THE BLOG

Four Reasons to Visit Aachen

20/01/2013 13:06 GMT | Updated 20/03/2013 09:12 GMT

1. It's easy to get to.

I caught the 12:58 Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels. It was an easy change on to a Thalys train to Aachen. The whole trip took about four hours from the centre of London to the centre of Aachen - no endless hanging around airports and you can take as much luggage as you can carry.

I'd booked my tickets online - for some reason for the Thalys train from Brussels to Aachen it was slightly cheaper to travel first class than economy. When you see anomalies like that you don't argue, you just book. First class on a Thalys train is train travel as it should be - free wifi, a meal, a glass of wine - lovely.

2. The history.

Aachen is quite an interesting place - originally established as a spa town by the occupying Roman legions, after the Romans withdrew the Franks ruled the region for the next couple of hundred years - Aachen was where all of their coronations were held.

The huge cathedral and imposing town hall are surrounded by narrow, cobble stone streets that enable you to easily envisage life as it used to be in this ancient city.

Aachen fared badly during World War II - enduring a prolonged siege by the US infantry and ultimately being the first German city to fall to the Allied forces. Much of the city was destroyed but the old town precinct around the cathedral and town hall survived relatively intact.

After a bit of exploring I stopped for a drink at the bar Egmont - a cool, relaxed bar, popular with locals.

3. The shopping.

As most of the city had to be rebuilt following the devastation of World War II, it now feels a very modern and dynamic place to live. This is the kind of place you could easily come to for a fun weekend of shopping - all the high street brands are here, and somehow shopping is more fun when it's done in a foreign language.

4. The food and drink.

Germany is not a place to go for light, healthy, eating. They seem to like hearty fare washed down with beer - my favourites were the local Bitburger and Gaffel, both blond beers with light flavours but somehow perfect accompaniment for my veal schnitzel from Lasaro restaurant in a basement somewhere in the middle of the old town.

I liked Aachen's bakeries too - lots of different sorts of pastries, so different from the delicate refinement of French patisserie, the Germans seem to value lots of sugar and strong flavours over everything else. I started my day with a Berliner donut - sugar coated and filled with apricot jam, not the healthiest breakfast but undeniably delicious.