Located in the region of the Mosel river in the Rhineland Palatinate, Trier is considered Germany’s oldest city. It was founded by the Celts in the late 4th century BC and was called Treuorum. 300 years later the Romans conquered it and renamed it Augusta Treverorum (“The City of Augustus among the Treveri”). One of the four capitals of the Roman Empire during the Tetrarchy period in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, Trier is the oldest seat of a bishop north of the Alps. In fact, politically this old city had a lot going for it, especially since in the Middle Ages, the archbishop-elector of Trier was one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Because of its significance during the Roman and Holy Roman empires, Trier has an astounding nine Unesco World Heritage sites.
Table of Contents
Roman ruins vs the medieval charm of Trier
In my eyes, however, the most interesting part of Trier is its charm. The location of Moselle valley ensures that it is surrounded by vine-covered red sandstone hills and the sunny weather makes the city very lively. The large student population also adds to the liveliness and Trier is a nice combination of an old city with a young heart. I liked everything about Trier: the quaint city square, its cobbled stone streets, its rows of colourful half-timbered houses, and gorgeous churches. The only thing that felt like a bit of a letdown was the collection of its Roman ruins. I found them to be more ruined than visually appealing and my imagination had to really work hard to recreate what the site used to be from piles of stones and rocks. I have to admit that since I hail from an ancient country where old historical monuments include exquisite temples or mausoleums, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to ruins. My stay in Egypt has also spoiled me and it could be one of the reasons why I didn’t find Trier’s Roman ruins to be anything special. The only exception was the hulking 2nd-century Roman city gate of Porta Nigra. On the other hand, however, I found the architectural treasures added to the city at later ages lovelier and Trier houses Germany’s oldest Gothic church. There are a lot of reasons to visit Trier and the city’s collection of Gothic churches is one of them. Its proximity to both Luxembourg and France makes the city a great base for exploring the region and its mostly pedestrianized city center is filled with cafes and garden restaurants.
Trier Travel Guide
How to Reach
Driving is obviously one of the easiest ways to reach Trier. The nearest airports to Trier are Luxembourg Airport (a 45-minute drive away) and Frankfurt (a 2-hour drive). The city has two train stations, Trier Süd (south) and the Hauptbahnhof (central station). There are direct trains to Trier from major cities like Luxembourg, Cologne, and Koblenz.
Best Time to Visit
Trier is a popular destination for day-trippers from Luxembourg and France and it serves as an excellent base for exploring the Mosel region more widely. Its mild climate makes Trier a year-round destination, except for cold, wet January and February.
How much time is needed to visit Trier?
Spend at least 1 or 2 days seeing Trier. One can easily see the main sights on a day trip, however, spend a day soaking up the city’s charming atmosphere.
What to Eat and Drink in Trier
Because of its close proximity to Luxembourg and France, Trier’s cuisine is a bit different from the rest of Germany. The surrounding vineyards of the Mosel valley provide Trier with light fruity wines amongst which the Riesling takes the crown. One of the most interesting highlights of Trier’s gastronomical delights is the Viez pear cider. It has a pleasant slightly sour taste and is extremely refreshing in the summer months.
Where to Stay
Trier has a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and bread-and-breakfast places to suit all budgets. For a stay at an authentic traditional half-timbered house in the heart of the city, choose Romantik Hotel Zur Glocke.
Things to See
- Porta Nigra – Blackened by time and hence the name, Porta Nigra is Trier’s highlight. It is a 2nd-century Roman city gate that is a marvel of engineering since its stones are held together by only gravity and iron clamps. The gate dates back to 170 AD and is over 1,850 years old. Visitors can climb up and see the different levels of the Porta and take in the surrounding views of the city as well as the interior halls, rooms, and central atrium. Open Hours and Entrance Fees: 10 am – 6 pm daily, last admission 5:30 pm
Admission: €4.00 for adults, the reduced fare for children and students.
- Kaiserthermen or Imperial Bath – Once an impressive bath house, only a portion of Trier’s Roman Imperial Baths are still standing. However, there are underground walkways one can explore. It’s interesting to find out about how the Romans heated the waters and piped them throughout the complex. Over the years, the structure was also used as a castle and a monastery. Opening Hours and Entrance Fees: 10 am – 6 pm daily, closes 4 pm in winter, the last admission 30 minutes before close
Admission: €4.00 for adults, the reduced fare for children and students.
