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20 Historical Sites in Rome You Shouldn’t Miss

A trip to Rome just wouldn’t be complete without a historical excursion or two, but how does one even begin to choose a starting point? With a glorious history spanning over 2800 years, the Eternal City boasts several scintillating ancient ruins, archaeological sites, and historic landmarks. That is why we’ve compiled a list of the best historical sites in Rome. Discover some of the places where Ancient Rome once thrived, declined, and eventually fell.

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Best Historical Sites in Rome

Rome remains one of the world’s most striking and significant concentrations of ancient remains making it a goldmine for architecture connoisseurs, art lovers, and archaeologists. 

Not only are these Rome historical sites worth visiting, but they also offer a glimpse into Rome’s storied past. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a history buff to appreciate the immense beauty and significance of the best Ancient Rome landmarks. 

Some of these ancient sites are world-famous but there are also a few that are often overlooked by tourists and can thus be classified as hidden gems in Rome.

Finally, as this is a list of the best historical sites in Rome (those from antiquity and the Middle Ages), it doesn’t include some of the top Rome attractions such as St. Peter’s Basilica or the Trevi Fountain, both of which are relatively recent (by Roman standards).

So, without further ado, here’s our lowdown on the must-see historical sites in Rome (in no particular order):

1. Roman Forum 

Points of interest Rome: Panoramic view of the ruins of the Roman Forum on a sunny day

The best place to begin a tour of ancient sites in Rome is at the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum). Although it consists mostly of evocative ruins scattered haphazardly around a sun-baked terrain, the Forum represents almost a millennium of Roman power during the glory days of Ancient Rome.

The Roman Forum was originally just a marshy burial ground until it was developed in the 7th century BC, growing over time to become the social, political, and commercial hub of the Roman Empire.

Some of the events that took place there included triumphal celebrations, gladiatorial contests, elections, public speeches, religious ceremonies, business dealings, and more. 

The ruins of some of the most significant landmarks in the Roman Forum, such as the Temple of Saturn, Arch of Septimius Severus, and the Basilica of Maxentius, are still easily identifiable, while other buildings have been reduced to evocative fragments.

The Roman Forum is perhaps the best place to experience Ancient Rome, as it’s one of the few places in the modern metropolis where you’re surrounded by antiquity on all sides. Conjuring up your imagination, be transported back in time, and see the city through the eyes of the Ancient Romans.

Make sure to check out our in-depth guide to visiting the Roman Forum.

Practical Information for Visiting the Roman Forum

The opening hours of the Roman Forum vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).

Advance booking for the Roman Forum is required and no tickets are sold on-site. Tickets can be purchased online through the CoopCulture website, the official ticket agency for the Roman Forum. 

A ticket to the Roman Forum also includes entry to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances. 

If you would like to purchase refundable tickets in case your plans change, you can book through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.

Although there is plenty to see and explore at the Roman Forum, you can find very little information and signage on the site. Thus, to avoid your Roman Forum visit ending in frustration, I highly recommend booking a guided tour. Two good ones I can recommend are:

2. Palatine Hill 

Visit Rome: View of the Stadium of Domitian on Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is one of the seven hills of Rome and is located close to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It is one of the most significant historical sites in Rome and is considered to be the mythical birthplace of the Eternal City.

According to legend, the twins Romulus and Remus were brought up here by a she-wolf in a cave. After a violent disagreement between the two, Romulus killed Remus on the Palatine Hill before founding Rome here in 753 BC. 

Whatever the truth of this, archaeological remains do confirm the existence of a sheep-herding population on Palatine Hill since approximately 1000 BC. As time went on and Rome grew in power and wealth, the Palatine became a fashionable residential district and was the most coveted address for Ancient Rome’s rich and famous.

Roman rulers and aristocrats built their monumental palaces and expansive villas here. Nowadays, Palatine Hill is a sprawling, crowd-free archaeological garden making it the most pleasant and relaxing of Rome’s ancient sites.

Some of the best things to see on Palatine Hill are the Domus Flavia, Domus Augustana, the Stadium of Domitian, and the Farnese Gardens, one of the first botanical gardens in Europe, laid out by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the mid-16th century.

Fun Fact

The English word “palace”, the Italian “palazzo” and the French “palais” all owe their origins to the Palatine.

Don’t forget to check out the Houses of Augustus and Livia, both of which were elaborately decorated with splendid frescoes and murals, many of which remain rather well-preserved.

Practical Information for Visiting the Palatine Hill

The opening hours of Palatine Hill vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).

Advance booking for Palatine Hill is required and no tickets are sold on-site. Tickets can be purchased online through the CoopCulture website, the official ticket agency for Palatine Hill. 

A ticket to Palatine Hill also includes entry to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances. 

