Rome is one of the world’s best cities to visit for anyone looking to explore ancient ruins and take a deep dive into an area’s history. With how many incredible sights there are to see and places there are to visit, it can be daunting to try to come up with the most important ones to check out during your trip.
To make it easier for you, we’ve created this comprehensive guide of the 25 must-see Ancient Roman ruins in Rome for you to look at.
Best Ancient Ruins in Rome
Without a doubt, the most popular attraction in Rome, the remains of the world-famous Colosseum, are a must-see for anyone traveling to Rome, especially first-timers. The size, architecture, construction, and sheer historical importance are awe-inspiring as soon as you see it.
Consider taking a guided tour to get the full experience, with underground tours taking you deeper into its history than you would normally be allowed to go. However you see it, the Colosseum is a mystical place to be. Explore the imposing structure, stand where gladiators stood all those years ago. It’s truly breathtaking.
The centermost of the ancient Seven Hills of Rome, Palatine Hill is one of the key places to visit during any Roman ruins excursion. The massive hill, now much more of a huge open-air museum, offers some of the best views of the many sets of ancient ruins while housing a few of its own.
Flavian Palace — or at least what’s left of it — resides on Palatine Hill. The ancient ruins of Circus Maximus can be seen from Palatine Hill, one of the only ways to grasp its sheer size. While it isn’t just one set of ancient ruins itself, Palatine Hill is a must-see for the full experience.
As part of the Roman Forum, the Regia are ruins that most people will see during their exploration of the city without really knowing what they are. These buildings were originally constructed as homes for the first Roman kings thousands of years ago before serving as the Pontifex Maximus’s seat.
There isn’t much left of the Regia; all you’ll find is the remains of the ground floors. But if you’re interested in being in a place with such deep history and Roman importance, the Regia is located in the Roman Forum close to the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.
Temple of Saturn
Located within the Roman Forum, the Temple of Saturn was an ancient temple constructed in honor of, you guessed it, the Roman god Saturn. Its original construction is a bit of a mystery, as it’s a hotly debated topic among Roman historians. But it is believed to be from around 500 BC, making it one of the oldest structures around.
The remains that you see today are actually what’s left of the third phase of construction, which was done to rebuild the temple after a devastating fire in 360 AD. So the ruins there today, even though they aren’t from the original structure, are still over 1,650 years old.
Arch of Septimius Severus
While in the Roman Forum, make sure you check out the incredible well-preserved Arch of Septimius Severus. Constructed very early in the third century, the arch was built in honor of Emperor Septimius Severus’ victory against the Parthian Empire.
After over 1,800 years, much of this incredible structure still stands to this day. Its three massive open archways invite tourists and visitors to walk through and admire the arch’s beauty.
Temple of Caesar
Located within the Roman Forum and built on top of the site of the famous cremation site of Julius Caesar, the Temple of Caesar stands tall and is a must-see for anyone in the area. As the name implies, this temple was built in honor of Julius Caesar, one of the most recognizable rulers in Roman history.
Over 2,000 years ago, in March of 44 BC, Caesar was unexpectedly assassinated, bringing his rule to a screeching halt. This temple was commissioned to commemorate him after his death. After nearly 15 years, it was completed in 29 BC, and its ruins still stand to this day.
Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
The single largest structure remaining within the Roman Forum, it’s impossible to miss the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine when you get to the Forum. Construction began in 308 AD under the orders of Emperor Maxentius but was completed five years later under the rule of Constantine the Great, which is why it’s named as such.
Much of the amazing structure, including its roof and three massive open-air archways, still remains standing today, making it one of the best-preserved structures in the entire Roman Forum.
Arch of Titus
Another breathtaking arch that remains standing to this day is the Arch of Titus. Located between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, it’s easy to find, and you’ll see it as you’re exploring many of the other ruins on this list.
