The placid university town of BONN was "provisional" capital of West Germany for fifty years, from 1949 until the Bundestag and many government departments began relocating to Berlin in 1999. Bonn was dubbed "Federal Capital Village" for the sheer improbability of its choice as capital; likelier candidates included Frankfurt, which even built a parliament building to fulfil its anticipated role. But Bonn prevailed, and it was changed by the experience, so that by the time the federal government moved to Berlin it was no longer quite the "small town in Germany" of John Le Carré's Cold War spy story. The two houses of the German parliament may no longer reside here, but several ministries do, along with the United Nations and the headquarters of Deutsche Telekom, T Mobile and Deutsche Post.
Bonn's pleasant, traffic-free Altstadt benefits from its associations with Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born here, while the setting – at the beginning of a particularly scenic stretch of the Rhine – is a delight, and easily explored on foot, but the modern city stretches far along the Rhine. Sandwiched between the city proper and its spa-town suburb of Bad Godesberg is the old government quarter, the Bundesviertel, and its strip of modern museums along the so-called Museumsmeile, planned before the Berlin Wall fell but that, in the event, proved to be a generous goodbye-present to the city.
Facing Bonn across the Rhine are the inviting, wooded hills of the Siebengebirge – a hugely popular destination for walkers and day-trippers alike, right on Bonn's doorstep.
Located on the Rhine, Bonn was once the capital of West Germany, and remains an important player in the country's political scene. Its most famous resident was Ludwig van Beethoven, but Bonn is highly regarded today for its high-quality universities, vibrant culture and stunning architecture.
Bonn's city center is characterized by the pedestrian district, with its many shops in the Sternstraße . There is also a weekly Marktplatz , the Münsterbasilika and the large University . Numerous pubs, breweries and restaurants also make the city center a popular place. The Beethovendenkmal , Lennehaus and Abgeordneten-Hochhaus are rich with historical importance and are popular stops among visitors.
This district on the eastern side of the Rhine is connected to the city center by the Kennedy Bridge, and is well known for its "fifth season" Bonner Karneval . Today the memorial to the laundry women honors the pioneers of Weiberfastnacht (Women's Carnival) in 1824. The plaque on the Synagogenplatz in Beuel is a reminder of the Beuel Synagogue that once stood there. The Heimatmuseum Beuel is devoted entirely to the local customs and rich history of Beuel.
Endenich and Ippendorf
This area is particularly known for the Schumannhaus , where famed composer Robert Schumann once lived. Today there is a music bookshop here as well as a memorial room. The Springmaus in the Frongasse is famous for being the place where many local performers get their start.
If you're attracted by nature, then the Ippendorf area should please you; the Bonn city forest can be found there. It is a recreation area containing Waldau , a children's area in which the animal enclosure is the most popular attraction. A visit to the Haus der Natur (House of Nature) is also delightful. It houses many kinds of animals and plants that can be found in the local forest, and features a large, outdoor herbgarden.
Bonn Altstadt (Old Town)
The Old Town extends to the council office buildings to the north, and has a distinctly urban feel. Here there is a multitude of pubs and restaurants for those who like a bit of fun. If you're inclined towards art, then you should visit the Kunstcarre (Artists' Square) as well as the Bonn Art Society , Art Forum , Women's Museum and the August-Macke-Haus .
The Plittersdorf district has rather different sights to offer. The Deutsche Museum Bonn is found here, as well as the headquarters of the Voluntary Organisation of the United Nations, which is situated right by the Rhine . Bordering Plittersdorf is the Rheinaue Freizeitpark (Leisure Park) with the Ausee Lake. A large flea market takes place here every third Sunday of the month. Also popular is the Pützchens Markt , which is also the site of a popular folk festival.
Poppelsdorf, Muffendorf and Schweinheim
The Poppelsdorf is a classical Bonn district. With its lovely art nouveau houses dating all the way back to 1871, this area is popular among families for its safe, mostly residential streets. Around the Poppeldorfer Castle and Botanical Gardens there are many nice cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Often undiscovered, since it is quite far from the center, is the magical city district of Muffendorf, with pretty half-timbered houses and picturesque courtyards. This area was once a wine growing industry, though today only a few wine bars are reminders of this time. A look at the Kommende is also worthwhile. Schweinheim is west of the Kottenforst nature park and east of Bad Godesberg; be sure to go for a nice walk or visit the Marienforst cloister here.