If you would like to purchase refundable tickets in case your plans change, you can book through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.

Similar to the Roman Forum, the Palatine’s extensive ruins are time-consuming to explore and not very well marked. Thus, to avoid your Palatine Hill visit ending in frustration, I strongly recommend booking a guided tour. Two good ones I can recommend are:

3. Arch of Constantine 

Historic Sites Rome: The lovely Arch of Constantine

Situated between the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, the majestic Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino) is the last great monument of Imperial Rome. It was erected in AD 315 to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over his co-emperor Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.

Standing at 21 meters in height and 26 meters in width, the Arch of Constantine is the largest of the three surviving ancient triumphal arches in Rome. It is notable for its elaborate medallions, reliefs, and statues, many of which were plundered from various earlier-period structures.

For example, the beautiful hunt-scene medallions come from a temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian’s male lover, Antinous.

Historically, the Arch of Constantine marks a seismic shift in the history of the Roman Empire and consequently world history. Converted to Christianity by a vision on the battlefield, Emperor Constantine ended the centuries-long persecution of the Christians (during which many followers of the fledgling religion had been put to death savagely).

Fun Fact

The Arch of Constantine served as the finish line for the men’s marathon event at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. The first man across the spectacularly torch-lit arch was the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, who ran the entire race barefoot!

The Arch of Constantine is open 24/7 and is free to visit.

4. Colosseum 

Rome sightseeing: View of Colosseum in Rome at twilight

Ahh, the Colosseum…is there a more renowned Italian monument in the world than this monumental amphitheater? Although it is a mere shell of its former self, the Colosseum remains ancient Rome’s greatest architectural legacy and the city’s defining image.

The construction of the Colosseum was ordered by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and the elliptical bowl was inaugurated in AD 80 by his son Titus. 

The vast amphitheater measured 190 meters long and 156 meters wide, it had 80 entrances and could seat between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. The Colosseum still awes onlookers today with its grandeur and might.

Naturally, a structure as grandiose as the Colosseum is one of the most Instagrammable places in Rome. Head there very early in the morning to have it all to yourself.

Fun Fact

The Roman Colosseum has not always been called “the Colosseum.” The giant arena was originally known as the “Flavian Amphitheater” after the Flavian Dynasty, which commissioned its construction. The name “Colosseum” was only introduced in medieval times and is widely believed to be derived from the “colossal” bronze statue of Emperor Nero that once stood outside of the Amphitheater.

At its peak, the Colosseum was the scene of countless public spectacles to satisfy a bloodthirsty audience. Christians fought lions, gladiators fought each other, and wounded contestants lived or died according to the emperor’s whim, expressed by the Imperial thumb, which pointed either up or down.

Since the early 6th century, earthquakes, popes, barbarians, and the environment have all played a role in the Colosseum’s decay. You can easily spot the pockmarks that riddle its travertine walls.

Rome attractions: Panorama of the interior of the Colosseum

Inside, a modern catwalk allows you to stand at the same level where gladiators and lions once fought to the death. Imagine the Colosseum in its glory days and envision being a spectator for the ancient games!

It is now possible to tour the Colosseum hypogeum, an intricate labyrinth of dungeons, cages, and passageways beneath the caved-in floor of the arena. They serve as a gruesome reminder of the centuries-long slaughter that took place here.

Practical Information for Visiting the Colosseum

The opening hours of the Colosseum vary throughout the year. However, it is open daily from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).

Advance booking for the Colosseum is required and no tickets are sold on-site. On your visit to the Colosseum, you can either wander inside on your own, take the audio guide tour, or join a guided tour.

Tickets can be purchased online through the CoopCulture website, the official ticket agency for the Colosseum. Tickets cost 18 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.

If you would like to book refundable tickets, you can either book through GetYourGuide or Tiqets. 

Keep in mind that access to the Colosseum arena requires a special ticket. It’s worth accessing the Colosseum arena floor and the memory of standing there will be etched in your mind long after you’ve left Rome. Book early as tickets tend to sell out fast.

Access to the underground passages is only possible with a special ticket. The best way to experience the remains of it is by taking a Colosseum Underground Tour where a local guide fills you in about its best-kept secrets. This tour also offers access to the Colosseum arena.

To give your Colosseum visit more context, you can also opt for a guided tour, which provides a richer experience than simply viewing the structure.

5. Area Sacra di Largo Argentina 

Rome Ancient Sites: Ruins of the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

The Area Sacra di Largo Argentina – one of Rome’s most fascinating historical sites can be found in the middle of Largo di Torre Argentina square, which is usually frantic with traffic. 

While attempting construction on a completely different building between 1926 and 1930, the remains of four Republican-era temples were discovered here. Nobody knows who these temples were dedicated to, which is why they’ve been pragmatically renamed Temple A, B, C, and D.

