Top Things To Do In Aachen, Germany – The Ulitmate Day Trip Itinerary

With its historical significance, cultural vibes, and beautiful scenery, Aachen, Germany, is a popular tourist destination among travel lovers. It’s a great place to explore boutiques on cobblestone roads, taste pastries from the cutest cafes, and tour century-old cathedrals like Aachen Cathedral.

But there’s more to Aachen than just a typical tourist town. It’s full of life, from relaxing thermal baths to funky art museums. So, if you’re considering where to head next, Aachen’s definitely worth a spot on your list. Trust us – it’s a blend of the old and the new that you don’t want to miss out on.

Where is Aachen?

We decided to visit Aachen on a day trip from Cologne, Germany. Located in Western Germany, it was just a short 1 hour drive away. It’s a charming city right on the edges of Belgium and the Netherlands, known for its residence and resting place of Charlemagne, specifically in Aachen Cathedral.

Charlemagne was the first ruler in the Holy Roman Empire known for his significant role in European history and his efforts to unite the continent. Persuaded by its historical significance and modern vibrancy, we packed our bags for a day trip, excited to explore the blend of medieval heritage and contemporary culture in this unique border city.

Our Experience on a Day Trip to Aachen

While visiting Cologne Germany (Koln), we decided to take a day trip and check out Aachen. Right off the bat, stepping into the city felt unique, like a mix of old and new vibes colliding. The streets had this relaxed, old-school vibe with shops and cafes everywhere. We only had one day, but we were set on exploring both hidden gems and more well-known sites – after all, there are so many things to do in Aachen.

Morning Meals

To make the most of our time, our day kicked off early, leaving Cologne at 8 am. Because of our early rise, a local breakfast – and coffee – was inevitable. We walked past a quaint homey cafe called Cafe Juli and decided to give it a try.

Cafe Juli is right in the center of Aachen, but once you’re inside, the outside hustle fades away. It was rather quaint, with calming blue walls and rustic wooden tables, and the smell of fresh coffee and pastries was irresistible.

We settled on cappuccinos, croissants with organic butter and local jam, and we also shared a warm bowl of porridge – all of which were seriously amazing. We found out they serve plenty of vegan options and offer lunch meals for those looking for a more mid-day food stop.

After our meal, we chatted with our friendly barista about some nearby attractions and headed on our way.

Post-Breakfast Exploration

To really experience everything that Aachen has to offer, we knew we wanted to see a mix of historical sites and hidden gems. We settled on visiting Aachen Cathedral, Town Hall, and Elisenbrunnen.

1. Aachen Cathedral

Aachen Cathedral
The beautiful Aachen Cathedral.

Let’s be honest – the main lure of Aachen for tourists and history nerds like myself, is the Aachen Cathedral. The moment we stepped inside, it was like entering a different era. As one of Europe’s oldest cathedrals, the architecture of the Aachen Cathedral is stunning, and its history is palpable.

We even saw the Throne of Charlemagne, which, although simple and undecorated, is one of the most powerful structures I’ve seen in years. Walking along towering ceilings and surrounded by intricate historical art, you can truly feel the weight of the past around you here. Trust me – you don’t want to miss it.

2. Try Traditional Aachen Printen

Traditional Aachen Printen cookies displayed on a wooden table.
Authentic Aachen Printen cookies, a famous German delicacy.

When you visit Aachen, you’re sure to hear about Aache Printen – we surely did! It’s a famous cookie that was first created in the area. We were excited to try printen when we first heard about it, so when we passed a local printen shop on a corner called Printenbäckerei Klein, we knew we had to stop in.

Aachen printen is a traditional gingerbread that has been around since the 1800s. It is made with a mix of spices like cinnamon, aniseed, clove, and cardamom, which gives it a warm and spiced flavor.

What’s really cool about Printen is its variety – some are hard and crunchy, others are soft and chewy, and they can be plain or covered in nuts, chocolate, or sugar. When you buy fresh aachen that is tightly packaged, it will always be hard and dry. The woman at the counter recommended that we leave the bag open so that it can be exposed to the air, which allows it to soften. Each bite of printen is a mix of spicy and sweet – totally worth trying when you’re in town.

