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Traveling to Aachen and wondering what to do in the city? Look no further. Here are our favorite things to do in Aachen in one day.
Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany. The city 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.
The town is much smaller than the major German cities and since its city center is compact, 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 go on a day trip from Aachen to those places.
Wondering what to do in Aachen in one day? Read on!
Things to do in Aachen, Germany
Visit the Aachen Cathedral
The Aachen Cathedral is Germany’s first UNESCO Heritage site. This 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, and during the Second World War, the cathedral was heavily damaged.
Thankfully, the place was restored after that.
Now, the cathedral has a breathtaking golden altarpiece and ornate walls and ceiling. Beautiful!
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 take lots of photos of this place.
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Take a look at the Aachen Cathedral Treasury
The church’s treasury is right next to the cathedral.
There you’ll find an impressive collection of works from Late Antique, Carolingian, Gothic, Ottonian, and Staufen times.
This collection is one of the most important and largest ones 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.
Take photos of the Town Hall
Architecture-wise this Gothic construction is striking! Parts of the building date back to Charlemagne’s time.
Take a tour inside it to see all the elegance of this Town Hall.
Also, don’t forget to have some beers in the Marktplatz am Rathaus, right in front of it. It’s a very pleasant square.
Having a few beers in the city center is one of the best things to do in Aachen. We do it often.
See the remnants of an 8th-century palace, the Granusturm
The only remaining part of Charlemagne’s former royal palace is annexed to the Town Hall.
When standing at the Markt of Aachen, face the building and the tower should be on your left.
This tower dates to the 8th-century and it had to be renovated after WW2, but you can still see that this part of the building is much older than the surrounding buildings.
As you can imagine, the tower is the oldest building in Aachen. It’s very imposing, though.
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!
Both gates are within 10-15min walk from the city center, but they’re on opposites ends of the city.
Learn about Aachen’s history in the Centre Charlemagne
One of the most interesting museums in Aachen, the Centre Charlemagne is a great place to 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.
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.
Eat and drink (a lot) in Aachen Christmas Market
The Christmas market in Aachen is very famous in the region. That’s why many Belgian and Dutch people go there to have a good time, we included.
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 to visit in Aachen. It’s a joyful mix of smells, lights, and music.
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 new clothes, we either go 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. (To rest a bit after an exhausting afternoon shopping in the city.)
Read next: A tour in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (near Berlin!)
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 the meaning of them together with a map of their location. Click here to access the interactive map of Aachen, Germany.
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. The current statue holds two fishes in his hand to 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 and that’s 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 to his son how to properly manage money
- The stingy
- The greedy
- The patronage
- 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 betraying him.
It also indicates that the chicken market used to be in this place.
Paradiesbrunnen (Fountain of Paradise) – Used to be an ornament for a cemetery existing in the 19th-century.
It symbolizes the four rivers (Euphrates, Gihon, Pischon, and Tigris) mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis with an archangel above each one of them.
Puppenbrunnen (Fountain of Puppets) – This fountain is made of several dolls with active joints that can be re-positioned just like a puppet.
Möschebrunnen (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 four statues, one facing each side.
- The statues representing the virgin Mary faces the cathedral
- The statue of St. Vincent of Paul faces the opposite side
- The statue of the archangel Michael faces the west side
- And St. Bishop Foillan statue is staring at the St. Foillan Church
BONUS: an 11th thing to do near Aachen
Be in three countries at the same time
Have you ever been to two countries at the same time? What about three then?
Well, know that near Aachen is a place called the “three-country point.” This is basically the place where Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands meet.
The place has a nice labyrinth for kids, a restaurant, and a 111.5fr (34m) high tower with a glass floor for the brave ones. From there, you take a pretty good look at the region and landscape.
Fun fact: This is the highest point in the Netherlands.
As said, the three-country point isn’t really in Aachen but in Vaals. You can get there by bus (lines 350 and then 159).
For the timetables, I suggest you download the free app Moovit.
Final words on what to do in Aachen
Aachen is a gorgeous city in western Germany and if I were you, I wouldn’t miss it!
There are plenty of interesting and pleasant things to do in Aachen, especially if you’re into good German food.
Visiting Aachen around Christmas? Then don’t miss the seasonal markets to score some warm mulled wine.
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