48 hours in Aachen – 2 day Itinerary
Visiting Aachen for a city break is the perfect choice for any traveller that loves smaller, less-touristed cities with beautiful architecture and a vibrant, young population.
Situated in Germany but bordering both Belgium and the Netherlands, Aachen makes a great side trip from several cities in any of these three countries.
Planning a 2-day itinerary for Aachen is the perfect amount of time to see the main attractions in this historic city.
Aachen isn’t a large city (the population is around 250,000) and it could have easily remained an obscure, overlooked place if it weren’t for a few details.
Back in the 8th and 9th centuries, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne lived and died in this city, leaving behind a legacy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Based in the North Rhine region surrounded by forests, Aachen is also a pretty spa town with relaxing thermal waters.
The best time to visit Aachen is during the warmest months of the year from May to September. It’s a popular city and prices do rise in July and August but it never feels overcrowded like other European cities are in summer.
If this is your first 48 hours in Aachen, stay as close to the Old Town as possible. There are lots of accommodation options near Aachen Hauptbahnhof Station or just northeast of the historic centre within walking distance of all the top sights.
This 48 hours in Aachen itinerary covers what to do in Aachen in two days including all the top things to do, see, eat, and drink.
It also suggests some tours and answers all your burning questions to make sure you have the best possible 2 days in Achen!
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Day 1 in Aachen
Eat a Local Breakfast at Pausenbrot
Let’s begin this 2 days in Aachen itinerary by eating a delicious breakfast at Pausenbrot, a cafe and bakery just a short walk north of Aachen’s town hall.
There are two Pausenbrot locations in Aachen (and another in Cologne) but this one is the most central.
Pausenbrot serves utterly delicious pastries complemented by artisanal coffees. They also serve a range of flatbreads with contemporary industrial and minimalist decor.
Stroll Around Aachen Old Town
You can either join a walking tour of all the highlights in Aachen Old Town or you can explore them all at your own pace. If you’d rather see the city for the first time on a self-guided walk then this is a breakdown of all the must-see sights.
First is Elisengarten, a picturesque city park right in the centre of the Old Town. In the summer, this park is teeming with people eating picnics and playing sports.
There is a neoclassical pavilion, Elisenbrunnen, that dates back to 1827 on one side of the park.
Another sight you can’t miss is the city hall, Aachen Rathaus. With its jet-black roof and turrets, this building wouldn’t look out of place in a fairytale book!
This building dates back to the 14th century and blends Gothic and Baroque architectural styles.
The Rathaus is located on Katschhof which is Aachen’s main square. Most of the top things to do in Aachen are in or near this square and it’s where you’ll find most of the Christmas markets every December.
Aachen has many beautiful fountains and statues all around the city but one of the best is Puppenbrunnen. This fountain is unique because it features several bronze puppets that you can move and control.
Definitely swing by this fountain if you have kids to see how long they will be occupied with the leavers and pulleys on this fountain!
Visit Aachen Cathedral and Treasury
After you’ve walked around the Old Town and got your bearings, it’s time to visit the city’s best attraction, Aachen Cathedral.
Parts of this Cathedral date back to the 700s and 800s during Charlemagne’s rule. The gilded, octagonal Palatine Chapel is one of the main reasons why this church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s also the final resting place of the Holy Roman Emperor and there are so many sculptures and stained glass windows worth taking a closer look at too.
Don’t forget to discover the Aachen Cathedral Treasury, too. The Cathedral Treasury is next door to the church and it houses incredible religious paintings and sculptures.
Enjoy Lunch at Café Juli
You’ll be hungry after learning so much in one morning! Head to Café Juli which is a cosy and casual spot just north of Old Town. They serve coffee, cake, salad, and lunch platters with cheese, veggies and more.
Check out Centre Charlemagne
Yes, there is so much more to learn about Charlemagne beyond the cathedral! Centre Charlemagne is a local history museum featuring lots of local artifacts and artwork but it’s also very high-tech with lots of multimedia and interactive displays.
Visit the Couven-Museum
One of the other museums you might want to check out in Aachen’s Old Town is the Couven-Museum. Unlike Centre Charlemagne which is a modern building, the Couven-Museum is housed in a restored house built during the 1660s.
It’s decorated to look as it did in times gone by with furniture and decor dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
This museum offers a peak behind the curtain of what a middle-class home in Aachen would have looked like a few hundred years ago which is pretty interesting!
If you’re visiting Aachen at Christmas, you could skip the museums and just spend your time strolling around the festive markets instead!
Dine for Dinner at Am Knipp Restaurant
You need to eat at least one authentic German dinner during your two days in Aachen! Head to Am Knipp, a traditional restaurant just north of Aachen’s Old Town. You’ll find most of the best eateries in the city in this part of town.
As you’d expect of German food, Am Kipp’s menu consists of mostly hearty meat and schnitzel dishes.
The building itself dates back to the 1600s and they have lots of dark wood furniture, quirky decorations, and a beer garden for the warmer months.
Relax in Carolus Thermen Thermal Baths
Aachen is a spa town so it would be a shame to not enjoy the healing thermal waters during your weekend break. Many of the city’s top spas stay open until late so it’s the perfect evening activity.
