This post covers Roman London, where was it, and what remains of it.
We include a map of the 7 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! (no pun intended)
- What was Londinium?
- 7 Roman Ruins
- 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 7 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 or 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
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
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.