Aachen's city hall dates back to the 14th century (Photo: http://drakin.com)
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Aachen City Hall
Aachen's historic skyline (Photo: Andreas Herrmann / VVA)
the City of Aachen
Lacking any kind of river or even a significant brook, the city of Aachen owes its existence to its hot springs. Having attracted people for thousands of years, they first supplied the Romans with water for (military) baths and later prompted Frankish king Pippin to establish a court in what he called "Aquis villa", the "Town of the Waters". His son Charlemagne, founder of the Holy Roman Empire, later chose the place as his residence, building a chapel and a palace, which should later become (the site of) Cathedral and City Hall.
For 600 years, Aachen was to be the coronation site of German kings. Yet even in 1600, the town's population hardly exceeded 14,000, and the fire of 1656 reportedly destroyed almost 90 per cent of its houses. Its wealth and size increased in the course of the 18th century, Aachen became an important spa and thus a popular destination for eminent Europeans.
Meanwhile ranking as a city (population surpassed 100,000 in 1890) and having been left comparably untouched by World War I, destruction came upon Aachen again in World War II, leaving only every third house inhabitable. At the time the city became western Germany's first to be entered by Allied troops, only 11,000 inhabitants remained.
Since then, however, European integration once again gave Aachen the opportunity to benefit from its location at the heart of Europe, on the borders to Belgium and the Netherlands. The city’s international status is further underlined by some 6.000 foreign students at Aachen's two universities, which with 40,000 students in total also constitute an important economic factor for the city of 260,000.