Historic Sites in Rome: The Ultimate Guide

What are the best historic sites in Rome? The Top Ten

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From the wonders of the Colosseum to the amazing Palatine Hill, the mind-boggling Pyramid of Cestius and the hidden secrets of San Clemente, Rome is brimming with amazing historic places. Other popular sites tend to include the famous Palatine Hill, Ostia Antica and the Roman Forum.

With a legacy that spans over 2,000 years of history - and such giants from the past as Julius Caesar, Augustus and Constantine once treading its streets - the eternal city has scintillating historic attractions around every corner.

We’ve put together an expert guide to Rome's cultural landmarks, monuments and museums with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of historic sites in Rome, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

1. The Colosseum

Once the largest amphitheatre of Ancient Rome where gladiators, criminals and lions alike fought for their lives, the Colosseum remains a world renowned, iconic symbol of the Roman Empire.

Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was opened with great fanfare by Titus, Vespasian’s son and successor. He marked the opening of the Colosseum with one hundred days of games, including stunning battle recreations on artificial lakes of water. The fact that the Colosseum was completed by this date was particularly impressive considering the building’s incredible complexity, vast size and the fact that Vespasian only came to power in 69 AD.

A visit to the Colosseum offers a great insight into the lives of Roman citizens and those who had the misfortune of fighting there. In particular, it is now possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators of ancient Rome would prepare to fight and ponder their mortality. Also recently opened are the higher areas of the structure, from where you can take in views of the Roman Forum.

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2. Temples of the Forum Boarium

The Temples of the Forum Boarium are two of the best preserved Roman temples to have survived from the Republican era. Comprised of two temples, the Temple of Hercules Victor and the Temple of Portunus, the Temples of the Forum Boarium date back to approximately the second century BC. The Forum Boarium was itself originally part of the Roman cattle market before becoming a commercial centre. In medieval times, both of the temples were incorporated into churches, probably accounting for their excellent state of preservation.

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3. Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is the tomb of affluent magistrate, Caius Cestius which was built between 18 and 12 BC. Constructed of white marble and brick, this ostentatious 35-metre high tomb was likely built in this style due to the popularity of all things Egyptian which swept Rome after Egypt was incorporated into the Empire. This pyramid-tomb was later set into the Aurelian Walls, helping to ensure its preservation through the ages.

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4. Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is known as the birthplace of Rome. It houses some of the city’s most impressive ancient sites. Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to Palatine Hill by a she-wolf who raised them. Here they founded a village which would become Rome.

Today, the Palatine Hill offers some of Rome's best ancient sites and is a must-see, especially for history enthusiasts. Amongst the buildings excavated at the Palatine Hill are the House of Augustus and the home of several of Rome’s emperors, the Domus Augustana.

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5. Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is an extraordinary Roman site that contains the ruins of the ancient port town that served as the gateway to Rome. Just half an hour from central Rome by train, Ostia Antica has all the inspiration of Pompeii without the throngs of tourists. In fact, if you want to examine well preserved Roman ruins in peace and quiet with time to contemplate the ancient world, you’ll be hard pressed to find better.

Ostia Antica's place in history is most notable for an attack by pirates in 68BC which led to unprecedented powers being handed to Pompey the Great, setting yet another precedent which damaged the foundations of the Republican system.

Today, visitors can view a great many ruins from the ancient town, including a well preserved Roman theatre, the Baths of Neptune, remains of the military camp, temples to ancient deities, the forum and even Ostia Synagogue.

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6. Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the very centre of ancient Rome. Throughout the lifespan of Roman civilisation the Forum served as the focus of political, civic and religious life. No visit to Rome is complete without a stroll around the Roman Forum and it is a must see for anyone visiting the city. 

There are a large number of historic buildings or their remains in the Roman Forum, some of the notable ones are: The Temple of Saturn; the Arch of Septimius Severus; the Arch of Titus; the Atrium Vestae; the Temple of Caesar; and the Basilica of Maxentius.

