City Breaks

Things to do in Bonn – something for all the family

A city with an interesting past, visit Bonn for beautiful scenery, history with a musical twist, castles, and volcanoes.

There aren’t many cities that can claim to be the birthplace of a musical legend, feature in a poem by Byron, and have once been the capital of Germany. Did we mention there is also a volcano nearby?

A brief history of Bonn

When Berlin was split into two by the ‘Iron Curtain’ in 1949, Bonn replaced it as the capital city of Germany. Government officials flocked to Bonn, using its stately buildings as their base and there were later plans to invest into building new governmental buildings, as well as a new chamber for parliament. But before this could happen, in 1991, the German Parliament voted that Berlin should assume its full role as the seat of government and be the capital city once more.

Today, Bonn is a thriving city that attracts people from all around the world, with an array of museums and other attractions worthy of a far bigger city. And it will always maintain its place in history as the birthplace of Beethoven. It’s a place for lovers of art and culture as well as a home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Europe.

crowd of people gathered outside of the Old Town Hall in Bonn

For art and culture lovers

Bonn may not be a capital city, but it has all the culture of one, not least on its Museum Mile, which has an excellent museum about German contemporary history and the Bundeskunsthalle, one of the country’s top exhibition venues. Bonn is where the composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born and grew up, and his birthplace and childhood home are now museums full of invaluable memorabilia from his life.

Drachenfels

The Drachenfels or Dragon Rock mountain on the Rhine lies just south of Bonn and is home to one of Germany's most famous legends. According to a Medieval story, the Drachenfels is where a German hero Siegfried slayed the dragon living in a cave on the mountain, giving it its name. Legend has it that after taking a bath in dragon blood, Siegfried became immortal. The poet Lord Byron mentions this in his work Harold’s Pilgrimage, as well as expressing the natural beauty of the area as only a poet can.

Despite no recent dragon sightings, there is plenty to see at this popular destination, especially on summer days when the sky is at its clearest, presenting magnificent views. You can see the moss-encrusted cave the dragon once resided in too if you are feeling brave.

The Drachenfels is one of the most accessible climbs in the series of peaks that make up the Siebengebirge mountains, but you can also take a railway trip to the summit for around €9 round trip.

A walk through the forest back down to the town takes you past Hansel & Gretel-like houses and the impressive gothic Drachenberg castle, with its wrought iron gates and turrets. The area is also home to traditional beehives, for the opportunity to see how honey is produced and sample some from one of the numerous food stalls dotted around.

Schloss Drachenburg

A fairytale castle that makes a visit to the mountains worth every step

Castle Drachenburg is the unique architectural result of a dream wealthy Bonn financier Stephan Sarter had. He wished to live in grandeur, with unrivalled views of the Rhineland. Unfortunately, Sarter died before getting to live in the completed castle, which was purchased by his nephew in 1903. It’s around 10 minutes from the summit of the Drachenfels, which is why it offers such fantastic views.

Step inside to see the castle’s interesting history. It has been many things, including a nursing home and an elite Nazi academy (you can see the cannons used for training in the grounds). Despite suffering damage in the war, the main hall has now been fully restored, and includes displays on the various periods in the castle's history. Spectacular views of the Rhine stretch from Cologne in the north and south toward Koblenz, plus you can stop for refreshments at the café.

Kid-friendly things to do in Bonn

If you are travelling as a family, it’s good to know there are things nearby to keep you entertained. Bonn has some wonderful places to take children, with fun for the grownups too!

Sea Life Konigswinter

A trip to see some creatures of the sea is a must if you stop in Konigswinter, which is around 20 minutes from Bonn. Exhibitions include the Sunken City of Atlantis and interactive feeding sessions around the rockpool for children of all ages. See local and tropical underwater habitats, plus more than 120 species of sea creatures, or walk through Germany's only 360-degree glass tunnel to be surrounded by fish. You are also close to the river Rhine and the Drachenfels if you wish to spend time there too.

Deutsches Museum Bonn

If you are interested in how things work, or science of any kind, The Deutsches Museum Bonn is a great place to go as a family. A more compact version of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, it contains over 100 contemporary masterpieces of science and technology and demonstrates significant scientific and technical developments throughout history. Some have even been rewarded with Nobel prizes.

The retro equipment on display shows how many different experiments took place and were conducted, you can interact with some of the exhibits to feel like a true scientist too.

Aggua Troisdorf

If you travel to Bonn during the warmer months, a day at this lively waterpark will hit the spot. With both indoor and outdoor pools, Aggua Troisdorf has huge water slides and a splash pool for the younger ones, plus saunas, solarium and a spa for the adults to unwind in. The sports club is also available for games and classes, and you can squeeze in some diving practice at the diving pool, complete with a diving platform.

Historic places to visit in Bonn

If you like your holiday with a little history, Bonn will not disappoint. This city is home to gothic architecture, legendary tales of dragons, and a musical genius was born here. Plan a trip to any of the following places to travel back in time.