The oldest of the four temples of Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is Temple C, which was built in the early 3rd century BC. Temple D is the largest of the four temples sits and is thought to date back to the 2nd century BC.

The Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is also home to the ruins of the Curia of Pompey, which lies behind temples B and C. The Curia of Pompey is famous for being the site where Julius Caesar, the head of the Roman Republic, was assassinated on March 15 – the infamous “Ides of March” – in 44 BC. 

Caesar was murdered on the steps of the Curia of Pompey, having been stabbed 23 times by a group of his own senators, who were

opposed to his growing megalomania and believed that his death would lead to the restoration of the Roman Republic.

Today, Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is probably most famous for being home to a cat sanctuary. Hundreds of stray cats strut and stand around like silent sentinels amongst the ruins and each day dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to feed, clean, and look after the homeless felines. 

Practical Information for Visiting the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

The Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is open Tuesday-Sunday and is closed on Monday. The opening hours are 9:30–19:00 (from the last Sunday in March–the last Saturday in October); 9:30–16:00 (from the last Sunday of October–the last Saturday of March). The ticket desk closes one hour before closing time.

Tickets to the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina cost 5 EUR if purchased at the site or 6 EUR if purchased online.

6. Imperial Fora

Imperial Fora Rome: View of the ruins of the Forum of Augustus in Rome

Not to be confused with its better-known neighbor, the Roman Forum, the Imperial Fora (Fori Imperiali) is a series of five public squares built between 46 BC and AD 113 by a succession of emperors from Julius Caesar to Trajan. 

The Imperial Fora were built as a means to ease the burden on the Roman Forum and accommodate the needs of Rome’s growing population. Their ruins give only a hint of what must have been undeniably majestic edifices.

The Imperial Fora, in chronological order of their construction, are:

  • Caesar’s Forum, 46 BC
  • Forum of Augustus, 2 BC
  • Temple of Peace, AD 75
  • Forum of Nerva, AD 97
  • Trajan’s Forum, AD 113
Rome Ancient Sites: The ruins of the Forum of Caesar

Caesar’s Forum was the first of the five Imperial Fora to be built in the middle of the 1st century BC. It is dominated by pillars of the large temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix, the Roman goddess of motherhood and mother of Aeneas, from whom Caesar was said to be descended.

The Forum of Augustus was built to commemorate the emperor’s victory over the army of Cassius and Brutus, who had led the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar, who was Augustus’s adoptive father.

Rome Historic Sites: The ruins of the Forum of Trajan from Ancient Rome

The most impressive of all the Imperial Fora was the Forum of Trajan. Although today the Forum of Trajan consists of no more than scattered ruins, it was once regarded as one of the world’s architectural wonders.

The Forum of Trajan was the last and the most sumptuous of the imperial forums to be constructed in the Roman Empire. Trajan built the forum using the spoils of war from his conquest of Dacia (modern Romania), which was his biggest military achievement. 

The most notable features of Trajan’s Forum were its colossal size, architectural grandeur, and beautiful sculptures.

Opening Hours of the Imperial Fora

The Imperial Fora can be viewed free of charge at any time from Via dei Fori Imperiali, and due to the beautiful artificial lighting, one can enjoy the walk even at night.

The views over the ruins of Rome’s Imperial Fora from the northern side of the boulevard make for one of the most fascinating strolls in Rome.

7. Trajan’s Column

Must-see Rome: Details of the elegant and slender Trajan's Column

The magnificent Trajan’s Column was erected by the emperor in AD 113 and celebrates his two successful wars against the Dacians (inhabitants of present-day Romania). 

The 40-meter high column is covered top to bottom with bas-reliefs commemorating the highlights of the Dacian campaigns (AD 101–3 and AD 105-6). The decorative frieze winds around the column 25 times and is 190 meters long.

The statue topping the elegant marble column is of St. Peter, commissioned by Pope Sixtus in 1587 to replace what was once a statue of Trajan. When Trajan died in AD 117 his ashes were kept in a golden urn in a chamber at the column’s base but are no longer here.

Trajan’s Column is open 24/7 and can be viewed for free from Via dei Fori Imperiali.

8. Trajan’s Market

Rome ancient sights: View of Trajan's Market

Built into the side of the Quirinal Hill that had been quarried to build the Forum, Trajan’s Market is a fine example of Roman urban architecture and was originally considered among the wonders of the Classical world. 

Trajan’s Market was an ancient Roman equivalent of a multipurpose commercial center, unequaled at that time, with a covered market containing shops, taverns, depots, a residential apartment block, and government offices.

