Discover archaeological Roman sites across London with an expert tour guide
Roman London is still here, twenty feet below the modern busy streets of London the entire city of Londinium remains mostly hidden from view. The Roman City began in the First Century and was slowly built, before disappearing completely. But, when the foundations of new glass and steel structures pierce London's layers of history, they uncover levels of time. Archaeologist takeover and discover temples, theatres and gruesome mass graves. Thankfully, our preserved history is in the basements of giant office blocks or crypts of churches; it is fascinating to unearth Roman London on a private tour.
The best way to discover Roman London is with a knowledgeable tour guide, to put it in perspective and picture the old city layout in your mind's eye, through pictures, and real places.
Bizarrely you will see bits of Roman Wall in car parks and hotel courtyards, mosaic flooring in church crypts and a Roman Temple under a cutting edge office block. It is all there to discover.
The Romans in London
The full invasion came in the year AD43; we can only imagine what the British thought when elephants came thumping over the countryside, and thousands of troops waded over the Thames.
Founded in the 1st Century as a trading centre, Londinium eventually thrived and had all the attributes you would expect of a Roman City. There was a 'Forum', a market place; the town hall called the 'Basilica', bathhouses, temples, villas, barracks, forts and an Amphitheatre.
The Temple of Mithras
Hidden below the incredible and award-winning Bloomberg building is the restored Temple of Mithras. Amongst the bomb sites of post-war London, relics of the past lay exposed and ripe for discovery. The temple was unearthed in 1954 and caused a real stir, the mysterious cult of Mithras evokes fascination. The Mithraeum temple was a meeting place of cult members, a secret underground venue where strange rituals took place. Initiations and communal meals shared.
Popular with soldiers and business people, Mithras is a god of sun, war and loyalty. The visit is an experience with sounds, mist and atmospheric lighting.
The Roman Amphitheatre
The rebuilding of an art gallery in 1988 unearthed London's long lost Roman amphitheatre. Whenever you dig in London, you will find stuff, usually medieval walls, the remains of Norman streets and Saxon pig pens. The standard archaeological dig continued without too many surprises until rainwater revealed a curved wall and a wooden drain. The one hundred year search for London's gladiatorial arena was over, and now you can sink below ground and see it for yourself.
The venue seated from 7,000 to 10,000 spectators, in comparison the Albert Hall in Kensington seats just over 5,000. Just imagine seeing battles between bears and men, and the surprise when Londoner's saw there the first leopard. Although the transportation of exotic animals was expensive, pottery found in London depicts gladiators fighting leopards. The life span of these warriors was predictably short, maybe 10 to 20 fights, or up to the age of 30. Some gladiators gained status and lived into their 40's and even enjoyed freedom. Above the Roman amphitheatre is the superb Guildhall Art Gallery, featuring 250 stunning works of art.
The Roman Wall (various sites)
Londinium enclosed roughly 330 acres; the design featured nine gates (Ludgate, Newgate, etc.), defensive ditches, towers and forts. Eventually, the wall is partly destroyed during Viking raids and became a ruin. During the middle ages, the wealth and status of London returned along with the need for protection. The new wall incorporated the remaining Roman wall and its foundations. As London expanded around the wall's perimeter, the suffix 'within' or 'without' came into everyday use.
Sections of the wall remain in churchyards, the basements of modern offices, underground car parks and on the street.
The Roman Bath House
The Roman house in Billingsgate dates from the 2nd-century. At the time of its construction, it would have overlooked the River; this was a luxurious waterfront property with underfloor heating and bathhouse. Astonishingly, the property had hot, cold and warm rooms, much like a modern spa. This site became the first protected archaeological site in London in the year 1882.
Touring and accommodation
The best places to stay in London are Mayfair, St James, and the Royal Borough of Kensington. If you are considering day tours from London, staying further west in Kensington makes sense. Harrods and Hyde Park are close. Staying in Mayfair and St James will give you easy access to Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and high-end shops. The theatre district called the ‘West End’ is a short hop too.
Our Tour Designers are here to customise your private tours of London and day tours from London. Tell us about you and your interests, and we will create a tailor-made tour.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of your Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.