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17 Delightful things to do in Bonn, Germany

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17 Delightful things to do in Bonn, Germany

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If you’re a classical music hound, you may know Bonn is the German city where Beethoven was born (he lived there until age 22).

You may also know that, until the east-west German reunification, Bonn was the capital of West Germany.

So, is Bonn worth visiting?

Well, yes!

It doesn’t get the same ink as other places in Germany, like Berlin (the country’s capital and “it” city). But during our stay in Bonn, we discovered there are actually many lovely things to do in Bonn!

Best things to do in Bonn

Bonn is a small charming city of some 310,000, set on the banks of the Rhine River – and it has much to offer in the way of historical sights and attractions.

1) See Beethoven House

Since Ludwig van Beethoven is the city’s most famous son, perhaps start with a visit to Beethoven House in the Old Town center.

things to do in Bonn - Beethoven House
A bust of Beethoven and Beethoven House

The 12-room house where the gifted composer was born in 1770 is a museum today.

Inside, we saw the original announcement of his first concert at age eight, the bronze ear trumpets he used as he tragically turned deaf in his late 20s, shopping lists for the family housekeeper, two original pianos he played in Vienna – and even a lock of Beethoven’s silver hair.

Bonn - Beethoven House
Beethoven House

2) Gape at the Altes Rathaus

One of the best places to see in Bonn is the Altes Rathaus
One of the best places to visit in Bonn is the Altes Rathaus

When strolling through the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets of the Old Town, you’ll come across the Altes Rathaus, Bonn’s old City Hall. With gilded stair railings and a pretty Rococo façade, it’s quite the showstopper!

Famous people who’ve stepped foot inside include John F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle and Mikhail Gorbachev.

3) Browse the food market at the Altes Rathaus

In the square in front of the Altes Rathaus (the Market Square), you’ll discover a colorful market. Perhaps pick up some fruit, fresh bread, cheese and sausage for an easy lunch outside on a bench in the sunshine?

The market is held every day except on Sundays.

4) Admire the Bonn Minster

The impressive Munster Basilica in Bonn, Germany, was built between the 11th and 13th centuries.
The Bonn Minster is impressive indeed!

The Munsterplatz (or Munster Square) is one of the largest squares in Bonn.

At one side of the square, there’s the impressive Bonn Minster (Munster Basilica). Built between the 11th and 13th centuries in a mix of both Romanesque and Gothic styles, it’s one of Germany’s oldest churches.

It has a beautiful cloister which you can visit.

5) Check out the Beethoven statue

When at Munster Square, be sure to look up at the imposing bronze statue of Beethoven, erected in 1845 for the first annual Beethoven festival.

6) Visit Poppelsdorf Palace

Poppelsdorf Palace
The pretty Poppelsdorf Palace

From the Old Town, wander over to the ochre-colored Poppelsdorf Palace. (Don’t you love the name?)

One of the prettiest attractions in Bonn, it was the former home of prince-elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria. The show-stopping Baroque palace is now part of the University of Bonn.

Fronting it is the Hofgarten, a large garden where students gather to chat and socialize.

Classical music concerts are held outside on the lawns on summer evenings.

Visiting Poppelsdorf Palace is one of the best things to do in Bonn, Germany
Poppelsdorf Palace

Got a crush on palaces? You’ll love Stockholm’s Drottningholm Palace – read next!

7) Eye the art at the Kunstmuseum Bonn

Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany
Art lovers should head to the Kunstmuseum

Art lovers! One of the best places to see in Bonn is the Kunstmuseum.

Founded in 1947, the Museum of Modern Art is home to an important collection of German art. Works are those by the “Rhenish Expressionists” (a group of artists in the early 1900s, including August Macke, who painted bold images of the Rhineland) and by post-war German artists.

The museum building itself is also interesting to work your way through, with unexpected angles and curved stairs.

Recommended reading: When in NYC, check out what you absolutely must see at the Met Museum

8) Drink a beer at Alter Zoll

Enjoy the river view with a glass of Kolsch at Biergarten Alter Zoll
Enjoy the river view with a glass of Kolsch at Biergarten Alter Zoll

Make your way up to the terrace running along the left bank of the Rhine River and you’ll get great views of the river. You’ll also find a beer garden there (Biergarten Alter Zoll).

Make like a German and quench your thirst with a glass of Kolsch, as you relax and enjoy the views.

9) Wonder at the Arithmeum

When planning what to do in Bonn, don’t forget to think “math.” That’s right. Because this place makes math fun!

The Arithmeum is a mathematics museum.

But it’s not just about calculus and math. All sorts of historical arithmetic books, slide rulers and mechanical calculating machines are displayed in Bauhaus glass cabinets and among colorful pieces of design furniture and art.

10) Take a short scenic river cruise to Konigswinter

English poet Lord Byron loved holidaying in Konigswinter - and an excursion to Konigswinter is one of the best things to do in Bonn!
An excursion to Konigswinter is one of the best things to do in Bonn!

Hungry? How about lunch on the Rhine!

We hopped on a KD riverboat for a one-hour river cruise, gliding past mansions, framed by weeping willows, to Konigswinter.

This pretty town is where Lord Byron and other wealthy Brits liked to go on holidays in the 19th century. It’s right in wine-growing country, so no doubt they sampled the local wines too.

Mansions on the Rhine in Bonn
Some of the mansions you see on the Rhine River

11) Chug up the Drachenfels Rack Railway

All aboard! Taking a ride on the Drachenfels Rack Railway to the castle up top
All aboard! Taking a ride on the Drachenfels Rack Railway to the castle up top

There’s another reason for visiting Konigswinter – to ride the historic 1883 Drachenfels cog railway.

