Aachen is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, at the point where Germany borders on Belgium and the Netherlands. Historically this spa-town was a prominent city, the place where the German Kings were crowned, and a famously favoured residence of Charlemagne who still lies buried in the impressive cathedral he himself had built. The city is packed with historic sights that remind of those days, including medieval buildings, city gates and beautiful fountains.
Today, Aachen has become a pleasant mix of historic (often Baroque) grandeur and modern innovation. It has a population of 246,000 and is home to a large and highly regarded university (especially for technical fields such as mechanical engineering). All in all, a place well worth visiting.
Aachen was the preferred residence of Charlemagne, "Roman" Emperor from 800 to 814 AD and king of an empire covering much of modern day Italy, France Germany and the Benelux. Additional information can be found at the Route Charlemagne Aachen website.
As Aachen is a legally recognised spa, it could technically call itself Bad Aachen, but refuses to do so, as it than wouldn't be listed first in almost all alphabetical lists.
The city lies at the borders of Germany with Belgium and the Netherlands, forming the economic region called the Euregio. There are several Euregios in Europe, but regionally speaking just of "the Euregio" is understood to mean the one centered on Aachen.
Aachen shares its own airport with Maastricht, but Maastricht-Aachen airport (located some 40 km outside the city centre, in the Netherlands) is connected to only a limited number of international destinations and served by budget carriers. There's an Airport Express shuttle which runs regularly to and from the main Aachen bus station. It's called Gilbacher AirportXpress and leaves from platform 4. Tickets can only be purchased from the driver and costs €10. There are no trains between Aachen and the airport.
The nearest large airports are Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS) and Cologne-Bonn (IATA: CGN). Both airports can be reached by train, via the Düsseldorf and Cologne central stations respectively. Other small airports within reasonable distance are Weeze (IATA: NRN, trains) and "Brussels" South Charleroi Airport (IATA: CRL, trains). Also Liège (Lüttich) airport in Belgium is around 45min car journey away. Antwerp airport, also in Belgium, requires a 90 minute car ride. Finally, Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands is at 1 hour car ride distance. Probably Aachen is quite unique in having a total of 8 airports in 3 countries within 140 km.
If for some reason none of the nearby airports are feasible or affordable, the airport in Frankfurt (IATA: FRA), Germany's main hub, has a direct ICE connection and offers a number of trains to Aachen with one interchange or less. For some airports the rail&fly programme the German railways offer together with several airlines might be an option. For more on that see rail air alliances
From France and Belgium
From elsewhere in Germany
Local trains (Regionalexpress) from Cologne and Düsseldorf run every half hour and take around 55 minutes from Cologne, 85 to 110 minutes from Düsseldorf. Ten times per day, high speed trains go from Cologne to Brussels via Aachen (around 35 minutes), either Inter City Express (coming from Frankfurt) or Thalys (continuing to Paris).
eurolines travel to and from Aachen. There are direct journeys to London (approximately 10 hours), Brussels (3 hours), Paris (6.5 hours) and Prague (11.5 hours), among others. Coaches depart from Wilmersdorfer Straße, on the outskirts of the city. The selection of domestic routes is surprisingly less extensive, although Aachen is not far from Cologne, which is served by many more routes.
Being on major routes from the Netherlands and Belgium to Germany, easily reachable via the A4 and A44.
If you don't have your own vehicle, car-sharing is a possibility. Car-sharing is very common in Germany, but you should of course be cautious when booking a trip nonetheless. blablacar.de and mitfahrgelegenheit.de are good resources for finding rides to Aachen, although you're less likely to be successful if you're looking to book far in advance. Payment is expected.
From The Netherlands
- Bus line 50 from Maastricht serves Aachen every 15 minutes and passes through Margraten and Vaals. Bus line 44 runs between Heerlen and Aachen (45 min, €3.95) For €8 you can buy a ticket, which allows all-day travel on South Limburg bus routes, including those to local cities such as Heerlen, and selected train routes. It is 1 h 15 min from Maastricht. See Veolia Transport for timetables (Regio: Limburg).
- From Heerlen there's also a direct train connection.
- By car, you can just drive in via Vaals or take the highway. The A76 connects to the German A4. Take exit 2 to Aachen/Laurensberg.
