Map of Italy showing the position of Rome and the Vatican City.

Roman Sites in Rome and the Vatican

As the centre of the Roman world from before the Republic to the Empire, architectural achievements in Rome, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the various forums and fortifications, were like no other at that time. In over 2,000 years many of these structures have survived intact to varying degrees. Making Rome one of the most visited destinations for those with even the slightest interest in Europe’s ancient history.

Must See Roman Sites in Rome

The Colosseum under a clear blue sky.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is undoubtedly the iconic monument of Rome. At 48 m high, and 545 m in circumference, this was by far the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, seating between 50,000 and 80,000 people. While the basic layout was used in towns and cities throughout the Empire, the size and attention to detail we see in Rome was never matched anywhere else. Following substantial restoration, the underground tunnels of the arena became fully open to the public in 2021.
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The Mausoleum of Augustus before restoration.

Augustus’s Mausoleum before the recent renovations.

Mausoleum of Augustus

Augustus’s Mausoleum was one of the emperor’s first major building projects in Rome. Built in 28 BC, Augustus is said to have been inspired by the mausoleum of Alexander the Great in Alexandria, Egypt. Although this is the largest circular funerary monument in the world, it was left in a ruinous condition until restoration started in earnest in October 2016. Following extensive renovation, the site re-opened to the public on 1 March 2021 by the mayor of Rome.
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The entrance to the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.

Castel Sant’Angelo from the Angelo Bridge.

Hadrian’s Mausoleum – Castel Sant’Angelo

On the north bank of the Tiber River and across the photogenic St. Angelo Bridge from the historic centre of Rome, is the circular building known as Castel Sant’Angelo. The first phase this building was constructed between 134 and 139 AD to serve as Hadrian’s mausoleum, where the emperor’s ashes were placed a year after his death. Much of what we see today was built between the 13th and 17th centuries, when it was heavily fortified to house the papal palace, and later a prison.
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The entrance to the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.

Baths of Caracalla

Built under Emperor Caracalla between 211 and 216 AD, these baths were the second of larger Imperial bath houses in Rome. And the sheer size of the baths still captivates visitors today. The bathhouse covered an area of 100,000 metres square and accommodated about 10,000 people. More of a leisure centre than a series of baths, these were the second to have a public library. The baths continued to be used until the 6th century. Now a popular archaeological attraction, the ruins are the summer home of the Rome Opera Company.
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Archaeology Travel | Roman Ruins in Rome | 3

San Clemente Mithraeum

Beneath the Basilica of Saint Clement is one of the best known temples in Rome dedicated to the God Mithras. In around 200 AD a Roman nobleman turned a central room of his house into a mithraeum. Although discovered in 1867, underground water made further investigation impossible until 1914 when a tunnel was constructed to channel the flow of water. The structure of the underground temple is typical of Roman mithraeums.
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The entrance to the Pantheon in Rome early in the morning before the tourists.

Rome’s Pantheon, early in the morning.

Pantheon

One of the most popular attractions in Rome (free entry), the Pantheon was completed by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD. The impressive dome ceiling of the rotunda was until 1958 the largest concrete span in the World. The reason for its remarkable preservation after nearly two thousand years is because the Roman temple was converted into a church in 608 AD. As impressive as the building is, its function is unknown – although most assume that it was a temple of one kind or another.
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The Circus Maximus in Rome at sunset.

Looking over the circus from the eastern end at sunset.

Circus Maximus

The site of the Circus Maximus is said to be the city’s oldest and largest public space. Evidence suggests it was founded sometime during the 6th century BC. By the end of the 1st century AD, it could accommodate an audience of over 250,000 people. Besides chariot races, other public spectacles including executions, gladiatorial contests and animal hunts were also staged here. The rounded, eastern end has recently been restored, and during summer months visitors cane experience the circus through an augmented reality experience.
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The entrance to the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, Greece.

Frescoes in the shrine for the martyrs.