3. Aachen City Hall – Town Hall

Arguably even more architecturally stunning than Aachen Cathedral, Aachen Town Hall was built at the same time as the cathedral – early 14th century – and shares a similar gothic flare. It’s less than a five-minute walk from the Aachen cathedral, making it an easy choice to visit.

The walk is nice, too – it’s a leisurely stroll through a park and pavilion. Inside Town Hall are replicas of the Imperial Regalia commemorating the 31 coronations, or crownings of Kings, held in Aachen between 813 and 1531. These artifacts helped transport me back through history and feel a sense of what witnesses might have experienced during these grand ceremonies. Priceless!

4. Elisenbrunnen

Just slightly farther from the Town Hall and the Aachen Cathedral is Elisenbrunnen, a gorgeous pavilion with towering columns. I don’t know about you, but I love a relaxing day to myself – and Elisenbrunnen symbolizes exactly that.

It embodies Aachen’s spa culture, as the pavilion is home to flowing thermal springs. These springs were thought to have healing properties in Roman times, earning it the name “spa city.”

The smell here is unique, to say the least, as the sulfur content is fairly high. Regardless, I wanted a taste of this healing water. There are two drinking fountains where tourists can drink the 52°C water, so why not go for it? I have to tell you, I didn’t feel healed, but I surely felt warm!

Lunch in Aachen

After a long morning of sightseeing, it was finally time for some more local cooking. For lunch in Aachen, we decided to try a charming eatery, Zum Goldenen Einhorn, renowned for its traditional German cuisine.

Zum Goldenen Einhorn is nestled right in the heart of the old town. This was perfect since it was conveniently close to all the typical tourist attractions. A gold and white exterior blends modern and traditional vibes, creating an atmosphere we’ve never experienced before. The dining room was warm and welcoming, with a wood-based interior and friendly staff, making us feel right at home. 

We ordered a few classics to share, including the Sauerbraten, a tender marinated beef. On the side, we tried the Kartoffelklöße, or potato dumplings, and red cabbage. The flavors were rich and comforting – we’d definitely order these again! I highly recommend this spot for anyone looking to savor authentic Aachen flavors. It certainly fueled us for the rest of our afternoon!

Afternoon Activities

Our afternoon in Aachen was all about soaking in the beautiful views and relaxing as much as possible in its serene spaces. After our fantastic lunch, we were ready to explore some more.

5. Ludwig Forum for International Art

Our first stop this afternoon was the Ludwig Forum for International Art. Housed in a repurposed umbrella factory, this museum was a bold contrast to the morning’s historical sites.

Its contemporary art collection was diverse and engaging, featuring everything from vivid paintings to interactive installations. Each exhibit offered a fresh perspective. We loved that each piece told a story, making our visit thought-provoking.

6. Belvedere Water Tower

We hailed a cab over to Belvedere Water Tower for a nice break from the hustle. Once crucial for the city’s water supply, this architectural wonder now represents Aachen’s industrial heritage. Visitors can climb the tower, so, of course, we went up to the top.

Once there, we were treated to panoramic city views, highlighting the sheer beauty of everything Aachen has to offer. For people spending more time in the area, there’s a revolving restaurant right inside the water tower, allowing you 360-degree views of the city as you feast on a delicious meal. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for that on this trip, but it’s on our bucket list for next time!

7. Carolus Thermen

The cold pool at Carolus Thermen spa in Aachen.
Carolus Thermen’s Cold Pool.

At this point in our afternoon, we were exhausted! We had already done so much, but the one thing we absolutely wanted to make sure we did was to visit the Carolus Thermen. The Carolus Thermen is a thermal spa in spa city like you’ve never seen before. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, but visiting the Roman spa was definitely a major highlight of the trip.

Aachen is famous for its thermal springs, which have been used since Roman times. The Carolus Thermen taps into these natural resources, offering visitors the therapeutic benefits of mineral-rich waters.

Pricing: The general admission offers a 3-hour ticket for €14.00, with additional options for 6 hours or an all-day pass. We found the 3-hour option ample for a relaxing day visit. Upon entry, you’re given a wristband that accesses your locker for the safekeeping of your belongings. The availability of lockers made us feel very comfortable leaving our stuff behind and allowed us to focus on relaxing!

