The birthplace of Ludwig Van Beethoven and the former capital of West Germany, Bonn doesn’t attract as many visitors as its neighbours Düsselorf orCologne but it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s one of those hidden treasures you are glad to discover! Bonn is located near Germany’s western border with Belgium.
Quiet and peaceful, it has plenty of interesting attractions. Located by the mighty Rhine, it’s home to a prestigious university and it’s one of the oldest cities in Germany. It has a thriving cultural scene and a famous Museum Mile where you can find world-class museums.
Keeping up with its political significance in the past, the city is still a center of politics and administrative matters with varied political institutions still operating here instead of in Berlin
The easiest way to reach this German city is by plane. The nearest airport is Bonn-Cologne and it’s conveniently connected to the city via buses, taxis and shuttles. However, many tourists add Bonn to their list of European cities to visit as part of their trip through Netherlands or Belgium. In that case, renting a car can be a savvy option. A car rental makes it easier to move from one place to the other at your own pace while stopping here and there at the sights that grab your attention the most. You won’t have any problem finding an international rental agency. Apart from making sure you have an international driver’s license and a travel insurance policy, we advise you to invest in a car rental insurance policy. American tourists have different alternatives to insure their rental vehicle; to avoid making a rush decision that may not give you the coverage you need or that may blow your budget, we advise you to explore them well in advance. You may want to consider this one for its convenient balance between coverage and price.
There are multiple reasons why you should visit Bonn and this year can be a great time to do so considering that the world is celebrating Beethoven Year as it marks the 250th anniversary of the birth date of this great composer that was born here! Just to tempt you a bit further, we’ve compiled here a list of the most interesting things awaiting you in Bonn!
Beethoven Haus (Beethoven’s House)
Despite most people relate Beethoven with Vienna, the truth is that he was born in Bonn and the city is very proud of this.
A visit to Beethoven Haus is a great place to start paying tribute to this genial composer. This is where he was born in 1770 and it’s now a museum devoted to his life and works. Its humble exterior opens up to interesting rooms where visitors can appreciate rate artifacts and documents from his life such as an original portrait of his family, personal letters and hand-written sheets of music. You can also admire his instruments, the ear trumpet he used because of his poor hearing and the death mask he wore. The research center is also very interesting as it includes rare recordings and an interesting library with books that would have been owned as an adult! The guided tour includes a visit through twelve rooms. Be on the lookout for temporary exhibits! Some of them are really nice!
Spending some time in Beethoven Haus can be an inspiring activity, even for those travelling with children, who may find it a great way to be introduced to this great composer. They’ll probably love stepping on the cracking old wooden floors!
Bonner Münster Basilica (Bonn’s Cathedral)
Bonner Münster Basilica is the city’s cathedral and, although it is not as stunning or world-famous as the one in Cologne’s, it’s also beautiful and it’s considered a symbol of the city with its five towers poking high into the sky. The Bonner Münster is one of the best examples of a Romanesque church on the Rhine. The site used to be a Roman temple and Christian church before the Cathedral was built between the XI and XIII centuries, which makes it one of the oldest cathedrals still standing. It’s the site where two martyred Roman soldiers were buried and where two Holy Roman Emperors, Charles IV and Frederick the Fair, were crowned in the XIV century.
The Cathedral was restored in 2019. Inside, get ready to admire its rich Gothic details and Baroque decoration, the XI century crypt or the attractive XII century cloister and the unique crossing tower. In 2017, engineers and archaeologists discovered the long-forgotten tomb of Siegfried von Westerburg (archbishop of Cologne from 1275 to 1297) behind a slate panel in the west crypt.
The nave of the basilica is the most architecturally interesting site as it includes a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. It’s a magnificent religious building with an impressive historic past. Admire its breathtaking central tower, which rises 96 metres into the sky, the large statue of St. Helen and the colorful murals in the northern and southern transepts. Intricate stained glasses, detailed artwork and statues; Bonn’s Cathedral is a work of art that no one visiting Bonn should miss.
Sail the Middle Rhine
Bonn marks the beginning of the Mittelrhein (Middle Rhine), one of the most beautiful areas along the Rhine River and a very popular cruising destination with frequent stops at the many charming towns along the river.
Routes generally run from Cologne to Koblenz, where the Rhine joins the Mosel. From here, cruisers can enjoy stunning views of castle after castle!
Sailing down the Rhine while in Bonn offers tourists a unique perspective of the city and a great chance to explore its surroundings and smaller towns as well. Idyllic and romantic, it’s definitely an enjoyable way to spend some of your stay in Bonn.
Visit the Altes Rathaus and Market Square
Bonn’s town hall is an elegant white building with gold trim that provides a nice backdrop for the city’s busy market square. This is the home of the popular Christmas Market that is set up every December and fills the area with light and music.
The Altes Rathaus is Bonn’s Old Town Hall and it’s the center of the Old Town and the city’s political and cultural heart.
People are not allowed to visit the inside of the building but they can wander freely in the market square where there are usually interesting and tempting food stands. The Rococo exterior of the building deserves your admiration! It’s really beautiful! Known for its gilded staircase, the Old Town House is one of the landmarks in the city and offers plenty of great Instagram-worthy opportunities.
Visit the Haus der Geschichte Bonn
Four years after the German capital returned to Berlin, the first exhibits in the Haus der Geschichte Bonn (German National Museum of Contemporary History) opened to record the painful years when Germany was a divided nation. The museum covers the years from the end of WWII to the fall of the Iron Curtain and reunification of Germany. There, visitors can look into films, photos and artifacts that help them compare life in the East and West and see how the post-war German states have evolved.