Beethoven Monument

The impressive Beethoven monument

You cannot miss the large bronze statue of Ludwig van Beethoven that stands on the Münsterplatz in Bonn, Beethoven's birthplace. In honour of the 75th anniversary of the composer's birth, it was unveiled on 12 August 1845.

After you have seen the statue, you will no doubt notice the impressive hall behind it. The official unveiling of the Beethoven Monument was part of a three day festival, but with only a month to go, the organisers realised they needed somewhere to put the anticipated 3,000 attendees. A month before the festival was due to commence, there was not a suitable venue to hold the expected 3,000 attendees. By the time an architect and builders had been found to construct Beethoven Hall they had less than two weeks to go and had to work around the clock to finish it on time. But you would never suspect this when you see it in person.

If you want to learn more about the great composer, visit Beethovenhaus where he was born in 1770 and grew up. Since 1889, the 16th-century building has housed the world’s most important Beethoven museum. You can see his love letters, ear trumpet and the piano made for him in Vienna.

Bonn Minster

Bonn Minster is a Roman Catholic church built in 1248. It has influences from both Romanticism and the Gothic period, which gives it a unique look, and its five towers can be seen from a long distance. Two coronations have taken place within its walls, one in 1314 of Friedrich der Schöne, and the other in 1346 of Karl IV. Its crypt contains relics from the graves of two Christian Roman officers, Cassius and Florentius, who are said to have been martyred here. They are now honoured as the patrons of the city, with a monument of their heads placed in front of the eastern section of the church.

Today Bonn Minister is in the middle of a bustling Bonn and is still an active church where people from all walks of life can stop for a moment of tranquillity.

Poppelsdorf Palace

Poppelsdorf Palace with its stunning lake and gardens

An impressive piece of architecture, Poppelsdorf Palace was built between 1715 and 1753 with both French classical and Italian influences over its style. As well as housing University of Bonn offices, there’s a mineral museum inside, plus you can walk in its beautiful gardens, which are lovely at any time of the year thanks to the wide variety of plants and flowers. The botanical garden that stretches out behind the palace is now one of the oldest in the world, and each year, the palace holds open air concerts, particularly popular with lovers of classical music. The performances take place on summer evenings in front of the illuminated backdrop of the Baroque palace.

Outdoor attractions in Bonn

With its landscape steeped in magical history and lauded in poems by Lord Byron, Bonn is the place to go if you love the great outdoors. Walk, bike, climb, or ramble, the choice is yours as you discover Bonn’s natural highlights.

Siebengebirge Nature Park

Where there was once a quarry, the Siebengebirge Nature Park is now a preserved landscape you won’t want to miss. There are over 125 miles of hiking trails across this green oasis, with views that have inspired painters, poets, and travellers of every kind for years. Dense forest and rocky paths cover the Siebengebirge mountains, which tower above the river Rhine and you can spot rare creatures such as the black woodpecker or the rock bunting that have made the forests and valleys their home.

Rodderberg

Rodderberg is an extinct volcano just above the Rhine Valley and opposite the Drachenfels. Don’t worry, the last eruption was 250,000 years ago and today you can climb paths to see across the valley including the Siebengebirge mountains and all the way to Cologne Cathedral. Take a trek with a camera to capture some of the amazing scenery here or simply pack a picnic for a rather awe-inspiring walk.

Bonn Japanese Gardens

Stunning cherry blossom lined Heerstrasse

In contrast to the mountains and volcanic landscapes, this garden in Rheinaue Park is a tribute to Japanese horticulture. What it lacks in size it makes up for in peace and tranquillity. It’s designed in a Kyoto style, which celebrates Japanese landscape art and has a beautiful display of unique and rare bonsai trees. In March and May, a show is held to showcase the trees, and some are even available to buy.

If Japanese horticulture is your passion, or for lovers of all things pink, Heerstrasse, also known as Cherry Blossom Avenue, is a must-see, especially if you want to brighten up your Instagram feed. The blossom trees that line this picturesque street are simply stunning, coming alive with colour every spring. These Japanese cherry blossom trees were planted here in the 1980s, and although the exact dates for the bloom vary from year to year, they usually happen sometime in April. What’s more, unlike some blooms which may only happen for a few days, the Bonn cherry blossoms tend to linger for two or even three weeks. Heerstrasse is only about a fifteen-to-twenty-minute walk from most of the major tourist attractions in downtown and is in the Nordstadt neighbourhood which is home to the famous Beethoven House.

Getting there and around

From Calais it takes a little over 4 hours to reach Bonn by car on the E40. You pass by Ghent and Antwerp en route, if you decided to plan a trip with a few stops. The city itself has an extensive public transportation network and is also very walkable. Buses, trams and the U-Bahn make up the public transport system with all being linked to the Cologne network and divided into zones. All you need to travel within Bonn is a City Ticket (€2.90 per trip or €8.60 for a 24-hour pass) or you can rent bikes at numerous points around the city.

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