Head to the Carolus Thermen Thermal Baths, a gorgeous glass building surrounded by lots of lush vegetation for privacy and to promote relaxation.
There are several different rooms and water features so you could easily spend hours here.
Day 2 in Aachen
Eat a Big Breakfast at Elise Bistro
Start the second day of your two days in Aachen by eating breakfast at Elise Bistro. This modern cafe has brown leather seats and exposed brick walls and serves crowd-pleasing breakfast dishes like bagels, granola, avocado and egg flatbreads.
Visit the Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo
Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo is simply known as Aachen Zoo, and it’s somewhere you won’t want to miss if you are travelling to Aachen with kids.
It’s just a little southeast of Aachen Old Town but there are frequent buses heading in this direction (approximately one every five minutes) and it’s a quick 20-minute ride.
Aachen Zoo isn’t a huge site so you won’t need more than a morning to stroll around the main enclosures.
Just some of the animals they have here include ostriches, zebras, camels, flamingos, penguins, and other exotic birds and mammals.
Enjoy a Light Lunch at Cafe M
Overlooking the beautiful Kurgarten Park, Cafe M is a cheap and cheerful cafe in one of the southern neighbourhoods of Aachen.
They serve a range of light lunches including soup, salads, and sandwiches.
Drive to The Three Country Point NL / B / D
If you don’t want to rent a car, you could always take the bus or opt for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Either way, you won’t regret making the effort to see this popular tourist spot!
Aachen is a German city but it’s uniquely placed on the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. You can visit the ‘Three Country Point’ and temporarily be in three places at once!
As well as the novelty factor, it’s actually just a beautiful place to visit. There are manicured gardens around the point and a gift shop too.
Eat Dinner and Witness the Views at Wilhelminatoren
After you’ve stood in line for a photo at the Three Country Point, walk over to the Wilhelminatoren.
It’s simply an outdoor tower standing 34 m tall with a staircase that allows you to see stunning panoramic views across three European countries.
There’s also a restaurant at the top so it’s the perfect place to eat dinner!
Drink Cocktails at Grotesque Absinth-Bar
Once you get back to Aachen, head to the Grotesque Absinth-Bar for cocktails in the Old Town for your last night.
It’s decorated like Dracula’s living room with low lighting, heavy red curtains, and ornate lighting fixtures.
Many of the cocktails here look more like science experiments than drinks. Don’t worry, not every cocktail has absinthe as an ingredient like the name suggests!
There are plenty of other alcoholic and non-alcoholic options too.
Tours in Aachen
Old Town Walking Tour
If you don’t have any accessibility issues, the Old Town of Aachen city is incredibly walkable and navigating public transport is unnecessary. All of the main landmarks are within close proximity so it’s the perfect place to enjoy this walking tour with a knowledgeable, local guide.
On this walking tour, you’ll learn all about the long and varied history of Achen and visit the Aachen Cathedral, the Cathedral Treasury, Aachen’s Town Hall/Rathaus, the Charlemagne Museum, The Puppet Fountain, and much more.
Aachen Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Whilst Aachen Old Town is a walkable place, there are lots of great things to do outside of the city centre. If you don’t want to learn how to use the city’s public transport system and don’t want to rent a car if you’re only spending 48 hours in Aachen, you could join this hop-on hop-off bus tour.
These buses travel along one route, allowing you to depart the bus when you want to explore and get back on a different bus when you’re ready to move on. They’re accompanied by an audio guide so you can learn about the landmarks as you’re passing them.
There are 14 stops on the route and it takes you to key sights that are difficult to reach if you don’t have transportation like the Three Country Point or Aachen Zoo.
FAQ for 48 Hours in Aachen
How many days do you need in Aachen?
There are a lot of cool things to do in Aachen, but it is a small city with a walkable historic centre and fewer than 250,000 residents.
You only need to spend two days in Aachen or the equivalent of a weekend in Aachen to see the city’s top attractions.
What is special about Aachen?
There are a lot of unique and special things about Aachen. One of the main reasons why Aachen is on the map as a great place to visit is because of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. He ruled over most of Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries and he just so happened to live (and is now buried) in Aachen.
Aachen is also a spa city with lots of natural thermal springs. This has attracted visitors to the city for centuries and continues to be one of Aachen’s special qualities.
With two universities, Aachen has a large student population and therefore a thriving nightlife scene.
This seems quite rare in a small city with a historical Old Town! Aachen has lots of cool restaurants, bars, and clubs and is very welcoming to everyone.
Is Aachen a beautiful city?
Surrounded by forests with medieval buildings dotted around its cobblestone Old Town, Aachen is a very beautiful city.
It looks even more breathtaking during the winter months with the Christmas Markets set up in Katschhof which is Aachen’s main square.
Like every city, there are some less aesthetically pleasing residential areas on the outskirts of the city. Aachen’s beauty is mainly concentrated in the historic centre which is where most tourists stay anyway.
2-Day Itinerary for Aachen Wrap-Up
This 2-day itinerary for Aachen will take you around all the best local eateries and bars as well as the top museums and historic sights.
Following this Aachen itinerary will ensure you see all of Aachen’s best bits and leave the city feeling satisfied that you’ve wandered through all of Aachen’s most beautiful streets and learned a great deal about this unique city!