|Basel : Augusta Raurica|
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In its heyday, AUGUSTA RAURICA – a Roman Rhineside provincial capital about 20km east of Basel near the modern village of Kaiseraugst – was home to some twenty thousand people. These days it comprises the largest set of Roman ruins in Switzerland, and is an easy day trip from Basel.
Augusta was founded at the same time as Basel, 44 BC, in the territory of the Gallic Raurici tribe. During the first and second centuries AD it was a prosperous city, but was virtually destroyed by an invasion of the Alemanni tribes around 260 AD. Many of its stones were pilfered during the Middle Ages, but exploration of the site and excavations have been continuous for more than a century, and have uncovered the best-preserved classical theatre north of the Alps, temples, a forum, taverns, many public buildings and more. Focus of the site, well signposted from all over the village, is the Römermuseum (Roman Museum; Glebenacherstrasse 17; Mon 1–5pm, Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; Nov–Feb closed noon–1.30pm; Fr.5; www.augusta-raurica.ch). If you can fight your way through the stream of school parties, you’ll find a well-laid out display of finds from the site, including a full reconstruction of a Roman house. The ticket desk can give you a leaflet showing a map of the whole site and recommended walks through the ruins (which are open and free), spreading out across a wide area all around the museum and down to the river. The impressive 10,000-seat theatre is directly opposite the museum, still under excavation and renovation, with a small sculpture garden to one side. Schönbuhl Hill in front of the theatre is topped by a temple. Some 200m south of the theatre is a large amphitheatre, with to the east of the theatre the forum and an exhibition of mosaics in the basement of the curia (Town Hall). Further east are taverns, potteries and houses in varying states of crumble. Down on the riverbank beside the boat jetty, 500m north, is an enclosed fortress, housing an extensive baths complex. Excellent signboards and displays all over the site ensure that you’re never short of information.
There are two or three slow boats a day (May–Oct only) from Basel to Rheinfelden, stopping at the jetty at Kaiseraugst, about fifteen minutes’ walk below the Roman Museum. Otherwise, regular local trains take about ten minutes to Kaiseraugst, or bus #70 from Basel’s Aeschenplatz goes every twenty minutes to Augst village, some ten minutes’ walk from the museum.
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