Most Important Historical Sites to Visit in Rome

The 10 Most Important Historic Sites to Visit in Rome

With a spectacular history that spans almost 2,800 years, Rome is one of the most interesting places to step back in time and unveil the secrets that made the city what it is today. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fascinated by historic narratives or start to yawn whenever the past is brought up because the many ancient sites in Rome are filled with wonder, mystery, and surprises that will leave you begging for more.

Because the city has such a complicated past, there are almost endless ancient ruins in Rome just waiting to be explored. No matter how long you’re visiting, there’s no way you’ll have enough time to see them all. To help you make the absolute most of your time in the Eternal City, I’ve done the hard work for you and put together a list of the top 10 historic sites in Rome you simply have to visit! 

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The 10 Most Important Historic Sites to Visit in Rome

1. Colosseum

Historical Sites to Visit in Rome: Colosseum

One of the most-visited Roman ruins, the Colosseum is the city’s icon and an absolute must-visit. This instantly recognizable structure was ordered by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and inaugurated by his son, Titus, in 80 AD. During its heyday, the gigantic structure measured 623 feet by 512 feet, had around 80 entrances, and could seat up to a staggering 80,000 spectators. 

Although the Colosseum is certainly not as spectacular as it was 2,000 years ago, much of it is still intact. Horrific battles between gladiators and exotic animals thankfully no longer take place. Instead, the Colosseum hosts fascinating guided tours that take you to the main arena floor, the labyrinth-like hypogeum, and the 2nd-floor balcony where you can take amazing pictures.

If you’re going to be in Rome on the 1st Sunday of the month, you can visit the Colosseum for free! 


2. Roman Forum

Must-Visit Historic Sites in Rome: Roman Forum

Tucked between the Palatine and Capitoline hills, the Roman Forum is one of the most interesting historic attractions in Rome because of what it represents. It may look like a handful of beautiful ruins seemingly scattered randomly, but it’s a compelling complex that symbolizes almost a millennium of Roman power.  

I think the Roman Forum is the best place to fully immerse yourself in Ancient Rome and experience it as people did thousands of years ago. It’s one of the few spots in the city where you can completely surround yourself with antiquity on all sides. The Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, and the Basilica of Maxentius are all in wonderful condition and easily recognizable today.


3. Palatine Hill

Ancient Ruins ni Rome: Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of the city and home to some of the most eye-catching ruins in Rome. Centuries ago, Roman aristocrats and rulers constructed their grandiose palaces and monumental villas on this hill. 

While the buildings look nothing like they did back in the day, there are plenty of foundations and walls remaining. As you look around, try and imagine how huge and impressive these buildings must have been when they were initially constructed.  

Make sure you visit the Houses of Augustus and Livia. These astonishing buildings were elaborately decorated and still feature the original murals and frescoes, which were painted centuries ago. The Palatine Hill is also where you’ll find one of the very first botanical gardens in Europe. They date back to the 16th century and are still maintained today. 


4. Pantheon

Historical Sites to Visit in Rome: Pantheon

The best-preserved ancient monument in Rome, the Pantheon is one of those places that you need to see for yourself. It was originally built by Agrippa between 25 and 27 BC, when it was dedicated to the 12 Gods and to the living Sovran. The building that you can see today was reconstructed under the orders of Emperor Hadrian between 118 AD and 125 AD.

The Pantheon is in such excellent condition today because it was consecrated as a church in the 7th century and has been used as an active place of worship ever since. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. But as soon as you step inside, you’ll be blown away by the coffered dome ceiling, towering pillars, marble floor, and intricate engravings.


5. Trevi Fountain

Must-visit Historic Sites in Rome: Trevi Fountain

It may not be one of the most ancient Roman attractions, but I think the Trevi Fountain still deserves to be on this list. This quintessential monument dates back to the 18th century and boasts stunning sculptures of various deities. Neptune is in the center of the fountain, being pulled by two winged horses and tritons.

The size is what shocked me the most the first time I visited the Trevi Fountain. It’s almost 100 feet tall! 

