Bonn

Bonn is one of the largest cities in the Cologne Lowland, second only to Cologne itself in terms of population count. Despite the size, it maintains a cozy, relaxed atmosphere of a small town, featuring mostly low-rise buildings, a charming old town and a lot of greenery. Located only 28 km south of Cologne up the Rhine river, it has a wealth of museums and points of interest.

Bonn was the de facto capital of the pre-reunification Federal Republic of Germany ("West Germany") from 1949 through 1990. The city still holds the seats of many federal institutions, and remains a popular choice for large-scale exhibitions and conferences. Bonn is also the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, who is celebrated throughout the city with several memorials and events.

You should consider a trip to Bonn if you like atmospheric smaller cities with many students and a rich culture. Admirers call it Italy's most northern city because of its street culture with many cafes and beer gardens in the summer. It is also a good base for day trips to Cologne, Düsseldorf, the romantic Rhine and the Eifel region.

Remains of an ancient Roman house in Bonn

Understand

Bonn's beginning dates between 13-9 BC when Romans began building roads, bridges, and fortresses at a location known as "Bonna." One well-documented event was the martyrdom of two Thebaean legionaries. The Thebaean Legion was an all Christian legion, which refused to worship the emperor as a god. As punishment, the Thebaean Legion's commander, Mauritius was executed in St. Moritz as were many other Thebaean legionaries including Cassius and Florentius, Bonn's patron saints, who were martyred at the location of the present-day Münster basilica.

After the Romans left, the town had a very tumultuous history. Bonn has been destroyed and pummeled on so many occasions that it nearly became a pastime. Norman invaders were the first to burn the town to the ground in 881 and again in 892. In 1198, King Philip of Swabia and Duke Heinrich von Brabant laid siege to Bonn. In 1244 Konrad von Hochstaden, archbishop of Cologne ordered Bonn to be fortified. The reasons for fortification may have been for the Archbishop's protection as he had apparently begun fighting with Cologne's leaders and often resided in Bonn after the dispute. In 1288 under Sigfried II von Westerburg the archbishopric was transferred from Cologne to Bonn, which has since been transferred back to Cologne.

Bonn in 1689

In 1582 Archbishop Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg converted to Calvinism and refused to give up his position as elector. In February of 1583 Waldburg married and was in April of the same year excommunicated by Pope Gregory XIII. After the Truschessian War Gebhard fled to Strasbourg, but not before Bonn felt the rapture of Bavarian troops, who blew up the Godesberg (the archbishop's residence) with 1,500 pounds of gunpowder. While the town survived the Thirty Years' War Bonn was completely destroyed in 1689 as a result of the War of the Grand Alliance.

In December 1770 Bonn's most famous son, Ludwig van Beethoven, was born on Bonngasse. Bonn is probably best known as Beethoven's birthplace and this fact is well advertised by the city despite Beethoven's vehement disgust towards his hometown. Beethoven spent some time in Vienna hoping to study with Mozart, but after his mother's death he was forced to return to Bonn for five years to raise his two younger brothers since his alcoholic father was unable to. In 1792 Beethoven returned to Vienna and never came back to Bonn.

An aerial view of the Bundesviertel (the federal government district) in Bonn

While Bonn is by no means a "village" its selection as seat of the government of the new west German state in 1949 was precisely because the partition of Germany should appear to be temporary and thus more important or symbolic cities such as Cologne, Munich or Hamburg were soon out of consideration. However in the final decision the fact that Konrad Adenauer had a house nearby may well have played some if not the decisive role, where Bonn beat out Frankfurt by a single vote. See also Cold War Europe.

After reunification it was seriously considered to keep the government in town, especially as the previously "provisional" facilites had just been upgraded bit by bit in the late 1980s. However in another close vote the Bundestag decided to move most agencies to Berlin, while some would stay in Bonn much to the chagrin of people who see the double facilities as needless pork in favor of Bonn.

Tourist information

Get in

By plane

Bonn is nominally served by the Cologne-Bonn Konrad Adenauer Airport (German: Köln-Bonn) (IATA: CGN) in Cologne. The airport handles far more air cargo traffic than passengers, but since the airport has become the hub for a Lufthansa's low-fare subsidiary Germanwings, it is well connected to many major European airports. The airport is also well-served by other low-fare airlines like Ryanair and holiday flight specialists like and TUIfly.

That said, the airport sees very little intercontinental passenger traffic, save for a few flights to countries like Turkey, Morocco or Iran operated by the respective countries airlines and serving mainly local ethnic minorities. In November/December 2015, those will be joined by Germanwings's long-distance sister airline, Eurowings, flying to holiday destinations like Dubai or Bangkok. For other long-distance flights, you have to take one of the many connections to one of Europe's major intercontinental hubs.

