When you visit Rome, you want to see and experience something of the ancient Roman times. Lucky for you, Rome is stuffed to the brim with history and ruins. But which ones should you visit and are worth your time? Which Roman ruins are more than rubble and ancient walls? Here are my 9
This post is intended for people who want to travel to Rome and want to know what to see. And experience ancient Rome. Of course, Roman history in Rome is more elaborate than these 9 ancient sights. But I feel they are a great introduction to the history of the Roman Empire and can are a great way to see the city of Rome! Let’s go!
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My 9 Favorite Roman Ruins in Rome
Continue reading below what each of these Roman Ruins means and quick tips on how to visit them. Or click on each link in the list to jump straight to the paragraph of your interest.
- Domus Aurea
- Ostia Antica
- Via Appia
- Theatre of Marcellus
- Baths of Diocletian
- Circus Maximus
- Roman Forum
9 Roman Ruins in Rome
You Must See
Domus Aurea – Nero’s Golden Palace in Rome
Let’s kick this list off with my insider tip. Only recently excavated and work is still in progress. Close to the Colosseum, you’ll find buried under the ground, the ruins of Nero’s Golden Palace also called the Domus Aurea. Currently only open on the weekends and a guided tour is mandatory.
You get to wear a nice yellow hard-hat helmet and go underground to roam some of the 300 halls of the ancient palace of Nero. You’ll explore faded mural paintings, trace steps of ancient building techniques and my absolute favorite: You get to wear 3D augmented reality goggles as they show you what the Domus Aurea would have looked like in Nero’s time.
Quick Facts about the Domus Aurea
- Date: Built between 64 and 68 BCE
- Time to visit: 1 hour and 15 minutes
- How to visit: Mandatory guided tour, only on weekends, book ahead.
- Cost to visit: €14 for adults. For more information, click here.
Roman Ruins of Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is the ancient harbor town of ancient Rome. When Rome was flourishing, this could only happen because of their harbor in Ostia. In Ostia, grain and other food supplies were brought in to feed the expanding city of Rome.
A day trip to Ostia Antica is perfect to see some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Rome. You get to wander around the ancient town. Visit the Amphitheater, walk the central road, visit the warehouses and temples. This is really what a smaller Roman city looked like in ancient times without the traffic and the hordes of tourists.
Quick Facts about Ostia Antica
- Date: Most of the city dates from the 3rd century BCE
- Time to visit: Via local transport, it takes an hour to reach Ostia Antica. I recommend a good 2 to 3 hours to explore the ruins. Add a little extra time for endless selfies, lunch, or a visit to the modern town and beach.
- How to visit: I visited on my own. I took the local train and explored Ostia Antica without a guide. You can rent an audio guide on sight. If you wish, you can book a tour to visit Ostia Antica from Rome.
- Cost to visit: The train from Rome is €1,50 for one single journey. The entrance for an adult is €12 and the audio guide is an extra €5. Half-day tours from Rome start at €69.
Via Appian – The ancient Appian Way
They say all roads lead to Rome. This saying is loosely based on the ancient Appian Way. A road leading into Rome, that is as old as the way to Rome. I’m sorry, I’ll stop with the cheesy proverbs but the Appian Way is the ancient road leading into Rome from the south. It was used for military purposes and tax collecting along the route.
The road starts just outside the Aurelian Walls of Rome and leads all the way to Brindisi at the coast. Although that is a bit much to explore, I recommend a half-day or full-day cycle tour along the Via Appia. You get to see the most interesting part of the road, you’ll learn about ancient Roman road building and get to explore some of the historic ruins along the road, like the Tomb of Geta and impressive Roman aqueducts.
Quick Facts about the Via Appia
- Date: The first stretch of the road was built in 312 BCE
- Time to visit: This is an outdoor activity. I recommend the full day trip but a half-day cycle tour is also possible
- How to visit: I recommend taking a cycle tour with a knowledgeable guide but you can also hire a bike and explore yourself
Costto visit: A visit to the Via Appia is free. Cycle tours begin at €43 for the half-day Appian Way Bike Tour to €69 for the full day. Click here for more details and prices.
Theater of Marcellus.
