Present -day Aachen has the tranquil air of a pretty spa town. Yet this was once a European city of great strategic and cultural importance, situated near the meeting point of (what are now) Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Originally a health resort for the Romans, in 794 the canny Charlemagne built his imperial palace here – the hot springs were doubtless an attraction.
Aachen's grand Quellenhof spa hotel opened in 1926, attracting royals, aristocrats and Hollywood stars. Restored in 1998, this 174-room hotel is a mix of old-style European glamour and five-star luxury – sitting rather uncomfortably beside a busy main road.
Such quibbles are quickly forgotten once inside the vast marble-clad lobby, where the sound of traffic is replaced by soothing opera. Eastern influence abounds: drapes of candy-stripe shantung silk frame the public areas, while candles are scattered through the drawing- room or "fireside hall". The jewel in the Quellenhof crown, however, is the colonial-style Elephant Bar – more reminiscent of Rajasthan than western Germany.
The Dorint Quellenhof, Aachen, Monheimsallee 52, D-52062, Aachen, Germany (00 49 241 91320, www.dorint.de/aachen).
Time to international airport: About two hours from Cologne, Dusseldorf or Ryanair's new destination, Eindhoven. Alternatively, take Eurostar to Brussels and connect there to Aachen. Grab a cab (€4, £2.50); it's five minutes to the hotel.
Aar you lying comfortably?
You should be. The beds boast mattresses from Sleepeezee, supplier to the British Royal Family. If it's good enough for the Queen...
Single beds are wider than average, doubles are bigger than Belgium. All bedrooms are stylish, yet lack the warm opulence of the public rooms. Glossy marble bathrooms are let down by the positively puny towels.
Freebies: disappointingly for a spa hotel, bathroom products are ordinary. Tangerines are a healthy counterpart to bedside chocs. Until Quellenhof's spa reopens in spring, you can use the nearby Carolus Therme – think Roman and Turkish baths, and Finnish saunas.
Keeping in touch: satellite TV and modem point in bedrooms.
The bottom line
Doubles start at €250 (£153).
I'm not paying that: weekend breaks are better value. A two-night stay including breakfast, a three-course dinner, free admission to Aachen's casino and a visit to Carolus Therme spa costs €189 (£116) per person.