AskDefine | Define Bonn

Dictionary Definition

Bonn n : a city in western Germany on the Rhine River; was the capital of West Germany between 1949 and 1989

User Contributed Dictionary

see bon


Proper noun

  1. A city in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, which was the former capital of West Germany



Proper noun

  1. Bonn


Proper noun

  1. Bonn

Extensive Definition

Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located about 20 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999. Starting in 1998, many national government institutions were moved from Bonn to Berlin. Both houses of the German national parliament, the Bundestag as well as the Bundesrat, were moved along with the Chancellery and the residence of German head of state, the Bundespräsident.
Bonn remains a centre of politics and administration, however. Roughly half of all government jobs were retained as many government departments remained in Bonn and numerous sub-ministerial level government agencies relocated to the former capital from Berlin and other parts of Germany. In recognition of this, the former capital now holds the title of Federal City ("Bundesstadt").
Bonn has developed into a hub of international cooperation in particular in the area of environment and sustainable development. In addition to a number of other international organizations and institutions, such as, for instance, the IUCN Environmental Law Center (IUCN ELC) the City currently hosts 16 United Nations institutions. Among these are two of the so-called Rio Conventions, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The number of UN agencies in Bonn, most of which are based at the newly established United Nations Campus in the city's former parliamentary quarter on the banks of the Rhine, continues to grow.
Bonn is the seat of some of Germany's largest corporate players, chiefly in the areas of telecommunications and logistics. Simultaneously, Bonn is establishing itself as an important national and international centre of meetings, conventions and conferences, many of which are directly related to the work of the United Nations. A new conference centre capable of hosting thousands of participants is currently under construction in the immediate vicinity of the UN Campus.
From 1597 to 1794, it was the residence of the Archbishops and Prince-electors of Cologne, and is the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven (born 1770).


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The history of the city dates back to Roman times. In about 11 BC, the Roman Army appears to have stationed a small unit in what is presently the historical centre of the town. Even earlier, the Army had resettled members of a Germanic tribal group allied with Rome, the Ubii, in Bonn. The Latin name for that settlement, "Bonna", may stem from the original population of this and many other settlements in the area, the Eburoni. The Eburoni were members of a large tribal coalition effectively wiped out during the final phase of Caesar's War in Gaul. After several decades, the Army gave up the small camp linked to the Ubii-settlement. During the 1st century AD, the Army then chose a site to the North of the emerging town in what is now the section of Bonn-Castell to build a large military installation dubbed Castra Bonnensis, i.e., literally, "Fort Bonn". Initially built from wood, the fort was eventually rebuilt in stone. With additions, changes and new construction, the fort remained in use by the Army into the waning days of the Western Roman Empire, possibly the mid-5th century AD. The structures themselves remained standing well into the Middle Ages, when they were called the Bonnburg. They were used by Frankish kings until they fell in disuse. Eventually, much of the building materials seem to have been reused in the construction of Bonn's 13th century city wall. The Sterntor (star gate) in the center of town is a reconstruction using the last remnants of the medieval city wall.
To date, Bonn's Roman fort remains the largest fort of its type known from the ancient world, i.e. a fort built for one full-size Imperial Legion and its auxiliaries. The fort covered an area of approximately 250,000 square meters. Between its walls it contained a dense grid of streets and a multitude of buildings, ranging from spacious headquarters and large officers' houses to barracks, stables and a military jail. Among the legions stationed in Bonn, the "1st", i.e. the Prima Legio Minervia, seems to have served here the longest. Units of the Bonn legion were deployed to theaters of wars ranging from modern-day Algeria to what is now the Russian republic of Chechnya.
The chief Roman road linking the provincial capitals of Cologne and Mainz cut right through the fort where it joined the fort's main road (now, Römerstraße). Once past the South Gate, the Cologne-Mainz road continued along what are now streets named Belderberg, Adenauerallee et al. To both sides of the road, the local settlement, Bonna, grew into a sizeable Roman town.
In late antiquity, much of the town seems to have been destroyed by marauding invaders. The remaining civilian population then holed up inside the fort along with the remnants of the troops stationed here. During the final decades of imperial rule, the troops were supplied by Germanic chieftains employed by the Roman administration. When the end came, these troops simply shifted their allegiances to the new barbarian rulers. From the fort, the Bonnburg, as well as from a new, medieval settlement to the South centred around what later became the minster, grew the medieval city of Bonn.
Between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Romanesque style Bonn Minster was built, and in 1597 Bonn became the seat of the Archdiocese of Cologne. The town gained more influence and grew considerably. The elector Clemens August (ruled 1723-1761) ordered the construction of a series of Baroque buildings which still give the city its character. Another memorable ruler was Max Franz (ruled 1784-1794), who founded the university and the spa quarter of Bad Godesberg. In addition he was a patron of the young Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in Bonn in 1770; the elector financed the composer's first journey to Vienna.
In 1794, the town was seized by French troops, becoming a part of the First French Empire. In 1815 following the Napoleonic Wars, Bonn became part of the Kingdom of Prussia. Administered within the Prussian Rhine Province, the town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. Bonn was of little relevance in these years.

