LONDON (Reuters) - Got 48 hours to spare in Bonn? This sleepy city perched on the banks of the romantic River Rhine offers history, culture, and beautiful scenery galore.
Located about 30 km south of Cologne, the city of around 325,000 prides itself on being the birthplace of influential German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
But Bonn is perhaps most famous for being the capital of WestGermany from 1949 to 1990 after the country's division in the wake of the Second World War.
When East and West Germany reunified in 1990, Bonn became the official seat of German government until 1999, after which Berlin took its place.
Being relatively small, Bonn can be easily traversed on foot and is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains) - a range of more than 40 wooded hills formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in this beautiful city.
7 p.m. - Take the Airport Express SB 60 bus from Cologne-Bonn Airport's Terminal 1 to Bonn Hauptbahnhof (Bonn Central Station).
Choose a hotel in central Bonn - if you've got plenty of money to spare, check into a riverside room at the Hilton Bonn Hotel (+49 228 72690) for spectacular views of the Rhine. If you're on a tighter budget, try Sternhotel Bonn (+49 228 72670), which looks out over the market square.
8.30 p.m - Tuck into a hearty dish of Rheinischer Sauerbraten (German pot roast), Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) or Reibekuchen mit Apfelkompott (potato fritters served with apple sauce) at Em Hoettche to acclimatise. This historic restaurant, which lies in the shadows of Bonn's Rococo-style pink town hall, is where Beethoven is said to have danced with his first love, Barbe Koch.
10:30 p.m. - Head to Brauhaus Boennsch brewery for your first taste of the local Boennsch beer, served in a specially crafted glass which fits around your fingers.
11:30 p.m. - This city is not well-known for its nightlife. When it was capital of West Germany, Germans often joked that Bonn was an acronym for Bundeshauptstadt ohne nennenswertes Nachtleben (federal capital without any nightlife to speak of). But while it is not exactly a clubbing hotspot, there are enough places to party if you're in the mood. Try the Hausbar club in Bonn'sopera house for house music, Carpe Noctem for indie music or the Jazzgalerie for theme nights.
10 a.m. - Start your day by wandering around the market in front of the town hall, where you can sample local specialties, including German sausage. If you go between April and June, make sure you try some locally cultivated "Spargel" (white asparagus), which is very popular in Germany.
11 a.m. - Stroll down the pedestrian-only highstreet until you reach Bonn Minster, one of Germany's oldest churches. Completed in the 13th-century, it was built over the graves of the city's patrons and boasts the best preserved Romanesque cloister north of the Alps.
11:30 a.m. - Pay homage to the Beethoven statue on Muensterplatz before making your way to Bonngasse 20, where the German composer was born in 1770. Now a museum, this pink house with green shutters contains his grand piano and other possessions including stringed instruments, letters and sheets of music.
12:30 p.m. - Walk to the end of Bonngasse, turn right and keep walking until you reach Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz/Beethovenhaus station. Jump on the 67 tram down to the district of Bad Godesberg and treat yourself to lunch in the ruins of a hilltop medieval fortress while enjoying unparalleled views over the River Rhine and Seven Mountains (http://www.godesburg-bonn.de/).
2 p.m. - After filling up on German fare, climb the tower of the 800-year-old castle, most of which was destroyed during a siege in 1583.
As you walk back down the hill towards the station, keep your eyes peeled for small memorial plaques set into the pavement. These mark the houses where Jews lived in the early 20th century before they were deported to concentration camps during the Nazi era.
3 p.m. Catch the 63, 67 or 16 tram from Bad Godesberg back towards Bonn Central Station. Hop off at Wurzerstrasse to pop into the Haribo factory shop for a spot of holiday gift-buying. The chewy sweets hail from Bonn, where Hans Riegel set up the confectionary firm in 1920. Haribo stands for Hans Riegel Bonn.
4 p.m. - Get back on the tram and step off at Heussallee/Museumsmeile, where a range of museums caters for all tastes. Head to Haus der Geschichte (Museum of Contemporary History) if you're interested in postwar German history.
