Aachen: A city of Roman tradition

Aachen: A city of Roman tradition

by Lauren Bernasconi
Stripes Europe

Along the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, in the Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany, lies the remarkable city of Aachen. Named Aquae Granni by the Romans, this city is renowned for its abundant springs of warm mineral water, enjoyed by people throughout history since it was first inhabited in the Neolithic era. Aachen was a favored city of the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, and in this location he built his magnificent Palatine Chapel. The chapel has since been expanded multiple times and today is known simply as the Aachen Cathedral, open for the public with many wonderful, awe-inspiring treasures inside.

For those who want to enjoy a more relaxing side of Aachen, multiple spas (or “baths” as many Germans refer to them) operate within the city region. One popular spa is the Carolus Thermen, named after Charlemagne himself. Made up of multiple “worlds,” the Carolus Thermen offers many options to create the perfect day of pleasure. Whether it’s a relaxing day at the spa or a journey through history, Aachen provides enough and more to create an enjoyable weekend trip.

Aachen Cathedral

While the city of Aachen hosts many historical monuments of cultural significance, the Aachen Cathedral is arguably its most impressive. The oldest cathedral in northern Europe, construction began in 796 and the structure was consecrated by Pope Leo III in 805. Between the years 936-1531, 30 German kings were crowned in the cathedral, granting the Aachen the nickname of “watering-place of the kings.” Today the Aachen Cathedral is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, having been the first site in Germany inducted and one of the first three in Europe.

What to see:

  • The Karlsschrein – The final resting place of Charlemagne’s remains after Frederick Barbarossa exhumed them from their original location in 1165.
  • The Throne of Charlemagne – Taken by Charlemagne as a spoil of war from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, 30 kings were crowned on this throne and all rulers of Germany reigned from it between 936 and 1531.
  • Marienschrein – A reliquary containing the swaddling clothes and loincloth of Jesus, the cloak of Mary, and the beheading cloth of John the Baptist. Since 1349, the relics have been taken out to be viewed by the public every seven years (the last viewing was 2014).
  • Cathedral Treasury – Includes a collection of many important artifacts and objects including the Cross of Lothair, the Bust of Charlemagne (encasing his skull cap) and the Persephone Sarcophagus.

Carolus Thermen

With the motto “Sanus per Aquam” (“healthy by water”), the Carolus Thermen exemplifies the German spa tradition of historic Roman bath cities. The spa’s services are split up into four different appropriately named “worlds”: Thermal World, Sauna World, Indulgence World and Gourmet World.

  • Thermal World – The public area of the baths complete with eight indoor and outdoor pools, along with features such as waterfalls, massage nozzles, steam baths and more.
  • Sauna World – A nude spa made up of 15 saunas and steam baths; multiple Aufguss (“process of pouring water on hot stones”) ceremonies are performed daily along with snacks and treats provided.
  • Indulgence World – Extra treatments including massages, Hammam, baths, body treatment and facials are provided at an additional price by appointment.
  • Gourmet World – Bella Vista located in Thermal World offers light snacks and drinks; Lemon Grass in Sauna World tempts with a varied menu of alcoholic/non-alcoholic cold and warm drinks as well as European/Asian dishes; and Mediterraneo’s changing lunch menu offers seasonal dishes overlooking the bathing hall.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Carolus Thermen offers multiple packages based on which worlds you want to visit and time you’d like to spend. Like most European spas, remember to bring your own towels, soaps and sandals. 

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