From the claustrophobic streets of the Casbah of Algiers to the ancient bridges of Constantine; here are the best historical places to visit in Algeria!

Home to Berber ruins and Roman remnants, Algeria’s long history stretches far back to ancient times. For much of this history, Africa’s largest nation has been caught between warring empires. The Phoenician seafarers built Mediterranean trading posts, Vandals and Byzantines inhabited the remains of Roman cities, and the Arabs and Ottomans raised minarets towards the heavens. And then the French forced European influences upon Algeria during the brutal colonial era, until independence in 1962.

From the bathhouses and mosaics of Timgad to the narrow, winding streets of the Casbah of Algiers, the legacy of these empires, kingdoms, religions and peoples are etched into the stone and shifting sands of Algeria. Uncover neolithic petroglyphs deep in the Sahara Desert, stand under triumphal archways commissioned by Roman emperors and visit lavish mausoleums built for Mauritanian kings.

If you’re visiting North Africa, few other destinations have such a wealth of historic sites to visit. Keep reading, as I count down the best historical places in Algeria.

Historical places to visit in Algeria

There’s never been a better time to visit Algeria than right now. The vast North African nation is finally opening up to the world, and if you combine your trip with a quick detour to the Sahara Desert regions (where you can find Berber ruins and prehistoric rock carvings) you can even score yourself a Visa on Arrival as long as you’re travelling with a tour agency (I visited last year with Lupine Travel).

After decades of unrest and civil war during the post-colonial era (which followed over a century of French rule and a vicious fight for independence), governments like the United Kingdom are finally removing travel restrictions across much of the country. for the discerning, history loving traveller, that’s simply perfect, because Algeria has an untouched wealth of ancient ruins and historic places just begging to be visited.

Algeria’s ancient sites are on a par with anywhere else in the Mediterranean (if not better), but they’ve yet to be discovered by outside tourists. Seriously, spend the day at Roman sites like Timgad and Djemila, and you’ll have the ruins to yourself. So visit quick, before the rest of the world re-discovers Algeria’s fascinating historical places.

1. Casbah of Algiers

Let’s start with Algiers, the Algerian capital and likely jumping off point for anyone organising a wider Algerian travel itinerary. Luckily, the capital is packed with historic sites, but if you have time for just one, make it the Casbah of Algiers, a UNESCO World Heritage site and veritable labyrinthine that forms the core of this Mediterranean city.

Located in the heart of Algeria’s capital, this historic district dates back to the 10th century, but even then, a Berber prince built his fortress on the ruins of an earlier Phoenician settlement founded in antiquity. The Casbah’s narrow, winding streets are lined with traditional whitewashed houses, while historic mosques, such as the Ketchaoua Mosque and the El Djedid Mosque, showcase the exquisite Islamic architecture of the Berber and Ottoman periods..

The area is also home to the Dar Hassan Pacha, a grand palace that once hosted dignitaries and now offers insight into the opulent lifestyle of the Ottoman Viziers. The Casbah’s strategic location, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, adds to its historical significance, while poignant memorials like the Ali la Pointe Museum offer another insight into the violence that presaged the end of French colonial rule in Algeria.

The Casbah of Algiers overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

2. Tipasa

Follow Tipasa’s clifftop paths, past ancient Roman columns and Phoenician burial chambers, and on a windswept headland overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll find a stone stele dedicated to the Algerian born writer, Albert Camus. Inscribed upon the stele is a poetic verse which aptly sums up the atmosphere Algeria’s historical sights evoke. Carved in French, the verse speaks through the ages: ‘I understand here what is called glory, the right to love without measure.’

Tipasa is an archaeological treasure that bears witness to the blend of Phoenician, Roman, early Christian, and Byzantine cultures that all flourished on the North African coast. This UNESCO World Heritage site, beloved by Albert Camus when he visited in the early 20th century, was originally a Punic trading post before becoming a thriving Roman colony, and consequently, the ruins of Tipasa are spread across a rugged coastal landscape.

Key features of Tipasa include the impressive amphitheatre, which once hosted gladiatorial games, and the basilica, one of the largest early Christian basilicas in North Africa. The site also boasts a necropolis, Roman baths, and a series of well-preserved mosaics. Best of all, Tipasa is just an hour’s drive from central Algiers, making this the perfect day trip for history lovers.

Tipasa’s ruins stretch along the coast.

3. Cherchell

Cherchell, a coastal town in northern Algeria, is another half hour drive east of Tipasa. This ancient port has a history dating back to its Phoenician founding in the 4th century BCE. Under Roman rule, it was renamed Caesarea, and became the capital of the client kingdom of Mauretania. The town’s rich archaeological heritage includes notable ruins such as a Roman theatre, amphitheatre, and ancient baths, highlighting its significance throughout antiquity.

The Cherchell Museum is home to an impressive collection of Roman and Greek artefacts, including reconstructed mosaics and the cracked remnants of roman statues. The town itself is packed with local eateries serving up grilled sardines, straight of the fishing boats, a practice I imagine hasn’t changed much since the Phoenicians first landed here.

