Aachen

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 Cathedral - Carolingian Octagon

In French (including crossborder train services from Brussels and Paris), the city is known as Aix-la-Chapelle, whereas its Dutch name is Aken.

Understand

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.

Get in

Aachen central station (Hauptbahnhof)

By plane

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

By train

From France and Belgium

Both Thalys and ICE-Trains connect   Aachen Hauptbahnhof with Liège and Brussels with Thalys trains continuing to Paris. There are also local trains from Liège every two hours.

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).

By bus

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.

By car

Being on major routes from the Netherlands and Belgium to Germany, easily reachable via the A4 and A44.

Parking in the town centre costs around €2 per hour. There is also park and ride available around the outskirts of the town.

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

Get around

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.

See

Aachen Cathedral
Couven Pavilion in Aachen
A range of goods for sale at the Christmas market

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.

Do

Learn

The Hauptgebäude (main building) of RWTH Aachen

Buy

Aachener Printen

German opening hours have a lessened effect in Aachen, as just across the border in the Netherlands, all shops are open in the small town of Vaals, which can be reached by bus lines 25, 33 and 35.

Aachener Printen are a type of Lebkuchen (gingerbread) originating from the city.

Eat

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

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.

Nice pubs elsewhere:

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Cope

Religious services

Saint Michael, Aachen-Burtscheid

Here's an overview of Christian churches in central Aachen:

Catholic churches:

For Protestant churches in Aachen see also:

Others churches:

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.