14 of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Rome

by marta

A list of the most important and beautiful archaeological sites in Rome, Italy. From archaeological digs in Rome to unmissable historical landmarks, these are Rome must see for history lovers.

Rome is famous for its history that spans millennia and beautiful archaeological sites.

The city is a treasure trove for history lovers and curious souls but what are Rome’s archaeological sites? Where should you go to see ancient Rome and what are the city’s most famous historical attractions?

As well as proud Roman, I have a university degree in classic and ancient Rome so today, I am sharing my list of archaeological sites in Rome you should not miss.

When relevant, I added a link to ticket providers I trust, so you can start giving shape to your Rome itinerary!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission.

roman forum from Capitoline hill

Unmissable archaeological sites in Rome – chart

Name TypeTicketed
Parco Colosseo (Colosseum, Romand Forum, Palatine Hill)Open Air Archaeological ParkYes
Caracalla’s BathsOpen Air ArchaeologicalYes
Nero’s Domus AureaUnderground archaeological siteYes
Circus MaximusOpen air chariot stadiumNo
Ostia AnticaOpen Air Archaeological ParkYes
Trajan’s MarketsOpen Air Archaeological Park and MuseumYes
Roman Domus at Palazzo ValentiniAncient Roman HouseYes
Crypta BalbyRoman cryptYes
Vatican NecropolisArchaeological digYes
Castel Sant’AngeloAncient Roman Mausoleum and castleYes
Ara Pacis and Augustus’ MausoleumAncient Roman Altar and tombYes
Portico d’Ottavia, Marcellus’ theater, Forum BoriumAncient Roman market and theaterNo
Rome PyramidAncient Roman tomb in the shape of a pyramidYes
San ClementeChurch with Roman underground layerNo

Map of the most famous archaeological sites in Rome

Archaeological sites in Rome list + tips for visiting

Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (Parco Colosseo)

The most famous historical site in Rome is the Colosseum, followed by the Roman Forum
And the Palatine Hill, the place where Rome was founded.

These 3 sites are beside each other and they have recently been rebranded as ‘Parco Colosseo’.

This is a large archaeological area with the bulk of ancient Rome and they are visited as one archaeological complex, one ticket allowing access to all of them.

The area is all an archaeological wonder. This complex has the bulk of what remains of ancient Rome and it is now fully surrounded by the modern city.

Even without entering the archaeological park, you are able to walk beside the Colosseum, see the impressive arch of Constantine just beside it, walk part of Via Sacra, the road that connects the Colosseum to the Capitoline Hill via the Forum.

Walking along Via dei Fori Imperiali, which was built during the fascist era, you are also able to peek inside the Roman forum on one side and the Trajan Forum on the other (part of the fora, however accessible with a different ticket and from a different entrance)

In Parco Colosseo you find:

  • The Colosseum itself, which you can visit with a guided tour
    The Roman Forum, which is an open-air archaeological park with columns, Triumphal arches, ancient temples, ancient basilicas and the tomb of Julius Caesar
  • The Palatine Hill, the hill above the forum with the palaces of emperors and Romulus’s hut

The Roman Forum and the Palatine are open-air archaeological sites and are among the best places to see current archaeological digs in Rome (from outside, you cannot do your own dig in Parco Colosseo)

How to visit: Find my tips for visiting the Colosseum here | Find my tips for visiting the Roman Forum here | Find my guide to the Palatine Hill here

Address: Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Rome

Caracalla’s Baths – Terme di Caracalla

The baths of Caracalla are the remnants of the huge thermal complex built by Emperor Caracalla in the III century.

baths of Caracalla rome with umbrella pines

They are one of the most beautiful and impressive archaeology sites in Rome and since its opening to the public is relatively recent, it gets a fraction of the visitors other areas get, which is a plus for those who do go there!

Caracalla’s baths is an outdoor archaeological park and you walk on ancient pavements and mosaics however, the terrain is flatter than the one of the forum and the site is easier to access.
Good info panels are available throughout and you do not need a guided tour to understand what you are seeing.

How to visit: find my full guide to visiting Caracalla’s Baths here | Find tickets here

Address: Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome

Domus Aurea – Nero’s imperial Palace

The Domus Aurea is the lavishly decorated palace Emperor Nero built as his residence in Rome in the I century AD.

Described by historians of the time as the biggest and most luxurious house ever built in Rome, the house was vast and occupied an area that spanned from the Palatine Hill to the Esquiline Hill, occupying a total of over 50 hectares.

The Domus Area is the ancient, massive, extravagant home of Emperor Nero but not just a home.

Instead, it was large complex that included residential areas, entertainment spaces, gardens and a lake, which extended in the area that now hosts the Colosseum.

After the death of Nero, the palace was partially destroyed and partially converted into foundations for a new built.

Due to this fate, the Domus Aurea is now largely underground and mostly deprived of its beautiful interiors however, it is an impressive place to see and one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Rome.

