Visiting the Rome Pantheon: all you need to know

by marta

All you need to know for visiting the Pantheon, Rome: the best time to go, how to get there, the best things to see, frequently asked questions.

The Pantheon is one of the most famous Rome monuments and one of the most beautiful.

Located right in the heart of the city, it is at the center of a labyrinthine set of cobbled alleys and small streets and towers above one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, Piazza della Rotonda.

Visiting the Pantheon is easy and while you may find yourself going inside only once, its location means you will stumble onto it several times during your walks around Rome city center.

This may sound repetitive, however, the Pantheon is all but.

I have been living in Rome most of my life and every time I pass by the Pantheon I stop and take it in: the light at different times of the day, its details, its timeless and unique beauty make it one of those sites you never tire of.

Piazza del Pantheon is simply one of the most beautiful squares in Rome and the Pantheon is one of the most beautiful churches in Rome, a real jewel in the crown.

These is my guide for visiting the Pantheon and my tips for escaping the crowds, intense at such a popular site.

Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” – George Eliot, novelist

Find more travel quotes about Rome here

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Rome Pantheon view photo collage: facade and oculos

Visiting the Pantheon: need to know

What is the Pantheon: the Pantheon is an ancient Roman building originally devoted to all Roman Gods and Goddesses (Pan=all; theon=God, in Greek) and then turned Christian basilica.

Address: Basilica del Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, Rome

Cost: free

Opening hours: Weekdays: 8.30 am to 7.30 pm (last entry 7.15 pm). Sunday: 9.00am to 6.00 pm (last entry 5.45 pm). Public holidays: 9,00 am to 13.00 pm.

Closed on: 1st January, 1st May and the 25th December

Dates of notice: The Pantheon is a functioning church and hosts religious celebrations and events on several days. These may impact your visit: you can check what is foreseen here and plan accordingly.

Dress code: the Pantheon is a Christian church and requires its visitors to wear modest attire. This usually means no bare shoulders (in summer, a pashmina or shawl around your shoulders is enough), no short shorts or super mini-skirts. You can use this Vatican dress code as guidance.

While this may sound daunting, especially if visiting Rome in summer, it is not hard to dress for Rome churches. You can find my full packing list for Rome in the summer months here.

How to include a visit to the Pantheon in your Rome itinerary

As I mentioned above, the Pantheon is right in Rome city center and very close to other attractions such as Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, just to mention the best known.

This means that you can easily include it in your itinerary, as long as you find yourself in the city center.

Here are some sample itineraries, all including a visit to the Pantheon.

This map gives you an overview of the main attractions in Rome, and their distance from each other.

The Pantheon is the blue pin – as you can see, it is close to most sites, the only exception being the Vatican, which is easier to reach by bus.

How to get to the Pantheon by public transport

The Pantheon is in a part of Rome mostly closed to traffic so the best way to get there is on foot.

If you are not staying nearby, several public transport options bring you to this area, some of the most convenient being buses 30, 40, 62, 64, 81, 87 and 492. Depending on the one you get, you may get off close to Via del Corso / Piazza Venezia or Largo di Torre Argentina.

Both options are convenient although my personal preference is arriving from Via del Corso: the walk to the Pantheon via Piazza di Pietra is simply stunning.

Need to know: many hop-on hop-off bus tours include the pantheon in their itinerary. Please be advised that they do not arrive at the Pantheon itself but, like normal buses, will stop you along the main road nearby. The only way to actually get to the Pantheon door is on foot.

Visiting the Pantheon: how long you need

How long you need for visiting the Pantheon depends on your interest and, even more, the length of the line outside!

The Pantheon itself is only one chamber so once you are in, the visit is not long and can take as much or as little time as you are ready to spare.

In general, take into consideration that:

  • If you only want to see the facade, a few minutes are enough.
  • If you want to go in and see the Oculos only (the main things most visitors come here for), Raffaello’s tomb and the tomb of Queen Margherita, you will need less than half an hour.
  • The Pantheon Tour with audio guide takes 35 minutes.

The best time for visiting the Pantheon

The best time to see the Pantheon is anytime without a major line!

When I was growing up in Rome, tourism was strong in Rome but I was always able to walk inside the Pantheon at leisure, the lines being non-existent.