Commissioned by Emperor Domitian, it was built to commemorate his brother, Emperor Titus. Completed and inaugurated in 81 AD, this arch has been standing for nearly 2,000 years and remains in almost all its glory.
As the name might suggest, this is another structure built with the famous Julius Caesar in mind. Curia Julia was originally built as the senate-house for Ancient Rome, an important structure in Roman politics and history.
The impressive structure was built right in the middle of Rome due to its political use but was then converted to a church — the Church and saint Antonio — in the 7th century via Pope Honorius I’s orders. Almost the entire building still stands today, offering visitors an incredible experience to stop by and check out.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
One of the best-preserved examples of ruins from Ancient Rome that you need to check out is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. A romantic story behind it, the temple was built under Emperor Antoninus’s orders to honor the memory of his wife Faustina back in the middle of the 2nd century.
When the emperor died two decades later, the temple was renamed to honor them both, becoming the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Sometime between the 7th and 9th centuries, it became part of the San Lorenzo and Miranda Church instead of the temple it was originally built to be.
Located within the Roman Forum, the Atrium Vestae ruins are the remains of an ancient palace where it was believed that the Vestal Virgins (relating to the goddess of the hearth, Vesta) lived long ago.
There isn’t much left to see except a small number of statues remaining where the structure’s walls used to stand. Walk through the courtyard and look for the remains of the walls with the statues looming in the distance. It’s a surreal experience rich with history.
Forum of Trajan
Erected in the early 2nd century, the impressive Forum of Trajan was constructed under Emperor Trajan’s orders following his victories in a number of important military battles. The centerpiece of the forum, Trajan’s Column, stands tall over the rest of the ruins.
The Forum of Trajan was used as the site of several important public buildings and libraries in its heyday. Today you’ll find the ruins of many of these buildings, the well-preserved column, and what is left of the well-known Trajan’s Market. It’s a forum that’s worth checking out, offering something different than the Roman Forum and Forum of Caesar have.
Mausoleum of Augustus
To see one of the most historic buildings in all of Rome, you should consider checking out the incredible Mausoleum of Augustus, where the very first emperor in Roman history — Augustus — was laid to rest. The great-nephew of Julius Caesar, Augustus, ruled Rome for nearly fifty years before his death.
However, the mausoleum is not just Augustus’s burial place, as it is also the final resting place for his wife and other prominent Roman figures. The inside of the mausoleum is closed to the public, and not much remains of the original construction, but checking out the ruins is something you don’t want to miss out on.
Just a short drive away from Rome sits the ruins of the Ancient Roman harbor town of Ostia Antica. You can get there easily via public transportation or by driving yourself, and the ruins here are worth the time and effort it takes to check them out.
This ancient port city is a massive complex of ruins that show the remains of stone walls and walkways, buildings, shops, and houses. It’s one of the biggest networks of Ancient Roman ruins that you’ll find anywhere and are some that most people seem to forget about while they’re in town.
If you’re a fan of ancient architecture, design, and engineering, then checking out Ponte Rotto is worth the short amount of time it’ll take you while you’re in Rome. The oldest stone-constructed bridge in all of Rome, Ponte Rotto, dates back to the 2nd century BC.
It was originally built to replace an ancient wooden bridge all those years ago. While not much has remained over the years, with just the central archway remaining among the ruins, the site is worth stopping by to admire its beauty and design.
As you can probably guess from the name, the Basilica Julia was originally constructed under Julius Caesar when he was in power. Situated in the Roman Forum, the basilica is easy to find and is worth checking out while you’re exploring the rest of the forum.
Built in 54 BC, the original structure burned down soon after, but it was rebuilt by Caesar’s great-nephew, Augustus, in 12 BC. Over the years, it has burned down and been rebuilt again and again, but the ruins that remain today are incredible to see and worth taking a look at.
Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are among Rome’s top attractions to visit on any list, not just a list of Ancient Roman ruins. Construction on this amazing complex of public baths began in 206 AD under the rule of Emperor Septimius Severus but wasn’t completed for another decade when Caracalla, his son, was the ruler.