From the airport, take the SB60 airport bus (€7.20) to Bonn's central bus station near the Hauptbahnhof. It leaves every 30 minutes from outside Terminal 1 arrivals, and takes a little over half an hour to reach the Bonn city centre. You can also take a train from the airport to Bonn-Beuel, which is on the other side of the river from Bonn city (Zentrum). A taxi to central Bonn will cost around €45.

If you are flying transatlantically, chances are Frankfurt is a better option time-wise - as you are likely to get a direct flight - though not necessarily in terms of budget. If you are cost conscious comparing airfares to CGN, FRA and several other airports in the general area is certainly a good idea, as due to the quirky nature of airline pricing differences in price of one or two hundred Euro are not at all uncommon.

Timewise, however, CGN is just as far from Bonn as the Frankfurt Airport IATA: FRA, one of Europe's busiest intercontinental hubs. The airport has a long-distance train station directly connected to Bonn's Siegburg railway station, which high-speed trains (departing every hour) reach in less than 40 minutes. When flying Lufthansa, you can even book the train connection as a part of your long-distance flight ticket - the station's IATA code is ZPY and the Lufthansa tickets to this destination are often priced the same or slightly lower as those terminating at FRA. For more details see rail air alliances

Long-distance high-speed trains arrive at Bahnhof Siegburg-Bonn rather than the Hauptbahnhof

By train

The train route from Bonn Hauptbahnhof to Frankfurt via Koblenz is especially beautiful as it runs along the Rhine and you will see many old towns and castles on the way. It takes about 2 hours.

Travelling with the regional train SE10 "RheingauLinie" from Frankfurt try to sit on the right hand side of the train for the better view and the Regional-Express RE 5 "Rhein-Express" or Mittelrheinbahn MRB26 from Koblenz to sit in the left hand side.

If you are in a hurry, however, better take the fast train (ICE) to Siegburg from Amsterdam, Basel, Brussels Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich or Stuttgart, among others.

By long distance bus

Traveling by long distance bus, you would typically take the bus lines to Cologne and then continue your travel to Bonn by regional train. There's only one long-distance bus station of Postbus located at the Posttower

Get around

The city centre itself is not very big and you are able to reach the different attractions there by foot.

Bonn has an excellent bus, night bus, tram and subway system operated by the local Stadtwerke Bonn. There are ticket offices and vending machines at major stations, offering single tickets (€2.70), multiple tickets and both 24-hour and weekly passes. The tickets are valid in local trains, Stadtbahn (subway), tram, buses and night buses.

It is also a good city to explore by bike. Rental bikes are available at the train station from Deutsche Bahn at platform 1 or from the Radstation behind the train station.

Altes Rathaus

See

Bonner Münster
A bird's eye view of the Kreuzbergkirche
Poppelsdorfer Schloss amidst the botanical gardens
Schürmann-Bau, envisaged as the seat of the (West) German parliament and now serving as the headquarters of the Deutsche Welle, extending flat next to the tall tower of Deutsche Post
Palais Schaumburg, the former residence of the Bundeskanzler

The former capital

Villa Hammerschmidt still serves as the secondary residence of the German President
The preserved magnetic-levitation Transrapid train welcomes you to Deutsches Museum Bonn

Museums and Galleries

The Bonn Regio WelcomeCards offers free admission to most public museums in Bonn (including all of those listed below), free rides on buses and trams on the local public transport system (VRS), and discounts to other tourist attractions. The validity for both individual or family WelcomeCards are in increments of 24 hours and can be purchased online, at the Tourismus offices or participating hotels. The 24-hour individual ticket cost €9.

Beethoven's birthplace is nestled in one of the narrow streets of Bonn's old town
Haus der Geschichte brilliantly recreates past periods of German history

Do

Museum Koenig

Festivals

Music and Theatre

Cinema

Most cinemas only show dubbed German versions of international films. Watch out in the program for OV=Original Version or OmU=Original mit Untertiteln, means with German subtitles. Amongst the few cinemas which show English films on a regular basis are

Learn

Buy

Haribo factory store

Bonn's city centre hosts the usual chain stores like Kaufhof, Karstadt, C&A, H&M, Esprit, Zero, NewYorker, Promod, Butler's, Tchibo and Runner's Point.

Eat

This villa, at Kurt-Schumacher-Straße 10, was built in 1923 and served as the Austrian and Egyptian Embassies when Bonn was the capital of West Germany; it is now occupied by the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Budget

Mid-range

Drink

Wasserlichtfeldspiegel at the Stadthaus

Cafes

Bars

Bonner Altstadt ('old downtown') in general is a good place to go out. Find a lot of small pubs and student bars in this district

Clubs and Discos

The Post Tower (HQ of Deutsche Post) glistening at sunset

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

The Kameha Grand is an architectural marvel well worth a trip over the Rhine

Splurge

Connect

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.