Whilst Germany may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for Roman sites, some of the Roman ruins in Germany are among the best-preserved in the world. Though the Romans never formally settled in Germany, there was a hive of Roman activity in the area. The first Germans entered the Roman Empire in AD 166. They asked for permission to settle, but this was refused and the Roman army were able to push them back. Eventually, the Romans abandoned their attempt to make inroads into Germany, but not before leaving behind a number of fascinating remnants of their occupation.
From the biggest surviving single room of Ancient Rome to little-known burial chambers and even working bridges, there are a plethora of sites to explore. Here’s our pick of 10 that you shouldn’t miss.
What are the best Roman Ruins in Germany?
1. Imperial Baths of Trier
The Imperial Baths of Trier, known in German as Kaiserthermen, are the beautifully preserved ruins of a Roman public bath complex constructed in the fourth century AD. Not only are these ancient baths some of the most striking Roman ruins in Germany, but they are also some of best-preserved and largest examples of Roman baths outside of Rome, with many of their walls and underground tunnels still intact.
The remains of the Imperial Baths of Trier are centrally located within the city and are a popular attraction among visitors and locals alike.
2. Porta Nigra
Porta Nigra, or the ‘Black Gate’, is one of the most famous Roman ruins in Germany. A late 2nd century Roman gate, the site is one of the sole remnants of the imposing fortifications which would once have encircled Trier – then known as Augusta Treverorum.
Originally constructed of large blocks of light sandstone, the darkening of its appearance by the Middle Ages led to it being called Porta Nigra, with its original name unknown. Having been incorporated into a medieval church, Porta Nigra is still beautifully preserved and remains one of the most dramatic Roman sights in Germany. Today, Porta Nigra still bears the marks of its medieval conversions, but is still clearly an Ancient Roman creation. Inside, there are various Roman and medieval remnants.
3. Basilica of Constantine – Trier
Of all the ancient Roman places in Germany, the Basilica of Constantine seems to have one of the most interesting accolades: it is the largest existing single room from the Roman period. Originally serving as the Roman Emperor’s audience hall, the structure was probably built in the 4th century AD.
Devastated by invaders in the 5th century and later incorporated into a palace, the Basilica of Constantine is now a church. Be sure to look out for the optical illusion created by the window sizes of the Basilica of Constantine, which make it look even bigger than it actually is
4. Romano-Germanic Museum – Cologne
Located in what was the Roman-era city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, this museum has an extensive collection of Roman artefacts from around Germany. It was built around a set of Roman remains which include the famous third century AD Dionysus Mosaic. From artwork and jewellery to glass, ceramics, and pieces of Roman structures, the museum exhibits a wide range of historic pieces dating back to this era and beyond into the Middle Ages.
One of the most famous exhibits at the Romano-Germanic Museum is the tomb of the Poblicius, a soldier who served in the fifth legion and whose large and elaborate tomb dates back to approximately 40AD. However, it is the Dionysus Mosaic which is the star attraction. Thought to have been created in around 220 to 230AD, this extremely well preserved mosaic floor measures approximately 750 square feet and is comprised of an incredibly intricate collection of over a million pieces of glass, stone, and ceramics.
5. Trier Roman Amphitheatre
A well-preserved amphitheatre once able to hold up to 20,000 spectators, Trier Roman Amphitheatre may have been built as early as the first century AD. The ancient amphitheatre would have been the site of fierce gladiatorial battles involving both humans and animals. Indeed, tunnels have been found under the stage which would have been used to house animals together with unfortunate prisoners of the Roman Empire.
Still hosting open air events, this site is one of the rare actively used Roman archaeological sites in Germany.
6. Xanten Archaeological Park
Germany’s largest outdoor museum is home to the remains of the once 10,000-strong settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Homes, inns, temples, an amphitheatre, a city wall, and a bathhouse, Xanten Archaeological park has them all, some in ruins, some reconstructed to various degrees.
The area of the park was first garrisoned by Roman legions in around 13 BC. It quickly flourished, with roads and a harbour being built alongside a vast military camp. Most of the buildings date back to the second century AD, when great building projects were undertaken.
An active bridge crossing the Mosel River in Trier, Romerbrucke was first built between 144 and 152 AD.
Impressively, much of the Roman structure of Romerbrucke is still there, although it has since undergone much reinforcement and renovation. No longer 100% original, it is still one of the most visible Roman sites in Germany.
8. The Altes Museum
The Altes Museum is part of Germany’s National Museum and is located in Berlin. Displaying part of the National Museum’s collection of classical antiquities. One of the main collections at the Altes Museum is its series of Roman portraits including those modelled on of the sarcophagi of Caesar and Cleopatra.
It is worth noting that the National Museum has made several changes to the arrangement of its classical antiquities collection and many pieces have moved to the Neues Museum.
9. Weiden Roman Burial Chamber
The Weiden Roman Burial Chamber is a second century tomb found on the outskirts of modern day Cologne. As was typical at the time, the burial chamber was built on the way out of the city.
Elaborate and containing a series of sculptures, the Weiden Roman Burial Chamber is open to the public.
10. The Barbara Baths – Trier
Built in the second century, The Barbara Baths are sadly not in the same excellent state of preservation as the Imperial Baths of Trier or some of the other, better-known Roman sites in Germany. The Barbara Baths are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A little of the original Barbara Baths can be seen above ground. Today, however, a fascinating set of tunnels below street level display the workings of the Barbara Baths, including furnaces, sewers, and the heating system.