The massive network of baths was able to house thousands of people at once, making it one of the biggest bathhouses in the history of the world. Much of the ancient structure still stands today, making it wildly popular among tourists looking to get a glimpse into Ancient Rome’s history.
Arch of Constantine
Arguably the most famous arch still standing in Rome, the incredible Arch of Constantine is one thing that you can’t skip out on seeing. Sitting right next to the Colosseum, nearly everyone who visits Rome and checks out the Colosseum will at least see it from a distance.
Following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, Constantine the Great commissioned this impressive arch to be built. It was finished shortly thereafter and has stood nearly perfectly-preserved ever since.
Temple of Vesta
Located within the Roman Forum, the Temple of Vesta is one of the most interesting sets of ruins that you’ll find in Rome. Built to honor Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, the Temple of Vesta was used to house the Roman eternal flame.
It was believed that if the flame burned out, Rome’s demise would soon follow. Interestingly, the entire temple burnt down multiple times, yet they kept rebuilding it and believing Rome was done for if they didn’t. Not much of the structure still stands, but what does remain is drenched in history and intrigue.
The largest sports stadium in Ancient Rome, Circus Maximus, is a set of ruins worth checking out while you’re in the city. Mainly used for chariot races, the incredible Circus Maximus could support upwards of a quarter-million people in its heyday.
The history of the arena is unknown, with its official construction being a mystery. The earliest record of its existence, however, dates back to at least the 4th century BC, so we know it’s at least that old,
Forum of Caesar
As the Roman Forum began getting clustered and overcrowded, Julius Caesar decided it was time to expand, so he ordered the construction of a new forum in 54 BC. Eight years later, the forum was completed in 46 BC and offered more space to handle the packed Roman Forum.
If you visit the Forum of Caesar, keep in mind that the pillars you see are not the original ones that were built under the orders of Caesar himself. The original structure burned down in the last 1st century but was quickly rebuilt by Emperor Trajan, and much of it still stands to this day.
If you’re visiting the hidden gem in Rome known as Appia Antica Regional Park, then you will likely stumble upon the Claudio Aqueduct at some point. The incredible stone aqueduct was finished in 52 AD under Emperor Claudius’s rule, hence the name of the waterway.
It was built to transfer water from one part of Rome to another, and the fact that it’s still standing today speaks to its incredible design and engineering. Go check it out and see countless archways and seemingly endless tracks of the waterway. It’s worth heading to the park to see it.
Circus of Maxentius
Much smaller than the Circus Maximus mentioned above, the Circus Maxentius was built to house only 10,000 spectators (only about 4% as many as its much bigger brother). But the great thing about the Circus of Maxentius is that it is significantly better preserved, making for an arguably even more interesting exploration.
As the name suggests, it was built under the order of Emperor Maxentius back in the 4th century, with construction being completed in 312 AD. Over 1,700 years later, to this day, much of the arena still stands. They are even still excavating this incredible stadium. We might find even more exciting aspects to check out in no time at all.
Located on the famous Palatine Hill, the Flavian Palace was built as the public palace for Roman Emperors in Ancient Rome. It was built roughly 2,000 years ago during the first century by Emperor Domitian (who also constructed the Arch of Titus above).
Even after all this time, some of the fountains remain intact around the courtyard of the popular ruins, as well as some of the walls and archways. The historical importance of the place is palpable, with various emperors walking those pathways during their rule.
Originally built as a Roman temple in the early second century, the Pantheon is one of Ancient Rome’s best-preserved structures. With how well it has been preserved, nearly the entire structure still stands today, and it’s hard to really even consider it as ruins!
The Pantheon has remained so well-preserved because it’s been used throughout its entire life, even today being used as a Catholic church. It’s one of the best remaining examples of ancient Roman architecture and engineering and should be on anyone’s shortlists of “ruins” to check out while in Rome.