As you might know, I am super excited about any Roman ruins I can visit when I travel. I studied ancient Latin and Greek languages and history. Although I failed miserable at the language part, I did get my geek on by all the history, myths and influences the ancient Romans left scattered across Europe. Of course, Rome and Italy are the Holy Grail when it comes to Roman ruins in Europe, but I found a few not to miss treasures in southern Spain too! Divided over several trips to the region, I give you the 7 best ancient Roman ruins in Andalusia Spain.
Best Roman Ruins of Spain?
I haven’t seen the whole of Spain, but I’ve seen quite a bit. I took several trips to Andalucia and I might argue that the best Roman ruins in Spain can be found in the south. I give you the 7 best ancient Roman ruins in Andalucia:
- Roman Ruins of Acinipo near Ronda
- Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia near Bolonia
- Roman Theater in Cadíz
- Roman Theater in Malaga
- Roman Ruins of Italica in Seville
- Roman Ruins of Ocuri near Ubrique
- Roman Salt Pans of Iptuci near El Bosque
Located 21 km/13 miles from super cute white village Ronda, the Roman ruins of Acinipo showcase the remains of the small settlement of Ronda la Vieja. The importance of Acinipo is mainly attributed to its strategic location on top of the hill, overlooking the farmlands surrounding it.
More Roman Ruins? Visit Ostia Antica from Rome
What to see at Acinipo
The main draw to visit Acinipo on a day trip from Ronda is the Roman theater from the 1st century. The almost entirely back wall still stands upright and you can clearly make out the lower seating area. In her prime days, the theater of Acinipo could seat 2,000 spectators who’d come to see political plays and comedies as was common in those times.
Read more: Where to find the best views of Ronda Spain?
Another excavated Roman ruin at Acinipo is the Roman baths. You can make out the lay-out of the baths and the warm and cold rooms.
Unfortunately, the rest of the city area is not excavated at this moment. Since the 3rd century CE, the city declined, moving the seat of power to modern day Ronda around the 6th century CE.
Most stunning things to see at Acinipo ruins might be the 360 degree view of the plains and Natural Park. I enjoyed watching the thunderstorm roll in from across the mountains and I imagined life in Roman times at this strategic location.
Practical information to visit the Roman ruins of Acinipo
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Saturday: 10am to 2pm, Sunday: 9am to 1pm. But times and days change per month. Always check locally or call ahead for updated information. Entrance is free. As the site of Acinipo is very limited in information, you can find more detailed information and artifacts at the municipal museum in Ronda.
Looking at the map of the Cádiz province in southern Spain, I noticed the ruins sign at the town of Bolonia Spain. I zoomed in and found the Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia near Bolonia. I knew I had to visit this famous landmark and I was not disappointed.
Windswept Bolonia Spain is a tiny village, located on the Strait of Gibraltar not far from Tarifa. It is famous for kitesurfing and windsurfing and houses the amazing remains of the Roman city of Baelo Claudia. This town was a trade post for northern Africa and soon developed a growing industry in tuna fishing and salting.
Founded around 200 years CCE, the city thrived around 100 CE until earthquakes shook the place up around 300 CE. The weakened defenses of the city led the way for pirates and barbarians to plunder the city and Baelo Claudia fell to ruins around 600 CE.
Read more: More stops along the Costa de la Luz
What to see at the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia
Where shall I begin? To me, these were the most surprising Roman ruins in Andalusia Spain. The sight of the Roman ruins is quite big and it is a fun half day trip. I easily spend 2 hours wandering the sights and I did not even spend time in the museum.
I really liked the layout of the sight. If you follow the route of the arrows, you’ll see the whole town and get the right information in the right order. All major highlights are signposted and you get a small leaflet with what sight is located where.
Big feature of the ruins of Baelo Claudia is its stunning location. Right on the beach, you can see the fish salting baths and the former harbor area. It’s really not hard to imagine the fresh caught tuna being brought in by local fishermen and salted on the spot.
Read more: 10 day Andalusia road trip itinerary.
The Forum and Basilica at Baelo Claudia is still pretty well intact. You can easily identify the open space in the middle of the city where all the main offices would have been and local shops (not related to the fish salting trade).
Real feats of Roman engineering are the aqueduct and the Roman theater. The first one is right when you enter the sight and shows how the water was led into the city from the higher mountains. The Roman Theater is well restored but you’re not allowed to climb the seating area to take in the views and enjoy the acoustic, which is already fantastic at ground level. Go ahead, give it a try. One person can stand in the middle of the performing area, as the other person climbs up as far as you’re allowed (on the side). Even with just a whisper, you can still hear each other perfectly.
