Ancient history, a UNESCO cathedral and gingerbread, what more could you want?
Aachen in western Germany is a fascinating city to experience as mini-break and visiting Aachen by car is so easy.
Aachen is a city we’ve wanted to visit for many reasons. One is the memory we have of visiting Cologne’s Christmas markets (just around 50 miles away), and sampling Aachen’s delicious lebkuchen. The other is the incredible relationship Aachen has with Charlemagne.
Aachen is located at a rare spot in Europe, as it’s just near the point at which three countries meet.
At the border triangle in Dreiländereck, you can stroll between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, all in a matter of seconds.
Where is Aachen?
Things to do in Aachen
- Visit the Dom - Better still, take a tour.
- Visit Centre Charlemagne
- Check out the Couven Museum
- Visit the Cathedral Treasury
- Take a walking tour - it's around 1.5 hours and it's really informative.
- Visit the Rathaus
- Don't miss the Elisenbrunnen
- Try the Aachener Printen - Christmas in every bite for us.
The History of AachenThe Roman’s arrive
Another of Aachen’s unique charms is the Elisenbrunnen, as Aachen was once a prosperous spa town.
Take a stroll through the striking pillared colonnade, that stands at the forefront of what would have been the grand Roman thermal baths.
Today you can still appreciate the warm flowing water of the hot spring from the fountains in the Elisenbrunnen.
Take a guided tour
Discover AachenCharlemagne, The story of an Emperor & King
Charlemagne (Charles the Great) visited Aachen on many occasions, and it subsequently became his residence.
Within Aachen, Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor had a palace built which was located near to the Roman baths.
Charlemagne also had St Mary’s Church constructed, which became the beautiful Aachen Cathedral.
A visit to Aachen CathedralA place of wonder
So, the cathedral was a must for us to visit.
The original octagonal chapel that Charlemagne had constructed was built between 793 and 813. Charlemagne died in 814, and was buried in the chapel.
In the 12th century, his bones were exhumed, and in 1215, his bones were transferred to the Karlsschrein.
Aachen Cathedral was later extended in 1414 with the addition of the Gothic chancel, for the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death.
It’s astounding as the Cathedral looks reasonably large from the outside; however, as you step through the 8th-century bronze Wolf's doors, it’s quite a surprise at how small and intimate it is.
The extent of the church soon disappeared from my mind, as I was truly taken aback, at how beautiful it was.
Charlemagne’s octagonal chapel is breath-taking,
I just couldn’t stop looking up at the stunning dome above our heads.
All around us were lovely striped arches that almost looked Moorish in detail. Supporting the arches are still the original pillars, which had survived from Charlemagne’s era. The interior was enhanced with the decoration you see today, including the blue marble cladding over the original stone work, in the 19th century.
Although there was a considerable amount of striking gold detail within Aachen Cathedral, you never felt it distracted from the exquisiteness of the church.
Once the initial wonder of the interior of the chapel has lessened, the eight-sided Barbarossa Chandelier caught my eye.
It just appeared to be floating above us, being entirely supported by the dome above.
The 48 candles encircling the chandelier are still lit during special services.
Heading up to the circular gallery and facing the choir is the throne of Charlemagne.
There is now some doubt that the stone throne from Jerusalem was actually used by Charlemagne. Researchers believe that it may be from the 12th century, although subsequent Kings have used it.
Good to know
Exploring AachenLet's start with the Rathaus
Aachen on footThe Grashaus
The Grashaus is one of the oldest buildings in Aachen and was built in 1260.
It was Aachen’s first town hall and later became a court and a dungeon.
Tale of two cities!
A few more places to visit in AachenDiscover this historic gem
The Cathedral Treasury houses many of Aachen’s precious possessions which have been gifted by Emperors and Kings over many years. Also, artefacts that have been collected by Charlemagne.
The Cathedral treasury can be visited by guided tour.
I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our Germany road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Stroll around the Aachen Old TownA city made for exploring
Features of AachenFountains and Statues
Aachen certainly has its fair share of fountains and statues. My favourite was the ‘Circle of Money’ located on the corner of Elisengarten.
Each character is depicting a tale of money, whether it’s a little girl receiving pocket money or a beggar pleading with a banker. All the while, the water is whirling in never-ending circles.
The Chicken Thief or ‘Hühnerdieb’ was another fountain that caught our eye.
Unfortunately, the original had to be melted down as a metal donation during WWII. Luckily the original plaster model was still able to be used, and another figure was cast in 1953.
A taste of AachenAachener Printen
Where we stayed in AachenStylish accommodation with ample parking
Set in a peaceful location, the staff were accommodating and friendly. The hotel is slightly out of the city centre, which was ideal for us, as there were ample parking and only a 10 minutes bus journey into town.
There was a wide variety of food and drinks for breakfast, and all served in a very light and airy location.
The room was very comfortable, clean & peaceful.
The desk area was a reasonable size, allowing us to set-up our charging station, and work on the laptop without being too cramped.
What to eat & drink in AachenTraditional German cuisine with a twist
Dining at the Am Knipp was a lovely experience, rich in tradition, everyone was so friendly, and we shared a table with a local family.
The food was delicious too, highly recommend dining here.
A local tipple
A little something sweet
Our video of AachenThe city through our eyes
Discover Aachen at Christmas
Aachen left a delightful lasting memory with us, and as we love visiting Christmas markets in Germany, we returned in 2021.
We discovered how Aachen celebrated Christmas and explored its twinkling yuletide markets, weaving their way around the ancient Aachen Dom and Rathaus.
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