Baelo Claudia - History and Facts | History Hit

Baelo Claudia

Tarifa, Andalusia, Spain

The Roman town of Baelo Claudia in Spain is a well-preserved ancient city which sits on the Andalusian coast, providing a beautiful backdrop to these ancient remains.

Peta Stamper

18 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Baelo Claudia

The Roman city of Baelo Claudia in Andalusia is one of the best surviving examples of an ancient Roman town in Spain. Sitting directly on the coast, Baelo Claudia is an enjoyable site to visit with both stunning views and ancient ruins.

The remains of Baelo Claudia, near the modern town of Tarifa, have been restored and preserved because of the good general conservation of the ruins, their easy interpretation and the beauty of their surroundings. For these reasons, the amazing ancient city of Baelo Claudia features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Spain

Baelo Claudia history

Although founded in the 2nd century BC, Baelo Claudia grew into a small yet important Roman trading post in the 1st century BC and 1st century AD, particularly under the rules of Emperor Augustus and Claudius. Baelo Claudia expanded to include significant municipal areas, including a forum, theatre and market, known for its trade in the Roman fish-based sauce called garum.

In latter centuries, it is believed that Baelo Claudia suffered due to an earthquake and the onset of raiders and pirates in the area which hindered the trade of garum. The site was abandoned towards the end of the Western Roman Empire period, probably in the 6th century before the Arab invasion in 711 AD.

It was not until 1917 that Baelo Claudia was systematically excavated by French archaeologists, and many of the findings were sent to the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid. In the 1990s, a small museum was built to house recent findings and serve the increasing number of visitors to the area.

Baelo Claudia today

Today, although small, Baelo Claudia is a place where visitors can observe the fundamental characteristics of a classical Roman city, overlooking the jewel blue waters of the Strait of Gibraltar. There are many aspects of the site that can still be viewed, including the forum, the temples of the Capitolium as well as temples of eastern character such as the one dedicated to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of seafarers.

Beyond these elements are a Basilica (still boasting several columns and a statue), administrative buildings or the municipal archive, baths, city walls and gates, streets, 3 aqueducts (used to serve the garum factory) and several cisterns.

There are numerous other Roman cities whose remains can still be seen in greater or lesser measure in the Andalusian territory and a visit to Baelo Claudia is certain to inspire further exploration. Open from Tuesday through Sunday, Baelo Claudia has a visitor’s centre on site and a car park next door.

Getting to Baelo Claudia

Located along the southern Spanish coast, Baelo Claudia is a 40 minute drive via N-340 from Algeciras, and is a 1 hour 15 minute drive down from Cadiz. From Cadiz, you can get the L-501 bus towards Malaga to nearby Facinas and taxi the remaining 10 minutes to Baelo Claudia, which takes an hour and a half.

Featured In

Roman Sites Spain

Featuring ruined gems such as Baelo Claudia to the Sagunto Roman Theatre, travel back to Ancient Hispania through our guide to Spain's 10 best Roman sites.