When you return to the lower area of the city, you have a great overview from a different angle on the forum and basilica. The ground works for the temple of Isis and Juno, Jupiter and Minerva are mathematically laid out, showing the importance of the city having so many temples.
You can visit the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia for free if you’re an European citizen, if not, you’ll pay €1,50.
Opening Hours: Spring: Tuesday to Saturday: 9am to 8pm, Sunday: 9am to 3pm. Summer: Tuesday to Sunday: 9am to 3pm and winter: Tuesday to Saturday: 9am to 6pm, Sunday: 9am to 3pm. Find more details here. In high season you can catch a bus from Tarifa (3x a day) to Bolonia but you can better drive yourself or catch a ride. If you come from Cadiz, you might consider to book a tour to Bolonia. As Bolonia is a perfect beach destination you can combine your visit to the Roman city with a night stay in Bolonia.
During my times of studying Latin, I had to read Cicero. A bit dry, a bit too much war mongering. But the good man also wrote about the Roman theater in Cádiz. The Roman theater of Cádiz was world famous around 70 CE when it was built.
The theater could house 20,000 spectators and was one of the largest Roman theaters of its time. It was abandoned in 400 CE and once a new castle was built over it, people may have forgotten about it. It was not until 1980 when excavation work began.
The theater is now partly excavated and you can clearly see the dense houses built on top of it. At the time of my visit, the Roman theater of Cádiz was closed but I managed to get a few sneak peaks from behind the closed gate.
At the moment, the Roman theater of Cádiz is closed. You can view it from the El Populo barrio in Cádiz and it is worth to take a sneak peek. For more information, visit the Cádiz city council website.
Another Roman theater, the theater in Malaga is one of the oldest structures in Malaga. Also built around 100 CE, the theater is located in the middle of the city. At the base of the Alcazaba you can see and visit the Roman theater of Malaga and you can explore the visitor center to learn more about the Romans on the Hispanic peninsula.
In front of the theater, you’ll find a glass pyramid where you can view the excavation below the surface. The sight is free, why not pop in if you have the time?
You can visit the Roman theater of Malaga for free. Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 10am to 6pm, Sunday: 10am to 4pm.
The Roman Ruins of Italica, located 9 km/ 5,5 miles north of Seville in the modern town of Santiponce were the main reason I planned my 2nd visit to Andalusia. On my first trip, I only had time on Monday and the ruins were closed, so I figured I had to come back. They are the best advertised Roman ruins in Spain and easily to reach from Seville.
You could say I had high expectations for my visit to the Roman ruins of Italica and I was a tad bit disappointed. The city of Italica was of great importance during Roman times but the sight of Italica offers very little information. There is no route set out, so you have no idea where you’re going and there are no (English) explanations on sight. However, the mosaics were spectacular and after taking them all in, it made up a bit for the lack of information.
Read more: Sensational Setas in Seville.
If you’ve watched the movie Gladiator a couple of (100) times like I did, you might have heard of Scipius Africanus. This Roman general founded the settlement of Italica more or less in 206 CCE and Italica raised 2 quite famous emperors of Rome. You might have heard of them: Trajan and Hadrian (the one with the wall).
In true Roman emperor fashion, these rulers of the Roman world injected quite a bit of money into their birthplace. Sprucing the place up with temples and fora to show their wealth and influence.
What to see at the Roman ruins Seville?
The wealth clearly shows at the sight of Italica. You can visit the “new town” where a gigantic Amphitheater was built to house over 25,000 spectators, while the city at the time only had 8,000 inhabitants.
But the main prize of your visit to the Roman ruins of Seville is the mosaics. Never have I seen so many, complete and in-situ (still in place – aka on the floor of the ruins and not in a museum) mosaics as at the ruins of Italica. These mosaics are among the most elaborate of the Roman ruins in Spain.
Read more: Maximize your time in Rome
The house of the birds has pretty spectacular mosaics of all kinds of birds in almost black and white mosaics. The different houses like the Exedra house and the Neptune house have different colorful geometric mosaics but the main draw is the House of the Planetarium.
You’ll not find any mosaics of the stars and the planets, but of the gods representing them. Especially the grand mosaic of the gods is like looking at a year book with all the pictures.
Once I saw everything, I popped my head into the small museum at the entrance. Here was some historic information about the Roman city of Italica and the timeline of the archeologic excavations. My tip would be to visit the museum first.
Practical Information for Italica Seville
You can visit the Roman ruins of Italica for free if you’re an European citizen, if not, you’ll pay €1,50.