We boarded an open-sided wooden railcar for the three-minute ride to the top of Drachenfels (meaning “Dragon Rock”) mountain. Fun and very steep!

The train climbs 720 feet over a distance of one mile, and some of the inclines are as steep as 22%.

No, the camera isn’t tilted! This is really how the Drachenfels railway car looks when stopped at Drachenberg Castle

(If you prefer, you can join the hikers armed with poles who huff and puff their way up the green mountainside instead.)

12) Explore Schloss Drachenburg

Get off the Drachenfels railway car at Drachenburg Castle

It looks medieval, but it was actually built for a financier in 1871.

Now this is a castle!

Damaged in WWII, the fairytale castle has been restored to show the rooms in their original opulent state. And it’s over the top!

Rooms are graced by beautiful stained glass windows; the reception room has a wonderful carved oak ceiling (frescoes cover other ceilings).

We loved seeing the dining room table set with gilt-edged china and crystal.

What time is dinner?

And we wondered what it would be like to sleep in the master bedroom.

Blue silk drapes and gold tassels framed the view window. Oh, but it would probably be hot in summer and drafty in winter (no sour grapes, of course!).

Not the master bedroom, but the “blue-and-green” bedroom

You can also climb to the top of the turret (we did) for splendid views of the river valley below. 

After, we strolled the colorful flower gardens surrounding the castle before returning to Bonn.

Visiting the Drachenburg Castle is definitely a great Bonn day trip!

13) Eat at Brauhaus Bronnsch

Kolsch may be more common.

But when in Bonn, you must also drink a Bonnsch.

Brauhaus Bonnsch is a small independent micro-brewery in the center of Bonn that makes a great unfiltered lemony ale.

When in Bonn, eat hearty German food!
When in Bonn, eat hearty German food!

To go with the beer, tuck into some of the resto’s excellent and hearty home-style comfort food – from currywurst to delicious freshly baked pretzels to schnitzel with cabbage and spatzle.

14) Visit the Federal Republic of Germany Museum

Life in Germany after WWII
Life in Germany after WWII

So, did we mention there’s a Museum Mile? No?

The Bonn Museum Mile is a mile-long strip of five museums.

The Kunstmuseum Bonn (#7) is one of the museums on the strip. And so is the Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany (Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

This excellent history museum covers contemporary German history from the end of the Second World War to today.

What’s special is the insight the FDR Museum offers into how ordinary German people carried on and lived their lives after the war in very difficult circumstances. See, for example, the dentist’s chair that was flown into Berlin after the war during the Berlin Airlift (when the city had no supplies due to the Soviet Union blockade).

This museum consistently ranks on TripAdvisor as one of the best things to do in Bonn.

15) Enjoy the cherry blossoms

Move over Japan!

You’re not the only place where cherry blossoms are celebrated.

Cherry blossoms in Bonn in spring

In spring, Heerstrasse Avenue blooms with magnificent pink cherry trees, spreading their boughs over the street.

“Cherry Avenue” is the most famous in Bonn, but in April, you’ll find delightful pink “tunnels” over many of the city’s cobblestone streets.

These blossoms are some of the prettiest things to see in Bonn!

16) Shop at the Friedrichstrass

The Friedrichstrass is a pedestrian street lined with an eclectic array of shops. Antiques? German wine? Maybe a dirndl skirt? You’ll find it all here.

Don’t expect the “typical” stuff you find at big box or brand-name stores.

17) Grab gummies at the Haribo Store

Grab gummies at the Haribo Store in Bonn, Germany
Satisfy your sweet tooth with gummy bears!

A gummy store? Indeed!

Bonn is where gummy bears were invented back in the 1920s.

Hans Riegel created the jelly-like candies. And the candy company’s name – Haribo – comes from the first two letters of both his first and last name and his home city, so HA(ns) (RI(egel) BO(nn).

So indulge your sweet tooth (or the kid in you) and pick up some colorful gummies to take home.

A truck of gummy bears!
A truck full of gummies

More information on things to do in Bonn, Germany

See the German National Tourist Board’s site on Bonn.

Experience more of Germany!

Read our posts on:

Dresden | What to do in Dresden? Gape at the treasure in the historic Green Vault museum. See the beautiful Zwinger Palace. Bicycle along the Elbe River. And more!

Berlin | One day in Berlin. Crazy? Or not?

Baden-Baden | There’s an art to bathing naked at the Freidrichsbad.


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Best things to do in Bonn, Germany

Photo credits: 1, 3, 10, 13 to 20, 22, 23 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 5 and 6 German National Tourist Board | 27 Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany


Have you been? What places to visit in Bonn do you recommend?


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Elsa

Thursday 22nd of September 2016

Fantastic post! :) It was so nice to admire these images and, as you mentioned, to see the city from another perspective. Please let us know if you come back! Great blog, by the way! XO, Elsa

Janice and George

Thursday 22nd of September 2016

Must be fun, Elsa, to be living in Bonn! We enjoyed reading your post on life in Bonn as an expat.

Suze

Thursday 1st of October 2015

How nice to see Beethoven's house and that charming palace! I'd love to visit Bonn as it's compact and easy to get around

Michele Peterson

Wednesday 30th of September 2015

I'd love to go to Bonn and you're right, it's quite overlooked compared to other cities in Germany. But I do have a soft spot for Beethoven since I grew up playing ( or attempting to play) his music on the piano. Drachenburg Castle is also the stuff of childhood fairytales - gorgeous!

Irene S. Levine

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

Bonn looks like a wonderful city to visit---so sophisticated with such a rich history~

Evelyn

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

Lovely charming city! Deserves to be on our "bucket list" which is getting longer and longer the more we read about the old world.

Thanks for the useful comments, unique perspective and magnificent photos..

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