Whilst Germany may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for Roman sites, some of the Roman ruins in Germany are amongst the best preserved in the world. From the biggest surviving single room of Ancient Rome to relatively unknown burial chambers and even working bridges, the Roman ruins in Germany come in variety of shapes and sizes.
Today, there’s a host of top Roman ruins in Germany to visit and among the very best are the Imperial Baths of Trier, Porta Nigra and the Basilica of Constantine in Trier. Other popular sites tend to include the Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne, Trier Roman Amphitheatre and Xanten Archaeological Park.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Ancient Roman sites to visit in Germany, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Roman monuments and landmarks in Germany, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Roman Ruins in Germany?
The Imperial Baths of Trier, known in German as Kaiserthermen, are the beautifully preserved ruins of a Roman public bath complex constructed in the fourth century AD. Not only are these ancient baths some of the best ancient Roman ruins in Germany, they are also some of best preserved and largest examples of Roman baths outside of Rome. With much of their walls and underground tunnels still intact, this is definitely a fascinating set of Romano-German ruins.
Considered to be the largest Roman baths outside of Rome, the remains of the Imperial Baths of Trier are centrally located within the city and are a fantastic site, with many of their walls standing and even the option to explore their underground tunnels.
Porta Nigra or the ‘Black Gate’ is one of the most famous Roman ruins in Germany. A late 2nd century Roman gate, the site is one of the sole remnants of the imposing fortifications which would once have encircled Trier – then known as Augusta Treverorum.
Originally constructed of large blocks of light sandstone, the darkening of its appearance by the Middle Ages led to it being called Porta Nigra, with its original name unknown. Having been incorporated into a medieval church, Porta Nigra is still beautifully preserved and remains one of the most dramatic Roman sights in Germany. Today, Porta Nigra still bears the marks of its medieval conversions but it is still clearly an Ancient Roman creation. Inside, there are various Roman and medieval remnants.
Of all the ancient Roman places in Germany, the Basilica of Constantine seems to have one of the most interesting accolades, it is said to be the largest existing single room from the Roman period. Originally serving as the Roman Emperor’s audience hall, this structure was probably built in the 4th century AD. Devastated by invaders in the 5th century and later incorporated into a palace, the Basilica of Constantine is now a church. Be sure to look out for the optical illusion created by the window sizes of the Basilica of Constantine, which make it look even bigger than it actually is.
Located in what was the Roman-era city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, this museum has an extensive collection of Roman artefacts from around Germany. It was even built around a set of Roman remains, which can now be seen within the museum, notably the famous third century AD Dionysus Mosaic. From artwork and jewellery to glass, ceramics and pieces of Roman structures, the museum exhibits a wide range of historic pieces dating back to this era and beyond into the Middle Ages.
One of the most famous exhibits at the Romano-Germanic Museum is the tomb of the Poblicius, a soldier who served in the fifth legion and whose large and elaborate tomb dates back to approximately 40AD. However, it is the Dionysus Mosaic which is the star attraction. Thought to have been created in around 220 to 230AD, this extremely well preserved mosaic floor measures approximately 750 square feet and is comprised of an incredibly intricate collection of over a million pieces of glass, stone and ceramics. In fact, the Romano-Germanic Museum was built around this floor, which was housed in a villa on the site.
A well preserved amphitheatre once able to hold up to 20,000 spectators, Trier Roman Amphitheatre may have been built as early as the first century AD. This ancient amphitheatre would have been the site of fierce gladiatorial battles, also involving animals. In fact, tunnels have been found under the stage which would have been used to house these animals together with unfortunate prisoners of the Roman Empire. Still hosting open air events, this site is one of the rare actively used Roman archaeological sites in Germany.
Germany’s largest outdoor museum is home to the remains of the once 10,000-strong settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Homes, inns, temples, an amphitheatre, a city wall and a bathhouse, Xanten Archaeological park has them all, some in ruins, some reconstructed to various degrees.
The area of the park was first garrisoned by Roman legions in around 13 BC and soon flourished. Roads and a harbour were built as was a vast military camp. Most of the buildings date back to the second century AD, when great building projects were undertaken.
At 73 hectares, Xanten Archaeological Park is now Germany’s largest outdoor museum and offers so much to see. It is a mixture of ruins and reconstructed sites including temples, homes, an amphitheatre, a city wall, a baths complex and an inn, to name but a few. There is also a museum housing finds from excavations.
An active bridge crossing the Mosel River in Trier, Romerbrucke was first built between 144 and 152 AD. Impressively, much of the Roman structure of Romerbrucke is still there, although it has since undergone much reinforcement and renovation. No longer 100% original, it is still one of the most visible Roman sites in Germany.
The Altes Museum is part of Germany’s National Museum and is located in Berlin. Displaying part of the National Museum’s collection of classical antiquities. One of the main collections at the Altes Museum is its series of Roman portraits including those modelled on of the sarcophagi of Caesar and Cleopatra.
It is worth noting that the National Museum has made several changes to the arrangement of its classical antiquities collection and many pieces have moved to the Neues Museum.
The Weiden Roman Burial Chamber is a second century tomb found on the outskirts of modern day Cologne. As was typical at the time, the burial chamber was built on the way out of the city. Elaborate and containing a series of sculptures, the Weiden Roman Burial Chamber is open to the public.
Built in the second century, The Barbara Baths are sadly not in the same excellent state of preservation as the Imperial Baths of Trier or some of the other, better-known Roman sites in Germany. A little of the original Barbara Baths can be seen above ground today, however below street level lie a fascinating set of tunnels in which (when open) visitors can view the workings of the Barbara Baths, including furnaces, sewers and the heating system. The Barbara Baths are a UNESCO World Heritage site.