Its teeming arcades were stocked with merchandise such as silks, spices, fresh fish, fruit, flowers, wine, oil, and fabrics from the far corners of the Roman Empire

As one of the few preserved ancient high-rise structures, Trajan’s Market gives a good insight into daily Roman life from that era. 

Practical Information for Visiting Trajan’s Market

You can see a large chunk of Trajan’s Market from Via dei Fori Imperiali for free (24/7). However, if you want to enter Trajan’s Market, you must go through the Museum of the Imperial Fora.

The museum allows access to certain otherwise inaccessible areas of Trajan’s Market. You can walk on the ancient streets, as well as check out interesting artifacts from all the Imperial Fora.

The Museum of the Imperial Fora is open daily from 09:30-19:30 (last entrance is at 18:30). The entrance costs 14 EUR. Tickets can be purchased online.

9. Circus Maximus

Visit Rome: View of the famous Circus Maximus on a sunny afternoon

The Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) is one of the historical sites in Rome you shouldn’t miss. Measuring 621 meters in length and 118 meters in width, this distinctive U-shaped structure with seats on three sides was once ancient Rome’s largest stadium.

Located in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, Circus Maximus was built around the 6th century BC by the order of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, Rome’s first Etruscan king. The arena was repeatedly embellished and expanded from the 6th century BC until AD 549 when the last races were held.  

In its heyday, Circus Maximus’s grandstands held some 250,000 spectators cheering wildly at the horse and chariot races, athletic contests, and gladiator battles. A lavish luxury box was built high upon Palatine Hill specifically for the Emperor to admire the spectacle.

Picture the great chariot race scene from the 1956 film Ben Hur and you have an idea of what the Circus Maximus looked like in its pomp.

Indeed, if the Circus Maximus were still intact it would undoubtedly match the Colosseum for splendor.

Today, Circus Maximus is unfortunately a formless ruin, a little more than a long grassy esplanade. It still retains something of its original purpose as it used now an occasional venue for festivals, concerts, and large gatherings.

The Circus Maximus can be seen from the top of Palatine Hill or can be inspected up close if you want to go there for a stroll. It is accessible 24/7.

10. Theater of Marcellus

Rome Historic Sites - Theater of Marcellus, the largest theater of Ancient Rome

Found in the southern area of the Campo Marzio, between the Tiber River and the Capitoline Hill, the Theater of Marcellus (Teatro di Marcello) was the largest and most important theater in Ancient Rome, with space for around 20,000 spectators. 

The Theater of Marcellus used to host cultural events such as plays, musical contests, and poetry recitals. It is still the oldest Roman theater in existence.,

Julius Caesar is credited with starting the construction of the Theater of Marcellus, but it was completed many years after his assassination (in 13 BC) by Augustus, who dedicated it to his favorite nephew, Marcellus, who had died aged 19 in 23 BC.

The theater’s architecture would become a standard feature of theatres across the empire and influence the façades of such iconic buildings as the Colosseum.

Its semicircular travertine façade has three orders, the two lower ones with the arches framed by an order of Doric semicolumns, with Tuscan capitals and no base.

It has been speculated that the Theater of Marcellus was originally built as a way to rival the Theater of Pompey, a bitter rival of Caesar’s. 

The Theater of Marcellus, like many other buildings in Rome from antiquity, was pillaged in the 4th century. It was not properly restored until the Middle Ages, after which it became a formidable fortified palace for a succession of different rulers. 

The Theater of Marcellus is closed to visitors and can only be admired from the outside. It is well worth the visit though as by surveying the ruins and conjuring up your imagination, you can envision throngs of ancient Roman theater lovers ready to enjoy an evening of entertainment.

11. Pyramid of Caius Cestius

Off-the-beaten-path Rome: The imposing white marble Pyramid of Caius Cestius

You wouldn’t expect a touch of Egypt in the heart of Rome but the Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Piramide di Caio Cestio) delivers exactly that. 

This imposing white pyramid made from large blocks of Carrara marble was built in the 1st century BC during the last years of the Roman Republic as a mausoleum for Caius Cestius. It stands 36 meters high and, according to an inscription on its façade, took 330 days to build.

Who was Caius Cestius you might ask? Caius Cestius, who died in 12 BC, was a wealthy praetor (senior Roman magistrate) and had spent some time in Egypt. 

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius is certainly one of the more offbeat attractions in Rome. Due to its incongruity with the rest of Rome’s architecture, it’s worth visiting. Plus, it offers a great photo op!

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius can be observed from the outside at any time during the day. The pyramid’s interior can only be seen with a guided tour.

For more information on precise opening hours and tour bookings, check the website.

