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Once a dismal place to go out on the town, Bonn now has a thriving fine-arts community and a brisk nightlife. If you're in the area around the first Saturday in May, don't miss the Rhine in Flames event which features a spectacular annual fireworks display, visible for a distance of about 25km (15 miles) south of the city.

The Performing Arts

Bonn has always struggled with the perception that it can't compete with the larger arts communities in Hamburg and Berlin, and consequently it compensates (or overcompensates) with an impressive roster of cultural events. One of the most visible is "La Scala of the Rhineland," the Oper der Stadt Bonn, Am Boeselagerhof (tel. 0228/778008; www.theater-bonn.de; S-Bahn: Hauptbahnhof), where ballet and opera are performed at regular intervals mid-August to June. Box office hours are Monday to Friday 10am to 3:30pm, Saturday 9:30am to noon, and Sunday 10am to 2pm. Tickets are 9€ to 115€ each, depending on the event.

The Klassische Philharmonie Bonn (Bonn Symphony Orchestra) performs in Beethovenhalle, Wachsbleiche 16 (tel. 0228/654965; www.klassische-philharmonie-bonn.de; S-Bahn: Hauptbahnhof), September to June, with occasional free concerts given on Sunday mornings. Otherwise, tickets cost 15€ to 62€. On a more intimate scale, chamber music is sometimes presented within a small but charming concert hall within the Beethoven Haus.

During the Bonner Summer Festival, mid-May to August, an international selection of dance and music groups performs, mostly for free, in open-air locations around the city. Contact tel. 0228/201030 or 2010345 for details. In addition, the BeethovenFest Bonn, a rekindling of both the nostalgia and the music associated with Bonn's greatest musical genius, takes place in late August and September. Visit www.beethovenfestbonn.de for information.

Bonn's Theater-Kasse, Windeckstrasse 1 (tel. 0228/775000; www.theater.bonn.de; S-Bahn: Hauptbahnhof), is a well-known and highly resourceful ticket agency associated with the city's tourist office. It has access to tickets for virtually every sporting, entertainment, and cultural venue in Bonn. Also call for information on performers, schedules, and prices.

Live Music & Cabaret

The Pantheon Theater, Bundeskanzlerplatz (tel. 0228/212521; www.pantheon.de; bus: 610), stages jazz and pop concerts, comedy shows, and political cabaret. Nearly every weekday there is a performance of some sort. Friday and Saturday, the facility becomes a dance club. The box office is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday noon to 6pm.

Gay Bars

The most crowded gay bar is Boba's Bar, Josefstrasse 17 (tel. 0228/650685; www.bobasinn.de; S-Bahn: Hauptbahnhof), near the railway station, adjacent to the Rhine. It welcomes a drinking (but not dancing) crowd in their 20s and 30s. It's open Tuesday to Sunday 8pm to 3am and Friday and Saturday 8pm to 5am. There's also Le Copain, Berliner Platz 5 (tel. 0228/639935; S-Bahn: Berliner-von-Suttner-Platz), which attracts a somewhat older clientele and is open 4pm to 1 or 2am.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.