Originally founded by Greek colonists in 575 BC, Empuries was a crucial Mediterranean settlement for both the Greeks and Romans for centuries.
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Nowadays, Empuries is perched on the Costa Brava in the Spanish region of Catalonia. But in Roman times, the city was a key outpost in the province of Hispania. But it wasn't the Romans who established the city. In the 6th Century BC, Ionian Greek colonists from the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor landed in Spain.
Initially, Empuries was located on a small island off the coast. But after a few decades, the inhabitants relocated onto the mainland in 550 BC. The two sites are respectively known as the palaiapolis (the “Old City”) and the neapolis (the “New City”). When Phocaea was subjugated by the Persians, an flow of refugees made their way to Empuries.
Despite influence from both Carthage and Rome, Empuries remained thoroughly Greek for many centuries. The site became an important trading hub connecting the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of the Mediterranean. With riches flooding in, Empuries rapidly became the biggest Greek colony in the area.
Empuries sided with the Romans against Carthage during the Punic Wars. It became the focal point of the Roman counterattack led by the general who would become Scipio Africanus. Empuries then sided with Pompey in the civil war between the Roman senator and Julius Caesar. As punishment, the city lost its independence, and Caesar established a colony of Roman veterans next to the Greek settlement.
Both the Roman and Greek colonies co-existed peacefully for decades until Greek Empuries was abandoned in the 3rd Century AD.
Empuries is divided into two distinct archaeological sites – the
Greek town and the Roman colony. Both sections look fairly complete, with many surviving structures clearly identifiable. In the Greek ruins, you can see the remains of a market, a public square, and several temples. The city walls also survive.
The Roman area also yields plenty of fantastic attractions. Several houses still display their foundations, and Empuries also boasts an impressive collection of surviving Roman mosaics. You can also explore a Capitoline temple, the Roman forum, an amphitheater, the public baths, and a gymnasium.
Empuries also has a comprehensive museum that charts the development of the site. The museum also houses archaeological findings from the site and hosts special exhibitions regularly.
Visiting information and tips
Empuries is a perfect day trip from both Barcelona and Girona. The site is 40-minutes away from Girona and two hours away from Barcelona by car. There are also public transport links to other locations via bus or train.
The site is run by the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia and is well-organized. During the summer (June to September), Empuries is open every day from 10 am to 8 pm. During the fall and winter, opening hours are reduced to 10 am to 5 pm or 6 pm. The site is closed on Mondays during the winter.
The entrance fee is €6 for general admission, with a €4 reduced rate for pensioners, retirees, and students. Entrance is free for under-16's.