Self-Guided Tour of Roman London Ruins
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, 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.
- We cover many of these Roman London sights on our guided Old City of London Tour.
- Be sure to check out our other free, self-guided tours of London
Map of Roman London
(Stop A) – Museum of London
For a true treasure trove of Roman artefacts, 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.
(Stop B) – Roman Wall
There is also a piece of the Roman Wall which would have surrounded London 2,000 years ago still on display. Notably, the city was surrounded by the London Wall; a 5 km (3 miles) long, 6 m (20 ft) high, and 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) thick structure encompassing the entire city. 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, both of which can be visited by the public.
(Stop C) – 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 and included in 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 amphitheatre when going to the gallery at the Guildhall.
(Stop D) – The Temple of Mithras – Temple Court
Originally uncovered in the 1950’s 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…
…Until the media company Bloomberg, building their European HQ on the land that stands on the original site, have decided to reconstruct the Temple back in it’s original position – where it is believed it was erected in the year 240. This means that, as time of writing, the Temple cannot be completely seen as it is currently being pieced back together near Mansion House and Cannon Street Stations. The work that is being done can be watched by the public through viewing panels that have been constructed into the barriers and when it is completed, the site will be available for the public to once again visit.
(Stop E) – The London Stone – Cannon Street
A block of limestone measuring 53x43x30cm (21x17x12in), the London Stone is first made reference of in the year 1100. The original function and usage of the stone isn’t known 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 the medieval times, 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 conspicuously, 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.
(Stop F) – Roman Road – 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.
(Stop G) – The London Wall – Various
Near Tower Hill Underground Station
Outside the Museum of London
On the Barbican Estate near Barbican Underground Station
(Stop H) – Billingsgate Roman House & Baths
The Museum of London organizes tours of the remnants of a Roman bath and house located in the basement of this office building. The tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays, last 45 minutes and cost just £8/adult and £6/concession. Book the tours on their website.