Visiting Germany’s oldest city with an incredible nine UNESCO World Heritage sites seems to be a no brainer. Yet surprisingly, Trier is often overlooked by international travellers. If it is not already on your bucket list, you should put it there right now.
Located on the banks of the Moselle river just a stones threw away from one of German’s most picturesque wine-growing regions, Trier is the perfect start or end for a trip to this area or alternatively a great day-trip from Frankfurt (it’s about a two hour’s drive south).
The city of Trier was founded in 16 BC as Augusta Treverorum to serve as the main centre of the Roman northern territories; though its early origins actually go back to the Celts in the 4th century BC.
Today, Trier boasts a wealth of well-preserved Roman structures, which has led to its nickname ‘Rome of the north’.
One of Trier’s most imposing ancient sites and perhaps the one it is most widely known for is Porta Nigra, the world’s best preserved Roman city gate dating back to the 2nd century.
On a side note: During our visit, preparations for a music event were going on with a stage being mounted in front of the monument and delivery cars and other stuff parked underneath its arcs. It’s something happening quite frequently across many of the historic towns in Germany during the summer time. Though these events and festivals are quite popular, I more and more think they should take place elsewhere not leading to important historic monuments and places being cluttered with equipment and even partly closed off to visitors. Am I too picky here? Would be interested what you think.
Another amazing landmark is Trier Cathedral (the High Cathedral of Saint Peter), the oldest cathedral in Germany. It is built on the site of a former palace dating back to the times of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. The palace was replaced by the largest Christian church complex from ancient times in the 4th century. Today the cathedral is home to a huge collection of art, architecture and holy relics.
Right next to the cathedral you will find one of the two earliest gothic churches built in Germany, the Liebfraunekirche (Church of our Lady). It was built in the early 13th century to replace part of the cathedral which originally was built as a double church. Inside, it features a round floor-plan that reflects the shape of a rose petal.
Another ancient Roman monument dates back to the 4th century and was built by orders of emperor Constantine, thus called the Konstantin-Basilika (Constantine’s throne room).It is the largest still standing single-room structure dating back to Roman times.
There were restoration works going on during our visit, so no chance to really get a decent picture but on the flip-side it’s great to see these historic building being taken care off in order they can be preserved for another long time!
Located just behind the Basilika, you will find one of the most beautiful rococo palaces in the world, the beautiful Kurfürstliches Palais (electoral palace).
Being a historic Roman city, Trier had to be home to a Roman bath too. Though what remains from the Kaiserthermen (emperors bath) dating back to the 4th century today are only ruins, you can still see the impressive subterranean ancient heating system – that is, once the restoration taking place at this site too will be eventually completed.
A very typical location for any ancient Roman city is the amphitheatre, and Trier is no exception. Built around 100 AD, it had a capacity to seat up to 20,000 visitors.
The historic Roman bridge, also called old Moselle bridge (Alte Moselbrücke) is the oldest bridge in Germany and also said to be the oldest north of the Alps. It still forms part of the local infrastructure and is frequented by car and people traffic. Just let that sink in! There are many bridges build in modern times you’d expect to be more suited to today’s traffic that have not managed to live as long!
In addition to the historic monuments and UNESCO sites, head to the central market square (Hauptmarkt) where you will find a mixture of buildings dating back to the renaissance, baroque, classicism and late historicism.
On Saturday mornings, there is also a farmers market taking place here where you can buy local fresh produce.
Just a few steps away from the market square walking towards Porta Nigra you will pass the House of the Tree Magi (Dreikönigenhaus). Built somewhere around 1230, it belonged to an influential wealthy family albeit not much is known who they were. The door on the first floor back at the time was indeed the entrance; it was accessible via a ladder that could be withdrawn in case unwanted visitors tried to enter.
Have you been to Trier yet or are you planning to visit? I’d be curious to hear about your experience.