Discover the most beautiful sights in Aachen
Are you looking for what to do in Aachen and what the best sights are? In this article, we give you an overview of what you must see in Aachen, both in the old city center and a bit outside.
Aachen (or Aix-La-Chapelle (FR)) is a beautiful city in western Germany, near the border with Belgium and the Netherlands. The city is known for its rich history, from the Romans, over the Middle Ages and the Frankish Empire to the world wars and now.
Today, Aachen is a popular tourist destination, with many beautiful sights such as museums, historic sites, parks, famous thermal baths and so much more. Many people come here for a day trip or for a weekend getaway.
Read more: The perfect city trip in Aachen
So there is something for everyone to do in Aachen. Read on for the top things to do in Aachen that you should not miss during your visit.
The Cathedral of Aachen is one of the top attractions in Aachen and is a real gem both inside and out that you should not miss. It is the oldest cathedral in Northern Europe and has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The cathedral was built in the 8th century by the order of Charlemagne, who is also buried there. Since then it was used for the coronation of German kings and became a place of pilgrimage since Charlemagne was canonized. Despite the fact that Aachen was almost completely destroyed in WWII, the Dom was fortunately spared.
It is notable for its enormous size and octagonal design, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The architecture combines elements of Romanesque and Gothic styles and the Aachen Cathedral is beautifully decorated, including the Chapel of Charlemagne, which contains relics of the saint.
Be sure to visit the cathedral’s treasury, which we will write more about later in this article with places of interest in Aachen.
Aachen Town Hall (Aachener Rathaus)
The Town Hall, or Rathaus, is also one of Aachen’s main attractions. This beautiful building is located on the market square, next to Aachen Cathedral. It was built in the early 13th-14th century and is a great example of Gothic architecture in Germany with beautifully decorated facades.
There are different styles to discover, as Aachen’s town hall has been expanded and renovated several times. In the 17th century, there was a fire (and Baroque features were added), in the 19th century a renovation (and Gothic elements were added) and finally, the town hall was heavily bombed in WWII.
Be sure to visit the town hall inside as well. There are four floors and a basement. On the ground floor is the council chamber, which is decorated with tapestries and paintings. In addition, the town hall also has a beautiful courtyard, surrounded by arcades and open to the public.
TIP: Would you like to visit the beautiful city hall of Aachen inside? The affordable ‘Six for Six‘ museum pass also includes access to the town hall.
Katschhof (central square)
The Katschhof van Aken is the main square in the center of the city of Aachen, with the Aachen Cathedral on one side and the town hall on the other. It owes its name to the word Katsch, which means pillory.
The Katschhof has a long and rich history, dating back to the 8th century, when Charlemagne’s palace stood there. Even though the Katschhof is now a busy tourist destination, it is still possible to imagine what life was like in Charlemagne’s time. It has retained its medieval charm, with its cobbled streets, and beautiful old buildings.
In addition to the many nice shops, restaurants, and cafes, the Katschhof has become especially known in recent years for its unique Christmas market, which attracts visitors from all over Europe.
Elisenbrunnen (Sources of Aachen)
The Elisenbrunnen has been one of Aachen’s most famous attractions for centuries. Both the Romans and Charlemagne came here for the thermal and medicinal qualities of the water.
The large white building, based on a Roman temple, was built in the 17th century but almost completely rebuilt after the devastation of World War II.
At the building, you can feel the hot water yourself at one of the two sources. You will also find the tourist office of Aachen next to the sources, where you can get more information about Aachen or the surrounding area. Or enjoy an ice cream in the Elisengarten (garden) behind it.
As we wrote before, Aachen has a long history when it comes to hot springs and terms. Both the Romans and Charlemagne loved to come to Aachen to enjoy its healing waters.
The Carolus Thermes is named after Charlemagne (the Latin name for Charles) and is a 10 to 15-minute walk from Aachen Dom.
There are several outdoor and indoor pools, saunas, steam baths, a beautiful garden, and also a spa. In the summer there is even a kind of beach. So this is one of the things to do in Aachen.
Puppenbrunnen, also known as the Marionette Fountain, is a historic fountain in the center of Aachen, close to the Cathedral in Kramerstrasse.
