It’s been over a decade since Bonn ceded capital status to Berlin, and you can forgive this congenial, modestly-sized city of 300,000 or so inhabitants for feeling neglected now that most government departments have gone east. But Bonn still punches above its weight; its prestigious legacy has left it endowed with the kind of attractions you’d expect to find in a much bigger metropolis.
Even the flea markets are huge here: every spring, Bonn’s inhabitants crowd source their storage problems, emptying cellars and attics of surplus stuff to sell in a flea market four kilometers long on the banks of the Rhine. This mother of all garage sales falls on 16 April this year. And then Rhein in Flammen, in May, sees the river light up in a spectacular blaze of fireworks accompanied by live music.
But even if you’re nonplussed by Rhinelanders’ cast-offs or pyrotechnic extravaganzas, Bonn offers year-round diversion. “Museum Mile” is one of Germany’s great concentrations of major institutions, including the Haus der Geschichte, which covers the history of post-war Germany and recalls a time when Bonn was a key player of the Cold War. Add in the natural history exhibits of Museum Koenig and two museums concentrating on 20th century art and you have cultural treasures to rival nearby Cologne.
And don’t forget, Bonn is also Beethoven’s home town. The house where the composer was born is a mecca for music lovers, and you can hear his works performed by major orchestras as part of the Beethovenhalle’s world-class music program. Add in a charming and well-preserved 18th century town square, and you have a city which deserves at least a day of your time.