Nothing is so delightful as a quick city trip during the year. Even more so if you can go by train! Why? It’s easy to plan, you’ll get there quickly, and it’s a stress-free way of traveling. Oh, and did I mention it’s also much more sustainable than these far-away plane vacations?
Just recently, I had the chance to go on a wonderful city trip to Aachen from Brussels by train. Super exciting because the Aachen Christmas market had just opened its doors. And double exciting because I knew it was going to be a stress-free weekend traveling by train with quality time for my mom and me!
Interested in an exciting weekend trip to Aachen yourself? In what follows, I’m going to give you an overview of how I planned my train travels, what makes Aachen worth visiting, and everything you should have seen in this wonderful city!
Note: I was invited by NMBS Internationaal and Tourism Aachen for this trip. However, this post contains my personal experience and my honest opinions.
From Brussels to Aachen by train
Did you know that it’s super easy to travel through Europe by train? Of course, you knew. And did you know that Brussels is the perfect departure point for your international city trip? Whether it’s Luxembourg, France or Germany you want to travel to, getting there by train is quick, easy, and stress-free!
But how do you plan your next train adventure? Whether it’s for work or for my next adventures, I always go back to NMBS Internationaal. Maybe it’s because the website makes planning your train rides just so much more convenient. 😉
Just fill in your departure & destination points, and the website will calculate the best routes for you, in Belgium and abroad. You buy one ticket that is valid for the entire route and you get a handy overview of your stops & timeline. So no hassle, but a perfectly planned itinerary.
Tip: make sure to plan your trip well in advance. The earlier you book, the cheaper the train tickets will be!
What to do in Aachen
At first, I thought Aachen was just like any other German city. However, I had no idea of the tremendous historic importance that Aachen used to have. Nowadays, we can consider it a city of average importance, but more than a thousand years ago it was the most important city in the entire region!
Why? One thing leads to another. Aachen is an epicenter of thermal springs. Yes, in Aachen, hot water is coming out of the ground! This is what made this city so interesting over the past thousands of years, and also what made it the favorite city of emperor Charlemagne (or Charles the Great / Karel de Grote). You’ll discover all of this and more during one of the following must-do activities:
Visit the Dom (& take a guided tour!)
The Dom of Aachen is one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve seen a lot of them!). Not on the outside, where its greatness is mainly hidden by the surrounding buildings, but on the inside where Charlemagne tried to mimic an Eastern palace.
The Dom was built around 800 BC by Charlemagne and is the place where for 500 years, all the kings of Germany were crowned. It is also a place full of legends. You can still feel the finger of the devil, smashed, into the large bronze door at the entrance. For the full story and more, I advise you to take a guided tour of the Dom. During this tour, you get to see parts of the Dom that other visitors don’t so it’s certainly worth it!
In addition to the Dom, you can also visit the treasury, where many relics are stored that cannot be placed inside the Dom. If you’d like to know why Aachen became an important place of pilgrimage then I encourage you to take a look at the relics such as the sponge that was used to give Jesus water on the cross, the belt of Maria, and the arm bone of Simeon.
Stroll through the Christmas market
Aachen has, according to German tradition, a wonderful Christmas market each year. In 2022, the Christmas market runs from 17 November until 23 December. Plenty of time to stroll through the alleys, have a delicious mulled wine, and taste a bratwurst or flammkuchen.
The Christmas market is standing around the Dom and city hall of Aachen. You can expect many food stands with German delicacies, local craftsmen with their crafts, and lots of spiced glühwein! What can I say more about it? You have to feel the holiday spirit in this historic center!
Visit the 6 most important museums with Aachen’s 6 for 6 museum pass
Did you know that Aachen counts many museums? Definitely during colder or rainier days are these museums a perfect activity to have a great time and learn a lot at the same time. Plus, Aachen has found its own way to make these museums affordable. With the Six for Six museum pass, you can visit 6 museums with just one pass. Every time you visit one of the museums, you get a stamp on your card!
For only €14 you can visit the following 6 museums:
- Centre Charlemagne – about the history of Aachen and Charles the Great
- Couven Museum – an impressive historic house with decorations from hundreds of years ago
- Aachener Rathaus – the ancient city hall of Aachen
- The International Newspaper Museum (Internationales Zeitungsmuseum)
- Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum – contemporary art
- Ludwig Forum – classic to modern art museum
I personally visited the first four of these (yes, in 1 day!) and loved Centre Charlemagne the most. Just because it is so interesting to learn more about the history of the city and also because this modern museum makes it fun to go through!
Admire the view from the Lousberg
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city, it’s also possible to search for higher grounds that bring more peace and quietness. That’s exactly what you’ll find at the Lousberg. After climbing the stairs, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the entire city at the obelisk on top of the hill.
When you want to prolong your walk in nature, it’s possible to make your way to the Salvatorkirche, which has an equally special location on top of a neighboring hill. After this, go further to the city park where you can enjoy a nice stroll.
Feel the thermal water at Elisenbrunnen
For centuries, Aachen has been a hotspot of thermal springs. Hot water has been coming out of the ground for ages and this has attracted many civilizations, prehistoric, roman and medieval! Today, you can still feel (and smell!) this water coming out at Elisenbrunnen. You’ll find this spring in the heart of the city next to the tourism info point. I encourage you to go feel how hot the water is and how awful it smells, like sulfur! 😉
Enjoy the thermal baths of the Carolus Thermen
If you want to enjoy what comes out of these thermal springs to the fullest then you’ll have to visit the Carolus Thermen. Here you can enjoy various relaxing treatments such as thermal baths, saunas, and delicious food. Thus, the perfect place to make your stay even more stress- and worry-free!
Taste Printen cookies at Nobis Printen
Printen are local cookies that can be found literally anywhere. For me, it tastes like a mix between ginger bread and speculoos, but it can be topped up with anything! When passing by bakeries, they’ll literally put pieces in your hand to try, and you should!
The most important seller of these cookies is Nobis Printen. You’ll find these cute-looking shops anywhere in the city. Definitely stop by to have a drink and taste a Printen!
Try Aachener Sauerbraten at Karl’s Wirtshaus
If there’s one thing you need to try in Aachen, it’s the local delicacy called Aachener Sauerbraten. Summarized, this dish is made of beef, printensauce, almonds, red cabbage, and spaetzle pasta. A unique combination but oh-so delicious!
And there’s no better place to taste these than at Karl’s Wirtshaus. This cozy restaurant is located on the market and is a very affordable place to have great food combined with the perfect German beer.
There’s so much to see and do in Aachen that you can easily fill an entire weekend with lovely activities. Plus, there is no easier way to go to Aachen from Brussels than by train. Check your itinerary and book your train tickets in advance with NMBS Internationaal for a hassle-free city trip!