Rome is one of those cities that simply breathes history. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a big open-air museum full of historical landmarks and monuments.
In this post, we made an overview of the most famous landmarks in Rome. These are the things you absolutely must check out when visiting the city.
Related: Check out these famous historical sites in Berlin!
Landmarks in Rome That You Must Put On Your List
The Colosseum is one of the most infamous buildings ever constructed. It was used for fun and entertainment, but that didn’t mean the same as it does today in Ancient Rome. Gladiator fights and animal hunts were the most popular form of entertainment.
Constructed in the late 1st century under the command of Emperor Vespasian and his sons who succeeded him as rulers of Ancient Rome, Titus, and Domitian, he used the spoils of the sacking of Jerusalem to build the Flavian Amphitheater.
It’s estimated that an incredible half million people and over a million animals lost their lives in horrible ways to the cheers of 50,000 excited Romans at the Colosseum. Even though still standing, most of the structure lay in ruins today.
2. The Pantheon
The Pantheon in Rome is a remarkable building for multiple reasons. This former Roman Temple was built as a place to “honor all the Gods” as its name describes. It was turned into a Catholic Church after the fall of the Roman Empire, which is the main reason this been preserved so well.
It was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, a Roman general, and architect, during the reign of Emperor Augustus (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.). That’s the reason it has his inscription in the temple’s portico.
Emperors Trajan and Hadrian continued the construction until it was completed and dedicated in the year 126 A.D. The temple has a large portico with Corinthian columns and the main structure has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome which comes together at a central opening called an oculus at a height of 43 meters (142 feet).
3. Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was the main public square of Ancient Rome, the center of day-to-day life in the city. It contains the ruins of multiple important buildings of Ancient Rome, including government buildings, statues, and temples.
The citizens of Ancient Rome referred to this square, which used to be a marketplace as well, to the “Forum Magnum,” or simply the “Forum.”
It’s also here that all the triumphal procession of Ancient Rome passed, elections were held, and public speeches were given. Right now, it’s filled with architectural fragments and sites of excavations. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Rome, attracting millions of visitors every year.
4. Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world and was named after the district of Rome it’s located in. It’s an immense Baroque fountain that stands 26.3 meters (86 feet) tall and is 49.15 meters (161.3 feet) wide.
The work on the fountain, which is ornamented with a variety of amazing sculptures, began in the year 1732 and as completed in 1762.
It’s one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Rome and the fountain is famous for coin throwing. It’s estimated that on average 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain every day, which in return supports Rome’s poorest people.
5. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are located in Vatican City, a city-state which is enclaved within Rome. It’s one of the world’s remarkable public museums, with art amassed by the Catholic Church for many centuries.
The collection, which consists of 70,000 works of which about 20,000 are on display, contains some of the most famous Roman sculptures and some of the most important masterpieces of the Renaissance, including works from the masters Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
The museums were founded in the 16th century by Pope Julius II, a contemporary of the 3 artists mentioned. The museums are visited by nearly 7 million people every year, making it the third-most visited museum in the world behind the Louvre in Paris and the National Museum of China in Beijing.
6. St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is located within Vatican City and is the largest Catholic Church in the world. The church is the epitome of Renaissance architecture and was designed by Donato Bramante and Michelangelo, among several others.
Despite not being the mother church of the Catholic Church or even the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, it’s considered to be the most important and one of the holiest shrines in the Christian world.
St. Peter’s Basilica is adjoined by the world-famous St. Peter’s Square and contains numerous pieces of art, including Michelangelo’s Pietà, one of the most famous sculptures in the world.
7. Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the chapel of the Apostolic Palace, the main residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It’s essentially part of the Vatican Museums and is officially called the “Cappella Magna” (Great Chapel).
Its name derives from Pope Sixtus IV (1414-1484), the man who restored it between 1473 and 1481. Today, it’s mainly used for the Papal Conclave, a gathering of the College of Cardinals to elect a new Bishop or Pope.
The chapel is world-famous for its amazing frescoes, mainly the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, which includes the iconic “Creation of Adam,” and “The Last Judgement” painting which covers the entire Altar Wall. Both these frescoes were painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century.
8. Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch built in Ancient Rome and is located right next to the Colosseum. It was constructed to honor Emperor Constantine the Great for his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D.
The arch is located right on the Via Triumphalis, the route in which Emperors entered Rome to celebrate victories. The arch was dedicated just 3 years after the battle in the year 315 A.D.
The Arch of Constantine was the biggest triumphal arch in Ancient Rome and most of its monumental decorations were taken from various other monuments around the city. It stands 21 meters tall and is 25.9 meters wide.
9. Castel Sant’Angelo
The Castel Sant’Angelo translates to “Castle of the Holy Angel” and was originally constructed as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. Therefore the building has also been referred to as “Hadrian’s Mole.”
