Bonn was a small, gentle and deeply musical city when it was suddenly thrust into the limelight in 1949. Nobody in or outside Bonn could believe it when the city was named the “temporary capital” of West Germany as the Cold War started, beating its larger and better-equipped rival Frankfurt. It was derisively dubbed the “Federal Village” rather than Federal Capital during its 42-year “temporary” capital status, and when the government moved to Berlin in 1991, many predicted Bonn would return to its provincial, backwater state. They were wrong. Today Bonn retains its charm and musicality, but also attracts big international organisations like the UN, and state-of-the-art museums to rival any of Germany’s biggest cities.


Almost every visitor’s trip to Bonn begins in Munsterplatz, heart of the Altstadt (old town) and home to the huge Munster Basilika. The church was built atop the graves of Bonn’s patron saints, Roman soldiers Cassius and Florentius who were executed for refusing to join their army in its persecution of Christians. Its five towers and part-Gothic part-Romanesque style make it an imposing sight. Another resident close to Bonn’s heart is commemorated in this square: Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born and grew up here. A statue of the man sits in Munsterplatz thanks to another composer, Liszt, who embarked on a worldwide tour to raise the funds for the memorial.

In nearby Marktplatz you’ll find Bonn’s pretty pink Rathaus (town hall) which in its heyday played host to the world’s most important statesmen. Just to the north is the Beethoven Haus – the composer’s birthplace has been turned into an interesting museum, full of his letters, scores, paintings and notes. It also proudly displays his last grand piano, and the huge brass ear trumpets the man increasingly relied on as his hearing failed.

Bonn’s historic university owns some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, including the Kurfurstliche Residenz which opens onto the sprawling Palace Garden, a popular student hang-outs. A nearby cube of glass and steel houses the Arithmeum, a museum devoted to algebra and its relationship to art. The displays are actually far more interesting than you might think, tracing the history of humans’ calculation-machines, from our cave-men days to the digital age.

If museums get you going, Bonn is the place for you. Head to the old government district and make your way along the Museumsmeile (literally the Museum mile.) Highlights amongst these museums include the Kunstmuseum which houses 20th century art (including a fine collection of Macke’s works, another famous Bonn resident.) Another must-see is the Haus der Geschichte, full of multimedia exhibits that depict life and change in post WWII Germany. The film showing the fall of the Berlin wall is particularly poignant, as this moment marked the beginning-of-the-end for Bonn’s capital-city status.

Bonn is also home to the unusual “double-church” of St Maria and St Klemens. Built by a local count over 900 years ago, the church has two floors: the top floor for the nobility, the ground floor for the commoners. Satisfyingly, the biggest draw for visitors today are the 12th century fresco cycles which adorn the commoners’ level.

For some fresh air after all those stuffy museums and churches, you won’t be disappointed with the colossal Rheinaue Leisure Park, covering around 160 hectares on both sides of the Rhine. Its main attraction is the 15-hectare Meadow Lake crossed by six pontoon bridges. The park is also criss-crossed by walking trails, and has a range of sporting facilities and children’s playgrounds.


Bonn’s shops cater for its businesspeople and diplomats as well as its tourists. Haute couture is on display in boutiques along the Sternstrasse, and for even pricier goods take an excursion to the wealthy "villas district" of nearby Bad Godesberg. Meanwhile you can find more mainstream goods and gifts in the hundreds of shops in the narrow streets around Marktplatz, and in the Kaiserpassage mall.

Bargain-hunters mustn’t miss the flohmarkt (flea market) at Rheinaue, Ludwig-Erhard-Strasse, where you can spend the third Saturday of each month picking your way through piles of second-hand goods and collectibles. The Wochenmarkt, on the square of the same name, is much more frequent, taking place every day bar Sundays.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Bonn boasts more gourmet restaurants per head than anywhere else in Germany, and with most eateries located on the Rhine’s banks or in central Altstadt, it shouldn’t be hard to find some high-quality local fare. Typical Bonnsche Kuche (Bonnish cooking) includes Schnippelbohnensuppe (bean soup) and Rheinischer Döppekuchen (Rhenish potato cakes.) You can find cheaper and more diverse food in Poppelsdorf, the student quarter.

If you like classical music, evenings in Bonn will be a delight. There are concert venues across the city; the best include Kammermusiksaal for chamber music and intimate recitals, the modern Beethovenhalle and Oper Bonn. There are concerts almost every night of the year - consult monthly listings magazines De Schnuss or Bonner Illustrierte to find out where to look. If you visit between mid September and mid October you will face even more choice than usual, as Bonn’s annual Beethoven Festival brings symphony concerts featuring international artists, jazz, readings, exhibitions and lectures to the city.

Those seeking a wilder night-out might be disappointed. There are three main nightclubs in the city centre. Choose Carpe Noctem close to the station for rock music, Falle for soul and hip hop, and Halli Galli on Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz for cheesy pop. Alternatively, do what most of the local students do and catch a 20-minute train to Cologne.

Tourist Information

Bonn Information, Windeckstraße 1 / near Münsterplatz, 53111 BonnPhone: +49 2 28775000Fax: +49 2 28775077Email: bonninformation@bonn.deInternet:


Bonn shares its airport with Cologne. You can fly to it from almost any UK airport and with a range of low-cost and mainstream airlines. Koln-Bonn airport has excellent travel links, with a motorway spur running right up to the terminals. Bonn is around 10miles from the airport and is at the intersection of several autobahns. If you prefer not to drive, express bus number 670 makes the journey every 30 minutes.

All car hire locations in Germany