Aachen has existed for centuries. Known as Aix-la-Chapelle in French, Oochen in Luxembourgish, and Aken in Dutch, this mid-sized town has a very rich history. Located at the westernmost point of Germany near the Netherlands and Belgium border, Aachen is also a spa city. For centuries, the city´s hot thermal springs have soothed the aches and pains of the Celts and the Romans, until Charlemagne took over in 768 AD and made it his capital. He catapulted Aachen into the European center stage and its fame spread far and wide. It became so important that most German emperors chose to be crowned there. After Charlemagne´s death, Aachen slowly slipped in importance, and incidentally, it was the first German city to fall to the Allied. Today, it remains as a charming border town with an incredible history, a gorgeous cathedral, and a lively, young student cosmopolitan population. Centuries after his death, Charlemagne still dominates the landscape of Aachen. He is everywhere: from the magnificent domed court chapel to museums, and street names. I like Aachen very much. I enjoy its easy-going vibes, its pretty old town, and the stunning cathedral. Although overlooked by many travelers, take a look at the things to do in Aachen and then decide if it is worth visiting or not.
Table of Contents
Follow Charlemagne´s footsteps in Aachen
If you are a history buff, then do go on a walk down Charlemagne´s Route. This perfectly DIY walking route takes you through the city to visit the sites influenced by or dedicated to Charlemagne. Some of the sights on this route are mentioned here.
Marvel at the Aachen Dom
This is hands-down my favourite cathedral in Germany (after Kölner Dom). Inspired by the churches of San Vitale in Ravenna and Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Aachen Dom, or the Aachen Cathedral is massive, magnificent, and slightly eccentric. It has beautiful mosaics in rich blue and gold, a stunning vast twelfth-century gilded Barbarossa chandelier, and extremely important religious relics. Some of these are Christ’s loincloth from when he was crucified, Mary’s cloak, the cloth that John the Baptist’s decapitated head was wrapped in, and swaddling clothes from when Jesus was an infant. These are displayed once every seven years and attract 100,000 or more visitors. Incidentally, it is also the burial place of Charlemagne and houses his marble throne. Admission: Free
Visit the Cathedral Treasury
Located at a stone´s throw from the Dom, the cathedral treasury is a must-visit. It houses one of Europe’s most valuable collections of Medieval liturgical art and is a part of the UNESCO site (with the cathedral). The antiquity of the exhibits spans from late Antiquity to the Gothic period, roughly 1000 years. There is also a beautiful collection of crosses, holy water vessels, codices, a golden bust of Charlemagne, and other holy relics. The basement boasts of an excellent textile exhibition that includes the ceremonial coronation cloak. Entrance Fee: Cost: €6 for adults
Aachen Rathaus or the Town Hall
Aachen Rathaus is worth paying for a guided trip. Dating back to the 14th century, it is a beautiful Gothic building in the old city. On the weekends, you can go on guided tours through the town hall’s most noteworthy rooms and see a replica of the Crown Jewels. Its exteriors are simply jaw-dropping. Fifty life-sized statues of German rulers adorn the facade of Aachen’s splendid Gothic town hall and inside, the undisputed highlight is the vaulted coronation hall with epic 19th-century frescoes. It was built on the foundations of Charlemagne´s palace. Entrance Fee: €6 for adults, €10 for guided tour
The Couven Museum
Located close to the Aachen Dom, the Couven Museum is in an impressive 18th-century townhouse that was built in the Rococo style building. It illustrates the lifestyle of Aachen’s upper-middle class during the 17th through 19th centuries. Each room is decorated with furniture from various periods in Aachen’s history. The museum was quirky, but I enjoyed the unique combination of history and interior design lessons in each room. Entrance Fee: €6 and additional fee for special exhibits
Explore the Old Town
Aachen has a charming old town that is jam-packed with shops, restaurants, and interesting art installations. Look out for the wonderful metal statues that dot several parts of the Old Town.
Admire Ponttor (medieval city gate)
Today, only two of the original city gates of Aachen remain. These are called Ponttor and the Marschietor. They stand as testimonials of a bygone era and are quite picturesque.
Indulge in an Aachen printen
This is not my favourite but you cannot leave Aachen without at least trying this regional specialty. Aachener Printen are hard, spiced cookies that are best enjoyed after generous dunking in tea although the locals think that to be a sacrilege. There are lots of shops in the Old Town that sell Printen, so try one of them.
Puppenbrunnen, a child´s dream come true
Also known as the Marionette Fountain, Puppenbrunnen has everything a child loves: marionettes and a fountain. It is a historic fountain in the center of Aachen, close to the Cathedral in Kramerstrasse. Built in the late 5th century Puppenbrunnen is a city landmark. It is one of the few fountains in the world that uses dolls instead of gargoyles to make the water flow. Consisting of several movable puppets, Puppenbrunnen is admired by the visitors and the locals alike.
Follow the rest of the Germany series
- WHY VISIT FÜSSEN
- BONN CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
- BERLIN STREET ART
- NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
- WIESKIRCHE, A LOVELY ROCOCO CHURCH
- BAVARIA WINTER HOLIDAY
- SANSSOUCI PALACE OF POTSDAM
- HEATHER FIELDS OF LÜNEBURGER HEIDE
- ROMANTIC COCHEM
- WINE ROUTE ALONG MOSELLE VALLEY
- AUGUSTUSBURG PALACE IN BRÜHL
- TRIER, GERMANY’S OLDEST CITY
- NUREMBERG TRAVEL GUIDE
- KÖLN FLORA IN SPRING
- IDSTEIN, A BEAUTIFUL DAY TRIP FROM FRANKFURT
- THE MAGNIFICENT AACHEN CATHEDRAL
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE