Vindonissa is the site of a former Roman legionary camp which includes the ruins of an amphitheatre and an aqueduct. First developed under Emperor Tiberius, various remains and excavations now survive in the modern-day town of Windisch, Switzerland, and are listed as a heritage site of national significance.
Today, an interesting ‘Legionnaire Trail’ audioguide walk for visitors of all ages and interests follows daily life as a legionnaire through the ruins and sights of the Vindonissa camp. Otherwise, most sites can also be visited for free and have noticeboards with explanatory text.
The first settlement at Vindonissa was a 1st century BC Helvetii fortified village, nestled between the Aare and Reuss rivers. Protected by a wood and earth wall stretching 350 metres-long and a 7 metre-deep trench, the village came under Roman control after the 58 BC conquest by Julius Caesar, or the 15 BC conquest of the Alps.
Nevertheless, by 15 BC a small guard post had been established at Vindonissa and was likely followed by the legion camp around 15 AD. As further legionnaires arrived, the camp was expanded and boasted stone fortifications and thermal baths. From 101 AD, Vindonissa became a civilian settlement and later featured a 4th century castle.
Excavations began in 1896, discovering the ruins of buildings and the largest Roman amphitheatre in Switzerland, seating 10,000 spectators. Digging also unearthed the west and north walls alongside the Roman baths.
Today, a 1.2 mile-long Roman underground canal still provides water to the fountain at the beautiful Königsfelden Monastery (located in the heart of the ruins and founded in 1308), illustrating the legacy of Roman settlers across Europe.
Along with the ‘Legionnaire Trail’, there is also a small shop and cafe near the recreated Roman camp next to Königsfelden Monastery at the end of the ‘Legionnaire Trail’, and the site often hosts events such as Roman festivals, and live action battles from time to time.
In addition to the open-air sites in Windisch there is also a Roman museum in Brugg.
Getting to Vindonissa
Open daily between 7am and 10pm, Vindonissa is just off the main roads 3 and 5 in the town of Windisch, and is only a 35 minute drive via the A1 and A3 from Zürich via car.
The site is also just a 12 minute walk from Brugg’s train station, with links to Zürich and Bern.