Bonding with Bonn

Bonding with Bonn

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Heidelberg has charm, Cologne a cathedral, Frankfurt its skyscrapers and Stuttgart is the home of some fancy automobiles. So what’s the often-overlooked city of Bonn got to offer? Fans of art, architecture and culture are in for a pleasant surprise here! Here are just some of the many good reasons this city of some 320,000 residents on the west bank of the Rhine makes an excellent day trip destination:

History: from 1949 to 1990, Bonn was the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. Once the Iron Curtain descended across the former capital of Berlin, a substitute capital was sought. Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the newly-created West Germany, feared that awarding a larger or more important city the esteemed status of the capital city would make the reunification of the country all the harder, when and if that day should come. And come it did, when the Berlin Wall tumbled in 1989. On Oct. 3, 1990, the date the two Germanys once again became one, Berlin took back its capital crown.

The former Bundestag office building has been put to good use. Today it hosts 23 organizations and agencies of the United Nations, including the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Medieval fortification in Bonn | Photo by Pavel Dudek 

Must-see landmarks: your walking tour of the city can begin at the Markt, where a market with food trucks takes place daily except for Sunday. The centerpiece of the square is, without doubt, the Altes Rathaus, a Rococo beauty painted in pretty pastel pink. En route to the Münsterplatz, check out the Mean Average sculpture, the work of an English sculptor. Is the 20-ft. piece a human torso, or an abstract stack of chins and noses? Decide as you make your way to the Beethoven memorial, a statue erected in 1845 to commemorate what would have been the pianist’s 75th birthday. From here, look up to the Bonner Münster, a Catholic church built in Romanesque style. The large sculptures of the two heads represent Saints Cassius and Florentius, who, according to legend, were beheaded in this very place for their refusal to follow Roman Emperor Maximianus Herculius’ orders to kill their fellow Christians. A short walk away from here is found the Sterntor, a reconstructed city gate that adds a touch of medieval flair to its modern surroundings.

Fans of gummy bears come in all shapes and sizes, as do the sweet treats you’ll find reduced prices at the Haribo factory outlet store. This real-life Candyland is located quite a way from the city center, so you may wish to drive there.

Beethoven: In December of 1770, the entire world was blessed with the birth of pianist and composer Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn. The house at Bonngasse 20, one of the city’s few remaining houses built in the 18th century, is nowadays a museum. In the 12 rooms of Beethovens Geburtshaus, musical instruments, manuscripts and multimedia exhibits are displayed, reflecting Beethoven's thoughts and emotions, his work and his lasting influence.

The year 2020 was set to be a celebration of 250 years since the musical genius’ birth, but unfortunately, many events could not go forward due to the present circumstances. The museum is presently open, but with reduced hours and special conditions. For a wealth of info on Beethoven’s early life in Bonn, see

Museums: the so-called Museum Mile refers to a cluster of museums close to the banks of the Rhine, but there are more than 20 museums scattered throughout the city. Standouts among them include The Museum of Contemporary History of the Federal Republic of Germany (Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), which concentrates on the period from the end of World War II to the present. The Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany (Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) offers top-notch temporary exhibitions in an impressive building (an exhibition focused on capitalism runs through Aug. 30). The Bonn Art Museum (Kunstmuseum Bonn) highlights 20th-century modern art. Those interested in high-tech wonders won’t go wrong at the Deutsches Museum.

Sample a local specialty: those after a taste of regional cuisine might wish to visit a traditional restaurant (Gasthaus im Steifel, Deutschlandreise-Bonn) and sample a dish such as Rheinischer Sauerbraten, meat that’s been marinated in vinegar and spices for several days before being braised and served with a sauce that finds raisins and gingerbread cookies amongst its ingredients. This is likely to be served alongside potato dumplings and red cabbage sauerkraut. Himmel und Erde, literally sky and earth, is an apple and potato mash-up, often served topped with crispy fried onions and alongside a blood or liver sausage.

A signature beverage: Bonn’s more famous neighbor to the north, Cologne, drinks a style of beer known as Kölsch, and it’s popular in Bonn as well. For a brew pub visit to remember, call in at the Brauhaus Bönnsch brewery, where the beer is served in an off-kilter glass made easy to grip with indentations for the fingers.

Vibrant cultural calendar: in normal times, when an insidious virus doesn’t call the shots, Bonn offers plenty of things to do throughout the year. Highlights of a typical year include a Rose Monday carnival parade in late winter; marathon and artisan’s market in April; a Rhine in Flames event in May; a culture festival along the Museum Mile, hot air balloon festival, pottery market, and a triathlon in June; a market with carnival rides and city fest in September, and not least a beautiful Christmas market, which opens in late November.

For a glimpse of Bonn at its very best, time a visit to coincide with the blossoming of the cherry trees and take a walk under tunnels of the vibrant blooms gracing the Heerstrasse. This stunning show of nature usually takes place sometime in April.

Explore the surrounding area: things to do just outside Bonn itself include a visit to the Schloss Drachenburg, a private villa styled as a palace towering high on a hill above the Rhine. If you’re not up to the steep climb, an old-timey-train chugging along Germany’s oldest cog railway will whisk you up in no time. These attractions are found in the town of Königswinter, slightly south and on the opposite banks of the Rhine. A SEA LIFE aquarium is also found there.

Beer, Beethoven, (gummy) bears and blossoming beauty --  there’s plenty to love about Bonn!

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