Aachen is a fascinating city in Germany, located near the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. With a history dating back to the Neolithic Era, Aachen has been a settlement for thousands of years. The city is known for its mineral springs, which attracted the Romans who created a military spa town called Aquisgranum. King Pippin, father of Charlemagne, referred to the city as Aquis Villa (Water Town).

Thermal Baths

The thermal baths in Aachen have been a popular tourist destination for centuries, with even Casanova reportedly paying a visit. Today, visitors can still enjoy the mineral springs at the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen spa. The spa offers a variety of pools, saunas, and treatments that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Charlemagne’s Legacy

In the 8th century, Aachen became a favorite winter base for Charlemagne, King of the Franks. Although much of the city was heavily damaged during World War II, there are still several historical sites to visit in and around the Altstadt (Old Town).

Aachener Rathaus (City Hall)

The Aachener Rathaus, located in the market square, is a Gothic-style building constructed during the 14th century. It stands on the foundation of what was once Charlemagne’s royal palace. The Granusturm, the palace tower, has been incorporated into the current structure. The exterior of the Rathaus features 50 statues depicting previous rulers, including 31 who were crowned king in the nearby cathedral. Visitors can take a tour of the Coronation Hall inside the Rathaus.

Aachen Cathedral

The Aachen Cathedral, also known as the Imperial Cathedral, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important buildings in the city. The cathedral was constructed in the late 8th century under the orders of Charlemagne, who was later buried there in 814 CE. The cathedral features a unique octagonal central structure called the Palatine Chapel, which showcases Carolingian architecture. Over the centuries, the cathedral has undergone numerous renovations and additions, resulting in a mix of architectural styles, including Gothic and Baroque elements.

Inside the cathedral, visitors can admire the stunning mosaics, stained glass windows, and religious artworks. Some of the most notable treasures include the Barbarossa Chandelier, a massive bronze chandelier dating back to the 12th century, and the Pala d’Oro, a golden altarpiece adorned with precious gems.

City Gates and Walls

Aachen was once surrounded by a series of city walls and gates that protected the inhabitants from invaders. While much of the original fortifications have been lost over time, there are still some remnants that visitors can explore.

Ponttor (Bridge Tower)

The Ponttor, or Bridge Tower, is one of two remaining city gates. Built in the first half of the 13th century as part of the city’s second wall, Ponttor is located northwest of the city center, just outside the original 12th-century city wall (Barbarossa-Mauer) built in 1172.


Another city gate worth visiting is the Marschiertor, a 13th-century structure situated near the Aachen Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station). If you missed seeing the Marschiertor on your first visit, make sure to add it to your itinerary for your return trip.

Medieval City Walls

Along With the city gates, visitors can also see some of the old towers and sections of the medieval city walls. A glimpse of the Barbarossa-Mauer can be caught just off Pontstrasse.

Other Attractions

Aachen offers a variety of other attractions for visitors to enjoy, including:

  • Couven Museum: This museum showcases the life and work of the Aachen architect Johann Joseph Couven, as well as the city’s history and art.
  • Elisenbrunnen: A neo-classical pavilion built in 1827 over a mineral spring, the Elisenbrunnen is a popular meeting spot in the city center.
  • Aachen Christmas Market: If you visit during the holiday season, don’t miss the charming Christmas market held in the market square around the Aachener Rathaus.

When exploring Aachen, take the time to wander through the narrow streets of the Altstadt, admire the historical architecture, and soak up the city’s unique atmosphere. With its rich history, thermal baths, and fascinating landmarks, Aachen offers something for every type of traveler.

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