Hiding in Germany’s far south-west corner,  Trier is a little treat that is only now being discovered by tourists.

Revelling in the combined influences of the cultures of German Rhineland, France and Luxembourg, Trier is a very happening student town with an appropriately large balance of bars, clubs and restaurants to keep you busy. Spared the worst of Allied bombing, Trier’s historic heart has been rebuilt and takes the mantle of oldest city in Germany. The city has also recently tried to capitalise on its rich history as ‘romantic Trier’ on the Moselle.

Roman ruins

Trier claims the greatest share of medieval ruins this side of Italy. Impressive among them is the Porta Nigra, a giant blackened structure dating from AD180, standing guard at the entrance to the pedestrian quarter. The biggest building blocks weigh an impressive six tonnes. Next door is the City Museum, with some historic exhibits and information on Trier’s medieval heritage. Further into the historic quarter sit a couple of giant, iconic Trier landmarks: the Dom (cathedral), looming over the pedestrian quarter and spectacularly lit at night, and the even more impressive Basilika, previously part-occupied by a Roman emperor. Inside, the vast structure is amazing: the ceiling seems to float effortlessly upon the building’s supports.

Bathing up

In Trier you’ll find some of the best preserved Roman thermal baths in Europe. Not far from the Basilika lies the Kaisertherman (imperial baths), with its complex system of pools, heating ducts and stonework. At more than 1600 years old, the baths are part of Trier’s Unesco heritage. The incoming cold water was heated in six boiler rooms, released at 40°C, then conducted into three semicircular pools for bathers, who checked in for a variety of nasty sounding treatments.

And … ice-cream

Trier’s pedestrian precinct makes it one of the most pleasant places in Germany to shop. The colourful buildings around the main square have been restored, and provide a good shoot-and-snap opportunity to see what many German cities resembled before Allied bombers intervened. There are also, surprisingly, several yummy ice-cream cafés (Eis cafes) which do a busy trade when the sun emerges. A huge double scoop from any one of the traders along the can be had for as little as €2.

Worth a look

Karl Marx Haus
Germany’s greatest gift to socialism was born in this house in central Trier in 1818. Today there’s a small museum dedicated to his life and works, and exhibits on European social history.

This great restaurant has a legendary reputation for traditional German and other European nosh, from pizzas and pastas to wurst and soups and salads, at unbelievably cheap prices. It’s popular with the uni crowds, so grab a seat early and make some new German friends.

Getting there

The best way to get there is still by train. European city trains run from Luxembourg and then on to Frankfurt in Germany. Alternatively, Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) fly to Frankfurt Hahn.

Bedding down

One of the few budget accommodation choices is the giant DJH Jugendgasthaus, by the River Moselle. It’s a 25-minute hike from the train station, but the staff are cheerful and the location catchy by the waterside. Email jh-trier@djh-info.de.

Additional information supplied by Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com). The fourth edition of Lonely Planet Germany is out now.

Bonus points for: Some yummi gelati
Loses marks for: Lack of budget digs
Check out: www.trier.de

– Joel Northcott