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Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany and it shares international land borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. The city is among the most innovative metropoles in the country, but it also has plenty of historic constructions throughout the inner town and I’ve written most of them below.
The town is much smaller than other German cities and the city center is compact, so most of the things to do in Aachen are close to each other. Also, because of its proximity to Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Maastricht, you can easily make a day trip here.
Things to Do in Aachen, Germany
1. Visit the Aachen Cathedral
The Aachen Cathedral is Germany’s first UNESCO Heritage site. The Roman Catholic church was founded around 800 AD on the orders of Charles the Great (Charlemagne), just so you can have an idea of how old it is. He is buried in the chapel, by the way. Also, many kings and queens were coronated in this church in the following years.
During the Second World War, the cathedral was heavily damaged, however, the place was restored after that.
Now, the cathedral has a breathtaking golden altarpiece! And the whole church is full of details and has patterns on its walls. On top of that, the stained-glass windows are imposing. Take your time to appreciate it all and don’t forget to bring your camera! You’ll definitely want to register this place.
2. Take a look at the Aachen Cathedral Treasury
Next to the cathedral is the church’s treasury with an impressive collection of works from Late Antique, Carolingian, Gothic, Ottonian, and Staufen times. This is one of the most important and largest collections of medieval church artworks in Europe. Definitely a must-see in Aachen!
They call it a church treasury, but it looks like a little museum. Either way, it’s worth your time.
3. Take Photos of the Town Hall
Architecture-wise this Gothic construction is striking! Parts of the building date back to Charlemagne time. Take a tour inside it to see all the elegance of the place.
Also, don’t forget to have some beers in the Marktplatz am Rathaus, right in front of town hall. It’s a very pleasant square.
4. See the Remnants of an 8th-century Palace, the Granusturm
The only remaining part of Charlemagne’s former royal palace was annexed to the Town Hall. The tower dates to the 8th-century and it had to be renovated after WW2, but you can still see that this part is much older than the surrounding buildings.
The tower is the oldest building in Aachen, as you can imagine. Very imposing, though.
5. Visit the Medieval Gates Marschiertor and Ponttor
These are the two remaining gates of the original wall of Aachen and they date back to the 13th and 14th-century, respectively. The gates are unique and very interesting! Worth a few photos for sure!
It’s 10-15min walk from the city center to reach them, but they’re on opposites ends of the city.
6. Learn About Aachen’s History in the Centre Charlemagne
Visit this museum to learn and understand the historical significance of Aachen. Everything is simply laid out and it has a straightforward chronological outline of Aachen’s history. The collection includes many artifacts from the Roman and Medieval ages to the time after WW2. The Charlemagne statue is the highlight of the exhibition.
7. Or Learn About the Society’s History in the Couven-Museum
This museum showcases the development of the various styles of middle-class domestic culture and home décor of the 18th and 19th-century. Its exhibition includes silverware, porcelain, paintings, etc. The place is quite small, so you don’t need much time to visit all the rooms.
8. Eat and Drink (a lot) in Aachen Christmas Market
The Xmas market in Aachen is very famous in the region so many Belgian and Dutch people go there to have a good time. This is considered one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Don’t believe me? Okay, so what about this…around 1.5 million people visit this market every year! Yes, it is a fantastic place! A joyful mix of smells, lights, and music.
9. Do Some Shopping
Aachen is also well known in the region for having good stores and shopping malls. That’s so true that when we want to buy some clothes, we go either to Maastricht or to Aachen, and we live in the Netherlands! They have a lot of options in a wide price range including cozy cafes.
10. Spot the Interesting Fountains of Aachen
Aachen is full of quirky bronze fountains throughout the city center and many of them have a nice meaning. I’ll list below the meaning of them together with a map of their location:
Bahkauv – A fountain of a mythical monster said to reside in Aachen sewers many years ago.
Elisenbrunnen (Fountain of Elise) – The fountain dates to 1827 and served as a drinking hall back then since Aachen is a spa city.
Fischpüddelchen (Puddle of Fish) – It resembles the Manneken Pis in Brussels, although the little statue on this fountain isn’t the original one. The first “little boy” was melted down during the WW2. This little boy holds two fishes in his hand which indicates that the fish market used to be in that area.
Karlsbrunnen (Fountain of Charles) – The oldest fountain in the city dates to the 17th-century and it has a small statue of Charlemagne. This statue isn’t the original either because it was stolen when the French invaded Germany. After negotiations, the statue was regained, and it is now in the Coronation Hall in the Town Hall.
Kreislauf des Geldes (Cycle of Money) – This fountain has a few figures that describe different kinds of people in the cycle of money (the father explaining how to manage money to his son, the stinginess, the greed, the patronage, and the beggar).
Huehnerdieb Brunnen (Fountain of the Chicken’s Thief) – The bronze figure is a chicken thief, but he finds out he stole a cock as it crows, thus betraying him. It also indicates that the chicken market used to be here.
Paradiesbrunnen (Fountain of Paradise) – Used to be an ornament for a cemetery existing in the 19th-century. It symbolizes the 4 rivers (Euphrates, Gihon, Pischon, and Tigris) mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis with an archangel above each of them.
Puppenbrunnen (Fountain of Puppets) – This fountain is made of several dolls with active joints that can be re-positioned exactly like a puppet.
Spatzenbrunnen (Fountain of Sparrows) – Neat little fountain next to the cathedral. It has a few cute bronze sparrows on it.
Vinzenzbrunnen (Fountain of Vincent) – This fountain has 4 statues, one facing each side. The statues represent the virgin Mary faces the cathedral, the statue of St. Vincent of Paul faces the opposite side, a statue of the archangel Michael faces the west side, while St. Bishop Foillan statue is looking at the St. Foillan Church.
11. Be in Three-Countries at the Same Time
Have you ever been in 2 countries at the same time? What about 3? The “Three-country point” is the place where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands meet. There is a nice labyrinth, a restaurant, and a 34m high tower with a glass floor for the brave ones (I couldn’t walk on there, my legs were shaking so much!).
Fun fact: This is the highest point in the Netherlands.
This place isn’t really in Aachen but in Vaals. You can get there by bus (lines 350 and then 159). To know the timetables, I suggest you download the free app Moovit. This is one of my must-have travel apps!
Aachen is a gorgeous city in western Germany and if I were you, I wouldn’t miss it! What are your plans for Aachen? What are you going to visit?
Ps: You want more information about Aachen? Check out Lonely Planet!
If you need help finding accommodation in Aachen, check out the best deals on Booking.com, I highly recommend them!
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