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17 Delightful Things to Do in Bonn, Germany (2024)

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 in Europe? Well, yes!

Bonn is a small charming city of some 310,000, set on the banks of the Rhine River.

It doesn’t get the same ink as other places in Germany, like Berlin (the country’s capital and “it” city) and Dresden.

But we certainly discovered there are actually many lovely things to do in Bonn.

And after a great stay in this city, we’re eager to share experiences you can’t miss and the best places in Bonn to see.

There are lots of interesting things to do in Bonn.
You’d be surprised at what there is to do in Bonn

How to see Bonn

First, in case you’re wondering how to visit Bonn, below are a couple of good options. (And then we dive right into activities in Bonn and its historical sights and attractions!)

Bonn tour

For an easy way to see the best of Bonn, this Bonn and Bad Godesberg hop-on hop-off tour is just the ticket. 

You’ll ride a double-decker bus around Bonn, taking in historical landmarks like Sudstadt, with its old grand houses, and the museum area.

You’ll also get to admire the Siebengebirge Mountains near the beginning of the Rhine River.

As it’s a hop-on hop-off tour, you can get off the bus and spend as much time as you want at each place.

Bonn scavenger hunt interactive app

If you’d like to explore Bonn on your own in a fun and unique way, check out this cool interactive app for your phone.

It’ll help you discover Beethoven Haus (see #1), Bonn Minster (#4) and other Bonn tourist attractions and hidden gems – all on a self-guided walking tour. You’ll get to solve puzzles and master creative photo tasks along the way.

Best things to do in Bonn, Germany

1) Tour Beethoven House

things to do in Bonn - Beethoven House
A bust of Beethoven and Beethoven House (Credit: German National Tourist Board)

What to see in Bonn? The top attraction?

This one’s easy.

Since Ludwig van Beethoven is the city’s most famous son, start with a visit to Beethoven House (Beethoven Haus). You’ll find it right in the heart of Bonn, in the Old Town center.

This 12-room house is where the gifted composer was born in 1770. Today, it’s a popular museum.

The Beethoven House is one of the top attractions in Bonn
The Beethoven House is one of the top attractions in Bonn

Inside, we saw various fascinating items relating to this extraordinary figure.

There’s the original announcement of his first concert – at the age of eight! Then there are the bronze ear trumpets he used as he tragically turned deaf in his late 20s.

We also saw shopping lists for the family housekeeper plus two original pianos he played in Vienna.

We even saw a lock of Beethoven’s silver hair!

Bonn - Beethoven House
Musical instruments inside Beethoven House (Credit: German National Tourist Board)

So, yes, the Beethoven Museum is a must-see in Bonn!

Note that the museum is closed on Tuesdays.

2) Gape at the Altes Rathaus

While strolling through the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets of the Old Town, you’re bound to come across Bonn’s old City Hall.

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

Known also as the Altes Rathaus, this historic building was finished in 1780 and is a great example of Rococo architecture. 

With its gilded stair railings and elaborate ornamental facade, 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 bustling three-cornered market square in front of the Altes Rathaus, you’ll discover the colorful Bonn Market.

The market has two parts. There’s the green market and the street food market.

The green market sells daily needs like fruit, fresh bread, cheese and sausage – all perfect for an easy lunch on a bench outside in the sunshine.

In the street food area, you’ll find fresh juices, vegan food, classic bratwurst, baked potatoes and more.

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. (It’s used for events like the Bonn Christmas Market.)

On 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.

You’ll also find other historic buildings in Munster Square, including the Old Main Post Office (Hauptpost).

The square itself has numerous cafés. It’s a great place to sip a cappuccino and indulge in the pleasant pastime of people-watching.

5) Check out the Beethoven statue

The Beethoven statue stands proudly in the Munsterplatz, Bonn.
The Beethoven statue stands proudly in the Munsterplatz

When at Munster Square, be sure to look up at the imposing bronze statue of Beethoven.

This Beethoven monument was revealed in 1845 for the first annual Beethoven festival.

It received an extensive restoration in 2022. It’s now nice and clean, and Beethoven’s steely glare has never looked better.

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 just 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, housing its natural sciences collection.

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

Mineralogical Museum

You can visit the Mineralogical Museum of the University of Bonn inside the palace.

There are four rooms where you can see minerals of all colors and shapes, gems and meteorites.

Note: The museum is only open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Bonn Botanical Gardens

You’ll also find the University of Bonn Botanical Gardens on the palace grounds.

Created in the early 19th century, the vast botanical garden showcases 3,000 plant species – from orchids and rare Indonesian flowers to carnivorous plants and ginkgo trees.

Bonus: The gardens are free to visit – one of the best free things to do in Bonn!