12. Domus Aurea

Rome historic sites: Remains of a dome and circular space inside the Domus Aurea. PC: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) is one of the most intriguing historical sites in Rome. Domus Aurea was a huge, ostentatious, and somewhat megalomaniacal palatial complex covering dozens of acres. 

Domus Aurea was built by Emperor Nero in an area known as the Oppian Hill after a catastrophic fire in AD 64 (allegedly started by Nero) devastated a large part of Rome. Its construction was contentious as the land on which it was built had been previously occupied by Roman homes.

Domus Aurea consisted of a series of banqueting rooms surrounded by vast gardens, pastures, woods, vineyards, thermal baths, and a small artificial lake! The whole complex occupied about 50 hectares, a total area of 25 times that of the Colosseum.

Rome was used to Nero’s excesses, but it had never seen anything like Domus Aurea before. It was once the most magnificent building on the planet.

Ancient Rome: Ancient wall frescoes and paintings in the Domus Aurea. PC: PC: Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Domus Aurea’s walls were coated in solid gold and mother-of-pearl. It had dining rooms with ivory ceilings from which rotating panels showered guests with flowers, and fitted pipes sprinkled them with perfume.

Oddly, despite all its grandeur, Domus Aurea was never intended to be inhabited. It was merely a ceremonial palace dedicated to Nero’s debauched parties and lavish entertainment, rather than a residence.

Nero barely got a chance to enjoy the imperial palace of his innermost ambitions since he committed suicide in AD 68 after he was condemned to death by the Senate.

Almost immediately after Nero’s death, Domus Aurea was filled in as a way to erase his memory. It was stripped, demolished, or built on by his successors.

However, Domus Aurea’s remnants remained well preserved with dirt and brick, and it was rediscovered in the 15th century after an unsuspecting man slipped through a crack in the hillside and fell into a secret underground chamber. Today, work has been ongoing to explore further into the complex.

Practical Information for Visiting Domus Aurea

Due to the excavations on site, Domus Aurea is only open to the public Friday-Sunday from 09:00-17:00. The site is accessible only with a guided tour with reservations required. 

A tour lasts about 75-90 minutes. You can book your tour for slots between 09:15 and 16:15. 

A guided tour of the Domus Aurea is fascinating and comes highly recommended. Virtual reality goggles allow visitors to discover what Nero’s Golden Palace looked like in its heyday!

Advance booking for Domus Aurea is required and no tickets are sold on-site. Tickets can be purchased online through the CoopCulture website, the official ticket agency for Domus Aurea. Tickets cost 19-23 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.

If you would like to purchase refundable tickets in case your plans change, you can book through GetYourGuide.

Pro Tip

A helmet (provided on-site) must be worn inside at all times during the guided tour. It is recommended to take a jacket as the temperature inside the building is around 10° C (50° F).

13. Ostia Antica

Ancient Roman sites: Ruins in the Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica.

Founded around the 4th century BC, Ostia Antica served as ancient Rome’s main commercial port and a military base. It flourished for about eight centuries before it began to wither away when the harbor began to silt up, covering the old city with sand and mud.

Tidal mud and windblown sand-covered Ostia Antica until the beginning of the 20th century when it was extensively excavated. It is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman cities and its ruins arguably give a better insight into the everyday urban life of ancient Rome as the Roman Forum or even Pompeii.

In its heyday, Ostia Antica had 100,000 inhabitants—people of all social classes from all over the Mediterranean lived and worked here. The town was equipped with a theater, numerous temples and baths, great patrician houses, and a large business complex. 

Today, Ostia Antica is an evocative site, still relatively free of the bustle of tourists and well worth visiting, especially if you don’t have time to head to Pompeii or Herculaneum. 

Wandering around the wonderfully preserved mix of cobbled streets and ruins of atmospheric temples, theatres, villas, shops, apartment blocks, warehouses, temples, and baths offer a unique insight into what it was like to live in an ancient Roman town over 2,000 years ago.

Ancient Rome sites: The famous Roman Theater in the Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica

Most of the ruins and monuments of Ostia Antica are scattered along the main avenue, the Decumanus Maximus. Some of the top Ostia Antica highlights you shouldn’t miss are:

  • House of Diana
  • Thermopolium
  • Theater
  • Bakery of Silvano
  • Forum of Corporations
  • Baths of Neptune

Practical Information Visiting Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica lies about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of Rome. It is easily reachable by regular trains from Roma–Porta San Paolo (next door to Piramide Metro Station, on the Rome Metro Line B).

Ostia Antica is open Tuesday-Sunday and is closed on Monday. The opening hours are 8:30–16:30 (November–February); 8:30–17:15 (March); 8:30–19:00 (April–September); 8:30-18:30 (October). The ticket desk closes one hour before closing time.

Tickets to Ostia Antica cost 16 EUR if purchased at the site or 18 EUR if purchased online. Free entrance every first Sunday of the month.

