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Bonn’s reputation preceded it, but we were not disappointed with the former capital of Western Germany that combines many different elements into one city.
There is plenty of history in the city, and at times I definitely felt like I was in a typical European capital city. As we moved closer to the Rhine, however, the downward slanting streets and sea breeze brought the feeling of being somewhere along the Atlantic Ocean. Yet other areas of the city, with its trendy enclaves and small neighborhood charm, reminded me of elements of San Francisco.
We definitely noticed how well we were treated in Bonn as were greeted quite frequently in a friendly way (despite our poor German). The city holds a pleasant place in our minds, and we will definitely be back to visit again.
How long it took to get there
We took the train to Bonn, which took about an hour, although you could also drive for about the same amount of time. If you don’t have a car but would prefer to rent one so you can explore a bit outside of the city center as well, Germany is the land of super cheap rental cars, just compare the prices online and away you go! Otherwise, you can also consider car sharing.
Once we arrived at the Hauptbahnhof, we caught a bus at the Busbahnhof which took us to our hostel in about twenty minutes. While the hostel was a bit off the beaten path in a charming area, we still made it without much trouble at all.
Note: Some special attention should be paid to the bus timetables in Bonn. We ended up waiting for a half-hour for the next bus, so make sure you plan ahead of time.
What to do in Bonn
Although Bonn offers a great deal of beautiful architecture and business establishments to visit, like the Haribo Store, we spent most of our weekend in nature. The DJH Youth Hostel we stayed at offered bikes through Radstation, with the option of leaving the bikes at other stations throughout the city after use. We took full advantage of seeing the city by bike. Here are some spots that I highly recommend to sit and have a picnic or simply enjoy the sunshine.
- Have a picnic in the Hofgarten: The Hofgarten is located downtown in the main area of shops and business establishments. We bought a few items at a grocery store and enjoyed a homemade picnic. The view of the Kurfürstliches Schloss is really quite breathtaking, especially sitting amongst the trees and other parkgoers.
- Explore the Beethoven-Haus and Markt Straße: Although we didn’t enter the Beethoven-Haus, it is situated in an interesting neighborhood which opened up onto a very charming plaza with a variety of restaurants and shops.
- Enjoy the sunshine at the Bonn University Botanic Gardens: We didn’t spend much time in the Botanic Gardens, but they were beautiful to look at as we passed by on our bicycles and I’ve heard from several people that they are worth a visit. We also saw a great number of groups sitting out on the grass enjoying the sunshine in the park surrounding the gardens.
- Have a beer along the Rhine: We stopped for a beer at the Alter Zoll Biergarten, which was recommended by a friend. The views of the Rhine were lovely from the outdoor tables, and even with the wind, we were able to enjoy the sunshine. Although the drinks and food were more overpriced than we’re used to, the views made the stop worth it.
The Hidden Gems of Bonn
- Explore the street market in Münsterplatz: We happened to stumble upon a street market on Sunday and spent a few minutes perusing the stands of vendors selling anything from soap to clothing items to honey.
- Challenge a friend to a game of darts at Tresor: We were hoping to check out a bar that had been recommended to us by locals, but when we wandered on down the street a few meters we found an alternative bar with good quality Hefeweiße at a fair price. We were also able to get a game of darts in and noticed a fußball table being used by other clients.
Best places to eat
- Himalayak Tibetan Food:A friend recommended a Tibetan restaurant a bit to the northwest of downtown, and we weren’t disappointed. The wait staff was friendly, and the premises offered both outdoor seating and a cozy indoor environment. We had the Kammtuk (handmade noodles with vegetables and beef) and didn’t look back.
- Eiscafé: I am of the opinion that no European trip, no matter how close by, is complete without ice cream. We stopped along the Kaiserplatz for a waffle cone. The atmosphere made it worth our while.
- La Piccola Pizzeria: My favorite part about this place was easily the wait staff, although the pizza was a close second. The conversation was a mix of a few different languages, and our server was so welcoming. We had a Margherita pizza and one topped with artichoke hearts and ham and enjoyed the experience enough that we’ve vowed to go back during our next visit to Bonn.
Where to stay
We stayed at the DJH Jugendherberge in Bonn, which offered a very tranquil location without being too remote. Our double room even had its own balcony. We enjoyed the use of Radstation bikes, which took us along a picturesque path that offered peaceful views of forest, farms, and sunsets. The trip into town was almost all downhill and took about 20 minutes, though you should plan about 40 minutes to get back if going by bike (or drop the bike off in the city center and take a bus back). There is also a grocery store just down the road, which we visited to pack our perfect picnic lunch.
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