Ancient Rome around Colosseum, Rome

Ancient Rome around Colosseum (Self Guided), Rome

Undoubtedly, Rome's ancient past has been the main Roman attraction for centuries, drawing millions of tourists to the Eternal City each year. The Colosseum and the surrounding sights, like the Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, Imperial Fora, Roman Forum and other monuments – or rather what's left of them now – are the stately reminders of what was once the center of one of the world's greatest empires, whose legacy is firmly imprinted in the history of western civilization.

One of the most recognizable structures in the world, the nearly 2000-years-old Colosseum is a must-see. The half-broken oval amphitheater – which has been restored after being damaged by fire, lightning, earthquakes and pollution over the years – is a sight to behold, either from ground level or the Palatine Hill right across it. While you’re there, take a hike to the Roman Forum with its really well preserved remains of triumphal arches, as well as various temples and basilicas in varying states of preservation. No need for a local guide: just wander around, take in the history and enjoy walking on the Sacred Way – once the route of many triumphal processions, full of booty and prisoners.

Ending the walk are the Teatro di Marcello – considered the Colosseum’s precursor in ancient Rome – and Trajan’s Market, described as perhaps the world’s first shopping mall. Even if you don’t go into the on-site museum, you can get a good feel for the scale and complexity of the site from the walkway along from Trajan's column.

Explore Rome's most prominent ancient monuments still in place with our self-guided, dedicated walking tour!

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Colosseum) can be reached by Bus: 51, 81, 87; Train: FC2, R ; Metro: line B; Tram: 3 and 8.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Ancient Rome around Colosseum Map

Guide Name: Ancient Rome around Colosseum
Guide Location: Italy » Rome (See other walking tours in Rome)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Colosseum
  • Arch of Constantine
  • Palatine Hill
  • Imperial Fora
  • Roman Forum
  • Temple of Saturn
  • Theatre of Marcellus
  • Trajan's Market

1) Colosseum (must see)

The Colosseum is one of the grandest monuments to have stood the test of time and probably the most visited ruins in the world. The works on this colossal structure began in 72 AD and took 8 years to complete. The official opening of the venue was marked with gladiator games that lasted 100 days.

The Colosseum amphitheater comprised four tiers that could hold up to 50,000 spectators. The lowest tier was for the emperor and the royal family; the two middle ones were for Roman citizens and members of government, while the highest tier was for the plebs. Below-ground passages were used for bringing men and animals into the arena that was separated from the audience by a ditch. The amphitheater mainly hosted three types of shows: wild animal fights, public executions and, of course, gladiator battles. Spectacles at the Colosseum could last for days. Admission was free and the main sponsor was the Emperor himself. Despite popular belief that the early Christians were martyred here in numbers, records reveal that it was very unlikely so.

At some point, during the 18th century, the Colosseum served as a fortress and then simply became a stone quarry for other construction projects. Passers-by habitually chipped off pieces of the Colosseum for souvenirs which, together with some natural causes like earthquakes, led to its partial destruction. Today, only the north side of the building remains, as well as the underground passages. The arena floor is totally gone, and it is possible to access the subterranean part of the Colosseum, as well as its 3rd floor, on pre-booked tours only. The floors open to visitors without a special ticket, are the ground and first floors. On the other hand, the Colosseum ticket also allows entry to the neighboring Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, so it's probably the best option for those visitors not pressed for time.

Inside the Colosseum, there's a historical exhibition with both permanent and changing displays. Exploring in and outside the Colosseum may take a whole day. Those who arrive in time for the opening may stand a pretty good chance of having the whole place to themselves, as it's not so crowded in the early hours.

Why You Should Visit:
There is so much more to this magnificent sight than meets the eye... It is great to see and try to imagine what happened there in years gone by.

Go early in the morning or late in the evening, as the queues are crazy in the middle of the day and it's usually too hot to be standing around anyway.
If you can't make it early but want to avoid the queues, then pay a little extra and take a guided tour – it will also get you in the Forum area.
Tickets can also be bought in advance (plenty options available) or at the Roman Forum (queues are much shorter there).
It's worth getting the audio guide to get more information about the layout and what happened where.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm (Jan–Feb 15); 8:30am-5pm (Feb 16–Mar 15); 8:30am-5:30pm (Mar 16–last Sat of March); 8.30am-7:15pm (last Sun of March–Aug 31); 8:30am-7pm (Sep 1–30); 8:30am-6:30pm (Oct 1–last Sat of October)
In general, the Colosseum is open from 9am to one hour before sunset. You can access the monument until one hour before closing.
Arch of Constantine

2) Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine is the last triumphal arch erected in Rome, but also the largest and, arguably, the most beautiful of them all. It is named after the Roman Emperor Constantine, best known for his political transformation of the Roman Empire and support for Christianity.

