CANDLES have flickered for centuries in a hidden underground cavern. This dimly-lit enclosure named The Apostle’s Cellar lies deep beneath an ancient town hall in Bremen, in the heart of north west Germany.

Twelve tiny flames are constantly lit on top of 12 oak barrels, each one named after an apostle.

Storing this precious nectar has been a reverent ritual since the first wine was served in 1409.

Secret underground tunnels have since been discovered through which cardinals are believed to have crept for a discreet drink.

A locked treasure chamber stores wines dating back to 1750.

Only the cellar master has the key.

Two bottles of each vintage are kept, the rest are for sale.

Bremen’s Ratskeller - one of the oldest and most famous cellar taverns – now offers guided tours.

This is just one of the unique attractions tempting tourists to explore this fascinating city, now only two hours from Manchester.

Walk the spotless streets
Steeped in history and heritage, there is plenty to discover.

The cobbled streets are packed with shoppers for colourful Christmas markets, from the last week in November.

Now, this 1,200 year-old city is bursting with life all year round. The best way to explore this intriguing place is on foot.

Streets are spotlessly clean as instant fines prevent litter, cigarettes or dog dirt fouling the pavements.

You feel safe as CCTV cameras monitor the entire city.

The town hall and the Roland statue on the historic market square were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2004.

The distinctive style of the architecture of this fine building is known as Weser Renaissance.

Bremen’s Roland is one of the oldest and most impressive of these statues erected during the Middle Ages as symbols of liberty and trading rights.

The famous figure is now a popular place for friends to meet.

Addictive chocolate delights
Colourful canopies fill the market square every day with stalls full of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

You will see some unusual produce, such as Kohlrabi, small white cabbages.

Don’t be afraid to ask to sample the food.

This vegetable has a distinct flavour and can be eaten cold in salads or served hot.

The intoxicating aroma of roasting coffee and chocolate permeate the streets as Bremen is famous for producing both of these addictive delights.

Jacobs and HAG are two of the well-known coffees made in Bremen.Peer into the windows of bakeries and confectioners for amazing artistic displays of decorated cakes and chocolates.

I was so impressed, I just had to take pictures of the stunning selection of mouthwatering cakes and sweets.

When it comes to eating out, you will also be spoilt for choice.

Not only by the selection of food and value for money, but by the unusual settings on offer.

Soak up the relaxed atmosphere at the recently created Schlachte embankment.

Restaurants and bars are dotted all along the quayside and take on a whole new ambience in the evenings.

Or you can step back in time and try the century-old mill Muhle am Wall restaurant, set in Wallanlagen Park.

Savour the magnificent views by dining outside or you can sit inside and unwind.

A selection of fresh fish, including the popular herrings are available and service is very quick.

Most restaurants offer an English translation following the influx of visitors.

You can even eat in a former convent, surprisingly now situated in a modern shopping precinct in Katharine Klolster.

Wining and dining
Bremen’s Ratskeller not only houses the city’s ancient wine cellar with 650 different wines, but also offers fine dining.

Ancient oak doors lead into a Michelin restaurant, L’Orchidee.

Top quality German cuisine is also served in a historical hall, dating back to 1405.

If you’re planning an intimate meal, you can book a private room at the edge of the restaurant.

These are designed like compartments in an old-fashioned train. But, beware, you are only allowed to close the door if there are more than two people.

This custom was introduced in the Middle Ages when legend has it conspirators used to scheme and hatch plots, often ending in murder.

There is even a fascinating whisper room, designed beneath four arch-shaped columns.

You can stand in one corner and whisper a message.

Amazingly, it can be heard on the opposite side if you put your ear to the stone.

I put it to the test and it really does work.

Why it was created has left historians baffled.

Bremen’s oldest district, the Schnoor quarter, is a maze of lanes lined with 15th and 16th century houses, snuggled together like a piece of string (‘schnur’ in German).

Restaurants are tucked between quaint shops selling arts, crafts, cakes and souvenirs.

It reminded me of York’s Shambles.