If art is more your thing, visit the Kunstmuseum (Art Museum), which houses the works of 20th-century German artists like August Macke, who lived in Bonn. The adjacent Ausstellungshalle (Exhibition Hall), which houses temporary exhibitions, is also worth a visit.
Those with a zoological bent should make a beeline for Museum Alexander Koenig (Alexander Koenig Museum) to learn about biodiversity in environments ranging from rainforests and deserts to the Arctic.
Alternatively, if you're visiting between Easter and October, head down to the river and take a boat trip along the Rhine.
6 p.m. - Work up an appetite for dinner by strolling along the riverside promenade towards the city centre.
6:30 p.m. - For dinner with a difference try Ocean Paradise, a floating Chinese restaurant moored on the banks of the Rhine. Otherwise go to Zur Lese, a contemporary riverside restaurant which serves a good selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. Sit in the covered terrace area and watch a constant stream of cargo boats loaded with colourful containers sail past.
8 p.m. - If the Beethoven Orchestra is playing while you're in town be sure to get tickets as this is one of Germany's best orchestras. If not, take a stroll through the Hofgarten park in central Bonn and admire the city's elegant university, housed in a former palace. Then make your way to Alter Zoll, a beer garden on the site of an old customs house, and relax under the shade of chestnut trees as you watch the world go by.
9 a.m. - Catch the 66 tram towards Bad Honnef from Bonn Central Station. Look right for breathtaking views of the Rhine and left for spectacular views of the Seven Mountains. Hop off at Rhoendorf, where a delicious German breakfast awaits at Cafe Profittlich. This delightful little eatery offers a buffet of cold meats, cheeses, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage with rolls and croissants for 10.50 euros. Overlooking the Drachenfels (Dragon's Rock mountain) and a tranquil village square replete with fountain, this is the perfect place for a peaceful start to the day.
11 a.m. - Once you've had your fill of breakfast wander around this traditional German village full of centuries-old timber-framed houses nestled into the hillside. Take a (free) guided tour of the house which was once home toKonrad Adenauer, West Germany's first postwar chancellor. You'll see where he played bowls, wrote his memoirs and died. Take in stunning views over the village of Rhoendorf and surrounding hills at the same time.
1 p.m. - Take the 66 tram two stops back towards Bonn Central Station and alight at Koenigswinter Faehre/Sea Life Aquarium. If you're still hungry after that big breakfast, pop into Altes Faehrhaus for lunch. This restaurant oozes rustic charm and offers regional dishes like herring with cream and fried potatoes, as well as steak, salad and meat loaf.
2:30 p.m. - Stroll around the picturesque town of Koenigswinter with its old churches, quiet cafes and souvenir shops before walking to the foot of Dragon's Rock and ascending its mighty heights on Germany's oldest rack railway. You'll enjoy dramatic views of Bonn, the River Rhine and the Seven Mountains from the top.
If you're feeling energetic, start the descent by foot (sensible walking shoes are required). If you prefer, take the train and get off halfway down, where you can visit Schloss Drachenburg, a neo-Gothic castle replete with blue roof and pointed turrets that would not look out of place in a fairytale book. Marvel at the 19th century castle's recently restored interior, with its vaulted ceilings, murals and stained glass windows and take in panoramic views of the region as you stroll around the gardens.
Continue your descent and, if you're feeling thirsty after this afternoon's exertions, stop at the charming Weinhaus Winzerhaeuschen for a drink. Built in 1661, it boasts a terrace with wonderful views but if it's chilly you can always grab a table by the fire inside for a cosy afternoon tea.
Head further down the mountain until you come to the Nibelungenhalle, a memorial temple built in 1913 to commemorate the 100th birthday of German composerRichard Wagner. Inside you'll find 12 huge paintings of the Nibelungen saga, a medieval German legend which Wagner turned into a cycle of operas called The Ring.
Venture into the dragon's lair behind the memorial temple if you dare -- there you will find a 13-metre long stone dragon -- and a reptile zoo full of crocodiles, iguanas and snakes.
6 p.m. - Trek down to the bottom of the mountain and choose one of the many restaurants, hotels or cafes overlooking the Rhine for a well-deserved dinner before heading back to the airport.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun