As it is prominently known, the spa city is one of Germany’s most charming cities. And the list of fun things to do in Aachen is endless. Whether you long for a hot spring bath, spa, or a calming nature walk, you’re ever spoiled for choice.
Aachen has a rich heritage from medieval times. It is where most German Kings were crowned and even more famous for hosting Charlemagne’s residence, a medieval emperor who ruled between 742 and 814.
This emperor has a rich history in Aachen, including his desire to convert Germans to Christianity, and thus, he remains a vital part of the city’s historical and cultural history.
Many Aachen attractions exist, from the impressive Aachen Cathedral that Charlemagne built and remains his resting place to the thermal parks and fantastic fountains. And although World War II had some devastating effects on the city, it has since grown in leaps and bounds to recover its glory.
Today, Aachen is a hub of technology and innovation and is home to numerous institutions, including universities, hospitals, luxury hotels, and historical sites. There are plenty of amazing things to do in Aachen and its surroundings.
Show Table of Contents
- TL;DR: Best-Of by Category
- Things to Do in Aachen, Germany
- 1. Visit Aachen Cathedral
- 2. Rathaus (Aachen’s City Hall)
- 3. Visit the Couven Museum
- 4. Try Aachener Printen
- 5. Enjoy Nightlife at Aachen Bars, Clubs, and Discos
- 6. Go Swimming in the Thermal Pool at Carolus Thermen
- 7. Visit Aachen’s Marketplatz Karlsbrunnen Fountain
- 8. Stopover at the Dreiländereck, Three-Country Border, Aachen
- 9. Learn about the city’s fortified history at Ponttor
- 10. Tour the Aachen Ludwig Forum for International Art
- 11. Watch the Wild at Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo
- 12. Day Trip to Monschau
- 13. Tour the Grashaus
- 14. Spend a day at the Elisabethhalle
- 15. Visit Centre Charlemagne
- 16. Visit the Elisenbrunnen
- 17. Visit the Aachen Christmas Market
- How to Get to Aachen, Germany
- Is Aachen Worth Visiting?
- What is Aachen known for?
- How many days do you need in Aachen?
TL;DR: Best-Of by Category
|Best Overal||Aachen Cathedral|
|Best Spa||Carolus Thermen|
|Best Art Museum||Ludwig Forum|
|Best Historical Site||Elisenbrunnen|
|Best Event||Aachen Christmas Market|
Things to Do in Aachen, Germany
Let’s get into the best things to do in Aachen, Germany.
1. Visit Aachen Cathedral
Finished in 805, during Charlemagne’s reign, the Aachen Cathedral has been an attraction for visitors for centuries. It’s considered the oldest in Europe and was among the first to be placed on the “UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978,” for its eons of architecture and epochal events.
The Cathedral remains a popular site, and it serves as a burial ground for different chief historical figures, including Charlemagne, who died in 814.
From 936 to 1531, numerous Holy Roman kings’ coronations were witnessed in Aachen Cathedral. Charlemagne’s throne (a stairway leading to an unadorned seat that dates back to 796) was used for every coronation.
In Aachen Cathedral, you’ll also find a Karlschrein, a golden shrine crafted in 1215 and used to hold Charlemagne’s exhumed bones. Even better, you can view the Aachen Cathedral Treasury inside the cathedral, which belongs to the Aachen’s Roman Catholic Diocese. The Aachen Cathedral treasury covers historical works, including the Ottonian Staufian epochs, the late Antique, and the Carolingian.
The most notable exhibits include the Cross of Lothair, Persephone’s sarcophagus, and the Bust of Charlemagne. And entrance is 100% free. You’ll not be charged to enter and explore the cathedral.
2. Rathaus (Aachen’s City Hall)
The Aachen Rathaus (the town hall of Aachen), a Gothic city hall built on the ruins of the Carolingian Palace of Charlemagne, is another sight to behold. It was built in the 14th century by Aachen’s bourgeoisie and was among the rebuilt buildings in the 17th and 18th centuries in Baroque styles.
While the city council still uses this hall, visitors can usually tour its magnificent rooms when not in session. The hall has numerous decorated rooms, which are dedicated to different functions. One of the rooms is the Gothic Coronation Room. This room, used for feasts after coronations, is one of the grand pilgrimage, historic sites, and top Aachen tourist attractions.
