The 11 Best Things to Do in Bonn, Germany

Town square in Bonn / Germany

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Bonn is a German city that sits near the country's western border with Belgium, and for a brief period, it was the country's capital. Plenty of attractions make Bonn worth a visit. It is located on the picturesque Rhine River, it's home to a prestigious university, and it's the birthplace of the great Beethoven. Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany, and it's a beacon of great German culture with museums to prove it.

01 of 11

Botanic Gardens on Palace Grounds

Poppelsdorf Palace and Botanical Garden in Bonn

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Bonn's Botanic Gardens (officially Botanische Gärten der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn) are on the grounds of Poppelsdorf Palace. Once the castle grounds for the Archbishop of Cologne, this refreshing site dates back to 1340. The castle only began being built in 1715, replacing an earlier palace. To match the Baroque castle, the gardens were re-worked from renaissance style to compliment the castle.

Wiped out during the fighting of World War II, the gardens were painstakingly reconstructed from 1979 to 1984. The elegant 16 acres are now open to the public and free on weekdays. Over 8,000 plant species are grown here, including endangered species like Lady's Slipper Orchids. There is an arboretum, Mediterranean and fern houses, and even a carnivorous plant house. Take note of the exemplary mineralogical museum.

Visitors who get the chance to visit during the summer shouldn't miss the regular Poppeldorf Palace concerts, which feature classical music in front of the palace.

02 of 11

The Cathedral

Bonn's Minister

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Bonn's stunning cathedral symbolizes the city with its five towers poking high into the sky. Known in German as Bonner Münster, this is one of the best examples of a Romanesque church on the Rhine River

Before the cathedral was built, the site was a Roman temple and Christian church. The cathedral was constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, making it one of Germany's oldest cathedrals. Located in today's Münsterplatz, it was built on the graves of two martyred Roman soldiers who became the city’s patron saints. It is also the site where two Holy Roman Emperors, Charles IV and Frederick the Fair, were crowned in the 14th century. 

Step inside and around the current restorations (expected to continue into 2019) to admire Gothic details and Baroque decoration. Main attractions include the 11th-century crypt or the 12th-century cloister and the defined Expressionist art in the windows created by the saint Heinrich Campendonk. One of the newest discoveries is the tomb of Siegfried von Westerburg, Archbishop of Cologne, from 1275 to 1297.

03 of 11


Rathaus Bonn and Market Square

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The square in front of Bonn's Minster is the largest in town, and the cathedral is not the only attraction here. 

Lying to the east, Bonn's Altes Rathaus (town hall) is all pristine pink-and-gold Rococo elegance dating back from the 18th-century. A twin staircase leads inside to the mayor’s office. This noble building was once the site of all official business when Bonn was the capital of West Germany. Important visitors from John F. Kennedy to Mikhail Gorbachev have walked up those staircases. 

Today, this square is the center of Bonn city life. Autumn brings the annual Bonn-Fest, and in winter, this is the site of a picturesque Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market). From Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve, the Rathaus transforms into a massive Advent calendar with new windows opened every day.

04 of 11

Honor a Classic

Beethoven Monument in Bonn

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Bonn is the birthplace of the great Ludwig van Beethoven, and a monument to him also sits in Münsterplatz. A bronze statue of the classical composer dates back to 1845, erected on the 75th anniversary of Beethoven's birth at a festival helmed by another renowned composer, Franz Liszt. The Beethoven festival still happens every year and celebrates Germany's premier musician.

At the statue's base are symbolic representations of the types of Beethoven's music like phantasy, spiritual, fidelio and eroica. Behind it, there is a cheery yellow baroque Palais that is now just a post office, but it offsets the monument beautifully. 

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05 of 11

Beethoven's House

Bonn's Beethoven Haus

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If you want to pay further tribute to Bonn's most famous descendant, visit Beethoven-Haus. This is the site of his birth in 1770.

A museum dedicated to his life and work was opened in 1893. A humble exterior gives way to rare artifacts and documents from his life, like an original portrait of his family, personal letters, and hand-written sheet music. Examine his instruments, ear trumpet for his poor hearing, and a death mask. A digitalized research center includes all of his finest work and even rare recordings, plus an interactive 3-D show. All of this comprises the most extensive Beethoven collection in the world.

06 of 11

Canopy of Cherry Blossoms

Cherryblossom in Bonn

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Lines of Japanese kirschbaum (cherry trees) are a star attraction for 10 to 14 days each spring. They appear across the country, but Bonn has become world-famous for its blossom avenue.

