Aachen is one of the oldest and most historic cities of Germany and was the capital of the lands of what is today Germany long before Berlin ever was a city or town of note. Today it is a small city but one with a very rich history and stunning architecture. Aachen is located in far Western Germany right on the border with southern Netherland and northern Belgium.
Aachen developed from an ancient Roman settlement and its thermae or bathing complex. The most famous Roman bathing town in England is Bath which is also noted for its stunning historic architecture. Close to Aachen is the historic Belgium town of Spa – it’s from here that we get the word “spa.”
The Deep Germanic History Of Aachen
When the massive Frankish Empire was formed under the mighty Germanic Emperor Charlemagne, he chose the formed Roman bathing settlement as his preferred medieval Imperial residence. Aachen has long been famous for its curative hot springs and spas – they are regarded as the hottest in Europe.
The Frankish Empire was by far the most powerful of the post-West Roman Empire barbarian kingdoms. At its peak, it covered all of what is today France, Most of Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and parts of northern Spain.
- Population: Around 250,000
- Location: In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia Right On The Border With The Netherlands And Belgium
- Capital: Of The Powerful Frankish Empire
Between 936 and 1531 some 31 Holy Roman Emperors were coronated there as Kings of the Germans. In some ways, it can be considered the first capital of Germany.
One of the most eye-catching structures in Aachen today is the Aachen Cathedral. It is a monument to Europe’s illustrious past. It lays claim to being the first cathedral in Northern Europe having been built around 800 AD. It was here that nearly every German king was coronated (before the current country of Germany was born in 1870).
It is also known to hold the most significant collection of church treasures north of the Alps. If one is planning to visit bear in mind that the cathedral is closed to tourists during services (so check their calendar). The Cathedral Information Centre is currently open Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.
Normal Visiting Times:
- Weekdays: From 11 a.m
- Weekends: From 1 p.m
If one would like a guided tour, contact the Dominformation. There one will receive information on the cathedral’s history, tickets for the cathedral treasury, tickets for guided tours, and more. The Aachen Cathedral Treasury is one of the greatest attractions in the whole medieval city.
The Aachen Marketplace is home to a number of notable tourist attractions (including the eye-catching old Town Hall and the Coronation Hall that depicts the life of Charlemagne). Here one will see some of the best of Carolingian (Frankish Empire) frescoes and history. The Marketplace was built around 1350.
The most lively times to visit the market are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These days the vendors set up their stalls and one can buy fresh food and local produce as one has been able to for hundreds of years.
- Lively Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays
- Tip: Come And Feel the Marketplace At Night
There are also plenty of cafés and restaurants to relax and soak in the ambiance.
Soak in The Baths
Given that Aachen is so famous for its thermal spas and baths, it would be a crying shame not to soak in its oldest attraction. These baths have not only attracted German kings and emperors, but also other great names of history like Peter the Great of Russia and composer Georg Friedrich Handel.
There is a selection of spa-related resorts and bathing facilities continuing the city’s tradition of welcoming guests to partake in therapeutic treatments. One of the more luxurious is Carolus Thermen resort – one must book in advance to gain entrance to the building.
Cost of Admission – Day Tickets:
- Weekday: From 14.40 Euros ($16)
- Weekends: From 16 Euros (S18)
There are many more things to see and do in Aachen – use their dedicated tourism website to plan one’s trip.
Some of the most rewarding cities in Europe are not just the big ones like London, Paris, Madrid, and Berlin, but also the small but historic ones like Bath, England; Vichy, France; Toledo, Spain; and Aachen, Germany.
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