The 3rd century AD was a turbulent period in Roman history, seeing the empire split into several belligerent fractions. In 312 AD, Constantine took over the western part of the empire by defeating his rival Maxentius and eventually established himself as the supreme ruler, thus bringing the much-needed stability to Rome.

The arch was built in memory of Constantine's victory, portrayed back then as the rightful ruler, over the largely outnumbering his army troops of Maxentius, presented as the tyrant. The latter ended up driven into the Tiber River, the moment of which is depicted in the arch frieze.

Constantine believed that this improbable victory resulted mainly from the help of the Christian Messiah. Subsequently, under Constantine's reign, no persecution of Christians continued and Christianity itself eventually became the official religion of Rome. Whether intentional or not, this was a brilliant political move as, by that time, Rome was already being overthrown by Christian masses.

The arch is free to access – standing amid the public road, once known as Via Triumphalis – the former triumphant passage into the city taken by emperors. Although fenced off, the arch is well visible from the outside, any time, day or night.

Why You Should Visit:
Largest and arguably most beautifully sculpted of all triumphal arches in Rome. Remarkably well preserved, you can feel history just by looking at it.
Has three openings instead of just one, and depictions of some of the first Early Christian examples of sculpture.

Take the time to marvel at the carving details, or at least snap a photo to enjoy them later.
Palatine Hill

3) Palatine Hill (must see)

The city of Rome sits on seven hills and the Palatine Hill is the center-most of them. Reputedly, it is also place where Romulus and Remus were found in a cave. In 2007, the spot closely resembling the Lupercal Cave of Romulus and Remus was finally discovered. When they grew up, the twins set out to build a city of their own. While Remus wanted to build it on Aventine Hill, Romulus had his mind set firmly on Palatine Hill. The brothers argued fiercely and during the fight Romulus killed Remus. He went on to build the city eventually, calling it Rome, and reigned there as a king.

As time went by, the hill proved popular with the upper-class citizens who built here palaces and villas, not only for the prestige, but also for the magnificent views it provided. In fact, the word “palace”, nowadays closely associated with power, affluence and extravagance, originates from the Palatine Hill.

During the Middle Ages, churches and convents found place here as well. In the 17th century, Cardinal Farnese established here the world's first private botanical gardens. Among the ruins found today on the hill, one can see the remains of Septimus Severus’s palace and baths. To the north of them are the remnants of the two wings of what was once Domitian’s palace and a small private stadium. Further northwest is the ruins of the House of Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus. All these ruins, complete with the ancient artifacts discovered on the site and exhibited at the Palatine Museum, such as fine pottery, mosaics and others, illustrate the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the privileged class of the Roman Empire back in the day.

When visiting the Palatine Hill, one should make sure to wear a hat and comfortable shoes, as the paths and steps here can be quite steep and uneven. Also, bringing along some water and snacks is strongly recommended since finding vending machines can be quite tricky and the hike up the Palatine Hill may prove exhausting on an empty stomach.

Why You Should Visit:
Huge area to roam and walk around levels and levels of impressive ruins, plus fantastic views over the city and Colosseum.

"Super" tickets allow access to many of the Hill's attractions (there is a choice on which special site to visit), as well as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
Grab water and snacks before entry as finding vending machines can be quite tricky and the hike up the main hill is exhausting on an empty stomach.
You might also want to consider bringing a hat, sunscreen and a pair of sensible footwear – the paths and steps can be steep or uneven.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm (Jan 2–Feb 15); 8:30am-5pm (Feb 16–Mar 15); 8:30am-5:30pm (Mar 16–last Sat of March); 8:30am-7:15pm (last Sun of March–Aug 31); 8:30am-7pm (Sep 1–30); 8:30am-6:30pm (Oct 1–last Sat of Oct); 8:30am-4:30pm (last Sun of Oct–Dec 31)
Last admission always one hour before closing time. CLOSED: Dec 25, Jan 1.
Imperial Fora

4) Imperial Fora

For lovers of Latin history and culture, the Imperial Fora – center of politics, religion and economy of the ancient Roman Empire – is just the right place to visit. This site comprises a number of monumental squares built in Rome over the course of one and half centuries, between 46 BC and 113 AD. The first square is the one created as an extension to the Roman Forum under Julius Caesar and features the Temple of Venus. It was a popular public square and, just before Caesar’s murder, the Senate had agreed to move here. The second square, featuring the temple of Mars the Avenger, was built under Emperor Augustus. According to a myth, the city of Rome was born, through Romulus, by the will of god Mars.

