When planning a trip to Germany, places like Berlin and Munich are among the typical cities people choose to visit. Travelers don’t usually have Trier on their radar, mostly because they haven’t heard much about it. I’ll admit, when planning the cities Dewey and I were going to visit in Germany, it took some research before I discovered the city of Trier— but I am so happy I did.
Trier is Germany’s oldest city located on the Moselle River near the Luxembourg border. Founded by the Roman Emperor Augusta, it is considered by many to be the “Rome of the North” and served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire for over 400 years. Fortunately, the city still has an abundance of well-preserved Roman ruins that tourists can explore. When I found this out, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before. It’s also located in the Moselle wine region and known for producing Riesling. Interesting history and delicious wine… what more could you want?
Check out all of the reasons why you should include the city of Trier on your next vacation to Germany:
The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has many monuments to explore
As I mentioned, Trier was founded by the Romans and contains more Roman ruins than any other city north of the Swiss Alps. It’s also home to Germany’s oldest cathedral. Here are a few sites you can explore, all walkable from the center of the city:
Climb to the top of the Porta Nigra (‘Black Gate’), the largest Roman gate outside of Italy, for excellent views of the city. You can read about the history of the gate, turned church, turned back to gate and also get some nice shots of the main square of Trier below.
Get lost in the tunnels under the well-preserved Imperial Baths. Built in the 4th century, the Trier Imperial Baths are considered to be the largest preserved baths outside of Rome and are definitely worth some time to explore. Dewey and I had fun navigating the underground tunnels and learning more about Trier’s Roman past.
Visit the 67 meter long and 33 meter high great hall in the Basilica of Constantine (Aula Palatina), built in the 4th century. You don’t need to spend too much time here, but the size is remarkable and there is a a nice garden surrounding it.
Marvel at the oldest church in Germany, the Cathedral of Trier, known for its impressive mix of Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque architecture. Many also believe it holds the Holy Robe of Jesus, which was given to the city of Trier as a gift from Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, who brought it back from one of her many trips to the Holy Land.
Gape at the glorious interior of the Basilica of St. Paulinus. Okay, Dewey and I wandered in here sort of by accident, but were taken aback by its glory! Built in the 18th century, the church exhibits a stunning mix of Baroque and Rococo architectural style. It contains an elaborate ceiling fresco and an impressive gold leaf gate. You can donate €1 and get a pamphlet to read about the church’s interesting history. At the time we visited, we were the only ones there and were lucky enough to hear someone practicing the organ! I always recommend visiting churches when traveling to Europe because they are usually well preserved, free, and provide a glimpse into the past.
It has one of the most charming town squares in Europe
Trier’s hauptmarkt, the city’s main square, is the busy center of Trier and is surrounded by colorful buildings with interesting architecture. It seriously looks like something out of a German fairytale. I was lucky enough to be there in December when the Christmas markets were set up, which made it even more magical. In the summer, you can explore the outdoor markets and sit outside for a cold drink at one of the many cafes.
It’s a perfect destination in both the winter and the summer
Like I mentioned, I visited Trier in December when the main square was filled with festive Christmas markets. I had come from Cologne, which is a city known for having one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, and I actually liked Trier’s better. It was less crowded, smaller, and more intimate. The scenic backdrop of the colorful town square added to its appeal! Plus, I didn’t have to wait 20 minutes in line for more gluhwein (hot red wine popular at the markets).
But Trier is also a great city to visit in the summer. Because of its location in the valley along the Moselle river, it’s great place to escape the summer heat. You can swim in the river, go on hikes in the surrounding mountains, and cool off with a glass of Riesling at one of the many surrounding vineyards.
It’s a great home base for a day trip to my favorite castle, Burg Eltz.
Rick Steve’s and I have this in common: Burg Eltz is our favorite castle in Europe! Okay, well let me clarify- if we are judging based on exterior, Burg Eltz is my favorite (Peles Castle in Romania is my top choice as far as gorgeous castle interiors go.) I wasn’t able to go inside because it’s closed in the winter, but just viewing the outside was extraordinary.
It’s a quick day trip from Trier and should not be missed! Plus, you can take a relaxing stroll through an enchanting German forest which will bring you to the fairytale castle. Dewey and I brought a picnic and took advantage of the lack of tourists in the off season by taking some amazing photos.
All in all, Trier is a charming city with complex history just waiting to be discovered on your upcoming trip to Germany.