The Theater of Marcellus is easily overlooked. Close to the gigantic white Monument of Victor Emmanuel, it is located in the Ghetto neighborhood of Rome. Although you cannot visit the interior of the theatre nowadays, I do think it must be added to this list of Roman ruins in Rome.
The main reason is that the Theater of Marcellus might be the oldest surviving Roman theatre to this day. Built between 17 and 11 BCE the exterior can be seen up close. When you walk in the grass area around the Theater of Marcellus, you’ll see the use of both Doric and Ionic columns. One of the largest theatres of its time, the Theater of Marcellus was in use until the 4th century ACE when it started to crumble and was used as a stone quarry for other buildings in Rome.
Quick facts about the Theater of Marcellus
- Date: Built between 17 and 11 BCE
- Time to visit: Half an hour to really walk around the exterior
- How to visit: You can only visit the exterior or be lucky enough to be invited for a summer performance.
- Costs to visit: You can visit and admire the exterior for free.
One of my favorite places in Rome to visit is the Pantheon. Ancient Roman temple, oldest church and currently a mausoleum and tourist attraction, the Pantheon is many things in one.
The Pantheon started out as an ancient temple for All Gods. In its current form, it was built around 126 ACE on the site of the first temple (27 BCE till 14 ACE) leaving the inscription on the facade. This caused many misunderstanding by later scholars. The building
Even today, this remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, measuring 43 meters (142 ft.) in perfect circular form. I guarantee you’ll get neck cramps from looking up to the oculus and trying to take in the scale and magnitude of the building.
Take a look around and spot the tombs of the famous painter Raphael and King Victor Emmanuel. The square in front of the Pantheon is usually buzzin’ with tourists and street sellers. Take a few steps back and try to take in the atmosphere. The view of the obelisk with the Pantheon behind is a marvelous photo-opt if you’re lucky enough to capture it without too many tourists.
Quick Facts about Pantheon
- Date: The Pantheon as we know it was built in 126 ACE on the remains of the ancient Temple of the Gods (27 BCE- 14 ACE).
- Time to visit: Depending on the lines, it might take 15 to 30 minutes to get in. Once inside, I’d recommend taking a good half an hour to an hour to look around and take in the great architecture of the Pantheon.
- How to visit: You can easily walk in yourself but do bring a good guidebook that points out all the quicky little details of the building. If you can, take a guided walking tour of the area. Changes are the guide will tell a lot of details about the Pantheon.
- Costs to visit: The Pantheon is a church (and must be respected as such). Entrance is free but only a certain number of people are allowed at the same time. A long line can form at peak times, but this moves quite quickly.
Baths of Diocletian
Bath culture was very important in ancient Rome. Houses didn’t have the bathrooms we have now. Roman people would visit the local baths for a visit to the toilet or to take a bath and clean themselves. And catch up on the latest gossip.
A new ruler or emperor could show his wealth and become popular with the common people, by building a new complex of baths.
The Baths of Diocletian are located right in the center of Rome, near the Termini Station. It’s easily accessible and this excavation is one of the best Roman baths in Rome. I visited the Baths of Diocletian on my first visit to Rome back in 2000. You get to go through the different baths and follow the ancient Roman bathing rituals. And you discover why the baths were such an important aspect of Roman life.
Quick Facts about the Baths of Diocletian
- Date: Built between 298 to 306 ACE
- Time to visit: I’d say 1.5 hours would cover most of the basics to explore the Baths of Diocletian.
- How to visit: You can buy your tickets online and visit yourself or explore as part of a tour.
- Costs to visit: Tickets are €12 for adults but many discounts and combination tickets apply. Check what suits your needs best or find a guided tour here.
Roman Ruins of the Circus Maximus
Almost next to the Colosseum, you’ll find the remains of the Circus Maximus. Today, the Circus Maximus is a public park. The Circus Maximus is perfect for a stroll around the ancient racetracks You can also enjoy the view of the oval-shaped area with amazing views of Palatine Hill.
The Circus Maximus measured 621m (2,037 ft.) in length and 118m (387 ft.) in width and could house 250,000 exciting spectators. They would watch the chariot races and witness religious processions. In earlier times, the stadium has wooden tribunes, later replaced by marble.
Fire and flooding slowly rang in a time of decay. In the Middle Ages, a fort with watchtower was built on the site of the Circus Maximus ruins that you can still see today.
