The cherry blossoms of Bonn have put this German city on many travellers’ bucket lists. Among the top things to do in Bonn, are enjoying the outdoors and discovering its storied history. Learn more in this short Bonn travel guide.
When we first arrived in Bonn, we were struck by how quiet the residential neighbourhoods were. Gradually however, we came to love it, and now we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Flourishing on either side of the Rhine, the erstwhile capital of West Germany is framed by the low-lying Siebengebirge mountain range.
Bonn is famed for being the birthplace of legendary German musician Beethoven. The city in North-Rhine Westphalia also has the distinction of hosting a 40 km² forest called Kottenforst, which is full of beautiful nature trails, and accessible from many points in Bonn.
On weekends, it is common for the city’s citizens to head there for a leisurely hike. But there are so many other things to do in Bonn.
Top 10 Things To Do in Bonn
1. Enjoy the view from Drachenfels, and explore the ruins, castle, and museum along the way
Drachenfels is one of the peaks of the Siebengebirge and was once the site of a 12thcentury fortress.
The story goes that the dragon Fafnir used to live in a cave on the hill until it was slain by the hero Siegfried, who became invulnerable after drenching himself in its blood.
Thus, the peak came to be called ‘Dragon’s Rock’.
It is quite an easy hike to the top of Drachenfels, but if you prefer, you can also take a train, for which the tickets must be purchased at the office at the bottom of the hill.
Along the way, you will pass by Nibelungenhalle, a reptile museum featuring a ‘dragon cave’ that brings mystical myths to life.
Just before the ruins of the original Drachenfels castle and the fantastic views of the Rhine from the terrace, you will encounter the fairy tale Schloss Drachenburg. It was built in the late 19th century, and inside, visitors can see exhibits from bygone eras. The surrounding garden is full of ancient trees and rhododendrons.
2. Have a barbeque picnic and a Frisbee game at Freizeitpark Rheinaue
Freizeitpark Rheinaue is a sprawling riverside park with lots of open space and serene views of the mountains and river.
It hosts a flea market every month from March to October, and many other events throughout the year.
Germans really enjoy spending time in the outdoors and have a variety of pursuits ranging from Frisbee games to dog walking to having barbeque picnics in the park. The last is a great option during spring and summer, when the days are long and sunshiny if you’re lucky.
However, Freizeitpark Rheinaue is a pleasure to visit in the autumn as well.
You get to see the maples and oaks in all their sepia and auburn glory. And if you love flowers, you will see a plethora of them in spring, when the variety of trees and blooms in the park enchant you with their myriad colours.
Many ducks swim in the lakes at the park, and you’re also likely to see nutria scurrying across the grass. Don’t miss the Japanese garden and the rose garden.
3. Delve into German history at Haus der Geschichte
Everyone knows about Hitler’s reign and Germany’s capitulation after World War II, but what came after? The House of History museum walks visitors through Germany’s history post 1945 with over 7000 objects on display.
There are also temporary exhibitions throughout the year, and admission to all of these, as well as the permanent one, is free of cost. The House of History also has an extensive collection of contemporary objects, and hosts events like lectures and film screenings.
4. Visit Beethoven’s house and monument in the Altstadt
Composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, where he remained till the age of 20. His birthplace, Beethoven-Haus, houses a museum, shop, and library dedicated to the maestro. A short distance away in Munsterplatz stands the Beethoven Denkmal, a life-sized bronze statue of the composer.
While you’re in the Old Town of Bonn, don’t miss gems such as the Altes Rathaus, the Old City Hall, and the Romanesque-Gothic Bonn Minster church. The University of Bonn is also worth a visit for its botanical garden and the baroque Poppelsdorf Palace.
5. Discover different stretches along the Rhine
No two stretches of the Rhine look the same, and each has its own charm.
Our favourites are the Rhine promenade at Mehlem, where you can take a ferry to the other side, the stretch at Bonn Zentrum, where you can also scale a hillock for a fantastic view, and the riverside on the outskirts of Freizeitpark Rheinaue, where cricket matches are often played.
6. Do a short trek up the Oberdollendorf vineyards
The Middle Rhine Valley is full of romantic vineyards and Oberdollendorf at Königswinter is particularly easy to explore. You can trek through the vineyards for 2 km until you reach the top, to look upon the beautiful landscape. If it’s September or October, you’ll see many grapes clinging to the vines.
Beyond the dense forests where you can continue your hike if you wish. The surrounding neighbourhood is also really picturesque, and there are many Gasthauses (traditional German restaurants) where you can have something to eat and drink.
7. Take the kids to SEA LIFE Königswinter
Travelling with kids to Bonn? You’ll want to take them to SEA LIFE, a wonderful aquarium at the foot of the Drachenfels in Konigswinter. Bright orange clownfish will remind them of Nemo, while surgeonfish will enchant them with their vibrant yellow and blue colouring. The aquarium is also home to sharks, rays, morays, and piranha.
It is divided into thematic exhibitions, including one dedicated to marine life in the North Sea, and an underwater glass tunnel where visitors can see sharks being fed.
8. Climb the Godesberg Castle tower at sunset
Bad Godesberg is a major suburb of Bonn, and hosts many festivals and fairs. Stores, theatres, and restaurants abound at Theaterplatz, at the end of which you will see the Godesberg Castle towering above the city.
A short walk up the hill will take you to the summit of the castle tower, from where you can feast upon serene views of Bonn city and the Siebengebirge mountains. But a better view awaits at the top of the castle, which is open to climbers from March to October. The views at sunset are particularly arresting. There’s also an elegant restaurant at the castle.
9. Visit a Frühlingsfest, Sommerfest, or Christmas market depending on the time of year
Germans love their seasonal fests, which are outdoor events consisting of numerous food and drink vendors, stalls selling artisanal products and handicrafts, and live performances by both German and English bands. The best part is that there is a fest for every time of the year!
Usually, festivals are held at Bonn Zentrum, Freizeitpark Rheinaue or the Theaterplatz at Bad Godesberg. But there are smaller fests in many of Bonn’s neighbourhoods such as Friesdorf and Beuel. During Christmas, you can sample a variety of mulled wine and sweet treats like quarkballchen, pfannkuchen, and waffles.
10. See the famous cherry blossoms in bloom in April
Heerstraße in Bonn’s Altstadt transforms into a romantic boulevard of powder pink cherry blossoms every spring. The exact timing of the flowers depends on the weather, but the natural marvel usually occurs in the second week of April.
While they are in full bloom, the street is crowded with tourists and photographers. But even in the week after, the street looks beautiful as it is carpeted with all the fallen petals.
These are Japanese cherry blossoms of the Kanzan strain but elsewhere in Bonn, you will also see other variants.
Where to go after Bonn?
A great upside of being in Bonn is that so many other destinations are within close reach.
You can go on a day trip to nearby Cologne, ride the cable car in Koblenz, explore the architecture of Aachen and Trier, spot timbered houses in Monschau, or plan a wine weekend to Bad Neuenahr – the choices are limitless.
Or why not head to the capital city, Berlin? You can get a train for less than 20 Euro’s!