This post covers Roman London, where was it, and what remains of it.
We include a map of the top Roman sights and tips on where to find them, as well as how to take tours of a few of them.
Let's dig in! (pun intended)
- What was Londinium?
- 12 Roman Ruins to Visit
- Old City of London Tours
- Self-Guided Tours of London
- Things to do in London
Some visitors to London might be surprised to hear that there is a Roman Wall and Roman ruins in London, but they do exist.
Around the year 50 BC, the Roman settlement of Londinium was established near where the City of London stands today.
A major hub in the Roman Empire, Londinium stood on the River Thames until it was abandoned by the Romans in the 5th century.
Although bustling and important, Londinium was quite small – about the size of today’s Hyde Park.
Boasting a complicated network of roads connecting Londinium to the rest of the country, an amphitheatre, temples, and markets, Londinium was a sophisticated city and it is still possible to visit the remains of this ancient town today.
Below are the top locations for either Roman London ruins or artifacts.
They are listed in the same order as found in the map posted above.
1. Museum of London
For a true treasure trove of Roman artifacts, one need only visit the Museum of London.
Showcasing the history of London from well before the Romans themselves, the Museum holds a plethora of artifacts dating from the time of Londinium.
Currency, jewelry, household goods, and figures of worship, the Museum of London’s collection cannot be topped.
2. Roman Wall at the Museum of London
Connected to the museum is a piece of the Roman Wall, a 5 km (3 miles) long, 6 m (20 ft) high, and 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) thick structure, that would have surrounded Londinium roughly 2,000 years ago.
This wall stood, in one form or another, until the 17th century.
A dominating feature for centuries, today the wall has been reduced to a few small pieces, the largest of which is located here.
More London Wall Locations
- Near Tower Hill Underground Station
- Outside the Museum of London
- On the Barbican Estate near Barbican Underground Station
- Check out or map above for a route to walk the Roman wall
3. Amphitheatre – London Guildhall
The only Roman amphitheatre in Londoninium was unearthed in 1988 when London’s Guildhall was excavating a site for their new art gallery.
Nearly 2,000 years after it was last used, the amphitheatre was opened to the public again as a part of the new gallery.
Animal fights, public executions, and gladiatorial combats would have been held here, attracting huge audiences from all nearby Roman settlements.
It is now possible to visit the amphitheater when going to the gallery at the Guildhall.
4. The Temple of Mithras
Originally uncovered in the 1950s during rebuilding work in the City, the Temple of Mithras was the largest and most important temple in Roman London.
A myriad of figurines and tributes (some of which are in the Museum of London now) were found at the Temple, indicating that it was used frequently by Londinium residents.
Because of the pressing need to build over the site of the Temple, it was very carefully moved to Temple Court on Queen Victoria Street.
That was until the media company Bloomberg, building their European HQ on the land that stands on the original site, decided to reconstruct the Temple back in its original position – where it is believed it was erected in the year 240.
It's free to visit but you need timed-tickets.
5. The London Stone
A block of limestone measuring 53x43x30cm (21x17x12in), the London Stone is first made reference to in the year 1100 AD.
The original function and usage of the stone aren’t known for certain but it is thought to be Roman in origin.
Potentially used by the Romans as a distance marker, the stone has existed in this part of London for centuries and by medieval times and was considered an important London landmark, sitting in the heart of the City of London.
The stone was considered so important that laws were drawn up on top of it and oaths were taken over it!
Today it lies, quite inconspicuously, in a small compartment at the bottom of a building located at 111 Cannon Street, available to be seen by anybody who walks past – although usually overlooked by the majority of pedestrians.
6. Roman Road in Southwark Cathedral
Roman London had a bridge crossing the River Thames, where the current London Bridge stands today.
On the southern side of the Roman bridge was a road that passed right through where Southwark Cathedral stands today.
Recent rebuilding of the gift shop/visitor centre at Southwark Cathedral unearthed part of this road and it is possible to see the road when visiting the shop at the Cathedral today.
7. Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
The City of London organizes tours of the remnants of a Roman bath and house located in the basement of an office building.
The tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays, last 45 minutes and cost just £9/adult and £7/concession. Book the tours on their website.
8. Tower Hill Roman Wall
Just adjacent to the Tower Hill Underground Station stands one of the highest remaining pieces of the Roman Wall.
The base of the wall is the original Roman stonework (up to about 4m high), and later medieval additions can be seen the higher up the wall you look.
The wall originally surrounded London on four sides, with the southern edge running along the shore of the River Thames.
Today, there is a statue of Roman Emperor Trajan, who actually never visited Britain, but did expand the Roman Empire to its' maximum extent.
9. Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market is well known for its' beauty as well as its' use as a filming location for the Harry Potter films.
But what many of the people who pass through the glass and ironwork structure don't know is that there'd a hidden piece of Roman London tucked away in the back of a barber's shop!
Leadenhall Market sits on top of what was once a roman basilica, which was forgotten to time until construction in the 19th century uncovered the ruins.
The only piece that is visible to the public is on the ground floor of Nicholson & Griffin's hairdressers, situated right on the corner of the market and Gracechurch Street.
To see it, you will need to politely speak to the staff but they are usually happy to bring people down and show them the remains of a supporting-pier from the basilica that once stood here.
The ruins are kept behind a glass wall, right next to one of the barber's chairs! A truly bizarre but fascinating piece of London's history.
10. Roman River Wooden Piling at St. Magnus the Martyr
The parts of the Roman Wall that touched the River Thames were built on top of thick wooden pilings.
Almost all of them have beeb lost to time - except for the singular piece that still survives, on display outside St. Magnus the Martyr Church!
Check out our video on the history of London Bridge below to see this original piece.
This charming church was originally founded in the 7th century - so not quite as long ago as Londinium.
However, after bombing damage in the Second World War, it was discovered that some of the ground floor structure had been built using Roman tiles and stonework.
Today, there is a museum in the crypt of the church, displaying portions of Roman pavement, as well as artefacts discovered during reconstruction efforts.
Perhaps one of the most useful items is an accurate model of Londinium, built in 1928 by Captain Lowther.
It shows the city as it would have been in AD 400, including the basilica under today's Leadenhall Market.
12. St. Bride's Church
Known primarily for its' legendary association with wedding cakes, St. Bride's Church is believed to sit on a site of worship dating back to the 7th century.
The current version was rebuilt in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren, but hidden in the crypt are even older pieces of history.
Uncovered in the 20th century, the crypt is home to medieval lead-lined coffins but also a roman pavement and a roman ditch.
A ditch doesn't sound that exciting, however it's a bit of a historical mystery as it's much deeper than the ditch that would've surrounded the Roman Wall - and nobody knows why!
Also in the crypt are Roman artefacts and the remains of a mosaic.