Things to do in Trier

Once known as ‘the second Rome’, there’s an impressive collection of landmarks that make up a World Heritage Site in Trier.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The best things to do in Trier

As one of the most important cities for the Roman Empire, many of the things to see in Trier relate to that period.

But successive eras have also left their own layers of history in the city and I think one of the best ways to visit Trier is to trace its development over the centuries.

The first time I visited Trier, I didn’t do the German city justice.

Conveniently located as a transit stop on a train journey I was doing, I just spent a couple of hours having a look around the centre. I was so uncommitted, I even dragged my luggage along with me, rather than trying to find a locker at the station.

It would’ve been a cursory look at any city, but it was particularly brief for somewhere that was once one of Europe’s great centres. Foolishly, I didn’t realise there were so many things to do in Trier.

Returning a few years later, I’ve been sure to make enough time to explore it properly.

What to do in Trier, Germany

Founded as early as the 4th century BC, Trier is considered to be one of Germany’s oldest cities.

And although it quickly became an important and strategic base for different ruling groups over the years, it was in the third century that it had a particular elevation.

This was the period when the Roman Empire was ruled with a system called ‘Tetrarchy’, where the government’s power was divided into four domains. One of these areas, called Constantius, had its capital at Trier.

Such was the importance and grandeur of the city that successive rulers would make it their base as battles for territory raged across the region.

Impressive buildings were constructed – a basilica, an amphitheatre, baths, and fortified walls to protect them all.

With all of this, Trier became known as ‘the second Rome’.

Things to do in Trier: Roman buildings

While there are other Early Roman monuments in Germany, particularly ones like Saalburg Fort along the Roman Limes, none are as grand or well preserved as the ones in Trier.

And none were as influential as those here, which helped cement Trier’s place on the geopolitical map of Europe at the time.

For more than 1000 years afterwards, well after the Roman Empire fell, the city maintained a significant level of power and influence, and even more grand buildings were constructed in Trier. Some of the older ones were even reworked in the 11th and 13th centuries to give them new life.

trier, germany, sightseeing, things to see, trier

What you find when you visit Trier today is a bewitching blend of Roman monuments and more traditional German design, ancient carved-stone complexes interspersed with vibrant pastel paints.

Any one of these things would make a trip here worthwhile, but to find them all together is a real treat – and contained within such a small and dense area is a lovely bonus.

trier, germany, sightseeing, things to see, trier

The interesting part of Trier is not large, although I do recommend staying overnight so you can see all the main attractions and hopefully have a bit of time to explore the surrounding landscapes (and taste some of the excellent local wines!).

It’s just over the border and in easy reach of Luxembourg City, so you can even combine the two cities, which have both been designated as World Heritage Sites – but for different reasons.

But, if you do that, please don’t rush. Trier can get busy in the middle of the day with tour groups but is delightfully peaceful at other times, with some good spots in the city centre or closer to the river for a meal and a drink.

trier, germany, sightseeing, things to see, trier

When it comes to the main sights in Trier, there’s a lot to cover, even though they’re mostly in the city centre. With so many centuries of history, the hard thing is knowing exactly what you’re looking at and how it fits into the story of Trier.

To make the most of your time here, I would recommend this affordable city tour, or one of these other great options:

Ultimately, though, however you choose to do it, make sure you go beyond the facades to truly appreciate the evolution of the city through the Romans, the Gauls, the enlightenment and, most recently, the Germans.

That’s what I think makes visiting Trier so special.

Early Roman

Considering Trier was once one of the Roman Empire’s four capitals, it’s no surprise some of the best-preserved ruins from the third and fourth centuries are found here.

While some of Trier’s Early Roman sights are obvious, you’ll need to go beyond the city centre to see a few of them.

Porta Nigra

A natural starting point for your Trier explorations is Porta Nigra, an imposing structure that was once the city gates and is the largest monument of its kind in the north of Italy.

It’s really easy to spot, thanks to its sheer size and unmissable Roman design, which has been retained despite several renovation and restoration projects over the years.

trier, germany, sightseeing, things to see, trier

As well as being able to walk through it, you can also go up into it – which is one of the best things to do in Trier because you’ll be able to appreciate the detailed carvings as well as the sheer size.

Although the Porta Nigra looks especially beautiful when it’s illuminated at night, history buffs should plan to visit during the day when the museum and upper floors are open.