You can also see Ostia Antica on a guided tour and learn little-known details and fascinating anecdotes about this ancient port town. 

Pro Tip

Ostia Antica is very spread out, so be prepared for a fair amount of walking. Wear comfortable shoes due to the rough conditions of the walking paths. Consider bringing a hat, sunscreen some water in the warmer months as the heat can be intense.

14. The Appian Way

Must-see Rome: The ancient Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) in Rome.

The Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) is the most famous of the consular roads that led out in each direction from ancient Rome. It is one of the most pleasurable Rome historic sites to visit.

The Appian Way was begun in 312 BC by the censor Appio Claudio (thus its name) and by 191 BC it had been extended southeastward for some 582 kilometers (362 miles) to reach the port of Brundisium (Brindisi), the main port for Greece and the Byzantine Empire. Its primary purpose was to facilitate the swift movement of Roman troops and military supplies.

The Appian Way’s initial stretch is lined with tombs, vaults, and mausoleums of patrician Roman families—burials were forbidden within the city walls as early as the 5th century BC. 

Later, it became the site of the maze of catacombs built by the early Christians. These catacombs, were where early Christians buried their dead and, during the worst times of persecution, held church services discreetly out of the public eye.

Some of the top Appian Way highlights you shouldn’t miss are:

  • Gate of St. Sebastian
  • Catacombs of St. Callixtus
  • Church of Domine Quo Vadis
  • Circus of Maxentius
  • Tomb of Cecilia Metella 
  • Catacombs of St. Sebastian

The Appian Way often gets overlooked by most visitors to Rome which is a shame. A stroll on the Appian Way is akin to a time machine that takes you back to ancient Rome because, in a lot of ways, the Appian Way hasn’t changed much. 

Although many of the Appian Way’s monuments have been reduced to rubble, there is still lots to see, and it is a wonderful area to spend a day. It’s difficult not to be impressed while traveling on the same road ancient Romans used in daily life.

Practical Information for Visiting the Appian Way

Though the Appian Way starts in Rome, it’s not the easiest place to reach on foot. I recommend coming here by public transport (bus), by bike, or on a tour. 

The interesting section of the Appian Way stretches for many kilometers, and thus hiking is perhaps not the best way to explore the road. Instead, I HIGHLY recommend seeing the Appian Way on a guided tour by E-Bike, which is certainly the most enjoyable way to see the Appian Way.

You can also opt for the Appian Way E-Bike tour with a fascinating guided tour of the Catacombs.

If, however, you’re not up for a bike ride, you can simply take a guided tour of the Appian Way (incl. transport)

15. The Pantheon

Rome attractions: Beautiful woman posing for a photo in front of the Pantheon at dawn

No list of the best historic sites in Rome would be complete without mentioning the Pantheon, a veritable Rome must-see. Constructed to honor all pagan gods, the Pantheon was rebuilt in the first half of the 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian.

Today, the Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient monument in Rome and has survived for some 2,000 years, through sieges, fires, and earthquakes. Unlike many other Roman monuments that fell into disrepair, the Pantheon was consecrated as a church in the 7th century, ensuring its continued use and conservation.

The Pantheon’s exterior is rather plain except for a few flourishes. Its portico is immense, 16 massive Corinthian columns support a roof with a triangular pediment.

Rome sights: Details of the cavernous interior of the Pantheon. PC: Khorzhevska / Shutterstock.com

However, it’s the Pantheon’s sweeping and airy interior that will take your breath away. Its dome is easily its most distinctive feature and the height of the dome is the same as its diameter—43.3 meters.

What’s also remarkable is that there are no visible arches or vaults to hold the dome up. The Pantheon has no traditional windows and its circular 9-meter wide hole (oculus) in its center is still the building’s only source of natural light. 

Fun Fact

The Pantheon’s dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

Being a working Catholic Church, the Pantheon is the resting place of Italian kings and prominent Italian artists such as the painter Raphael and King Victor Emmanuel II.

For anyone looking to get an idea of the sheer scale and aspiration of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon is something that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a feat of engineering every bit as staggering today as it must have been back when it was erected.

Practical Information for Visiting the Pantheon

The Pantheon is open daily from 09:00-19:00 (last entry at 18:45). The Pantheon is closed on the 1st of January, the 15th of August, and the 25th of December.

The entrance to the Pantheon costs 5 EUR. The entrance ticket can be purchased online through the Musei Italiani website. You’ll have to register first before purchasing your ticket.

Alternatively, you can also buy your Pantheon ticket directly at the ticket counter in front of the monument, using cash or card.

Additionally, you can book a Pantheon guided tour for a more meaningful experience.  

