Capital of Charlemagne Empire
Welcome to Aachen, one of the oldest and most historic cities in Germany, and also one of the prettiest in terms of great sights there to see. Small yet charming, and even considering the raids during the WWII that destroyed many medieval masterpieces, it is today one of the most visited in the country coupled with Cologne and Dusseldorf, and plenty other smaller sites in the region.
Founded as a Roman Spa resort by Hadrian in 124 AD due to the hot mineral springs, the site was already inhabited during the Neolithic are for the same reasons. Gained importance and population during the Middle Ages as it became a principal residence of King Charlemagne, who spent his first Christmas there in year 768, thereafter the city becoming the focus of his court and the political centre of his empire.
The Palatine Chapel and main palace was built during his time, and so the church he was buried after his death, nowadays the Cathedral we see there today, a marvellous piece of Carolingian architecture and a blend of many other styles after it was expanded through the centuries. An impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site listed monument.
But talking about famous people in this city, there is another one that cannot be missed to mention, in this case an architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. That’s right, he was born here and although he made his career in the USA, his family always remained in Aachen where their original home is still standing.
The rest of the monumental buildings are scattered all over the city centre, small enough to be able to visit in half a day no more, but certainly especial if you happen to be during the Christmas time when everything transforms into a beautiful winter wonderland, with the huge market taking place on every square and street and the thousands of people everywhere. That’s the perfect Christmas feeling you can have! As for the food during such festivities, that’s another great point, the perfect combination is kartofelpuffer, sausages and mulled wine to warm you up.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Aachen
- Cathedral The main sight with difference in the city, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built upon orders of Charlemagne in 796 AD. The remains of Charlemagne are on display inside.
- Rathaus (Town Hall) Located between the two squares of Market and Katschhof, next to the Cathedral. Dates from 1330.
- Grashaus Acted as the Town Hall before the current building was erected, it’s a late medieval house located on Market Square.
- Saint Michael’s Church A great example of local Renaissance architecture, it was not until 1891 that the façade was finally added.
- Elisenbrunnen Is one of the finest neoclassical buildings in the city with a fountain.
- Theatre Located few steps from the Elisenbrunnen. Originally built in 1822 but totally destroyed in WWII, the current reincarnation dates from 1951.
- Medieval Gates Only 2 remain, the Ponttor located to the north of the cathedral and the Kleinmarschiertor.
The nearest airport to Aachen and also major city is Dusseldorf international Airport, one of the largest and most important in Germany. The incredible large amount of routes is sometimes subject of wonder for a city of this size. From the airport you can take the frequent commuter trains to anywhere in the region and other cities of Germany. All you need to do is follow the signs once in the terminal and take the complimentary sky train to the train station. Once there get from the automatic machines the ticket you need. This is the quickest way to get to the centre of the city, with a very frequent timetable in coincidence with the opening hours of the airport. And nevertheless, that’s not the only airport you could take advantage to reach nearby Aachen. You have Cologne and Essen at pretty much the same distance and time from one another.
Coming overland is fast and comfortable either via railway or buses. Name the city within Germany and the chances you have a direct train there are high. Consider taking the slower trains in order to offset the high cost of the fast trains.
Within the city itself, there is absolutely no need for any sort of public transportation within the city. Everything is very compact while all the sights are within walking distance from each other. Furthermore, the old town centre is fully pedestrianised.
Since this was yet again one of the day trips from the base back at Dusseldorf, I did not have the need to run any hotel search in Aachen. But being of such importance and so touristy, you should not have any problem in finding a good deal over the internet. All major hotel chains are also represented in the city, therefore you have a wide choice depending if what you are looking is something modest or if as opposed, something more upper scale. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.