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Aachen in western Germany is a small town bursting with history and natural mineral springs. In addition to sulphur-rich soaks, visitors come for the attractive architecture like the medieval cathedral, ornate Gothic halls and elegant 17th-century villas. Home to Germany's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town also butts up against both the Netherlands and Belgium – there's even a spot called Drielandenpunt where you can stand on the borders of all three.
Hostels in Aachen are all about socialising. One Aachen hostel has a common room for games of pool and a lobby bar serving snacks round the clock. At another, you can visit the on-site bistro and indulge in free breakfast or just settle in with a book on the sun terrace. Other Aachen hostels offer luxurious extras for an ultra-comfortable stay, like a family-run spot that has a pool and a traditional wooden sauna for taking it easy.
The heart of Aachen is within the town's ancient city walls. Here you'll find Aachen-Mitte, the Old Town, known for its winding streets lined with grand villas. Follow the cobbles to the town's main square flanked by Gothic halls and the cathedral, then wander east to museums, theatres and the contrastingly contemporary Aquis Plaza shopping centre. To the north lie manicured gardens and a spa built on the original hot springs. Head south to the Roman suburb of Burtscheid, the 'spa district', for more thermal baths as well as cultural markets and festivals.
While exploring Aachen's historical Old Town, make sure to visit the 8th-century Aachen Cathedral that gleams with medieval gold work. There's plenty of culture here: holy Roman kings once were crowned in the Gothic-style Rathaus, while the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum is the place to admire Renaissance sculptures. To see how the bourgeoisie lived in the 17th century, head to Couven-Museum. If you prefer to chill out, you can unwind in steamy thermal pools at Carolus Thermen spa.
Because of its location, you can choose from airports in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to get to Aachen. The closest is Maastricht Aachen Airport, while Belgium's Liège Airport is 66km away. To reach Aachen from Maastricht, take a bus from outside the terminal to Meerssen railway station, then a train to Aachen (the total trip takes around an hour). From Aachen's main train station, Hauptbahnhof, you'll be just a 15-minute walk from the city centre or a quick ride on a local bus.