The Porta Nigra is open every day at the following times:
November – February: 9:00 – 16:00
March: 9:00 – 17:00
April – September: 9:00 – 18:00
October: 9:00 – 17:00

A standard ticket is €4, a concession is €3, and children (6-18 years old) are €2.50. You can also purchase family and group tickets.

Moselle Bridge

Another piece of history that wouldn’t look a bit out of place in any Italian city is the Roman Moselle Bridge.

Much like the Porta Nigra, this bridge is among the oldest Roman structures outside of Italy and had been here for centuries before most of Trier’s other historical sites were built.

As well as being a fascinating display of ancient architecture, the area around the bridge and the Moselle River is a lovely spot for a stroll and is among the most peaceful corners of Trier. To top it all off, the views from here are especially gorgeous.

Barbara Baths

As you might have guessed from the name, the Barbara Baths are a former bathing complex that was initially spread over 40,000 square metres.

These public thermal baths were commonplace during the Roman Empire, and this particular location was a popular spot between the 2nd and 5th centuries.

Only a portion of the original site remains today, but the walkway alongside the baths shows mock-ups of what these glamorous baths once looked like.

Regular excavations continue to take place here, so you might even catch a glimpse of a dig in action.

Barbara Baths is open every day at the following times:
April – September: 10:00 – 18:00
October: 10:00 – 17:00
November – February: 10:00 – 16:00
March: 10:00 – 17:00

Entry to the Barbara Baths is free.

Igel Column

The Igel Column is much more than a well-preserved landmark – it’s actually an incredibly lavish tombstone!

At 23 metres tall, this column symbolises wealth and prosperity, which was extremely important to the upper-class Secundine merchant family buried here. This structure was built out of sandstone and is covered in dozens of engravings and scenes relating to the life of merchants at that time.

Remarkably, the Igel Column has stood the test of time and remains in pretty excellent condition to this day, though it’s lost most of its colour by now.


Nothing takes you back to the height of the empire quite like an amphitheatre, a quintessential component of any Roman city.

Located in a relatively peaceful pocket of Trier, you have to use your imagination to go back to a time when this sporting venue played host to thrilling gladiator fights, animal hunts, live entertainers, and even executions.

Amphitheatre, Trier

Luckily, if your visit lines up with the showtimes, you’ll get a taste of it with The Gladiator Valerius show. During this interactive performance, a team of talented actors bring this centuries-old history to life through the journey of a courageous young gladiator named Valerius.

The Amphitheatre is open every day at the following times:
November – February: 9:00 – 16:00
March: 9:00 – 17:00
April – September: 9:00 – 18:00
October: 9:00 – 17:00

A standard ticket is €4, a concession is €3, and children (6-18 years old) are €2.50. You can also purchase family and group tickets.

Era of Constantine

Towards the latter end of the Roman Empire came the rise of Emperor Constantine. During his reign, he brought about a great deal of religious change as Christianity began to be more readily accepted, something that can be clearly seen through the architectural developments from that time.

Trier Cathedral

Trier Cathedral is one of the most outstanding landmarks in the city, despite being constructed over 1700 years ago.

Looking like a cross between a church and a fortress, this stunning cathedral has had quite a tumultuous past, having been destroyed, rebuilt and redesigned on multiple occasions.

Trier Cathedral

The Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance-inspired touches are evident inside and out, but the Roman features are still the standout building style.

With so many hidden corners and artistic gems inside, it’s well worth setting aside at least an hour to do this place justice. Even better, it’s also free to enter.

Trier Cathedral is open every day at these times:
April to October: 6:30 – 18:00
November to March: 6:30 – 17:30

There is no entrance fee for Trier Cathedral.

Aula Palatina

The unique and captivating Aula Palatina is probably the Constantine-era building most closely associated with this revolutionary leader.

As soon as you step inside, you’ll be taken aback by the staggering size of this vast basilica, complete with soaring ceilings, red brick walls, an extraordinary organ, and a relatively simple design with minimal artwork inside.

Aula Palatina, Trier

Today, Aula Palatina is a Protestant church. While it’s open to the public, it’s important to be aware that you’ll likely encounter people worshipping during your visit, so make sure you’re quiet and respectful.

Aula Palatina is open at the following times:
April – October: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 18:00 and Sunday from 14:00 – 18:00.
November, January – March: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 – 12:00 and 14:00 – 16:00, and on Sunday from 14:00 – 15:00.
December: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 12:00, 14:00 – 16:00, and on Sunday from 14:00 – 15:00.

Aula Palatina admission is free for visitors except during concerts.

