If you plan on exploring the area around Cologne, Bonn is definitely worth a stop. The land of North-Rhine Westfalia in Germany can be a little under-hyped, considering the many sights that Germany has to offer. However, as my summer travels proved, there is more than enough to impress and surprise!
Bonn is merely an hour away from the busy Cologne and stands on the river Rhine. Many river cruise boats take this route from Bonn to Linz as well. It is perfect for a weekend getaway in Germany: the city might not be very large, but it will easily keep you occupied with its impressive museums and historical monuments.
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 Here are some reasons to visit Bonn main attractions:
- 2 Things To Do In Bonn On Day One:
- 2.1 Walk around to see the cherry blossoms on Heerstrasse in spring
- 2.2 Eat gelato at the 13th century Stargate on Bottlerplatz
- 2.3 Stare into Beethoven’s timeless visage over at Munsterplatz
- 2.4 Explore the 13th century Bonn Minster church
- 2.5 Shop the food market at the Altes Rathaus
- 2.6 Visit Beethoven House Museum
- 2.7 Eat in Alter Zoll Biergarten with a view on the Rhine
- 2.8 Marvel at the beauty of the most excessive calculating machines in Arithmeum
- 3 Things To Do In Bonn On Day Two:
- 3.1 Discover the Federal Republic of Germany Museum
- 3.2 Appreciate modern art in Kunst Museum Bonn
- 3.3 Stock up on your favorite gummy bears at the Haribo store
- 3.4 Take a walk in the Botanical Gardens of Poppelsdorf Palace
- 3.5 Shop for your dream dirndl
- 3.6 Take an evening walk up and down the Rhein promenade
- 3.7 Go on a day trip to Schloss Drachenburg
Here are some reasons to visit Bonn main attractions:
- Beethoven was born in Bonn. The city honored their favorite musician by saving his birth house from demolition. His family’s house is now a small museum that is worth a short visit. What really touched me is how much Beethoven was longing to return to his hometown but because of his popularity, he never succeeded.
- During the division of Germany in the aftermath of the II World War, Bonn was the acting capital of FRG. When the land was reunified, the capital was re-established in Berlin. The separation lasted for several decades and during that time the government tried to make Bonn more capital-like and official. They did that by building several museums that should not be missed. My favorite was the House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany. And if you’re wondering why such a small city was chosen for a capital, Bonn was chosen as a compromise when the bigger cities were locked in a stalemate.
- If you have the chance, visit Bonn in springtime. There is the beautiful Heerstraße street filled with blooming cherry trees that will take your breath away.
- You can go on a day trip from Bonn to visit Drachenburg castle. The beautiful castle was built in Gothic Revival and Historicism styles. It was actually meant to be a hunting lodge and it looks like a complete fairytale. This is something I didn’t have the time to do on my visit to Bonn and I plan to go back for the amazing views. I did manage to visit the gorgeous castle Cochem and oh boy, was it an adventure to remember…
Things To Do In Bonn On Day One:
Walk around to see the cherry blossoms on Heerstrasse in spring
Start your day with a walk towards the center. If you’re visiting in spring from the end of March to end of April, congratulations, you’re in luck! As a starting point make your way to the beautiful Heerstraße to admire the cherry trees in bloom. Afterward, make your way to the historical city center.
If you’d like to pay a homage to some renowned musicians and artists on your way, visit Vienna Central Cemetery where Beethoven’s mother Maria Magdalena Keverich was buried, as well as Robert Schumann and Charlotte von Lengefeld, the wife of Friedrich von Schiller. While the cemetery is quiet and simple, walking by will allow you to discover a couple of new streets. It’s just a couple of turns away from the old city center as well.
Eat gelato at the 13th century Stargate on Bottlerplatz
Walk through Bonn’s liveliest streets: Friedrichstraße, Sternstraße, and the surrounding passages. There are many cool cafes and stores to check out. On your way to Münsterplatz don’t forget to admire the beautiful Sterntor on Bottlerplatz. The “Star Gate” was built in 1244.
Situated next to a lovely little fountain, it is the only remaining fragment of the city gate. I really liked the contrast of the historical wall next to modern clothing stores and gelato stalls. It feels like an oasis of calm, which means it’s the perfect place to grab an ice cream and settle in by the fountain. This spot is perfect for people watching: lots of workers come here during lunchtime to snack on a sandwich before getting on with their duties.
Stare into Beethoven’s timeless visage over at Munsterplatz
Just take a couple of steps away from Bottlerplatz and you will end up on one of the key spots. Munsterplatz is one of Bonn’s main squares, and that is where you will find the monument to the famous Beethoven. Consider yourself warned for that’s not the last you’ve heard of him today. Born in Bonn, he remains the city’s pride and joy. For now, wander around the square and make your way to Bonn’s most recognizeable symbol: Bonn Minster.
Explore the 13th century Bonn Minster church
The Bonn Minster is a beautiful Catholic church open to visitors. It was established under Roman rule and some of the Romanesque elements in the architecture intertwine with the Gothic style. At one point it was the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The Minster’s rich history makes it all the more exciting to explore.
