The extensive archaeological site of ancient Elis comprises the ancient agora, the theatre, the residential sector, the cemeteries, the acropolis, and the unexcavated gymnasiums. A number of settlements or suburbs, each with its own cemetery, developed around the city. Only small sections of the city have been investigated so far, but these provide enough information to help us imagine how the city looked.
The agora remained largely unchanged until the very end, with some minor remodelling in the Roman period. Other early buildings, however, were replaced by new constructions particularly in the Late Hellenistic and Roman periods. Both the early buildings, which were built of ashlar blocks in the ancient Greek manner, and the later ones were systematically looted for building material in Late Antiquity and later periods.
The theatre, a striking monument with a characteristic earthen cavea and a well-preserved stage building, occupied the north end of the agora. It enjoyed views of the river, which, in antiquity, ran very close by, along the city's north limits. A bridge crossed the river near that point and a strong embankment protected the city against floods. The Bouleuterion and the city's two gymnasiums were most probably located near the theatre, on a terrace by the riverbank.
The city's religious and possible administrative centre occupied the agora's south end. Here, various buildings lie haphazardly within a relatively limited space: the built enclosure of a temple with a stepped porch and altar, several porticoes and ancillary rooms, a monumental two-roomed building of the Classical period and its later annex, and an incomplete rectangular building near the entrance to the agora. This last building has been tentatively identified as the peristyle tholos dedicated to the worship of the Roman Emperors, which was already abandoned in Pausanias's time. The agora's interior space was partly lined by two large and one small portico, the latter built as a continuation of one of the large ones.
The city had densely populated residential blocks, wide streets, and several bathhouses. An impressive number of kilns was identified throughout the city. Two cemeteries were located at either end of the city, along the main road, and several small communities or suburbs developed along the same road. The acropolis occupied the top of a hill to the city's east.