Its mighty corridors and beautiful frescoes still give an idea of the magnificence the house must have seen and the whole place is rich of stories that cast a light on many aspects of ancient Roman history.

You can read my review and find all the info about visiting the Domus Aurea here. | Find tickets here.

Address: Via della Domus Aurea, 1, 00184 Roma

Circus Maximus – Circo Massimo

Circus Maximus is the chariot racecourse of ancient Rome and it is open to visitors.

Sunset on Rome Circus Maximus

The circus is an elliptical, very large open stadium and it is not overly impressive itself (it looks a little like an abandoned park) but has two things that make it wonderful and worth seeing.

The first is its position, right at the foothills of the Palatine hill, which offers the best view of the Roman emperor’s palace you can ask for (also, it is free!).

The second is a new virtual reality experience offered by the circus and that allows it to come back to life.

The circus was very impressive built but you wouldn’t really be able to tell no: virtual reality is the best way to see how this evocative place would have looked and understand its importance.

How to visit: Find my guide to Circus Maximus here | Find tickets for Caracalla’s Baths and Circus Maximus (combo, they are near each other) here

Address: Via del Circo Massimo 00153 Rome

Ancient Ostia – Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is the ancient port of Rome and is outside of the city center yet still within the boundaries of Rome city.

ostia antica theater
The impressive theater of Ancient Ostia

Nowadays the city is an archaeological Park and it is stunning: often compared with Pompeii, in Ostia Antica you can see a wonderful theater, incredibly well-preserved remains of houses and shops and stunning mosaics.

The park is outdoors and it is the best place in Rome to experience how an ancient city would have looked and felt like: unlike the Roman Forum, which leads you among the ruins of what would have been official buildings, in Ostia Antica you walk on streets framed with shops and private homes, an experience only truly comparable to that of visiting Pompeii or Ercolaneum.

How to visit: find my guide to Ostia Antica here | Get Ostia Antica entry tickets here

Trajan’s markets – Mercati di Traiano

Trajan’s markets are an imposing archaeological site encompassing the forum by emperor Trajan and a wonderful museum about his conquests.

The markets are in front of the area of the forum most commonly visited and they are very different from other roman ruins.

As you enter, you have a beautiful museum explaining the significance of Trajan’s empire in the history of Rome and Europe and then you get the chance to walk on well-preserved streets and appreciate also how the city changes as history moved from the height of the empire to the middle ages.

You can get a sense of how beautiful these markets are by taking a free virtual tour from home. Find it here.

Address: Via Quattro Novembre, 94, 00187 Rome

Trajan's column Rome

Roman Domus at Palazzo Valentini – Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

Palazzo Valentini is unique in Rome as it offers the chance to visit an ancient roman house right in the center of the city.

Many of Rome’s ancient ruins bring your attention to temples and official buildings but palazzo Valentini allows a view of a much more intimate aspect of ancient life as allows you into a private home.

To access, you follow steps that go underground to below street level. Here you enter the toman house and light and voice show projects on the wall what the decor would have been like.

Need to know! To allow you to see all aspects of the dig, you walk on transparent plexiglass that can be unsettling if you are afraid of heights (you are a couple of meters or more above ground level).

The visit to this Roman Domus also includes a special showing of a documentary about Trajan’s Column, which you can see right in front of the Domus and can admire from one of the windows.

This is not to be missed: the reconstruction of the column, the chance of seeing it as it would have looked when built and the peculiar setting of the showing make this an exceptional and uniquely Roman experience. Find tickets and photos here (photography is not allowed inside).

Address: Foro Traiano, 85, 00186 Rome

Crypta Balbi – Cripta Balbi

Rome has been inhabited for millennia, the new city built literally above the ancient one. This series of layers of history are seen best in Cripta Balbi, the best place in Rome to see how different times reused spaces and interacted with the builds and materials of the centuries before.

The crypt was originally part of a theater but, over time, was used as a burial ground, a kiln, a balneum and a church – all uses that come to life during the excellent tours of this peculiar attraction. Find tickets here

Address: Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31, 00186 Rome

St Peter’s Tomb and Vatican dig – San Pietro Scavi

St. Peter’s basilica as we see it now lies on the tomb of apostle Peter and an ancient necropolis, which you can visit.
Access to the site requires advance booking and it is strictly regulated to ensure the preservation of the grave but it is a special place for history lovers and the faithful. You can find info on how to book here. You can read how to plan your day at the Vatican here.

Address: Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City

Sant’Angelo Castle – Castel Sant’Angelo

On the banks of the river Tiber lies Castel Sant’Angelo, another incredible archaeological treasure in Rome you cannot miss.

Castel St Angelo Rome at night with flag and moon

The castle was originally built as the mausoleum (tomb) of emperor Hadrian and then was transformed into a castle and fortress, to protect the Pope in case of an attack on the nearby Vatican.

