Originally inhabited by the Celto-Germanic tribes, Xanten is one of the oldest settlements in Germany, and it boasts a rich heritage of history and culture. The most impressive attraction is the St. Victors Cathedral, which dominates the skyline and is the standout feature amongst several medieval remains. Emperor Augustus also recognised the prime location of Xanten, and built a city here on the banks of the River Rhine, the remains of which can be found in one of the world’s largest archaeological parks. Outdoor activities can also be found in abundance on the river and man-made lake together with the hiking and cycling paths in the surrounding hills.
Location: Within easy reaching distance from Düsseldorf
Situated on the River Rhine, Xanten is surrounded by beautiful scenery and is just 65 kilometres north of Düsseldorf. It can also be reached from Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and is served by the small Düsseldorf-Weeze Airport, which is used by low-budget airline Ryanair. The easiest way to arrive by train is from either Düsseldorf or Duisburg, 45 minutes away.
Culture: Ancient ruins and Gothic awe
Xanten boasts one of the biggest archaeological parks in Europe, and the Roman ruins established here by Emperor Augustus in the first century before Christ are one of the city’s major attractions. Visitors are invited to explore the ruins of Colonia Ulpia Triana, and discover the 12,000-seat amphitheatre, bathhouse, and temple together with the artefacts on display in the on-site historical museum. The Cathedral is another must-see, second only to Cologne in terms of importance and prestige in the Rhine region. Dedicated to St Victor, who was martyred as a Christian, the imposing gothic structure is built on the ground in which the saint was buried, and is richly decorated with stunning religious art and no fewer than 15 altars.
Activities: Water sports for all
Once you have explored the historical city, why not get out into the open countryside and enjoy the wealth of nature trails and cycle paths? The river and man-made lake also afford you the opportunity to enjoy various water sports, including canoeing, water skiing, and sailing, or even a compact diving course. A visit to the market square to browse around the stalls and experience the local atmosphere is also an enjoyable way to pass on a few hours.