Archaeological and Historical Sites
Collected by Bryan Kitch, AFAR Contributor
Having been a student of archaeology and a lover of all things classical since childhood, I've always felt that there is no better way to understand and connect with a place than by diving into its history, physically as well as figuratively.
Piazza Venezia, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Monument of Victor Emmanuel II in Rome, nicknamed the Wedding Cake (and, alternately, the Typewriter) for its distinctive boxy shape, offers some of the most stunning panoramic views to be had of the Eternal City, in every direction. There is...
Piazza Capitolo, 1, 33051 Aquileia UD, Italy
In the marshy, coastal lowlands east of Venice lies Aquileia. Founded as a Roman colony in AD 181, Aquileia soon grew to be the fourth largest city in ancient Italy. When the city’s Basilica Patriarcale was built in 313, the floor was paved with a...
Piazza Giovanni Agnelli, 10, 00144 Roma RM, Italy
The Museo Della Civiltà Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization) is a fascinating destination. Made up largely of replicas of Roman artwork and scale models of Roman buildings (including an impressive scale model of the city of Rome as it appeared...
Via Sacra, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
On the Via Sacra east of the Roman Forum, the Arch of Titus is a beautiful and imposing triumphal monument, commemorating Titus' victory following the Siege of Jerusalem in the first century, C.E. The south relief panel on the interior of the arch...
00184 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy
No matter how many postcards you've seen of Rome's iconic Colosseum, you just don't get it until you pass beneath its crumbling arches. Built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 C.E., the huge amphitheater held 50,000 spectators and marked its...
Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
A visit to Granada, Spain isn't complete without a stop at the Alhambra. The Moorish architecture, robust gardens, and stunning views of Granada combine to make a truly memorable experience. Start your day with a tour of the Generalife Gardens....
Calle Ximénez de Enciso, 28, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
On a warm summer afternoon my daughters and I threaded our way through the cool array of courtyards, elaborately tiled chambers and sculpted gardens of the Alcázar, the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
Largo della Salara Vecchia, 5/6, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Roman Forum is where ancient Rome began. The sprawling archaeological park gives us just a hint of what the Roman Empire once was—a dominant and diverse society. The Forum itself was the political, social, religious, and commercial focal...
Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
No wonder the lines to get inside St. Peter's Basilica are some of the longest in Europe: It's home to world-famous architecture (many consider the dome atop St. Peter's Basilica to be Michelangelo's greatest achievement), one of the best views of...
Via Labicana, 95, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
In 1857, the prior of the Basilica di San Clemente thought there might be something underneath his 12th-century church, already renowned for its relics and striking mosaic of the Crucifixion. When he excavated, he found not only the original,...
Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
You may have studied them in school and seen a million pictures, but that has probably done little to prepare you for actually seeing the Pyramids of Giza in real life. Standing in the shadow of the 450 foot tall Great Pyramid is a humbling...
Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
The ancient temple ruins at Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, are the second most popular tourist attraction in Egypt after the Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx. Karnak was built starting more than 4,000 years ago and was constructed, destroyed, and...
Mit Rahinah, Al Badrashin, Giza Governorate, Egypt
Memphis, located 24 km south of Cairo, was an ancient pharaonic capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Menes is said to have been the founder of Memphis in the early 3rd millennium B.C. In the New Kingdom, Memphis served as a second,...
My friend Joan and I were staying at Ni'tun Private Reserve on Lake Petén Itzá near Flores, and planned to visit several Maya sites in the Petén region, but were most excited about visiting Aguateca. What an adventure it was! Our guide Bernie of...
55800 San Juan Teotihuacán, State of Mexico, Mexico
While it's not in Mexico City proper, the sacred pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan is close enough–about 30 miles– for an easy day trip if you're interested in architecture, archaeology, and indigenous history. The site's primary...
Delphi 330 54, Greece
The belly button of the world lies eighty miles northwest of Athens, where the southern slope of Mount Parnassus, cut deeply by cascades feeding the River Pleistos, drops precipitously into the Gulf of Corinth. High above the ravine in a cleft...
