This post is for all you archaeology fans out there. I’ll take you to Conimbriga, Portugal, where you can find one of the finest excavations in the country left from Roman Times.
Growing up with a dad who worked as an archaeologist, I’ve had my fair share of excavations, museums, fortresses, castles and the like. On the of historical eras that has always fascinated me most is the Roman Period.
It’s the architecture, the inventions we still use today, the development of politics, philosophy, astronomy, the many artefacts and sites left there for us to marvel at. And you don’t have to go to Rome to experience the magnificence of this great empire. There are plenty of Roman sites all across Europe.
ROMAN SITE IN CONIMBRIGA PORTUGAL
Roman Settlement in Portugal
Being one of the largest Roman settlements left to see in Portugal, we’re a bit amazed as to how hard it is to actually locate this site. Only 16 kilometers from University city Coimbra, we’re driving up the E80/A1/IP1 from Lisbon and get off at Condeixa-a-Nova. Conimbriga is hard to find on maps (if at all), but eventually we see a sign and arrive at the sight around midday.
It’s a burning hot day, so if you visit during the summer months, I advice you to take a hat and plenty of water. You can easily walk around for 2 or more hours on the site.
The site in Conimbriga was built and inhabited between the 9th century BC and 7/8th century AD.
Before the Romans arrived, the village was already flourishing. The Romans stepped it up a bit by building an amphitheater for over 10.000 people, three bathing complexes (with a network of stone heating ducts covered with floors), drains, temples, and several family houses and other constructions. Water for the village was brought over 3,5 km from the source down the Augustan Aqueduct.
As a result of the political and administrative crisis of the Roman Empire, Conimbriga suffered from barbaric invasions and got plundered and abandoned by a part of the population in 465 and 468.
The old main road, city walls and mosaic roads in between the buildings
The village’s water heating system
One of the great things about the Roman site at Conimbriga, is that the city walls are still largely intact. You can also not miss the immense, detailed and very well preserved mosaics that decorated the buildings once.
Walking around, you can just feel all the hard labour that must have gone into putting all these bricks and titles together, probably in the burning sun.
House of the Fountains
The House of Fountains (Casa dos Repuxos) can be seen under a protective cover and is a great example of early Roman design and architecture. The bases of the columns are left, as well as the mosaics, some murals, paving stones and the drains that once supplied water to around 500 fountains. It makes it easy to imagine the people walking around and going about their daily business.
The whole site gives you a clear idea of the way a roman village was set up and you can walk around at your own pace discovering great details.
House of the Fountains
I loved seeing the mosaics in such good condition at the site. Which one is your favourite?
The Roman Site in Conimbriga, Portugal definitely gets my recommendation and just to think that most of the area hasn’t even been excavated yet, makes make really excited to hopefully return one day to explore even more!
- A ticket to the site is 4 Euros.
- All around the site, there are clear English signs and you can also buy a guidebook from the shop for some extra background information.
- The ruins are open every day, excluding Christmas, New Years, Holy Friday, Easter and May 1st.
- In addition to the site, you can visit a small museum with objects found during the excavations, and a couple of mosaics that were lifted entirely into the building (such as the Minotaur design on the bottom left corner of the image below).
- I suggest you visit the museum before the actual grounds, as otherwise it might be a bit of a let down as it is quite small. The museum is closed on Mondays.
- As I said, we drove to Conimbriga from Lisbon by car, and proceeded on to Coimbra later in the day. There was a free car park on site.
- I read online that there is an infrequent bus between these two places (stop in Coimbra is at the river, near the Astoria Hotel, take it to the last stop) and another service goes from Condeixa-a-Nova, less than 2 km (about a mile) away. You could also take a taxi or even walk from there.
- Have a look at a virtual tour of the Conimbriga site.
What is your favourite European Roman site?