The Federal City of Bonn is not just the former capital of West Germany: it has become a vibrant capital of culture, a center of excellence in research and a hub of industry with an international reach. Located in the heart of Europe, within easy distance of major European metropolises like Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt as well as neighboring Cologne, Bonn is home to people from 175 countries.
8 things to know about Bonn
- Bonn is one of Germany’s oldest cities, having been founded in the first century BC as a Roman settlement.
- Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990. After Germany reunified in 1990, the capital was moved to Berlin.
- Bonn is Germany’s ‘United Nations City’ – in 1996, the Federal Government decided to create a UN campus in the city’s former government district.
- Twenty UN entities and 170 sustainability-focussed organizations are headquartered in Bonn.
- The famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born and raised in Bonn.
- The Minster of Bonn, built in the 11th-13th centuries, is one of Germany’s oldest churches. According to legend, two famous martyrs, Saints Cassius and Florentius, were beheaded at the church’s current location during Roman times; they’re now patron saints of the city.
- The University of Bonn is based in the former Electoral Palace, and counts philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx among its alumni.
- Bonn is the birthplace of Gummy Bears! The company that created these classic, chewy jelly sweets, HARIBO, was founded in the city a century ago, and still operates there to this day.
Bonn is Germany’s United Nations city, with 20 UN entities, around 1000 UN employees and a remarkable cluster of almost 170 organizations dedicated to sustainability. Bonn has hosted United Nations organizations since 1951 and the size of the UN presence has increased over time – especially since 1996 when, after the German capital was moved to Berlin, the Federal Government committed to cultivating a “UN Campus” in the former government district. This consists of the ex-parliamentary buildings, and a third building is currently under construction. The nearby World Conference Center consists of the German Bundestag’s former plenary hall and a newer extension building, which is outfitted for the highest standard of modern conferencing.
Among the UN organizations found in the city, Bonn is home to the headquarters of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the UN Volunteers Programme (UNV).
Having been the capital of West Germany for over 50 years, the city retains key institutions such as the Federal Ministries for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), which have contributed to the growth of a cluster of think-tanks focused on sustainability in areas such as climate change, volunteerism, desertification, disaster reduction, education, health, human security and species conservation.
Among the wide variety of collective projects, Bonn has made a particular mark on forestry. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is based in Bonn, and the city’s other major forestry organizations, such as the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the European Forestry Institute (EFI), also have offices in the city. In 2011, the Government of Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.