Photographers gather on this street to gawk at the heavy blossoms leaning overhead, creating a tunnel-like canopy. There can be more people than flowers, but it is still quite a sight. Visit in the early evening to avoid the crowds and enjoy the pink-shaded lamplight.

07 of 11

Bonn's Museum Mile

Bonn Art And Exhibition Hall Of The Federal Republic Of Germany on Museum Mile in Bonn GerBonn Art And Exhibition Hall Of The Federal Republic Of Germany on Museum Mile

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Bonn's culture isn't all hundreds of years old. One of the city's top attractions is its Museumsmeile (museum mile). Here are some highlights of the museum mile.

Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of GermanyCalled the Bundeskunsthalle, this modern museum is dedicated to 20th-century art. This is the most extensive collection of Rhenish Expressionism in the world, as well as work by August Macke (one of the founders of Der Blaue Reiter) and Joseph Beuys.

Haus der GeschichteThe House of Contemporary German History (HDG) covers everything leading up to World War II, including the city's reign as the capital. There are artifacts from the city's Roman origins to daily life coverage in the East and West.  

Alexander König MuseumOne of the best natural history and zoological museums in Germany.

Deutsches Museum BonnCovers historical technological advances.

Kunstmuseum Bonn: A museum dedicated to modern art, founded in 1947. It focuses on Rhenish Expressionism and August Macke, in particular, one of the founders of Der Blaue Reiter. Also included are post-war artists like Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, and Blinky Palermo. Also, watch out for the extensive video collection. 

ArithmeumExtensively studies the history of mathematics with over 1,200 artifacts, from antique calculators to rare books. These pieces of antiquity are housed in a thoroughly modern setting of steel and glass.

Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn: One of the oldest history museums in Germany.

08 of 11

Cruise the Middle Rhine

Rhine Cruise by Bacharach

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Bonn marks the beginning of the Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the most beautiful areas along the Rhine River, a popular cruise destination with frequent stops at the many charming towns along the river.

Routes run from Cologne to Koblenz, where the Rhine joins the Mosel. From here, cruisers can enjoy views of castle after castle.

If you want to get off the more popular cruise route, try the Ahr, a tributary of the Rhine that offers more destination villages with half the tourists. 

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09 of 11

Tour a Modern Castle

Schloss Drachenburg

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An easy day trip from Bonn, Schloss Drachenburg is in a Gothic Revival style perched above the Rhine. Like Neuschwanstein, this isn't a stellar example of a medieval castle, but it sure is pretty.

Located on one of the Siebengebirge (seven hills) of Drachenfels, this castle was completed in 1884 on the orders of a wealthy banker, Stephan von Sarter. However, he never lived there, and the castle passed through many hands before being given protected historical status.

Visitors can hike the long pathway up, past the showy castle to an older ruin at the top, or take the charming and historic Drachenfelsbahn tram. Inside, the place is decorated in flamboyant Baroque excess, but the real attraction is the views down to the river and back to Bonn.

10 of 11

Tour a Medieval Castle

Godesburg castle near Bonn on top of hill with Cherry Blossoms

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If Drachenburg didn't fulfill your medieval fantasy, nearby Godesburg Castle certainly will.

This stark stone castle was built in the 13th century but was largely destroyed by the late 16th in the Cologne War. Luckily, in 1959, the castle was restored to its original character with modern amenities like a restaurant with spectacular countryside views.

Another element of its restoration is that the castle's interior was turned into apartments. Every man's home is his castle, but for these residents, it really is.

11 of 11

Experience Nature

Bergisches Land in autumn - North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

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Just south of Bonn and part of a public park is the Waldau forest. This beloved entryway back to nature has many animals as a game reserve like deer, owls, badgers, bats, and dangerous wild boars (seriously, boars are a real threat in rural Germany).

This forest offers many relaxing walks among its established hornbeams and oak trees. The historic Haus der Natur, an environmental education center, is open to the public and provides information on the more than 1,000-year history of the surrounding Kottenforst (to access that area directly, there is a handy Bahnhof Kottenforst on the S-Bahn). Popular with families, there is also a large playground.

How to Get There

The Cologne-Bonn (CGN) airport is the closest connection, but most international travelers arrive via the country's busiest airport in Frankfurt. Düsseldorf Airport (DUS) is an alternative. If you arrive in GCN, the direct SB60 airport bus leaves every 30 minutes from outside Terminal 1 arrivals. Another option is the train between the airport and Bonn-Beuel Hauptbahnhof (main train station). If you take a taxi, you should pay around 45 euros.

Bonn is also well connected by train. Bonn's Hauptbahnhof links it with the rest of the country and beyond.

If you arrive by car, the city is also easily reached by the country's immense network of motorways.