Trier is commonly known as “the oldest city in Germany” and it is a technically accurate title. However, I think there is a great deal more grandeur attached to this title than modern Trier really deserves.
Trier is very charming in the way that most German villages and small cities are, once you move away from the large red light district. It is the stereotypical mix of modern and historical that you expect to see in most European cities; modern stores and shopping districts occupy the available spaces between restored churches and ancient timber buildings. Trier comes with the added bonus of strip clubs and a longer history than most German cities. Scattered throughout the city, all within easy walking distance, are several Roman ruins. The largest and most popular of these are the Porto Nigra, the Baths, and the Amphitheatre.
The Porto Nigra or “Black Gate” is an old Roman building that was once incorporated into the walls on the city and has been actively used for most of its existence. It has been repurposed several times as a residence or chapel, but has been used as a garrison and city gate for most of its long history. Amazingly, it is 4 stories high and the first three levels are still accessible to visitors. The top floor provides beautiful panoramic views of the city. The building is beautiful and it is amazing that so much of it has survived as long as it has, but there is nothing in it and nothing to see other than the views and the walls.
The ruins of the baths were my favourite part of Trier for several reasons. They may seem slightly disappointing from a distance, but they are worth going to see because a large portion of them are underground. Conservation and excavation of the baths is constantly in progress. They are the least well preserved ruin in Trier because much of their material was repurposed to build other buildings throughout history. They also received significant bomb damage during WWII. They are well protected now and the site is the best curated place in Trier. You can walk around the old walls that surround them, climb through the main building, or explore the extensive underground tunnels.
The third large roman ruin is the amphitheatre, which is a short walk away from the downtown area of Trier, marking what would have been the outer limits of the Roman city. Unlike the ruins of the baths, what you see is what you get at the amphitheatre. There is a small underground area in the centre that you can walk through, but other than that there is not much left of the structure. Like the baths, the materials used to build the stadium were mostly repurposed to build other structures over that last couple thousand years. While the baths continued to serve a purpose as a noble’s house and a city gate, the stadium was not continuously used and not well preserved as a result.
The one building that is not a roman ruin but is absolutely a must see is the Trier Cathedral. A year of cathedrals has made me very sparing in my praise of these buildings. I have seen so many gorgeous cathedrals that I am now rarely impressed by them. The Trier cathedral is a lovely surprise on the inside, featuring two incredible altars and an organ installation that still mystifies me.
You can easily see all that Trier has to offer in half a day, if you take your time. If you are lucky enough to find yourself there on a Sunday and the weather is good, you can find a spot on a patio and have a quiet and relaxing lunch in the square, without massive crowds ruining your experience. Close to the border of Luxembourg, Trier is out of the way of other German cities and is often a pit-stop on road trips elsewhere for tourists. Still, it is a pretty town and a good teaser for anyone interested in the history of the ancient world. I immediately booked a trip to Italy after leaving Trier and I am very excited to be headed there right now!
If you would like to follow me on my trip to Italy, follow me on Instagram @alostgirlsworld 🙂