8 Reasons to Visit the Imperial City Trier, Germany

Trier is is the oldest city in Germany – around 2000 years old. 1700 years ago, Trier was the largest city north of the alps. And that’s saying a lot. It has more Roman monuments than any other German city and both beer and wine. Well, do I need to say more…

Unfortunately, I only had a short stopover in Trier, and I would love to spend more time here. In fact, I would just love to have more than the 1,5 hour we had. Which was only half the time it took to get there from our hotel by the Rhine. But that’s the way it is sometimes and things seldom go as planned. And we had left the kid at the hotel, so too bad for me. But hopefully not for you.

main square in trier
Hauptmarkt is the main square

You should spent more time here than I did, since Trier has 9(!) World Heritage Sites appointed by UNESCO. Combined they make the old city a unique example of 400 years of Roman culture. I’m not going to mention them all here, but just show you enough to swing by this ancient town. 4 Roman sites and 2 Christian. And since it’s Germany: a stop for beer – and wine.

If you are still not convinced here’s…


You can make this tour in 1.5 hour – I can tell you. But you will not be happy about it.


You’ll most like start your tour-de-force in Trier here. (Also since there is parking space nearby). The gate stands on the edge of the old town.
porta nigra in trier
The impressive and huge entrance gate is iconic and the symbol of the city. It was built around 180 in the roman city of Augusta Treverorum, but the area was Roman since Julius Caesar.

Back when the Bible was written, Porta Nigra was one of 4 gates in Trier and one in many in the vast Roman Empire. It has been preserved so well, since it was turned into a church for some years (buildings like this or temples that become churches are generally preserved). 

Today, it’s still spectacular, and the largest gate north of the AlpsYou can climb it, but we didn’t have the time. Also it didn’t seem like a top priority.

porta nigra in trier

Porta Nigra means Black Gate. But why is it called the black gate – you ask? From the other side of the gate the answer is clear. Named after the black colour of the stones, this is not how it looked originally, but the wear and tear of time turned the sandstones black. So the name is actually modern – only 900 years that is. 

trier city wall
Now head straight for the amphiteatre located at the other end of town. It’s about half an hour walk, and best enjoyed when walking along the nice and green Ostallee – running where the old city wall was (and some still is).


Amphitheaters was not just fun and games. It was a vital part of the Roman empire and everywhere the romans was you’ll find one. Like a “Rome was here”. 

Not only built for wild gladiators games and fights against Christians and animals, but the amphitheatres were also for musical recitals and religious festivals. Like a concert hall, a movie theatre, a theatre and a city square all in one.

trier amphitheatre
Make sure to climb the old wall for an overview.

The area is not that big, and I’ve seen more impressive theatres in Plovdid, Bulgaria, Turkey and Petra, Jordan. Many of the stones are gone, since after the decline of the Roman empire, people took them as building material.

But something you might not have tried before is that you can go underground. From here a wooden platform could be lifted up with new props and what not. Now, it’s like a dark watery cellar. Invocation to the gods of the underworld have been discovered here. It’s definitely atmospheric – and I’m glad there were other tourists. 

amphitheatre underground

1800 years ago the 20.000 spectators must have been able to lift the roof (if there was one). Notice the vineyards right next to the fence – again the Romans, but more on that later. The entrance is 4 euro. You’ll discover further down, why I wish I hadn’t spent that money. 

Not far away is next stop. Find your way towards the fine Palatsgarden and enter through a small opening in the old city wall.


By now, we were behind schedule. So my husband wouldn’t let me wait in line for the baths because he was too worried about our son back at the hotel. I just managed to look over the wall… 

If you like me have to choose between  sights, I think the baths are more interesting than the amphitheatre.

roman baths in trier
“Let us build the one of the largest bath complexes in all of the Roman empire right here,” said someone once. Who unfortunately didn’t finish. But wow, it’s still bathing on a great scale. Even unfinished, it was used as a parade hall, city gate and ground for a monastery. That’s building for posteriority.
Make sure to time your route, so as not to miss next visit. (Which I did. Arrrgh! That’s what happens when all planning go towards corona-restrictions and not sights).


Or also known as Aula Palatina and originally a Roman audience hall for important visitors. Not a basilica as a Catholic church. The red monument was built as a hall for meetings, since Trier was an empirial city! That is the city where the emperor and his court stay. After Trier, it moved to Milan. from the outside it’s massive, 71 meters long.
Unfortunately it was closed when we visited, since it now used as a church and there was a service. But inside it apparently looks pretty much like a church. Or more likely churches look like a Roman audience hall. The big hall is almost without any columns creating an extraordinary large space – over 30 metres high.  Aula Palatina has been reconstructed, altered and even burned down during the Middle ages and again destroyed in an American air raid during WWII, so maybe I didn’t miss that much. (Yes, I did)


The electoral palace is not for the king as you might think. It’s for the clergy. The pink palace is built right up against the Basilica of Konstantin, which is not an accident. The bishops knew the symbolic value of the audience hall and used it to emphasize their power, and in 1614 it was built together with the church administration.

