The beautiful German city of Aachen can be found on the borders of three countries – Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
It has a lengthy history that dates back hundreds of years, making it one of the oldest cities in Germany. It was founded over two thousand years ago by the Romans who built baths here, with some of them still standing today.
There are plenty of things to do in Aachen which makes it a very popular tourist destination. There are several historical sites to see, museums to visit, and thermal baths to bathe in. Its UNESCO World Heritage Site status reflects the rich and important role it has played in European history.
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Aachen Cathedral is a Gothic church in western Germany. The structure was erected on the site of an ancient Roman temple back in 790. It served as the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne’s (Charles the Great) palace chapel for about three hundred years.
He was buried here in 814, and his remains are encased in a gilded shrine called Karlsschrein. As of today, little remains of the original palace complex.
Aachen Cathedral is one of Western Europe’s oldest cathedrals, having seen thirty kings crowned in the cathedral. The Cathedral was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1978, making it one of the first cathedrals on that list.
The cathedral is famous for its spectacular stained glass windows featuring narratives from the Old Testament. You will also find significant works of art from later periods, featuring sculptures by Tilman Riemenschneider and Peter Flotner.
Aachen Old Town
The Old Town of Aachen is a historic district in the city’s centre, home to many significant landmarks. You can experience the joys of the Old Town against the impressive backdrop of Aachen’s Town Hall and the historic Aachen Cathedral.
The market square hosts a weekly market, every Tuesday and Thursday, where the rich smells of roasted coffee and pastries fill the air. You must grab yourself a bite to eat if you pass by.
The city’s main square is the best place to begin exploring its attractions. There are also many Old Town tours available that start here, where you can learn more about the history of Aachen.
If you prefer a slower pace and enjoy people-watching, you can appreciate sipping a coffee or wine in one of the many cafés around the town.
Adding to this, you can enjoy browsing through some of the little boutiques in the pedestrianised area and picking up some gifts. There are also some bigger stores located nearer the edge of the city.
Aachen City Hall
The beautiful Town Hall (Rathaus) is one of the oldest buildings in Aachen, dating back to 1489. With four floors and a basement, the hall is open to the public. You can view the City Hall at your leisure and admire the stunning stained-glass windows that represent various scenes from the town’s history.
From its sandstone entrance to the medieval vaulted ceilings, the City Hall was built to impress. Once inside, you will see a detailed Ark staircase and a painting of Emperor Charlemagne hung on the wall.
Inside the museum, the exhibitions on display will give you a sense of the historical coronation banquets that took place here. This historical building should not be missed. An impressive view of Aachen can be admired from one of the towers too.
The Centre Charlemagne is the city museum that is located in Katschhof Square, by the Town hall and Aachen Cathedral.
It is a modern glass-fronted building compared to its surrounding counterparts where modern meets old architecture. This is an immersive museum where you can learn all about the Carolingian period, which makes it ideal for families.
The permanent exhibition takes visitors through the city’s history where you can learn lots of interesting historical facts and stories about the city.
Learn more about the lives of Charlemagne and his family, his palace and coronation, the early Roman settlements and the 18th-century baroque spa town. You can also see many artifacts from this period in Aachen’s history. There is a museum shop and a cafe offering refreshments during your trip.
One of the oldest buildings located on the Fischmarkt, near the cathedral is the Grashaus. This gothic building was the first city hall in Aachen and was completed in 1267.
In the 14th century, the Grashaus was replaced as the City hall as it was too small and not large enough for the many festivities that were held during that period. Instead, it got turned into a prison and a court.
Although the building was severely damaged by a fire in 1656, it was later restored. Nowadays it is a city archive and is used by schoolchildren to learn about the past and present of European history. Guided tours are available in small groups if you wish to see inside and learn about its history.
The Couven Museum is situated at Aachen’s Hühnermarkt. Built in 1662, after a devastating fire, the building initially served the town as a pharmacy.
The architect who renovated the museum was called Jakob Couven who worked on the building in 1786 with Rococo architectural elements.
Since 1958, the Couven-Museum has been home to a collection of historical furniture. The museum’s thirty-four rooms reflect upper-middle-class furnishings from throughout the ages.
Visitors can see the old Adler Pharmacy and there are regular temporary exhibitions put on with cultural and artistic themes.
Ludwig Forum for International Art
This Bauhaus-style former umbrella factory, built in 1928, now houses a museum that celebrates the works of both American and European modern artists from the 1960s through to the present day.
It is home to a permanent collection of works by Roy Lichtenstein, Nam June Paik, Jörg Immendorff and Joseph Beuys. It also hosts different temporary exhibits including local artists in cooperation with the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation.
Carolus Therman Spa
Aachen has a history of rest and relaxation in its mineral springs dating back to Roman times. Emperor Charlemagne was often fond of bathing in the warm springs in Aachen. Now the Carolus Thermen’s thermal pools provide an escape from everyday life for residents and tourists.
The spa has indoor and outdoor pools, as well as fifteen saunas and steam baths. They all offer a full range of healing benefits that are drawn from the thermal waters for both relaxation and rejuvenation. Make sure to book ahead to ensure a space.
