Aachen has it all; from the oldest cathedral in Germany to a Roman treasure and even custom made gingerbread biscuits….
Aachen was the royal residence of the famous Emperor Charlemagne. It was his aspiration to make it the new Rome. Hence, it was here that every single Roman Emperor was crowned for many years. While most of the major sights stem from this Charlemagne connection, Aachen is definitely not all history and heritage. The seat of one of the best universities in Germany, it has a vibrant student population. Thus, Aachen displays a strong modern vibe while preserving its ancient charm. No wonder, this ancient German city located on the border with Belgium and Netherlands, features on the list of “Must visit small European cities”.
Aachen is reached in under 75 minutes by car. Drive via A2 and E314/A76 to enter Germany. You can park within short walking distance to the cathedral near the station or in town.
One of the most convenient yet budget-friendly options. Look up schedules on their website
Train & Bus
Take a train to Heerlen and then a bus to Aachen which runs every 30 minutes
Aachen’s most famous address. Built on the orders of Emperor Charlemagne, the cathedral has a captivating architecture. This is the very scene of the coronation of more than 30 Roman-German kings. The original marble coronation throne is housed in the cathedral to this day. Interestingly, this is the first site in Germany to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, it draws pilgrims from all over the world every seven years. Charlemagne’s favourite cathedral is also his final resting place.
Located in the cathedral grounds, this treasury houses one of Europe’s most magnificent treasures. More than a 100 unique treasures are on display and these include royal donations, decorations and precious religious artefacts. Notable in the collection is the Cross of Lothair and the Bust of Charlemagne. However, these are put on display only during the pilgrimage period. Make a stop at the Dom Information (Johannes-Paul-II.-Str. in Aachen) for more details including English tours and tickets.
Aachen is known as the ‘Spa of Kings. There are more than 30 thermal springs with healing properties in this region. These soothing springs attracted Charlemagne to Aachen. The classical pump room, pavilions and adjacent park continue to draw visitors to Aachen to this very day. The elaborate classical structure at Elisenbrunnen is the ultimate testimony to this spa and bathing culture. Furthermore, many wellness centres like the Carolus Thermen offer a relaxing thermal spa experience.
A short bus ride (~5 KM) to Vaals takes you to border hopping. Hike up around 4 Kilometres to Vaalsberg, the highest point in the Netherlands. Alternatively, take the HopOn/HopOff Aachen buses. It is a very novel experience to be in three different countries – Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands at the same time. Go up the Balduin Observation Tower and drink in the breath-taking view across the three countries for a small entry fee. This is a popular hangout place for families as there is a labyrinth and fun activities aplenty for the kids.
Stroll along the cobblestone Aachen market square. The majestic Town Hall stands here and offers the best view of the Aachen cathedral from its steps. You could take one of the available guided tours for a close up look at replicas of imperial jewels and Coronation Hall frescoes depicting Charlemagne’s life. On a fine market day, you could simply sit here at the Katschhof and take in all the bustle and activity or savour some local produce. Moreover, the famous Christmas market is hosted here.
Admire the various quirky fountains that are dotted around the city. The Karlsbrunnen, the Fountain of Puppets and the Chicken Thief are fine specimens.
Explore Aachen’s interesting museums. The Centre Charlemagne is a tribute to the Emperor while the Couven Museum celebrates historical domestic interiors. The art lovers would enjoy a browse through the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum gallery. Look up all museums and offers on the tourism website of Aachen.
Follow the Route Charlemagne for a journey through the unique heritage of Aachen highlighting history, science, power & religion.
You will be spoilt for choice with the options that Aachen has to offer. Traditional yet boutique restaurants, cafes and pubs are dotted all around town. The Frankenberger Viertel district, the Hof square and the Pontstraße street are popular with tourists and students. Pop into the Café van den Daele, the oldest café in Aachen for some melt-in-your-mouth delicacies in a charming historic setting. The streets around Hof also offer some wonderful shopping possibilities.
The taste of Aachen, the Printen – a hard, spicy biscuit rather like a gingerbread. It is a protected delicacy and can be made only by bakers in and around Aachen. The actual recipe is a secret but one can get a hint of cinnamon, clove, ginger, allspice. These delectable sweet treats come smothered with almonds, chocolate or hazelnuts. While originally a Christmas biscuit, you can get them all the year round in Aachen. Just follow the delicious whiff and buy these in the numerous bakeries around the city. Be sure to pack a few for the return journey to Eindhoven!
For Eindhoven News : Muktha Kartik Iyer