Trier: An ancient city but young at heart

Even the ancient Romans found Trier appealing. They built the city in the verdant valley of the Mosel River. As the oldest city in Germany, Trier still bears the traces left behind by the Romans. Nowadays many students live in the midst of the ancient baths and monuments.

by Florian Schubert

Colosseum © Schubert/DAAD
Colosseum . © Schubert/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
314 €
Feel like a local and try the pizza salad at "Cubiculum"!

Welcome to Trier

Trier is over 2,000 years old – making it the oldest city in Germany. The Romans founded the city in the Moselle River valley. The region is well-known today for its excellent wines. There are many beautiful vineyards located around Trier which are perfect for taking walks. But there’s plenty of nature inside the city of Trier as well. Old trees rise among the historic buildings, casting welcome shade in the summertime. Trier has a special atmosphere all of its own – a rhythm of peace and tranquillity.

Porta Nigra © Schubert/DAAD
Porta Nigra . © Schubert/DAAD

There is a lot to see in downtown Trier with traces of the Roman times almost everywhere you look. Some two million tourists visit the city every year. As you exit the train station, you can’t help but notice the Porta Nigra, the ancient gate to the city. After you pass through the archway, you’ll enter a large pedestrian zone lined with cafés and shops of every kind – the perfect place to treat yourself to an ice-cream cone or simply go window-shopping!

The cathedral is another notable tourist attraction. This giant church, along with the Porta Nigra, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The impressive building definitely deserves a closer look. It contains an extremely precious relic – the Holy Tunic. Legend has it that Jesus Christ wore the tunic at his crucifixion.

Hauptmarkt © Schubert/DAAD
Hauptmarkt . © Schubert/DAAD

You should also visit the largest plaza in the city, the Hauptmarkt (Main Market). Interestingly enough, Trier has very few half-timbered houses which are so typical for German cities. The building style of the Romans was quite different; they preferred stone over wood. At the Hauptmarkt, however, you’ll find many more of the typical German wooden facades.

Right behind the cathedral and the Basilica of Constantine are the Kurfürstliches Palais (Electoral Palace) and the palace gardens. That’s where you’ll find the Rhenish State Museum of Trier which presents the eventful history of the city. When the weather is nice, you’ll find many locals relaxing on the lawns among the old, shady trees. A little further on, you’ll come to the Cathedral Square where a large Christmas market takes place each year.

The Imperial Bath is another relic from the Roman times. It is an authentic Roman bathing house where you can still bathe today. A little further away is the amphitheatre where Romans used to watch battling gladiators. Nowadays it’s used as a venue for concerts and theatre performances.

Living in Trier

Trier is not a very large city, which is practical because it means you can reach all the important places in town by bike. And you don’t have to worry how you’re going to get home at night – there are city busses that take you everywhere. The main train station and Porta Nigra are the central bus transfer points.

Electoral Palace © Schubert/DAAD
Electoral Palace . © Schubert/DAAD

Because the city is rather small, it’s worth taking an excursion to the vineyards around Trier. How about taking a nice summer walk through the vineyards?  

You won’t be bored in Trier. Students love the Metropolis, a club near the Viehmarkt (cattle market). Lots of young people meet at the Zebra Club, which hosts student parties on a regular basis.

My tip

If you really want to experience Trier like a local, then you’ve got to try the pizza salad at Cubiculum! It’s a speciality that you can only get at Cubiculum. Its pizza salad is famous throughout Trier.

If you’re more interested in music, you should attend one of the open-air jazz concerts in the summer which are regularly held at the Café Brunnenhof near the Porta Nigra. The ancient Roman amphitheatre is the scene of numerous concerts and gladiator fights in the summer. Many well-known bands have played on the ancient Roman stage including the Cologne rock band “BAP” and the German medieval rock band “In Extremo”. Operas are occasionally performed there as well. You can also attend concerts, workshops and other events at the cultural centre Alte Tuchfabrik, or TuFa for short.

If you want a taste of European culture, you can easily skip over to Luxembourg for a day. The city-state is about half an hour away and definitely worth a visit.

Interview with Ani from Armenia

Ani Ohanyan from Armenia is 28 years old and is pursuing her doctorate in Environmental Economics in Trier. She earned her “Magister” in Economics in Trier as well.

Picture of Ani from Armenia © Carsten Kluger
Ani from Armenia . © Carsten Kluger

How did you end up coming to Trier and Germany?

I applied for a scholarship. The DAAD and the Open Society Institute (OSI) jointly offer a scholarship to this master’s programme every two years. And since I knew Economics and German, Trier was the only possibility for me.

How is it that you knew how to speak German?

I learned it in school starting in the 3rd grade, and my mother is a German teacher. I was able to choose between English and German at my school, so I picked German and thought I’d learn English later.

How do you like Trier?

It’s wonderful! I really like the people here and I have to say that it’s become my home now. I like the nature a lot, and the vineyards are very pretty. I love these small cities – it’s very easy to meet people and cultivate relationships. I always like going out and seeing familiar faces. Once in a while I visit my cousins in Berlin. It’s nice there too, lots of variety, lots of possibilities. But it somehow bothers me when I see so many people I don’t know.

Moselle valley © Schubert/DAAD
Moselle valley . © Schubert/DAAD

Do you have a favourite place in Trier?

We have a kind of lake at the university. I like that a lot. Sometimes I ride my bike up to the Petrisberg viewing platform where you can look over the whole town. In the morning you can watch the city awake.

What surprised you most about Trier?

That there are so many old monuments – like the Imperial Bath, the Porta Nigra. I didn’t expect to see such things in the middle of the city. At home in Armenia, you often have to travel out of the city to see things like that. And here, all of the monuments are just standing in the city.

What was the hardest thing for you when you first came to Germany?

Something really surprising happened when I first came to Bochum back in 2005/06. I can remember distinctly that I wanted to get something to eat on a Sunday. I told my friends in my residence hall that I was going to go shopping at the grocery store. All they said was, “Good luck with that. It’s Sunday.” Now I’ve gotten used to the fact that all the stores are closed on Sundays.

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