The exhibits are really interesting, especially for history buffs or for those interested in contemporary historic events. Exploring the different halls immerse visitors in the political history of East and West Germany.
Located in Bonn’s Museumsmeile (Museum Mile) it’s a worth-visiting museum. It’s one of the most popular museums in Germany and it receives more than a million visitors yearly. You’ll probably spend a full day visiting the museum… and the best part: it’s free!
Museum Koenig is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and a must-see for anybody spending some days in Bonn. Its wonderful displays cover diverse wildlife and their habitats. One of the museum highlights is the stunning “Our Blue Planet”, that showcases ecosystems through a series of fascinating dioramas including tropical rainforests, the Polar regions or the African savannah. With a focus on theoretical research and an educational approach to the wide range of species on Earth, its interesting and interactive exhibitions make it one of the favorite natural museums for people of all ages.
The exhibits are absolutely fascinating. They re-create an entire animal with theatrical flourishes. For instance, there are elephants drinking at a watering hole,vultures surveying a scene from above, jaguars waiting to hunt their victim…you mention! Needless to mention, it’s a must-visit attraction in Bonn if you’re traveling with children!
Kunstmuseum Bonn (Bonn Museum of Modern Art)
Founded in the late 1940s, the Kunstmuseum Bonn hosts numerous temporary and permanent exhibits. Highlights of the permanent collection include works in the Rhenish Expressionism school and post-war art. It’s home of one of the largest collections of works by August Macke and visitors can also appreciate paintings and drawings by Max Ernst, Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz or Joseph Beuys.
The building itself is attractive indeed! It juxtaposes airiness with strict geometric structures playing a game of light and shadow. The main staircase, in the shape of an hourglass is absolutely dramatic!
Visit the Bundeskunsthalle (Art and Exhibition Hall)
Established in the early 1990, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany offers various excellent exhibits that showcase the country’s rich cultural history as well as its role in the fields of technology, science and the environment.
It’s a striking space that brings in amazing exhibits from around the world and it’s worthy to check their website before visiting.
The Bundeskuntshalle aims at promoting art, culture, science, technology and environment. You’ll definitely find something that interests you!
Stroll the Old Town and Admire Beethoven Monument
No visit to Bonn would be complete without a leisurely stroll through the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets of the Old Town. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon or the evening after visiting museums or attending a concert! You’ll see the Altes Rathaus and it steps with gilded railings and the charming food market in the market square!
At the Munster Square your jaw will drop at the beautiful Münster Basilica with its Romanesque style. You’de definitely visit it if you haven’t already! On the opposite site of the square you can look up at the imposing bronze statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven, erected in 1845 for the first annual Beethoven festival.
The Beethoven Monument is an icon in Bonn and a must-see for all Bonn visitors. The baroque building behind it is the post-office and it provides a photogenic backdrop to it. The famous composer had an impressive impact on the city and the history of music and Bonn is absolutely proud of being the place where he was born and where he started to compose music. The statue’s regal stance and intriguing facial expression will definitely catch your attention as it depicts the composer caught in a moment of inspiration. Beethoven’s gaze is turned upward and he appears to be composing a piece of music with the pen and notebook held in his hand. The monumental structure is completed by a small bed of flowers surrounding the base and bas-reliefs of mythical figures wrapped around the bronze pedestal of the statue.
Enjoy a coffee at any of the many cafés surrounding Munster Square and take your time to relax and admire Beethoven Monument and the surrounding area.
Visit the Arithmeum
Believe it or not, chronic Maths haters will love and actually enjoy spending some time in the Arithmeum, a fascinating museum dedicated to maths. Based upon a collection of over 1200 antique calculating machines and rare books on the subject dating back many centuries. The Arithmeum aims to promote the learning and understanding of scientific and technological knowledge and the interaction between science, architecture and art.
Even if you dreaded Maths at school and you’re definitely not into numbers and calculus, you’ll enjoy admiring the expansive collection of mechanical calculating machines that ranges from the abacus to complex computers! Dedicate at least a couple of hours to explore this fascinating museum!
Tour the Schloss Drachenburg
Located on one of the seven hills of Drachenfels, Schloss Drachenburg or Drachenburg Castle was completed around 1890 on the orders of a wealthy banker. He never lived there and the castle passed through many hands before it was given protected historical status. You can either hike the long pathway up or take a charming and historic tram.
The Drachenburg Castle looks like any of the ancient fairy tale castles that you can find in the forests of Bavaria although it’s a fantastic imitation. Inside it is decorated in a Baroque style and it’s a very nice castle to explore full of hidden doors! Children will love it for sure! Besides, the views down to the river and all the way back to Bonn are just jaw-dropping! The Drachenfels, ruins, castle and museum along the way are definitely worth seeing and you’ll feel like royalty!
Visit the Medieval Castle of Godesberg
The stark stone castle of Godesberg was built in the XIII century and, although it was largely destroyed in the late XVI century, it was restored in 1959 to its original character. Modern amenities, as a restaurant with spectacular views of the countryside, were added to make the visitors’ visit even more exciting. Besides, the interior of the castle was turned into apartments. Yes! You can spend a night (or more!) there! The surrounding views are absolutely beautiful and you’ll be glad you’ve walked uphill! Needless to say, sunsets are breathtaking!
Visit the Awesome Poppelsdorfer Schloss (Popelsdorfer Palace)
The Poppelsdorf Schloss is Bonn’s tribute to the Baroque style and it’s one of the most impressive buildings in Bonn and it stands on the site of a ruined castle, was constructed in the XVIII century and has belonged to the University of Bonn since the early XIX century where it is the home of its fascinating natural sciences collection.
You’ll love to take lots of pictures of this wonderful building and the beautiful surrounding gardens that are almost endless!