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Aachen is the perfect weekend trip – not too far away from Düsseldorf and filled with history, culture and spa potential – we were sold. Close to the border of Holland and Belgium and approximately 1 hour by car from Düsseldorf (90 km), it is also accessible by train with journey times varying between 1 hour and 1.5 hours from Düsseldorf Central Station.
If you don’t have a car but would prefer to rent one, compare your options online first as you can often find rentals for as low as 10 Euros a day (much cheaper than transit – especially if you’re traveling in a group).
Aachen isn’t the only amazing destination within 1 hour of Düsseldorf! Life in Düsseldorf put together an amazing list of 25 of the best day trips you might like to read too!
Things to do…
Aachen is one of those cities worth discovering on foot, as there is plenty to see and lots of great little cafes/restaurants tucked into corners that you would otherwise miss. There is also plenty of amazing history and architecture within close proximity to each other, including the Rathaus (Town Hall), Aachen Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Cathedral Treasury, and also the Elisenbrunnen.
The beauty of the Aachen Cathedral is worth a trip to Aachen alone, the mosaic detail inside the Cathedral and the impressive stain glass windows date back from 800 AD. It is free to enter (donations welcome) but be sure to walk around the outside too, as the architecture is impressive.
Take a very short walk from the Aachen Cathedral and you will find the Rathaus, situated in the Marktplatz. We marveled at the beauty of this Gothic-baroque town hall, built in 1350 from the outside. For a small fee, you can check out the inside but we passed on this as it was a beautiful day and we wanted to enjoy the sun.
We picked a free table from Brauhaus Goldener Schwann and enjoyed a bit of spring sunshine paired with some refreshments. The area near the Domkeller Pub is just another great example of the alfresco atmosphere on offer in Aachen, with lots of outdoor seating and food options.
Aachen is also known for the Aachener Printen – a 500-year-old biscuit that can only be made in and around this city. The Nobis Bakery has an array of options you can try (and buy) of this biscuit that is similar to gingerbread or Lebkuchen.
For lovers of the outdoors – the Wandern im Aachener Wald forest was a highlight for us. With plenty of trails of various distances, it is perfect for everyone. We picked one of about 5kms, and at this time of year as everything is growing back after Winter it was beautiful and a great way to spend the afternoon.
The Hot Springs of Aachen date back to the 1st Century AD and the Elisenbrunnen in the city center has a number of small fountains where you can feel and smell the Sulphur water from the Earth. And if all the hiking has tired you out – Carolus Thermal Baths is worth a visit for those looking to relax and enjoy the thermal waters of Aachen (without the smell) or even a spa treatment. Not the cheapest activity we did all weekend, but if you’re in need of some pampering you can find it here.
Unexpected trip highlight: I have a serious sweet tooth. So, when I discovered that there was a Lindt Factory Outlet in Aachen, we were definitely making a pit stop (particularly being so close to Easter!) Unfortunately, pictures inside are not allowed, but I have never seen anything like it before – literally a warehouse full of chocolate. For all the Chocolate lovers out there, put this on the list.
Best Places to eat…
First and foremost – coffee! Since moving to Germany, one of the first things I always look for on a weekend trip is the best place to find good coffee. We found a gem right in the heart of town – Lulu’s Coffee & Co. – friendly staff and also a great selection of baked goods to enjoy with their delicious coffee. It is the perfect place to start your day.
After a morning of sightseeing, we had worked up a bit of an appetite and had been recommended a Lebanese place in the city center close to the Marktplatz called AKL. This did not disappoint! We ordered with our stomachs and got the Platter for 2 (easily would feed 3) which was delicious. It is also possible to sit at the café next door on the outside tables and order from AKL, this way you can enjoy watching the world go by as you eat!
The Ghorban Delikatessan was also a highlight for us. They create delicious platters of various meats/cheeses/antipasti and have a great selection of wines to enjoy with your meal. You can also buy to take away – great for a picnic or to enjoy later on.
Where to Stay…
We enjoyed the comforts of the DJH Youth Hostel Aachen for our 2-night stay. Situated approximately a 5-minute drive from the town center, it was perfect for us. We had a private room and bathroom, but there are plenty of other accommodation options, including family rooms. It includes a free breakfast of fruits, yogurt, cereals, meats/cheeses, tea/coffee etc. It also had a great common area where you can sit and relax after a day of sightseeing – maybe with some delicious food from Ghorban?
Looking for something else? Check out the other hotels around the area and compare the prices:
Aachen is a great town for a weekend away from Düsseldorf, even for a day trip. We found Spring to be a perfect time of year to go and explore after those short Winter days. As it is also so close to the ‘3 Country Border’ we couldn’t help ourselves but check this out before we left Aachen. This really is just a novelty stop, but coming from a country where it is not actually possible to cross a border via car, we had to go for the picture opportunity alone. Put it on your list of places to see – the architecture and beauty of this small city is reason enough to check it out.
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