Beginning our tour in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) region of Germany is A for Aachen.
WHAT TO DO/SEE
Once the center authority over most of Europe, Aachen is now a quiet university town, home to renowned technical university RWTH Aachen. While the city expanded and incorporated modern architecture, the city centre still retains its charm with old German buildings and cobbled streets. The top historical site to appreciate is the Aachen Rathaus, also known as the Aachen City Hall, in the city centre. Pay a visit and step right into the long history of the City Hall and the city.
Wait for nightfall and this majestic building illuminates the dark sky.
Away from the crowded touristy cities, Aachen houses important historical artefacts related to Charlemagne, the first recognised emperor of Western Europe. These can all be found in Centre Charlemagne. However, be forewarned that there may not be English translations for many of the exhibits showcased.
Other museums of interest also include the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst with art exhibits, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum with modern art exhibits and Internationales Zeitungsmuseum with media collection and newspaper exhibits.
Another site worth visiting is the old Aachen Cathedral which has stood tall since its completion in 798AD. It is the first German UNESCO heritage site and still houses the Throne of Charlemagne. This throne has served in the coronation of 31 emperors right till the 1500s. The Barbarossa chandelier, made between 1165 and 1170, is a precious item which hangs above the chapel in the cathedral. It is one of only four surviving romanesque wheel chandeliers in Germany.
The treasury also hosts an amazing historical collection of exhibits placed in this ancient building. However, these are not on display for the public.
During my short stay in Aachen with a friend, I was recommended to pay a visit to the cafés around the city. The cafés in Aachen have some of the best cakes I have ever tried in Germany. Spending the day in one of the cafés, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate with cream in the breezy weather and a slice of cake all complement perfectly. Here are three cafes I would highly recommend:
- Aachener Cafe Haus— Apple strudel
- Cafe zum Mohren— Lemon drizzle cake
- Cafe Middelberg KG— Wide selection of fruit cakes
The cakes are typically priced around €4 – 6 each.
Café Middelberg KG
Be sure to try some German dishes here in Aachen too. The taste is definitely authentic and at a slightly lower price than in the bigger cities which are crowded with tourists. In Germany, there is no way you can resist having German beer. German Radler was my preferred choice.
And shhhhhh, letting you in on a BIG secret: Aachen is also home to the Lindt Chocolate Factory. The factory is just located about a 15-minute walk away from Aachen West train station. There, one can purchase Lindt chocolates at discounted prices and indulge in all various editions, ranging from the usual milk, dark and white chocolate to special editions like summer flavours and DIVA truffle collections. This year, there was also the macaron edition, introducing lemon, chocolate, strawberry and pistachio macaron flavoured chocolate bars.
Pssssst! Who can resist this chocolate-y temptation?!
In the compact city centre, there is no need to board a bus to get around. Walking is the best transportation to get you around easily. In fact, getting to the city centre from Aachen HBF is only a 15 – 20 minute walk. However, be prepared as some roads may be steep. Arriving at Aachen HBF, buses like 3A can easily get you round Aachen. Similar to elsewhere in Germany, it would be recommended to purchase bus tickets before boarding. One can also purchase tickets on board from the bus driver simply by boarding from the front door and informing the driver where one would be alighting at. A single bus ticket will cost around €1.60.
DAY TRIPS OUT OF AACHEN
From Aachen, one can also consider taking an intercity bus to other German towns like Monschau. A round ticket on bus 66 costs €10.60, departing from Aachen Bushof (Bus interchange).
Spend some time strolling through this preserved historic town centre to appreciate the beauty of German towns. In this little town, every street and corner becomes a postcard view to add to one’s memories.
Another convenience of resting in Aachen is the proximity it is, bordering Belgium and the Netherlands. A day trip into the Netherlands, for instance to Maastricht, which is another university town home to Maastricht University, is about a 45-minute drive or 1-hour train ride.
Other alternatives include Roermond which has a designer outlet catered for shopping-lovers. Travel into Netherlands during weekends to enjoy a 1-for-1 offer on a travel pass which costs €18.50. This travel pass covers all buses and train rides and can be purchased from the bus drivers in Aachen.
So what are you waiting for! Mark Aachen down for your next visit to Germany and await for a relaxed vacation through the old German streets. For more itineraries in the NRW region, check out my travel posts on Bonn and Cologne.
If there are more itineraries one wish to know about, leave a message for me!