Trier City Guide: A Day In Germany’s Oldest City [Plus Hotels & Restaurants]

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Updated on: 10 August, 2021

In our small series of the most beautiful cities in Germany *, I’ll take you to Germany’s oldest city today: Trier! At the beginning, we will briefly dedicate ourselves to the historical beginnings and then set out on a tour through the beautiful old town to the numerous Roman traces and the most beautiful sights of Trier. There is no history in Trier – the city has no less than nine UNESCO World Heritage sites!

At the end of the article I have put together further useful information about tours and hotels in Trier as well as a city map. Have fun while reading!

TRIER – A COSMOPOLITAN CITY AT THE TIME OF THE ROMANS

At the time of its greatest heyday in the 4th century AD, Roman Trier was the imperial residence. Under Emperor Constantine the Great, it was even the capital of the Roman Empire for a short time. Founded 16 BC BC by Emperor Augustus as “Augusta Treverorum” Trier had 80,000 inhabitants in its heyday. This made it the largest Roman city north of the Alps, three times larger than Cologne. Along with Rome, Constantinople and Alexandria, Trier was one of the four world metropolises.

We’ll take a closer look at this on our tour (approx. 2 hours, of course, also more leisurely, there is enough to see).

1. PORTA NIGRA AND MAIN MARKET – TRIER SIGHTS

We start at the Porta Nigra (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986), at that time the northern city gate of the Roman city fortifications. The mighty gate was built in the 4th century as part of an expansion of the city. It is the largest gate ever built in the Roman Empire. The building material consists of sandstone, the black color (“nigra”) is the result of weathering.

It owes its good state of preservation to the fact that it was converted into a church in the Middle Ages (Simeonskirche). These buildings were removed again in the 19th century under Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. Only the clearly visible choir apse in the east has been preserved.

The former Simeonsstift on the west side of the Porta Nigra is now home to the city museum. The two-storey cloister that still exists is the oldest in Germany.

2. MAIN MARKET WITH DREIKÖNIGSHAUS – TRIER SIGHTS

We now leave the Porta Nigra towards the city center and stroll past the tourist information center through Simeonstrasse to the main market, the center of the old town. After a few steps you will find the splendid Dreikönigshaus on the left , a town house from the 13th century in the Gothic style.

For security reasons, the entrance to the center on the right could only be reached via a ladder. It could be withdrawn if necessary. On the right we pass some beautiful Franconian half-timbered houses to the beautiful main market .

The market cross with the original Roman shaft dates from the year 958 (granting of market rights). The market fountain was created in 1595 and represents the four virtues: wisdom, temperance, justice and strength. On the south side we see the market church St. Gangolf , in the west the Steipe from the 15th century. The market court used to meet here.

3. THE PALACE DISTRICT – TRIER SIGHTS

We now come to the former palace district, which was built in the Roman heyday of the 4th century. To do this, we walk eastwards from the main square into Sternstrasse and stand in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral . Its beginnings go back to Constantine the Great (326 AD – UNESCO World Heritage!).

The current construction began in 1035 and was not completed until the 12th century. You should also visit the beautiful cloister. From there you have a wonderful view of the Liebfrauenkirche, which is directly adjacent to the cathedral, from 1270. It is one of the earliest Gothic churches in Germany (UNESCO World Heritage Site!).

We leave the Liebfrauenkirche through the figure portal in the west. Diagonally opposite, a beautiful wine tavern in the Kesselstadt Palace invites you to linger – we have now earned a break in a historical ambience.

4. BASILICA AULA PALATINA  TRIER SIGHTS

Then we follow Liebfrauenstrasse a few steps and stand on Konstantinplatz in amazement in front of a highlight of Roman architecture in Germany: the Aula Palatina or Aula regia. A faithful replica of the basilica built on this site by Emperor Constantine around the year 300 (UNESCO World Heritage Site!). The interior of the pillarless, mighty hall is the second largest from Roman times after the Pantheon in Rome! The huge coffered ceiling is also impressive.

The imperial throne stood in this building, which was terrifying at that time due to its sheer size. Festivals were celebrated here and ambassadors and princes received. In addition to the political events, courts were also regularly held.

After its reconstruction under Prussian Friedrich Wilhelm IV., The basilica has been used as a Protestant church since 1856 – and that in the arch-Catholic city of Trier!

5. ELECTORAL PALACE AND KAISERTHERME – TRIER SIGHTS

Immediately next to the basilica you will find the Archbishop’s Palace or Electoral Palace with its magnificent staircase.

We now stroll south through the beautifully landscaped baroque palace garden. After a few minutes we arrive at the next highlight from Roman times, the Kaiserthermen (UNESCO World Heritage Site!). It is a huge bathing complex with a length of 250 m and a width of 150 m. Here, too, the builder was Emperor Constantine.

After the Roman era, the complex was used, among other things, as a church and later as the southern boundary of the city fortifications.

6. AMPHITHEATER, BARBARATHERMEN AND ROMAN BRIDGE – TRIER SIGHTS

Continuing in the footsteps of the ancient Romans, you will find the remains of the amphitheater from the beginning of the 2nd century AD east of the palace district (15 minutes on foot, unfortunately a lot of modern car traffic in between) . So it is the oldest Roman building in Trier (UNESCO, of course -World Heritage!). Fighting games took place here in front of up to 20,000 spectators.

Like almost all Roman buildings in Germany, the once great building area served as a cheap quarry in the Middle Ages – o tempora o mores! A visit is only worthwhile with an admission ticket.

From the Kaiserthermen in the opposite westerly direction you can reach the Barbarathermen , built in the middle of the 2nd century AD (UNESCO World Heritage!), Along kaiserstrasse, just before the Moselle . About the same size as the Kaiserthermen, this bathing facility was open to the public and was in operation until the Franconian era. Only the foundation walls of the Barbaratherme are left.

A visit is nevertheless worthwhile, as a tour of the site is equipped with numerous information boards. So you will find out that the huge swimming pool was only demolished in the 17th century (!) – an unimaginable stupidity for today’s contemporaries!

A few steps further, beyond a busy road, you come to the Moselle and look at the old Roman bridge (UNESCO World Heritage!). It is still passable after almost 1800 years ! The blackish pillars are originally from Roman times.

7. FINALLY: KARL MARX HOUSE AND THE BAROQUE CHURCH OF ST. PAULIN – TRIER SIGHTS

We are now leaving the Roman city of Trier and going via Karl-Marx-Strasse to Brückenstrasse No. 10. There we can visit the Karl-Marx-Haus , in which this great son of the city was born. The city fathers and mothers of Trier give us a riddle by the way, as this house is not on Karl-Marx-road, which ends a few meters before!

Finally, on the other side of the Porta Nigra at the corner of Paulinstrasse and Palmatiusstrasse, we visit the beautiful baroque church of St. Paulin , built from 1732 to 1754 according to plans by Balthasar Neumann.

8. THE AREA AROUND TRIER – TRIER SIGHTS

If you’re here in the western corner of Germany to pay homage to the ancient Romans, there are two famous Roman legacies nearby. Once the Igeler column , 8 km up the Moselle. It is a magnificent 23 meter high grave monument from the 3rd century AD.

30 km further on, a Roman villa was excavated near Nennig in 1852 . The exposed mosaic floor is definitely worth a detour!

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