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7. Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums stand on the ancient Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome and host a huge wealth of artefacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods. Among the museum's many wonders are collections of classical sculptures and statues, exhibits on ancient mythology, medieval and renaissance artworks as well as many bronzes and portraits.

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8. Baths of Diocletian

Once the largest ancient baths complex in the world, the Baths of Diocletian were built between 298AD and 306AD in honour of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. One of the key tourist attractions for those wishing to view the baths is the Terme di Diocleziano, which is part of the Rome National Museum. This museum, opened in 1889, was built within the Baths of Diocletian and contains several collections from the ancient world. Probably the best place to view the actual structure, and get an idea as to the original scale of the Baths of Diocletian, is the well preserved Aula Ottagona.

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9. The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is an iconic eighteenth century monument. A stunning depiction of several ancient deities and resplendent with frescos of legends and myths, the Trevi Fountain attracts floods of tourists, keen to throw their coins into its waters to assure their return to Rome - or so goes the myth.

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10. Curia Julia

The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum was the senate house in Ancient Rome, built under Julius Caesar and later restored by Diocletian after being damaged by fire.

It stood at the very heart of the ancient city, both physically and politically and would have borne witness to some of the most famous of Rome's events and figures.

Unusually for an Ancient Roman building, the Curia Julia stands intact, this being due to its conversion into the church of Saint Adriano in 623 AD by Pope Honorius I.

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Full list of Historic Sites in Rome

Beyond the most famous of Rome's cultural sites, landmarks and monuments there are many similar places to visit, including the Musei Capitolini, the Baths of Diocletian and the Trevi Fountain to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of cultural places in Rome and you can view the current selection below.

Acqua Marcia

Acqua Marcia is an ancient aqueduct of Rome built in the first century BC.

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Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine was a triumphal arch built by the Emperor Constantine the Great in 315AD.

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Arch of Janus

The Arch of Janus is an Ancient Roman triumphal arch in Rome.

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Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimus Severus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Septimus Severus to celebrate his military victories.

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Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Domitian to commemorate the victories of his elder brother, Emperor Titus.

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Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is the site of four Ancient Roman temples.

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Atrium Vestae

The Atrium Vestae in the Roman Forum was home to Ancient Rome’s only holy priestesses.

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Aula Ottagona

Part of the vast 4th century Baths of Diocletian, the Aula Ottagona is probably the best preserved original structure.

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Basilica Aemelia

Basilica Aemelia was a commercial building of Ancient Rome located in the Forum.

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Basilica Julia

Basilica Julia was an Ancient Roman courthouse in Rome’s Forum.

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Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a charming 8th century church in Rome and home to an unusual ancient artefact.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is a Patriarchal Basilica and home to the famous Sistine Chapel.

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Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was an Ancient Roman meeting house, the remains of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla were an Ancient Roman public baths and leisure complex and remain well-preserved.

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Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt in Rome is an eerie underground vault, located beneath a medieval church, which contains the macabre remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks.

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Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant Angelo was the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian later used as a fort.

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Catacombs of San Callisto

The Catacombs of San Callisto are the largest and most famous of Rome’s Christian catacombs.

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Chiesa del Gesu

The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for its artistic decorations, particularly its ceiling frescoes, and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.

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Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was the main sports stadium of Ancient Rome.

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Circus of Maxentius

The Circus of Maxentius is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman arenas in Rome.

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Domus Augustana

Domus Augustana was the palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors on the Palatine Hill.

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Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.

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Flavian Palace

The Flavian Palace, built by the Emperor Domitian on the Palatine Hill, was the place where several Roman emperors held their official functions.

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Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor to celebrate avenging Caesar at the Battle of Philippi and defeating his assassins.

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Forum of Caesar

The Forum of Caesar was the first of the Imperial Forums built in Ancient Rome.

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Forum of Trajan

The Forum of Trajan was one of the Imperial Forums of Ancient Rome.