Unfortunately, the basilica itself is currently closed for restoration until end of July 2019. However, it has a treasury collection which is currently open to the public. Right now you can admire its beautiful architecture style from the outside, but if you’re planning a trip in advance, you might be able to get a guided tour.
Shop the food market at the Altes Rathaus
Turn left at the Am Hof crossing and walk past the university building towards the Town Hall to discover a fantastic food market. You will love the Rathaus square with its many stalls. It’s the perfect place to buy some delicatessen such as fresh olive bread, sausages, cheese, and fresh fruit.
The market is held every day of the week from 08:00 till 18:30 except Sundays, and closes early on Saturdays at 16:00. This is the time to recharge before you move on to the Beethoven house.
Visit Beethoven House Museum
It’s small and easy to miss: the birth house of the great Beethoven. Coincidentally, it is also the pride and joy of Bonn: the city doesn’t tire of reminding you that Ludwig was from here. It’s like a friend showing off her kids and talking about their achievements… just doesn’t get old.
The house where the maestro was born in 1770 was saved by its citizens from demolition in 1890. I think the museum is definitely worth a visit if you appreciate Beethoven and would like to learn more about him. The house is really quite small. Some of the rooms are really closed in, so exploring it won’t take very long. In the summertime when it can get hot, there is obviously no air conditioning inside so it can get pretty hot.
My biggest disappointment was that the house didn’t have any household items or furniture inside. You are just walking from room to room, inspecting artifacts relating to Beethoven’s upbringing and musical career. For example, you will see the promotional pamphlets that Beethoven’s father made when he hoped his son would be a wunderkind. At the end of the exhibition, you will see the hearing aids he used as his hearing began to deteriorate. You will also spot Beethoven’s most famous portrait by Stieler.
There are many note sheets, which will be appreciated by those well-versed in classical music. Although I spent 7 years taking piano classes growing up, I was very half-hearted about playing classical music. So while my mom did my best to raise me according to the standards of the Russian intelligentsia, I do not know enough of Beethoven to truly appreciate many of the displayed items. On a side note, thanks to my culture-focused upbringing I do enjoy a good mazurka though 😀
Even though the emptiness of the space really jarred me, I think it’s worth going just because you will learn more about Beethoven than you knew before your visit. You will learn all about Beethoven’s life journey from the choir to international success. The most interesting facts for me were related to his kind character and relationship with mentors.
Eat in Alter Zoll Biergarten with a view on the Rhine
Alter Zoll is a lovely Biergarten at the promenade next to the river Rhine. I definitely recommend you visit it as visiting a Biergarten is a must when in Germany. If you want to relax and discover a new corner of Bonn instead of walking through the main streets again, you’ll really like it. Make your way to Brassertufer next to the garden and the raised monument, where you can quench your thirst with a glass of Kolsch. When I visited the salad portions were very generous and the prices very reasonable, with some daily specials on the menu as well.
Here are a couple of things you might like to know about Biergartens:
- There are usually long tables with benches which is to encourage people to eat and drink together, and socialize.
- You usually pay for food and beer separately and will have to initially pay a tad more than the beer price because of the glassware deposit. Once you leave your table, bring the empty glasses to the bar or collection spot and you will get your deposit back. I did not know about it so it was a nice surprise!
- Your beer will be topped up by the servers unless you cover your glass with a coaster so take that into account.
Marvel at the beauty of the most excessive calculating machines in Arithmeum
Now that is a museum you are bound to love! Arithmeum is a shrine to mathematics and the beauty of calculus. Figuratively, and quite literally. To show the elegance and the laws to which numbers are bound, the calculating machines are displayed among gorgeous modern furniture and abstract art paintings.
Did you hate math in school, like me? Rest assured! You will get a huge kick out of exploring the many devices humankind used throughout the ages to ease the burden of counting grain, sheep, and money. The exhibit moves from the top level to the bottom, working through the years. You will get a lot of enjoyment out of Arithmeum if you give yourself some room to breathe and calmly explore how everything works. Math cannot be rushed, and I promise that you’re going to love all the interactive showpieces.
Some of my favorite pieces were the most over-the-top calculating machines that you have ever seen. Those machines were commissioned by kings for their lavish courts. The kings never really used them for anything but vain demonstrations. Such a pity, too, seeing how much effort was required to develop a mechanism that could multiply, divide, subtract and much more!
Dedicate at least two hours to Arithmeum exploration and leave extra time to dawdle some more. The bottom level, which was the most modern, offers a rare opportunity to programme your own memory chip. I was making my way through the tutorial when the museum closed. Arithmeum surprised me in a good way: it’s been a long time since I thought math could be fun.
Kids would probably also get a kick out of it, seeing as you can tinkle with many of the machines… however, it is when you sit down and read the instructions that the fun begins. There’s nothing like the rush of endorphins you feel when you’ve cracked the code and can finally use a medieval device to calculate the sum of a merchant’s wares!
