It is not often that you visit a city with a total of eight world heritage sites. Well, maybe in Rome then. But you don't have to go quite that far. The small city of Trier is located a stone's throw from the Luxembourg border, in the middle of the splendid Moselle valley. Here in Germany's oldest city, among grapes and bratwurst, you will find a Roman metropolis with more world heritage sites than you can fit in a day.
Trier's heyday began when the Romans arrived in the area around the year 0. On the site was a small community founded by the Celts, which the Romans quickly took over. Augusta treverorum became the city's new Roman name. After a few years under Roman rule, Trier became a true metropolis. To the extent that in the 300th century AD, Trier was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and it is believed that 100.000 people lived here. Construction and trade flourished and several of the oldest buildings in the city date from this time. For example, "the black gate" - Porta Nigra. The city gate that still protects the city today.
To walk through the gates of Porta Nigra is to walk straight into history. This is not just an old city gate from the 200nd century, it is one of the very oldest Roman buildings in the world. During the Roman years, the gate was part of a ring wall, where there were four city gates in each direction. The Porta Nigra is the only one that remains today. But it was not obvious that the gate would be preserved.
During the Middle Ages the gate had played out its role and for the next hundreds of years it was threatened with demolition every two years. For a period, the city gate was even built into a church. But since the 19th century, it has regained its former appearance with lots of windows, atriums and circular vaults. It is said that Napoleon had a hand in the game, but that is probably more of a legend than something written in the history books.
The center of Trier is located on the main square Hauptmarkt. The square is surrounded by a blissful mix of houses from different centuries in all colors, shapes and building styles. If you visit the square's market in late summer, you will be greeted by wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow overflowing with grapes. Because here in the sunny river valley the grapes thrive. And especially the riesling grape.
The Mosel Valley is not one of the largest wine regions in Germany, but its unique characteristics produce wines that are known worldwide. Ever since the 17th century, riesling has been grown here in the mild climate and wines have been created that are both mineral, fruity and fresh. If you are interested in visiting vineyards, there are several day trips from Trier that take you on wine tastings and cellar tours. Don't like "regular" riesling? Order a really well-aged glass of riesling. The wine should be amber-coloured, musty and smell of petroleum like a petrol can. Simply absolutely wonderful.
Liebfrauenkirche and the cathedral
The two world heritage sites Trier Cathedral and Liebfrauenkirche are right next to each other in the old town center of Trier. The Liebfrauenkirche is the oldest Gothic church in Germany, dating back to the 13th century. But this beautiful little church is nothing compared to Trier's cathedral. For almost 1700 years (!) this church has been rebuilt and added to in different styles. Depending on what was fashionable in the century in which the extension was made. It almost feels more like a fairytale castle than a cathedral from the outside. There are pinnacles and towers, round and square, high and wide. Today, Trier Cathedral is Germany's oldest church and although the church has been partially demolished and rebuilt over the years, the very core of the church is still from Roman times.
The old Jewish quarters around Judengasse date from the 13th century. Here Jews lived side by side with the Christian population for several hundred years and there were also two synagogues in the quarter. But in 1349 the peaceful coexistence ended. The Jews were accused of contaminating the waters of Trier with the plague and those Jews who were not executed fled the city. Today you can visit the small alleys and one of the restaurants that are located here today and learn more about life in the Jewish quarter almost 800 years ago.
In addition to the above three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there are five more in Trier – The amphitheater, the Roman bathhouse The Barbara Therm, the archbishop Egbert's Codex, the 23 meter high tombstone The hedgehog column, bathhouse Kaiserthermen, the Roman bridge Roman bridge from the 100th century and Emperor Constantine's throne room Palatine Hall from the fourth century.
We didn't have time to visit all the world heritage sites during our day trip to Trier. If you want to be sure to visit all the places in one day, I recommend booking a guided tour. Then you avoid queuing and don't have to wait to get a ticket to the shows.
Another popular attraction in Trier is Karl Marx's house. He was born here in 1818 at Brückenstraße 10. Don't have time to visit the house? Don't worry, you can visit the house virtually at Marx360.de!
How do I get to Trier?
Trier is located in southwestern Germany, close to the border with Luxembourg. The nearest big city in Germany is Frankfurt, about 20 miles to the east.
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.