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Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. The site covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest.

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Ludus Magnus

The preserved ruins of Ancient Rome’s largest and most prestigious gladiator training school, located next to the Colosseum in central Rome.

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Mamertine Prison

The Mamertine Prison was an Ancient Roman prison in which Saints Peter and Paul may have been held.

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Mausoleum of Augustus

The Mausoleum of Augustus was the tomb of Rome’s first emperor.

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Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is a 1st century BC tomb turned medieval fortress.

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Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II celebrates the first king to rule a unified Italy.

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Palace of Septimius Severus

The Palace of Septimius Severus was magnificent extension of the Domus Augustana on the Palatine.

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Palazzo Nuovo

The Palazzo Nuovo is an archaeological museum of Ancient Greek and Roman art. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Palazzo dei Conservatori

Palazzo dei Conservatori displays numerous important classical pieces. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

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Ponte Rotto

Ponte Rotto is the remaining arch of a second century BC Roman Republic bridge.

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San Clemente

San Clemente is a church built atop a series of fourth and third century ruins.

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San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano is Rome’s cathedral, originally founded by Constantine the Great.

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San Pietro in Vincoli

The beautiful San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome is a quiet, inconspicuous ancient church containing several stunning sculptures by the famous artist Michelangelo as well as famed religious artefacts said to date back to St Peter.

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Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

An impressive 16th century church in Rome, built by Michelangelo using the structural remains of the ancient Baths of Diocletian.

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Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is thought to have been the first Christian church in Rome.

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St Sebastian Catacombs

The St. Sebastian Catacombs are some of the earliest of the Christian catacombs in Rome.

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Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is one of the best preserved of the structures in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Caesar

The Temple of Caesar was built in honour of Julius Caesar. Its altar remains in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum was built following a military victory.

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Temple of Concord

The Temple of Concord was an Ancient Roman temple in Rome’s Forum.

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Temple of Ercole Vincitore

The Temple of Ercole Vincitore is Rome's oldest surviving example of a marble temple.

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Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn was the site of the national treasury of Ancient Rome, the ruins of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Venus and Rome

The Temple of Venus and Rome was created under Hadrian and is located in the Roman Forum.

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The Ara Pacis Museum

The Ara Pacis Museum displays the Emperor Augustus’s Altar of Peace.

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The Claudio Aqueduct - Rome

The Claudio Aqueduct is an Ancient Roman aqueduct which served Rome from 52 AD.

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The Felice Aqueduct - Rome

The Felice Aqueduct in Rome dates back to the sixteenth century.

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The House of Augustus

The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill was the home of Rome’s first emperor.

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The House of Livia

The House of Livia was the home of Augustus’s third wife.

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The Palatine Hill Stadium

The Palatine Hill Stadium was part of the imperial palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors.

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The Palatine Museum

The Palatine Museum exhibits ancient finds from the famous Palatine Hill in Rome.

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The Protestant Cemetery of Rome

The Protestant Cemetery of Rome is the final resting place of famous non-Catholic poets, artists and philosophers.

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The Regia

The Regia in Rome’s Forum was a royal residence turned office of the Pontifex Maximus.

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The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are an eighteenth century staircase and a focal point for Rome’s tourists.

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The Temple of Vesta

The Temple of Vesta was an Ancient Roman shrine now found on the Roman Forum.

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Theatre of Marcellus

The partially-preserved remains of one of the most important theatres in ancient Rome, built by Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker

The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker is an impressive ancient tomb dating back to 30BC.

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Trajan’s Markets

One of the best preserved elements of the ancient city to have survived, Trajan’s Markets are an oft-overlooked gem in the heart of the Eternal City.

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Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica, built in 312 BC, is one of the most important roads leading to Rome.

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Villa dei Quintili

Villa dei Quintili is an extremely well-preserved second century AD villa in Rome’s suburbs.

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Our list of historical sites in Rome is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know more of Rome's cultural landmarks, monuments and museums you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.