Aachen, also known in English by its French name Aix-la-Chapelle, has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, 65 km (40 mi) west of Cologne. RWTH Aachen University, one of Germany’s Universities of Excellence, is located in the city.
The Aachen Cathedral was erected on the orders of Charlemagne in AD 786 and was on completion the largest dome north of the Alps. On his death Charlemagne’s remains were interred in the cathedral and can be seen there to this date. The cathedral was extended several times in later ages, turning it into a curious and unique mixture of building styles.
The 14th century city hall lies between two central places, the Markt (market place) and the Katschhof (between city hall and cathedral). The coronation hall is on the first floor of the building. Inside you can find five frescoes by the Aachen artist Alfre Rethel which show legendary scenes from the life of Charlemagne, as well as Charlemagne’s signature.
The Grashaus, a late medieval house at the Markt, is one of the oldest non-religious buildings in downtown Aachen. It hosts the city archive. The Grashaus was the former city hall before the present building took over this function.
The Elisenbrunnen is one of the most famous sights of Aachen. It is a neoclassical hall covering one of the city’s famous fountains. It is just a minute away from the cathedral. Just a few steps in southeastern direction lies the 19th century theatre.
Also well known and well worth seeing are the two remaining city gates, the Ponttor, one half mile northwest of the cathedral, and the Kleinmarschiertor, close to the central railway station. There are also a few parts of both medieval city walls left, most of them integrated in more recent buildings, some others visible. There are even five towers left, some of which are used for housing.
There are many other places and objects worth seeing, for example a notable number of churches and monasteries, a few remarkable 17th- and 18th-century buildings in the particular Baroque style typical of the region, a collection of statues and monuments, park areas, cemeteries, amongst others. The area’s industrial history is reflected in dozens of 19th- and early twentieth-century manufacturing sites in the city.