Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Roman Sites & Museums in Paris & Île-de-France

The Roman settlement, originally named Lutetia and later Lutèce, was located on the Left Bank at Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. Until the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Lutèce became a prosperous city with substantial palaces, baths, temples and theatres, as well as a forum and an amphitheatre (Arènes de Lutèce). Few of these buildings survive today, but the most impressive is the public baths – one of the largest surviving Roman buildings in north western Europe (Thermes de Cluny). Remains of the later Roman period of Paris have been uncovered in and can be seen at the La crypte archéologique de l’île de la Cité in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Roman Sites & Ruins in Paris & île de France

Archaeological Crypt of the île de la Cité

Beneath the Notre Dame Cathedral are the remains of Paris’s Roman and medieval past, including the Roman port and a public bath house. Set amongst these exceptionally exhibited remains are informative displays that tell the history of this popular city, beginning with the Neolithic and Iron Age of the area, including an engaging recreation of the settlement of the Parisii, the Celtic tribe who settled in the area 2,000 years ago and from whom the city takes its name. This attraction is open.

Paris Amphitheatre - Arènes de Lutèce

Although much of the amphitheatre is a recent reconstruction, it is nonetheless an important part of the Roman heritage of Paris. Constructed in the 1st century AD, and seating about 17,000 people, the amphitheatre was used for both theatrical performances as well as gladiatorial combats. The arena was destroyed by Barbarians in 280 AD, and it came to light again in 1860 during building works. A campaign to save and restore the amphitheatre was successfully lead by Victor Hugo; it was reopened as a public square in 1896.

Roman Bath House – Les Thermes Antiques de Cluny

The Thermes de Cluny are the relatively well preserved ruins of what was a massive public bathhouse constructed by the Romans during the 3rd century AD. Given that the ancient buildings have been in constant use since the Middle Ages the preservation of these ruins is quite remarkable. In fact they are amongst the most substantial surviving Roman remains in all of northern Europe. A number of architectural elements typical of Roman bathhouses are still intact, including the frigidarium (cold water baths), the caldarium (hot water room), the tepidarium (warm water room) and the gymnasium. The bath house is part of the Cluny Museum, and some of the halls are used to display Roman and prehistoric artefacts. Parts of the bath house can be viewed from the street.

Roman Museums in Paris & île de France

French National Library Museum

At its Richelieu site, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library) showcases some of the highlights from its extensive collection of art, archaeological artefacts, and rare manuscripts. Initially bringing together some of the treasures of the French monarchy, the collection began to be assembled from the 17th century and was formerly known as the Cabinet des Médailles. Today, the museum’s displays range from the early medieval Throne of Dagobert, long associated with the Frankish and French monarchy, to a rare copy of Victor Hugo’s famed novel Notre-Dame de Paris.

Musée Carnavalet

Originally built in the 16th century as a home for Jacques de Ligneris, the president of the Parliament of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet has undergone various changes over the years, resulting in its present combination of Renaissance and Neo-Classical styles. In 1866 the Parisian authorities purchased the building and in 1880 opened it as a museum devoted to the city’s heritage. Today it contains a wealth of material, from archaeological artefacts exploring the region’s prehistoric and Gallo-Roman past through to artworks by some of France’s greatest painters.

Musée de Cluny

Devoted primarily to the art of the Middle Ages, the Musée de Cluny occupies one of Paris’ oldest surviving buildings, a late 15th-century Gothic mansion built for the Abbot of Cluny. It was in the 19th century that this lavish structure became home to a museum, and today its most important treasure is probably The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, created around 1500. Accompanying its medieval heritage, the museum also encompasses the frigidarium of a Gallo-Roman bathhouse and displays important Roman-era artefacts like the Pillar of the Boatmen.

National Archaeology Museum

The Musée d’Archéologie Nationale is housed in what was once a royal palace – the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the outskirts of Paris. In the 1860s Napoleon III had the castle restored to house the nation’s archaeology collections. Today, the museum has a vast collection of artefacts from all over the country, from the earliest Palaeolithic to the early Medieval. Highlights include cave art, Bronze Age gold and Roman mosaics.

Palais du Louvre - Louvre Museum

Now one of the most famous museums in the world, the Louvre was a Royal residence. A 12 century fortress became a residence for Charles V in the mid 14th century, when he abandoned the Palais de la Cité. Since then it the principle residence of kings of France until the French Revolution, when parts of it became a public museum. The museum now occupies the entire complex. Collections include art and antiquities from France and Mediterranean Europe (Etruscan, Greek and Roman). There are also substantial collections of Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities, from late prehistory to the start of Christian and Islamic periods.

Petit Palais

Designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, the Petit Palais was built for the city’s Universal Exposition in 1900, now home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. One of Paris’ finest art galleries, from its origins it showcased artworks that the city authorities had been collecting since 1870, and over the years its collection has expanded through donations. Seeking to present a broad history of European art, its collection includes artefacts from the Classical world as well as works by some of the continent’s most important artists, from medieval engravings by Albrecht Dürer through to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne.

Interactive Map of Roman Sites & Museums in Paris & île de France

You can do at least two things with the following interactive map. First, by switching the display of the map to satellite mode (you can uncheck ‘labels’ to get a clutter free map), you can get a street view of most of the sites. Simply click and drag the yellow pegman (lower right) onto the map and drop it on a blue line or dot to get street-view at that point.

Second, you can also use the markers on the map to save that site or museum to your itinerary. Click on a marker to see the site’s information box. If you are logged in you will see the option to add that place to your itineraries and travel lists. Login or register to use these features.

Roman Sites & Museums in Paris & Île-de-France