Augusta Raurica

March 16, 2012 by

Day Trips, Sightseeing, Things To Do

Augusta Raurica in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of a-zehn-fr via Flickr.

Augusta Raurica in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of a-zehn-fr via Flickr.

For six centuries, Switzerland was part of the Roman Empire and several ruins from Roman settlements still remain today. Along with an accompanying Roman castle, the restored ruins and open-air theatre/museum of Augusta Raurica are listed on the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance.

Situated on the south bank of the Rhine near the villages of Augst and Kaiseraugst, Augusta is the oldest known Roman settlement in the region. Visitors interested in taking in the former colony should set aside a full day at a minimum, as the site consists of a full scale Roman theatre (home to an annual summer festival that is attended by tens of thousands), a museum with a collection including more than a million artifacts, an animal park wherein ancient Roman practices of animal husbandry are still practiced, and a fully restored example of a working Roman home complete with period-specific décor.

Perhaps of greater cultural importance are the numerous ongoing and active excavation sites located throughout the area. Understandably, most of these are not accessible to tourists. Thankfully, there are regularly scheduled public excavations where students and tour groups can gain a first hand education in the niceties of a properly executed archaeological dig.

Like many attractions in the beautiful region near the triangular intersection of the French, German, and Swiss borders, the journey to Augusta Raurica can be a large part of the fun. The site is accessible by bus, of course, but it is also possible to approach by rail, disembarking right in the center of the former colony. For travelers with a little more time on their hands, a leisurely journey on the Rhine from either Basle or Rheinfelden comes highly recommended.

- John Reality

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