Drachenfels railway car at Drachenberg Castle stop // © 2011 Janice Mucalov
Founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago on the banks of the Rhine River, Bonn, Germany, enjoyed a prosperous golden period in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it became the capital city of the archbishops and electors of nearby Cologne. The city’s most famous son, Beethoven, was born in Bonn and made the city his home for the first 22 years of his life. Today, the charming city of 340,000 people has much to offer clients in the way of historical sights and attractions. What follows are suggestions on how to pass the day in this romantic city along the Rhine.
1. Poppelsdorf Palace
Visitors can start by strolling by the ochre-colored Poppelsdorf Palace, the magnificent former residence of the prince-elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria. The baroque palace was given to Bonn University in the 19th century and is now home to the arts and theological faculties. In front of the building is the Hofgarten, a large beautiful park, where students like to meet and socialize.
2. Old Town
Next, guests should take a walking tour of the Old Town (easy for clients to do on their own). The baroque Old Town Hall, and its steps with gilded railings, dominates the Market Square, which has a fruit and vegetable market. At the Minster Square, there is a bronze statue of Beethoven, erected in 1845 for the first annual Beethoven Festival. Cobbled pedestrian-only streets, lined with shops, weave in and around the two squares.
3. Beethoven House
Also in the Old Town center, music lovers will find the small house where Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770. It’s now a museum with the largest collection of Beethoven memorabilia. Visitors walk the creaky plank floors, stoop to enter tiny rooms and see more than 150 artifacts, including two original pianos the great composer played in Vienna as well as a lock of his silver hair.
4. River Cruising to Konigswinter
Clients can take a one-hour lunch cruise on the Rhine, past mansions graced with weeping willows, to Konigswinter. In the 19th century, the pretty summer resort town was popular with wealthy English visitors (including Lord Byron), who liked to vacation here in the wine-growing countryside.
5. Drachenfels Railway
In Konigswinter, advise clients to board an open-sided wooden railcar for a three-minute ride on the historic Drachenfels cog railway. Built in 1883, the railway climbs up to the top of Drachenfels Mountain. Clients can also walk up — hardy hikers with sticks and poles can be seen huffing and puffing their way up the mountain.
6. Schloss Drachenburg
Visitors get off the railway car at Drachenburg Castle, perched at the top of the mountain. Built for a banker in 1871, the gold-stone Gothic castle looks like it popped right out of a fairy tale. Heavily damaged in WWII, the castle has recently been restored to show the rooms in their original state. Guests can wander through a huge reception room with a carved oak ceiling, see the dining room table set with gilt-edged china and imagine sleeping in the opulent master bedroom with blue silk drapes and gold tassels framing the view window.
7. Calling it a Night
The new 253-room Kameha Grand Bonn, on the Rhine just outside Bonn, is a futuristic, five-star, design hotel with a rooftop pool. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, Kameha Grand Bonn is one of the largest geothermal buildings in Europe (storing summer heat for winter and cold winter air for cooling in summer). Trendy bathrooms and bright red wallpaper with black accents guarantee a unique (but comfortable) stay. www.kamehagrand.com