Lately, I have found myself unable to get in at all due to lines so long, they meander all the way across the Piazza!

If you find yourself at the Pantheon on a crowded day, my recommendation is: see the outside and come back later.

The lines usually are worst from late morning to mid-afternoon but are minimal in the early morning and subside as the sun starts to go down.

Good to know: the Pantheon facade gets all lit up at night and looks wonderful. The lights bring to life not just its columns but the recesses of the imposing ceiling of its. For a view of its outside, the evening is the best time for visiting the Pantheon in my book!

Outside of the Pantheon at night

What is special about the Pantheon

The Pantheon is an ancient Roman building originally dating back to August times (I century AD).

Over the course of the centuries, the Pantheon saw several reconstructions and changes both look at scope: built under Consul Agrippa in the I century, the Pantheon was reconstructed after a fire under emperor Hadrian and became a Christian church 609 AD, when it got consecrated to the Virgin and got the name Santa Maria ad Martyres

Several things make this building special:

It is unbelievably well preserved

The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient monument in Rome.

The Pantheon was first built by Agrippa in the I century AD, as part of a big urban regeneration project championed by Emperor Augustus.

Augustus wanted the whole area to have a strong symbolic meaning and built his own Mausoleum in such a way that his tomb and the Pantheon would directly face each other, across the Campus Martius, the area associated with Romulus’ ascension to the sky.

When Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon, he followed this tradition and even left the name of Agrippa on the main facade, as that of the Pantheon’s builder. He only added a mention of the reconstruction after Agrippa’s name, ensuring continuity.

In later times, it is believed the Pantheon was most likely preserved thanks to its use as a church, which saved him from the theft hand destruction other buildings faced.

It has a record-breaking dome

The Pantheon is surmounted by an impressive dome that holds the record for being the biggest unsupported dome in the world.

The dome has a diameter of 43.30m (142ft), which also is the exact distance existing between the Pantheon floor and the top of the dome itself.

This means that if you were to draw a circle inside the Pantheon following the outline of the dome, you would get a perfect sphere!

You can see what this means and what an engineering achievement this detail means here (the diagram is on the right on desktop, at the bottom on mobile).

Insider tip: You can catch an unusual and interesting view over the Pantheon dome from the rooftop terrace of the Iconic Pantheon hotel nearby. From there, you can fully appreciate the very peculiar shape of the Pantheon dome and its oculos!

It has a hole in the roof – by design

Probably the most distinctive trait of the Pantheon is the hole in its roof, the so-called ‘oculos’. The hole is there by design and it is the only source of light inside the pantheon.

Despite what gossips sometimes say, the hole means that rain does get inside the Pantheon!

On a rainy day, the whole floor below the oculos becomes wet and slipper (it usually gets cordoned off to avoid accidents) and the water gets drained and carried away but a clever drainage system built by the Romans.

Top Tip! To fully appreciate the shape of the Pantheon dome, I recommend you see it from inside and then see it from above. Some excellent rooftop bars in Rome City center offer amazing views of it – one I love is the Divinity Terrace, from where you see the Pantheon Dome exceptionally well.

Image by JOSÉ SOMOVILLA from Pixabay 

It is built to match recurring astronomical events

On the 21st of April, the day of Rome’s birthday (dies natalis) the light enters the Pantheon at a peculiar angle, flooding its entrance with blinding power.

This only happens one day each year and the Soprinendenza Archeologica (the body supervising archaeological excavation in Rome) has determined it was by order of Emperor Augustus, under whom the first building of the temple took place.

Other light effects happen at the time of the Solstices and Equinoxes, a peculiarity that has made many wonder if the Pantheon may have been built as a giant sundial.

You can read more about this fascinating hypothesis and exact light patterns here

The best thing to see in the Rome Pantheon

The main elements that make the Pantheon special are also the most important things to see in the Pantheon.

I recommend in particular you seek out and pay attention to:

The immense columns at the Pantheon entrance

The Pantheon Columns are remarkably thick. This is because, unlike others in Rome, they are not decorative but they actually support the structure.

