City Profile: Aachen

Aachen Cathedral in the morning light


At first sight, this small city with only 240,000 inhabitants, surrounded by mountains, forests and hot springs, does not appear to be home to a dynamic university, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Europe’s best Christmas markets all at the same time.

However, the combination of a well-preserved, medieval, picturesque city centre with its famous cathedral, as well as an established location for science and research with over 50,000 students gives Aachen a unique and charming flair. During Christmas time the squares and streets around the impressive Aachen Cathedral turn into an atmospheric paradise of Christmas sounds and fragrance.

Things to see and do

Aachen Christmas Market

Christmas Fair Aachen Enlarge image Achristmas Fair Aachen (© picture alliance / Arco Images G) The smell of steaming “Glühwein” (mulled wine) is in the air, little wooden stalls in dazzling colours sell their charming souvenirs against the backdrop of a splendid cathedral, and Christmas songs are heard in every cobbled alley. This is the famous Aachen Christmas Market that attracts around 1.5 million visitors every year and was crowned the third best Christmas Market in Europe by visitors. Characteristic for the market is its familiar atmosphere and charme typical for a small city, and all of this in a setting of beautiful, medieval buildings. And along with delicious German mulled wine, the famous sweets "Aachener Printen" are a must-try for every visitor.

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Aachen Cathedral

Aachen Cathedral at night Enlarge image Aachen Cathedral at night (© picture-alliance/ Arco Images) Aachen Cathedral has been the city’s most impressive landmark for more than 1000 years. Commissioned by Charles the Great in 795 to consolidate the centre of the Carolignian Empire, the architectural masterpiece represents the heart of the city even today. Together with the Cathedral Treasury, which is one of the most important ones among the churches’ cultural treasures, the cathedral is Germany’s first and the worlds’ second UNESCO world cultural heritage site in 1978.

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Charles the Great

Aachen Enlarge image Aachen (© picture alliance / dpa) Often referred to as the "father of Europe", Charles the Great chose Aachen for his residence and the centre of his Empire, and transformed the small town into the political and cultural capital of Europe. One reason why the Emperor chose Aachen may be the hot springs around Aachen. Today, the Roman architecture of the "Elisenbrunnen" (Elise Fountain), a fountain supplied from these hot springs, reminds visitors of Charles the Great’s thermal baths. The Centre Charlemagne not only documents the influence of Charles the Great on Aachen, but also that of his predecessors, when Aachen gained further importance as the city of coronations and under the rule of Napoleon.

RWTH: University of Aachen

Aerial view of the RWTH University campus Enlarge image Aerial view of the RWTH University campus (© Colourbox) With students comprising 15% of Aachen’s population, the city earns the name of a university city. It is one of the biggest and longest-standing universities in Europe and is known worldwide for its excellence in engineering and natural sciences. Consequently, this is reflected in the young image of the city with its diverse nightlife around the “Ponte” and in the smell of barbecue during the summer in the “Westpark”.

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How to get there

Aachen can be reached by air, with nearby airports in Maastricht (15 miles away), Liege (20 miles away), Cologne (35 miles away) or Düsseldorf (40 miles away), or by train from St Pancras via Brussels and by coach from London Victoria Station. 

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British-German Town Twinnings

British-German Town Twinning

Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Aachen has been twinned with Halifax in West Yorkshire since 1979.

Aachen Christmas Market

Aachen Christmas Market

Elise Fountain in Aachen

Elise Fountain in Aachen

City Profile: Düsseldorf

A bridge over the River Rhine in Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. An ancient city, founded in 1288, Düsseldorf is famous for its beautiful old town and traditional 'Altbier' beer. However, it is also a vibrant, modern place, bursting with fantastic places to go and things to experience.

City Profile: Cologne

Cologne cityscape

Covering both banks of the Rhine and home to over a million people, Cologne is the largest city in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

City Profile: Bonn

View of Bonn from the Seven Hills

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