Imperial Baths

Despite being smaller in size, the Imperial Baths give the nearby Barabara Baths a serious run for their money.

Not only is this site better preserved, but it’s also home to a maze of underground passageways. This was how hundreds of slaves who worked at the baths would make their way from place to place as they massaged and pampered the wealthy members of society.

Imperial Baths, Trier

The ruins still standing today are a glimpse into the innovation of that period and have to be seen to be believed.

The Imperial Baths are open every day at these times:
November – February: 9:00 – 16:00
March: 9:00 – 17:00
April – September: 9:00 – 18:00
October: 9:00 – 17:00

A standard ticket is €4, a concession is €3, and children (6-18 years old) are €2.50. You can also purchase family and group tickets.


The city of Trier continued to undergo significant changes throughout the Middle Ages. Some of the most beloved spots in town boast fine examples of Medieval architecture that have become synonymous with European cities.

I would recommend visiting these ones, which are among the best things to see in Trier.

Church of Our Lady

Sitting alongside Trier Cathedral is the Church of Our Lady, a Gothic basilica that looks considerably different from its next-door neighbour.

Thought to be the earliest building of its kind outside of France, this church is filled with vibrant stained glass windows, frescoes, towering columns, and magnificent sculptures.

Church of Our Lady, Trier

A beautifully maintained cloister connects the Church of Our Lady to the Trier Cathedral, so it’s really straightforward to visit the two during a single visit, and it won’t cost you a cent.

Church of Our Lady is open every day from 12:45 – 17:00.
However, it is closed to visitors during church services.

Entry to the Church of Our Lady is free except during concerts.


Trier’s beating heart, the Hauptmarkt, is the city’s main square and a former marketplace that’s every bit as bustling today as it was during the Middle Ages.

A bunch of superb bars and eateries are dotted around the square, making it one of the best people-watching spots in the city while your feet get some rest.

Hauptmarkt, Trier

When it comes to medieval-era buildings, it doesn’t get much better than the Hauptmarkt. No matter where you look, you’ll be greeted with colourful, charming houses and narrow laneways that look like they’ve come right out of the pages of a fairytale.


Old meets new at the Kornmarkt, as contemporary buildings are nestled between their medieval, old-world counterparts.

Much like the Haupmarkt (but perhaps on a reduced scale!), there’s always something going on at the Kornmarkt, and it’s become a hub for dining, nightlife, and shopping.

It’s here that you’ll also find St. George’s Fountain, an 11-metre-tall Rococo creation honouring Elector Franz Georg von Schönborn, but it’s better known for being a lively meeting place for locals during the summertime.

If the Haupmarkt is ever a little overcrowded and you fancy somewhere quieter, the Kornmarkt will be your best bet.

More recent

While the earlier historical periods are often the focus, there’s also some fascinating history in the city from more recent times. In fact, some of my favourite sights in Trier are relatively new when compared with medieval masterpieces from the 10th century or Roman ruins that date back almost 2000 years.

Electoral Palace

There’s no Renaissance-style property in Trier that’s as enchanting as the Electoral Palace.

From the opulent exterior and regal statues to the pristine gardens and the water features, this place is fit for a king. However, the Electoral Palace was used as a barracks at one point and was even partly destroyed during World War II, so it’s quite astounding to see how immaculate it looks today after many upheavals.

Electoral Palace, Trier

Unfortunately, you can’t explore the interior of the palace, but the grounds are a fabulous place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Basilica of St Paulinus

Not to be overshadowed by its older alternatives, the Basilica of St Paulinus is a truly majestic church in its own right.

This Catholic chapel was built during the 18th century and features some of the most mesmerising artwork you’ll find in any basilica, which is a pretty big statement to make considering how many breathtaking churches there are throughout Europe.

The intricate ceiling painting is undoubtedly the centrepiece of this Baroque building, but the golden finishes and extravagant interior add to its allure. Especially when considering how innocuous the church looks from the outside.

In terms of underrated treasures in Trier, the Basilica of St Paulinus definitely tops the list.

The Basilica of St Paulinus is open at these times:
Mondays, Wednesdays – Saturdays: 9:00 – 17:00
Tuesdays: 11:00- 17:00
Sundays: 10:00- 17:00
It is closed during church services.

Basilica of St Paulinus admission is free for visitors except during concerts.


Between the extensive history and the rich culture, it’s no surprise that Trier has its fair share of exciting museums, from displays showcasing centuries-old artefacts to exhibitions of some of southern Germany’s finest artworks.