Modern history

During World War II, Bonn had some military significance due to its population.
Following World War II, Bonn was in the British zone of occupation, and in 1949 became the capital of West Germany. The choice of Bonn was made mainly due to the advocacy of Konrad Adenauer, a former Cologne Mayor and Chancellor of West Germany after World War II, who came from that area, despite the fact that Frankfurt had most of the needed facilities already and using Bonn was estimated to be 95 Mill DM more expensive than using Frankfurt. Because of its relatively small size for a capital city, Bonn was sometimes referred to, jokingly, as the Bundesdorf (Federal Village).
German reunification in 1990 made Berlin the nominal capital of Germany again. This decision did not mandate that the republic's political institutions would also move. This was only concluded by the Bundestag (Germany's parliament) on 20 June 1991, after a heated debate. While the government and parliament moved, as a compromise, some of the ministries largely remained in Bonn, with only the top officials in Berlin. There was no plan to move these departments, and so Bonn remained a second, unofficial capital with the new title "Federal City" (Bundesstadt). Because of the necessary construction work, the move took until 1999 to complete.
At present, the private sector plays a major role in Bonn's economy. With 5 stock listed companies, Bonn has the 4th highest market capitalisation amongst German towns. With headquarters of DHL, T-Mobile and other renowned companies, managers have replaced the public sector.

Main sights

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Beethoven's birth place is located at Bonngasse. Next to the market place is the Old Town Hall, built in 1737 in Rococo style, under the rule of Clemens August of Bavaria. It's used for receptions of guests of the town, and as a bureau for the mayor. Nearby is the Kurfürstliches Schloss, built as a residence for the prince-elector and now the main building of the University of Bonn.
The Poppelsdorfer Allee is an alley flanked by chestnut trees which had the first horsecar of the town. It connects the Kurfürstliches Schloss with the Poppelsdorfer Schloss, a palace that was built as a resort to prince-electors in the first half of the 18th century. This axis is interrupted by a railway line and Bonn Central Station, a building erected in 1883/84.
The three highest buildings in the city are the radio mast of WDR in Bonn-Venusberg (180 m), the headquarters of the Deutsche Post called Post Tower (162.5 m) and the former building for the German members of parliament Langer Eugen (114.7 m) now the new location of the UN-Campus.

Modern buildings



The Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn (University of Bonn) is one of the largest universities in Germany.

Private Schools

  • Aloisiuskolleg, a Jesuit private school in Bad Godesberg with boarding facilities
  • Amos-Comenius-Gymnasium, a private school in Bad Godesberg
  • King Fahad Academy, a private school in Bad Godesberg, Mehlem, which also includes a mosque
  • Libysch-Arabische El-Fateh Schule, private Arabic high school
  • Bonn International School BIS, a private English-speaking school in Plittersdorf/Rheinaue, which offers grades from Kindergarten to 12th grade (preparing for International Baccalaureate)
  • Bonn Independent School, private primary school (serving grades 1 to 4)
  • École de Gaulle - Adenauer, private French-speaking school serving grades 1 to 12
  • Ernst-Kalkuhl-Gymnasium, private boarding and day school
  • Otto-Kühne-Schule Godesberg ("PÄDA"), private boarding and day school
Additionally there are six private Catholic schools.