There’s a legend that says if you throw one coin into the fountain, you’ll return to Rome. Throw two coins in and you’ll find your love in Rome. Throw three and you’ll get married. All the money thrown into the Trevi Fountain goes to charity, so even if you don’t believe in the myth, it’s still worth tossing a coin in!


6. Castel Sant’Angelo

Ancient Ruins in Rome: Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo has a fascinating past, making it one of the most interesting historic Roman sites. It was originally built between 135 AD and 139 AD as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian, his family, and following rulers. Since then, the monument has been used as a residence, court, prison, fortress, and military barracks.

Because of its close proximity to the Vatican, Castel Sant’Angelo also acted as a refuge for popes during sieges and wars. They’d escape from the Vatican, run through secret underground passageways, and arrive at the castle. 

Today, Castel Sant’Angelo is more like a museum than a fortress. Take a look around and you’ll discover remarkable paintings, sculptures, antique furniture, ancient arms, and well-used armor.


7. Pyramid of Cestius

Historical Sites to Visit in Rome: Pyramid of Cestius

You’d be forgiven for thinking this one is a mistake, but there really is a pyramid in Italy! The Pyramid of Cestius is one of the most alluring and eye-catching ancient ruins in Rome. Built in the 1st century, during the final years of the Roman Republic, this unique monument is a great example of the mausoleum trend that swept through the Roman Empire following the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. 

There’s a burial chamber inside the pyramid that was once decorated with gorgeous frescoes. Some have been partially restored and give you a good idea of what they must have looked like back in their heyday. You’ve got to time things perfectly to visit the inside of the Pyramid of Cestius. It’s only open to the public on the 3rd and 4th Saturdays and Sundays of each month at 11 am.


8. Ostia Antica

Must-visit Historic Sites in Rome: Ostia Antica

Set just 11 miles outside the city center, Ostia Antica is one of the biggest ancient Roman sites in Rome. Built around the 4th century BC, this city was Rome’s main military base and commercial port. It thrived for eight centuries, until the harbor slowly began to silt up, covering the city in a layer of mud and sand. It was completely abandoned in the 5th century AD.

This ancient attraction was excavated at the start of the 20th century, revealing one of the best-preserved and complete Roman cities. In its prime, Ostia Antica was home to 100,000 residents, as well as various temples, numerous baths, an outdoor theater, a large business complex, nobles’ homes, and apartment blocks. There’s so much intact here that it’s easy to imagine what it was like to walk down the cobbled streets millennia ago.


9. Largo di Torre Argentina

Ancient Ruins in Rome: Largo di Torre Argentina

There’s so much going on at the Largo di Torre Argentina that you’ve absolutely got to visit it while you’re in the city. One of the most complex historic attractions in Rome, this site is where you’ll find the Curia of Pompey – the location where Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. 

Between 1926 and 1930, during the construction of a completely different building, the remains of four Republican-era temples were unearthed at this spot. Experts aren’t sure who these temples were in honor of, so they’re simply named Temples A, B, C, and D. Temple C was built in the 3rd century BC, making it the oldest, while Temple D was built around a century later and is the largest. 

Today, Largo di Torre Argentina is also home to a cat sanctuary. Hundreds of stray cats live among the ruins and are cared for each day by volunteers.


10. Forum Boarium

Historical Sites to Visit in Rome: Forum Boarium

One of the lesser-visited historic sites in Rome, the Forum Boarium was originally a large square that housed the local cattle market. Today, it’s where you’ll find two of the best-preserved temples from the Republican era – the Temple of Hercules Victor and the Temple of Portunus. 

Both of these beautiful temples date back to the 2nd century BC and are in such good condition because they were reconsecrated in the Middle Ages as Christian churches. The Temple of Portunus was originally dedicated to the ancient Roman deity of harbors and ports.

The best thing about the Forum Boarium is that it’s open 24/7 and is completely free to visit. Although you can’t go inside, you can still admire the temples’ eye-catching classical Greek style, slender Corinthian columns, and spectacular marble work. 

There you have it! The 10 most important historic sites to visit in Rome. Did we miss any?


Author

  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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