The Cherchell Museum is packed with Roman artefacts.

Read more: 15 Best Things to Do in Algiers, Algeria

4. Royal Mausoleum of Mauritania

The Royal Mausoleum of Mauritania is an ancient funerary monument found between Tipasa and Cherchell. This grand, stone structure dates back to the year 3 BCE, and it’s thought to have served as the burial place for Berber King Juba II and Queen Cleopatra Selene II, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Juba II, a Roman client king, and Cleopatra Selene were significant figures in North African and Mediterranean history, ruling their state (under roman guidance) from the capital at Cherchell.

The mausoleum, blending elements of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman architectural styles, is a cylindrical structure topped with a pyramid. It stands as a testament to the fusion of cultures that characterised the Mauritanian Kingdom in North Africa. Despite its somewhat eroded state, the mausoleum’s intricate design and historical significance make it a compelling site to visit during your stay in Algeria.

The Royal Mausoleum of Mauritania is one of the most impressive historical sites in Algeria.

5. Timgad

I’ve sometimes seen Timgad, a former Roman Colonia founded by Emperor Trajan in the year 100 AD, referred to as the ‘Pompeii of North Africa’. Not because the city was destroyed by a volcano, but because despite numerous sackings, the ruins are still so remarkably well preserved.

Timgad was built as a military colony, a city where legionnaires could retire in supposed peace, and it showcases the classic Roman grid layout in impressive fashion. The city’s dramatic ruins include the iconic Arch of Trajan, a large theatre that could seat 3,500 spectators, a basilica, and even a library. These structures reflect the architectural and urban sophistication of ancient Rome, when the empire was at its zenith.

Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Timgad offers a unique glimpse into the everyday life of a Roman city in Africa, and you’ll find there are very few over tourists around to share it with you.

Timgad, Algeria. Photo credit:

6. Djemila

Djemila is one of those historic places that stops you in your tracks the moment you set eyes on it. Perhaps it was the golden hues of sunset, or the curious juxtaposition of cultures as the call to prayer drifted over the Roman ruins. Or maybe it was simply the staggering beauty of the reconstructed mosaics in Djemila’s museum.

Located in the mountains of northern Algeria, Djemila was founded in the 1st century AD as another Colonia, and it thrived under Roman rule. Djemila is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its well-preserved ruins offer a vivid glimpse into ancient Roman life. Key structures include the Arch of Caracalla, the ancient basilica, and the impressive theatre.

The city’s layout, adapted to the rugged terrain, features a forum, temples, and public baths, showcasing the Romans’ ingenuity in urban design. Djemila’s mosaics and intricate carvings are superb, with artistic interpretations of everything from Bacchus, the god of wine, to humble donkeys. There’s even a reconstructed Roman lavatory, complete with ancient toilets!

An ancient Roman street in Djemila, Algeria.

Read more: 13 Best Places to Visit in Algeria

7. Constantine

“You do not introduce Constantine. She introduces herself, and you salute her. She reveals herself and we discover each other.” So wrote the Algerian writer Malek Haddad of the ancient city of Constantine, which I have to say was one of the highlights of my trip to Algeria.

Constantine is known as the ‘City of Bridges’, and when you stand on the edge of the dramatic gorge that drops down to the Rhumel River, you’ll see a series of bridges (some dating back to the Roman era) spanning the deep chasm. One of Algeria’s oldest and most historically significant cities, Constantine has a history that spans over 2,000 years. Originally founded by the Phoenicians, it was later known as Cirta under the Numidian Kingdom, until the city was renamed Constantine in 313 CE by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who rebuilt it after its destruction during a civil war.

Throughout the centuries, Constantine witnessed the rise and fall of empires, including the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Ottomans left a significant mark on the city, contributing to its architectural heritage with numerous mosques, palaces, and fortifications, including the Palace of Ahmed Bey, an opulent Ottoman residence you can visit today.

The City of Bridges.

8. Ghardaia

Situated in the M’zab Valley, Ghardaia is part of a cluster of five historic towns founded by the Mozabites, a Berber sect of Islam, in the 11th century. The town is famous for its unique architecture, including compact, cube-like houses and a distinctive mosque. The M’zab Valley itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, largely because of its preserved medieval cityscapes.

The M’zab Valley is notable for its ingenious irrigation system, which has allowed agriculture to thrive in this arid region. This system, developed by the Mozabites, includes underground channels called ‘foggaras’ that transport water to palm groves and gardens, showcasing their engineering prowess and adaptability to harsh desert conditions.

Ghardaia remains a vital centre of Ibadi culture and learning, preserving a way of life that has endured for nearly a millennium.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

9. Taghit

Taghit is an oasis town in remote, southwestern Algeria. Hidden amongst the dunes of the Sahara, the town’s origins date back to ancient times, and it’s long been a vital stop for caravans traversing the desert. Taghit is surrounded by golden sand dunes, which rise dramatically around the town. These dunes, part of the Grand Erg Occidental, are a favoured spot for sandboarding, camel trekking and off road driving; largely with tourists visiting from Algeria’s Mediterranean coastline.

