Fortunately this isn't a complex 'shove it in, pull it out, try again' business - you simply touch the card to a pad in the lift. Coming out of the lifts I was seriously impressed by the sense of space and the stylish design. On my second visit I took a colleague to my room to show her the place and she commented that all the other hotels in Bremen would have comfortably squeezed several extra rooms into the spacious corridors. You can sometimes feel like you're in a narrow oppressive tunnel in some hotel corridors but the Courtyard has built its corridors on the type of scale last seen in the times of crinolines when ladies could pass one another without having to hoik their skirts out of the way. Along the corridors are comfortable and attractive sofas which most likely will very rarely get sat on but they make the place look nice, and the bespoke carpet design is a delight of subtle colours and fascinating patterns. The walls are decorated with large black and white framed photos on the wall, most of them related to ship-building or ocean-going vessels. This might make more sense if the hotel were in Hamburg or even Bremerhaven but I struggled for the connection with Bremen. I did wonder if I'd just struck lucky with the upgrade and if the other floors were different but subsequent visits showed that everybody - regardless of room grade - gets lovely corridor space.
~Enough banging on about the corridors, you're no doubt thinking. What's the room like?~
Stepping into the room - after touching my card to the panel on the door - I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. The sense of space I'd noticed in the corridors continued into the room with everything that bit further apart than normal. Everything was just so new and indulgent and the room was enormous. This was truly a 4 cartwheel hotel room and there was zero risk of anyone tripping over anything because there was so much open carpet space.
I had a vestibule area with large wardrobes which hid away the iron and board, a room safe and a folded suitcase stand. The stand came out with me as I headed for the main part of the room where I found two double beds piled up with pillows and properly made up with quilts, crisp sheets and a colourful throw on the bottom. Two of my main annoyances with German hotels are the lack of decent pillows and the tendency to play 'duvet origami' - where the duvet is utterly needlessly folded sideways over the mattress for some reason that must make sense to Germans but is lost on the rest of us. So the Courtyard had already scored 100% on those two parameters. My third is black and white tiled bathroom floors but we'll come onto that later! The bed's were equipped with both standard bedside lights and directable reading lights.
The room was stylishly furnished in the highest quality materials. I had to pinch myself to remember that Courtyard is the 'budget' brand of Marriott because everything was just so nice. Near to the window I found a large green arm chair with a footstool and a coffee table. The desk area was a bit cluttered but was a nice dark Italian-style wood panel with a fridge under the TV (flat and big) but a lot of the workspace was taken up with an ice-bucket, glasses, bottled water, a lamp and a coffee tray so it was all a bit of a squeeze. They have some kind of free wired Internet access but I've struggled to make this work after getting it OK on the first evening and then found I couldn't get in without registering on the second day and I couldn't work out whether that would be charged or not. I switched to my Vodafone widget instead and even on my second visit I still couldn't work out quite how the access worked or whether it was free. The desk area is well lit with both a reading lamp and a strip light set into the wall above.
The room had very big windows with light sheers for daytime use and really good floor to ceiling blackout curtains for night time. Weirdly, the bathroom had another large window but it wasn't frosted which I felt was a seriously weird thing to do especially since the window looked out over an office block. I'm sure office workers have better things to do than watch hotel users pottering around the bathroom but a bit of frosting would have definitely improved things although it would have prevented me from realising just how close I was to the railway line. The other hotel I typically use in Bremen - the Intercity - is just the other side of the line and railway noise disturbs many of my nights there. At the Courtyard I was in spitting distance of the tracks and yet wasn't disturbed at all.
~Bremen's Best Bathrooms~
After nearly 20 years of business trips to Germany I've developed a theory that somewhere in the country there's an office - probably in the Bundesgesundheitsministerium (state health ministry) that spends its time issuing edicts that all hotel bathrooms - and the toilets in many offices and airports too - must have black and white checker-board tiled floors. It's like the entire country has undergone a collective surgical removal of bathroom design imagination. Stepping into my bathroom at the Courtyard I almost yelped with delight at the gorgeous brown floor tiles and their gingery counterparts on the walls. The only thing overwhelming me more than the absence of chess-board flooring was the presence of a bath - and not just any old bath, a really big one that would probably drown a shorter person than myself.
