Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Exploring Roman France

Roman Ruins & Sites in France

Alesia Archaeological Site

Alesia is a significant historical site in France, for it was here that Vercingetorix took his last stand against Julius Caesar in 52 BC. On top of Mont Auxois was a Celtic oppidum, that following Caesar’s defeat of the Gauls became a Gallo-Roman town. There is very little evidence of this town today, but remains of the Roman town are visible, including the theatre and basilica. Nearby is the Vercingetorix Monument erected by Napoleon III.

Ancient Aléria - Alalia

The archaeological site of Aléria covers a plateau adjacent to the Medieval town of the same name. Founded by the Phoenicians in the 6th century BC, Aléria was a port city located on major Mediterranean trade routes, and then subsequently occupied by the Greeks, Etruscans and the Romans. The city was burned in 410 AD and sacked by the Vandals in 465 AD, after which time it became a small village of little significance.

Archaeological Crypt of the île de la Cité

Beneath the Notre Dame Cathedral are the remains of Paris’s Roman and medieval past, including the Roman port and a public bath house. Set amongst these exceptionally exhibited remains are informative displays that tell the history of this popular city, beginning with the Neolithic and Iron Age of the area, including an engaging recreation of the settlement of the Parisii, the Celtic tribe who settled in the area 2,000 years ago and from whom the city takes its name. This attraction is open.

Arena of Nimes

The amphitheatre in Nîmes is widely regarded as one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres. So well preserved is the structure that it is still used for a variety of events, although since 2009 it is in the process of being restored – a project that will last at least 25 years. It was built around 100 AD, shortly after the Colosseum in Rome, with an estimated seating capacity of 24,000. The amphitheatre was just inside the city wall, the position of which is marked in the paving surrounding the arena.


Around 50 BC the Romans took over what had been an Iron Age town of the Bituriges Celtic tribe for a few centuries. The Romans named the new town Argentomagus. Today the archaeological remains can be visited at a number of locations in the town of Saint-Marcel. A museum, constructed over the remnants of a crypt from the Roman period and around which are most of the better preserved Roman features, provides the archaeological background from the Palaeolithic to the medieval.

Arles Amphitheatre

One of the major attractions in Rome, the Arènes d’Arles was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD and is still used for entertainment today, as a venue for bullfighting during the Feria d’Arles in September and various musical events over summer. Although the structure is obviously Roman, it was modified during medieval times. The two towers are what remains of the amphitheatre as a fortress that up until the 18th century protected some 200 houses. These were removed in the 1820s.

Barbegal Aqueduct & Mills

Just north of present day Arles are the remains of what are thought to be the largest remains of a mill complex from antiquity. An aqueduct that supplied Roman Arles (Arelate) with water was also use to drive 16 water wheels to produce flour. Dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, the substantial roadside remains include water channels, foundations of the individual mills, as well as the staircase rising up the hill on which the mills were built.


After the French Revolution workmen were digging the foundations for a road through the forest near the city of Eu. They cut through the walls of a Roman building. After several decades of excavations the remains of a medium sized Gallo-Roman town have been uncovered, with typical architectural features such as a theatre, a forum and public bath houses. From the 1st century AD the Romans developed a substantial sanctuary complex on the site of what had been a Celtic shrine.

Gennes Roman Amphitheatre

This Gallo-Roman amphitheatre is thought to have been one of the largest in north-west France. The typically elliptical arena measures 44 by 39 metres, with a semi-circular cavea thought to have been able to seat around 5,000 spectators. The basic outline and shape of the amphitheatre, as well as a number of architectural features, is well preserved and easy to see, but they have been enhanced by extensive excavations. These include three rooms at the edge of the arena that would have been used for performers.

Glanum Archaeological Site

The ancient town of Glanum started out as an Iron Age oppidum at about 500 years BC. During the 2nd century BC the town became substantially Hellenised as a result of contact with the Greeks settled in Marseilles. After the defeat of the Gauls during the 1st century BC until the 3rd century AD Glanum was an important town with numerous religious and civic monuments being constructed.

