“ Address: Bahnhofsplatz 17-18 / 28195 Bremen / Germany „
In the golden age of rail travel, the railway hotels were giants of hospitality. You only have to see some of the fabulous railway hotels like the one at St Pancras or the Great Eastern at Liverpool Street (I think it has changed its name recently) to get a sense that there was a time when the best of architecture went into railway hotels. These days however, the term 'convenient for the railway station' is often short-hand for 'shabby, run down and in a dodgy part of town'. Many years ago I remember a learned newspaper (probably The Sun or the Mirror) coining the phrase 'Have-it-away-days' for part-time prostitute housewives heading into the city to earn a bit of extra money in the hourly-rented hotels around the major London stations. There is a slight air of sleaze for me in the concept of the transient railway hotel.
I'm happy to say that in the case of the Intercity in Bremen, neither of these situations is true it's not an architectural gem and it's not a sleazy dive either. What you get is a very nice, clean, modern hotel that's right next to the city's very attractive red-brick hauptbahnhof and right in front of the bus and tram station. As you can imagine, this isn't going to be the quietest hotel you've ever stayed in and if you open the windows, you will get a lot of noise. But with the windows closed it's not at all bad and since the aircon works - not something you can take for granted in Northern Germany - you can easily live with the windows closed.
Whilst the location is great for the station and the public transport network, it's not quite so good for seeing the historic heart of Bremen or for nights out at the riverside bars and restaurants. These will take you a 15-20 minute walk or a short taxi ride. The Intercity works for me because it's a short walk to the office but if I were going for tourism, it might not be my first choice and I would look for something more central. I also find that sometimes the plaza outside the front of the railway station can get a bit over-run with scruffy smelly punks with dogs on strings which can give the place a bit of an unsavoury feel but it doesn't feel unsafe as there are always lots of other people around.
I've stayed at the Intercity three times in the last few weeks and it's certainly become my first choice among the hotels that my company uses in Bremen. The other hotel is the Maritim and despite that being a lot grander, it just doesn't come close. The Intercity is not a grand hotel and the rooms and public areas are a bit basic but always clean and tidy. Approaching the hotel you'll find some tables and umbrellas out on the terrace at the front of the hotel and two entrances one to Flemings, the hotel's restaurant, and the other is the main hotel entrance which takes you to the lobby and reception desk.
The reception desk staff are lovely and I've had some great conversations with some of them including the guy who was exceptionally sympathetic when he learned I'd been given one of the 'sofa bed' rooms on my previous stay and went out of his way to update my hotel profile to say I never wanted that again. When I arrived this week, a different receptionist checked the profile and said 'Ah yes, you are the lady who doesn't want the sofa-bed'. (The hotel has six rooms that have sofa-beds and they must rank as some of the most uncomfortable in the universe). We had a bit of a joke about how bad it had been and to compensate from my previous stay, he gave me an 'upgrade' to an internal room that would be quieter and which included a free minibar. When he explained that the room was on the 'backside of the hotel', I have to confess I doubled up giggling and had to explain that he'd effectively just offered me a room in the arse of the hotel. Once we'd got over that, I asked for an internet code (free but you have to ask) and headed off to my room.
In three visits I've stayed in three rooms, all slightly different. The first was a very standard small room with a double bed. The second was a nice large room with the most uncomfortable sofa-bed, and the third was the 'upgraded' business room. This was very little different from a standard room and all three were quite basic. However the business room had a mini-bar and I'd been told it was free. There were also better toiletries in the bathroom and extra magazines on the desk although all of them were in German so it wasn't much of a benefit. Other than that the standard and business rooms were all very similar. The beds (with the exception of the sofa bed) were comfortable though I needed both pillows because they were so soft. I also had my usual irritation with the way that German hotels seem to do origami with their duvets, folding them sideways.
Each of the normal rooms had a desk, bedside tables and wall-mounted reading lights. The sofa-bed room had a complicated set up with table lamps which had (annoyingly) been left unplugged. All the bathrooms were the same, decorated in black and white tiling with polished black gabbro vanity units. The showers are powerful but the hotel can be a bit mean with their towels and even when I've been down to reception to ask for an extra towel, housekeeping have taken the second towel the next day even if I hung it up again. Hoteliers please please please don't expect women travellers to get by on one towel. Some of us have hair that needs drying and can't get hair and body dry on one small towel. The rooms all have wardrobes, suitcase stands and drawers. Televisions have lots of stations but only one is in English.
The restaurant at the hotel is ok. I've eaten there three times and it's always been quite empty. I'm a creature of habit and when I find something I like I stick with it so I've had their gazpacho as starter all three times. The first time there was some confusion which led to me getting Carpaccio instead of Gazpacho because thought they sounded the same. After I sent it back they quickly sorted it out and brought me the right dish.
Main courses are a bit more variable and I've had one good (a simple pasta and tomato sauce), one OK (a slightly greasy monkfish and noodles dish) and one absolutely awful dish (a red snapper that had been so overcooked I thought it was chicken). All the dishes are large but I think I'll keep it simple next time and stick with the pasta; that's more difficult to mess up. Breakfast is quite a grand affair with lots of choice of both hot and cold dishes.
On my last visit I met up with my boss after he'd been out for a run so we could have a drink in the bar. I ordered a white wine they didn't have and was given a small taste of all the ones they did have until I found one that I liked. That sort of flexibility and determination to find me something good was quite impressive.
I'm not aware of any special facilities such as a gym or pool but I think they have a few meeting rooms. This isn't a hotel you go to with the intention of hanging around all day but it is a good practical choice. The location is good, the travel connections are great and you even get a free public transport ticket to use during your stay which could save you quite a lot on trams and buses. Free wi-fi is also something I value greatly in any hotels I use for work and that's available for the asking. Bremen is a lovely little town and one I'm very happy I have to visit often and quite content to stay at the Intercity. I'm just hoping that Ryanair's routes to Bremen won't push up prices the way they have in other cities they fly to - and of course, I also hope they won't make Bremen into the next stag weekend destination.