Sightseeing in Aachen
Aachen's main sights, many of which owe their existence to Charlemagne, are concentrated in a small area near the Dom or cathedral – which is perhaps the highlight of any visit to Aachen – and the city's Rathaus. Among other prominent places of note in Aachen are a couple of museums, notably the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum and Couven-Museum. And then there's the Domschatzkammer, notable for its art treasury. Two noteworthy art galleries are farther afield and can be reached in about 15 minutes on foot.
Aachen Dom (Aachen Cathedral)
The Aachen Cathedral or Dom is the highlight of any visit to Aachen. At its core is the octagonal Pfalzkapelle (Palatine Chapel) erected by Charlemagne around 800. A Gothic chancel and choir were added between 1355 and 1414, with further additions made up to the present. Large sections of the original Carolingian structure can be seen from Münsterplatz (south side). The 16-sided cupola is 17th century. The bronze doors with lions’ heads are original...See more
Aachen Rathaus (City Hall)
The Rathaus was built in the 14th century on the site of Charlemagne’s Aula – the Granus tower at Krämerstraße is part of the original palace. The façade has statues of the 32 kings crowned in Aachen. On the ground floor is the Baroque White Room, used as a formal reception room... See more
The Ludwig Museums
Peter Ludwig, one of the greatest art collectors of the 20th century, endowed two museums that bear his name in Aachen, his hometown, with a large number of works.
The Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst (Forum for International Art) is in a Bauhaus- style building that once housed the largest umbrella factory in Europe. It exhibits modern art and is also used for temporary exhibitions and theatrical performances.
The Suermondt-Ludwig Museum has displays of art ranging from the present to antiquity. In contrast to most galleries, the display here starts with the modern and then goes back in time. Highlights include paintings and statues from the late Middle Ages and paintings of the 17th century.
The Couven-Museum has a display of domestic life in middle-class Aachen between 1740 and 1840. It consists mainly of furniture and decorative items... See more
The Domschatzkammer is one of the most important church treasuries in northern Europe. It has over a hundred artworks, with especially fine pieces from the Carolingian, Ottonian, and Hohenstaufen periods. The 14th-century silver and gold bust reliquary of Charlemagne, donated by Karl IV, actually contains a part of Charlemagne’s skull... See more
Legacy of Charlemagne
Karl der Große, or Charles the Great – usually known by his French name, Charlemagne – succeeded in forming an empire in Europe from the chaos that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. He became king of the Franks in 768. In a relatively short time he forged together most of what is modern-day France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Northern Italy into a true empire. On Christmas Day 800, he was crowned Emperor of the Roman Empire by Pope Leo III. Strong links between church and state would continue for centuries.
Although Charlemagne could neither read nor write, he assembled the best minds in arts, science, and culture in his court and his reign is often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance. In a time when there was hardly a brick house north of the Alps, he erected cathedrals, monasteries, and palaces. He had no fixed capital, but continuously traveled between different Pfalzen (Imperial Palaces) to keep control of his empire. After his death, his inheritors split the empire among them and, by the end of the ninth century, France and Germany were developing as separate entities.