Which are the best Roman ruins: what to see and what to miss in Rome

Aimee White

written by
Aimee White

updated 06.06.2024

Roman ruins are fascinating, but which of them are really worth seeing? Take a look at the five Roman ruins we think you should definitely visit on your Rome trip. The information below is based on The Rough Guide to Italy, your travel guide for Italy.

1. Roman Forum: get a grasp on the Empire

The Roman Forum is a must for its unique insight into one of the most powerful Empires in history. This was not only the heart of Republican Rome, it was also the city's political hub and so the hub of the entire Roman Empire.

As well as a meeting place for citizens, the Forum served as Ancient Rome's main marketplace. And several major religious institutions, like the House of the Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Julius Caesar, were also part of the complex.

In 3AD the Forum was almost entirely destroyed by fire, so much of its former grandeur has to be left to the imagination. But it is still the city's most impressive collection of ruins and most visited, so be sure to book Roman Forum tickets in advance.

Forum Romanum, Rome © Rudy Blasko/Shutterstock

The Roman Forum is the most unmissable of Roman ruins © Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

2. Arch of Constantine: the recycled Roman ruins

You'll find the imposing Arch of Constantine sitting grandly opposite the Colosseum. Erected in 315AD it technically commemorates the Milvian Bridge victory by Emperor Constantine.

But get up close enough to see the detail and you discover the three arch structure was actually recycled from older monuments. So there are panels from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius and Emperor Hadrian monument, as well as columns from a monument to Emperor Trajan.

To get under the skin of Rome and learn more backstories of monuments like the Arch of Constantine, think about taking a 2-day immersive tour of the city in the company of expert local guides. You might also find our guides to where to stay in Rome and how to get around Rome useful too.


The recycled Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum in Rome © ncristian/Shutterstock

3. House of Augustus: a glimpse of wealthy Roman life

Head to the Palatine Hill and visit the House of Augustus for an in-depth look at an Ancient Roman lifestyle at its wealthiest and most cultured.

The House of Augustus was originally the residence of the first Emperor Augustus and all its main rooms are named after architectural details - pay particular attention to the intriguing Room of the Masks.

Rome's fascinating imperial history is more than a little complex, so to uncover its secrets and make the most of every minute of your trip, consider booking a private, guided Imperial Insights tour of the city.


House of Augustus major Roman ruins on Palatine Hill © David Ionut/Shutterstock

4. Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker: social mobility c50BC

Head to Porta Maggiore to see the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker and learn about early social mobility during the Augustan era.

The tomb celebrates the life and times of Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces, a freed slave who amassed vast wealth running a successful bakery for the Roman Military round about 50BC.

The tomb stands at 33ft tall and was designed for visibility. Have a good look at the top frieze which depicts breadmaking and is one of several reasons why this unusual monument is a worthwhile visit in Rome.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. Both Complete Italy or Italy Itineraries offer inspiration. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local Italy expert.


The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker with The Gate of Porta Maggiore © Valery Rokhin/Shutterstock

5. Circus Maximus

Circus Maximus is another Palatine Hill ruin no one should miss. It sits south on the site and, as Rome's main venue for chariot races, was once capable of holding up to 300,000 spectators at a time.

In use for over 1000 years, and rebuilt several times during this period, the last chariot races were held here in 549AD. You can also see obelisks from Circus Maximus at San Giovanni in Laterano and on Piazza del Popolo.

The games loved by its citizens reveal a lot about the society and culture of Ancient Rome. To find out where, when and why the people played on Palatine Hill, book a private tour of Circus Maximus.


Circus Maximus on the south side of Palatine Hill in Rome © Di Gregorio Giulio/Shutterstock

Ready to travel to Italy? Find out about the best time to go and the best places in Italy as well as the best things to do in Italy. For inspiration use the Italy itineraries from our Italy Travel Guides and our local travel agents in Italy. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay in Italy once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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Aimee White

written by
Aimee White

updated 06.06.2024

Aimee is an in-house Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and is the podcast host of The Rough Guide to Everywhere. She is also a freelance travel writer and has written for various online and print publications, including a guidebook to the Isle of Wight. Follow her on Twitter at @aimeefw.

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