Quick Facts about Circus Maximus
- Date: The Circus Maximus earliest form dates back to the 6th century BCE and was in use until 549 ACE
- Time to visit: Take half an hour to take in the views and walk around it. Take all afternoon for a picnic in this public park.
- How to visit: Take
MetroB to Circo Massimo and stroll around the ancient tracks
- Costs to visit: You can visit for free
Roman Forum in Rome
The center of power and life in ancient Rome could be found at the Roman Forum. Here, all the important senators and people of the clergy would work, meet and plan their next hit on the emperor. Processions would take place at the Roman Forum, public trails and speeches, and everyday activities like shopping. It was the place to be in ancient Rome to catch the latest gossip and actual news and every king and emperor wanted to leave their mark at the Roman Forum.
Highlights of a visit to the Roman Forum in Rome are:
House of the Vestal virgins and the temple of Vesta, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Antoninus Pius and the Triumphal arches of Septimius Severus and Titus and the Curia.
Exploring Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum can be confusing. I advise getting a guide or a really good guidebook that explains step by step what you’re looking at and interesting details.
Quick Facts about the Roman Forum in Rome
- Date: Some structures at the Roman Forum are as old as the 8th century BCE while the last building was commissioned in 312 ACE.
- Time to visit: Depending on your interest in Roman ruins in Rome, I’d stay anywhere from 2 hours to see the highlights with a tour to all day to explore each temple and ruin on your own while reading a guidebook.
- How to visit: I guess you’re interested in Roman ruins and probably want to visit the Colosseum too. I recommend booking a tour. This allows you to really take in the sight and not lose time, flipping through your guidebook.
Costto visit: A ticket for the Roman Forum is combined with tickets for the Palatine Hills and the Colosseum. They start at €12 for individuals (adults).
Colosseum in Rome
When you say Roman ruins in Rome, the image of the Colosseum pops up automatically in everyone’s mind. The shape of the Colosseum has almost become iconic for the city of Rome and Roman ruins in general.
I visited Rome 4 times but I only visited the interior of the Colosseum once. It is quite expensive to visit and with so many other great Roman ruins in Rome, I left it until my 3rd visit to the city. All the other times, I admired the exterior and the main features from the outside. This can be best seen when you explore on foot and circumnavigate the whole Colosseum (twice!). Each side is different and on your second look, I’m sure you’ll find other intriguing things that you’ve missed the first time.
Most famous Roman ruin in Rome
But if you do decide to get in, be ready to be amazed! The Flavian Amphitheater (as it’s called officially) could house 50,000 to 80,000 people at the same time. The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built and it shows. Three stories high building forms an ellipse, measuring 189 meters (615 ft.) in length and 156 meters (510ft.) in width. The base of the building with a
Epic gladiator fights, the
Due to earthquakes and the need for its building materials, the Colosseum started to fall apart. Huge restoration works could turn the tide, transforming the Colosseum into the symbol of the ancient Roman world and the city of Rome.
Quick Facts about the Colosseum in Rome
- Date: Built between 72 and 80 ACE.
- Time to visit: Take an hour or 2, maybe 3 to take in the sight and explore the whole Colosseum (inside and out).
- How to visit: You can visit the Colosseum on your own. Your best option is to book a ticket in advance online. However, tickets are capped so it’s best to buy as much in advance if you can. If you’ll also like to learn more about the history of Rome and the Colosseum and are crazy about facts, I recommend booking a tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (opt. to include the Domus Aurea on the weekends).
- Cost to visit: A ticket for the Colosseum is a combined ticket for the Palatine Hills and the Roman Forum. They start at €12 for individuals (adults) but go up if you wish to visit the arena and the underground areas.
My 9 personal favorite Roman ruins in Rome
Wow, that was already a long list. It took me several visits to Rome to explore all of them so don’t feel bad if you can’t visit them all in one visit. At least you’ll have several options and choose what interests you the most. I think the list can be even longer, as Rome is stuffed with Roman ruins. But I decided to cap this list with my 9 favorite Roman ruins of Rome.
Do you agree? What are your favorite Roman ruins in Rome? What is the absolute must-see for you during your visit to the eternal city? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to read it.