Friday 27 April 2012

Bonn Rhine River Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.2 km (5.7 miles), terrain flat

For more Bonn routes, see Route List

If you're traveling to Bonn, Germany's ex-capital city, here's the place to run: heading south along the Rhine River to the Rheinau Park and back. It's definitely the main running track in town, and for good reason: the pedestrian trail is quiet and scenic the whole way.

I just got back to Bonn this week after about a 20-year lapse. The last time I was in town, Bonn was the capital of West Germany, frozen in the middle of the Cold War, and nobody could even imagine that soon the Iron Curtain would come crashing down and that the German capital would suddenly move on to Berlin.

Back then, my main impression was how rich the town seemed. The old town was plastered in expensive granite cubes, and the pubs were full of politicians drinking their kölsch beer. The baroque town hall and Beethoven's birthplace house added elegant touches to the old town. The town was full of pleasant neighborhoods full of nice villas, with a university adding a lot of life to the whole scene.

Bonn doesn't seem to have suffered from the main government ministries moving away. A few ministries were left in Bonn so that the town wouldn't suffer economically too much, and new uses were found for the old government buildings. Now, there is a World Congress Center in the old Bundestag (Parliament), and the parliament office building is now used by the United Nations.

The Route
This route will start in the market square of the old town, and just run south along the river to the Rheinau Park, loop through the park and through the old government quarter, then head back up the river again.
Bonn Rathaus looking towards palace
The beautiful town hall forms the south-east end of the market square. Face the town hall and run past it along the right side, heading straight for two short blocks towards the gate through the arched gateway in east wing of the old Hof (orange-painted royal residence of the Cologne Prince-Electors).
Archway to Hofgarten
Behind the arch, you'll find yourself in a big park, the Hofgarten, the old palace gardens. There is an U-Bahn station right there (Universität). Right at the station, turn left and follow the path eastwards across the loud street (Adenauerallee). This brings you into the Stadtgarten park, running downhill right to the river, 100 meters straight ahead.

At the river, turn right and just follow the pedestrian path as far as you please. This route will take you past those two high-rise buildings that you see down the river. You'll also see a green autobahn bridge past the buildings. The route will head under the bridge and then loop back through the Rheinau Park found there.
Path along the Rhine, UN building in distance. The run goes past that bridge.
So now, you can just cruise and enjoy. The riverfront is lined with nice villas, mansions, boat clubs and government ministries. River ships, kayaks and rowing boats ply the waters in each direction, and the waterside path is full of runners, bikers and strollers.
Hey, share the river!

When you reach the modern red sculpture, you are in the ex-government quarter, where the West German Bundestag met, and the Chancellor's (prime minister's) office was.
At the World Conference Center
Then you'll run past the tall UN building, then the even taller, oval-shaped Post/DHL building. The Rheinau Park begins right there.

Rheinau Park begins
You can just stay on the waterfront path, running under the bridge way up above, and keep running. This side of the park is more natural, more like a woods.

You can now see green hills rising up along the other side of the river. The Rhine starts getting more scenic here, south of Bonn. For the next 100 kilometers, the river is lined with hills, cliffs, scenic walled villages full of vineyards, with castles on almost every hilltop.The hills that you see across the river from the park are the Siebenbergen, the Seven Mountains behind which Snow White's seven dwarfs lived.
Rheinau Park path beyond the bridge
When you see the white-and-red signpost pointing to the right towards Beuel, turn right and run the 100 meters to the lake. This is the half-way point of the run.

The lake stretches parallel to the river, dividing the park. You'll see an arm of the lake to the left. Just before you cross the pedestrian bridge over the lake, turn right on the dirt path and follow the lake northwards, with the water to your left. Just keep following the lakeside.
Rheinau Park lake
You'll see various spots with metallic sculptures and barbeque grills, and a Japanese garden on the other side of the lake. If you're staying longer in Bonn, this park is well worth exploring!
In the Japanese garden
You'll cross a little bridge to the place where the pedal-boats are rented, then a second bridge that brings you back to the north end of the park. The giant, round-glass Post/DHL tower is straight ahead.
Run straight between the tower and the extension on the right
Run up the ramp to the bridge that takes you right up to the front door of the tower. Now just run between the two parts of the tower and come out on the other side onto Schumacher Straße. The white Deutsche Welle (the German equivalent of the BBC World Service) building is along the right.

When you pass the next cross-street, Heussallee, you'll go by several buildings that used to be used by the West German Bundestag. Now the World Congress Center uses one of them. The street ends at Dahlmannstraße. Straight ahead is the driveway into the old Kanzleramt (Chancellor's office). Any Germans old enough will recognize the spot as the one where television reporters always stood when reporting from the office.
The old Kanzleramt, daily backdrop on German news in 1980s
Now, turn right on Dahlmannstraße and run the 100 meters back to the river, where you turn left and keep running back to town.

Before you get to the end though, we can take a somewhat different way through the Hofgarten park.

When you pass the biergarten on the water, turn left and run uphill on Erster Fährgasse. At the end of the block you must cross Adenauerallee again, and turn right.

Then turn left on the first dirt path into the Hofgarten and run straight towards the old palace. Just before you reach it, run towards the right, going past the white U-Bahn station again and out through the arched gateway. Run straight for two blocks and you will be back in the market square where you started.
Heading back into the Hofgarten


  1. Is it safe to run along the river early in morning at about 6am, before sunrise?

    1. I've never run it that early, but lots of runners run it in the dark, even many women. Germany is generally extremely safe. I have run in the dark hundreds of times and I was never involved in a situation where I felt unsafe. You'll just have to follow your own instincts.