Egnatia 144, Thessaloniki 546 22, Greece
This arch was actually part of a larger, long structure that lead to an ancient church known as the Rotunda of Galerius. A small park leads you to what's left of the Rotunda, but much of the structure of the arch was removed over time, with what...
Atatürk Mh., Ephesus Archaeological Museum, Uğur Mumcu Sevgi Yolu, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey
I love walking the ancient streets of Ephesus and imaging the city at its peak as a bustling sea port. The temple of Artemis, the library and, of course, the ancient toilets are all necessary sights. A highlight, though, is the Great Theater. The...
Atatürk Mh., Artemis Tapınağı, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey
The historic city of Ephesus is a must if you are going to Turkey. It is amazing! You walk down worn stone paths that the ancient people once walked. The library is a definite highlight as it was one of the major buildings of the city. I wanted to...
Dervişali Mahallesi, Kariye Cami Sk. No:8, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
To see a dazzling collection of glittery mosaics, go to Santa Kariye, the 5th-century Byzantine church. Also referred to as St. Savior in Chora and as the Church of the Holy Savior, the church is richly decorated with 14th-century mosaics in...
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Walk into Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) and look up to the heavens to see why so many conquerors and their respective religions claimed this basilica turned mosque turned museum as their own. Visitors will swoon over the Byzantine gilded mosaics,...
Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34410 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
This cistern is thought to have been built after the Nika revolt in 532 AD. It was known as the Basilica Cistern during the Roman period. After the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks, it was forgotten and nobody knew that it existed. It was...
Vişnezade Mahallesi, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
This decadent palace, which overlooks the Bosphorus from the European side, holds great importance to Turkey. The late-19th-century sultans resided here and ruled the Ottoman Empire from here, and while the Turkish Republic's capital is in Ankara,...
Acropolis, Athens 116 36, Greece
The Acropolis is, for most people, the "can't miss" site. Because of its popularity it can be very busy, and the hours seem to change constantly. There's also the possibility that the workers might go on strike, which can mess with your plans as...
Mount Olympus, Litochoro 402 00, Greece
Above the tree line, a wiry twelve-year-old named Pericles and his taciturn papous—grandfather—accompany me along the trail that crosses beneath the steep needles of Mytikas, a five-hundred-foot crag that soars to the summit of Olympus. “You come...
80045 Pompei, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
Pompeii was partially destroyed and buried under 20 ft of ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Pompeii was lost for about 1500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and it continues to be excavated. The beautiful frescos and...
Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
This castle was erected with an ancient ring-fort, around the early part of the 13th century. It became a strategic fortress during the following turbulent years. It was the property of the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion...
The Theodosian Walls (aka The Walls of Constantinople) stretch just under 6 km across the border of Istanbul's Old City. Built by the Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century, they complimented an earlier protective wall built in the 4th century by...
Piazza Eremitani, 8, 35121 Padova PD, Italy
Built in 1307, Giotto's Arena Chapel, aka Scorvegni Chapel, should not be missed when visiting the Veneto. In Padua, it is often overlooked, which can mean smaller crowds during certain times and seasons. After a video in English and Italian...
K. Talal St., Madaba, Jordan
The floor of this Greek Orthodox church holds a 6th century AD mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. In this picture, the river allegedly depicts where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. We followed the visit to the church with a...
Traveling around Greece with a group of Theatre and Dance students has it's advantages. While visiting Epidaurus, a ancient spa with one of the most well-known Greek ampitheatres, we were entranced by the perfect acoustics of the theatre. A person...
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Adorned with more than 20,000 blue handcrafted İznik tiles, stained-glass windows, and the golden brushstrokes of a 17th-century calligrapher, the Blue Mosque is the legacy of Sultan Ahmet I (1590–1617). The young sultan audaciously wished...
Av de Extremadura, 2, 41970 Santiponce, Sevilla, Spain
Located a short cab or bus ride (roughly 9km) outside Seville, the Roman city of Italica is well worth a visit for any and all interested in classical civilizations. Not only does it have a remarkable amphitheater in an excellent state of...
17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE, UK
No trip to London is complete without a trip to Dr. Samuel Johnson's House in Gough Square. It's impossible to leave without a strong sense for the man and for his life in London, and the house is a beautiful sight to behold in its own right (and...
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