Bad Godesberg itself, known as a health resort, is of course worth a visit, and the Godesburg is not its only attraction. The Kurpark spa gardens lies close to the city and the Kurfürstenbad spa borders the nice facades of the Ballrooms and Town Hall. In addition, Bad Godesberg has a popular chamber theater and a small theater in the park. A side trip to the Aennchenplatz and a break at the Lindenwirtin is also delightful.
The Museum Mile and government quarter features a multitude of museums and political institutions. The Museum Alexander Koenig , Haus der Geschichte (House of History), Art Museum and the Federal Art & Exhibition Hall can be visited here. Or stop by the Adenauerdenkmal , a memorial to Konrad Adenauer on the Bundeskanzlerplatz, the Palais Schaumburg and the Villa Hammerschmidt .
Bonn has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes to offer its visitors. Those who would prefer to stay in just one of the city's districts will be best served in either the city center or the student quarter of Poppelsdorf. But good food is found not only in these districts, there are also many opportunities to eat out in Bad Godesberg , Südstadt and the Old Town.
The city center is the culinary hub of Bonn, and there are so many places to have a meal or drink here that it is extremely hard to choose between them. The Salvator is a typically Bavarian pub in the middle of the Rhineland. A typical Cologne pub is the Em Höttche , where you can order a meter-long row of Kölsch beer. Younger people like to go to Bellini , a scene cafe-bar, where mainly Italian specialities are served. Around the corner is the Cafe Blau , Bonn's student pub, well known for its cheap breakfast and good coffee. For rock music fans, the Zebulon is just twenty meters away, where you can enjoy a tasty sandwich. Cartoon is a cafe specializing in tasty French dishes and a variety of coffee drinks for breakfast.
If you come to Poppelsdorf, you'll find yourself in Bonn's student quarter. The cocktail bar Extra Dry is worth a visit, as there are over fifty different cocktails on offer here, as well as sandwiches and good coffee. The Cafe Anders is always a good choice—it's a mixture of a restaurant, cafe and bar. Meyer's is a popular local pub that is often packed at night, when guests can often be found gyrating on the dance floor. Get there earlier and try something from their menu, like the Spaghetti Bolognese. Henner's is another popular pub restaurant with a spacious bar and a terrace out front that is perfect for an intimate evening. Zur Lese was once a meeting spot for a book club. Today, the owners have used this appeal to their advantage, indicative in the paintings on the wall. Try some of their classic German fare, like sauerkraut with sausages and some pumpkin soup.
German-French fusion can be found at Halbedels Gasthaus , where the crowd is chic and the service is impeccable. Restaurant Arabesque gives guests something a little more exotic: pulsing music and belly dancers. The menu is filled with Asian and Middle Eastern dishes that will make your mouth water. Beer is on everyone's minds at Stadthalle Bad Godesberg , which serves up some traditional German fare alongside cold brews. All those who prefer Italian cuisine only have to go to the Trattoria Pizzeria Italia . Classic Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs served with complimentary garlic bread amid regional paintings and decor. The staff here also welcomes guests in a warm-hearted, distinctly Italian way.
Beuel and Altstadt (Old Town)
Many pubs and cafes can be found right by the Rhine in Beuel. A fine Spanish-inspired option is Castillo Malagueler , where the decor is distinctly regionally-inspired with regional paintings featuring bullfighting and Spanish music playing through the speakers. Guests are sure to enjoy a meal here, and the dessert can't be missed. The Chinese offerings at Ocean City are not to be missed, and the beautiful decor indicative of the region makes this a peaceful dining experience.
As well as its many museums, the Old Town has much to offer in the way of food and drink. The Borsalino is a cozy wine bar with a rustic Italian atmosphere. In the Anno Tubac , the themes of art and food are brought together.
As you walk around Bonn you will suddenly be taken away by the remnants of German history, from the Universitat Bonn to Museum Mile. With so much to see and do, it is recommended to start at the city center to familiarize yourself with Bonn, and then move on to the adventures that await you outside of town.
