Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Roman Museums in France

Museums with Roman artefacts vary greatly in character across the country. As a result of early curatorial practices, as well as donations, the Louvre and many other provincial museums have worthy collections of Roman artefacts from other parts of Europe and the Roman world. In contrast, there are numerous local, regional museums that have collections of artefacts from the local area, either as a result of recent professional excavations or the collections of early antiquarians. 

Roman Artefacts in Museums Around France

Alésia MuséoParc

Not far from Mont Auxois, the location of the Celtic oppidum of Alesia, is the Alésia MuséoParc. With a variety of display techniques and multimedia a circular exhibition space, designed by Bernard Tschumi, tells the Battle of Alesia in September 52 BC in extraordinary detail. Outside is a reconstruction of the system of fortifications built by Caesar to surround and lay siege to the Celtic settlement.

Angoulême Museum

In the historic heart of Angoulême, right next to the apse of St Peter’s cathedral is the newly renovated bishopric, home to the city’s museum. Collections and permanent exhibitions include the geology and archaeology of the Charente from prehistory to the early medieval period, one of the most important collections of African and Oceanic arts in France, as well as a collection of Western art from the 16th to 20th centuries. One of the museum’s highlights is the gold plated Gallic helmet from the 4th century BC.

Aquitaine Museum, Bordeaux

In 1963 a number of different museums in Bordeaux amalgamated to form Le Musée d’Aquitaine. With over 70,000 objects, this museum covers the history of the Bordeaux region from prehistory to the 20th century in over 5,000 square meters of displays. The range of objects included is quite amazing, from carved bone of Palaeolithic age to carved stone from the medieval period.

Archaeological Museum of Aléria

The Musée Archéologique Jérôme Carcopino in Aléria has collections of artefacts that not only relate to the history of Corsica, but also of the Mediterranean more generally. The collections derive from the nearby archaeological site of Aléria, and date from the Neolithic through to the Roman period. And it is the ancient importance of the port city of Aléria that makes the museum’s collections so significant.

Archaeology Museum of Saintes

The museum has recently redeveloped its permanent exhibitions. These now include interactive 3D displays that allow visitors to explore what Saintes was like during the Gallo-Roman period, as well as what daily life was like in the town around 2,000 years ago. Also on display is an impressive collection of objects recovered from various sites around Saintes, from both public and private sites.

Bargoin Museum, Clermont Ferrand

The Musée Bargoin was founded following a legacy to the city of Clermont-Ferrand by Jean-Baptiste Bargoin. Originally intended to be a fine arts museum, it opened in 1903 with a considerable collection of artefacts collected from a number of archaeological sites from around the region. Permanent displays in the museum deal with prehistory of the area, from the Stone Age to the Gallo-Roman Period. The museum has a new, extensive permanent exhibition on votive offerings of the Roman period.

Besançon Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology

Opened in 1694, the musée des beaux-arts et d’archéologie de Besançon is the oldest public museum in France, almost a hundred years older than the principal French museums. Through substantial donations of local and European archaeological artefacts and paintings and drawings by well known French and European artists, the museum displays an impressive collection of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Carnac Prehistory Museum

The Musée de Préhistoire de Carnac is housed in an old rectory with a collection of over 7,000 artefacts from many of the megalithic sites in the area – one of the richest museums for megalithic culture. A handful of display that deal with the various aspects of everyday life, but the museum has a greater focus on the development and significance of funerary architecture, from the early dolmens to the later, more complex passage tombs. A few galleries explore the Iron Age and Roman  periods.

Forum Museum Bavay

The archaeology museum in Bavay, and the adjacent Roman Forum site, have recently undergone considerable development. Although many artefacts were removed from the site over the years, and now in museums in France and Belgium, there are still some quite spectacular objects on display in the museum. Besides showing what life was like for the inhabitants of the Roman city, the exhibits also outline the strategic importance of the city for the Roman Empire. Entry to the museum includes the archaeological site, but features the forum and fortifications can be seen from the street.

Fréjus Archaeological Museum

With Fréjus’s rich archaeological heritage, particularly from the Roman period, there are a number of ongoing excavations in the city. Many of the finds recovered from these excavations are displayed in the municipal archaeology museum, and are arranged thematically to give an idea of what life was like during the Roman period of the city. In the sculpture gallery there are a number of striking pieces, including a large, very well preserved floor mosaic. Pride of place, however, is given to the double headed bust of Hermès, now the symbol of Fréjus.

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.

Juliobona Museum

Directly opposite the Roman theatre on the Place Félix Faure is the Juliobona Museum. The museum houses the town’s Gallo Roman collections. When the museum reopens on 13 April 2024, a new set of displays will be unveiled. Within a series of exhibits showing what life was like in Roman times, for the first time the so-called ‘Domina tomb’ will be on display. These include the artefacts from the burial of a young girl from the aristocratic elite of Juliobona – the Roman name for Lillebonne.

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.

Musée de la Romanité

Opposite the Roman amphitheater in the historic centre of Nîmes stands a striking and modern building. As if covered in a white toga. This is the new Roman museum, opened in 2018. Using state-of-the-art multimedia presentation techniques and an extensive range of archaeological artefacts, a comprehensive permanent exhibition tells the story of the development of Roman Nîmes. From its Iron Age beginnings to medieval times, and the study of Roman archaeology itself.

Musée de Normandie, Caen

Opened in 1963, the museum of the history of Normandy is housed in what was the Governor’s residence within the walls of the Ducal castle of Caen. The building we see today is a restored version of a mansion that was constructed in the 1th century, but badly damaged in WWII. A series of permanent exhibits chart the history of Normandy from prehistory to the Middle Ages; with artefacts from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Displays focus on the transformation of rural communities through time, first with the arrival of Romans in the area, and then with the advent of industry in the region.

Musée Départemental Arles Antique

Also known as the Musée de l’Arles Antique, it is situated at the end of what was the Roman circus – parts of which can still be viewed. Although the focus of the museum’s exhibitions date to the Roman period in Arles, there are collections on display from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity (from the 4th to 6th centuries AD). There are some extraordinary artefacts on display, including many exquisite mosaic floors, a bust of Caesar and the recently excavated boat. A must visit before exploring Roman Arles.

Musée des Antiquités, Rouen

Established in 1831 specifically for the artefacts recovered from the excavations of Gallo-Roman sites in Lillebonne, one highlight of which is a mosaic floor. Since then it has evolved into the departmental museum of antiquities for the Seine Maritime Department. Now, with numerous and varied collections, this museum tells the history of Normandy from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance. Thanks to private donations, the museum also has a fine collection of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greek antiquities.

Museum of Art and Archaeology of Périgord

Founded in 1835, the Musée d’art et d’archéologie du Périgord is the oldest museum in the Dordogne. The museum has over 33,000 artefacts in its collections, from local prehistory to the 20th century – with a modest collection of objects from the rest of Europe, Classical Greece and Italy, ancient Egypt, Oceania and Africa. It is particularly noted for its Palaeolithic collection of artefacts from the area, a highlight being the fossil remains of Regourdou man – the oldest burial of an adult Neanderthal in Europe.

Museum of History and Archaeology, Orléans

One of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in the city of Orléans, Hôtel Cabu is home to the Musée historique et archéologique de l’Orléanais. As is to be expected of a regional museum much of what is on display is the history of the Orléans area. One of the highlights is the trésor de Neuvy-en-Sullias, a collection of 30 bronze Gallic and Gallo-Roman objects that were found Neuvy-en-Sullias commune about 30 kms from Orlèans.