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Historic Highlights of Germany from A to Z
Bonn: a new lease of life for Germany's former capital.

Bonn: a new lease of life for Germany's former capital.

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.

City Highlights

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770. Even though the composer was drawn to Vienna at a young age, where he went on to achieve international fame as an artist of the Viennese classical period, the city of his birth never tires of honouring his musical genius. Beethoven House – the composer's birthplace and now a museum, the large Beethoven collection at 'Haus zum Mohren', Beethoven Hall – one of the most important buildings from the early days of West Germany, and the annual Beethoven festival all confirm quite clearly that Bonn is the true home of Beethoven.

The 160-hectare park south of the former government quarter is one of Bonn's most famous landmarks. Covering an area almost as big as the entire city centre, it is a popular attraction both with locals and visitors. At the weekends, and in the summer especially, it is teeming with young people and anyone wishing to spend some time outdoors. There are barbecue areas, a skateboarding park, an adventure playground, beer gardens, restaurants and places to play sports. Other attractions include the beautifully laid out Japanese gardens, rose garden and apiary. During the summer months a huge flea market is held here at the weekends.

The Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany brings to life the period from the end of the Second World War to the present day.

The large permanent exhibition and a number of special themed exhibitions chart the political, economic and social history as well as important trends in art, culture and everyday living conditions. Countless exhibits – from the 'Adenauer-Mercedes' to the first Green Card for a foreign worker – along with documents, photos and films explain the historical and political context and bring back many memories.

Victor Vasarely's Juridicum facade, Henry Moore's 'Large Two Forms' in front of the former Federal Chancellery, Eduardo Chillida's 'De Musica IV' outside the minster and 'Die Wolkenschale' by Hans Arp at the university library are just a few of the many outstanding works of art on public display in Bonn. Outside the Schürmann building there is also a series of exquisite works: 'Feast of Neptune' by Sokari Douglas Camp, 'Ich und der Hahn - Hören und Sehen' by Babak Saed and 'Communicación cruzada' by Manuel Marin.

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