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Aachen (Fr., Aix-la-Chapelle), city in west central Germany, in North Rhine-Westphalia, near Belgium and the Netherlands. Aachen is known for its 30 curative mineral springs (the hottest in central Europe) and has been a health resort since the 1st century AD. The city is an important rail junction and industrial and convention centre. The major products include machinery, processed food, marzipan, chocolate, gingerbread, rail equipment, and textiles. Aachen produces about 20 per cent of Germany's woollen products. Noteworthy structures include the town hall, built in 1353 on the ruins of Charlemagne's palace, and the cathedral (the chancel of which was built in the 13th-14th century), which contains Charlemagne's tomb and throne. Aachen's Newspaper Museum, commemorating German journalist Paul Julius von Reuter, displays a collection of more than 120,000 papers in some 30 languages.


First settled by Celts and Romans, the city is rich in historical associations and is thought to be the birthplace of Charlemagne. During his reign (800-814), Charlemagne built his palace and cathedral in Aachen, and made the city a centre of Carolingian culture, initiating the first great cultural renaissance at the end of the Dark Ages. Thirty-two emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned in the city between 813 and 1531. During the French Revolution (1789-1799) Aachen was occupied by the French and in 1801 was formally ceded to France. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Aachen was acquired by Prussia. The city was the first in Germany to be taken by United States forces during World War II, and was badly damaged by air raids and ground fighting. It had largely been rebuilt by 1966. Population (1990 estimate) 239,200.