If you take the train to the westernmost point of Germany, you’ll come to the lovely little city of Aachen. Aachen borders Belgium and the Netherlands. It is a multicultural city with roots dating back to the Neolithic Age. Historically, it’s one of the most important political and cultural cities in all of Germany. Aachen served as Charlemagne’s imperial city. His legacy influences the region to this very day.
The Charlemagne Connection
Charlemagne’s lasting impact on the city of Aachen in Germany is inevitable. He’s mentioned in practically every museum in the city. He was King of the Franks and Lombards. Also, Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having palaces throughout his empire, Charlemagne favoured Aachen above all others. Aachen served as Charlemagne’s imperial city. It was built around 800 AD.
The Route Charlemagne is a must visit for history lovers. This route takes you through the city to visit the sites influenced by or dedicated to Charlemagne.
The Aachen Cathedral
The Cathedral is one of the places to see in Aachen, Germany. Originally, it was called the Royal Church of St. Mary. The Aachen Cathedral (Aachener Dom) was built by none other than Charlemagne. This is also his final resting place.
Following Charlemagne’s death, the Cathedral served as the coronation site for Roman German kings and queens. 30 German kings and 12 queens were anointed here. The Aachen Cathedral was also one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Europe during the Middle Ages. The Aachen Pilgrimage takes place every seven years to this very day. The last pilgrimage took place in 2021. During the time of the Aachen Pilgrimage, the four relics contained in the Shrine of Saint Mary are put on display for pilgrims. When it’s a non-pilgrimage year, the relics are hidden within the shrine.
The Town Hall
Town Hall was also built on the former site of Charlemagne’s palace. Interestingly, the initial Gothic-style Town Hall was completed in 1350. The building has been subsequently damaged and rebuilt many times. Following fires in the 1650s and 1880s, the Town Hall was restructured and rebuilt. After bombing raids during WWII the Town Hall was once again rebuilt. In fact, that’s the structure you’ll see at Aachen today.
Although the building itself has changed over the centuries, the purpose of the Town Hall has remained the same. It’s both the seat of the local government and also serves as a hall for state celebrations and banquets.
The Couven Museum
The Couven Museum is a small but interesting museum in the Old Town. It depicts Aachen’s upper-middle class lifestyle during the 17th through 19th centuries. Each room is decorated with furniture from various periods in Aachen’s history.
The Charlemagne Centre
This is situated between the Cathedral and the Town Hall. The Charlemagne Centre is small but packed with information. It walks you through the city’s history from the Neolithic period to present day.
Elisenbrunnen Thermal Spa
Aachen is best known for being a spa city. Archaeological evidence suggests that people first came to Aachen’s thermal springs as far back as the Neolithic Age!
The structure surrounding the Elisenbrunnen was completed in 1827. It draws thermal water from the same source that once filled Charlemagne’s palatine spa.
Multiple thermal springs in the area provide healing waters to the spas in the area. If you are visiting Aachen, you must spend a day at its renowned thermal springs.
Aachen has one of the most beautiful Old Towns in Germany! Traces of its medieval roots can still be seen in the architecture. Aachen’s Old Town is filled with shops, bakeries, and cafes.
Old City Gates
Only two of Aachen’s 11 medieval city gates remain. These are the Marschiertor and the Ponttor. These gates are huge and are a part of the city’s history.
Aachener Printen Cookies
These cookies are a regional specialty that you cannot afford to miss. Aachener Printen are teeth-cracking, hard, spiced cookies. They’re similar in flavour to Lebkuchen oe more commonly known as gingerbread. But the texture of both is totally different. These cookies make for wonderful gifts and travel well.
The Three Country Corner or Dreiländereck is located just outside Aachen. This is where the borders of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands meet.
Aachen is also known for having one of the finest Christmas markets in Germany.
For such a small city, Aachen is a melting pot of history and cultures. If you’re wondering whether Aachen is worth visiting, it most certainly is!