The bathroom was larger than many of the entire rooms I get at the Intercity hotel and I estimated it at around 12 foot by 8 foot in size. I just remembered number four on my list of "Things that bug me in German hotels" and that's towel theft. No, not the tendency of guests to leave with the towels in their luggage, my annoyance is with hotels where housekeeping remove the towels when they realise only one person is in the room. At the Intercity I often ask for an extra towel when I check in because I can't get all of me and a head of long hair dry on one titchy towel. I never ask for my towels to be changed and I always rehang them and nine times out of ten I will return to my room and discover they've pinched my second towel. WHY? I've already used it, I've not asked for it to be replaced, but it's gone. Rant over, and I'll tell you that the Courtyard had towels stacked up high enough for me to have invited a five aside football team over to get clean in my bathroom. Another nice touch was a long ottoman bench in the bathroom - who doesn't love having a better place to leave their clothes than on the floor?
The toilet was very German which will mean something to anyone who's familiar with their 'inspection' design. Apparently back in the days when toilets were first invented people had a lot of problems with worms - I believe it was something to do with eating a lot of pork but I can't rule out the possibility that I made that up. Consequently in Germanic countries (and sometimes even in Holland) you get toilets with what many call a 'poo shelf'. It means you can have a good look at what you've done before it flushes away. Generally newer hotels and work places have been getting rid of these and replacing them with more standard WC designs but this place had an ultramodern shape, wall-suspended WC but it still had the shelf. Don't say you never learn anything from one of my reviews.
The sink unit was modern and stylish in the 'basin on top of a wooden stand' style but the sink was set so far back on the granite top that you really need to lean over to avoid missing it when cleaning your teeth. A make-up or shaving mirror was provided and the room was well lit.
I slept like dead woman both nights of my stay, having to force myself to head down for breakfast. The Breakfast room is a large room with yet more of the nice funky stylish tables and benches. The selection of food is pretty standard and on my second visit (shortly before Easter) it was really rather poor - clearly indicating that they weren't full enough to pull out all the stops. I'm perhaps being a bit picky because all the usual things were there but somehow the service was a bit iffy. I couldn't find the plates, some of the cutlery was hiding and it seemed that it took the patience of Job to get a pot of coffee.
On my second visit I had a regular room and I had prepared myself for the possibility of disappointment but my preparation was unnecessary. The room again was beautifully decorated and the only major differences were the presence of just the one bed - a giant, ultracomfy king size - and a smaller bathroom. However even this had a bath, a nice washstand, plenty of towels and all the other things I'd loved in my first room.
Other facilities include an extensive business centre which supports a bank of conference rooms and there's also a fitness suite. I've used neither the fitness room nor the business centre so I cannot comment on either.
Location and Tips
The hotel faces the Bremen Messe (exhibition centre) and is likely to be very busy during trade shows or other events. It's located on the Messe side of the large Hauptbahnhof (central station) and you can easily reach the airport from the Bahnhofsplatz on the other side of the station using the number 6 tram. This takes just over 10 minutes and costs around Euro2.30 each way. If you don't fancy the hotel restaurant, there is an abundance of take-away dining options in the railway station or my usual stamping ground is the restaurant of the Ubersee Museum over on Bahnhofsplatz.
I can't recommend the Courtyard highly enough. It's the fifth hotel I've used in Bremen and has instantly blown the others out of the water. I cannot always justify the cost - I pay Euro95 per night here whereas I can get a rate of Euro60 at the Intercity - but it compares well against the price of the others I've used. One of my colleagues told me she thinks I 'deserve' the Courtyard because I always try to fly cheaply and I use the trams rather than taxis. I rather like her suggestion!
Theodor Heuss Allee 2