As your family travels throughout Portugal, your kids can walk on Roman stone-paved streets and roads, explore Roman towns and even step into Roman buildings nearly 2,000 years old. Touring some of these can be an approachable history lesson.
The Romans occupied Portugal for more than 700 years, from the third century B.C. to the fourth century A.D., building cities connected by roads, farming the land and — for the wealthy — living in luxurious villas. You can find Roman sites from the Algarve in the south to the northern border with Spain.
Some of the best sites lie in the Alentejo region, south and east of Lisbon. Towering above a square in the walled city of Évora, you’ll find 14 marble columns of the Templo Romano, the best-preserved Roman building in Portugal. It’s part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site, which also includes a Roman aqueduct.
South of Lisbon, walk through the ruins of the Roman town of Miróbriga, discovering its forum, temples and shops, along with a hippodrome where chariot and horse races once entertained the crowds. Kids can walk on a 2,000-year-old Roman road and across an arched bridge to find two bath houses whose hot pools and baths were heated by a tile-lined underground hypocaust system.
South of Evora, the Roman country villa of São Cucufate is still standing, an impressive building even after nearly 2,000 years. Beginning as a small villa in the first century, it was later enlarged with a long façade and several courtyards and galleries.
North of Lisbon, near the university town of Coimbra, you’ll come across Conímbriga, a major Roman city that has been excavated and preserved to tell the story of its inhabitants and their era. Walking its streets, you’ll see foundations of houses, the forum, shop entrances, elaborate baths, an aqueduct and a temple.
But the real treasures of Conímbriga are the luxurious villas built around gardens with pools and fountains. The mosaic floors are magnificent works of art, with intricate geometric patterns and other designs. In the museum are artifacts, as well as exhibits showing what the city would have looked like at its height.
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