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10 of the best Roman ruins outside of Rome

Roman ruin in Rome in the evening
Image: Federico Di Dio / Unsplash
Kemelo Sehlapelo
By Kemelo Sehlapelo22 Jun 2022 5 minutes read

The Roman empire is infamous for its widespread rule across many civilizations, cities and countries. While it may have suffered defeat in 1453 with the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the empire’s long lasting legacy lives through its ruins. Roman ruins are arguably some of the most popular tourist sites that attract both local and international visitors. Here is a list of some of the best places to see Roman ruins outside of Rome.

1. The Forum and its surroundings in Zadar, Croatia

People visiting The Forum in Zadar, Croatia
Image: Febe Vanermen / Unsplash

The picturesque seaside city of Zadar is home to a few Roman ruins. The city was known as Ancient Zadar and named Iadera by the Romans when it was under their occupation from 48 B.C. until the dissolution of the Roman empire in the 5th century.

A highlight of the many Roman ruins in Zadar is the Forum, situated next to St. Donat church in the heart of the bustling Old Town. The Forum in Zadar is the largest in Croatia and is as large as similar forums across Italy. You can enjoy the view from the top or sit at one of the local cafes and restaurants in the square.

It’s worth visiting Zadar’s archaeological museum to discover more about the city’s Roman history and see artifacts from the Roman colony. The museum is open daily.

2. The Zeugma mosaics in Gaziantep, Turkey

Well-preserved mosaics on display at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Turkey
Image: Çiğdem G / Tripadvisor

Located in the Gaziantep province, this ancient city was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, who also named the city after himself. The city’s infamous architecture gives a glimpse into the Roman and Hellenistic civilizations, and the mosaics are no exception.

There’s an incredible number of well-preserved mosaics on display at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the largest mosaic museum in the world. The museum first opened in 2011 and is now home to a display of over 3,000 square metres of mosaics from the Roman and Eastern Roman civilizations.

The Zeugma Mosaic Museum has seasonal opening times: in winter it’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in summer it’s open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

3. The amphitheatre of El-Jem in El-Jem, Tunisia

The amphitheatre of El-jem in Tunisia
Image: Albert Gubaydullin / Unsplash

Located in the small village of El-Jem, the magnificent ruins of the amphitheater of El-Jem showcase the majesty of Imperial Rome. It’s the largest coliseum in North Africa, with a capacity of up to 35,000 spectators.

Built completely of stone blocks, the amphitheater is a display of the best that the Roman empire had to offer in Africa. Whilst its construction was modeled after the Colosseum in Rome, the amphitheater holds its own in terms of being a grandiose Roman monument; it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This Roman ruin is a 5-minute walk from the train station in El-Jem or a 2-hour drive from the capital city of Tunis.

4. The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria, Egypt

The Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria, Egypt
Image: Abdulrahman Qazzaz / Tripadvisor

This Roman ruin is especially interesting because unlike other amphitheaters, it was actually used as a small Roman theater rather than a large sporting arena. It’s also the only amphitheater of its kind in Egypt.

The amphitheater was discovered during the initial search for the grave of Alexander the Great. Other ruins were also found around the area such as a few courtyard mosaics, and the remains of a bath complex, chambers and living quarters. The theater itself displays the impeccable preservation of its original Roman marble seating.

Located on Ismail Mahana Road in Alexandria, the Roman Amphitheatre is a 3-minute walk from Egypt Station Garden or a 5-minute walk from Alexandria train station. If you’re heading there from the airport, it’s a 20-minute drive away.

5. Leptis Magna, Libya

Leptis Magna in Libya in the day
Image: Ahmed Almakhzanji / Unsplash

Often described as the “Rome of Africa”, this historic city is home to some of the finest remains of Roman architecture. It’s situated 80 miles from the capital city of Tripoli and overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

The city was founded by the Phoenicians of Tyre or Sidon in what is believed to be as early as the 7th century B.C. The ruins include the Severan Basilica, the Severan Arch, the Severan Forum, the Hadrianic Baths, and an amphitheater that once held up to 15,000 spectators. The beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea makes the city a spectacular site overall.

There are both private and public tours available. The city is accessible by car and is less than a two-hour drive from Tripoli.

6. Jerash, Jordan

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan
Image: Hisham Zayadnh / Unsplash

The ghostly ruins of Jerash are the remains of the city of Gerasa, which suffered a devastating earthquake in A.D. 749. Despite this, it’s hailed as one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Middle East and is Jordan’s largest Roman ruin site.

Some highlights of Jerash are the Forum, which is unique due to its distinctive shape, its large size, and the 56 Ionic-style columns that surround it.

There are tours available at the ticket checkpoint if you would prefer a guided approach to the city’s Roman ruins. It’s located 40 minutes away from the capital city of Amman— we recommend that you get there by car or book a private tour.

7. Baalbek, Lebanon

Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, Lebanon
Image: Fred Nassar / Unsplash

Also known as the City of the Sun or Greek Heliopolis, Baalbek is an archaeological complex that comprises various Roman ruins. One of the main structures in Baalbek is the Temple of Jupiter which was completed around A.D. 60. The Temple of Bacchus is also an incredible feature of the site.

Other Roman ruins on the site include the Temple of Venus, parts of a temple dedicated to Hermes, and various Roman mosaics from private homes.

Since Baalbek is fairly close to Beirut (around 52 miles) it’s accessible by car or by public transport, although the latter could get a little complex. There are also tours available that include transportation from Beirut to Baalbek.

8. Pula Arena in Pula, Croatia

Pula Arena in Pula, Croatia
Image: Tilen Dominik Perko / Unsplash

The Pula Arena is a Roman amphitheater located in the Croatian city of Pula and is the only remaining amphitheater to have four side towers intact. The amphitheater speaks to the grandeur of Roman architecture as it’s believed to seat about 20,000 spectators back then.

It’s open daily but check this website for seasonal opening hours.

9. Hadrian’s Wall, United Kingdom

Hadrian’s Wall in United Kingdom
Image: Uwe Ottenjann / Unsplash

Hadrian’s Wall stretches over 73 miles from the coast of the North Sea to the coast of the Irish Sea. It was built to guard the Roman Empire but it serves not just as a barricade but also as a visual testament to the power and reach of the Roman Empire.

We recommend visiting Hadrian’s Wall from Northumberland, where the largest part of this Roman ruin can be found. There are possibilities to explore the wall’s scenic route by foot or by bus. You can also visit the Roman forts along the route of the wall.

10. Pont du Gard, France

Pont du Gard in France
Image: Z S / Unsplash

The Pont Du Gard is the world’s largest Roman aqueduct. While it’s the main point of attraction, the site boasts other natural gems such as the remains of the aqueduct, walking paths lined with greenery, a variety of Mediterranean flora and fauna, and an amazing view overall. Relax after a long day of exploring the site by enjoying a picnic amongst the greenery.

The site is accessible by either car, train or bus and is open 7 days a week. However, take note that opening hours may change seasonally, so do check before planning your visit to the Pont Du Gard.

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Kemelo Sehlapelo
Kemelo Sehlapelo is an artist, writer, and poet who writes for independent zines and blogs. She first started writing professionally in her first year of university, and hasn't looked back since. She has an interest in travel, art, history and politics, and enjoys writing on these topics as well.