The biggest and greatest of all the monumental public squares was that of Trajan, built in 112 AD to commemorate the Roman victory over the Dacians. This is where the Basilica Ulpia was erected and also the large Temple of Trajan, built after the Roman emperor’s death.

During the 1930s, Mussolini restored the Imperial Fora in an effort to evoke and emulate the past glories of Ancient Rome. He also built Via dei Fori Imperiali which crosses through the site, supposedly in a bid to make the Colosseum visible from his office window.

Why You Should Visit:
Lined with remnants of the once magnificent ancient buildings, the last few years the avenue has been made traffic-free, so walking on it, with just a little imagination, will give one a pretty good sense of Ancient Rome's grandeur and magnitude.
Roman Forum

5) Roman Forum (must see)

Perhaps one of, if not *the* most celebrated meeting spot in the world of all times, the Roman Forum, for centuries, had been the nerve center of ancient Rome's public life.

It is believed that people first gathered here around 500 BC, initially for day-to-day trading at a marketplace. Over the next few centuries, as more activities started to take place here, such as voting, public speaking, social gatherings, criminal trials, gladiator matches, religious ceremonies and business deals, this small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline hills gradually turned into a multi-purpose hub filled with buildings, arches, streets and monuments.

The ancient Romans were incredibly well organized and the placement of sites within the Forum still makes a lot of sense even today. The best-known sights here include the Senate House, the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Vesta, the Rostra, the Temple of Castor and Pollus, Via Sacra, and others.

Unlike the Imperial Fora modeled on an ancient Greek town square, the Roman Forum developed gradually and organically. It was reconstructed many times throughout the existence, attesting to which are the traces of influence of different architectural styles from different periods. Most of the ancient Forum was destroyed in the 5th century AD, around the time when the Roman Empire fell into decline.

Even though now reduced to crumbling ruins, the Forum still remains a historic relic of incalculable value attracting annually some 5 million visitors.

Allow yourself sufficient time to explore this location, as you may find it captivating and be eager to see more of it as you go. It is also recommended to wear sunscreen and comfortable shoes, plus to carry a bottle of water.

***Movie "ROMAN HOLIDAY": Joe Encounters Ann***
The Roman Forum would be a convenient place for Princess Ann and Joe Bradley to meet: she, on the escape from the palace; he, from a poker game at Irving Radovich's apartment. As Ann feels the effects of a sleeping pill, she rests on a brick bench near the Temple of Saturn (4th century BC) and the Arch of Septimus Severus (203 AD). That's where Joe finds her, takes pity on her and tries to take her home. Never managing to get her address, he takes her to his place by taxi. The road seen in the film, close to the ancient arch no longer exists. There used to be a road running along the northwest edge of the Roman Forum, but it has been closed for quite some time, part of it remaining as a cul-de-sac. The Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septimus Severus are parts of the Roman Forum, a complex of the oldest and most significant constructions of the ancient city.

Why You Should Visit:
A natural follow-on from a visit to the Colosseum; an amazing place to wander through and relive the glory that was Rome.

No secret tips needed here – it's all plain to see, although a guide is really helpful to explain the centuries of information involved.
It is also possible to hire an audioguide from a small booth just above the Arch of Titus near the Colosseum. The guide contains an audio jack meaning that two people can easily share one.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm (Jan 2–Feb 15); 8:30am-5pm (Feb 16–Mar 15); 8:30am-5:30pm (Mar 16–last Sat of March); 8:30am-7:15pm (last Sun of March–Aug 31); 8:30am-7pm (Sep 1–30); 8:30am-6:30pm (Oct 1–last Sat of Oct); 8:30am-4:30pm (last Sun of Oct–Dec 31)
Last admission always one hour before closing time. CLOSED: Dec 25, Jan 1.
Temple of Saturn

6) Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn is, without a doubt, the most iconic structure on the Roman Forum, with its monumental columns being the postcard image of the legendary ruins. It sits at the base of the Capitoline Hill, next to the Arch of Septimius Severus.