Pay attention to their thickness and compare it with that of the many other columns in Rome. the only ones somewhat similar to it are those of Trajan’s basilica, now kept in Palazzo Valentini.

Need to know: Ancient Rome lies at a lower level than modern Rome. Because of this, the Pantheon looks to us smaller than it would have looked to ancient Romans. In 2020, archaeologists found large steps under the current street levels. They tell us that the Pantheon would have been raised from street level and would have been an imposing building, towering above its visitors.

The stunning ceiling of the temples’ pronaos – the entrance to the temple

If you can, come here and look up during the day and again after dark, when you can admire the new lighting system: it makes the ceiling incredibly scenic!

This is one of my favorite places to visit in Rome at night.

The peculiar, round shape of the structure

The peculiar shape of the Pantheon can only partially be seen by visitors.

The incredible proportions of the place and its geometry only comes to light if you see a section drawing of it however, the circular shape of the Pantheon floor is well visible and makes it one of the most unique churches in Rome.

The oculus – the hole on the Pantheon ceiling

The Oculus is what brings most people to the Pantheon and it is indeed interesting to see. Look up beauty and admire the sky from whiting the church, then imagine rain coming in or rose petals, scattered into the Pantheon from above each year to celebrate the Pentecost’s.

The drainage system for rainwater

Despite what many people believe, it rains in the Pantheon! To drain rain waters, the ancient Roman engineers created a drainage system that we can still see today.

On a rainy day, the wettest part of the Pantheon is cordoned off but be careful as it is slippery!

The tombs of Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael)

Raphael is buried in the Pantheon. His grave is worth seeing: it is surmounted by a sculpture by Raphael’s disciple Lorenzetto and has an inscription with verses that reads: ‘Qui giace Raffaello, dal quale la natura temette mentre era vivo di esser vinta; ma ora che è morto teme di morire’ (here lies Raphael, from whom nature, while alive, worried to be outdone and now, him dead, fears to die)

The tombs of Italy’s Royal

Rome Pantheon is the resting place of several members of Italy’s royal family including Vittorio Emanuele II First King of Italy (to whom the Vittoriano monument is dedicated), King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy.

Visiting the Pantheon with kids: tips and need to know

The Pantheon is one of the easiest cultural sites to see in Rome with kids.

Compact and free, it can be tackled without any major preparation, however, there are a few things that are useful to know to make the visit a little more interesting for little ones.

Here are my tips.

Get them to notice the columns

The Pantheon columns are remarkably thick so thick actually, you need several people to hug them!

My kids were all over this fact and enjoyed it immensely, as they tried to see how many of them would be needed to embrace one of these giants.

Please be careful with the columns: they are invaluable so while you get your children close to them, make sure they do not involuntarily damage them.

You do not actually need to touch the columns to appreciate how big they are: they are genuinely immense!

Ask them if they reckon it rains inside the Pantheon

And point them towards the holes in the ground that carry away the water!

Tell them the story of the Queen who gave the name to Pizza Margherita

Queen Margherita di Savoia is buried in the Pantheon and while her tomb itself is of no interest for children, her contribution to Italian cuisine may well be!

History tells us that the original Pizza Margherita took its names from this queen for whom it was first cooked.

The color red, white and green of the tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil are the same as the Italian flag – a patriotic pizza for the queen of Italy!

Top tip! If you can’t get them to stop thinking about pizza after this visit, you can pick a place to eat from our list of best pizza places in Rome. Some are in the city center and not far from the Pantheon!

Get gelato afterward

The Pantheon is not very interesting for kids and you may find yourself in need of a bribe, I mean a pick me up after the visit.

Luckily, the pantheon is in an area with many cafes and even better, gelato places! Try Il gelato di San Crispino, in piazza della Maddalena or Giolitti, in Via degli Uffici del Vicario for the real thing.

Pantheon guided tours

This guide has probably shown that visiting the Pantheon on your own is possible and easy however, if you want to properly learn about it, you can also take a tour.

Some to look into are:

Best Rome hotels near the Rome Pantheon

You can find my full selection of the best hotels in the Pantheon area here or have a quick look at the addresses below:

I hope you enjoyed this guide and found my tips for visiting the Pantheon useful. Safe Rome travels!

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