Trier – Germany’s Oldest City

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, lets visitors travel through time, exploring an ancient Roman encampment one day and stunning Medieval architecture the next. 

Despite Trier’s impressive history, it’s not typically on foreign visitors’ radars. Though popular with locals, the city’s tourism industry doesn’t cater to international tourism like Germany’s larger cities, like Berlin and Munich. 

Here’s why you should add this underrated German city to your bucket list

Exploring Trier, Germany’s Oldest City

The Romans established Trier circa 30 BC as an encampment protecting the Western edge of their Empire. As home to approximately 75,000 residents, it stood proud as one of the largest cities in the Empire. 

The best way to get an overview of Trier’s history from the Roman era through today is via one of the spectacular walking talks. 

A Trier History Walking Tour

Due to the lack of foreign visitors, there’s only one English language walking tour per day. The approximately 7 Euro price tag is well worth it, as the passionate tour guides share their impressive knowledge of the city’s past and most important landmarks. 

The 75-minute tour provides an excellent overview of the city, from its origins in the Roman Empire through the medieval period and up until the present. 

The tour guide points out buildings that used to be part of medieval castles, explains the meanings of the statues in the square, and gives you a great deal of history on the oldest and most important structures.

The Porta Nigra

Start your tour at the Porta Nigra (the Black Gate), which was the original gate to the Roman City. The heavily reinforced structure formed two gates, which created the perfect trap against invaders. 

Porta Nigra in Trier, Germany.
Photo Credit: Melanie Allen via Partners in Fire.

As you stand in the center, looking up at the reinforcements, you can sense the terror the trap bestowed on those caught inside. There’s nowhere to hide from the barrage of arrows and hot oil flowing from above. 

St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s Cathedrals

After Porta Nigra, you’ll walk through the main square to see St. Peter’s and St. Mary’s Cathedral. The unique architectural display of the twin churches joined at the center features three distinct styles: Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque. 

Your knowledgeable tour guide will explain the political and cultural reasons for the improvements, along with a general timeline of when each portion was remodeled. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in the intersectionality of history, religion, culture, and politics. 

Trier’s Roman Ruins

Trier features fascinating archeological sites from ancient Rome. Visitors can explore the imperial bathhouses (Kaiserthermen), imperial throneroom, and a massive outdoor amphitheater. 

Though the walking tour provided a brief overview of the Roman sites, it didn’t take us inside any. We decided to check some out afterward. 

Unfortunately, these sites are only open until 1700 in the autumn, so we wouldn’t have time to see all of them. 

We settled on the Kaiser Bathhouse.

Trier’s Imperial Bathhouse (Kaiserthermen)

After paying the 3 Euro entrance fee, we began exploring the ruin. The advantage to visiting near closing time is that most tourists have already left, giving us free rein to wander the impressive site uninterrupted. 

You’ll feel like an archaeologist as you roam through the tunnels and underground chambers of the ancient bathhouse. Gazing at the ancient structures sends a chill as you connect yourself to the thousands of years of human history that came before. The eerie, emotionally charged experience is worth the paltry entrance fee.  

Strolling through the Vineyards

We left the bathhouse near sunset and decided it was a perfect time to stroll up the hills into the vineyards surrounding the valley.  Trier’s the epicenter of Germany’s wine region, as the Mosel Valley features fertile land and rolling hills perfect for producing grapes. 

Though the walk was steep at times and a little strenuous even for three relatively healthy women, it was well worth the effort. From the top of the hill, we could see the amphitheater in all its glory, making us even happier with our choice to visit the bathhouse in town. 

The serene hilltop offers fantastic views of the entire town and the Mosel River flowing through it. Benches sprinkle the way, allowing wary travelers a relaxing respite to take in the majesty of the surrounding area. 

Watching the sunset from the quiet hillside was a perfect end to a perfect day in Trier. 

An Exquisite Culinary Experience

Europe abounds with Roman ruins. The vast Empire stretched from its original central location in Italy to modern-day England, Turkey, and Israel. It’s also full of quaint hillsides and stunning wine regions. 

But there’s one thing in Trier you can’t get anywhere else in the world. A divine culinary experience unlike you’ve ever experienced awaits in the small German town. 

Kartoffel Kiste, which roughly translates to “the Potato Sack,” offers one-of-a-kind fare based on a popular German vegetable: Potatoes. 

Kartoffel Kiste is so good I spent an extra $1000 to make a pitstop in Trier during my last trip to Germany. I went to Hamburg for a good friend’s wedding and couldn’t pass up stopping by when I was in the same country. 

I promise the food is that good!

The Most Delicious Thing I’ve Ever Eaten

I first discovered Kartoffel Kiste during my inaugural trip to Germany. My German friend wanted to show off her country, so she took me on a road trip exploring the most iconic cities.  

We ordered the homemade potato bread with cheese dip for an appetizer, a delicious tease for the coming feast. 

I ordered potato balls for my main course, and my friend ordered a dish with chicken, broccoli, and cheese. 

Divine Potato Balls

I can not even begin to explain the deliciousness of these potato balls. The potatoes were similar to scalloped potatoes but molded into little hollow balls about the size of a baseball with a sauteed beef filling. 

The balls came smothered in a creamy cheese sauce, making each bite a savory blend of cheese, meat, and potato. 

The potato balls in Trier, Germany - one of the best reasons to visit Trier!
Photo Credit: Melanie Allen via Partners in Fire.

Yes, my friends, I spent $1000 on a detour to Trier just for a second taste of this divine dish. The second I stepped off the train from Luxemburg, I practically ran to Kartoffel Kiste for dinner.

As I ordered, my mouth watered, and my stomach rumbled in anticipation of my long-awaited feast. 

The first bite was like heaven. The savory sauce lingered on my tongue, and it took all my willpower not to gobble it down like I hadn’t eaten in three days. 

I returned to the Kartoffel Kiste for breakfast and desperately wanted to try something different. But the call of the potato balls was too strong. 

Who knows when I’ll return to Trier to savor this delicious entrée again? I ordered it again and ate the entire thing before catching my train back to Luxemburg to begin the next leg of my journey. 

It was worth every penny of the extra grand I spent to get there, a stunning example of the delicious German foods we don’t often consider. 

More To Do in Trier

Trier is a gorgeous city with a lot of history. 

The town square gives visitors a taste of a truly authentic European town untouched by the commercialism of touristy areas. It’s home to numerous historical monuments and cultural experiences, like the Karl Marx House, the Museum of Trier, and the medieval electoral palace. 

It truly is a hidden gem and, unfortunately, overshadowed by Germany’s larger cities and castle towns

Where is Trier?

Trier rests in the Rhineland state of Germany, in the heart of the Mosel River Valley.  

It’s very near the Western border, and the closest major airport is in another country, Luxemburg. It’s a few hours south of Cologne and a few hours West of Frankfurt. 

Getting to Trier

We drove to Trier on the autobahn (rental cars for the win!) for our first visit, and I flew to Trier via Luxemburg on my second visit. 

A train runs fairly regularly from Luxemburg to Trier, and that’s the easiest way to get there if you don’t rent a car. You can also pay for a luxury cab service that will take you directly from the Luxemburg airport to your Trier hotel. 

Add Trier to Your Bucket List

Germany’s oldest and most underrated city is a tourist’s paradise. Add it to your bucket list; you won’t be disappointed.

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