While touring Dusseldorf and Cologne, one shouldn't miss out the little town of Bonn! The cities in North-Rhine Westfalia in Germany are sometimes overlooked by travellers, but this trip taught me that underrated cities have more than enough to offer!
Bonn is situated along the river Rhine and is located just about 20 minutes by train or by driving from the much busier Cologne, perfect for a day trip, or even a weekend trip from neighbouring German cities. Though the city may not be that large, the various museums and sights will definitely keep you occupied!
We took an early morning train from our hotel in Cologne to Bonn. When we arrived, we made our way to the Bonn Tourist Office and got ourselves each a Bonn Regio Welcome Card. This card allows us free admission to over twenty museums in Bonn, with price reductions for those museums that are not covered by the card. We could also travel on local public transport for free! :) We definitely recommend getting the card from the tourist office when visiting Bonn on a day trip!
Reasons to visit Bonn in Germany:
1. Bonn is the birthplace of Beethoven
Music lovers should definitely visit Bonn as it is also the birthplace of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Bonn honoured their famed musician by preserving his birth house, Beethoven House, from demolition and it is currently a small museum, worthy of a stop. You'll also see traces of Beethoven in the old town itself, with a Beethoven Monument in the middle of Münsterplatz.
Besides being the birthplace of Beethoven, you could also pay homage to some of the renowned musicians at the Vienna Central Cemetery, where Maria Magdalena Keverich (Beethoven's mother) and Robert Schumann were buried.
2. Marvel at one of Germany's oldest church, the Bonn Minster
The Bonn Minster is a stunning Roman Catholic Church, built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Even though it did at one point served as the cathedral for the Archbishop of Cologne, the Minster is now a small basilica. If you do visit Bonn, do note that the Minster is currently undergoing restoration works.
Furthermore, if you've seen the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, you'll realised that there are some similarities as Kaiser Wilhelm was inspired by this Minster when he studied in Bonn.
3. Grab some Gummies at the Haribo Store
It may be a little strange to recommend one to head to a gummy store, but Bonn is also the birthplace of Haribo. In 1920, confectioner Hans Riegel decided to start a little operation that involved merely a kettle, kitchen sink, roller, and a sack of sugar. Haribo was Born! Little did people know that the name was actually the first two letters of his first and last name and his home city: (HA)ns (RI)egel (BO)nn!
Travellers with children will have a wonderful time in the store, salivating at all the colourful gummies. But if you are not one with a sweet tooth, grab a few souvenir Haribo Bear Magnets or a tote bag to bring home!
4. Check out the Poppelsdorf Palace
The Poppelsdorf Palace was erected in 1715, right on top of the Poppelsdorf Castle after it was flattened during the 1580s Cologne War. It was intended to be a palace for Joseph Clemens, the Archibishop Elector of Cologne but it is now owned by the University of Bonn.
5. Stroll in the Botanical Gardens
Right within the grounds of the Poppelsdorf Palace, you'll find some of the University's botanical collection. When we were there, we also enjoyed the beautiful autumn leaves in the gardens. Since Bonn is an underrated city, we were the only ones there and could take countless pictures with the fall scenery!
6. Munch on some Bagels from Bagel Brothers
Although Bonn's not the land of Bagels, we had some of the finest Bagels here at Bagel Brothers. Choose from the usual cream cheese and salmon, to more savoury specials like roast beef, or simply, select your own ingredients! The little joint was a great respite from the cold and from all the walking in the city; definitely a place worth visiting!
7. Go Museum Hopping at Museum Mile
Like the Museum Island in Berlin, Bonn has an area with 5 museums which you can easily spend the entire day at. We spent about half a day there, visiting the Budeskunsthalle and the Federal Republic of Germany Museum.
While museums may sound dreary to some, if you have only time for just one museum at the Museum Mile, it would definitely have to be the Federal Republic of Germany Museum. Not only is the museum free-of-charge, the exhibitions were colourful, informative, and very impressive. While we know so much about the atrocities of war, little is known about life in Germany. War is never beneficial for the common folks, whether or not you are the oppressors or the oppressed. In the museum, we learn about how families were broken, and how they managed to pick up the pieces (though never fully) after the war.
When we were there, there was also an exhibition on Brexit (european perspective), which we thought was really interesting!
8. Bonn was the acting capital of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II
Since we were on that topic about the history of Germany, this is the other reason why you should really head to Bonn and to the FDR Museum in Bonn. When there was still East and West Germany, Bonn acted as the capital of Germany before it was moved to Berlin after the reunification. It was chosen because the bigger German cities were all caught in a stalemate.
9. Bonn is a great base to visit the Drachenburg Castle
Though we didn't have time to cover that as we only had a day in Bonn, travellers who have more time to spare can consider heading to Schloss Drachenburg. This fairytale Gothic Revival castle sits high on the Drachenfells hill. You can take the Drachenfelsbahn from Konigswinter up to the castle.
Extra! Visit Phantasialand in Bruhl, Germany!
Nestled between Cologne and Bonn, in the little town of Bruhl, Phantasialand is a hot favourite theme park among German locals yet remains relatively unknown to the rest of the outside world. We had an amazing time there and it is definitely a worthy day trip should you be in Bonn for a longer period of time!
With these reasons why you should visit Bonn, we hope we've made Bonn a more compelling travel destination for you!