The Puppenbrunnen was built in the late 15th century and is an iconic landmark of the city. It is one of the few fountains in the world that uses dolls instead of gargoyles to make the water flow.
The fountain consists of a series of movable puppets representing different crafts and parts of Aachen’s history. Each doll performs a different task, such as playing a musical instrument or carrying a bucket of water. You will also see a carnival mask and a bishop, …
Puppenbrunnen is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, who come to admire the fountain’s intricate details and learn about its fascinating history. A must-see in Aachen for every visitor.
The fish market is another nice and cozy square, located next to the Dom, centrally in Aachen. You can find some lovely shops, pubs, and restaurants.
But there is also a nice statue, which the locals like to call the nephew of Manneken Pis.
Behind the statue, you will find the image of a shell, the symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This place is therefore considered the starting point of one of the many routes. You can buy a starting ticket and have it stamped in the shop the Dom.
Shopping in the old town of Aachen
Shopping in the cozy old center of Aachen is a fun and enjoyable experience. There are several shopping streets, each with its own atmosphere. Take your time to stroll around and also discover the nice little boutiques and specialized shops.
Some are located in the pedestrian zone, which makes shopping very pleasant. But there are also some large shopping centers, both in the center and on the outskirts of the city.
Old walls en towers
Aachen breathes history and the old city walls are an example of this. Unfortunately, not much has been preserved.
Originally there was a double ring of city walls to protect Aachen against enemy attacks. The inner ring was built in the 12th century and the outer ring in the early 14th century. In total there were more than 20 watchtowers and gates.
Unfortunately, a lot has been destroyed and lost. However, you can still admire some remaining pieces. The most famous of these are the Marschiertor and the Ponttor (at the end of Pontstrasse, a nice street full of eateries). Both are worth a visit.
Musea in Aachen
Are you looking for what to do in Aachen? Then don’t forget the many beautiful and interesting museums in the city.
Buy the affordable ‘Six for Six‘ museum pass, which allows you to visit five museums and also the town hall.
The treasury of the Dom
The Treasury of the Dom in Aachen is one of the most important museums in Germany. It houses an impressive collection of religious art and artifacts from the 8th to 14th centuries.
It houses an impressive collection of religious art and artifacts from the 8th to 14th centuries. Many of these items were donated to the cathedral by powerful individuals, including Charlemagne himself. In addition, you will also find important relics, artifacts, documents, and so much more.
This museum is a must for anyone interested in medieval history or art. But even for the neutral visitor, the objects are a feast for the eyes and impressive to see.
The Treasury is open to the public all year round and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Aachen.
Centre Charlemagne is the new city museum of Aachen in Germany which is dedicated to the extensive history of the city. It is located in the heart of Aachen, close to where much of that past took place.
Naturally, much attention is paid to the life and work of Emperor Charles (Charlemagne in French) who lived in Aachen and also died here. It’s the perfect place to learn more about this fascinating figure and his incredible impact on history.
In addition, there is also an impressive collection of the more recent past and the destruction of the city in World War II.
In addition to the center’s permanent exhibitions, there are also temporary exhibitions on various topics.
The Center Charlemagne is a must for anyone wanting to learn more about the history of Aachen and Charlemagne. After your visit, be sure to have a drink in the nice museum café with a beautiful view over the square.
The Couven museum is another great attraction in Aachen. It is named after the Couven family, who were a prominent family in Aachen in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Located in the house where the family lived, this museum focuses on the history of the Couven family as well as the house in which they lived. It has a large collection of paintings, furniture, and other objects from that time.
In addition, there are also temporary exhibitions, such as about Frida Kahlo when we were there. The more modern works are nicely integrated into the older style of the house. Definitely worth a visit.
International Newspaper Museum (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum)
The International Newspaper Museum (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum) in Aachen is a museum dedicated to the history of printing, newspapers, and journalism. It was founded in 2008 and is located in a former newspaper printing house.
All kinds of objects are on display, such as old printing presses, newspaper archives (more than 200,000 newspapers from 5 centuries from all over the world), and equipment used by journalists. In addition, there is also a library with more than 50,000 books and magazines.
We found it very interesting and also fun for children with some interactive and educational programs that aim to inform visitors about the importance and danger of news media. Be sure to visit the cozy museum café for a drink or delicious cake.