Finally, expect to encounter lines stretching across Piazza della Rotonda every day. However, there is no question that the Pantheon is worth the wait.

16. Castel Sant’Angelo

Rome photo spots: View of Castel Sant'Angelo at sunset

The towering cylinder of Castel Sant’Angelo is an instantly recognizable silhouette on the banks of the River Tiber. This overpowering castle was built in AD 135–139 as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian, his family, and future successors (up until Caracalla in AD 217).

Castel Sant’Angelo has since served as a place of residence, a prison, a court, military barracks, and a fortress. Due to its proximity to the Vatican, the castle was most famously used as a refuge for the popes during wars and sieges (the popes escaped via a secret passageway between the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican). 

Today, Castel Sant’Angelo is home to a museum that boasts a large collection of sculptures, paintings, marble finds, furniture, and a wide-ranging selection of ancient arms and armor. There’s something to pique every interest.

 Castel Sant'Angelo interior: The gorgeous Sala Paolina

Some of the highlights of Castel Sant’Angelo you shouldn’t miss are:

  • Renaissance-style papal apartments
  • Sala Paolina
  • Staircase of Alexander VI
  • Hall of Apollo

Castel Sant’Angelo is a fantastic place to visit if you’re interested in Roman history, religion, art, or architecture. Don’t miss the gorgeous panoramic views of Rome that can be enjoyed from the castle’s upper terrace.

Fun Fact

The terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo acted as the setting for the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera “Tosca.”

Practical Information for Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo is open Tuesday-Sunday from 09:00-19:30 (the last admission is at 18:30). Tickets cost 14 EUR and can be purchased online on TicketOne.it, the official ticket supplier for Castel Sant’Angelo.

No reservation is necessary but is strongly recommended if you would like to avoid long queues. You can also book your tickets through GetYourGuide or Tiqets, both of which are legit third-party resellers.

17. Baths of Caracalla

Rome Historic Sites: Ruins of the massive Baths of Caracalla on a sunny day

The Baths of Caracalla (Terme di Caracalla) are one of the most interesting—yet least-visited attractions in Rome. The baths are the most famous of Rome’s ancient public baths.

The Baths of Caracalla were built between AD 212 and 216, during the reigns of emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. They were the most luxurious baths in Rome and the city’s largest until the completion of the Baths of Diocletian a century later. 

The Baths of Caracalla remained in steady use until the mid-6th century when during the Siege of Rome in AD 537–538 the water supply to Rome was cut off by the Ostrogoths. The baths slowly fell into ruin over the next few hundred years due to damage sustained by wars and earthquakes.

In their heyday, the Baths of Caracalla sprawled across 25 hectares and could host 1,600 bathers at one time, with up to 8,000 visitors coming in a single day. They were wildly popular among Roman citizens who came here to enjoy the use of swimming pools, saunas, baths, and gymnasiums.

Ancient sites Rome: Ruins of the Baths of Caracalla

In addition, the Baths of Caracalla were also home to gardens, shops selling food and drink, art galleries, lecture rooms, and libraries. The interior of all of these was sumptuously decorated with marble, gilding, and mosaics.

The Baths of Caracalla served as a model for various grand structures such as the Basilica of Maxentius, the first Penn Station in New York City, Chicago Union Station, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Senate of Canada Building.

Today, the bath complex is a shell of its former self and you’ll need to use your imagination when you visit since all that’s left are the ground floor walls and collapsed vaults. Nevertheless, the Baths of Caracalla is an impressive and interesting site to visit while you’re in the Eternal City.

Practical Information for Visiting the Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla are open Tuesday–Sunday from 09:00–approx one hour before sunset (last admission: 1 hour before closing).

Tickets can be purchased online through the CoopCulture website, the official ticket agency for the Baths of Caracalla. Tickets cost 10 EUR but are non-refundable under any circumstances.

If you would like to purchase refundable tickets, click here

Pro Tip

The Baths of Caracalla can be brought to life with VR goggles. The special 3D visors recreate the chambers, swimming pools, and gymnasiums, with their original lavish decorations, along with audio commentary. It costs 7 EUR for the virtual video guide.

18. Baths of Diocletian

The Baths of Diocletian - the largest of the imperial public baths in ancient Rome.

The Baths of Diocletian were the largest and among the most sumptuous public baths in ancient Rome. They were originally commissioned by Emperor Maximian in 298 AD in honor of his co-emperor Diocletian, who never even visited Rome, and completed in 306 AD.

The notable distinction between the Baths of Diocletian and other contemporary baths was simply a question of sheer size – it is believed that in their pomp, the Baths of Diocletian could hold up to 3,000 people at a time (about twice as many as the Baths of Caracalla).

