There are few cities in recent history that have to live with the label of 'ex-capital city', but Bonn is one of them. Nevertheless, those who thought Bonn would fade into obscurity without its capital status have been proven wrong. Previously known as the 'federal village', and now an internationally renowned hub of commerce and culture, Bonn comes across as assured and cosmopolitan as ever.
It was certainly not the worst of times when Bonn was the capital of western Germany. To this day, the 'Bonn Republic' is symbolic of diplomacy, democracy and Germany's post-war recovery. The fittingly named 'Path of Democracy' walking tour takes in sights of historical interest in the former government quarter. Authentic sites of Germany's political past now open to visitors include Schaumburg Palace, the Chancellor's Bungalow and the former parliament chamber. The Bonn Republic can also be revisited at the Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany, the starting point of the 'Path of Democracy'. The many exhibits in the permanent collection, including Adenauer's famous Mercedes, documents, photos and film footage, rekindle memories and illustrate the historical and political background to events between the post-war period and reunification. Bonn is much more than just the former capital of Germany, however. It enjoys widespread renown as a city of the arts, for example. Internationally acclaimed Bonn Theatre is a top destination for discerning audiences, while the Schauspiel Biennale festival, first held in 1992, has also gained a worldwide following. As the birthplace of Beethoven, Bonn honours its world-famous son during the Beethoven Festival, a series of concerts held every September and October that spreads the joy of classical music. The Rhine in Flames music and firework spectacular gives the city another reason to celebrate. During the festivities, a flotilla of illuminated boats sails along the river accompanied by magical explosions of lights in the night sky and bombastic sounds.
Bonn confirms its reputation as one of Germany's finest centres for art with two of the country's most important art museums – the Bonn Museum of Art and the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, otherwise known as the Federal Art Gallery. The Museum of Art features one of the most extensive collections of German Expressionism, as well as German modern art and international prints after 1945. The Federal Art Gallery, meanwhile, has an even higher calling. Its raison d'être is to display Germany's 'intellectual and cultural riches' in an appropriate setting and to promote an ongoing international dialogue between culture and politics. These may sound like lofty ambitions, but the many millions who visit every year attest to the museum's success. Many other museums in the city attract visitor numbers that are almost as impressive, with people coming in their hundreds of thousands. Among these is the Bonn German Museum, whose 100 contemporary masterpieces of science and technology are a big draw for tech-fans. August Macke House, the Women's Museum, the Academic Art Museum and the municipal museum all have devoted fanbases too. The city is even a gallery in itself, with many outstanding works of art on public display, including Victor Vasarely's Juridicum facade, Henry Moore's 'Large Two Forms' in front of the former Federal Chancellery and 'Die Wolkenschale' by Hans Arp at the university library. Masterpieces worthy of a capital city.