The Elisenbrunnen fountain, in the heart of Aachen, is one of many monuments representing this spa city’s proud history. The neo-classical building consists of an open foyer and two pavilions and is well-known for the unpleasant smell of its sulphurous thermal water.
Many people used to drink this warm water despite its disagreeable odour because they believed it to have restorative and healing properties.
Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo
Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo is one of the largest zoos in the country, covering around 8.9 hectares. It is located on the outskirts of Aachen, next to the city’s forest, offering visitors an exotic glimpse into many different environments.
The zoo opened in 1966 and boasts more than one thousand animals from around two hundred species living in their natural habitats.
From small exotic birds to camels, ostrich, and ankole-watussi cattle there are plenty of animals to learn about. This makes a great day out for families with several playground areas for children to enjoy, along with a petting zoo and a botanical garden.
Hopfen and Malz Microbewery
If you are interested in beer, then this is definitely worth a visit. With twenty four beers on tap in the bar, you are sure to find something you enjoy.
They also have taster sessions that you can book if you wish to learn more about the beer or brewing courses for those inclined. They have over three hundred beers in their store if you want to take a few away for gifts or for yourself.
Built in 1320, Ponttor is one of the last standing parts of Aachen’s city walls. It is also only one of two gates to have survived destruction. Therefore Ponttor provides a fantastic glimpse into medieval life.
The historical structure includes a fortified tower, crenellations, a gatehouse with a portcullis, and a bridge passage over the moat. Later in the 1800s, it was threatened with demolition but thankfully it was saved. This deserves a glance if you are interested in medieval buildings.
Aachen Christmas Market
Aachen’s Christmas market is held in the pretty squares and streets surrounding the incredible Aachen Cathedral, the Charlemagne Centre, and the town hall.
The winter wonderland transforms each area of the city, creating no distinct locations but instead one large marketplace.
You will find plenty of Glühwein, hot chocolate and eggnog on sale with lots of sweet and savoury food options.
For example, you can sample roasted chestnuts, fried potato pancakes and spiced gingerbread, which all pair lovely with a hot mulled wine. Throughout the year, small flea markets are also held in the Katschhof, as well as concerts, and festivals.
Aachen has numerous statues in and around the city for you to find. In the Marketplatz, located across from City Hall, is one of the oldest fountains in Aachen named the Karlsbrunnen Fountain.
This fountain is crowned with a statue of Charlemagne, although it is only a replica.
The original statue is now housed in the city hall’s coronation room where it commemorates the emperor who united much of western Europe during his lifetime.
In the 1730s, Johann Joseph Couven designed a limestone basin for the fountain and added two bronze fish.
This interesting bronze puppet fountain was created by the sculptor Bonafatius Stirnberg. It depicts items that are characteristic of representing Aachen, such as a rooster, a market woman, a church, and a knight and horse. All of the figures have moving joints and it is very unusual and unique.
The local delicacy of Printen, is a tasty spiced sweet cookie, made with or without nuts, and is sometimes dipped in chocolate in the numerous local bakeries. You must try one of these with a coffee while watching the world go by.
The Klein Printen bakery can be found in central Aachen and has a wonderful history of making this delicious-tasting spiced cookie. This working bakery offers group tours detailing the biscuit’s history and the baking process around their small Printen Museum.
This less well known swimming pool is one of Germany’s remaining Art Nouveau baths and is one of the hidden gems in Aachen. It originally opened in 1911 and is still used today.
This listed building showcases high ceilings, marble walls with cast iron railings and features two swimming pools.
As the pools were originally separated by the sexes, the men’s larger pool features a fabulous fountain of Neptune at the end.
Where as the ladies smaller pool features some Roman bathers. Both of these were created by sculptor Carl Burger. This is a unique place to enjoy and is also regularly used as a place to get some exercise.
When looking for things to do in Aachen at night, as a student city, Aachen has numerous bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants to keep you satisfied. Some highlights include Hopfen and Malz, Domkeller and the Grotesque Absinthe bar. Hopfen and Malz is a microbrewery specialising in German and Belgian beers.
It is located in the heart of Aachen on a cobbled street, just off the market square. Domkeller is located in the centre of Aachen and has a very traditional German feel to it. It is a good place to go if you want to try some local food and drink, such as German beer or wine.
The venue features old wooden beams that give it a cosy feel. The Grotesque Absinthe bar is another bar located in the city centre that specialises in absinthe cocktails.
This beautiful building is home to the Aachen Symphony Orchestra and is the main venue for a variety of plays, opera, ballet, and musical theatre productions.
It was built in 1822 and is located just southeast of the Old Town of Aachen. With so many different types of performances here there is something for everyone to enjoy.
There are many things to do in Aachen Germany. The city is full of history and culture, making it a great place to visit.
There are many museums, parks, and galleries to enjoy and you can also explore the Old Town, which has a variety of shops and restaurants.
The city is easy to get around and the people are friendly, making it a great destination in Germany.