The Romans ruled what is now France for more than 500 years. As a result, there’s a host of Roman sites to visit across the country. Among the very best are La Maison Carrée, Carcassonne, and Horreum. Other popular sites tend to include the Lapidaire Museum, Narbonne Archaeological Museum, and the Arch of Germanicus.
For those seeking to explore further, there’s a wealth of Roman sites, ruins, and remains in France that are less well-known. From ancient amphitheatres to aqueducts, temples, forums, and more, France is full of interesting Roman ruins.
1. La Maison Carrée
La Maison Carrée is an extremely well preserved Roman temple in Nîmes. It is one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the world. It managed to survive the turbulant times that followed the fall of the Roman Empire as it was converted to a church. For those interested in seeing Roman sites and remains in France, La Maison Carrée is a must.
Through the ages La Maison Carrée has been used as a consul’s house, stables and the town’s archive. It has been partly renovated and restored over the years, but remains true to its Roman origins and is certainly not a recreation. Visitors can view this stunning structure in all its glory as well as watching a multimedia presentation inside the building which brings Roman Nîmes back to life.
2. Nimes Arena
Nimes Arena also known as Nimes Amphitheatre, is amongst the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. Built during the reign of the Emperor Augustus in the first century AD, the arena is a marvel of Roman engineering. A vast oval with a stunning façade resplendent with archways and ornamentation, Nimes Arena could seat up to 24,000 people in its 34 terraces.
Now fully restored, Nimes Arena is a popular tourist attraction and allows people to really experience what it would have been like for Roman spectators. Including an interactive audio guide and some detailed exhibits, the site is now a fitting museum of its past. However, beyond just its historic significance, Nimes Arena is also still used for events today.
3. Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard is an iconic Ancient Roman bridge and aqueduct built in first century AD. In fact, it was the tallest bridge ever built by the Romans, rising 160 feet.
Today guided tours of Pont du Gard take visitors right to the very heart of this iconic structure to see the how such an engineering feat was achieved and how the aqueduct operated. Visitors can also walk the full length of the bridge itself and explore this Roman marvel up close. These tours last approximately 1.5 hours.
4. Arles Amphitheatre
Arles Amphitheatre is a brilliantly preserved Roman site in France which was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The amphitheatre could hold over 20,000 people and survived exceptionally well through the ages. This UNESCO listed Roman-built sports arena is still in use today. One of the best Roman sites in France.
Its excellent state of preservation means that it is even still used today, not for chariot races, but for bullfighting. This excellent state of conservation is in spite the fact that it was used as a medieval fortification. Arles Amphitheatre is now one of the town’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
5. Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon
The Roman Theatre of Lyonwas constructed in approximately 15BC and was able to seat up to around 10,000 people.
Having been well restored in the early twentieth century, the theatre is one of the oldest structures of its kind and a reminder of Lugdunum, the Gallo-Roman city which would become Lyon. The site was generally abandoned by the third century AD. Behind the theatre are further ruins, possibly the remains of the Temple of Cybele.
6. Crypte Archeologique - Paris
The Crypte Archeologique is a subterranean Roman site and museum housing the remains of Gallo-Roman Paris. It contains ruins including the city’s third century BC walls, its streets and heating systems and even the ruins of a cathedral.
Some of the remains are medieval, dating to the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and including a hospital. One of the lesser-know Roman sites in France but a great site to visit.
7. Roman Theatre of Orange
The Roman Theatre of Orange is a stunningly well-preserved first century theatre and one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world. The façade wall of the theatre is an impressive 338 feet long and 121 feet high and the structure still retains its original stage. This is despite the fact that the Prince of Orange, Maurice of Nassau, damaged it in the seventeenth century by using it as a quarry for building materials.
Today, the theatre is a UNESCO World Heritage historic site together with the Triumphal Arch of Orange. It is still used as a theatre, meaning that visitors can enjoy a play in its incredible and historically evocative surroundings. There are also audio guides included in the entry prices (seven languages) and guided tours are offered.
Glanum is an extensive archaeological site of a former Roman settlement near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The site itself is thought to pre-date the coming of the Romans, though most of the remains that you can see today are Roman ruins from the first and second centuries AD. While Glanum is slightly lesser-known amongst the Roman sites in France, it is well worth a visit.
The site has both residential and monumental sections. Public baths and dwellings can be seen in the north of site with several ancient columns dotted around the area. However, it is two of its ancient monuments which form the star attractions at Glanum, namely its archway and its mausoleum known together as “Les Antiques”.
9. The Cryptoporticus
The Cryptoporticus of Reims is is a very well preserved third century AD Roman passageway. At the time, Reims was a Gallo-Roman town known as Durocortorum. Like other structures of this kind, the Cryptoporticus of Reims was a semi-subterranean arched passageway, the roof of which would have been a walkway. It would have been one of three such passageways surrounding the forum of Durocortorum.
The Cryptoporticus of Reims is an excellent example of this type of Roman architecture, particularly as it is so very well preserved.
The Horreum in Narbonne, France dated back to the first century BC and are a network of subterranean tunnel and passageways which were thought to have been used as storage rooms during the Roman era. These unique underground tunnels would once have formed part of the city of Narbo Martius, which was the capital of the Narbonne region during Roman times.
It is believed these tunnels were used as the storage area for the local market and today the site boasts a sound and light show which is designed to replicate the atmosphere of such an ancient marketplace.