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Map of Germany showing Aachen
Map of Germany showing Aachen

Aachen (French Aix-la-Chapelle) is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, 65 km to the west of Cologne, and the westernmost city in Germany, at . Population: 256,605 (2003).

The RWTH Aachen University of Technology (Rheinisch-Westflische Technische Hochschule) is one of the major universities for technical studies, especially for mechanical engineering. As a part of it, the Klinikum Aachen is the biggest single-building hospital in Europe. Over time, a host of software and computer industries have developed around the RWTH.



The Romans named the hot sulphur springs there Aquis-Granum. For the origin of the Granus several theories were developed, but it is now widely accepted that it derives from the celtic God of water and health. And since Roman times, the hot springs have been channeled into baths (which are still in use). h- is an Old German cognate with Latin aqua, both meaning "water". In French-speaking areas of the former Empire the word aquas was turned into aix, hence Aix-en-Provence is an old Roman spa in Provence.

After Roman times the place was abandoned until the 8th century, when it was mentioned under the name Aquis villa. In the year 768 Charlemagne came to Aachen for the first time. He liked the place and began to build a palace twenty years later. The magnificent chapel of the palace later became the Aachen Cathedral. Charlemagne spent most winters between 800 and his death in 814 in Aachen in order to enjoy the hot springs. Afterwards the king was buried in the chapel, where his tomb can still be found.

In 936 Otto I was crowned king in the cathedral. From then on the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned in Aachen for the next 600 years. The last king to be crowned here was Ferdinand I in 1531. During the Middle Ages Aachen was one of the largest cities of the empire. Aachen remained a free city within the Holy Roman Empire. In the Imperial Circle Estates of the Reichsreform (Imperial Reform) concluded at Worms in 1495, Aachen was represented in the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian circle.

After the Thirty Years War it had regional importance only.

By 1880, the population was 80,000. Several important railways met there. Aachen became a site for the manufacturing of railroad iron, pins, needles, buttons, tobacco, woolen goods and silk goods.

Badly damaged in World War II, on October 21, 1944 Aachen was the first German city to be overrun by Allied troops.

While Charlemagne's palace does not exist anymore, the cathedral is still the main attraction of the city. After its construction it was the largest church north of the Alps for 400 years. The tombs of Charlemagne and Otto III are in the church. The cathedral of Aachen is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage.

Name in different languages

Aachen is known in different languages by different names (see also List of European cities with alternative names).

Language Name Pronunciation IPA
German Aachen AH-khn
Local dialect Oche O-kh ['oːxə]
English (Anglicized) Aachen AH-kn ['ɑːxən]
French Aix-la-Chapelle EKS lah-shah-PEL ['ɛks la ʃa'pɛl]
Catalan Aquisgr -keeze-GRAH [əkiz'gra]
Dutch Aken AH-kn ['aːkən]
Spanish Aquisgrn ah-keece-GRAN [akis'gran]
Italian Aquisgrana AH-queece-GRAH-nah ['akwisˌgraːna]


Aachen is an industrial centre and a major railway junction, including the Thalys high-speed train network. A major industry of the past was the needle production, which led to the distinctive mark of the people from Aachen, the Klenkes. The small finger of the right hand is spread from the hand, which was originally the way women sorted the needles.

Robert Browning's poem "How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix" refers to Aachen.

The annual CHIO (short for the French Concours Hippique International Officiel) is the biggest equestrian meeting of Germany. Aachen will also be host of the 2006 World Equestrian Games.

The local football team Alemannia Aachen plays in Germany's second division. Their stadium is called Tivoli.

Since 1950 the city annually awards the Karlspreis (German for Charlemagne Award) to persons who did extraordinary service for the unification of Europe. In 2003 the medal was awarded to Valry Giscard d'Estaing. In 2004, Pope John Paul II's efforts to unite Europe were honored with an Extraordinary Charlemagne Medal, which was awarded for the first time ever.

The local speciality of Aachen are cookies called Printen, a local version of gingerbread. In contrast to Lebkuchen they are sweetened with sugar instead of honey.

See also: Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Aachen (district)

Buildings and Constructions

External link

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