How to spend a day in historic Trier

Trier is the oldest city in Germany, founded somewhere around 400 BCE. It became a prominent Roman border town when the Romans conquered the town and established a roman colony here. It’s heighday came after the Imperial reforms of Diocletian when the city became a residence of the Western Roman emperor. The town housed as much as 100,000 people by then, almost as much as today.

It’s the Roman remains that attract most visitors to Trier. It is by far the best Northern European town to view Roman remains. So most of our listed highlights are connected to the Romans in one way or another.

Porta Nigra
Porta Nigra

Porta Nigra

The most famous and iconic of all the Roman remains in Trier is the Porta Nigra. This large Roman gate was part of the huge wall around the city and one of the four main entry gates of the city. It was probably built after the Frankish incursion of 275 and likely by Constantine in the early 4th century as the building was left unfinished as were his baths.

A Greek monk lived in the ruins of the Porta Nigra in the 11th century. After his death the gate was transformed into a church in his honor. It was Napoleon who ordered this church to be torn down when he conquered the city and to restore the gate back to its original Roman state.

Dom St. Peter zu Trier

Trier Cathedral is the oldest church of Germany and probably built upon the site of an earlier Roman church. The cathedral was probably started by Constantine, but much of his building was destroyed by the Franks in the 5th century, it was rebuild several times since then but its Roman and Romanesque origins are still visible as are large parts of the original Roman brick walls.

Konstantinbasilika (Aula Palatina)


The Konstantinbasilika or Aula Palatina was commisioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great around 310 CE. The original building was sadly destroyed by an Allied air raid during the second World War. But it has since been rebuild and is one of the best places to give you an idea of what a late Roman basilica would have looked like. Pay special attention to the windows in the apse, they give the optical illusion that the apse is much bigger than it really is. This sophisticated effect is created by lowering the line of the apse windows and making them smaller than the ones in the nave. It’s a good example of the fact that during this period the quality of the architecture of the Roman provinces would surpass that of Rome itself.

Rheinisches Landesmuseum

The Rheinisches Landesmuseum is an archeology museum displaying many of the stunning Roman finds from the city. They have huge mosaics, statues, tombs and much more. But the complete collection spans a wider timeframe. So, there are also artifacts from the prehistory until the late middle ages on display.

Roman Amphitheater


The Roman amphitheater in Trier was erected during the 2nd century. It could house some 20,000 spectators for gladiator shows and other events. Although the seating is mostly covered by grass now, you can still get a good idea of the whole place. The Arena floor has been rebuild and you can enter the remains of the underground where the gladiators and animals would have been kept.


The Kaiserthermen or the Imperial baths were also commissioned by Constantine in the 4th century. The baths were only later finished as Constantine had to leave to the East where he would found his new capital Constaninople. Valentinian would finish them but on a smaller scale than originally intended. The design is fairly similar to the earlier St Barabara Baths which can be found 1 km to the east.

Roman Bridge
Roman Bridge

Roman bridge

Just beyond the St Barbara Baths lies the ancient Roman bridge over the river Moselle. This is the oldest standing bridge of Germany. The remaining Roman parts are the pillars of the bridge, these are still the original ones from the second century. The upper part has been restored several times.


The only building without Roman links on our list is the Liebfrauenkirche. Although the church is built on top of an earlier Roman double church and some of the Roman foundations are used for the huge Gothic pillars of this building. This early 13th century church is one of the earliest Gothic churches in Germany.

Neus Palais

Potsdam Palaces, parks and museums

The ferocious bombing campaigns of the second world war destroyed many palaces in and around Berlin. Luckily most of them have been rebuild and you can enjoy them once again. Potsdam has quite a few palaces to see and is a great destination for a day trip from Berlin.

Buying the sanssouci+ ticket gives you access to all the palaces Potsdam offers. But to make the most of your visit it’s important to plan ahead. The palaces are only accessible by guided tours and the guided tours work with time slots. So, when planning your visit take into consideration that you will have to wait for the guided tour to start. Also, guided tours usually take twice as long as an unguided visit. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are UNESCO World heritage sites.

New Palace (Neues Palais)

We took an early train from Berlin Zoologischer Garten. From there it was a 30-minute train ride through the Grunewald forest to Potsdam. We started at the far end of the Palace park, so we got off at Potsdam Park Sanssouci Bahnhof. From here it was an short walk to the ‘Neues Palais’. Frederick the Great built this big official palace in 1769. Later it also was the residence of William II, the last German emperor. This palace escaped major damage during the war and is in great original state. As is much of the interior which William II shipped to the Netherlands when he moved there after his abdication. Now most stuff has returned to its original place, giving you a rare view into the final days of the European emperors.

Neues Palais
Neues Palais

The Park

From here we began making our way back to the city of Potsdam through the big park. The next stop were the botanical greenhouses. As it was a cold January morning, we could use some warming up. They keep a broad range of tropical and desert plants here, including a wide assortment of flesh eating plants. Warm again, we continued exploring the park and made our way to the Orangerieschloss. This is the largest palace in the park and shows Frederick William IV’s love of Italy through its design. It’s enjoyed best from the outside especially in winter when it’s closed.

Schloss Sanssouci

From here it is a short walk to Schloss Sanssouci, the carefree palace of Frederick the Great. This was his favourite palace and he used it as a personal retreat from all his daily worries, like fighting wars with the other European powers. The design of this palace reminds us of Versailles. Although it is much smaller in scale and far less extravagant. The guided tour takes a long time and is just a supervised audio tour where you must stay in each room until the allotted time has passed. Next to the palace is the Picture Gallery, the oldest in Germany and home to a collection of mainly Dutch and Italian Baroque paintings. This gallery is only open during the summer season.

Schloss Sanssouci

Potsdam conference

As we exit the park we pass the Friedenskirche, where Frederik IV of Prussia and the German emperor Frederik III are buried. In the town, we wait for the bus to take us to the northern part where the Schloss Cecilienhof is. This was the last palace the Hohenzollerns built, and it looks more like a country manor than a palace. It wouldn’t be worth the visit if it wasn’t for the post-war Potsdam conference which was hosted here. This last big second world war conference determined so much of Europe’s future even till this day.

From the Cecilienhof, we walk southwards through the park in the direction of the town. Here you are surprised to find a small pyramid, commemorating something. It’s an example of Europe’s fascination with antiquity. Faux antique buildings fill both parks to lend history where it is lacking and to fascinate and intrigue the visitor.

Marmor Palace


We skip the red Marmor Palais as we would have to wait 45 minutes for the supervised audiotour of the place. King Frederick William II had this marble palace built in 1787 at the shore of the lake. The palace is in the Neoclassical style which also shows in the interior decoration.

Potsdam centre

At we exit the park, we pass the Holländisches Viertel. It is the largest collection of Dutch brick houses outside of the Netherlands. Originally built for Dutch immigrants, they now house cafes and art shops. A little bit further lies the Altes Markt with the Nikolaikirche. Karl-Friedrich Schinkel designed it in 1837. We come here for our last palace of the day. The rebuild Barberini Palace which houses the Museum Barberini. The museum has great modern art exhibitions. When we were there, it hosted a beautiful impressionist exhibition. Showing many otherwise private works by famous artists. It was a real treat to finish the day on this high note.

We also have other articles about other UNESCO World Heritage Sites if you are interested.

Potsdam day trip