It’s no surprise that students like to gather in the gardens to chat and socialize.

In the summer months, classical music concerts are held outside on the lawns in the evenings.

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.

This museum of modern art was founded in 1947.

It’s home to an important collection of German art, focusing on works of the “Rhenish Expressionists.” These were a group of artists in the early 1900s who developed their own bold striking style. Some great examples are August Macke’s compelling paintings of the Rhineland.

There are also many works by post-war German artists.

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

It’s definitely one of the best museums in Bonn!

The Kunstmuseum is open daily except Mondays.

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 – a refreshing ale-lager hybrid. Relax and enjoy the views.

There’s also a good choice of food, with curry and pizza on offer, plus the usual bratwurst and chips.

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, housed within a minimalist steel-and-glass building at the University of Bonn.

The museum features the most comprehensive collection of historic calculating machines in the world.

These mechanical machines click and whir as they complete complex calculations. You can see their whole historical progression in over 10,000 pieces.

There are also all sorts of other mathematical novelties on view. This includes historical arithmetic books and a 400-year collection of slide rules – all displayed in Bauhaus glass cabinets among colorful pieces of design furniture and art.

Note: Like most museums in Bonn, the Arithmeum is closed on Mondays.

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!

When it comes to day trips from Bonn, you must enjoy a scenic trip along the Rhine River to Konigswinter.

We hopped on a riverboat for a two-hour river cruise. We glided past mansions, framed by weeping willows, then into the countryside to Konigswinter.

Konigswinter is the pretty town 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

Boat tours to Konigswinter

If you’re looking for a boat tour to Konigswinter, this great two-hour Rhine River boat trip takes in the sights between Bonn and Königswinter.

You’ll also hear live commentary about the area’s rich history.

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.

This is the oldest cogwheel railroad in Germany. The train climbs 720 feet over a distance of one mile, with some inclines as steep as 22%.

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 typically goes every 30 minutes and operates year-round, except for late November and December. (See the Drachenfelsbahn timetable.)

Drachenfels railway car stopped on the hill by Drachenberg Castle
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

Drachenburg Castle, Germany
Now this is a castle!

Get off the Drachenfels railway car at Drachenburg Castle

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

Damaged in WWII, the fairytale castle has been restored to show the rooms in their original opulent state. And opulent they are – they’re over the top!

Drachenburg Castle, Bonn
A great day trip from Bonn is to visit the fairytale Drachenburg Castle

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.

Dining room in Drachenburg Castle
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!

The blue-and-green bedroom in Drachenburg Castle
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!

Guided tours of the castle are offered, so check the different options if interested.

13) Eat at Brauhaus Bronnsch

Kolsch may be more common.

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

Fresh pretzel
Fresh pretzels to go with your beer?

Brauhaus Bonnsch is a small independent micro-brewery in Bonn’s city center that makes a great unfiltered lemony ale.

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.

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

14) Visit the Federal Republic of Germany Museum

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

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

Already mentioned, 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).

It’s an excellent museum covering contemporary German history from the end of the Second World War to today.

Life in Germany after WWII
Life in Germany after WWII (Credit: Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany)

What’s special is the insight the FDR Museum offers into how ordinary German people lived their lives after the war in very difficult circumstances.

The museum offers glimpses into this tumultuous time. 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).

You’ll see from the museum’s Tripadvisor ranking that visiting it is definitely one of the best things to do in Bonn!

Bonus: Entrance to the museum is free for all visitors.

15) Enjoy the cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms along Heerstrasse Avenue in Bonn
Cherry blossoms along Heerstrasse Avenue in Bonn

Move over Japan!

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

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” through many of the city’s cobblestone streets.

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

Bonn is particularly pretty when the cherry blossoms bloom in spring.
Bonn is particularly pretty when the cherry blossoms bloom in spring

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 usually 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!

A visit to Bonn wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the gummy bear store. Bonn is where these delicious bears were invented back in the 1920s.

Hans Riegel created the jelly-like candies, forming the company Haribo. In fact, the name comes from the first two letters of both his first and last name plus his home city – 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

Now you know what to do in Bonn, Germany!

Bonn is more than just the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Despite its small size, this gem of a city offers plenty to explore – from world-class museums and the historic elegance of Poppelsdorf Palace to beautiful gardens and scenic river cruises.

If you’ve been, what places to visit in Bonn do you recommend? Let us know. You can share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

More Bonn travel information

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

Experience more of Germany!

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.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


Love Bonn? Then pin this!

Best things to do in Bonn, Germany
What to do in Bonn, Germany

Photo credits: 3, 9, 12 to 15, 17 to 19 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors

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

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

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..