In another room, you’ll enjoy watching videos playing different things about World War II. They also have rooms with audio and telephone guides discussing other things, from commentaries on ‘Resistance Fighters’ to ‘the role that Eastern European labor workers played in Aachen during the Second World War.’
Also, you’ll see interactive screens teaching about award winners and other key people in the German city and the town hall history along the hall’s arc staircase.
3. Visit the Couven Museum
One of the best things to do in Aachen is to visit the Couven Museum. Located near the Hühnerdieb, where the former Aachen weigh house previously sat, the Couven-Museum is an excellent example of the Aachen’s architectural past.
It was built in 1662 but was renovated in 1786 in the Rococo style. The museum features a collection of high-quality historical furniture, chimneypieces, and Italian stucco work.
Also, the museum hosts the historic Adler-Apotheke, where chocolate was produced for the first time in Germany in 1857. The museum also showcases Aachen’s historical past in the Route Charlemagne.
4. Try Aachener Printen
Eating Aachener Printen should certainly be on your list of exciting things to do in Aachen. Printen is a type of Lebkuchen with lots of stories and legends explaining its origin.
The manufacturers of Printen protect and keep the recipe a top secret. These sweet cookies are a delicacy and very tasty. They have unique culinary roots, just like Gingerbread cakes.
And you won’t have to go far searching for it. Numerous shops throughout Aachen gladly stock these cookies. When you check into Aachen, grab a bite of this honey-sweetened yummy treat, a true Aachen emblem.
5. Enjoy Nightlife at Aachen Bars, Clubs, and Discos
Due to its population of students from different places worldwide, Aachen has plenty of places to cater to the international community. When traveling from the Pontstrasse area near the HOF, heading towards Dom, you’ll encounter many clubs, bars, coffee shops, and movie houses.
While here, you can have fun in one of the nightclubs around. Domkeller is one of the oldest bars but is still busy in the evening. At Domkeller, tables are outside, overlooking the dome and HOF square, a pretty cool meeting place to begin your night out.
Moving across the street, there are plenty of places with live music and even EDM for Europop lovers. You can dance the night away at Club Nightlife or Nox.
Most of these nightclubs and bars are open until 2 a.m. and extend beyond that time on the weekends. This is a great place to be for revelers looking for things to do in Aachen at night.
6. Go Swimming in the Thermal Pool at Carolus Thermen
Aachen is historically known as the place of thermal baths and spas. The area has numerous spa spots and swimming pools where you can go to enjoy the thermal mineral water.
One of the best thermal pools in the region is the Carolus Thermen, Aachen/Carolus Spa. It’s a modern spa, opened in 2001, and features all modern facilities.
Their theme is ‘Sanus per Aquam,’ which means ‘health by water.’ In this place, you’ll enjoy tempered water, part of the Roman tradition in oriental baths or the Baltic Sauna Landscape.
7. Visit Aachen’s Marketplatz Karlsbrunnen Fountain
In Aachen, there’s also no shortage of quaint fountains that will blow your mind. One of the oldest fountains in Aachen, located right in front of the town hall building, is the Marketplatz Karlsbrunnen Fountain.
This fountain is crowned with a statue at the top to commemorate Charlemagne’s palace. The Charlemagne sculpture is, however, a replica of the original one in the city hall’s coronation room.
The fountain is sparkling clear and is nestled within stunning surroundings. Johann Couven made the place even more ornamental by designing a limestone basin with two bronze fish.
While planning your itinerary of what to do in Aachen, visiting a fountain like Marketplatz or a few other gorgeous ones should be part of it.
8. Stopover at the Dreiländereck, Three-Country Border, Aachen
A three-country point between the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium lies in the Southwest of Aachen. The lines converge at the Vaalseberg summit, lying on a 320-meter hill. The hill is the highest point of the mainland Netherlands.
Marked by a waist-high obelisk, the border is a great place to do the clichéd thing of linking hands across three counties. You can go up with a transparent lift to get to this 50-meter high point, an amazing viewpoint to see the Tour Badouin on the Belgian side and Wilhemina Tower on the Dutch side.
