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Bonn was until 1999 the seat of government of the Federal Republic of Germany and still retains some governmental functions as Bundesstadt ("Federal City"). The city still remains a popular choice for large-scale exhibitions and conferences. Culturally, the "small town in Germany" (as John Le Carre saw it in 1968) attracts travellers interested in visiting the city where Ludwig van Beethoven was born and Robert Schumann died.  Bonn may not be able to compete with the great cities of the world or even Germany, but it is a place of many attractions consisting of three once independent towns and numerous villages each with its own character and surrounded by beautiful countryside.  The city of Bonn comprises three formerly independent towns (Bonn proper, Bad Godesberg and Beuel), numerous villages and large open spaces (the Kottenforst and Ennert forests in the hills on both banks of the Rhine, the Siegaue meadows at confluence of Sieg and Rhein, the Rheinaue park).  The historic centres are compact, pedestrianised, and therefore best explored on foot.

Due to the 30,000 students Bonn has about 550 pubs and bars including some very good Irish ones.


For 50 years, Bonn has been identified with the German federal government, which established itself in the Gronau district between the town centres of Bonn and Bad Godesberg in 1949. The river view is now dominated by the parliamentary office building "Langer Eugen". A red arrow-like steel sculpture, "L'illume" by Marc di Suvero, on the Rhine embankment points out the former Parliament House to stollers on the promenade and passengers on the river boats alike.

But, in fact, Bonn's tradition as capital is much older: it served for centuries as the residence of the elector of Cologne, one of the more important princes of the Holy Roman Empire. From this time date the baroque palaces of Bonn, Poppelsdorf and Brühl (15 km/10 mi northwest of Bonn) and the spa of Bad Godesberg.

Since the 19th century, it has been the university that has established Bonn's international reputation. Its main building is the former electoral palace, whiches stretches along the southern boundary of the pedestrianised town centre. A 1-km-long baroque avenue, the Poppelsdorfer Allee, connects the university main building with the Poppelsdorf palace, which houses the mineralogy department and museum and is surrounded by the Botanical Garden. The garden front of the main building overlooks the Hofgarten park with the Akademisches Kunstmuseum (Academic Art Museum, built in 1825 as anatomic theatre) and its river-front extension, the Stadtgarten and Alter Zoll, a remnant of the old fortifications with a great view of the river and the Siebengebirge (Seven Hills) at the southeastern outskirts of the city.The main road to the south (to the federal district, Bad Godesberg and ultimately Koblenz; federal highway no. 9) passes through the university building by way of an ornate gate house, the Koblenzer Tor.

Whereas the river front of the city centre has been completely transformed after World War II with the construction of the modernist Opera House and a new access road to the Rhine bridge, most of the old town centre has preserved its mediaeval street plan, now almost completely pedestrianised. This is the main shopping area with a lively daily (except Sundays) fruit and vegetable market in the market square (Markt).  The baroque Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), built in 1737 in Rococo style, under the rule of Clemens August of Bavaria, forms the southeastern end of the market square. It's used for receptions of guests of the town, and as a bureau for the mayor. Next to it you find "Em Höttche", one of Bonn's most traditional restaurants (going back to 1389).  Closeby is the Kurfürstliches Schloss, which has been built as a residence of the prince-elector, and nowadays is the main building of the University of Bonn. 

The Poppelsdorfer Allee, an alley flanked by chestnut trees, connects the Kurfürstliches Schloss with the Poppelsdorfer Schloss, a palace that was built as a resort to prince-electors in the first half of the 18th century. This axis is interrupted by a railway line and the Central Station of Bonn, a building erected in 1883/84.

Six streets radiate out from the Markt. Brüdergasse leads you to the Gothic Minorite Church St. Remigius (beautiful, intricate tracery in the apse), where the young Beethoven practised on the organ, Bonngasse to the mainly baroque Jesuit Church (Namen-Jesu-Kirche, now Roman-Catholic university church), the Beethoven House and the chamber music hall.  The two main shopping streets are Sternstraße (the name is a corruption of Pisternenstraße, from the Latin for "street of the bakers") and Remigiusstraße, which leads to the second main square, the Münsterplatz. The square is dominated by the Romanesque Münster basilica, Bonn's premier landmark. 

Around the corner (Am Hof 32-34), you find hidden behind a 19th-century facade a 12th-century private chapel, the Helenakapelle, a gem that even few Bonners know. On the opposite side of the square stands the Beethoven statue, erected in 1845 for the first Beethoven festival (now an annual event in Bonn). It turns its back to the former "Fürstenberg'sches Palais" (the main post office), where the guests of honour for the unveiling ceremony were assembled on the balcony, among them Queen Victoria and the Prussian king. Alexander von Humboldt is said to have saved the day when he remarked that Beethoven had always been a rude fellow. unveiling ceremony were assembled on the balcony, among them Queen Victoria and the Prussian king. Alexander von Humboldt is said to have saved the day when he remarked that Beethoven had always been a rude fellow.Vivatgasse (the apparently Latin "Vivat" actually derives from Viehpfad, "cattle path"; too humble a name for a prosperous university town, it seems) leads to the Sterntor, a reconstruction of one of the city gates (originally located at the end of Sternstraße) and a remnant of the 14th century city wall. In the Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery), just outside the historic centre between the 1970s high-rise City Hall (Stadthaus) and the railway line, many prominent Bonners were laid to rest, among them Beethoven's mother, Robert and Clara Schumann, the astronomer Friedrich Argelander and the romanticist August Wilhelm von Schlegel.

In the late 19th century, Bonn expanded and the residential districts of Weststadt and Südstadt were developed. The elegant upper-middle-class quarters of the Südstadt have largely survived World War II and post-war redevelopment (between Poppelsdorfer Allee, Adenauer Allee and Reuterstraße). The university's science departments expanded during that period in the Weststadt (mainly Nußallee and Meckenheimer Allee).

The three highest buildings in the city are the radiomast of the WDR in Bonn-Venusberg (180.0m), the headquarters of the Deutsche Post called Post Tower (162.5m) and the former building for the German members of parliament Langer Eugen (114.7m) which nowadays is the new location of the UN-Campus.


Bonn is probably best known as Beethoven's birth place and this fact is well advertised by the city despite Beethoven vehement disgust towards his hometown.  Beethoven spent some time in Vienna hoping to study with Mozart, but after his mother's death he was forced to return to Bonn for five years to raise his two younger brothers since his alcholic father was unable to. In 1792 Beethoven returned to Vienna never to return to Bonn. Beethoven's home and a museum can be seen in the Bonngasse. 

Other sights include the Poppelsdorf Palace (with Botanical Garden), Bonn University (formerly the palace of the Prince-Elector of Cologne) and the Bundeshaus (former Parliament House). Just south of Bonn begins the romantic Middle Rhine valley with its vineyards and ruined castles.


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