If the hustle and bustle of Cologne are weighing you down, the thought of spending a couple nights in Beethoven’s hometown will be music to your ears. One of Europe’s oldest cities, Bonn, Germany offers an ideal blend of urban sophistication and country relaxation.
Bonn has its own regional airport, but the much larger Cologne Bonn International Airport offers a larger array of flights at various times and price points. A quick 30 minutes from downtown Cologne by train and even shorter from the airport terminal, Bonn can easily be rolled into a longer itinerary that includes Amsterdam, Brussels, and other highlights of Northern Europe.
Like many German cities, Bonn has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. When coupled with the ease and speed of connections to Cologne and the walkability of many parts of the city, there’s really no reason for you to rent a car for your visit to Bonn.
That said, if you plan to venture out into the countryside, it’s worth your while to rent a compact car. Keep in mind roads can be narrow and windy, so the smaller the car the better.
Your first day in Bonn actually starts just south of the city proper. Drachenburg Castle offers extensive views north along the Rhine River to Bonn and south away from town. And that’s before you even enter the castle itself, whose furnishings, paintings, terraces, and gardens appear untouched since their construction in the 19th century. From the castle, head north for some “gummi” fun at the Haribo Factory Outlet, where kids of all ages can browse a head-spinning selection of candies. End your day with another castle visit—the very different Godesburg Castle, which has been carefully restored to its original medieval specifications. The onsite restaurant, Godesburg à la Carte, however, is quite modern, and a lovely place to have an afternoon coffee and sample some German cakes.
To start your day, repent for your candy and cake sins of yesterday at the Bonn Muenster cathedral, whose 12th century basilica features a blend of Gothic and Romanesque architectural features unlike any other kirche in Germany. From there, wander along the impressive side streets of that crisscross Heerstrasse Avenue, whose seasonal displays of cherry blossoms will make you wonder if you’ve suddenly jetted over to Washington, D.C. in the springtime. Lastly, head inside to Beethoven-Haus, where the famous composer’s Bonn home has been turned into an impressive museum with both permanent and traveling exhibits.
Wake up on a serious note at Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, a creative museum dedicated exclusively to Germany’s post-World War II journey from down-trodden European power to world leader. From there, check out Poppelsdorf Palace, which has been reconstructed to match its original 18th century grandeur. For your final stop in Bonn, head outside to the city’s Japanese Garden, whose gurgling waters and tranquil fields will leave you refreshed and rejuvenated for your return trip to Cologne – or where ever else you may be heading.
Extend Your Trip
If you have a few extra days and a car at your disposal, head south to the Mosel Valley for a taste of the region’s fine white wines and an even more relaxing sojourn from the city.
Finally, if you’re intrigued y Cologne, you may want to consider a trip during Christmas when the city comes alive with its famous Christmas market. Read about it here.