7 Roman ruins to explore outside of Italy
Italy is one of the leading tourist destinations in Europe. Art, history, food and culture combine to create he bel paese, the beautiful country. Italians spread their culture around the world during the time of the Roman Empire, which lasted around 2,000 years. Along the way, they built many structures that still exist today. This means that you don’t have to travel to Italy to find Roman ruins and monuments. France, England, Croatia, and Turkey are just a few of the other places where you can find outstanding examples of Roman history and culture. Many are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
What qualifies a Roman ruin for a UNESCO designation? It must be a masterpiece of human creative genius, a unique example of Roman civilization, and an outstanding example of a type of construction that combines architectural and technical skills. In short, it must be a lasting example of the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire.
France has so many remarkable Roman monuments that I often wondered if I was in Italy!
1. Pont Du Gard, Languedoc
The Pont du Gard, a Roman bridge and aqueduct built in the first century AD, was intended to carry water to the city of Nimes, then called the Rome of France. Located in the Languedoc region of southern France, this magical bridge became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Le Pont du Gard is set in a 400-acre park where you can hike, kayak, picnic, or just enjoy the natural and man-made beauty. You can also cross the bridge from one side of the river to the other.
The Pont du Gard is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France, welcoming 1,000,000 visitors a year.
2. Arles Amphitheater, Arles
Arles is one of the most charming towns in Provence. Located on the Mediterranean, the city is perhaps best known as the former home of artist Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was so inspired by the colors of Arles that he created 200 paintings during his time there.
As for the Roman ruins, Arles has a magnificent amphitheater in the city center. At its peak, it could accommodate 20,000 spectators for gladiatorial games. Today, the structure is a place of bullfights and concerts.
Arles is also home to the ruins of the Baths, although they have not been restored and cannot be compared to those in Bath, England. Built in the 4th century, they were part of the palace of Constantine, the first Christian emperor.
3. Ruins of Vienna
A visit to Vienna will make you think you are in Rome. Situated on the Rhone just south of the city of Lyon, Vienne is home to some of the finest Roman ruins, which you will find spread throughout the city.
Vienna was an important Roman colony in 47 BC. Located at the confluence of the Rhône and Gere rivers, Vienne served as a strategic outpost and commercial crossroads.
As you walk through the city center, you will come across the temple of Augustus and Livia. Built in 10 BC, it was dedicated to Emperor Augustus after the death of Julius Caesar. After the fall of the Roman Empire it became a church, which is probably why it was not demolished. Today it is surrounded by cafes and shops. The surprise of seeing this well-preserved temple was a highlight of my stay in Vienna.
You will also find the remains of ancient ramparts and aqueducts and the Roman circus, a track for chariot races. The Roman version of this structure is known as Circus Maximus. Vienna also has a Roman amphitheater which once could accommodate 13,000 people. He was buried from the 4th century until 1922.
Pro tip: The best place for a spectacular view of the city and the river is Mount Pipet.
In the last years of the empire, the Romans sought to expand even further. The arrival of the Romans in Britain in AD 43 heralded the first written accounts of life on the island nation.
4. Bath ruins
In the first century AD, the Romans built a spa complex on the site which is now the city of Bath. The Romans named the site Aqua Sulis and dedicated it to the goddess Minerva. People came from far and wide to visit the baths and worship the Goddess of Wisdom and Healing. The hot springs that bubbled through the limestone attracted locals even before the Romans arrived, and the springs continue to draw visitors today.
After the Romans left, the site fell into disrepair and was later destroyed by flooding. It was not until 1878 that a geologist discovered the ruins and work began to uncover them. Today, the city of Bath is the only city in the UK designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is a remarkable legacy left by the Romans, who ruled Britain for 400 years. The remains of the wall are located in the north of England.
After defeating the resistance in what is now England, the Romans moved north to try and tame the barbarians in present-day Scotland. This turned out to be much more problematic than expected, so a wall was built to keep the Scots out. It was under Emperor Hadrian that the construction of the wall began.
When the wall was completed, it stretched 80 miles from coast to coast. Along the way, the Romans built forts, towers, castles and turrets. Settlements grew around the forts of the wall, and people came from as far away as Syria. About in the middle of the wall was a Roman fort called Housesteads; it is the best example of a Roman fort in Great Britain.
6. Diocletian’s Palace, Split
The city of Split on the Dalmatian coast is home to the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. Built at the turn of the 4th century, it was the home of Emperor Diocletian after his abdication. More of a huge fortress than a palace, the complex included a cellar, thermal baths, a mausoleum, a temple and private apartments. There were also quarters for the garrison. Today the palace forms a large part of the city and many businesses and houses exist within its walls.
Diolcletian’s Palace is considered one of the most important architectural and cultural elements on the Dalmatian coast and is the finest example of a complete Roman palace in existence today. Season 4 of Game of thrones was filmed there, just like a season of Fantastic race.
7. Aspendos Theater, Aspendos
To have the chance to witness a live music performance in an ancient Roman arena, you must go to the town of Aspendos in southern Turkey. Built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the city theater is considered one of the best-preserved in the world, although it is small (around 8,000 seats) compared to the Coliseum in Rome (which had 50,000 seats at the time) and at the arenas of Arles. Today you can see a ballet or an opera in the theater, which boasts excellent acoustics.
And if you’re still not convinced that this theater is worth a trip to Turkey, consider the words of archaeologist David George Hogarth, which I’ll paraphrase: You may feel burnt by the ancient ruins, but you haven’t. saw the theater at Aspendos yet.
Roman ruins are also found in other countries, including Albania, Germany, Spain, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Portugal. Phew! These Romans were busy. Check out all of our ruins and archeology content here.