Destination Dupes: Explore Roman Culture Differently

When one thinks of Roman culture, the mind naturally drifts to the grandeur of Rome itself—the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Vatican. However, the legacy of ancient Rome extends far beyond its capital city, permeating various corners of Europe and beyond.

The Roman Empire spanned over 2.5 million square miles at its height, making it one of the largest empires in history. Its northernmost accessible point today is in Vindolanda, England, near Hadrian’s Wall, a testament to Roman expansion into Britannia. In the south, Leptis Magna in modern-day Libya stands as a remarkable example of Roman influence, showcasing grand architecture and urban planning. From the windswept moors of Britain to the sun-drenched shores of North Africa, remnants of the Roman Empire endure, offering glimpses into a bygone era of conquest, innovation, and cultural exchange.

That means lots of opportunities for destination dupes; the 2024 trend of spotting places that are much more popular. Instead of the obvious Roman locations, such as Rome, you can find a different experience in other places that may not be as busy, or expensive. Indeed, for those seeking a deeper immersion into Roman history and culture, exploring lesser-known destinations can provide a unique and enriching experience.

Here are four hidden gems that promise to captivate enthusiasts of Roman culture, offering a glimpse into the empire’s legacy beyond the beaten path.

Mérida, Spain

Free Theatre Hispania photo and picture

Tucked away in the picturesque region of Extremadura lies Mérida, a city steeped in Roman heritage. Once known as Emerita Augusta, it was founded in 25 BC as a retirement settlement for veterans of the Roman army. Today, Mérida boasts some of the most impressive Roman ruins outside of Italy, earning it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visitors can marvel at the remarkably preserved Roman theater, which still hosts performances to this day, and explore the vast archaeological complex that includes an amphitheater, a circus, and the stunning Temple of Diana. The National Museum of Roman Art further enriches the experience, housing a superb collection of artifacts that offer insight into daily life in ancient Rome.

Trier, Germany

Nestled along the banks of the Moselle River, Trier is often referred to as the “Rome of the North” due to its rich Roman heritage. Founded by Emperor Augustus in 16 BC, Trier became an important administrative center of the Roman Empire and later served as the residence of several Roman emperors, including Constantine the Great.

Today, Trier boasts an impressive array of Roman monuments, including the imposing Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, and the UNESCO-listed Trier Imperial Baths, which once served as a grandiose complex for leisure and socializing. The Trierer Dom, or Cathedral of Saint Peter, stands as a testament to the city’s significance during the medieval period, blending Roman and Gothic architectural styles.

Djémila, Algeria

In the rugged landscapes of northern Algeria lies Djémila, a remarkably well-preserved ancient Roman city nestled amidst the hills of the Aurès Mountains. Founded in the 1st century AD under the reign of Emperor Nerva, Djémila flourished as a vibrant Roman colony known as Cuicul.

Visitors to Djémila can wander through its labyrinthine streets, marveling at the remarkably preserved temples, forums, and residential quarters that offer a glimpse into daily life in Roman North Africa. Highlights include the striking Arch of Caracalla, dedicated to the emperor of the same name, and the intricate House of Bacchus, adorned with exquisite mosaics depicting scenes from Roman mythology.

Jerash, Jordan

Nestled amidst the rolling hills of northern Jordan lies Jerash, a treasure trove of ancient Roman architecture and one of the best-preserved Roman provincial cities in the world. Founded in the 1st century BC, Jerash, then known as Gerasa, thrived as an important trading hub on the crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Today, visitors to Jerash can explore its remarkably intact ruins, including the imposing Hadrian’s Arch, the well-preserved oval-shaped Forum, and the stunning Temple of Artemis. The city’s annual Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts provides a vibrant celebration of its rich history, featuring music, dance, and theatrical performances against the backdrop of its ancient monuments.


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