Aachen is Germany’s most westerly city, located in a border triangle with Belgium and the Netherlands. The main railway station of the city’s four is Aachen Hauptbahnhof, offering connections to major German cities and internationally. Visitors can travel by train to Aachen from Cologne in 52 minutes on the RE service. From Bonn, the journey time to Aachen is 1h16mins. The station is served by both the German Inter-City network and the French Thalys PBKA service. Aachen’s location made it Charlemagne’s headquarters for his ninth-century Frankish Empire. His legacy can still be felt in Aachen’s unmissable visitor attractions, including the Dom, which became Germany’s first Unesco World Heritage Site in 1978. In recent times, the city has become a major attraction for its famous winter fair in the market square.
Visitors arriving in Aachen by train can visit the first of its famous landmarks after a 15-minute stroll through the city centre, heading north-west along Theaterstraße. Aachen’s cathedral, traditionally known in English as the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle, is a magnificent structure, with a nucleus formed of Emperor Charlemagne’s own palatine chapel.
The imposing Gothic structure of the Rathaus (City Hall) right opposite the cathedral is impossible to miss. It’s a great idea to take a break from active sightseeing here and enjoy a coffee in the open air at one of the many coffee houses in front of the Rathaus and the cathedral. Alternatively, for visitors who jumped on a train to Aachen especially for the winter market in the famous central square, a riot of stalls, lights, music and wonderful smells provides a real feast for the senses. Just a few steps further north is the Centre Charlemagne, which explores the city’s history and pays homage to this emperor.
Another 5-minute walk to the north brings hungry visitors to the area around Pontstraße, where they will find lively bars and restaurants. Popular dishes of the region include Stippgrütze (barley groats cooked in sausage juices), and Aachener Printen (a type of gingerbread that’s typical in Aachen). And, of course, those who love beer should try one of the Altbeer (‘old beer’) varieties of the region.