Roman Collection in Museums of France

Alésia MuséoParc

Not far from Mont Auxois, the location of the Celtic oppidum of Alesia, is the Alésia MuséoParc. With a variety of display techniques and multimedia a circular exhibition space, designed by Bernard Tschumi, tells the Battle of Alesia in September 52 BC in extraordinary detail. Outside is a reconstruction of the system of fortifications built by Caesar to surround and lay siege to the Celtic settlement.

Aquitaine Museum, Bordeaux

In 1963 a number of different museums in Bordeaux amalgamated to form Le Musée d’Aquitaine. With over 70,000 objects, this museum covers the history of the Bordeaux region from prehistory to the 20th century in over 5,000 square meters of displays. The range of objects included is quite amazing, from carved bone of Palaeolithic age to carved stone from the medieval period.

Archaeological Museum of Aléria

The Musée Archéologique Jérôme Carcopino in Aléria has collections of artefacts that not only relate to the history of Corsica, but also of the Mediterranean more generally. The collections derive from the nearby archaeological site of Aléria, and date from the Neolithic through to the Roman period. And it is the ancient importance of the port city of Aléria that makes the museum’s collections so significant.

Bargoin Museum, Clermont Ferrand

The Musée Bargoin was founded following a legacy to the city of Clermont-Ferrand by Jean-Baptiste Bargoin. Originally intended to be a fine arts museum, it opened in 1903 with a considerable collection of artefacts collected from a number of archaeological sites from around the region. Permanent displays in the museum deal with prehistory of the area, from the Stone Age to the Gallo-Roman Period. The museum has a new, extensive permanent exhibition on votive offerings of the Roman period.

Besançon Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology

Opened in 1694, the musée des beaux-arts et d’archéologie de Besançon is the oldest public museum in France, almost a hundred years older than the principal French museums. Through substantial donations of local and European archaeological artefacts and paintings and drawings by well known French and European artists, the museum displays an impressive collection of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Carnac Prehistory Museum

The Musée de Préhistoire de Carnac is housed in an old rectory with a collection of over 7,000 artefacts from many of the megalithic sites in the area – one of the richest museums for megalithic culture. A handful of display that deal with the various aspects of everyday life, but the museum has a greater focus on the development and significance of funerary architecture, from the early dolmens to the later, more complex passage tombs. A few galleries explore the Iron Age and Roman  periods.

French National Library Museum

At its Richelieu site, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library) showcases some of the highlights from its extensive collection of art, archaeological artefacts, and rare manuscripts. Initially bringing together some of the treasures of the French monarchy, the collection began to be assembled from the 17th century and was formerly known as the Cabinet des Médailles. Today, the museum’s displays range from the early medieval Throne of Dagobert, long associated with the Frankish and French monarchy, to a rare copy of Victor Hugo’s famed novel Notre-Dame de Paris.

Musée Carnavalet

Originally built in the 16th century as a home for Jacques de Ligneris, the president of the Parliament of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet has undergone various changes over the years, resulting in its present combination of Renaissance and Neo-Classical styles. In 1866 the Parisian authorities purchased the building and in 1880 opened it as a museum devoted to the city’s heritage. Today it contains a wealth of material, from archaeological artefacts exploring the region’s prehistoric and Gallo-Roman past through to artworks by some of France’s greatest painters.

Musée de Cluny

Devoted primarily to the art of the Middle Ages, the Musée de Cluny occupies one of Paris’ oldest surviving buildings, a late 15th-century Gothic mansion built for the Abbot of Cluny. It was in the 19th century that this lavish structure became home to a museum, and today its most important treasure is probably The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, created around 1500. Accompanying its medieval heritage, the museum also encompasses the frigidarium of a Gallo-Roman bathhouse and displays important Roman-era artefacts like the Pillar of the Boatmen.

Musée de la Romanité

Opposite the Roman amphitheater in the historic centre of Nîmes stands a striking and modern building. As if covered in a white toga. This is the new Roman museum, opened in 2018. Using state-of-the-art multimedia presentation techniques and an extensive range of archaeological artefacts, a comprehensive permanent exhibition tells the story of the development of Roman Nîmes. From its Iron Age beginnings to medieval times, and the study of Roman archaeology itself.