But apparently, this wasn’t enough. In the late 1700s, they needed to upgrade and added a rococo building. I mean literally attached it to the Roman hall even partly hiding it. It’s a fine palace, but what a shame to the old throne hall. As typical architecture of the time, the Electoral Palace is pretty in pink and sooo rococo with sculptures in harmony, delicate ornaments and a details. Inside is a water clock fountain telling the whole history of Trier.

If you have extra time, sit down in the lovely garden and smell the roses. While you relax here are some fun facts on Trier:


  • oldest city in Germany
  • was called Augusta Treverorum- imperialic city
  • Emperor Konstantin’s mother lived close to the city
  • was occupied by the French in 1797
  • birthplace of Karl Marx

From here  you can continue towards the other baths. (They really liked their baths. But I guess it made them feel more at home and helped getting through cold German winters). Instead, I went back towards the Hauptmarkt for a quick beer. I needed one to drown my sorrows of having missed the basilica.


All the tourists head straight for the central square: Hauptmarkt. During WWII 40% of Trier was destroyed, so many buildings are not the original. But you still get the vibe.

We visited during Corona, so we had to write a name and information before drinking. Probably a good idea. Beer is brewed locally in several breweries, so you ca just dive in and discover your favourite. (Sorry, but no pic of a beer – was too busy drinking it)

While enjoying the drink, you can do some people watching or enjoy the not-Roman buildings. Like the fountain of Peter, which is 500 years old and with a lot of gold. Other buildings like the Dreikongerhaus is 800 years old.  

If you think this place is way too crowded, the small square around the corner from the next sight is much more cosy, which we only discovered afterwards. Now you are ready to travel forward in time from the Roman era into the Christian age. Change the eagle for the cross.


By now, it was so late, that my husband wanted to drive back. But having already missed the basilica I couldn’t miss the church. So he went out for some takeaway to bring back to our son at the hotel, while I had 10 minutes to see the church. Almost a drive-by visit. But I’m so happy I made it.

Can you tell I'm stressed out?
The church of St Peter is the oldest building in Germany still being used as originally intended (cathedrals often are). The church almost counts a Roman sight as it still contains a Roman section with original walls as well as a huge fragment of a granite column. This has been a place of worship for more than 1700 years Since it has been reconstructed and expanded over the years, you can find all of the European architecture styles in one building. For a 1000 years, this was the seat of the Catholic archbishop. Its archbishops became electors of the Holy Roman Empire in the late 12th century. The Holy Roman Empire! In short, immense power!
trier cathedral
I’m not religious in any way, but I find it fascinating to see religious objects that people bestowed with almost magical powers. Well, I do work in a former Catholic cathedral that once had a glowing skull from a pope, and in Bruges, I’ve seen a holy drop of blood with a very somber priest guarding it. Here in Trier, they apparently have the Holy Robe. Which is Mary’s robe. You can’t really see it, but the chapel is splendid. What I found most overwhelming was the Baroque ornaments.
I read somewhere, that it’s an old tradition to slide down the Cathedral Stone to the left of the main entrance. And who says Germans aren’t fun. Which bring us right to the 8th and final reason to visit Trier: wine.


The Romans not only left stone behind. They also imported wine. And Germany for sure embraced this culinary drink and made it their own. More than that, the area around the river Mosel and the Rhine produces some of the best wines in the world. (Why do you think we went here?)

From the amphitheatre you can almost touch the vines
The Romans planted the first vineyards along the Mosel river and the city of Trier around the 2. century.  Mosel is the most famous of Germany’s 13 official wine regions, and also the 3. largest. White wine is the best in this area and the Riesling grape especially.  Everywhere you can see the beautiful and renowned steep slopes overlooking the rivers, on which the vineyards are planted. Producers will sell their wine in their own shops with wine tasting included. I highly recommend it.
wine fields by Mosel
Fields of wine along Mosel

Before we ran to the car to hurry the 1.5 hours drive back to our son at the hotel and jump in the pool, we did one thing you also should do. Buy a bottle of wine from Mosel. Or no: make it two! Or just fill the car. 

So that’s my 8 reasons for visiting Trier. All in all, there are 9 UNESCO sites including the Roman bridge across Mosel and Igel column. You can buy an Antikencard for a discount. Next time, I must also explore the Rheinisches Landmuseum Trier – one of the most important archeological museums in Germany – and that’s saying a lot. Not to forget the yearly Christmas Market going on 40 years dubbed the most romantic one. Find dates and more on the official site of the city here. 
Mosel river
Trier is a perfect stop on a road trip in the area:


When in Trier, you are right by the Mosel River, where you can find the extremely photogenic castle Burg Eltz. Or go a little further into another World Heritage Site of the Rhine Gorge with even better wines.  You are also only 50 km from Luxembourg so there no excuse not to pass by the imperial city on road trip. What’s your favourite Roman ruin?