Rheinisches Landesmuseum

If the spectacular Roman ruins scattered around the city have inspired you to dig deeper into Trier’s past, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum will be just what you’re looking for.

Some incredible finds from the Middle Ages and the Baroque period make up this archaeological museum. The ancient Roman tombs, statues, and mosaics are the best-loved treasures here.

You could easily get lost and spend hours trawling through thousands of antiquities. Tickets will set you back €8 apiece, and the Rheinisches Landesmuseum is open Tuesday to Sunday between 10:00 and 17:00.

The Rheinisches Landes Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 17:00.
The museum is closed on Monday.

A standard ticket is €8, it’s €6 for a concession, and €4 for children from 7-18 years old. Family, group and combination tickets are also available.


For a blend of art and history, make sure you allow time in your itinerary for the Simeonstift, Trier’s city museum.

Four floors worth of permanent and temporary exhibits are open to guests at the Simeonstift, housing medieval oil paintings, models of the city during different periods, clothing collections, and antique furniture, to name just a few.

I would recommend spending at least an hour at the Simeonstift to take in the highlights of the museum, and make sure you pick up an audio guide on your way in.

Entry is just €5.50, and you can visit every day except Monday from 10:00 until 17:00.

The Simeonstift is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 17:00.
The museum is closed on Monday; 24, 25, 31 December, and 1 January.

A standard ticket is €6 and €4.50 for a concession. Free admission for children 10 and below. Family, group and public tour tickets are also available.

Karl Marx House

Not only is Trier famed as a former Roman capital, but it’s also the birthplace of Karl Marx, the philosopher best known as the father of communism.

The Karl Marx House is a museum honouring the life and work of Marx, but it’s also the building in which he was born and spent the first year of his life.

Karl Marx House, Trier

Inside, you’ll find information detailing his childhood and ideologies, plus a chair in which many believe Marx died, which is a little eerie.

Stop by any day between 10:00 and 18:00 for €5.

The Karl Marx House is open every day from 10:00 – 18:00, except for a short closure between 13:00 – 13:30.

A standard ticket is €5 and a concession is €3.50. Family and tour tickets are also available.

Toy Museum

You’ll be hit with a sense of nostalgia the moment you walk in the door at the Trier Toy Museum. Regardless of your age, you’re bound to get something out of this quaint museum.

Comprising over 5000 pieces, any old-school toy you could think of is probably somewhere inside. Expect to see the likes of dollhouses, train sets, figurines, scale models, marbles, and everything in between here.

The Toy Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 – 17:00.
It is closed on Monday; 24 – 26, and 31 December, and 1 January.

A standard ticket is €6, youth (11-18 years old) is €3, and children (4-10 years old) is €2.50. Family and group tickets are also available.


Trier is indisputably most celebrated for its long and colourful history, but it’s also full of picturesque outdoor spots and fantastic hiking opportunities. These are some of the top places to check out when you want to get out and see a different side of Trier.

Moselle River

Running through the heart of Trier is the Moselle River, which also flows through parts of France and Luxembourg.

Just a 10-minute wander from the city centre, this is among the most scenic parts of Trier and is where you’ll find the famous Roman bridge, so you’ll likely come across the Moselle several times during your visit.

There’s a lovely pathway along the banks of the river, which makes for a stunning place for a walk, especially at sunset. Along the way, you’ll spot some quirky 18th-century buildings and the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Bridge… all depending on how far you plan on walking, of course.

Mosel vineyards

It always surprises me that Germany doesn’t have a bigger reputation for wine production because it actually makes some delicious drops – and when it comes to specific regions, the Mosel Valley is exceptionally underrated.

Rieslings are perhaps the area’s most acclaimed export, but plenty of other varieties are produced here, including Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The wine is simply sublime, and the endless vineyards set on the steep hills of the region are absolutely stunning.

If you want to try some drops, stop by for a tasting at some of the top-rated wineries, including Dr Loosen, Dr Pauly-Bergweiler, and Van Volxem, which boasts the world’s most expensive bottle of wine if you have a few thousand euros to spare.

St Mary’s Column

For sweeping views over Trier and the Moselle, St Mary’s Column is hard to beat.

This column was constructed to honour the Virgin Mary and is easily reached by car, but there’s also a fantastic trail that leads you there from the train station in the centre.

The hike is short but steep and challenging in parts, though it should only take between 1-1.5 hours to complete.

It’s a pretty popular trek, but the path is rarely over-crowded.

