monuments of ancient Rome

14 Tips for Sights of Ancient Rome

On our first visit to Rome, we were most excited to see the sights of ancient Rome. And in fact, the second time around. How could anyone create something as impressive as the Colosseum or Trajan’s Markets? What was public life like in the Forum Romanum, watched by the nobility of the Palatine? Discovering Rome’s long history is all the more fun.

Updated 25. 3. 2022

If you’re like us, check out our 14 tips for sights in ancient Rome that you’re sure to enjoy.

Which monuments of ancient Rome are worth a visit?

All the sights of ancient Rome are worth seeing, but we don’t have that much time. We select the most interesting ones to give you a picture of ancient Rome and how it was once lived.

Colosseum

We all want to see the Colosseum. A monumental building for which one has such high expectations that one is afraid of being personally disappointed. And we weren’t. The Colosseum is one of those places that meets or exceeds expectations. In fact, the trash around it and the million street vendors with selfie sticks took our breath away. You don’t see that in photos of the Colosseum anymore.

Colosseum visit / Colosseum admission

The Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, built by the founder of the Flavian dynasty, Emperor Vespasianus in 80 AD. Numbered entrance arches and seating in three steep tiers (women and children sat in the highest part). It can hold up to 80,000 spectators. Overhead, a canvas awning provided shade for spectators. A network of underground passages, or hypogeum, was built beneath the arena, which served as a pen for animals and an underground entrance for gladiators from the nearby gladiator school.

The Flavian Amphitheatre was the centre of entertainment for the Roman people for more than 500 years – it hosted exotic animal exhibitions, prisoner executions, gladiator fights and was even flooded for mock naval battles. In the Middle Ages, the name of the amphitheatre was changed to the Colosseum to refer to the colossal statue of the Roman emperor Nero that stood nearby.

You might be surprised how much of the Coliseum is missing. Part of this is due to disuse and earthquakes, but also the local marble was used to make other things. For example, to build the Vatican.

monuments of ancient Rome

If you have a moment, check out the Colosseum in the evening when it is beautifully lit.

Just opposite the Colosseum you will find the Palatine Hill and the Forum Romanum (both sites form one archaeological park and share a common entrance). You can visit the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Forum Romanum with one combined ticket for €16 and an additional €2 for online booking. This is now mandatory.

You can find a detailed guide to the Colosseum in my previous article: Colosseum in Rome | Guide (tickets, opening times, tips)

Palatine’s hill

Palatine Hill is the mythical birthplace of Rome. According to legend, Romulus founded the city here in 753 BC. It later became the seat of the imperial palace, wealthy patricians and celebrity generals. Do you know where the word palace comes from? From the Latin for hill or palatium.

monuments of ancient Rome

Palatine Hill, as we see it today, is mostly made up of ruins from the vast palace of Emperor Domitian. Don’t miss the view of the Forum Romanum from the balcony on the northeast of the Palatine.

Forum Romanum

The Forum Romanum are the extensive ruins between the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. In the days of ancient Rome, this was the place to live. A complex of great temples, courts, offices and noisy public squares. Several buildings have been preserved in excellent condition. You can admire the Arch of Titus, the original seat of the Roman Senate of Curia, one of Rome’s most imposing triumphal arches, the columns of the Temple of Saturn, the Fortress of Knox, where gold and silver supplies were kept, the Temple of Caesar, where Caesar was burned after his assassination in Largo Argentina in 44 BC.

Skip the queue and book your tickets for the Colosseum with the Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill online with free cancellation 24 hours in advance. Guided tours are also available, with which you can learn lots of interesting and fun facts.

Arch of Constantine

You won’t miss the Arch of Constantine – it’s located between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was built in 315 to commemorate the victory of Constantine I the Great at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. It is freely accessible.

monuments of ancient Rome

TIP: Would you like to save some euros on admission and transport around Rome ? Or do you want to simplify it and use one card for everything? Check out the Roma Pass and Roma and Vatican Pass tourist cards , which provide free admission to many sights, including public transport and a sightseeing bus ride . For a comparison of the two cards, see my previous article >>>.

Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus is the most famous of Rome’s sporting venues and the largest stadium where chariot races were held. The venue could hold up to 300,000 spectators thanks to its length of 600 metres in length and 225 metres in width. It is located between the hills of Aventino and Palatine.