The spa boasts various pools with different temperatures and a range of saunas, catering to all preferences for heat and relaxation. These thermal baths, set along tranquil gardens, blend Roman and Nordic bathing traditions. Immersing ourselves in the warm, therapeutic, mineral-enriched waters was the perfect way to unwind. The serene environment and the blend of natural and architectural beauty provided a peaceful escape from the hustle of exploration. Top of FormBottom of Form

Staying Longer? Consider Accommodation Options

Though we visited much of Aachen in a day, there is so much more to explore. If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace of exploration, consider finding housing accommodations for a longer stay. From luxurious hotels to small bed-and-breakfasts, there’s a place for everyone in Aachen.

Our Hotel Recommendations

For a high-end stay close to the Aachen Cathedral, these hotels offer unique experiences:

  • INNSIDE by Melia Aachen: Renovated in 2016, this modern hotel provides a blend of comfort and elegance, featuring amenities like a fitness center, sauna, and rooftop bar. It’s designed for both business and leisure travelers, offering free Wi-Fi and wheelchair accessibility.
  • Mercure Hotel Aachen Am Dom: This hotel is known for its exceptional service and friendly staff – oh, and its huge spiral staircase. The rooms are contemporary and spacious, giving guests the most comfortable experience possible.
  • Novotel Aachen City Hotel: Situated in the center of the city, this hotel provides easy access to Aachen’s attractions. It offers high-quality room facilities, ensuring a pleasant stay. The hotel offers a breakfast bar, and you can work off your unlimited breakfast with their vibrantly colored fitness center.


If luxury hotels aren’t your thing and you’re searching for a more authentic, homely Aachen experience, consider staying at a bed and breakfast. These B&Bs are often run by eager locals in quaint, historical buildings. Here are some notable B&Bs:

  • Gästezimmer Siminciuc: This accommodation features a fully equipped kitchen, giving guests a comfortable and convenient stay. It is slightly out of the city center, near a small palace and park, offering a peaceful environment. The rooms are spacious, and the host is known for being very friendly.
  • Haus am Hühnerdieb: Located in Aachen Mitte, this B&B offers modern design in a historic setting. Each room includes a private bathroom with a shower and satellite TV. A self-check-in terminal ensures independence and privacy.
  • Forsthaus Schöntal: This traditional hotel offers rustic-style accommodation just a 3-minute drive from Aachen’s city centre. Renovated in early 2014, it provides cozy rooms with modern facilities and free Wi-Fi.

Convenient Hostels

Though hostels often get a bad rap, they’re some of Aachen’s most affordable and authentic accommodations. Hostel Aachen is an excellent choice for those seeking convenient and budget-friendly options in Aachen.

  • Hostel Aachen: As the first hostel in the city, Hostel Aachen is known for offering an authentic backpacker experience. It boasts affordable prices starting from €14.00 per person per night, making it an ideal option for travelers looking to explore the city without breaking the bank.

No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll find that Aachen’s accommodations are well-equipped to make your visit comfortable and memorable. Each option offers a different perspective of the city, so take your pick and enjoy your extended stay in this historic city!

More Spots You Can’t Miss

On our trip, we couldn’t visit every place we wanted in just one day. There are so many more sights to see in Aachen that are perfect for folks staying there longer than we did.

Centre Charlemagne

Also known as the New City Museum, Centre Charlemagne allows you to explore Aachen’s history, all the way from ancient times to the present. This is the perfect stop after visiting Charlemagne’s Throne to get some more insights into the man himself.

As the name suggests, the museum focuses on the era of Charlemagne and brings to life his legacy. It’s the first stop on the Route Charlemagne tourist trail, speaking to its legitimacy. Additionally, the museum hosts regular educational programs for all ages, making it a dynamic and informative destination for all visitors.

Couven Museum

Right in the middle of Aachen’s city center, the Couven Museum represents 18th and 19th-century Burgeois domestic life. Visitors are transported into the “middle class” lives and experience how they lived a typical day in their eras.

