Aachen and the Eifel
Untamed nature and imperial city
In Aachen and the Eifel, visitors are spoilt for choice: from wild natural beauty and half-timbered villages to wellness retreats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an unusual shopping mecca.
The Eifel region is mostly known for its untamed natural beauty and excellent hiking paths. But visitors can also stumble across atmospheric and traditional half-timbered villages – and in Aachen, history meets modernity with all the attractions of city life. Nature at its most unspoilt is best enjoyed in the Eifel National Park, the only such amenity in North Rhine-Westphalia. Several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna have made the park their home again, including wild cats, beavers and wild daffodils.
Those keen to explore the wilder side of nature should opt for the Wildnistrail (Wilderness Trail), an almost 90-kilometre route taking in diverse terrain from one end of the National Park to the other. This is definitely a trail for seasoned hikers, but there are other areas of the park suitable for visitors of all abilities, such as the Wilder Weg (Wild Way), a nature trail leading through the accessible Wilder Kermeter area. Visitors who want to learn more about the Eifel National Park can take a tour accompanied by a forest guide or go on one of the free ranger-guided tours. Also winding its way through the Eifel National Park is the Eifelsteig (Eifel Trail), one of the 16 “Top Trails of Germany”. The route from Aachen to Trier mostly uses pathways that are close to nature. Somewhat less well known but no less appealing is the Römerkanal-Wanderweg (Roman Canal Hiking Trail), offering glimpses of impressive Roman remains between the Eifel and Cologne.
Cycling in the Eifel
The Eifel may traditionally be known as a hiking region, but it has plenty to offer cycling enthusiasts as well. A certain level of fitness will be required on some routes, however, as the Eifel is after all a low mountain range. The most popular cycling pathways include the Eifel-Höhen-Route (Eifel Peak Route), the mainly flat Vennbahn cycle route and the Erft-Radweg (River Erft Cycle Path). Many of the hiking and cycle routes pass by two of the Eifel’s prettiest towns: Monschau and Bad Münstereifel, both of which have retained much of their half-timbered medieval charm. Bad Münstereifel has also become a popular shopping destination in recent times, with the City Outlet offering discounted brands in the sensitively restored half-timbered buildings.
Culture and wellness in the imperial city of Aachen
Visitors who prefer to discover a new city on a manageable scale will find Aachen the ideal destination for a weekend away. The imperial city of Charlemagne with its population of 260,000 has plenty to see and do, yet still retains its tranquil atmosphere. The historic city centre is pedestrianised and most of the attractions can be reached on foot along the old and winding streets. The city is dominated by the cathedral, which along with its treasury became the first German building to be included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1978. Aachen is also known for its thermal springs, which are said to be the reason Charlemagne established his imperial court here. Visitors can follow the emperor’s footsteps on the “Route Charlemagne” tour.
The highlights of Aachen’s events calendar include the annual CHIO World Equestrian Festival and of course the Christmas Market, which is unquestionably one of the prettiest such markets in Germany. Here visitors will find stalls selling Printen, the quintessential Aachen speciality. Luckily, fans of this delicious spicy cake don’t have to wait until Christmas to try it: it is available year-round in the city’s Printen bakeries.
Arriving at Cologne Bonn Airport