I’m so lucky to have friends in cities all over Germany. Lately I’ve been reminiscing about my two trips to Bonn to visit my dear friend Marc. The whole story about Marc is pretty great–he’s a German guy who I know through my college roommate Shiree, and we never met, but we did add each other on Facebook so I could “practice” my German (aka send him lots of messages like “THIS LANGUAGE IS INSANE HELP ME PLEASE”). We kept in touch sporadically, and when he found out I was moving to Hannover, he insisted that I visit him and his girlfriend Vera for a weekend in October. I had the best time–hanging out with them was probably the first time I felt really good in Germany. Naturally I had to go back at the end of February for Karneval…and for the Haribo factory outlet.
In my opinion, Bonn is kind of underrated. It’s just half an hour outside of Cologne, so it’s often overshadowed by the Cologne Cathedral and the larger, more publicized Karneval celebrations. It doesn’t have the same party reputation as Cologne, and it’s not quite a center of business like Dusseldorf. As Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949-1990, there are lots of government buildings there, and it’s still home to the Germany’s chapter of the United Nations. There’s also a university, and lots of international people looking to work for various NGOs and research institutions live there.
During both visits to Bonn, Marc and Vera took me on a tour through the city and along the Rhine. Here are some of the highlights!
5 Things To Do In Bonn
- Haus der Geschichte (House of History)
The Haus der Geschichte is a massive museum commemorating Germany’s social and political history after 1945. Every museum I went to in Germany had extensive exhibits on WWII, so it was interesting to see a museum that started where the most popular segment of German history ended. There was a fascinating exhibit on American influence in Germany complete with American cultural artifacts–I spotted a McDonald’s neon sign, Sesame Street videos, and debris from the Twin Towers. Marc had great patience with me, and followed me through that exhibit for upwards of an hour before he gently encouraged me to actually look at the other parts of the museum. There was so much to see, I feel like I barely skimmed the surface. The museum also presents lots of information about the German political system and the histories of various political parties. If you’re at all interested in contemporary German history, I can’t recommend it enough.
2. Beethoven Haus
6 Euros admission
Beethoven’s birth house is located right in the middle of Bonn, and it’s been turned into a fascinating museum where you can see various instruments that he actually played. Read that again: instruments that Beethoven actually played. Historygasm. It’s organized chronologically room by room, and the guided tour is fantastic and full of information to help you appreciate what you’re seeing. There is also an interactive media room where you can hear recordings of Beethoven’s lesser-known works.
The Drachenfels, or “Dragon’s Rock,” is a hill (or small mountain, if you’re from Florida) along the Rhine where you can see remains from a ruined castle. It’s just outside of Bonn, accessible by streetcar or ferry along the Rhine (do that). Marc, Vera, and I climbed the hill by foot, though there is a train that goes up and down the mountain if you’re unable to climb it. The name comes from the legend of Siegfried who was said to have killed a dragon who lived on the hill. There are lots of adorable dragon-themed souvenirs toward the bottom, and at the top, there’s an amazing view perfect for photos and a small biergarten.
Okay, so you can’t go to Bonn anytime for this, but if you can get to the Rhineland for Karneval (Carnival), you won’t be disappointed. The Rhineland is a historically Catholic region unlike the northern area where I lived. Karneval is a week-long street festival beginning on Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday) and ending on Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday). I’m not really sure of the religious significance, but both Germans and tourists flock to the Cologne-Bonn-Dusseldorf area to dress in costume and daydrink. Cologne has the biggest celebration, but Bonn’s is also completely amazing. Marc and I watched the parade in Bonn for at least 2-3 solid hours and collected mass amounts of candy from the floats. Also: beer beer beer!!!
I saved the best for last. Bonn is home to the famous Haribo factory. Haribo actually stands for Hans Riegel, Bonn, the inventor of the classic gummy bears. There are two factory outlets (that I know of) in Bonn, and I have been to both of them. They’re massive. One of them was the size of a grocery store, but it was only filled with gummy candies. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking here.