Start at the main building of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in the city center, which is best reached from the main station on foot or from the underground stop Uni/Markt. On the city side (the courtyard), the entrance of the Schlosskirche is located near the university entrance. The university chapel was built in a French style that was inspired by Louis XVI. From here, walk along the Franziskanerstraße to the Koblenzer Tor which spans the Adenauer Allee. In the past, members of the Knightly Order of St. Michael met here, over the "triumphal arch." Diagonally opposite is the birthplace of Lenne , a local master of landscape gardening. You can see the bastion walls of the Alte Zoll, where you have a splendid view of the Rhine and the Siebengebirge .
At the southeastern end of the park, opposite the university, is the Akademische Kunstmuseum (Academic Museum of Art). This classical building was built according to designs by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and was originally intended for use by the faculty of medicine. Not far away is the Kreuzbergkirche , a neo-Gothic church dating to 1866. The Kaiserplatz is situated opposite the church. In summer you can sit beneath the shady trees and have a coffee. A visit to the recently opened Kaiserpassage with many shops and pubs is also worthwhile. Then make your way to Museumsmeile (museum mile) where you can spend hours at Haus der Geschichte , Kunstmuseum Bonn , Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepulik Deutschland, the Museum of Alexander Koenig , and the Deutsches Museum Bonn. These museums are filled with contemporary art, international developments, zoological and scientific exhibitions, and more.
A good starting point for a tour of Bonn's city center is the Main Station. The building was built in Italian Renaissance style and is currently under preservation. If you cross the road in front of the station, you'll find yourself at Poststraße, part of Bonn's pedestrian zone and shopping area. A few nice buildings from the 1871-1873 period can be seen here. Walk to the end of this street and you'll reach the Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square). This square has been the setting for many events over the years, such as the annual Christmas Market. The Main Post Office , a former electoral palace, is located on the northwest side of the Cathedral. The famous Beethoven Memorial stands right in front of the main post office, and the huge Münsterbasilika rises up on the opposite side. Past the post office, on the corner of Vivatsgasse and the Münsterplatz, is a typical Bonn pub, the Hähnchen . Walking the length of Vivatsgasse, you'll arrive at the Sterntor , one of Bonn's old city gates, dating from the 13th century. The lovely houses in Sternstraße are worth looking at. Signs mounted on the walls tell the story of each building.
At the end of the street, you will reach the Marktplatz , a market square that dates back to 1770. Here you will also find various events and the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). In Bonngasse, about 60m down on the right hand side, is the famous church Namen-Jesu-Kirche . Further on, at no. 20, is Beethoven's Birthplace . From here it is only about two hundred meters to the Kennedybrücke, the connection to Beuel. The Opera House is only a short walk away. From there you can go to the nearby Pfarr- und Minoritenklosterkirche St. Remigius (Church) on the nearby Brüdergasse.
Südstadt and Poppelsdorf
To discover the Südstadt and Poppelsdorf the best starting point is the main train station . Here you can begin your tour through one of Bonn's nicest residential areas of Prinz-Albert-Straße. Many wonderful and well-preserved houses from the Gründerzeit period (after the Franco-German war of 1870-1890s) to the art nouveau period are displayed here. Buildings from the former period can be recognized by the fact that many of their features are borrowed form other eras, such as the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Many lovely cast iron balconies and stucco decorations also originate from this time. It is worth taking a closer look at the houses on this street (especially no. 14 and 17). In the neighboring Königsstraße you'll see pairs of semi-detached houses, built as mirror images of each other. The Alte Sternwarte at no. 66 is particularly worth mentioning. Next, visit the Poppelsdorfer Schloss , the main attraction in Poppelsdorfer. This castle that was erected in 1715 is a definite must-see as well as the Mineralogic and Petrologic Museum . Then take a stroll around the castle grounds through the Botanical Garden .
In addition, many touring companies in Bonn offer exciting excursions to see Bonn in a different light.
Path of Democracy ( http://www.wegderdemokratie.de/tour/index.html )
Europe Cities ( http://www.partner.viator.com/en/3221/tours/Rhine-River/KD-Rhine-Pass-from-Bonn/d767-3320KDRHINEBONN/ )
Cabrio Bus ( +49 0 22877 3921/ http://www.bonn.de/tourismus_kultur_sport_freizeit/tourist_information/stadtrundfahrten/index.html?lang=en )
Wasserburgen-Route ( http://www.wasserburgen.de/indexe.htm )
Old Cemetery Guided Tour ( +49 0 22864 1407/ http://www.bonn-region.de/english/sightseeing/historical-bonn/old-cemetery.html )