The castle is wonderful. Inside it, you get to appreciate the roman part of the built and the inner workings of the castle and you access the several terraces that added over the course of the centuries. This is one of the most impressive and interesting sights in Rome.

The castle is wonderful. Inside it, you get to appreciate the roman part of the built and the inner workings of the castle and you access the several terraces that added over the course of the centuries. This is one of the most impressive and interesting sights in Rome.

Find our guide to Castel Sant’Angelo here | Find tickets here

Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193 Rome

Ara Pacis and Augustus’ Mausoleum – Ara Pacis e Mausoleo di Augusto

Augustus is considered the first Roman emperor and there are two sites in Rome where you can tap into the history and importance of this figure, the Mausoleum and the Ara Pacis, close to each other and easy to see together.

The Ara Pacis is a massive carved altar that Augustus wanted as a celebration of the Pax Augusta, the era of peace he inaugurated.

The altar is wonderful and impressive in size and artistry and its beauty can be appreciated especially with a guide, as the treasure is in the details and the story it tells.

The mausoleum is Augustus’ tomb and it has only recently opened to the public, becoming one of the most exciting new sites to visit in Rome.

The Mausoleum is impressive to see and has an incredible history of use over the century that makes a visit to it one of the best ways to appreciate how Rome changed from ancient times, through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and even the fascist era.

You can find my guide to the Mausoleum of Augustus here or you can get tickets here

Address: Lungotevere in Augusta / Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 00186 Rome

Octavia’s Portico, Marcellus’ Theater, Forum Boarium – Portico d’Ottavia, Teatro di Marcello, Foro Boario

A wonderful archaeological site is also found in the area of the Rome ghetto.

Here, you find the remains of one of several large porticoes that used to be in the area and that used to frame a complex of buildings including the temple of Juno Regina, that of Jupiter Stator, libraries and the Curia Octaviae. The portico is stunning and, over time, changes use to become a fish market, as a medieval sign still recalls.

The portico is free to visit and you can follow an organized path with info panels that is short but well kept and informative.

Beside the portico lies also Marcellus’ theater, a theater so reminiscent of the colosseum you may find yourself looking twice!

The theater is currently closed to the public however, you can get close to it from the outside and the views are wonderful.

Down the road and not to be missed are also the round temple of Hercules Olivarius and that of Portunus, the fabulous Janus’s arch just down the road, and the mouth of truth, all located in what would have been the Forum Boarium, the Roman cattle market. More than an archaeological site, this is an area for an archaeological stroll.

Address: Via del Portico d’Ottavia / Piazza della Bocca della verità, 00186 Rome

Rome’s Pyramid – Piramide Cestia

Another very peculiar archaeological sites in Rome is the Rome Pyramid. Dating back to the I century BC, the pyramid is the tomb of c. Cestius, a wealthy Roman who embraced the fashion for all things Egyptian that took Rome by storm after the conquest of Egypt in 30Bc.

The Pyramid is only occasionally opened to the public but it is worth seeing even just outside as it is one of the most unique monuments you can find in Rome. Find info about Rome’s Pyramid here.

Address: Piazzale Ostiense, 00153 Rome

Pyramid of Rome with umbrella pines

San Clemente Church

I haven’t mentioned churches in this list as there are so many in Rome I believe they deserve their own list however, San Clemente belongs among archaeological sites because of its very peculiar nature: the church is built over 3 different layers, one of which dates back to Roman times.

The layers are accessible and the most ancient one includes a residential space from republican time and a temple of Mithra: the construction of Christian churches on the same spot as pagan temples is common in history but this is one of the best and most accessible places in Rome to see it in action.

The basilica is usually accessible without a need for advance booking.

Address: Via Labicana 95, 00184 Rome (Access from Via dei Santi Quattro)

Most beautiful archaeological museums in Rome

As well as the stunning archaeological sites mentioned din this list, ancient history lovers can also find interesting and priceless ancient treasures in Rome’s most important archaeological museums.

Those I most recommend to visit area:

Capitoline Museums

One of the biggest museums in Rome, the Capitoline Museums have wonderful ancient sculptures worth seeing including the famous Dying Gaul, Medusa, the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the copy of which is in on Piazza del Campidoglio) and the Capitoline Venus.

Palazzo Massimo

Maybe my favorite archaeological museum in Rome of all, it stands out for the stunning frescoes from Livia’s House (wife of emperor Augustus)

Palazzo Altemps

Palazzo Altemps should be visited especially for the figurative statues and sculpted portraits from Roman times

Centrale Montemartini

A peculiar, stunning museum with ancient Roman statues hosted among industrial machines in an old power plant. The museum has exceptional mosaics that should not be missed. Find my tips for visiting the lesser-known museum of Centrale Montemartini here.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the most important archaeological sites in Rome! You can find more Rome landmarks you may want to visit here.

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