Everyone who enters can explore well-preserved room designs and a variety of artifacts, including 18th-century silverware and the first chocolate bar-making equipment in the country – yum, my favorite!

Cathedral Treasury

The Aachen Cathedral Treasury is a must-see, housing one of Europe’s most significant collections of religious art. This treasury, connected to the cathedral’s cloisters, includes remarkable medieval relics and sacred artifacts attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Noteworthy pieces include the Cross of Lothair and the Bust of Charlemagne, alongside other gems. This museum offers a deep view into the religious significance of Aachen, perfect for visitors looking for an authentic historical learning experience.

Aachen Zoo

The Aachener Tierpark Euregiozoo, set in the scenic Drimborner Wäldchen conservation area, is the perfect destination to split up historical learning experiences with some family fun. After all, who doesn’t love animals? We know we do!

It hosts around 1,700 animals from over 250 species, including camels, leopards, and tropical birds, alongside native European wildlife. Children – or animal-loving adults – can enjoy hands-on experiences in the petting zoo, pony rides, and an adventure playground. Established in 1966, the zoo remains a favorite for locals and tourists, blending wildlife education with leisure in a serene natural setting.

Mayersche Aachen

Interior of Mayersche book store in Aachen with shelves of books.
Mayersche Book Store in Aachen.

Calling all book lovers! If sitting down in a large bookstore, sipping on a warm cappuccino, and exploring the selections sounds like your dream, you can’t miss Mayersche Aachen. This huge bookstore is a haven for bookworms with shelves after shelves of books from all genres. There’s even a 24-hour vending machine for books so you can stop by for a new read no matter the time.

A book vending machine on a city street.
The Book Vending Machine.

Mayersche Aachen is better than just a place to buy books, though. It hosts cool events, book readings, and acts as a social spot in the middle of the city. It even has not one, but two in-house cafés that serve fresh, delicious pastries, coffee, and lunches. But, if you’re more of the wine-and-read type, plenty of wine and cocktail options are available!

If you’re bringing your children on vacation, there’s a kid’s fun space just for them, too. There’s a ball pit, climbing wall, and picture books galore. Let your kids run around and let off the steam from your traveling – then, finish off with a warm cup of cocoa.


View of Westpark Aachen with green lawns and walking paths.
Westpark Aachen

Aside from the historical landmarks, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore Aachen. Westpark is a green space right in the middle of an urban city, offering a great space to relax when you need a break from the busy metropolis.

Westpark is best known for its green, spacious lawns, colorful flowerbeds, picturesque bridges, and ponds. It draws both tourists and locals, so it’s a great place to mingle with locals and get to know Aachen better. If you’re a runner, consider heading here for a morning run during your vacation.

Where to Eat in Aachen

Boy, are we foodies! If we spent any more time in Aachen, I know we’d be spending so much money at the delicious eateries there. There are so many to choose from, each offering unique flavors and specialties. Whether it’s savoring pastries or exploring diverse cuisines, Aachen’s culinary scene is a hot spot for food lovers like us, always tempting us with new tastes and experiences.

Nobis Bakery

You’re in for a treat if you try this chain bakery! Nobis Bakery in Aachen is an iconic spot, especially famous for its Aachen Printen. With its first shop opening in 1858, Nobis has been baking these unique gingerbread cookies for generations, perfecting a blend of spices that’s become a signature of Aachen.

The bakery serves more than Printen, though. You can try fresh bread, rolls, and other pastries like classic eclairs, muffins, and Rollkuchen which is a type of fried doughnut-like snack, filled with marzipan and raisins.

Breakfast Nooks

Aachen’s breakfast scene is a foodie’s paradise with cozy nooks around every corner. From quaint bakeries serving fresh bread to chic cafés with the best savory dishes, the city is overflowing with spots to start your day with flavors that wake up the senses. Two of the top breakfast eateries in Aachen are:

  • Ghorban Delikatessen Manufaktur: Offering a blend of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, Ghorban Delikatessen Manufaktur offers top-rated breakfast options in Aachen. The place is praised for its fresh ingredients and a menu with many pastries, savory sandwiches, and coffee to start your day on a great note.
  • Aachener Café Haus: As a classic German café, Aachener Café Haus is a great quick stop or sit-down spot for yummy breakfast foods. It’s all about cozy-meets-chic vibes. It’s also not just a bakery, though there are pastries. Eat a hearty meal like their Pampering Breakfast to start your day off right. Aachener Café Haus is the type of café where you want to stay a while and just enjoy the morning.