- ASEAG Customer-Centre, Schumacherstraße 14, 52062. Monday-Friday: 07:30-18:00; Saturday: 08:30-14:00; Sunday: Closed. On arrival in Aachen, it may be worth visiting the ASEAG Customer-Centre (ASEAG operate the city's bus system) opposite the bus station. Here, you can pick up timetables for all bus routes run by the company and you can of course speak to an adviser as well. There are no timetables available for services run by Veolia, such as the number 50 to Maastricht, or for bus services run by Deutsche Bahn, such as the number 66 to Monschau.
- By train: Whilst Aachen does not have an U-Bahn or S-Bahn network like many other large German cities, it is still possible to travel through the city by train. The euregio-Bahn is a local line that stops at the stations Aachen West (not far from RWTH Aachen University), Aachen-Schanz, Aachen Hauptbahnhof (the most convenient for the city centre) and Aachen-Rothe Erde. A single ticket for a journey within the city is €2.55; ticket machines are available at all stations.
The old town is best explored on foot and orientation signs can be found all around. Aachen at a whole is a fairly large city. A car can come in handy but parking can get expensive, especially in the center of town. Fortunately, Aachen has an excellent city bus system, operated by ASEAG, including a few night bus lines. You can get tickets from the bus driver. You can rent a bike at the "fahrrad station", in the central train station. Although it is not the most biker-friendly town in Germany, there are a number of bike routes and getting around on bike is increasingly popular. Taxis are readily available on the train stations but also on streets.
- Aachen Cathedral, Domhof 1, ☎ +49 241 477090. Opening times of the Cathedral: Jan-Mar: Daily 7AM-6PM, Apr-Dec: Daily 7AM-7PM. Note that during mass access is restricted to attending in the services. Touristic visits are recommended for Mon-Fri after 11AM; Sat-Sun after 12:30 PM. Aachen Cathedral is one of the most famous examples of occidental architecture. Around 800, the core building of the Palace Chapel was built. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Gothic choir (the "Aachen glasshouse"), the north and south chapel were added. Through the centuries, many other constructions and decorations were completed. Today, it is a unique and beautiful two-storey cathedral of classical pillars, bronze railings, golden masterpieces, glassworks, etc.
The cathedral is the memorial and funeral place of Charlemagne (+814). During 936-1531, 30 kings and 12 queens were anointed, crowned and enthroned here. In the Middle Ages, it was one of Christendom's most important venues for pilgrimage, together with Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela. Heiligtumsfahrt (the Aachen pilgrimage) takes place every year since 1349 (the next one will be in June 2014). In 1978 it was the first German building to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Cathedral Treasury (Domschatzkammer), Johannes-Paul-II.-Straße. Opening times of the treasure grove (Schatzkammer): Jan-Mar: M 10AM-1PM; Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Apr-Dec: M 10AM-1PM; Tu-Su 10AM-6PM; closed on 24 and 25 Dec, 31 Dec, 01 Jan, and some days around carnival. Ecclesiastical treasures from Antique, Carolingian, Ottonian and Staufian epochs,including Cross of Lothair and the Bust of Charlemagne.
- Rathaus, Markt, ☎ +49 241 4320. The medieval town hall. The mayor of Aachen still has his office in there.
- RWTH Aachen University (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen) If you are interested in architecture, you can find all building styles from 1900 till today concentrated at the city-campus around Templergraben.
- Main building
- Kármán Auditorium
- Super-C The reception building of the RWTH-Aachen. Build to resemble the letter C. Nicely illuminated at night.
- Reiff Museum
- Rogowski building
- Department of mining
- Semi 90
- Heizkraftwerk (now lecture halls)
- Uniklinik. The university's hospital. One striking example of post-modern architecture like the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
- Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst (Ludwig Forum for International Art), Jülicher Strasse 97-109, 52070 (Slightly outside the city centre, in between Stadtgarten and Europaplatz), ☎ +49 241 1807 104, e-mail: email@example.com. Monday: Closed; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 12:00 - 18:00; Thursday: 12:00 - 22:00: Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 - 18:00. While the building looks less than impressive from the outside, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst houses a grand collection of contemporary art, including works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. Text accompanying the works is given in both German and English. Adult €5; Child €3.