Things To Do In Bonn On Day Two:
Are you ready to get cultural? Bonn offers the chance to visit several great museums with a minimum headache thanks to its unique “Museum Mile”. The area includes 5 museums to choose from: Bundeskunsthalle or The Art and Exhibition Hall; Kunstmuseum or the Contemporary Art Museum; Museum Koenig or the Zoological Research Museum; Haus der Geschichte or the FRG Museum; and Deutsches Museum Bonn focused on technology and research.
Obviously, you would have to be super-human to visit them all in one day, so let’s just focus on a couple to make sure your day is still relaxing!
Discover the Federal Republic of Germany Museum
I have to admit, I was not prepared for how impressive the FRG Museum is. Chances are, you won’t be prepared either. But if I can convince you to visit it, you will definitely be impressed.
There are so many materials dedicated to World War II but the aftermath of the war is often disregarded. What was it like for the German citizens to pick up the pieces and go on with their lives? Not many people know how many families were broken, how many people were lost, and what it was like from an infrastructural point of view as well.
What I liked about the museum is that the exhibition is chronological, and as you start with the end of the war, you move further and further away, going through all the main historical events. There are many documents in English, and one of my favorite finds was an instruction book of conduct for American soldiers maintaining order. It is so interesting to read it: while it’s in English, you feel the spirit of the time so much. You feel the propaganda that went on both sides and you understand the circumstances so much better.
It is those things that will make you easily spend 3 hours and not notice the time. As you move through the 60’s, you will live through the economic changes, watch the commercials of the time and see many products by brands we know today. Maggi, Nivea, Schwarzkopf, and Philips… these guys got in the game early.
Appreciate modern art in Kunst Museum Bonn
A couple of minutes walk from the FRG museum you will find the Kunst Museum Bonn. Please note that I have not been able to squeeze this museum into my day myself. Even so, if you like the Expressionists, you will find many works to admire in this museum. What makes it unique is the vast collection of German artists from the second half of the 20th century.
Stock up on your favorite gummy bears at the Haribo store
After you’ve been properly educated in Bonn’s best museums, relax a little and head over to the Haribo store at Am Neutor 3. It’s the perfect chance to let loose as you wander around picking limited Haribo editions, from gummy bears to jelly beans and everything in between!
If you haven’t had your fill, try the Lindt chocolate store next door for any last-minute souvenirs for those chocolate sweet tooth friends of yours. Pro tip: Lindt dark chocolate is absolutely amazing.
Take a walk in the Botanical Gardens of Poppelsdorf Palace
Poppelsdorf’s beautiful orangery dates back to 1640. This is sadly another place that I missed during my visit because of the unbearable heatwave. However, I am looking forward to going back and exploring the stunning variety of the botanical gardens. There are over 11000 types of flora in the gardens; with a vast number of tropical plants conserved in a greenhouse.
The message of our modern botanists working on expanding the variety of gardens is to show the beauty of nature and how important it is to preserve and replenish our depleting resources. Also, the gardens are really beautiful. So if you need a reason to visit, now you have two!
The gardens are open all year round with a slight difference in schedule depending on the season. From April to October, you can visit from 10:00 to 18:00. The gardens are closed on Saturday. The orangery is open from 10:00 to 17:30 during the summer months.
From November till March the gardens are open from 10:00 to 16:00 and are closed during the weekends. During this time of year the Orangery works from Monday to Friday from 10:00 t0 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:00.
The entry is free during weekdays and costs 3 EUR on Sundays and holidays.
Shop for your dream dirndl
While you’re in Bonn, why not get some shopping done? The variety of dirndls at the Galeria Kaufhof really impressed me (Remigiusstraße 20-24). If you’re a fan of the German national costumes and planning to attend Oktoberfest at some point, this might be a great moment to try different dresses, aprons, and blouses on. The men can look for the traditional Bavarian costumes as well! This is the moment to indulge in a shopping experience that will stay with you for a long time. And if you’re after something more conventional, well, the surrounding shops will not leave you wanting.
Take an evening walk up and down the Rhein promenade
There’s nothing better than wrapping up a busy day by taking a stroll along the river Rhine. Relax and enjoy your surroundings as the sun goes down, and head over for a dinner in the city center of Bonn.
Go on a day trip to Schloss Drachenburg
If you have the time, go on a day trip to Castle Drachenburg which is fairly easy to get to from Bonn by car or public transport. Once you get to Königswinter, there’s a lovely old train Drachenfelsbahn which goes every 30 minutes to “Schlosstor” station.
The castle is open to visitors and offers a variety of tours that will plunge you into the history behind this gothic villa, as well as offer many different ways to experience its territories. One of the tours is a Five o’clock tea at Schloss Drachenburg which gives insight into the workings of a great house (Downton Abbey vibes, anyone?)
Regular admission is 7 EUR you have to book the tours in advance, so make your plans and chase your dreams!
If you are visiting during the winter season, check out the Christmas market events. There are Dickens-inspired Advent weekend events in 2018 that you will fall in love with!