Bonn Travel Guide

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Bonn's town hall

Bonn's town hall

Stefan Krüger

Bonn is a pretty university town in the West of Germany. Originally founded by the Romans as a depot for their Agrippan Legion (Castra Bonnensis) Bonn is slightly younger than nearby Cologne, which later became the capital of roman Germany. Like in Cologne, christianisation arrived early in the region, and it is not without logic that the archbishops of Cologne chose Bonn as their residence after falling out with the strong farmer and burgher lobby (Battle of Worringen) in 1288. The residence, which was rebuilt a number of times during the Middle Ages today houses the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhem University, which counts some 24 000 students from all over the world.

A major portion of the student body can usually be found in the famous Hofgarten park, a nice soft patch of lawn ideally suited for sunbathing, napping, ball-games and studying.

Bonn also was a customs station on the Rhine river before the formation of the 1871 German Imperial Reich and the wealth of its citizens is reflected in the many historical buildings throughout the town. Having been largely destroyed during the war, Bonn was chosen to be the 'provisional' capital of West Germany in 1949.

 It then actually was the capital of the German Federal Republic for just over 50 years, until 1999, or ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain in 1989.

Bonn itself always was a rather small town, but by incorporating a number of villages along the Rhine it grew into a city of more than 250 000 inhabitants and still retained a somewhat laid back village-like atmosphere. Most of her sights can be covered on foot, indeed the entire inner city is a pedestrian zone.

A number of very interesting museums  can be found in Bonn, including the Rheinische Landesmuseum (displaying the original famous 'NEANDERTHALER' scull), the Museum Koenig with its vast collection of stuffed animals and dinosaur skeletons, the German Art Museum and also the German Modern History Museum.

Bonn is also the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and this classic musican and composer is omnipresent. Don't forget to see his house of birth on Bonngasse. Another famous composer couple that lived here is Robert and Clara Schumann.

The Bonners are very laid-back people who enjoy fine arts, history and of course a nice sip of Klsch beer. The best spot to do so is at the Alter Zoll ('old toll station') beergarden, near the university, just above the Rhine. Here you can enjoy your Beer with good food while gazing at the Siebengebirge and chatting with locals and visitors.

The Siebengebirge (the famous 'Seven Hills' of the Grimm fairy tale Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarves', who actually worked in the mine shafts that are still there) are of volcanic origin and provide a picturesque backdrop for the high-rising, ultramodern Post-Tower on the brink of the Rheinauen (see below). Two of the mountain tops border on the edge of the eastern bank of the Rhine river and are famous for their spectacular views over Bonn, the Eifel region and the Rhineland: The Drachenfels on the southern end of the Siebengebirge is the monumental sign-post for a romantic Rhine valley voyage. Be sure to ride a donkey, horse drawn carriage or the old cog railway up to the Drachenfels ruins, the most-visited tourist spot in Germany. On the neighboring Petersberg summit the former seat of the Allied Occupation Commission, then Guesthouse of the Federal Government - now a 5-star hotel - served as a temporary and very comfortable home for honored international guests. Enjoy a lazy afternoon on its sunswept terrace with coffe and cake, local beer or  wine, like many German daytrippers from the Rhine-Ruhr area do.

About 30 minutes south of Bonn in the city of Rhndorf (take tram U 66 to Bad Honnef), you can visit the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus and see where the first German Federal Chancellor (or Prime Minister) resided during the times of the "Bonner Republik" and before and during WW2 when he was Lord  Mayor of Cologne, when not imprisoned by the Nazis.

Take the car or passenger ferry to Bad Godesberg, a mostly residential suburb of Bonn with many old mansions built by the tycoons of the Rhine/Ruhr industrial region Hike up to the Godesburg, yet another prominent medieval watchtower over the Rhine valley. It's just a brisk walk from the river, but the excellent public tranport (bus or DB railway from Mehlem) makes it easier. Take a relaxing mineral water bath in the Kurfrsten-Bad (Archduke's Spa) for only 3.50 euro incl all you can drink mineral waters (students with ID 50% off, clothing optional every 2nd  Sunday of the month).

If time permits, go and visit the Rheinauen (Rhine meadows). They are Bonn's very own "Central Park" with several gardens, fountains, and cafes. It is also the venue for many festivals.

Bonn is a city with an absurdly high quality of living. In spite of its clean and tidy smallness and its dreamy air of the Wilhelminian style, it has all the benefits of a modern, vibrant metropolitan city: Excellent infrastructure, traffic connectivity and public transport with a wonderful Old Town for everything from everyday to extravagant shopping and a truly comprehensive cultural offering.

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June 06, 2005 change by giorgio

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