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In 1969, the independent towns of Bad Godesberg and Beuel as well as several villages were incorporated into Bonn, resulting in a city more than twice as large as before. Bad Godesberg and Beuel became districts (Stadtbezirke) of Bonn with some independence and populations of about 70,000 each.
Each district has its own quarters:
  • Bad Godesberg: Alt-Godesberg, Friesdorf, Godesberg-Nord, Godesberg-Villenviertel, Heiderhof, Hochkreuz, Lannesdorf, Mehlem, Muffendorf, Pennenfeld, Plittersdorf, Rüngsdorf, Schweinheim
  • Beuel: Beuel-Mitte, Beuel-Ost, Geislar, Hoholz, Holtorf, Holzlar, Küdinghoven, Limperich, Oberkassel, Pützchen/Bechlinghoven, Ramersdorf, Schwarzrheindorf/Vilich-Rheindorf, Vilich, Vilich-Müldorf
  • Bonn: Auerberg, Bonn-Castell (until 2003: Bonn-Nord), Bonn-Zentrum, Buschdorf, Dottendorf, Dransdorf, Endenich, Graurheindorf, Gronau, Ippendorf, Kessenich, Lessenich/Meßdorf, Nordstadt, Poppelsdorf, Röttgen, Südstadt, Tannenbusch, Ückesdorf, Venusberg, Weststadt
  • Hardtberg: Brüser Berg, Duisdorf, Hardthöhe, Lengsdorf


Bonn is connected to three autobahns (federal motorways) and the German rail network. Some InterCityExpress and most InterCity trains call at Bonn Hauptbahnhof whilst the Siegburg/Bonn railway station is situated on the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line outside of Bonn and serviced by InterCityExpress trains. Local transport is provided by a Stadtbahn (light rail), which also features two lines to Cologne.
Bonn's international airport is Cologne Bonn Airport.

Twin towns

Since 1983, the City of Bonn has established friendship relations with the City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, and since 1988 Bonn, in former times the residence of the Princes Electors of Cologne, and Potsdam, Germany, the formerly most important residential city of the Prussian rulers, have established a city-to-city partnership.
Downtown Bonn is surrounded by a number of traditional towns and villages which were independent up to several decades ago. As many of those communities had already established their own contacts and partnerships before the regional and local reorganisation in 1969, the Federal City of Bonn now has a dense network of city district partnerships with European partner towns.
The city district of Bonn is a partner of the English university city of Oxford, England, UK (since 1947), of Budafok, District XXII of Budapest, Hungary (since 1991) and of Opole, Poland (officially since 1997; contacts were established 1954).
The district of Bad Godesberg has established partnerships with Saint-Cloud in France, Frascati in Italy, Windsor and Maidenhead in England, UK and Kortrijk in Belgium; a friendship agreement has been signed with the town of Yalova, Turkey.
The district of Beuel on the right bank of the Rhine and the city district of Hardtberg foster partnerships with towns in France: Mirecourt and Villemomble.
Moreover, the city of Bonn has developed a concept of international co-operation and maintains sustainability oriented project partnerships in addition to traditional city twinning, among others with Minsk in Belarus, Ulan Baatar in Mongolia, Bukhara in Usbekistan, Chengdu in China and La Paz in Bolivia.

Famous Denizens

Desmond Dawson born 21 Oct 1959, kilted bungee jumper and marathon runner AKA " The Flying Scotsman for Children in Need"


External links

Bonn in Afrikaans: Bonn
Bonn in Arabic: بون
Bonn in Azerbaijani: بون
Bonn in Bosnian: Bonn
Bonn in Breton: Bonn
Bonn in Bulgarian: Бон (Германия)
Bonn in Catalan: Bonn
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Bonn in Estonian: Bonn
Bonn in Modern Greek (1453-): Βόννη
Bonn in Spanish: Bonn
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Bonn in Scottish Gaelic: Bonn (a' Ghearmailt)
Bonn in Galician: Bon - Bonn
Bonn in Korean: 본
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Bonn in Latin: Bonna
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Bonn in Macedonian: Бон
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Bonn in Japanese: ボン
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Bonn in Occitan (post 1500): Bonn
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Bonn in Albanian: Boni
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Bonn in Thai: บอนน์
Bonn in Vietnamese: Bonn
Bonn in Turkish: Bonn
Bonn in Ukrainian: Бонн
Bonn in Volapük: Bonn
Bonn in Yiddish: באן, דייטשלאנד
Bonn in Chinese: 波恩
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