Lunch Spots

Though we’re sticklers for breakfast, I might have to cave and say lunch is even better. It’s a perfect mid-day pick-me-up, especially when you can feast on delicious options from the places below:

  • Hazzblot: Hazzblot is a top-rated lunch spot that offers a mix of German, International, and Mediterranean cuisines. It’s well-reviewed for its specialties like Teriyaki Tuna with Lemon Risotto – oh, and don’t forget their home-baked bread rolls. The atmosphere is complemented by excellent service, making it a favorite dining spot for all visitors.
  • Am Knipp: For a classic Northern Europe lunch, try Am Knipp. Visitors praise its cozy atmosphere and high-quality food, including their famous schnitzels. The restaurant is also known for its excellent service and value. Located just a short distance from Aachen Cathedral, Am Knipp is perfect for a post-tour bite.

Dinner Dishes

Okay, okay – I know I said that breakfast and lunch are superior meals, but hear me out. Dinner in Aachen is where the city truly comes alive. As the day winds down, the culinary scene shifts from cozy bistros to elegant dining experiences. So, maybe, just maybe, dinner could give those other meals a run for their money in these spots:

  • La Becasse: If you’re feeling fancy, try La Bacasse, a Michelin Star French restaurant with nearly a 5-star rating. The restaurant’s atmosphere, service, and value are highly praised, but its location is a bit inconspicuous on the city’s outskirts. Regardless, the exceptional food and dining experience outweigh the location.
  • Al Patcho: A classic Italian dinner never disappoints – especially in Europe. It’s perfect for the whole family, and there’s even a children’s menu for family vacations. The best part – the espresso bar! Who doesn’t love finishing a dinner meal with a smooth espresso shot? It’s the perfect end to every night.

When Is The Best Time to Visit Aachen?

The best time to visit Aachen depends a lot on your climate preferences. Because of its geographic location, the winter can be long and cold. However, it also brings a sense of beauty – especially during the Aachen Christmas market that transforms the city into a winter wonderland. We visited Aachen

If you prefer more warmth, though, the weather in the spring and summer are perfect for exploring outdoor attractions and the parks of Aachen. Autumn brings a quieter, crisper atmosphere to Aachen. The foliage is beautiful and would give amazing views off the Belvedere Water Tower’s observation deck – but more on that later.

Each season presents a different atmosphere and hundreds of things to do in Aachen, making it a year-round destination!

Aachen’s Magical Christmas Market

Festive lights and stalls at the Aachen Christmas Market.
Holiday Splendor at the Aachen Christmas Market.

If the holiday season is your favorite season, visiting Aachen in December should be on your bucket list. The winter air, beautiful lights, and amazing Christmas food make Aachen perfect for families with younger children wanting to embrace the magic of Christmas. The Aachen Cathedral stands out even more against a white, snowy backdrop and twinkling Christmas lights.

Aachen hosts a Christmas market every year, transforming the city’s historic center into an atmosphere almost representative of the North Pole. With twinkling lights and charming vendors, visitors can taste seasonal treats, purchase unique gifts, and enjoy the holiday spirit. But, this market isn’t just a shopping destination this Christmas – it’s a cultural event, drawing people from all parts of the world to partake in traditional German Christmas events.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – Aachen in all its glory. From its historic Cathedral Treasury and legendary Christmas markets to its modern art and beautiful panoramic views, it’s a city that’s got a bit of everything. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture vulture, or just in it for some good old relaxation, Aachen’s got you covered. It’s the kind of place that surprises you in the best way, with thousands of things to do in Aachen.

Pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and get ready to explore this cultural gem. Aachen’s waiting to show you what it’s all about!

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Hey there – we’re Majd and Victoria, and we are so excited to share our adventures with you! 

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