There’s not much left of Circus Maximus. Only the huge terrace remains. You can walk through the park for free, but there is an entrance fee for the archaeological dig.

monuments of ancient Rome
  • Where is it? Vialle delle Terme di Caracalla
  • How do I get there? Metro – line B → stop Circo Massimo
  • What are the opening hours? Tue-Sun 09:30am-7:00pm in summer, Tue-Sun 9:30am-4:30pm in winter (late October to March)
  • How much is the entry fee? Full admission 5 EUR, reduced admission 4 EUR (EU citizens 18 – 25 years)
  • Reservation: NO
  • Part of the Roma Pass: YES

Baths od Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla)

The Baths of Caracalla were built in the 3rd century by Marcus Aurelius and were one of the largest and most interesting thermal complexes in antiquity. It included pools, gymnasiums, libraries, galleries, shops and gardens. They could hold up to 1,600 people. Although they are not well signposted and you often don’t know what you are looking at, they are huge enough that you get a good idea of how gigantic they must have originally been.

  • Where is it? Vialle delle Terme di Caracalla
  • How do I get there? Metro – line B → Circo Massimo stop, bus → lines 118, 160, 628
  • What are the opening hours? Tue-Sun 09:00am-7:00pm (varies by season – exact time to be booked; last entry one hour before)
  • How much is the entry fee? Full admission 8 EUR, reduced admission 2 EUR (EU citizens 18 – 25 years)
  • Reservation: YES, additional fee 2 € – reservation for Baths of Caracalla
  • Part of the Roma Pass: YES

Trajan’s Forum – Museo dei Fori Imperiali

Trajan’s Markets (Mercati di Traiano) on the slopes of the Quirinal Hill were the dominant centrepiece of Trajan’s early 2nd century Forum, the last and most spectacular of the imperial forums. Originally thought to have been an ancient shopping centre, scholars now believe they were designed to house the administrative offices of the forum.

Whatever the case, the building itself is a huge colossus that will amaze you in person with its size and how well-preserved it has remained over the centuries.

museums in Rome
  • Where is it? Via IV Novembre, 94
  • How do I get there? Metro line B → stop Colosseo or Cavour, bus – lines 40, 53, 60, 64, 70, 80, 85, 57, 117, 170, 175, 186, 271, 571, 810, H, N7, N8, N9, N15, N18 → stop Piazza Venezia
  • What are the opening hours? Mon-Sun 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM
  • How much is the entry fee? Full admission 15 EUR, reduced admission 13 EUR (EU citizens 18 – 24 years)
  • Reservation: NO
  • Part of the Roma Pass: YES

Angel Castle and Angel Bridge

A short distance from the Vatican, on the right bank of the Tiber River, you will find the Castelo Sant’Agelo, known as Hadrian’s Tomb. Hadrian was a Roman emperor who had the fortress built in 139 AD as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was subsequently fortified and taken over by the papacy, which used the church as its refuge.

monuments of ancient Rome

The name of the castle is derived from a vision of an angel that Pope Gregory had here in 590. Today, the Castle of the Angels is a popular museum where you can learn more about its long and turbulent history and experience the lavish papal apartments.

Book tickets to Angel Castle online

From the Castle of the Angels, continue along the Bridge of Angels (Ponte Sant’Angelo), built by the ancient Romans, but angels have been here since the 1600s. And it is the angels that represent the Stations of the Cross and the 12 stops on the way to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

  • Where is it? Lungo teverre Castello 50
  • How do I get there? Bus – lines 23, 34, 49, 64, 87, 280, 492, 926, 990
  • What are the opening hours? Tue-Sun 9:00am-7:30pm (ticket office closes at 6:30pm)
  • How much is the entry fee? Full admission 15 EUR, reduced admission 7 EUR (EU citizens 18 – 24 years)
  • Reservation: on holidays and weekends YES – reservation for Angel Castle
  • Part of the Roma Pass: YES

Pantheon

The Pantheon is a church and mausoleum that was originally used to worship planetary gods. It is known for its dome, which is the largest dome of unreinforced concrete in the world. You just stand there and don’t understand how they did it. But they came up with a great idea – as the layers of concrete blocks rose higher and higher, they used lighter and lighter material. At the very top are bricks made of extra light pumice. In the upper part of the dome there is an opening with a diameter of 9 meters, through which, in addition to the door, the only daylight enters the church.

The Pantheon is even the oldest building in the world still in use. This is probably the reason why it has been preserved in such good condition to the present day.

monuments of ancient Rome
  • Where is it? Piazza della Rotonda
  • How do I get there? Metro – line A → stop Barberini
  • What are the opening hours? Mon-Sat 8:30am-7:30pm, Sun 9:00am-6:00pm, public holidays 9:00am-1:30pm (Last entry 15 minutes in advance)
  • How much is the entry fee? FREE
  • Reservations: From 2021 onwards, you must book your place at least one day in advance on weekends and public holidays. Book a ticket to the Pantheon .

Sacra di Largo Argentina

Sacra di Largo Argentina represents the ruins of four temples from the Republican period, where Brutus and his conspirators stabbed Julius Caesar to death in 44 BC. Today the site is a short walk from a busy transport hub and home to a cat sanctuary, which is looked after by a local organisation.