- Aachen Christmas Market (Aachener Weihnachtsmarkt) (Located in the city centre. Parking nearby can be an issue some days, so it may be wise to make use of the Park & Ride system organised especially for the market. See the website for more information.), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00 – 21:00 daily. From late November until 23 December, Aachen's Christmas market takes over Katschhof, Münsterplatz and the market square. Traders offer a wide variety of gift ideas, such as cosmetics, jewellery and ceramics, and there are plenty of opportunities to eat and drink your fill - a trip here wouldn't be complete without a glass of Glühwein! If you need a break, take in a performance at the rear of the town hall (see the website for a detailed programme). The market looks particularly spectacular when lit up at night, set against the magnificent cathedral and town hall. Free entry.
- International Newspaper Museum (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum), Pontstraße 13, ☎ +49 241 4324910.
- Elisa Fountain (Elisenbrunnen), Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz. Built 1827, thermal waters of the spa town.
- Couven-Museum, Hühnermarkt 17, ☎ +49 241 4324421. 18th century house and furniture.
- Belvedere rotating water tower (Drehturm), Belvedereallee 5, ☎ +49 241 9188043. Park above the town.
- Grashaus, Fischmarkt. Original town hall, completed in 1267, is one of the oldest buildings in Aachen.
- Haus Löwenstein. 14th century building
- Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Wilhelmstraße 18, ☎ +49 241 4798. German and Dutch sculpture and painting collection.
- Ponttor. 14th century city gates.
- Marschiertor. 13th century city gate.
- Zollmuseum Friedrichs, Horbacher Straße 497 52072 Aachen-Horbach (Bus 44), ☎ +49 241 997-0615. 1st and 3rd Sunday 11:00 and 14:30. Museum about border crossings and the border Phone To Reserve.
- Lousberg. A recreational area situated just north of the city centre that offers stunning views of the city below.
- Sit on the Market place (central city) on a summer evening, watch students strolling by, listen to guitar players and have a beer, bought at a small Turkish or Chinese diner around.
- Walk through the Frankenberger Viertel (Frankenberg Quarter), an alternative area in the south of Aachen; have lunch or dinner in a Turkish or Arab diner.
- Carolus Thermen, Passstr. 79. Large and very well known spa, sauna and wellness place.
- RWTH Aachen: - Aachen is home to the highly regarded RWTH Aachen University, which is particularly strong in the field of mechanical engineering. While language courses during semester time are only available to students of the university, travellers may be interesting in applying for the Internationaler Sommerkurs (International summer course) which takes place annually in August. Alongside an intensive language course, participants can take advantage of the programme of cultural events offered. To apply, one must be at least 18 years old and have prior knowledge of German at level A1 (the lowest level, roughly equivalent of being able to write a post card) on the Common European Framework for Languages or above.
- Adalbertstraße. Multiple shops and cafes in one of Aachen's pedestrian zone shopping areas.
- Krämerstraße and Market. Small shops in a very touristic area.
- Großkölnstraße. The second big pedestrian zone shopping area in Aachen, where you´ll find clothing and more.
- Jakobstraße. Smaller shops and boutiques.
- Lindt Factory Outlet (Lindt Werksverkauf), Süsterfeldstraße 130, 52072. Monday-Friday: 09:00 - 18:00; Saturday: 09:00 - 16:00. Stocks a wide range of Lindt chocolate products, at low prices, which have been produced in the neighbouring factory.
- Labertz Factory shop, Ritterstraße 9. gingerbread and biscuits
Aachener Printen are a type of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) originating from the city.
Aachen offers many different cuisines, from traditional German food to exotic cuisines. The centre offers restaurants of all categories, prices being relatively cheap in comparison with other German cities. Students prefer the snack bars and light meals offered at Pontstraße.
- Pont Grill, Pontstraße 119. Very cheap and good Chicken, Pizza and Turkish food.
- Polonia, Marienbongard 24. Polish bistro. Has lunch offers. Four to six different Polish beers.
- Frietnesse, Pontstraße. Fries with over 50 different sauces. Also hamburgers and Dutch specialities.
- Saray, Pontstraße 118. Turkish food besides döner kebab.
- Jakobsimbiss, Jakobstraße 75. Chinese and Thai fast food.
