• Photo: (c) Madrabothair | Dreamstime.com


At the center of Aachen, the characteristic three-window-wide facades give way to buildings dating from the days when Charlemagne made Aix-la-Chapelle (as it was then called) the great center of the Holy Roman Empire. Thirty-two German emperors were crowned here, gracing Aachen with the proud nickname "Kaiserstadt" (Emperors' City). Roman legions had been drawn here for the healing properties of the sulfur springs emanating from the nearby Eifel Mountains. (The name "Aachen," based on an old Frankish word for "water," alludes to this.) Charlemagne's father, Pepin the Short, also settled here to enjoy the waters, and to this day the city is also known as Bad Aachen and is still drawing visitors in search of a cure. One-and-a-half-hour walking tours (€7) of the Altstadt depart from the tourist office throughout the year at 11 on weekends, as well as at 2 on weekdays from April to December. The Saturday tours are conducted in English (€9) as well as German.


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