  • Where is it? Largo di Torre Argentina
  • How do I get there? Buses 40, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87, 186, 492 and 810
  • What are the opening hours? Free to view from the railing
  • How much is the entry fee? FREE

Diocletian’s Baths

Diocletian’s Baths, the historic home of the National Museum of Rome, are very close to Palazzo Massimo. In the 4th century, it used to be the largest and most spectacular bath complex in ancient Rome, accommodating up to 3,000 people at a time. It is said to have been even larger than the Baths of Caracalla. Diocletian’s Baths can be found next to Termini Central Station.

museums in Rome

In the museum you can see a collection of ancient Roman inscriptions and written texts. Don’t miss the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, designed by Michelangelo but completed by his pupil Jacopo Lo Duca, who died the following year. Outside, then, is the magnificent open space of the Michelangelo Cloister, or Michelangelo Convent. It may no longer belong to ancient Rome, but it is part of the complex and is definitely worth seeing.

  • Where is it? Via Enrico de Nicola, 78
  • How do I get there? Metro – line A or B → Termini station, bus C2, H, 36, 38, 40, 64, 86, 90, 92, 105, 170, 175, 217, 310, 360, 714 and 910
  • What are the opening hours? Tue-Fri 2:00pm-7:45pm, Sat-Sun 10:30am-7:45pm (last entry at 7:00pm)
  • How much is the entry fee? 12 € (8 € reduced for EU citizens 18-25 years) as part of the combined ticket for the National Museum of Rome, 8 € (2 € reduced for EU citizens 18-25 years) as part of the regular ticket
  • Reservation: not required
  • Part of the Roma Pass: YES

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four papal basilicas and one of the oldest basilicas in Rome. It can be found on the site of the miraculous snowfall at the top of the Esquiline Hill. According to legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius and told him to build a church on the spot where he would find snow the next morning. It was summer at the time, so the odds were almost nil. Yet the snow fell right there and the basilica was built. The snowfall is always commemorated on May 5 by the release of thousands of white petals. Several popes and the famous artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini were buried in the basilica. The interior of the basilica is decorated with 5th century mosaics depicting 36 scenes from the Old Testament.

  • Where is it? Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore
  • How do I get there? Termini metro stop
  • What are the opening hours? 7:00am – 6:45pm
  • How much is the entry fee? Free
  • Reservation: NO

Via Appia Antica

The ancient Via Appia Antica is over 2000 years old. At that time it was the most famous road in the ancient city. It was 540 km long and connected Rome with the southern Adriatic port of Brindisi. Today, the main attraction is the catacombs that lie beneath it.

Catacombs of Rome (Catacombe di Roma)

The catacombs are underground passages that have been used for centuries as burial grounds for Jewish, pagan and early Christian Roman citizens from the second to the fifth century. Hundreds of thousands of people were buried here, including dozens of martyrs and 16 popes.

The largest and most popular are the catacombs of San Callisto. Visits here, as in the other catacombs, are guided. No one would want to get lost in the 20-metre-long underground tunnels. Also worth seeing are the catacombs of San Sebastian, which contain several underground mausoleums and lots of ancient graffiti dedicated to St. Peter and Paul. Not far away is the Basilica of San Sebastiano, which contains one of the arrows used to kill Saint Sebastian.

  • WHERE? For both places the same: Via Appia Antica 110/126
  • HOW? Metro – line A (from Termini train station) → stop Piazza San Giovanni in Lateran – then change to bus 218 (direction Ardeatine) → stop Fosse Ardeatine
  • What are the opening hours? Catacombs of San Callisto Mon – Tue and Thu – Sun 9:00am – 00:00pm and 2:00pm – 5:00pm, Catacombs of San Sebastian Mon – Sat 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • How much is the entry fee? Same for both venues: full admission 8 EUR, reduced admission 5 EUR (children 7 – 16 years)

Monuments of Ancient Rome – MAP

Most of the monuments of ancient Rome are close to each other – the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Forum Romanum, Palatine Hill, Trajan’s Forum and other imperial forums, the Pantheon and the Castle of the Angels. You can comfortably walk through them. Diocletian’s Baths can be found about 40 minutes from the Colosseum or the Pantheon. Right next to Termini Station. You’ll have to go further to reach the Catacombs, but if you’re interested in the Roman underground, it’s well worth it. Plus, it’s nice and cool in the summer.

TIP: Would you like to save some euros on admission and transport around Rome ? Or do you want to simplify it and use one card for everything? Check out the Roma Pass and Roma and Vatican Pass tourist cards , which provide free admission to many sights, including public transport and a sightseeing bus ride . For a comparison of the two cards, see my previous article >>>.


Related articles about Rome

More guides

Scroll to Top