While divisive political issues may have caused the Roman Empire to crumble centuries ago, modern day travelers can still find the remains of their magnificent structures. One doesn’t have to be an architectural design maven to appreciate what the Romans contributed to western civilization. Major sites throughout Europe and the Middle East showcase the remnants of Roman ancient cities while smaller sites offer an assortment of structures and artifacts.
At the larger sites, be prepared to walk through cobbled streets lined with towering columns and arched entryways that lead into temples, theaters, private homes, and public baths. Don’t forget to scout out the Roman aqueduct systems that still intrigue modern engineers.
To start you on your Roman Empire adventure, plan an excursion to one of these four popular archeological sites while touring the nearby cities.
With a day to spare while visiting London, take an early morning train ride to Bath, England. To avoid long lines, go directly to the Roman Baths as close as possible to their opening time of 9am. Most will be content with an audio guide that gives background information to the exhibits on the two levels. Look for the sacred spring, the Roman Temple, the bathhouse, and artifacts. After exploring for a couple of hours, visitors can enjoy the rest of Bath’s attractions and restaurants before taking an evening train back to London.
While the city of Rome offers numerous places to view Roman architecture, we recommend going to Naples to see Herculaneum and Pompeii. Many experts consider Pompeii to be the best-preserved example of a Roman city prior to the first century C.E. Plan in advance the length of your stay and possibly arrange for a guide because one could easily wander around for hours. Add Herculaneum to your itinerary for a double dose of Roman architecture or to encounter fewer crowds. While Herculaneum may be smaller and less famous than Pompeii, the Herculaneum structures are more intact and easier to visualize. Herculaneum offers visible accouterments of wealth — decorative mosaics, elaborately decorated wall frescoes, marble accessories, and intricately carved statues.
Ephesus is about 30 kilometers away from Kusadasi, Turkey. It was the capital and largest port city of the Roman Province of Asia during the Roman and Hellenistic periods. Stone walkways and wide boulevards connect the notable buildings such as the Basilica Stoa, the Temple of Hadrian, the Celsus Library, and the Great Theatre. Cat lovers will be quite surprised by the impressive number of stray cats that gracefully pose on the ruins.
Caesarea National Park between Tel Aviv and Haifa
More than 2,000 years ago, Herod the Great dedicated Caesarea to Caesar Augustus. Back then, Caesarea was the administrative center of the Province of Judea in the Roman Empire. Make sure you visit the amphitheater. It’s the oldest surviving Roman theater in the eastern Mediterranean region. If you take time out to enjoy the beachfront, you’ll be right near a raised aqueduct, a trademark of the Roman Empire. Useful tip: If you don’t like crowds, avoid the summer months. And, don’t forget to bring water!
Want to visit Roman ruins? Start planning your next historical adventure to Europe or the Middle East!