Founded by the Romans, once home to kings and emperors, Aachen is one of the most historic and overlooked cities in Germany. Rich, beautiful, and exciting, it’s a place where people come to build careers and experience the breadth and depth of German culture. For Americans thinking of moving overseas, here are seven reasons you ought to consider living in Aachen.
High Income, Low Cost
Aachen has a modern and powerful economy built around IT, engineering, life sciences, communications, and manufacturing. From basic consumer goods such as textiles, chocolate, and plastics, to modern railroads and electric vehicles, Aachen is one of the most productive economic regions in Europe ‒ home to a number of future-oriented companies such as DENSO Automotive, Ericsson, Ford, and Microsoft.
With so many innovative industries operating in the city, it’s no surprise that skilled workers are in high demand, especially ones with backgrounds in research and technology. As a result, most foreigners working in Aachen can earn significantly higher wages than they do back home.
At the same time, thanks to the city’s relatively small size, its cost of living is considerably lower than the rest of Germany's. Consumer prices are 22 percent lower than Berlin, while rents are almost 50 percent lower. Living in Aachen is also 26 percent cheaper than Munich, 17 percent cheaper than Hamburg, and 14 percent cheaper than Cologne. As a result, Americans living in Aachen earn more and pay less than nearly anywhere else in the country, making it one of the most affordable destinations in all of Europe.
Aachen was once the capital city of the Frankish Empire and the preferred residence of Emperor Charlemagne. Thirty-one German kings were crowned in Aachen Cathedral, one of the oldest in Europe. It hosted international congresses and peace treaties, and remained an important industrial center throughout most of the Middle Ages.
It’s this history that makes Aachen such a fascinating place to live. You can see it everywhere you look, especially in the city center. The towering cathedral still dominates the skyline, with cobblestone streets branching out through a maze of ornate fountains, market squares, and hidden alleyways.
There’s the old city hall, the Palatine Chapel, the Westfriedhof cemetery, Medieval watchtowers Ponttor and Marschietor, not to mention a whole series of intricate statues such as the Puppenbrunnen, with its collection of miniature knights, priests, and peasants, the Bahkauv, a mythical cat that terrifies visitors with its saber teeth and lizard tail, and the Karlsbrunnen, which depicts Charlemagne staring down in all his glory.
Like many other German cities, Aachen has a reliable bus and taxi system. Tired commuters can wave down a taxicab almost any time day or night, or call ahead to arrange a pickup. Fares are regulated by the city government, so you can ride them every day without going broke. Buses don't cost much either and their extensive routes make it easy and cost effective to get around. Hop on one in the city center and it'll take you practically anywhere you want to go.
Living in Aachen puts you close to nature. The city has extensive parkland, including a hiking area (Weißer Weg) just a few miles from the town center. There are also extensive meadows, perfect for games and picnics, as well as soccer fields, basketball courts, ping pong tables, playgrounds, duck ponds, and trees over 200 years old.
But there’s even more to do outside the city. The Aachen Forest is only two and a half miles south, with a network of roads and hiking trails intercut by hills, valleys, creeks, and farms. The area's especially popular during summer, a magnet for cyclists and backpackers interested in getting out and enjoying the clear air and sunshine. You can even slip across the border into Belgium or the Netherlands to explore the grasslands, pastures, trees, and wildlife, as well as the castles and farmhouses dotting the landscape.
Mineral Hot Springs
Aachen sits atop the largest thermal hot springs in Europe. In fact, they're the reason the Romans founded the city and why Charlemagne made it his capital. There are over 30 hot springs around the city, most of which have been developed into luxurious bath houses and spas. The springs release over 2 million gallons of water a day, with temperatures as high as 114°F.
While residents have several options to choose from, Carolus Thermen is undoubtedly the most popular and most famous. Tsar Peter the Great, King Frederick the Great, and even Casanova are said to have visited this ancient spa. Visitors can swim through thermal baths, said to alleviate a wide range of ailments, such as rheumatism and inflammation, then slip into the saunas to restore and invigorate their muscles. Despite their ancient roots, the facilities are thoroughly modern, with meditation chambers, massage tables, and a full-service bistro. One visit is sure to leave you relaxed, refreshed, and ready to come back again.
Once a manufacturing town, Aachen transformed itself into a high-tech juggernaut thanks partially to its top-rated universities: the RWTH University of Technology and the FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences.
Founded in 1870, the RWTH (Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule) is the largest technical university in Germany. With over 40,000 students and 144 degree programs, it’s one of the best ranked universities in the world for mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, computer science, and aeronautics.
FH Aachen was created in the early 1970s by amalgamating several independent colleges into a single institution. It offers practical education in architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, chemistry, medical technology, energy technology, biotechnology, and applied mathematics. In addition, students can earn degrees in business studies, as well as art and design.
Besides providing the town with a highly educated workforce, the steady influx of students also helps fuel a huge assortment of bars, restaurants, and beer gardens. Aachen is a small town with a diverse and varied nightlife, primarily centered around the Pontstrasse near the city center. While residents certainly don’t have a shortage of entertainment, most start their evenings at the Domkeller, the oldest and busiest pub in town. It’s a great place to grab a beer and check out the latest songs from the city’s punk, rap, and folk bands.
Other mainstays include Cafe & Bar zuhause, which offers the town's widest range of entertainment, with everything from bowling to board games to movies and live bands. Or, if you’re looking to shake your booty, there's Nox or Club Nightlife. Or you can just keep your ears open for the steady beat of EDM and rock music that fills the streets from early evening until early the next morning.
While most countries celebrate carnival in late February or early March, Aachen kicks things off in mid-November ‒ when the rulers of the festival (the prince, the farmer, and the maiden) are presented to the crowd. While there are plenty of madcap parties this time of year, the real fun starts in January. Costume balls are held all over the city. People dress in traditional German outfits from as far back as the 18th century. Musicians, artists, comedians, and performers fly in from all over the country to provide entertainment.
Celebrations are held regularly throughout the month, becoming more frenzied and raucous in the buildup to Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Whereas parties early in the season are generally held indoors, in the six days before Shrove Tuesday, revelers spill out into the streets. There are parades, floats, marching bands, and loud music on every street corner. Squares are full of partygoers in bright, colorful outfits. If they can’t find a traditional costume, they dress up as robots, clowns, cowboys, skeletons, vampires, anything weird and wonderful. And wherever you go, you’re bound to find plenty of food, beer, and wine for sale.
On Tulip Sunday, the prince leads a procession through the city, followed by hundreds of children in fancy dress ‒ the only event like it in Germany. On Shrove Monday, over 100 carriages and foot soldiers in full uniform roll through the streets throwing candy to onlookers, while the carnival prince waves to his adoring subjects from his sumptuous coach. The revelry continues long into the night, a truly unforgettable experience and one of the few festivals of its kind in central Europe.
Moving to Aachen Germany
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