Also, at the top, you can tour a small amusement park with various snack bars and a hedge maze that you can play. The maze takes approximately 45 minutes to solve.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Frankfurt, Germany
9. Learn about the city’s fortified history at Ponttor
Ponttor is derived from the Latin word ‘Pons,’ meaning bridge. It is one of the remaining two gates of the Aachen city walls. It was built in the 14th century and was usually manned by soldiers and militias during the ‘Free Imperial City of Aachen era.’
Threats of destroying these structures had been made in the late 1800s, but the defenses were rescued. Unfortunately, they were destroyed during the 19th century Napoleon’s city occupation.
The structures comprised a gatehouse with portcullis, an outer barbican (reinforced towers), and a bridge passage over the moat defended by crenellations. You’ll love this sight and should not miss it on your list of things to see in Aachen.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Hessen
10. Tour the Aachen Ludwig Forum for International Art
The Aachen Ludwig Forum is another incredible historical landmark in Aachen and Germany. It exhibits European art and its development from the early 1960s to a contemporary art museum. It lies in the former umbrella factory on the eastern outskirts.
Built with the 1928 Bauhaus design, the exhibition center has a massive collection of artifacts running from the 1960s to date. Most of these artifacts were by the collector couple, Peter and Irene Ludwig.
The museum has several pieces crafted by Nam June Paik, Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell, Jörg Immendorff, and Duane Hanson. There are over 3,000 pieces in this museum, including Chinese and Soviet art by Ai Weiwei and Ilya Kabakov.
This museum is home to contemporary exhibitions from recent architects Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and American artist Nancy Graves. Most modern works collections include live art, videos, and performances, among other multimedia productions.
Ludwig Forum Museum is a multidisciplinary place for modern art that tries to establish relationships with different visitors’ types through theater, dance, film, and other fashion performances.
See related: Must-See Castles in Germany
11. Watch the Wild at Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo
This is a beautiful 8.9-hectare zoo located in the Southeast of the city center. The zoo holds around 250 animal species, totaling about 1,700 animals. This means there’s enough to see for both kids and adults.
While it’s not the largest in Germany, it offers an abundance of room for many inhabitants. The place is mainly for native German animals, but still, you can get exotic species. These include lynxes, ankle-Watussi cattle, servals, cheetahs, monkey species, antelopes, zebras, Asian camels, and African ostrich.
Access to the zoo is affordable, at just €6 for adults and €3 for kids. At the gate, there is a sign showing the different feeding times during the day, and if you book in advance, you’ll be offered special guided tours. So, if you are unsure what to see in Aachen, the zoo provides a perfect option.
See Related: Best Parks in Germany
12. Day Trip to Monschau
Monschau is a quaint and beautiful town in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Belgium. The medieval center of Monschau is renowned for its half-timbered houses and cobblestone lanes. Monschau Castle, which overlooks the city and has turrets on the top, offers open-air concerts.
The Red Baron, the legendary World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, was born in Monschau. A few hundred meters before the German border, a village called Nideggen has multiple official twin cities worldwide. One is Eger (Cheb) in Bohemia (now Cheb, Czech Republic).
Monschau is about a 48-minute drive or an hour and fifteen-minute train ride, making it an easy day trip from Aachen. If you like what you hear, check out how to make the most of your day trip to Monschau.
See Related: What to Know About Christmas in Germany
13. Tour the Grashaus
Consider touring Grashaus, another small wonder that shouldn’t be missed in your things to do in Aachen. It is one of the oldest secular buildings in Aachen. Grashaus was built in 1267 as Aachen’s first City Hall.
It resulted in wealthy citizens demanding more opinions and voices in the small city’s administration. It’s part of the Carolingian as its lower walls were built between the 8th and 9th centuries.
After getting replaced by the Rathaus city hall in the 14th century, Grashaus became a dungeon with a court of four grievous offenses. Grashaus is a young people’s extra-curricular learning center and a unique place to visit. When visiting the site, you can opt for guided tours.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Landshut
14. Spend a day at the Elisabethhalle
Elisabethhalle is a hidden tourist attraction that guarantees some of the best moments while on a tour of this German city. Featuring on the list of top things to do in Aachen, a bath here sounds like a great idea. The place has a cutting-edge swimming pool and is one of Germany’s remaining Art Nouveau baths.
And, while it opened its doors in 1911, it’s still functional and as charming as ever. So, why not end your tour with an enthralling swimming exercise while watching the sparkling marble panels, soaring ceiling, and cast-iron railings?
