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Carnuntum – time travel to the Roman Empire

© by Arnold Weisz

Travel through time back to the Roman Empire and get an insight into life by the Danube about 2,000 years ago. The Carnuntum Archaeological Park is no ordinary museum but showcases reconstructed houses in an open-air museum.

Carnuntum was a Roman military camp on the Danube in the province of Noricum, located in present-day Austria (in Lower Austria, about 43 km east of Vienna). From the 1st to the 4th century AD Carnuntum was a significant Roman metropolis on the outer border of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, Carnuntum became the capital of the province of Pannonia Superior with around 50,000 inhabitants. Due to the city’s location, it also served as an important military base, to secure the border and important trade routes. When the Roman Empire fell, Carnuntum lost its importance and was eventually abandoned. Over the centuries stones were used as building material elsewhere and nature slowly took over. It was almost forgotten until the first small excavations began in the 19th century.

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Open-air museum

Today Carnuntum is an open-air museum where you can stroll among archaeological excavations. Some buildings have been entirely or partially reconstructed, and you can enter most of them. Furthermore, many of the rooms are furnished and give you a good impression of what they might have looked like. With a bit of imagination, you can easily time travel 2000 years back in history and put yourself in roman shoes. Try to sit on the large communal toilet, sell Roman fast food from the restaurant in the bathhouse or go through the accounts of the oil salesman at his desk. For the best site experience, try to visit during one of the historic days, which brings Carnuntum to life with activities and actors dressed in period clothes and uniforms.

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The public bathhouse

By far, the most spectacular reconstruction is the large public bathhouse. Moreover, you can enter and walk around the entire bathhouse, through the large central hall, “basilica thermarum”, and on to the various rooms with different temperatures; the fridiarium, the tepidarium and the caldarium. Not only that, everything works exactly as it did 2,000 years ago. The water and underfloor heating systems have been rebuilt exactly as they were. This is the only fully functional Roman bath in the world. To make it even more realistic, there is a shoe shelf full of sandals, and someone has carelessly thrown away their robe in the changing room. In other words, not much has changed in 2000 years.

1 ticket for 3 museums

When you buy a ticket to Carnuntum, you also get admission to another 2 sites; the Museum Carnuntinum which is located in the village of Bad Deutsch-Altenburg a 4 km further east, and the amphitheatre in the military town which is on the main road between Carnuntum and Bad Deutsch-Altenburg. The museum has an extensive display of objects found in Carnuntum, with everything from coins to surgical tools to amphorae. You should plan from 30 minutes to a full hour for your visit. Next to the remnants of the military amphitheatre, there is a small gladiator exhibition well worth the 20 minutes you spend on it, to get an overall impression. Furthermore, both locations have free parking right outside.

More Roman sights outside Carnuntum

On your “tour of the Roman Empire”, don’t forget to visit the amphitheatre in the civilian part of the city, with a replica of a gladiator training arena right next to it. Finally, you should see the Heidentor (“Heathens’ Gate”), which is a ruin of a large triumphal arch that stands alone in the countryside. Both these sites are within walking distance of the Carnuntum car park, but you can also drive right up to the Arc de Triomphe.

For more info, see the museums website: Römerstadt Carnuntum

Carnuntum App

We recommend that you download the app, which gives you the opportunity to see Carnuntum in Augmented and Virtual Reality. Simply look for the the viewing spots at the sites.

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.