- Roman Amphitheater – One of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world, this site needs no more than 30 minutes. One has to follow a loop (Rundgang), and it actually takes you down below the amphitheater to see the cellar ancient canals that water still moves through. Gladiator reenactment shows are held on Saturday and Sunday during the summer. Tickets are €18 for adults or €45 for families.
- Other Roman landmarks – Aula Palästina, Roman Bridge, and Barbarathermen
- St. Peter’s Cathedral – Considered Germany’s oldest church, this cathedral is unmissable. I especially loved the central courtyard. Also known as the Trierer Dom, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Open Hours and Entrance Fees: Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday: 11:30 am – 6 pm Admission: free
- Electoral Palace at Palastgarten – A historic Rococo landmark, it dates back to the archbishop of Trier. Today, it’s an administrative building that maintains its old-world charm. Visits are possible depending on government operations, so be sure to check the operating times before visiting.
- Liebfrauenbasilika – Built in the 13th century, it has a cruciform structure supported by a dozen pillars symbolizing the 12 Apostles and some colourful post-war stained glass.
- Hauptmarkt – Constructed around a 1595 fountain dedicated to St Peter and the Four Virtues, Trier’s central market square is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance architectural treasures such as the Rotes Haus, and the Steipe, which now houses the Spielzeugmuseum, as well as the Gothic St-Gangolf-Kirche.
Things to Do in Trier
- Go up to Mariensäule – Also known as St. Mary’s Column, Mariensäule is a tall catholic statue erected atop a mountain ridge that overlooks the city and Mosel River. It offers the best photo opportunities in Trier. The best way to reach there is to take bus 10 up to the top. Once you reach the statue, there are wooded trails along the ridge that you can walk along.
- Walk through the vineyards up to the Petrisberg Viewpoint (Aussicht) – It is a small observation deck that overlooks the city, Mosel River, and the sprawling vineyards of Trier on the edge of the Petrisberg neighborhood. The views are simply marvelous. Bus 4, 14, 85, and 88 go there and the stop is called Petrisberg Aussicht in German.
My Walking Route
I walked straight from the main train station towards the Porta Nigra (Black Gate). After passing through its impressive arches, I headed directly down Simeonstraße, the main shopping street of Trier. It led me to the city’s main square, the medieval Hauptmarkt. From here, one can access Trier’s former medieval Jewish quarter (Judenviertel), situated between the Hauptmarkt, Jakobstrasse, and Stockstrasse, via a tiny alleyway called Judenstraße. The High Cathedral of St Peter or the Trierer Dom is located just back from the square down a narrow cobbled street (Sternstraße). From the outside, Germany’s oldest episcopal church is massive and impressive. Its interior, from an extraordinary German Baroque ceiling in the west choir to the swallow’s nest organ and a 10th-century portable altar, is simply extraordinary. Located next door is the equally jaw-dropping and my favourite, the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche). A short walk around the corner from the church, past the priest’s office, and across a small square, takes you to the Aula Palatina (Basilica of Constantine or Konstantinbasilika), built around 310 AD. I followed the steps opposite its entrance to reach the neat green gardens of the 16th-century Renaissance-style Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Palais). At the far end of the gardens are the ruins of Trier’s Roman Baths (Kaiserthermen). From the baths, another 15-minute walk took me to the Amphitheatre (Amphitheater). I walked the same loop back and returned to the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. Trier is easily walkable and there are plenty of multilingual signs that make it an amazing city to navigate by yourself.
Explore the surrounding region and the other towns along the Mosel. Cochem is especially beautiful. Other interesting places include Burg Eltz castle and charming Bernkastel-Hues village. You can cross over to Luxembourg.
Follow the rest of the Germany series
- WHY VISIT FÜSSEN
- BONN CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
- BERLIN STREET ART
- NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
- WIESKIRCHE, A LOVELY ROCOCO CHURCH
- BAVARIA WINTER HOLIDAY
- SANSSOUCI PALACE OF POTSDAM
- HEATHER FIELDS OF LÜNEBURGER HEIDE
- ROMANTIC COCHEM
- MOSAICS OF AACHEN CATHEDRAL
- WINE ROUTE ALONG MOSELLE VALLEY
- AUGUSTUSBURG PALACE IN BRÜHL
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE