Xanten, the only city in Germany to start with an X, looks back on over 2,000 years of history. The Romans called it Colonia Ulpia Traiana and after Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (today known as Köln / Cologne) it was the second-most important city and trading post in Germania inferior.
Today, the main city is medieval in architecture, but the Archäologische Park Xanten is bringing the Roman Empire back to life.
I visited Xanten one summer holiday a very long time ago. But I remember being amazed by the partially reconstructed Hafentempel (harbour temple) and amphitheatre. While the buildings are unfortunately not original, they are all built on original foundations and according to known architectural designs.
This is history you can touch and experience. The sheer size of the reconstructed buildings is awe-inspiring, especially when you consider that the majestic harbour temple would have been visible to passing ships until the river Rhine shifted further east.
As an open air living museum, the archaeological park shows visitors what life was like in the Roman Empire and there are plenty of activities to join in. The amphitheatre is a popular outdoor event venue, and the reconstructed residences are decorated and furnished the way they would have been two millennia ago when Colonia Ulpia Traiana was home to 10,000 Romans.
Outside the vast park lies the town proper (the Roman city had been abandoned and not settled in again). It’s a cosy place that has managed to keep its medieval charm with the Cathedral dominating the city’s centre. And if you look closely, you might even be able to spot bricks from the original Roman settlement throughout Xanten.