I visited the Mosel region courtesy of Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus GmbH, however all editorial and opinions in this Trier travel guide are my own. You can see the Instagram Stories I posted during my weekend in the Mosel in my Instagram highlights.
Situated on the banks of the river Mosel, less than 15km west of Luxembourg and around 40km north of Germany’s border with France, Trier is truly a city of superlatives. As Germany’s oldest city, it was once one of the largest cities in the Roman empire. It boasts Germany’s oldest episcopal church, one of the country’s oldest Gothic churches, and Northern Europe’s most impressive collection of Roman monuments. The city is home to a staggering nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, which include seven well-preserved Roman structures and ruins.
Despite all these incredibly old sights and in part thanks to its large student population, Trier has a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Its cobbled streets are lined with pretty Baroque and Gothic buildings, and the city itself is surrounded by hills, forests and some of the Mosel region’s world-famous vineyards.
I spent about eight hours in Trier, and covered an awful lot of ground during that time. It’s a very walkable city with an easy-to-navigate pedestrianised centre, so its easy to see lots within a short space of time. If you’re a fast walker and don’t spend too long at each site you can visit all of the below in one day, but you might also like to consider picking three or four highlights and taking your time with each of them – or of course, staying for a whole weekend.
Trier Travel Guide: What to see
I more or less followed a route suggested to me by the tourism board, which enabled me to have a decent look at most of Trier’s most significant sites.
From the main train station, I headed straight for the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), which dates back to around 180AD and is the best-preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps. Passing through its impressive arches and directly down Simeonstraße, I quickly came to the city’s main square, the medieval Hauptmarkt (pictured top). It’s here in the heart of Trier’s historic old town, surrounded by reconstructed Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and late Historicist buildings, that both the weekly farmers’ market and Trier’s annual Christmas market take place. From here you can access Trier’s former medieval Jewish quarter (Judenviertel), situated between the Hauptmarkt, Jakobstrasse and Stockstrasse, via a tiny alleyway called Judenstraße.
The High Cathedral of St Peter (Die Hohe Domkirche St. Petrus, or rather more simply, Trierer Dom) is tucked just back from the square down another narrow cobbled street (Sternstraße). From the outside, Germany’s oldest episcopal church is impressive simply because of its size. Its interior, from an extraordinary German Baroque ceiling in the west choir to the swallow’s nest organ and a 10th century portable altar, is extraordinary.
Next door, the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche), whose inside is equally jaw-dropping, is one of Germany’s oldest Gothic churches. A short walk round the corner from the church, past the priest’s office and across a small square, takes you to the comparatively very plain – but no less impressive – Aula Palatina (Basilica of Constantine or Konstantinbasilika), built around 310AD. (No photos allowed inside.)
The steps opposite its entrance lead you into the neat green gardens of the 16th century Renaissance-style Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Palais), whose elaborate façade makes for quite the contrast to the plain stone of the Basilica behind.
At the far end of the gardens are the ruins of Trier’s Roman Baths (Kaiserthermen). A 4€ entrance fee affords you a wander around the impressive complex, constructed in around 4AD.
From the baths, it’s an approximate 15-minute walk to the Amphitheatre (Amphitheater), built towards the end of 2AD. For another 4€ fee you can enter the arena, climb its grassy tiered sides and explore its dark cages and damp cellars.
Trier Travel Guide: What to eat
There are of course plenty of French and Luxembourgish influences on the menus in Trier. German regional specialties include (but are very much not limited to) dumplings stuffed with meat (gefüllte Klöße), dry-rub chicken wings (Flieten) and a mashup of potatoes, sauerkraut and bacon (Kappes Teerdisch).
Spit-roast pork (Spießbraten), is popular all across Germany, however Trier lays claims to the country’s oldest club dedicated to preparing and eating it. At the cosy Domstein, a wine tavern conveniently located on the Hauptmarkt just around the corner from the cathedral, it’s served as is traditional in a thick slice, with a glossy brown bacon and onion sauce.
Trier Travel Guide: Where to stay
On a quiet residential street 2km outside of the city centre – accessible by foot, bus or car – is the Blesius Garten hotel, restaurant and, rather unusually in what is arguably Germany’s most famous wine region, craft brewery. My room here was quiet and very comfortable, with a pleasant view across the brewery’s beer garden to the vineyards behind. The small spa facility offers a heated pool and (textile-free) sauna for a spot of relaxation before dinner.
There are two restaurants at the Blesius Garten: a rustic pub and the rather more formal Tonkas. Both serve craft beers from the on-site brewery as well as highly rated beers from around Germany. Flights are available, and beer pairings are suggested with the food, though local wines are also available.
The dishes at both restaurants are prepared as far as possible using fresh regional ingredients and organic products. A beef tartare from the Eifel (a mountainous region just north of Trier) came with a quail egg covered in olive “soil” and a tomato chutney. My main course of chanterelle mushrooms served on chive mashed potatoes with a poached egg and crispy onions was as pretty to look at as it was delicious. To drink, I thoroughly enjoyed the house Helles beer – as light, refreshing and drinkable as you’d hope a Helles to be – and a fruity, aromatic IPA from Augsburg brewery, Riegele.
Trier Travel Guide: When to go
Trier is not just a hotspot for religious pilgrims and fans of Roman history but also a popular destination for day trippers from Luxembourg and France. It also serves as an excellent base for exploring the Mosel region more widely. With a mild climate year round, the city gets particularly busy during the summer and whilst the Christmas market is on in December.
I stayed in Trier at the end of October, and though the skies were grey and the weather not particularly pleasant, it meant there were very few tourists about and there were no queues at any of the sites I visited.
You can learn about Trier as a UNESCO World Heritage site on the UNESCO website. More details about travelling the Mosel region can be found on the Rhineland-Palatinate state tourism board’s Romantic Germany website.