Taghit’s old ksar (fortified village) was built with traditional mudbrick architecture, and the ksar’s narrow streets and houses reflect the ingenuity of its builders in creating a cool, shaded environment. The palm groves surrounding Taghit are sustained by an intricate system of irrigation channels which have been used for centuries to cultivate dates and other crops in this arid region. The town is best known for its rock art, with petroglyphs dating back thousands of years that depict scenes of ancient life and wildlife, located just outside of Taghit.

The shifting sand dunes of Taghit.

10. Tassili n’Ajjer

Tassili n’Ajjer is another historical site located deep within the Sahara Desert, and like Taghit, it’s also known for its prehistoric rock art. Found in southeastern Algeria, Tassili n’Ajjer is a vast plateau spanning nearly 72,000 square kilometres of desert landscapes.

This UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its extensive collection of rock art, with thousands of petroglyphs and paintings dating back as far as 10,000 years. These artworks depict a wide array of scenes, including human activities, wildlife, and symbolic figures, offering a vivid glimpse into the lives and beliefs of the prehistoric communities that once inhabited the area. The art also chronicles the region’s climatic changes, illustrating the transition from a fertile savanna to the arid desert landscape seen today.

Geologically, Tassili n’Ajjer is renowned for its unique rock formations, shaped by millennia of erosion. The surreal landscape features towering sandstone pillars, natural arches, and labyrinthine canyons, creating a dramatic and otherworldly environment. This terrain provides a striking contrast to the surrounding Sahara Desert and supports a surprising diversity of flora and fauna adapted to the harsh conditions.

The region’s cultural significance is further highlighted by its historical role as a crossroads of civilisations and trade routes. Nomadic Tuareg tribes have traversed Tassili n’Ajjer for centuries, and they are continuing to preserve their traditional way of life despite the harsh environment.

Traditional nomadic dress in the Sahara Desert.

11. Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad

Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad is an ancient archaeological site located in the mountainous region of northern Algeria. Established in the early 11th century, it served as the first capital of the Hammadid dynasty, a Berber kingdom that played a significant role in the region’s history.

The site, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides a remarkable glimpse into the early Islamic architecture and urban planning of the Maghreb. Key features of Al Qal’a include the Grand Mosque, which was one of the largest in North Africa at the time, and its striking minaret, which still stands tall. The palace complex showcases the opulence of the Hammadid rulers, while other notable remnants include residential quarters, baths, and a series of defensive walls and gates that highlight the city’s military importance.

Read more: How Many Countries in the Mediterranean? Everything You Need to Know.

12. Tlemcen

Tlemcen, in northwestern Algeria, is often better known as the ‘Pearl of the Maghreb’. Tlemcen’s history stretches back over a millennium, having been a significant centre during the Almoravid, Almohad, and Zayyanid dynasties.

The city flourished particularly under the Zayyanid dynasty in the 13th century, becoming a vital hub for trade, culture, and learning in the region. This period saw the construction of many of Tlemcen’s most iconic architectural landmarks, which reflect a blend of Berber, Arab, and Andalusian influences.

One of the city’s most notable sites is the Great Mosque of Tlemcen, an architectural masterpiece dating back to the 12th century. It is renowned for its exquisite mihrab and beautifully detailed minaret. The Mechouar Palace, another significant landmark, served as the residence of the Zayyanid sultans and showcases intricate tile work, elegant courtyards, and lush gardens.

The Sidi Boumediene Mosque and Madrasa, named after the city’s patron saint, is a major pilgrimage site and a prime example of Almohad architecture. Its tranquil courtyard and ornate decorations reflect the spiritual and cultural depth of Tlemcen.

The ruins of Mansoura, in Tlemcen. Photo credit:

13. Annaba

Located on the northeastern coast of Algeria, Annaba was known in antiquity as Hippo Regius, and the city was an important centre of early Christianity, home to the episcopal see of Saint Augustine, one of the most influential theologians in Western Christianity.

The city’s history, though, dates back to the Phoenicians, who founded it as a trading post. It later grew under Roman rule, and the ruins of Hippo Regius (which date from this time), are located within the modern city, including a basilica, theatre, baths, and a forum.

One of Annaba’s most iconic landmarks is the Basilica of St. Augustine, a modern basilica built in the 19th century to honour the city’s most famous resident. Perched on a hill overlooking the city, the basilica combines Roman, Byzantine, and Moorish architectural styles, and houses the sacred relics of Saint Augustine.

Read more: How Many Countries in North Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

Map of the best historical places to visit in Algeria

Here’s a map of the best historical sites in Algeria:

There you have it, the best historic sites in Algeria! What’s going to be top of your Algerian bucket list?