The first time we visited Xanten was a few days before our daughter was born. It was 30+ degrees out, and for a pregnant lady, I was quite uncomfortable! Since then, we’ve been back a few more times but, just like every old German town, there’s always more to be discovered!
Located only an hour away from the Düsseldorf airport, not only does Xanten have a historical Altstadt, but they also have a really beautiful Cathedral to visit. What I feel sets Xanten apart most from other towns in the area is the Archaeological Park, which features restored Roman ruins.
If you are planning on visiting the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) area, make sure you look into visiting Schloss Moyland (Moyland Castle) as well! It’s only a 30 minute drive away from Xanten and has a garden that would be great for a spring/summer visit. I wrote all about our visit to Moyland Castle here.
Visiting the Altstadt
The first time we visited Xanten, there was actually a Mittelaltermarkt (Renaissance Fair) happening in one of the parks. While we didn’t go in, the music playing provided a great backdrop to visiting a town that has history dating back to 2000 BC.
We parked just outside the town and we managed to find our way to the town square while walking past the old wall that still surrounds the Cathedral. Like I mentioned before, it was quite hot outside and thankfully there are many Eiscafes (Ice Cream Café’s) in the town square! There are also many shops and restaurants to visit as well.
The Xanten Cathedral
The first time we visited Xanten, we weren’t able to visit the cathedral since there was a mass in progress. A couple of weeks later we returned with my parents, and got to go inside. If you’re ever in Europe during the summer, visiting an old Cathedral is a great way to cool off!
Called the Xantener Dom in German, the cathedral is also known as St.Viktor Dom (St.Victor Cathedral). It pays homage to the man Victor of Xanten who was said to have been executed in a nearby amphitheater in the 4th century.
The construction for the cathedral began in the year 1263 and was completed 281 years later! It always amazes me when I get to see buildings that have been standing for almost a thousand years. But also, after 281 years of construction, there were so many people who saw the cathedral being built, using their tax money, but they never got to see it completed!
The Kid-Friendly Archaeological Park
I was really looking forward to visiting the Archaeological Park after only seeing it from the road the first time we visited Xanten. While it was quite a hot day when we did visit, it was nice walking through the vast park. It is mostly green-space now, but I can imagine that it was a bustling metropolis in the roman times.
The ruins that are there today were once the city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Though the Romans first settlers had a rocky start, the city was fully established by 99 AD on what used to be the banks of the Rhine river. Since then, the Rhine has changed course slightly. During the 4th century, the city was abandoned by its inhabitants.
The park is not just great for explore old, Roman ruins, but for the kids there is a large, wooden playground as well as a smaller one for learning about Roman engineering! For anyone that loves Museums, they also have one onsite. Not only does it feature lots of old artifacts, you can also see where the Roman baths were that are now protected inside the building.
I didn’t manage to take a lot of photos since I had a 2 week old baby with us, but they have an english website with a lot more info and photos! You can find it here. The park really offers something for everyone!
I hope you enjoyed this little look into visiting Xanten, Germany. One of my favourite things about visited the Altstadt of any town is looking up at the buildings and seeing the date on which they were built. It really provides the humbling perspective that our lives are just for a short moment in history.
Leave a comment below about what your favourite part of visiting an old city is, or your favourite part of travelling in general!
Thanks for sticking with me and I’ll see you next time!