Conimbriga is probably Portugal’s best-preserved Ancient Roman archaeological site, although it has a history stretching back to the Iron Age. In fact, while the Romans arrived at Conimbriga in the late 1st century BC, the settlement had already been inhabited since the 9th century BC.
For a sneak peek, the Conimbriga website has a fun virtual tour of the site. Classified as a National Monument in 1910, Conimbriga also features as one of our best visitor attractions in Portugal.
From the 9th century BC Conimbriga was occupied by the Iron Age Castro culture, meaning ‘culture of the hill-forts’ in Portuguese. Associated with the Gallaecians and Astures, the Castro settlements were later subsumed into Roman culture when the Romans arrived around 139 BC following the campaigns of Decimus Junius Brutus.
Whilst almost certainly not the biggest of Portugal’s Roman cities (although it is yet to all be excavated), Conimbriga thrived under the Romans, the results of which can be seen in its ruins. The new arriavsl established formal space organisation to Conimbriga, and because of the peaceful location, Romanisation was fast.
It was only when Conimbriga was attacked in the 5th century by Germanic tribes called the Sueves that the Romans abandoned the area.
Today, Conimbriga remains a walled urban settlement circled by stone structures making up a 1,500 metre-curtain. As you enter, you pass through a vaulted structure that once held a hinged door, originally defended by twin towers. Things to see at Conimbriga include the remains of houses and public buildings, the quite impressive walls, a road, public baths including their heating systems and some mosaics.
At Conimbriga there is also a small museum of finds from the site, such as coins, surgical tools and ceramics. The museum is found in the visitors’ centre offering a cafe and small gift shop to grab a bite or memento.
Getting to Conimbriga
The easiest way of reaching Conimbriga is by car. Driving from Porto takes around an hour and from Coimbra the ruins are only a 20 minute drive from the town’s historic centre. There is a large car park on site, free of charge.