Case Romane del Celio

At the top of the Caelian Hill are the Case Romane del Celio, snapshots of early Roman history.Twenty rooms are preserved under a 4th century basilica, each serving as evidence for their former uses over the years as homes, shops, and even as a Christian shrine. Decorated with a unique mix of pagan and early Christian frescoes, these rooms allow visitors a beautiful glimpse into ancient Roman homes and daily life., showing the changes that time and the rise of Christianity brought to the city.
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Top Skip-the-Line Tickets for Sites and Museums in Rome

More Roman Sites and Landmarks in Rome and the Vatican City

Arch of Janus

The Arch of Janus, in central Rome.This massive, four-way arch built of marble is 16 metres high and 12 metres square. The north-west pier has a staircase that would have led to a series of rooms and chambers at the top. The enigmatic structure is built over an ancient drain that ran down the valley to the Tiber River. And is thought to have been a boundary marker rather than a triumphal arch. Also, dating the arch has not been simple. Remains of terracotta storage jars were found to have been used in the concrete vault, which are typical of jars used in the 4th century AD.

Imperial Forums

Remains of Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, Rome. In 1932 many 16th century houses between the the Colosseum and the Piazza Veneziato were destroyed to make way for the Via Fori Imperiali. Then called the ‘street of the Empire’, the road was created for Fascist military parades. Excavations exposed five colonnaded precincts. The land either side of the road was set aside as a park until 1996, when archaeologists began uncovering what are now collectively known as the Imperial Forums. These areas are not open to the public but can be viewed from the street.

Marcellus Theatre

The theatre of Marcellus, now an apartment block in Rome. Within the ruins of the most important of Rome’s three theatres is a 16th century palazzo that is now subdivided into smaller apartments. The curving outer façade of the theatre is still obvious, as are other architectural features including the arcades. The theatre, which had a seating capacity of over 20,000 people, was started under Julius Caesar but finished for Augustus and inaugurated in either 13 or 11 BC. This theatre then became a model for further theatres built in Italy and the Western Roman Empire.

The Roman Forum

A view over the Roman Forum in Rome from the Capitoline Hill. Even for the ancient Romans, the area known as the Roman Forum was considered a monument to the city’s remote past. As early as the 5th century BC, this area overlooked by the Capitoline and Palatine hills had become a political and symbolic centre of the Republican city. Over the centuries that followed and on into the Imperial period, numerous shrines, temples and fountains were added as show-pieces for political competition and the history on which Imperial Rome was based.

The Round Temple

The Round Temple, also called the Temple of Vesta, in central Rome. A Greek-style temple that was built towards the end of the second century BC and now in a small park near the Tiber River. Although the roof, the marble entablature and upper third of the cella wall are not original, the Corinthian columns and two windows beside the door are. The marble used for the construction of the temple comes from the quarry on Mount Pentelicus in Athens. By the 12th century the temple had been converted in to a church, but de-consecrated at the start of the 19th century, when the ground level surrounding the temple was lowered to reveal the podium.

Temple of Portunus

The temple dedicated to Portunus, the Roman harbour god, near the Tiber in Rome.Thought to have been dedicated to the Roman harbour-god Portunus, this remarkably well preserved temple owes its survival to having been turned into a church around 872 AD. In the 1930s, buildings surrounding the temple were demolished and all external traces of the church were removed. The temple was built between 80 and 70 BC. A a more modest replacement for an earlier, late fourth century temple that had been constructed on a six metre high podium to avoid flooding waters of the Tiber River.

The Upper Via Sacra

The bronze doors to the Temple of Divus Romulus, on the Via Sacra in central Rome. Leading from the Roman Forum, is a cluster of buildings and temples that date to Rome’s earliest days. Beyond these the Via Sacra, or Sacred Way, rises to the Arch of Titus. Before a fire in 64 AD, the street was lined with aristocratic houses. Entry to this area, from which the New Basilica of Maxentius/Constantine is also accessible, is included with entry to the Roman Forum. An exit-only gate is located alongside the Temple of Roma and Venus, beyond the Arch of Titus towards the Colosseum. Or you can proceed on to the Palatine Hill.

Top Guided Tours of Sites in Rome

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