July 30, 2020
Aachen is a beautiful university town packed with history, culture and outdoor activities for the whole family. Nestled next to Belgium and the Netherlands, the city (pronounced Ach-ken) offers a feeling that is sort-of German, sort-of Dutch-Belgian, and distinctly cool. There is a reason this was Charlemagne’s favorite place.
Other than experiencing the geeky joy of visiting somewhere that begins with two consecutive A’s, Aachen checks all the boxes for an excellent day trip.
First of all, it is wonderfully walkable. The lovely downtown is not so big as to be overwhelming but not so small as to be underwhelming. The Marktplatz and city center offer plenty of window shopping, takeout restaurants and relaxing places to sit and watch the world go by.
Aachen also has a surprising number of outdoor opportunities. Parks can be found nearly everywhere just outside the city center. Refreshing – and not overly strenuous – hikes are plentiful in the nearby Aachener Wald. If you have children or dogs, this is the perfect place to wear them out before the drive back home.
With Aachen, of course, there is also history to consider.
The One Thing You Have to See: Aachen Cathedral
More than a millennium ago, Aachen was Charlemagne’s favorite city. Europe’s original Renaissance man loved it so much he made sure the Aachen Cathedral was built in time to bury him there. Even on a continent filled with jaw-dropping churches, this one still impresses. Plus, it positively reeks of royalty: 30 kings were crowned here.
By car, Aachen is about three hours from Kaiserslautern, just over two hours from Wiesbaden, and just under four hours from Stuttgart. Aachen is also accessible by train.
For U.S. government employees, including service members, remember to always follow command regulations, which may be different than host nation policies, when it comes to travel.