About 40km east of Vienna lies the town of Petronell-Carnuntum. Under it (and the surrounding area) lie the remains of a huge Roman military base and town. Fortunately for us, the Carnuntum archaeological park brings those times back to life…
- Authentic building reconstructions, the remains of two amphitheatres, and a museum
- Strikes a nice balance between information, archaeology, and entertainment
- Easily reached by car or train from Vienna (with a bit of walking required)
- Some locations are free to see, others need a ticket (or a Vienna Pass)
- See also: Day trips from Vienna
The northern border of the Roman empire ran along the Danube and through modern day Austria for many centuries. And if you don’t want rampaging Germanic tribes trampling all over your washing, then you need to guard those borders. Which is where Carnuntum comes in.
The location on a raised area just above the river first gained a military presence in 6AD, then grew to become a major military garrison with a large town attached. The Romans stayed until the 5th century.
To understand Carnuntum’s importance, consider that the 14th Legion once had their permanent home there; Emperor Marcus Aurelius even had his military HQ in Carnuntum for three years.
So what’s there now?
- The visitor centre and building reconstructions form the heart of the Carnuntum site (and when I say reconstructions, I mean they rebuilt the Roman baths, a villa, and more).
- The other Roman sites include:
- The remains of a civil amphitheatre
- A reconstruction of the wooden training pit on the site of a gladiator school
- The remains of a military amphitheatre with a small exhibition on gladiators
- The Carnuntinum Museum
- The remains of a triumphal arch (the Heidentor)
Tickets & visitor tips
Only the main reconstructions, the military amphitheatre and the museum charge an entrance fee. A single ticket covers all three sites, which costs (at the time of writing) €12 for an adult. The Vienna Pass sightseeing pass also includes a one-time visit to the Carnuntum archeological park.
The park typically opens only during the warmer seasons, from early spring to late autumn. The museum is closed for refurbishment and exhibition preparations until early April, 2022 (so reduced-price tickets may be available until the end of the 2021 season).
How to get to Carnuntum
You have two main options: train or car (though check the Carnuntum website – see below – for possible shuttle bus services).
Carnuntum by train
The city train (the S7) that takes you to the airport continues on to convenient stations for Carnuntum:
- Petronell-Carnuntum station. Use for:
- The main reconstructions (ca. 15 minutes walk away)
- Civil amphitheatre and gladiator pit reconstruction (ca. 25 minutes)
- The Heidentor (ca. 20 minutes)
- Bad Deutsch-Altenburg station. Use for:
- The Carnuntinum museum (ca. 20 minutes)
- The military amphitheatre (ca. 30 minutes)
Note that there are NextBike cycle facilities at both stations.
Carnuntum by car
Carnuntum is easy to find with a hire car*. Just leave Vienna on the eastbound A4 motorway that takes you to the airport (so, at a push, just follow the airport signs).
Continue past the airport and turn off onto the B9 road at Junction 19. Then just follow the signs to get to the park. It’s a 40-50 minute journey from Vienna city centre (notwithstanding traffic).
All the sites have (free) parking alongside. The exception is the civil amphitheatre and gladiator training pit, which are a few minutes walk from the main car park for the visitor centre and reconstructions.
Incidentally, you need not leave Vienna for a taste of ancient Rome. The city (Latin name: Vindobona) has a strong Roman connection and even a Roman museum. Visit the very central Michaelerplatz square, for example, and you’ll find open-air excavations.
Address: Römerstadt Carnuntum, Hauptstraße 1A, 2404 Petronell-Carnuntum | Website