- Del Negro, Jakobstraße 73. Best ice cream in town.
- Sultans of Kebab, Peterstraße 23. Döner Kebab, Turkish desserts.
- Babylon, Königstraße / Karlsgraben. "The Kebab Cube" if you have only €2,20 left.
- Goldener Schwan, Markt 37 (Opposite Rathaus), ☎ +49 241 31649. 15th century building where you can now get local and German meals. For example Aachener Puttes a type of Blutwurst similar to English black pudding.
- Maredo, Reihstrasse 10, ☎ +49 241 21408. Delicious Argentinian food chain based in Germany. Good food, not expensive. Open late and offer late-night specials as well as lunch specials.
- Estado Steakhaus, Seilgraben 39, ☎ +49 241 23800. Great steakhouse with a salad bar and wide variety of dishes.
- Carlos I, Rennbahn 1 (next to the Cathedral), ☎ +49 241 29666. This Spanish restaurant offers authentic Spanish cuisine like Tapas, the perfect food for sharing, Paella etc. at medium prices
- San Sheng, Pontdriesch 13. Open only during weekday lunch hours.. Authentic Chinese food.
- Oishii, Pontstraße 83, ☎ +49 241 900 8360. Great Japanese restaurant. Reserve your table in advance.
- Maranello, Pontstraße 23, ☎ +49 241 51574433. Italian Pizza from a real stone oven.
- Karibik, Sandkaulstraße 5, ☎ +49 1573 5570933. Colombian restaurant.
- Knossos, Templergraben 28, ☎ +49 241 30511. Greek restaurant frequented mostly by students.
- Bacchus (Restaurant Bacchus), Roermonder Str. 28 (With Buslines 24, 27, 33, 44 und 47 from Aachen BusCentral station towards Pontstreet and Bendplatz. Get off at Ponttor and follow the road straight through the Ponttor and then through the underpass direction Bendplatz. On the other side of the underpass, go straight ahead. After about 50 meters you will find us on the right handside. For car drivers, parking lots are available in the Rütscher Straße, in Turmstraße, on Roermonder Straße, as also around the Bendplatz which is just 350m away.), ☎ +49 241 155545, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon - Fri: 16:00–23:00, Sat - Sun: 12:00–23:00. Great Greek Restaurant with a wide variety of dishes. Absolutely recommendable Gyros and Grill dishes
There's no need to order your drinks at the bar when in Aachen - simply take a seat and a member of staff will come over to take your order. They'll write down what you've ordered on your coaster. When you've finished your drink, someone will soon come along and ask if you'd like to order another. When you're ready to pay, hand over your coaster to a member of staff. It's expected that you leave a small tip when paying; 5 - 10 % is expected, typically by rounding up to the nearest Euro. You should make it clear you want to leave a tip before handing the money over by saying, for example, "I'll pay €8".
The Pontstraße begins at Markt facing the historic city hall and ends at the Ponttor, part of the medieval city walls. Pontstraße is the main student hangout and offers a large variety of restaurants and bars, from pizzerias to late night hangout spots and a cinema (Apollo). A special treat are public fiestas happening at Karneval and important football matches. Don't miss it if you have the chance! Reached by a number of bus lines from Bushof; park near University.
- Molkerei. Pub suitable for younger crowd, near Ponttor.
- Cafe Madrid. Pub/Bar better for an older crowd, posher, near Ponttor.
- Pontgarten. Cheap Cocktails and nice food.
- Sowiso / Oceans. Typical student-inn.
- Egmont, Pontstraße 1–3 (Right at one end of Pontstraße, close to the Rathaus), ☎ +49 241 40 77 46, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday–Saturday: Open from 8AM; Sunday: Open from 9AM. A delightful bar/café that occasionally hosts live music. Food can be ordered from the Lebanese restaurant next door and brought to your table without you having to get up!
Nice pubs elsewhere:
- Guinness House, Neupforte 6, 52062 (Despite the address to the left, the entrance is actually located just around the corner on Mostardstraße. It's situated between the city centre and the Pontstraße.), ☎ +49 241 40 22 11. A stereotypical Irish Pub, just like you'd find in any other big city. However, it's one of the few places in Aachen that sells cider, so it's definitely worth checking out if beer isn't your thing! There's also live music (more often that not traditional Irish music) here on a regular basis.
