Aachen

Nestling in lush green countryside where the borders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium meet, Aachen, (or Aix-la-Chapelle as it is known in French) was founded by the Romans who discovered hot springs there. In 768, Charlemagne, the "Father of Europe" fell in love with this charming spa town and made it his permanent residence, and thus the centre of the Empire. The springs of Aachen are today as popular as ever. And, continuing the centre of Europe idea, the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen is awarded to those who have been most proactive towards attaining the unification of Europe.

This city is often cited as one of the most beautiful places in Europe: the Katschhof square is one of the most ancient parts of the city. On one side of this square you have the jewel of Western architecture, the Aachen Cathedral, built by Charlemagne and the site of the coronation of the kings of Germany in the Middle Ages. On the other side you have the 14th century Gothic Aachen City Hall, with exact replicas of the Imperial Crown Jewels. Magnificent old residences surround this living page of history.

At the Ludwig Forum, the international art space in Aachen, contemporary works of art are exhibited in many forms in this pluridisciplinary centre. For an intriguing and unusual museum visit, head to the Aachen International Press Museum, an important collection within the industry and an interesting experience for anyone. Over 170,000 copies of newspapers are held here, enough to keep you busy for the next fifty years at least.

Everyone who's anyone, from Handel to Casanova, has tasted the thermal waters of Aachen at the Elisenbrunnen, or Fountain of Elise, so fill your bottle with the magic potion, before plunging in completely at the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen, where the thermal baths and saunas keep alive a tradition which has been going for over 2,000 years. Once you're fully revived and rejuvenated by the waters, perhaps you'd like to watch one of the exciting sporting events which takle place in Aachen, such as the CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in July, or the NetAachen Polevaulting Competition, at the Katschhof.

If you're visiting Aachen at Christmas time, be sure to stop by the Aachen Christmas Market, where you'll find absolutely everything. Don't miss the delicious Printen biscuits, whose recipe is a family secret.

You'll find that warmth and good humour run deep in this thermal city.

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