Römerpfad hike

If you fancy getting out of the city for the day, make your way to the Römerpfad hiking area, just a 15-minute drive from the centre of town.

The most popular route here will take you around three to four hours to complete and consists of a 10 km loop that brings you past thick forests, waterfalls, dark caves, and Roman ruins. This means that you’ll have plenty of spots to explore along the way, which also makes the hike itself a little less tiring.

Early birds can pull up at Ramsteiner Weg car park, which is the most convenient parking lot, but there are also spaces available at the Ramstein Castle.


There are good hotels in the historic centre, or you can look slightly further out for more of a range of styles.


Close to the main sights, Kolping Hostel Trier im Warsberger Hof has a great location in an old Baroque building.


Although it’s outside the city centre, Gasthaus Wollscheid offers lovely rooms and an excellent restaurant.


Right in the centre of town, Romantik Hotel Zur Glocke has used its heritage features in its beautiful design.


One of the nicest hotels in Trier, Hotel Villa Hügel also has a pool with wonderful views.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

7 thoughts on “Things to do in Trier”

  1. Well, the pictures don’t look half bad, I gotta say -I didn’t even know Trier had that much to offer! Then again, as a German, I have a habit of neglecting the country I’m from when it comes to travelling. Not that that’s a German trait -it’s just me. I will do the sight-seeing when visiting a German town I’ve not been before, but often I find places lack the atmosphere, and then I get bored. Atmosphere for me means that a place not only has a history, but a present -it’s gotta have a heart-beat, you know, a pulse, a life, variety, provoke emotions, and so on. Sometimes places can’t transfer their history to me convincingly -they’re just pretty facades, resting on their laurels. Although your post indicated that Trier didn’t quite manage to make you fall under its’ spell (did I even hear you utter an “It’s not you, it’s me!”;)?), I’m actually intrigued now! So, good post, and Trier: watch out, ’cause you’ll be seeing me!

    • Ha, well I’m glad I’ve managed to inspire you to check it out. Let me know your opinion and, from a German’s perspective, whether you think it has a pulse these days. I’d love to know if I should go back sometime and give it more of a chance.

  2. I think a lot of Germany gets overlooked like this. It has been at the center of Europe for a long time and there is tons of history everywhere, but the modern day is a bit more sedate and not high energy like Italy. This is just the Germans relaxing and enjoying things.

    Trier is small and a bit out of the way, but still cool. Although not many of them, it looks like you captured the main sites.

    • That’s the problem with a big country with so much history – it all kind of gets spread out a bit and there aren’t as many focused tourist sites – like Italy, for example. Trier was a nice little taste of that part of the country, though.

      • Italy feels enormous and spread out to me too. But somehow it comes off as having “so much to see” while most of German tourists seem to be content with Munich and Berlin. I know this is a bit of rant on my part, but as we have said there is plenty of Germany that is awesome. There is just less of the mental background than in Italy.

  3. The “beneath” of Trier is also impressive. You mention the good shape of the Roman ruins. The main gate, the Porta Nigra, is the former haunt of a hermit, Greek monk Simeon, and when he died and was sainted, a cathedral was built over the site and covered the Roman gate for almost 1,000 years! When Napoleon, who hated the church and loved Rome, came along, he stripped the church off to expose the grandeur of the now best-preserved Roman gate in the world. Thus, this part is no longer the “beneath.” Under St. Matthias Kirk is an honest-to-goodness catacomb (recently discovered and apparently not looted!). Beneath the 2nd of the three Roman bath complexes (I forget if it’s the “market baths” or the Barbara baths?) is an impressive archaeological dig, covered with more “recent” (I.E., medieval, Renaissance and early modern) buildings, and which has been converted to a museum of the RheinRomantik painting and lithography (landscapes like the Dutch Realists or the Hudson Valley School of NY, with castle and church ruins as the main themes). Somewhat impressive on the outside, but belying the amazing interior, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier is filled with Roman sculpture, ceramics, coins, mosaics, etc.–as you pointed out, it was Constantine’s northern capital! Another thing that rarely meets the eye, once a year in the winter they have a lit-night walk through that several kilometers you mention which is well worth the trip.

    • Thanks for all the extra info, Kenneth. That’s really interesting!
      I have to say that I have been back to Trier since I wrote this story and did manage to see some of the things you talk about. The stuff below the ground in that Roman ruin area is really cool. I loved the gladiator arena too. They had some pretty fancy technology for their time!


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