The history of the temple starts in the 5th century BC when it was built by Tarquinius, the last king of the city-state of Rome prior to the rebellion that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. The structure endured several modifications since and what we see today is the latest restoration following the devastating fire that took place in the 3rd century BC.

After serving as a temple of Saturn, it then housed, at some point, a bank, which is only logical given that Saturn was the god of wealth and abundance. The Romans also worshiped him as the god of agriculture. Later, as they embraced the Greek pantheon of gods, Saturn was identified with Kronos and became the highest ranking of the Roman deities, at par with Jupiter. With the winter solstice also being in high regard by the Romans, the week-long winter festival they celebrated, marking the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere, was called Saturnalia. The final day of the festival, known as the day of "the invincible sun", fell upon December 25. The festival involved lavish feasting and exchange of gifts, quite similar to the contemporary Christmas tradition.

The last standing eight majestic Ionic columns of the temple produce the impression of grandeur that is usually associated with Rome. Facing them up close, one can truly feel like a tiny speck of sand in the endless ocean of time...

Why You Should Visit:
An excellent psychological "shake-up", along with other Roman Forum sites.

Try and view reconstructed images to really appreciate how the temple must have been in ancient times.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm (Jan 2–Feb 15); 8:30am-5pm (Feb 16–Mar 15); 8:30am-5:30pm (Mar 16–last Sat of March); 8:30am-7:15pm (last Sun of March–Aug 31); 8:30am-7pm (Sep 1–30); 8:30am-6:30pm (Oct 1–last Sat of Oct); 8:30am-4:30pm (last Sun of Oct–Dec 31)
Last admission always one hour before closing time. CLOSED: Dec 25, Jan 1.
Theatre of Marcellus

7) Theatre of Marcellus

Unlike the imposing Colosseum that dominates the area, Teatro di Marcello keeps it “low profile”, waiting to be discovered by genuine history or architecture buffs. The Colosseum may have been the biggest, but Teatro di Marcello is the first arena ever built in Rome, and was actually a model on which the Colosseum was designed later on. Unlike the Colosseum, this venue never saw bloodshed and was used solely for staging mythological dramas widely popular in ancient Rome.

Capable of seating up to 20,000 spectators, this was once the largest arena in the city. The theater was inaugurated by Emperor Augustus who named it after his nephew Marcellus, but it was actually Julius Caesar himself who laid down the foundation, but was murdered before the construction even started. A typical sample of classical ancient architecture, the building reflects three dominant styles of the era – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders – spread across the three levels.

Centuries on, the theater is still very much intact and adds a great deal of charm to the Capitoline Hill. This is even more remarkable given that, in the 12th century, it served as a fortress and in the 16th century was turned into a palazzo. The upper part of the building recently has been converted into high-end accommodation – a much sought-after property harmoniously blending the ancient with the new. From June to October, the facility gives stage to musical concerts, which is yet another reason to explore this beautiful piece of history, given the opportunity.

Why You Should Visit:
Well preserved ancient Roman structure. Definitely adds charm even to the Capitoline Hill area. You can walk through at leisure and it's free.

There are a number of bits and pieces of ruins scattered about this site, so be sure to check them out, too.
Trajan's Market

8) Trajan's Market

Trajan's Market is a complex of ruins, once part of Trajan's Forum in Rome. The remaining buildings (or rather fragments thereof) that offering a glimpse into the daily social and business activities of the ancient Roman capital, are now carefully restored.

The arcades in the market are believed to have served as administrative offices for Emperor Trajan himself. The shops and apartments were spread across multiple levels, some of which are open to visitors today. The world's oldest shopping mall, if you like, this venue comprised both a marketplace and a cultural center, attesting to which fact are certain elements, like the delicate marble floors, remnants of a library, as well as the triumphal column, which is the largest standing ancient structure in Rome after the Colosseum.

Trajan's Market was built around the year 100 AD by Apollodorus of Damascus, the architect who always accompanied Trajan on his voyages. Certain parts of the building, like the still visible today floor levels within the market and some fortification elements, like the "militia tower", were added during the Middle Ages. Also, a convent appeared in the area at a later period, but that was demolished in the early 20th century for the purpose of restoring Trajan's Market to its original form.

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