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The city of Bonn often falls under the radar when visitors plan their trip to Germany, even though it has plenty to offer. From Roman artefacts and fairytale castles to a ton of cultural events, here are 15 reasons why this city should be on your list of destinations to visit.
In 1949, after the end of the Second World War, the West German parliament declared Bonn to be the capital of the Federal Republic, while Berlin served as the capital of East Germany. The German reunification in 1990 ignited a heated debate that ultimately resulted in Berlin being named the capital of Germany the following year. Bonn remained the seat of the government until 1999 when the move was completed, but it is still home to some ministries and federal officials. The current administration is still using the former Chancellor and President residencies.
Have you ever wondered where your favourite gummy bears come from? The short answer is Bonn. HARIBO is short for Hans Riegel Bonn, the founder of the jelly candy that has sweetened the lives of generations. The company was founded in 1920, but it wasn’t until the 80s when the candy headed across the pond and made its rounds in the US. If you visit Bonn, you can explore the factory outlet on Bad Godesberg and stock up on your favourite kind.
The Rheinaue is a green oasis that in the summer months attracts people from all across the region. The vast parkland borders the Rhine River and comprises green fields, gardens and a lake. Footpaths and bridges traverse the park and give access to a myriad of leisure activities, from boat rentals and cycling routes to BBQ stations, a mini-golf course and more. Throughout the year, the area hosts open-air festivals, concerts, flea markets and other cultural events.
Bonn is the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, Germany’s greatest composer whose symphonies still enchant those who appreciate classical music. The Beethoven family home at Bonngasse 20 and the neighbouring buildings have been converted into the Beethoven House, a museum and memorial site of the late composer. Visitors can explore an archive of his works, a chamber music hall and the permanent exhibition that depicts Beethoven’s life in the city.
Every spring around April, the Japanese cherry blossom trees that line the streets of Bonn’s old town start to bloom. Heerstraße, in particular, downright transforms into a pink and purple tunnel that attracts photographers from all over the world. Those who plan a trip just for a Hanami experience need a bit of luck to catch the short window in which Bonn’s cherry blossom trees flower.
Bonn is the gateway to one of Germany’s most important wine regions. The Ahrtal centres around the town of Bad Neuenahr and is known for its steep terraced vineyards where the winemakers of the valley primarily cultivate Pinot Noir and Portugais Bleu grapes. Picturesque hiking trails connect vineyards with one another, and you can stop along the way for wine tastings and tours of the estates.
Drachenburg Castle sits atop a cliffside in Königswinter. The estate, built as a private mansion in the 19th century, has gone through turbulent events and was repurposed multiple times. In 1940, the Nazis purchased the Drachenburg as a training facility for future leaders. Damages from the Second World War were only partially repaired, and the building was almost knocked down in the 1960s. A private investor saved the castle at the last minute and opened it to the public years later. Today, it’s a tourist magnet and houses exhibitions and a Christmas market in the winter.
Bonn boasts some significant museums, most notably the Museumsmeile, a group of five institutions dedicated to art, history, science and technology. Museum Koenig is the city’s natural history museum and focuses on the world’s complex ecosystems. The Haus der Geschichte ranks among Germany’s most popular museums and explores the country’s post-war history, while the Deutsches Museum Bonn looks at German technology. The Kunstmuseum exhibits art from 1945 to the present day. Lastly, the Bundeskunsthalle takes a broader approach and gives space to international art from all epochs.
Construction of the four-winged Electoral Palace started in 1697 and served as a residence for the Prince Elector of Cologne until 1818 when the King of Prussia gifted the complex to the newly founded university. The building was destroyed by bomb raids during World War II but reconstructed within seven years. Today, it’s home to the faculty of humanities and theology.
Bonn is home to 18 organisations of the United Nations. The UN campus regularly hosts essential international events, such as this year’s Climate Change Conference. In the past two decades, Bonn has established itself as a global hub for non-profit organisations that work towards a more sustainable future and seek cooperations with other institutions. As a result, the city has become a cultural melting pot.
More than 8,000 species of plants grow at the botanical gardens in Bonn. Exploring the diverse selection of plants in the outdoor area and several greenhouses is a joy. Expect everything from cacti to delicate orchids, palm trees to ferns and common plants from the Bonn region to several protected specimens from Easter Island.
Fans of Historicist architecture are in for a treat. Bonn’s Südstadt is an architectural jewel and considered one of Germany’s best-preserved Gründerzeit quarters. Dreamy elaborately decorated villas with ornaments and stucco elements line the streets, which are perfect for strolling on a sunny afternoon.
The Poppelsdorf Schloss was built between 1715 and 1740, following the destruction of a moated castle that stood in its place before. A long canopy road of chestnut trees connects the Baroque palace with the main campus of the University of Bonn.
Bonn’s landmark, the Roman Catholic Bonn Minster, was constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries. The basilica combines architectural elements from the Roman, Renaissance and Gothic periods. Over the course of history, it has seen the coronation of several kings, served as the cathedral for the Archbishopric of Cologne and is believed to have been the last resting place of the two Roman martyrs Cassius and Florentius, who are revered as the city’s patrons today.
Bonn dates back to the 12 BC Roman settlement Castra Bonnensia and is considered one of Germany’s oldest cities. Remnants from more than 2,000 years ago are on display at the Haus der Geschichte and the LVR Landesmuseum.
Need more travel inspiration? Check out these 17 magical places in Germany that are straight out of a fairy tale.