Grashaus is one of the oldest buildings in Aachen, located at the fish market, and is named after the lawn that used to be there. It was once Aachen’s town hall and later also served as a courthouse and prison.
The city archive used to be here, but now you can also visit it. It is especially interesting for young people because it explains the history of Europe in a very interactive way.
TIP: You would like to visit the Grashaus? Then you will need to make an appointment in advance. The museum is also included in the Six for Six museum pass.
Ludwig Forum International Art
The Ludwig Forum for International Art is a museum dedicated to contemporary art, one of the most important in Europe. It was founded in 1977 by Ludwig Schulz-Dornburg and has been housed in a former umbrella factory since its inception.
This fine museum is known for its collection of international contemporary art (more than 4000 pieces, including Haring and Warhol), events, and commitment to promoting contemporary art. In addition to the permanent collection, the Ludwig Forum regularly hosts traveling exhibitions from other museums around the world.
The Ludwig Forum is an important cultural institution in Aachen and a must-see for art lovers.
In Aachen, you will not only find buildings, but also a lot of nice green areas, such as the Stadtgarden. This park, designed by Peter Joseph Lenne, covers an area of more than 2 hectares and was opened to the public at the end of the 19th century. A botanical garden was added later.
In the Stadtgarden you can walk around, have a picnic, play sports, enjoy a playground, and a pond or watch one of the live music performances or events, such as an annual Easter egg hunt and a Halloween party.
Stadtgarden is a popular destination for both residents and tourists and is one of the most popular parks in Aachen.
The Pontviertel district is one of the nicest districts of Aachen. It is a student area full of pleasant cafes and restaurants or entertainment venues for the later hours.
The district borders the Ponttor and runs into the Pontstrasse. Ideal to enjoy the nightlife or taste one of the many local German beers.
Christmass Market Aachen
Germany is known for its many beautiful Christmas markets and the Aachen Christmas market is certainly not inferior! This cozy Christmas market is organized every year from mid-November to just before Christmas on the squares around Aachen Cathedral and the Rathaus.
The ideal time to visit the city, as we did during our city trip to Aachen by train. Be sure to explore the surrounding shopping streets, because all the nice little shops are beautifully decorated.
Zoo of Aachen (Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo)
Since 1966 you can find the zoo of Aachen (Euregiozoo) just a few kilometers outside the city. The zoo houses more than 1,700 animals from 250 different species, making it one of the largest zoos in the country.
In addition to the animals, there is also a botanical garden and a petting zoo. They especially want to bring people and children into contact with the animals. An ideal trip when you are on a trip with the family in Aachen.
Lousberg and Belvédère
In the north of Aachen (not far from the Marschiertor) is Lousberg, a popular attraction in Aachen. This hill of 264 meters high, which is located just outside the city center, offers a beautiful view of the city and of the Dutch and Belgian border areas.
Je kan er ook de restanten terugvinden van het Belvédère, een prachtig restaurant voor gasten van de bad- en kuuroorden. It was unfortunately destroyed in WWII but some of the pilars are still there.
There is also a water tower from which you have an even better view of the surroundings. Be sure to check out the beautiful obelisk, a tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Three country point
A three-country point is a unique place where the borders of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands come together and is a fifteen-minute drive from Aachen, near Vaals. Ideal to enjoy the surrounding nature.
It is a popular tourist destination for nature lovers and families. There are several hiking trails, a watchtower, and also a nice labyrinth. And afterward, you can have a drink in the cozy Grenssteen tavern, with a playground.
If you want a little more nature during your visit to Aachen, you can walk the Eifelsteig route in the Kornelimünster nature reserve. It is one of the most popular hiking trails in Germany. It runs about 320 kilometers through the Eifel, from Aachen to Trier.
Along the way, hikers can enjoy a beautiful view of the Eifel mountains and other natural elements. The trail is well-marked and well maintained making it easy to follow.
Where to stay in Aachen
Are you planning a trip to Aachen? Then you also need a nice hotel!
We stayed in the pleasant Novotel, a little walk from the old town center. Very spacious rooms and also a fantastic breakfast!
Do you have any questions? Feel free to let us know in the comments! And have fun discovering the highlights in Aachen!