Aachen is the westernmost city of Germany, 65 km west of Cologne and bordering Belgium and the Netherlands. It is a historic Roman spa city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, with a population of 259,000. It was the city of coronation of the Kings of Germany.
Aachen, the first German city captured by the Allies in October 1944 during World War II, was heavily damaged. Part of Aachen was obliterated during the fighting, mainly by US artillery fire and demolitions by retreating SS defenders. Regrettably, the mediæval churches of St. Foillan, St. Paul and St. Nicholas were damaged, along with the Rathaus (city hall), although the Aachen Cathedral was undamaged. The first discothèque opened here in 1959, the Scotch-Club.
How to Get There:
The Maastricht Aachen Airport is the nearest at 40 km. Buses and trains are available to the city centre. Aachen is also connected to Cologne, Liège and Mönchengladbach, while Thalys trains from Paris to Cologne and ICE high speed trains from Brussels via Cologne to Frankfurt am Main also stop there. It is also a major stop for inter-city buses. Aachen, however, is notorious for its huge traffic jams just outside city limits.
What to See:
The Aachen Cathedral, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was
erected by Charlemagne in 786 AD. The 14th-century city hall lies between two central places, the Markt and the Katschhof. The Elisenbrunnen, a neoclassical hall covering one of Aachen 's famous fountains, adjacent to the cathedral and the 19th century theatre, is one of the most famous sights. Do take in the Schatzkammer (Cathedral Treasury). The annual Concours Hippique International Officiel (CHIO) is the biggest equestrian meeting of the world. Aachen has the hottest springs of Central Europe with water temperatures of 74°C.
What to Eat:
Top-rated Restaurants in Aachen are the Charlemagne, Ratskeller, Oishii, St. Benedikt, La Becasse, Magellan, Zum Goldenen Einhorn, and the Gastronomie Kohlibri among others. Food in Aachen is no longer limited to local recipes, catering to the international visitor. All that has been retained is the curious mix of quiche, crepes, sausages and potatoes. Aachen’s specialties in desserts remain, like Reisfladen, a rice pudding cake served with strawberries or cherries and Printen, spicy yet sugary gingerbread biscuits from an old Belgian recipe.
The Wine Festival:
Wine lovers reach Aachen every August for this Festival. More than 20 wine producers from Rhineland Palatinate present their intoxicating wares on the Katschhof square between the cathedral and the town hall. Visitors to Aachen are spoilt for choice, with plenty of different red, white and sparkling wines on offer. No German summer festival is complete without the obligatory schläger (hits) and folk music and live bands entertain the crowds.
Nightlife in Aachen centers on Pontstraße and Pontwall. The free Klenkes Magazin, available at newsstands, has movies, music listings and other news. The Stonewall TAC, available in cafes and at newsstands, lists gay and lesbian events.
Aachen has thirty-eight 4-5 star hotels, with prices ranging from € 51-143. The Etap and the Pullman Quellenhof Hotels come highly recommended. Numerous bed and breakfast homes are available, with prices ranging from € 20-30. Cheaper places like the Euroregionales Jugendgästehaus are also available for the backpacker. Most hotels offer discounts, so it is worthwhile studying the Aachen hotel guide.