From Portugal to Jordan to Croatia, here are 20 of the most spectacular Roman ruins outside Italy.
As the Roman Empire expanded throughout Europe and beyond, it left behind a collection of fascinating buildings that take us back to a glorious past era. Here’s a look at 20 of the most incredible Roman ruins that are outside Italy.
1. Hadrian’s Wall, United Kingdom
Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987, was built between 122 and 130 in northern England with the intention of separating the barbarians from the Romans. The emperor for whom it’s named commissioned this colossal structure running 70 miles from the east to west coasts. Today only a few sections remain of what is considered the most important monument in the United Kingdom.
2. Philippi, Greece
Founded in the 4th century BC by the king after whom it is named, Philippi was established with the aim of controlling the gold mines in its vicinity. Visited by the Apostle Paul on several occasions, this is the largest archaeological site in Macedonia. Today you can see the remains of the theater, sections of walls, the forum, and a temple.
3. Colosseum of Pula, Croatia
Also called Pula Arena, this first-century Roman amphitheater stands in the largest city of Istria, which boasts other notable Roman remains. The coliseum, however, is its crown jewel, one of the world’s largest (capacity 20,000) and best-preserved, incidentally bearing a strong resemblance to Rome’s Colosseum.
4. Imperial Baths of Trier, Germany
Trier, or Trier, is a German city near Luxembourg that served as the residence of some Roman emperors, which is why it’s been called “Second Rome”. Among the vestiges of the time include the Imperial Baths, which are one of the largest outside Rome. Today you can see the remains of the caldarium, the tepidarium, the frigidarium, and the palestra.
5. Roman Theatre of Orange, France
The southeast of France hides a magnificent, surprisingly well preserved first-century Roman theater. This théatre antique is one of the oldest attractions in the town of Orange, where you’ll also find other Roman remains such as the Arc de Triomphe. With a capacity of 10,000 spectators, the theatre still retains a 120-foot high stage façade.
6. Pont du Gard, France
The Pont du Gard is the highest Roman aqueduct. The impressive structure, more than 900 feet long and 157 feet high, was built around 50 AD to supply the city of Nimes with water. This highly complex construction is visited by appreciated by hordes travelers, making the aqueduct one of France’s most popular attractions.
7. Baalbek, Lebanon
Around 53 miles east of Beirut is the city of Baalbek, home to architectural gems that have more than 5,000 years of history. Formerly known as Heliopolis (the city of the Sun), Baalbek is best known for its two large temples dedicated to Jupiter and Bacchus —the columns of the former are among the highest in the world. The temple of Bacchus, better preserved than that of Jupiter, has unparalleled ornamentation.
8. Temple of Diana, Merida, Spain
The ancient Augusta Emerita (today’s Merida) houses the spectacular Temple of Diana, a granite first-century construction in the city’s forum. Today the temple is the only religious building that remains of Augusta Emerita, and you can still see its iconic hexastyle portico and its fluted columns.
9. Bath Spa, United Kingdom
The Roman baths, or the thermal baths in Bath, are a must for any visit to this Somerset city. The complex is divided into the Roman temple, the Roman bath, and the museum house, the oldest part dating back to 60 AD. Around this time the Romans decided to make the so-called Aquae Sulis (present-day Bath) a place of healing and relaxation to worship the goddess Minerva. After several centuries buried underground, the baths were rediscovered at the end of the 18th century.
10. El Djem, Tunisia
Considered the most impressive Roman monument on the African continent, the El Djem amphitheater is a landmark of Roman architecture, designed to hold more than 30,000 spectators of gladiatorial combats, circus games, and chariot races. Thanks to its good state of preservation, the amphitheater of El Djem has served as the backdrop for films such as Gladiator and The Life of Brian.
11. Diocletian’s Palace, Croatia
The historical center of the Croatian city of Split is home to a fabulous fortified imperial residence: Diocletian’s Palace. It was commissioned by its namesake emperor as he wanted to retire to the Dalmatian coast after his abdication. Guarded by walls more than six-feet thick, the complex incorporates a mausoleum, a temple, some thermal baths, and the private apartments. Game of Thrones fans might notice a striking similarity to the fictional city of Meereen.
12. Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain
One of the greatest architectural jewels of the Iberian Peninsula, the Roman aqueduct of Segovia is considered a masterpiece of civil engineering. Carried out between the first and second centuries, the aqueduct was constructed to bring water from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the city. Nine-feet long with its 167 spectacular granite arches, this colossal aqueduct remains almost entirely preserved.
13. Butrint, Albania
The town of Butrint in southern Albania was the country’s first city to receive UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to the legacy left by the Greek and Roman colonies. Protected by walls that covered over 40 acres, Emperor Octavian Augustus aimed to turn it into a colony of veterans, ordering the construction of mansions, aqueducts, baths, a forum, and a nymphaeum in Butrint.
14. Timgad, Algeria
Nicknamed the “Pompeii of Algeria,” the ancient Roman desert city of Timgad was rediscovered in the mid-18th century. Remarkably preserved, these are North Africa’s most beautiful ruins. Its nearly intact mosaics are now on display at the Archaeological Museum. The arch of Trajan deserves a special mention, although the theatre, the basilica, and the baths are also must visits.
15. Roman Theatre of Cartagena, Spain
Carthago Nova, today’s Cartagena, was a strategic point of the Roman Empire, and it’s home to Spain’s second-largest Roman theater with a capacity for 7,000 people. It is estimated that it was built between the fifth and first centuries BC, and was discovered at the end of the 20th century. Thanks to the excellent restoration, the theatre recovered its splendor and became one of the essential stops on any visit to Cartagena.
16. Roman Theatre of Bosra, Syria
Another Roman theater worth mentioning is that of Bosra, a city located 90 miles south of Damascus. Built during the second century AD, the theater can hold over 15,000 spectators and was the backdrop for the Bosra Art Festival, which was inaugurated in the 1980s. Although the theatre is the highlight, the city contains other notable Roman ruins.
17. Jerash, Jordan
Jerash, Jordan’s second major attraction (after Petra), is home to spectacular Roman remains. Nestled into a valley of fertile land at the base of the Gilead Mountains, a location that has contributed to their good state of conservation, the ruins include including Hadrian’s Arch, a hippodrome, the temple of Artemis, baths, walls, a forum, and a large colonnaded avenue.
18. Conímbriga, Portugal
A short distance from Coimbra, the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Conímbriga are a perfect day trip destination from Lisbon. Occupied by the Romans in the second century, Conímbriga became the largest Roman settlement in Portugal thanks to its strategic location between the trade route of present-day Lisbon and Braga. Fabulous mosaics have been preserved, and the best thing is that new monuments continue to be discovered as the excavations progress each year.
19. Saalburg, Germany
Saalburg was a first-century Roman military fort constructed on the Taunus mountain range in western Germany to mark the northern border of the empire. After its discovery in the 19th century, the fortress became an open-air museum and some parts were rebuilt, such as the principia (the headquarters) and the praetorium (the commander’s office). Today, the Saalburg Museum houses a vast selection of objects found in the excavations.
20. Arles, France
Arles is nicknamed “the Rome of France” for a good reason: an important city located on the commercial route that connected Italy and Spain, Arles contains a rich Roman legacy. Among the unmissable monuments of the Roman Arles are its amphitheater, the Constantine baths, the baths, and the theater. To complete the visit, the Museum of Ancient Arles offers a retrospective of the Roman world through mosaics, sarcophagi, and objects from daily life.