Like the Baths of Caracalla, the Baths of Diocletian featured a caldarium (a hot room), a tepidarium (a warm room), and a frigidarium (a cold room), as well as various other rooms dedicated to swimming, gymnasiums, gardens, theaters, and libraries.

The Baths of Diocletian served the ancient Romans for over two centuries until the Ostrogoths cut Rome’s water supply in their bid to conquer the city in AD 537-538. Similar to many ancient sites in Rome, the Baths of Diocletian were used as a quarry whose materials were looted and reused for new constructions.

In the 16th century, parts of the baths were converted into the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs. Since 1889, the Baths of Diocletian have housed one of the branches of the National Roman Museum, the national collection of ancient Roman art.  

Today, visitors can survey the remains of the impressive thermal complex, as well as a beautiful collection of statues and ancient works of art.

Baths of Diocletian: The lovely Cloister of Michelangelo at the National Roman Museum. PC: ValerioMei / Shutterstock.com

The museum’s most evocative part is the large cloister (attributed to Michelangelo) of the church whose sides are crammed with statuary, sarcophagi, and funerary monuments from all over Rome.

Practical Information for Visiting the Baths of Diocletian

The Baths of Diocletian are open Tuesday–Sunday from 09:00–18:00 (last admission at 17:00). Tickets cost 10 EUR and can be booked online through the official website.

19. Forum Boarium

Rome Historic Sites: The classical Greek style Temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium

The Forum Boarium (Foro Boario) is one of the places to visit if you looking for some off-the-beaten-path Rome sites. 

The large square, which was ancient Rome’s cattle market, is now home to two of the best-preserved Roman temples to have survived from the Republican era – the Temple of Portunus (Tempio di Portuno) and the Temple of Hercules Victor (Tempio di Ercole Vincitore). 

Both of these temples date from the end of the 2nd century BC and owe their fine state of preservation to the fact that they were reconsecrated as Christian churches in the Middle Ages. 

The Temple of Portunus was dedicated to Portunus, the ancient Roman deity of harbors and ports. Set on a podium, it was built in the classical Greek style and has four Ionic travertine columns and 12 half-columns.

Offbeat Rome: The beautiful Temple of Hercules Victor in the Forum Boarium

The smaller Temple of Hercules Victor consists of a colonnade of slender Corinthian columns arranged in a concentric ring around the cylindrical cella.

The temple is thought to be the earliest surviving marble building in Rome. It is often called the Temple of Vesta because of its similarity in shape to the building of that name in the Roman Forum.

The Forum Boarium is open 24/7 and is free to visit. Although you can’t go inside the temples, the Forum Boarium is worth visiting. There are plenty of benches dotted around the square, so you can relax and admire the temples.

20. Portico of Octavia

Rome Historic Sites: The Portico of Octavia in the Jewish Ghetto.

Located in the heart of the atmospheric Jewish Ghetto, the Portico of Octavia (Portico d’Ottavia) is the sole surviving portico of what used to be the grand piazza of Circus Flaminius. 

It was originally built by Quintus Caecilius Metellus with the proceeds of his victory in Macedonia in 146 BC and was later rebuilt by Emperor Augustus in 23 BC and dedicated to his sister Octavia, the abandoned wife of Mark Antony. 

The Portico was a colonnaded structure that surrounded two small temples (dedicated to Jupiter and Juno), a library, and a government building. In the Middle Ages, it was used initially as a fish market, and then later it was converted into a church. 

The Portico of Octavia is open 24/7 and is free to visit.

How to get to the Best Historical Sites in Rome?

All the best ancient sites in Rome that we’ve included in this article can be conveniently reached by public transport. To find out more about how to get around Rome, check out our ultimate guide to public transport in Rome.

You may also want to check out the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card as these two travel passes allow you to access the most important museums for free or at a discounted rate.

Map of the Best Historical Sites in Rome

We’ve created a custom map containing all the best ancient sites in Rome with their exact location to ensure you’re not missing out on anything.

Further Reading For Your Rome Visit

That summarizes our comprehensive guide to the best historical sites in Rome. However, we reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Rome!

More Information About Italy

Venice: Check out the 19 best Venice Instagram spots!

Venice: Find out the 30 best things to do in Venice!

Venice: Check out the 30+ must-see sights along the Grand Canal in Venice!

Trieste: Discover the 18 best things to do in Trieste!

Naples: Uncover how to spend the perfect 24 hours in Naples!

Naples: Check out the 12 best pizzerias in Naples!

Caserta: Read our comprehensive guide to visiting the Caserta Royal Palace!

Pompeii: Find out everything you need to know about visiting Pompeii!

Herculaneum: Check out our definitive guide to visiting Herculaneum!


Do you agree with our list? What are some of your favorite historical sites in Rome? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).

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