As you enter the site you’ll find a large car park with ticket office, separate museum and two cafés – handy, as you’ll need to allow a good two to three hours to see everything. Once through the gates you’ll be faced by the remains of a paved Roman road which once ran from Olisipo (Lisbon) to Braccara Augusta (Braga). To the right of this is the impressive first-century House of the Fountains – covered to protect it from the elements – whose floors still display beautiful polychrome mosaics. To the left of here are the remains of other wealthy family homes – some with mosaic panels – as well as shops.

Up until the fourth century, the inhabitants lived well and peacefully, but their lives changed dramatically when Swabian attacks became increasingly common. Those who could afford to leave quickly departed for the safety of Rome, while those who remained decided to build the site’s most prominent feature, a vast defensive wall four metres thick, which could only be entered via giant double gates. The wall virtually cut the town in two: the part of town between the wall and today’s ticket office was abandoned, with the rest of the town being protected between the wall and the natural defences of a ravine on the other side.

Today, you can see further houses beyond the wall: the biggest boasts around forty rooms and was once owned by a first-century aristocrat, Cantaber – reconstructed pillars show how impressive it was. Little remains of the other main structures, which include shops, an early Christian basilica, and a water cistern that formed part of a 3km-long aqueduct. You can also visit the partially reconstructed Forum, a broad space built around a temple dedicated to Roman gods, that was once the hub of the town.

Museu Monográfico de Conímbriga

The small but excellent Museu Monográfico de Conímbriga displays fascinating finds from the excavations, presented thematically. Cabinets detail the minutiae of various trades (glass making, ironmongery, weaving, even house building) and aspects of daily life including coins hoarded because of fear of attack and an array of implements that show the Romans were a vain lot: there are sumptuous, carved hair pins and jewellery you’d admire today. The section on health and hygiene contains scalpels, needles and some quite alarming “probing spoons”. On the other side of the museum are displayed the larger spoils – statues of torsos, carved lintels, gargoyles from temples, monochromatic mosaics, remarkably bright mural fragments, and inscribed slabs, pillars and tombstones from the necropolis.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

9 of the best pousadas in Portugal

9 of the best pousadas in Portugal

From Gothic monasteries and riverside palaces, to Moorish castles that loom over terraced hillsides, Portugal has a good deal of striking places to stay. Its c…

12 Oct 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises

Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises

Among a certain segment of travellers, cruising is sometimes maligned: the dismal buffet and watered-down cocktails. Those kitschy lounge acts. The contrived sh…

29 Mar 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
Our expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

Our expert's guide: the best area to stay in Lisbon

Heading to the Portuguese capital this year? Whether you want rich history or shops galore, these are the best areas to stay in Lisbon according to our expert.…

09 Feb 2016 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month