Bonn - City of Beethoven
Art, culture and Rhine Romanticism
Experience the “Romantic Rhine”, visit Beethoven's birthplace or amuse yourself at Pützchens Markt. The former German capital impresses with its natural scenery and cultural activities.
The city of Bonn has an eventful past: not only was it the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1990; it also looks back on a history that spans more than 2,000 years. This makes Bonn, the site of former Teuton and Roman settlements, one of the oldest cities in Germany. And in 1770, an artist was born in Bonn who went on to make musical history: Ludwig van Beethoven came into the world in a house on Bonngasse. Today Bonn is known as the City of Beethoven, and the backstreet house in the city centre has long since become a place of pilgrimage for music lovers from around the world. Beethoven-Haus now houses a museum with the largest Beethoven collection in the world. The city also pays homage to its famous son once a year with Beethovenfest, which has since developed an international reputation with some of the most extraordinary interpretations of Beethoven’s music.
Remarkable buildings from a bygone era
Along with Beethoven-Haus, many other buildings in the city on the Rhine are worth a visit. At the heart of the city lies the Bonn Minster, built over the graves of the martyrs and patron saints of the city, Cassius and Florentius. The mighty Bonn Minster has continued to grow over the centuries and has now been named a “European monument”; its medieval cloister is a truly unique gem. Most of the current building dates from the intense construction activity of the 11th to 13th centuries. Romanesque and Gothic stylistic elements merge to create a rare harmony in Münster. Even the decoration – primarily Baroque or dating from either the end of the last century or this one – fits perfectly into the space and gives the basilica its own very special atmosphere.
Another of the city’s architectural jewels is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) on the Bonn Marktplatz. It was completed in Rococo style in around 1780. This three-storey building with gilded stairs leading down to the marketplace has been the backdrop for a number of important events: Theodor Heuss, Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II and Mikhail Gorbachev all gave speeches here. Today it still serves as an office for the mayor and is used as a building for official occasions.
A university city amidst romantic natural landscapes
The University of Bonn has held a place as one of Germany’s most important universities since the 19th century and the reason why becomes immediately clear when you see the university’s main building: the former residence of the Prince Elector and originally a 13th-century fortified house belonging to the Archbishop of Cologne, the building has housed the Faculty of Arts since 1818. Though the castle has been repeatedly rebuilt after being destroyed several times, it continues to wow visitors with its magnificent architecture, its courtyard, which overlooks the Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains), and its long east wing, which extends almost to the Rhine itself. The city’s museums also embrace the spirit of the humanities and fine arts. One of the city’s most popular museums is Haus der Geschichte (House of History), where visitors can trace German history from the post-war era to the present day. Temporary exhibitions of international significance are on display at the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany. There are many other museums along the Bonner Magistrale on Bonn's Museum Mile.
As well as art and culture, the stunning natural landscape surrounding the city is yet another facet of Bonn that is sure to impress. The city forms the gateway to the Middle Rhine Valley and shows off Bonn’s romantic side. The landscape of the sweeping Rhine Valley alternates between cliffs, wooded slopes and vine-clad terraces. Here and there formidable mountains appear on the horizon and small medieval towns are scattered along the banks of Germany’s largest river. This region was already captivating artists and writers centuries ago and they immortalised their impressions in poetry and paintings, making a decisive contribution to the movement known as “Rhine Romanticism”. The sight of the Rhine in flames is annual experience not to be missed. Spectacular fireworks are ignited during the “Rhein in Flammen” (Rhine in Flames) event, illuminating the river and its banks in a rainbow of colour on the first Saturday in May. The annual Pützchens Markt also features a fireworks display at the end of the traditional funfair.