We all know of Stonehenge, the Parthenon and the Colosseum, but what about some of the lesser known ancient ruins in Europe? The Roman and Greek Empires covered massive areas and left their mark everywhere that had been conquered, and when you add the Moors and the Turks into the mix, the lesser known ancient ruins of Europe are all over the continent.
Something of a mirage in the setting of modern day Italy, Segesta makes for one of the most bizarre ancient ruins of Europe when paired with the busy highway from Palermo to Trapani in Sicily. Comprised of a stunning unfinished hilltop temple and an amazing amphitheatre, the site is extremely well preserved, especially considering that the structures there are believed to date back to roughly 430BC. If you’re lucky enough to visit the region in the summer months, you may even be treated to one of the great concerts held in the amphitheatre!
Asklepion certainly lies a little off the beaten path for most travelers looking for ancient European ruins; it’s perched high above the harbor on the Greek island of Kos, a mere 4 kilometers off the Turkish coastline. Asklepion is certainly worth seeing, with a stunningly well preserved temple, and amazing views of the surrounding countryside on offer. The fact that the site is generally quite secluded and quiet also allows you to really lose yourself in the history and majesty of the structures.
The city of Pula in Croatia has a long history, dating back to ancient Roman times, although most travelers are unaware that a number of extremely well preserved ancient structures, such as an amphitheatre, a temple, a gate and some arches, still lie scattered throughout the settlement. The area actually has some of the most interesting examples of ancient ruins in Europe, owing to the fact that many of the buildings, such as the remarkable amphitheatre, are still contemporarily in regular use.
Possibly one of the most striking ancient ruins in Europe, St Hilarion Castle sits high in the Kyrenia mountain range of Northern Cyprus, and is accessible only via a small intermittently restricted mountain trail. Having being utilized at different times throughout history as a monastery, a royal residence and a fortified stronghold, the castle is extremely interesting to walk through, with remnants of each of these structures scattered throughout the site. The real draw of St. Hilarion Castle, however, is definitely the view, with the surrounding landscape and sparkling Mediterranean Sea stretching out as far as the eye can see.
As one of the most well preserved ancient European ruins, the city of Efes on Turkey’s breathtaking west coast should definitely be on your travel to-do list. The scope of the ruins is absolutely breathtaking, with structures such as: a beautiful theatre, a library building, a fountain, various houses and gates, and a number of temples (including the famed Temple of Artemis – one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world) on display. There is also a fantastic museum nearby, which houses a variety of different ancient Efes artifacts and describes why this magnificent settlement was so rudely abandoned.
The township of Visegrad, although small, is home to some of the most impressive and underrated ruins. Once prone to invasions by Mongol and Turkish forces, owing to its favorable mountainous position on the Danube, numerous imposing medieval fortifications were constructed throughout the region. Contemporarily, however, only the citadel and royal palace constructed and built upon by various Hungarian kings still exist - leaving much to the imagination.
Travelers interested in visiting well-preserved ancient European ruins certainly shouldn’t look past Trajan's Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. This 2nd century Roman construction has an extremely rich history and is believed to have hosted gladiatorial fights in its early days. The structure was, however, later damaged during 5th century conflict, before then falling victim to a landslide in the 1970s. The theater has consequently undergone extensive excavation and restoration and contemporarily hosts a busy calendar of different performances and concerts.
The ancient ruins of Europe tell fascinating stories of days of old, and you can’t fail to be amazed at the magnificent constructions our ancestors built using only rudimentary tools. If you’ve been to any of these, do let us know of your experiences, or maybe you have some others to recommend?
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