I was on my computer going through some travel photos the other day, and came across my pics of Bonn.
If you’re a classical music hound, you may know Bonn is the German city where Beethoven was born (he lived here until age 22).
You may also know that, until the east-west German reunification, Bonn was the capital of West Germany.
It doesn’t get the same ink as other places in Germany, like Berlin (the country’s capital and “it” city), or Baden-Baden, a great spa town if you don’t mind spa-ing (Oxford! there should be a verb for going to a spa) in the nude, men and women together at the same time, or even Dresden (known for its fabulous treasure on display in the Green Vault).
But Bonn – a charming small city of some 310,000 on the banks of the Rhine River – has much to offer in the way of historical sights and attractions.
Check out these things to do in Bonn:
See Beethoven House
Since Ludwig van Beethoven is the city’s most famous son, perhaps start with a visit to Beethoven House in the Old Town center.
The 12-room house where the gifted composer was born in 1770 is a museum today.
Inside, we saw the original announcement of his first concert at age eight, the bronze ear trumpets he used as he tragically turned deaf in his late 20s, shopping lists for the family housekeeper, two original pianos he played in Vienna – and even a lock of his silver hair.
Stroll the Old Town
Continue strolling through the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets of the Old Town. In the market square (which has a colorful fruit and vegetable market), stop to admire the old city hall and its steps with gilded railings.
At the Munster Square, look up at the imposing bronze statue of Beethoven, erected in 1845 for the first annual Beethoven festival. On the opposite side of this square is the Romanesque Munster Basilica (built between the 11th and 13th centuries), one of Germany’s oldest cathedrals – it has a beautiful cloister too.
Visit Poppelsdorf Palace
From the Old Town, wander over to the ochre-colored Poppelsdorf Palace (don’t you love the name?). Once the home of prince-elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria, the show-stopping Baroque palace is now part of the University of Bonn.
Fronting it is the Hofgarten, a large garden where students gather to chat and socialize. Classical music concerts are held outside on the lawns on summer evenings.
Take a short scenic river cruise to Konigswinter
Hungry? How about lunch on the Rhine!
We hopped on a KD riverboat for a one-hour river cruise, gliding past mansions, framed by weeping willows, to Konigswinter. This pretty town is 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.
Chug up the Drachenfels Rack Railway
There’s another reason for visiting Konigswinter – to ride the historic 1883 Drachenfels cog railway. 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 climbs 720 feet over a distance of one mile, and some of the inclines are as steep as 22%.
(If you prefer, you can join the hikers armed with poles who huff and puff their way up the green mountainside instead.)
Explore a castle: Schloss Drachenburg
We got off the 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 it’s over the top!
Rooms are graced by beautiful stained glass windows; the reception room has a wonderful carved oak ceiling (frescoes cover other ceilings).
I loved seeing the dining room table set with gilt-edged china and crystal.
And I wondered what it would be like to sleep in the master bedroom, where blue silk drapes and gold tassels framed the view window – probably hot in summer and drafty in winter (no sour grapes, of course!).
You can also climb to the top of the turret (I did) for splendid views of the river valley below. After, we strolled the colorful flower gardens surrounding the castle before returning to Bonn.