Capital of the Western Roman Empire's northern territories. Looks like Wigan would if it had Roman ruins. And wasn't one of the biggest shitholes on the planet.
This is a real treasure trove of mediaeval memorabilia. A lot of it is run of the mill, Acme church bling. But there are a couple of pieces from the Dark Ages that are stunning. And then there is Jesus's rubber coat.
The nicest thing about Trier is no-one knows how nice it is. There are no fucking crowds of Chinese tourists bumbling around. No moron millenials doing yoga poses for the perfect Instagram shot. Even if people did know how great a place it is, no-one would go. Germany is a big place and it really is in the arse end of nowhere. It's on the border with Luxembourg in the far west. You don't just happen to go there, unless you're some tax dodger with a suitcase of cash. The closest place to fly into that I could find was Frankfurt and from there it was a long 2 hour train journey. You could probably drive quicker but it's still a trek up the Rhine and then following the Moselle as it winds west. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful. The train line along the Moselle is stunning, all vineyards and apple orchards, mediaeval castles guarding each bend in the river, little towns hanging on to the river bank. It's just a hell of a long way.
I really was not expecting Trier to be what it is. If you can imagine any industrial, post-war European provincial town then that's Trier from a distance. But when you get there, it's like someone tipped a box of Roman remains across the entire city. And pretty impressive Roman stuff as well. Trier was maybe the most important city north of the Alps at one point. It was the capital of Gaul and after an uprising Diocletian installed two subsequent caesars there. In the 300's, Constantine the Great and his formidable mother, St Helena, lived there making it the de facto capital before he went east. Constantine spent a shitload of cash on Trier and what you can see today is the legacy of that spending spree.
It's maybe not the most picturesque place. When I got off the train my first thought was "what a dump". But then, that's very common in Europe. Stations are always in the worst part of town (or perhaps the worst part of town grows up around the station). But you just have to walk along the main road, following what would have been the old city wall, and catch your first glimpse of the Porta Negra to get the full effect. You pass through the gate and the deeper into the city you get, the deeper into its Roman past you go. Trier disoriented me. It's not like Constantine's other great city, Istanbul, where for two thousand years it grew organically and the ancient cannot be separated from the modern. Trier feels more like someone took a modern town and built some all the old stuff afterwards. It doesn't feel real.
Getting there: I flew into Frankfurt and got the train. In retrospect, I am not sure that was the greatest of ideas. For starters, Frankfurt is a fucking shithole. I flew in late and ended staying the night. I stayed in the Premier Inn because they are cheap but reliable. Breakfast was good and the room was nice. But... Frankfurt is a shithole. If you want to walk from the station to the hotel at night, great. Good for you. I didn't fancy getting knifed by a junkie but each to their own. So I got arse-raped on a five minute taxi ride instead. But Frankfurt is one of the major financial and cultural capitals of Europe and blah-de-blah-de-blah. Fuck you, it's a dump. Pull your head out your self-important arse and realise it. You're probably the same type of person who thinks London is great.
Frankfurt Airport is also massive so it takes forever to get out of it. I had to get a train from one terminal to another. I had to then get another train from that terminal into town. Nothing is clearly marked, nothing is straightforward and I probably spent as long wandering around as I did travelling. The trains arrive in the bowels of the Hauptbahnhof in the city which also takes forever to get out of (and is a dump).
Because Trier was part of Gaul it is barely in Germany. It sits near the western border alongside France and Luxembourg. Luxembourg would be easier to fly into but who the fuck flies to Luxembourg for £20 from a range ofdepressing, backwater airports in the UK? No-one, it's filled with tax-dodgers, not stag parties. So no-one is going to Luxembourg on the cheap. So you're flying into somewhere in Germany and travelling overland.
I got the train to Koblenz and, because I am cheap, got the regional line to Trier which took around two hours. There is a faster express but you pay a lot more. Looking back, I'd pay the extra and get the fast train. The route is lovely but it just goes on and on. On the way back the line got hit by storms and the two hour trip ended up close to four (and almost a missed flight). If you time it right, you can get a train straight from Koblenz to Frankfurt Airport and cut out the misery of going into the city.
It's worth downloading the Deutsche Bahn app. You can keep e-tickets on it and, more importantly, it can help you un-fuck yourself when you screw up your train connections.
Where to stay: Trier isn't a tourist town so there isn't a huge selection of hotels. I stayed at the B&B budget hotel chain, kind of the German Travelodge. It was OK and the breakfast was good. Big problem is the location. It's about 100m from the railway station but it's on the opposite side of the tracks. There is no quick way to get there and probably a good 20-30 minutes walk to the station. There's also nothing there, you have to walk into town if you want anything. There is an Edeka supermarket "nearby" (i.e. about 15-20 minutes away on foot).
Where to eat: there are lots of bars and cafes round the market place. There was a great little kiosk on a corner on the east side which did fantastically satisfying stodgy, fried German food and beer to take away. The market is good for produce as well, you'll get cheese and ham and fruit for not a huge amount of money. I was only there one night and because the hotel was in the arse end of nowhere I ended up getting a pizza from the Domino's across the road. It was actually really good. What the fuck they do between there and here to make their pizzas so shit is beyond me.
The best place I went was the Gelateria Calchera, a very old ice cream parlour near the Porta Nigra. It's lovely, a little leftover of the Roman empire.
Guidebooks: I couldn't find a decent Trier-specific guide before I left and I wasn't buying a whole Germany guide just for a few pages. I ended up buying a tourist guide from the newsagent in the train station when I got there. It actually turned out to be a really good little book.
Tickets: buy the AntikenCard, it gives entry to all the Roman sites and to the Landesmuseum (which is actually quite good even though I hate museums). I bought mine at the Porta Nigra but I think you can get them at any of the paid-entry Roman sites.
Left luggage: there are coin-operated lockers on the first platform at the train station.