Opening Hours: Spring: Tuesday to Saturday: 9am to 8pm, Sunday: 9am to 3pm. Summer: Tuesday to Sunday: 9am to 3pm and winter: Tuesday to Saturday: 9am to 6pm, Sunday: 9am to 3pm. Take the M172 bus from Seville (every half an hour) to Santiponce to reach to ruins of Italica or book a tour from Seville.
I was super excited when I found the Roman ruins of Ocuri on the map. These ruins are located on the top of a mountain hill and can only be visited with a guided tour that runs 3x a day. They might be the most well hidden Roman ruins in Andalusia Spain.
I drove to Ubrique in the Cádiz mountains and parked my car at the sight. At noon, the tour left. There were 2 Spanish families and I and the tour guide explained in Spanish and in English.
Read more: The ruins of Knidos Turkey
We entered some farmland, closed the gate and started to walk up hill. For me, this was quite an unexpected (exhausting) exercise but it does add to the unique charm of the Roman ruins of Ocuri. It makes it special and not for everyone.
The Roman town of Ocuri mainly had a defensive purpose around 200 CE. The elevated position on top of the hill overlooks the natural park Sierra de Grazalema.
Things to see at the Roman ruins of Ocuri
Before you enter the remains of the actual Roman city of Ocuri, you’ll stumble upon the Mausoleum. In true Roman tradition, the important and wealthy dead where buried outside the city walls. But this Mausoleum is spectacular.
How often do you look at Roman ruins and just see a clearing in the sand? Maybe some rumble on the floor where the walls used to be and you have to use all your imagination to see the whole house or building in front of your eyes.
But not the Mausoleum of Ocuri. You’ll enter through a small door and enter the Mausoleum. Here you stand in a small square room with niches for the urns. The walls are fully erected and even the ceiling is in mint condition. I found it exhilarating to see a true Roman structure instead of a ruin.
Read more: Roman sights in Orange, France
We continued with our group through the city wall and our tour guide guided us around the hill site of Roman Ocuri. There were cisterns to hold the water, a Roman bath complex with exercise area and the remains of old Roman houses.
The main forum needed a little bit more imagination the panoramic views made up for it. We had stunning views of the Sierra de Grazalema and the towns of Ubrique and Benaocaz.
At the visitor center we watched a short movie with images of the Roman ruins of Ocuri made by a drone and 3D animation of the city in Roman times.
You can only visit the Roman ruins of Ocuri with a guided tour. You need to pay €2,00.
Starting times guided tours: Summer – Tuesday to Sundays: 10am, noon and 6pm. Sunday: 10am and noon. Rest of the year: Tuesday to Sundays: 10am, noon and 4pm. Sunday: 10am and noon. But it might be best to call ahead or check online.
I have to be honest with you. The salt pans of Iptuci near El Bosque are not the most important Roman ruins in Andalusia Spain. You’ll not book your flight to Spain to see these Roman ruins. But… If you’re in the neighborhood to visit the Roman ruins of Ocuri or any of the other famous landmarks in this region of Spain, you might pop by anyways to see these Salinas de Iptuci.
The Iptuci Salt pans, located 5 km/ 3 miles outside of El Bosque, one of the small white villages in the Cadiz Mountains, are a working salt farm. In Roman times, a small well was discovered and salt has been mined here since Roman times. If you’ve paid attention, you know Baelo Claudia thrived by salting tuna. The salt has to come from somewhere and was the main technique to store food.
Read more: Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia
Just park at the gate and wait for the man to come out. He is eager to show you around the sight and shows you the different salt pans, the spring where the water bubbles up and teaches you about harvesting salt. A visit lasts maybe half an hour, but for me it was stunning to see that the Salt pans outside El Bosque date back to Roman times.
How to find these Roman ruins in Andalusia?
Although these Roman ruins might not have an exact address all the time, they can be easily reached via road. Click the pin on the below map to get the exact coordinates to visit your favorite Roman ruins. The Roman theaters in Malaga and Cadiz are located right in the city center. The other sights are ideally reached with your own (rental) car or you can try to hitchhike.
The Ancient Roman Ruins in Andalusia Spain
I hope you enjoyed this tour of Andalusia as I showed you the best Roman ruins in this region of Spain for a visit. I understand you might not want to see all of them on one trip, but I hope it serves as inspiration for day trips around Andalusia where you can learn about Roman history in Spain and see some Roman ruins outside of Italy.
Which one is your favorite? Have you been to any of these 7 Roman ruins? Let me know in the comment section below.
More Roman History:
- Nero’s Golden Palace Rome
- Ancient Appian Way Bike Tour Rome
- Day trip to Ostia Antica Rome
- Ruins of Knidos, Turkey
All experiences are my own. I took 2 different trips to explore the best Roman ruins in Andalusia. This post is not sponsored in any way, but it does contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a booking via one of the links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.