- Kiste, Büchel 36. Small pub. Has a discount on different drinks each day.
- Buddha Bar, Büchel 14 (Close to the old town square), ☎ +49 2414012590. Nice food, has a non-smoking area upstairs with restaurant and bar plus a cool smoking area downstairs with an impressive Buddha statue.
- Hostel Aachen, Mauerstraße 116, ☎ +49 241 4305288. Close to the city centre.
- Youth hostel Aachen (Jugendherberge Aachen - Euregionales Jugendgästehaus), Maria Theresia Allee 260, ☎ +49 241 71101-0.
- Leonardo Hotel Aachen, Krefelder Straße 221 (North of the centre between the stadium and junction 3 of the A4), ☎ +49 241 18030.
- Hotel Granus, Passstrasse 2a, ☎ +49 241-152071. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. This friendly family-run place has 12 rooms and a bit of a cosy B&B atmosphere. It's clean and conveniently located in the city centre, with fairly modern rooms and a somewhat quaint breakfast area. It gets good reviews, also suited for family stays. On weekends, the reception has limited opening hours. Doubles from €90.
- Pullman Aachen Quellenhof, Monheimsallee 52, ☎ +49 241 91320. Spacious, comfortable rooms (although some could do with a little redecoration), a swimming pool, fitness area and excellent breakfast buffet. from €130.
- Post Office, Kapuzinergraben 19, 52062 (When on Kapuzinergraben, go through the entrance to Kapuziner Karree. You'll see the Post Office on your right.). Monday-Friday: 09:00-18:00; Saturday: 09:00-14:00; Sunday: Closed. This is probably the most convenient Post Office for tourists as it's located in the city centre. The service is operated by Deutsche Post.
Here's an overview of Christian churches in central Aachen:
- Hohe Domkirche, Domhof (15 min from central station). , Sun: 07:00 h, 08:00 h, 10:00 h, 11:30 h; Mon-Sat: 07:00 h, 10:00 h; Sat: 08:00 h
- St. Foillan, Ursulinerstr. 1 (just behind Aachener Dom). Su 10:00, 19:30; M-F 08:30, 18:30; Sa 18:30
- St. Marien, Wallstraße 48 (3 min from central station). Sat: 18:30; Sun: 09:45, 11:15 (pol.), 16:00 (pol.); Tue, Thu: 18:30; Fri: 18:15 (pol.)
- St. Peter, Peterskirchhof 1 (20 min from HBf; near bus depot). Sat: 15:00 (vietn.); Sun: 11:15; Mon-Fri: 12:15
- Greek-orthodox church St. Michael & St. Dimitrios, Jesuitenstr. 6 (close to the cathedral) , Tel.: (0)241-28572; Sun: 9:00 hrs.
- Bilal Mosque, Prof.-Pirlet-Str. 20 (near railway station Aachen-West); Tel. (0)241-88906. Friday prayer: 13:15 h
- Neupré - World War II Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, commemorates the American soldiers who died in Northern Europe during WWII
- Henri-Chapelle - World War II Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial. The final resting place for 7,992 American military dead lost during the drive into Germany
- Dreiländereck- The three-country border of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Just a 10 min drive out of Aachen in the general direction of Vaals (Netherlands). Walk on the soil of three different European countries in just about under a second. Free. This is also the highest point of the Netherlands. There is a watchtower you can climb. You can get there best if you take the bus to Vaals and take Veolia Transport line 149 or walk.
- Cologne - Germany's fourth largest city, with its striking cathedral, is less than an hour away by train.
- Zülpich is a small town dating from Roman times on the road to Bonn. It has a newly opened museum focusing on Roman baths and bathing culture. It is also a gateway to the Eifel region.
- Maastricht in the Netherlands with its beautiful city centre is where the Maastricht Treaty of the European Union was signed in 1992
- Monschau Nicely preserved medieval town.
- Nationalpark Eifel The youngest nature preservation area in Germany
- Ordensburg Vogelsang Huge Nazi-built training centre near Gemünd. Served as Belgian barracks after the war, so they're quite well preserved.
- Hohes Venn Marshlands between Monschau and Eupen