There are two pools, the larger one for men and the smaller for ladies. The larger one has a vast fountain of Neptune at one end, and the smaller one has a Roman bather image. A local sculptor, Carl Burger, crafted these magnificent sculptures.
15. Visit Centre Charlemagne
Just off the medieval Katschhof Square, you’ll find Centre Charlemagne. Walking inside, you’re not just entering a building — you’re boarding a time machine that whisks you to ancient Aachen.
This modern museum bridges the gap between now and then, buzzing with the echoes of days long gone. Inside its cool, airy halls, you’ll uncover the journey of Aachen, from its Roman roots to becoming a symbol of Charlemagne’s vast empire during the Middle Ages.
Here, history isn’t confined behind glass. As you explore, you’re surrounded by it — from the touchable stones of ancient baths to the soothing sounds of interactive exhibits featuring Gregorian chants. So take a step back and dive in first to learn about Aachen’s ancient history and how one man’s ambition forged an empire.
16. Visit the Elisenbrunnen
Aachen is a historic spa town, and this first attraction pays testament to that. Elisenbrunnen, featuring its recognizable sandstone columns and aged charm. This impressive 19th-century pavilion holds many stories and sits at the city’s heart as one of the top Aachen attractions.
Bathed in soft light, the neoclassical pavilion evokes nostalgia, creating a picture-perfect moment with every glance. It’s home to two drinking fountains, which doesn’t seem that impressive at the face, but these fountains actually produce sulfurous drinking water, supposedly good for your health.
The soft sounds of spring water form a soothing melody. With each sip of the famous mineral-rich water, known as the city’s “Aqua vitae,” you uncover different stories from the past. It’s more than a place or a mere attraction.
It’s a stage where history and modern life come together, built when Germany transformed itself from a series of feudal states into a modern powerhouse. Elisenbrunnen is a link between historic and modern Germany.
17. Visit the Aachen Christmas Market
Christmas markets in Germany are a big deal. Aachen, Germany, features one of the best options with a bit more local European tourism and isn’t nearly as crowded as some of the nearby incredibly famous Christmas markets in Western Germany. The Christmas market sprawls in the square of the Town Hall and through to the Aachen Cathedral.
Given the location of Aachen, you’ll see items from various regions in northwest Europe, so there’s a bit of Belgian, French, and Dutch influence mixed within the market. If you are visiting Aachen in December, add this iconic market to your list.
How to Get to Aachen, Germany
This small historic city is tucked between Belgium and Holland in Western Germany. If you’re visiting Germany for the first time, you’ll find this hidden gem away to the south and west of larger German city centers, including Düsseldorf and Cologne.
You can get into Aachen by train from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, or elsewhere in Germany. Alternatively, you may get in by plane and land at Maastricht-Aachen airport, 40 km outside the city center, in the Netherlands.
There are no trains from the airport to Aachen, but you can catch a Gilbacher AirportXpress bus to the train station with as little as a €10 ticket. If coming from the Netherlands, you can board Bus Line 350 from Maastricht or Bus Line 44 from Heerlen.
When traveling by private car, you may drive through Vaals or use the highway, take A76, which connects to the German A4, and exit 2 to Aachen/Laurensberg. You can also opt to use taxis, which are plenty and readily available on the streets and at main train station stations.
Is Aachen Worth Visiting?
Yes, it is worth visiting Aachen if you love the history of the Holy Roman Empire. This quaint city features an incredible old town hall (Rathaus) along with a magnificent cathedral, Aachen Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for housing the remains of Charlemagne.
What is Aachen known for?
Aachen is a small German city with a rich history and cultural significance. The Aachen Cathedral and Emperor’s Palatine Chapel showcase Charlemagne’s legacy. Visitors can enjoy thermal baths and spas and explore the city’s vibrant cultural scene.
How many days do you need in Aachen?
A typical visit to Aachen would ideally take about 2 to 3 days. On the first day, you can explore the main attractions, such as Aachen Cathedral, Treasury, and the old town. The second day could be spent at the Carolus Thermen spa for relaxation. If you’re a nature lover, consider adding a third day to your itinerary to enjoy a walk around Lousberg Hill for its stunning views.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.
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