It’s located on the right bank of the Tiber in Parco Adriano, a park in the center of Rome. Apart from the remains of Hadrian and his family, the building has also been used to bury the remains of the emperors succeeding him with the last being Caracalla in the year 217 A.D.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the building as mainly used as a castle and fortress of the Popes in Rome. Right now, the building is used as a museum called the “Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo.”
10. Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus was Ancient Rome’s most famous chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue. It was located in a valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills in the center of the city.
Apart from the famous chariot-races, the Circus Maximus was also the most popular place for “Ludi,” public games related to Roman religious festivals. These games could include horse and chariot racing, athletics, plays, beast-hunts, and gladiator fights.
The Circus Maximus was an immense stadium with a capacity of over 150,000 spectators. It was 621 meters (2,037 feet) in length and 118 meters (387 feet) in width. Today, the are is a public park.
11. Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps is a stairway in Rome that leads from the Piazza di Spagna at the base to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti. At the top, there is a church named the Trinità dei Monti church.
There are a total of 135 steps and construction was funded by a French diplomat named Étienne Gueffier who bequeathed 20,000 scudi. The Steps were constructed between 1723 and 1725.
The Spanish Steps are arguably the most famous steps in the world and have been featured in many movies and television series. They have a prominent role in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) starring Matt Damon.
12. Arch of Titus
The Arch of Titus is another triumphal arch located right on Via Sacra, the main street of Ancient Rome, and just southeast of the Roman Forum, the main square of Ancient Rome.
It was constructed around 81 A.D. during the Flavian Dynasty which consisted of Vespasian (who commissioned the Colosseum), Titus, and his brother Domitian. The latter commissioned the construction of the Arch of Titus to commemorate his brother and father and honor the sacking of Jerusalem and the victory during the Jewish Rebellion.
13. Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are the second-largest bathhouse that was ever constructed in Ancient Rome and was one of the largest construction projects of the Roman Empire. The baths are located just southwest of the historical center of Ancient Rome and south of the Colosseum.
Construction of the baths, which consisted of a lot more entertainment facilities such as a public library, an Olympic size pool, and 2 gyms, started around 211 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. The baths were inaugurated during the reign of his son Caracalla in the year 216 A.D.
The baths fell in disuse after Rome was besieged in the year 537 and the aqueducts supplying the water for the baths were destroyed by Germanic tribes. The site was used as a quarry in the Middle Ages and several important pieces of art were retrieved which used to decorate the baths in their glory days.
14. Trajan’s Market
Trajan’s market is located on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, right across the Roman Colosseum in the historical center of the city. It was constructed by Roman Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd century and inaugurated in the year 113 A.D.
It was part of a massive building campaign lead by Trajan after he defeated the Dacians in the year 106 A.D. and was able to sack their capital and loot the region. The market is considered to be a multi-functional structure that included stores, bars, a library, and administrative offices for the emperor.
This remarkably well-preserved ancient structure consists of multiple floors and gives you a really great insight into the daily life in Ancient Rome. There’s a street full of bars that must have been bustling with people in the glory days of the empire, and this complex is one of the few landmarks that give you the impression you’re actually back in Ancient Rome!
The Tempietto literally translates to the “Little Temple” and that’s what it literally is. It’s a small temple which is located in the courtyard of the San Pietro in Montorio church in Rome. It was built in the early 16th century and commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.
This remarkable building was designed by Renaissance architect Donato Bramante and is considered to be one of the most harmonious buildings of Renaissance architecture and an absolute masterpiece of the High Renaissance.
This remarkable structure by Bramante had a great impact on architecture in the following decades and centuries. It’s believed it served as the inspiration of the famous dome of the St Peter’s Basilica.
16. St. Peter’s Square
It’s a monumental public space in Vatican City, the papal enclave located in Rome. It was designed by a man who spent most of his life decorating the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The square is dominated by massive rows of Doric Columns, 4 rows deep, and is decorated with an Ancient Roman Obelisk dating back to the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Domitian. The square itself was constructed between 1656 and 1667 and has been one of the most remarkable public spaces in the world ever since.
17. Arch of Septimius Severus
The Arch of Septimius Severus is another famous triumphal arch located on the northwestern end of the Forum Romanum. It was constructed during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus and dedicated in the year 203 A.D. to commemorate his victory in the Roman-Parthian Wars.
The arch very much resembles the arches built by previous Roman Emperors and features multiple reliefs and sculptures in reference to the wars fought against the Parthian Empire.
This remarkably well-preserved triumphal arch stands 23 meters (75 feet) tall and is about 25 meters (82 feet) wide, making it a very prominent landmark on the ancient Roman marketplace.
The Piazza Navona is another monumental square in the center of Rome. It was built on the former site of the immense Stadium of Domitian, a chariot-racing arena that was completed in the first century A.D., and the square has the shape of the former entertainment center of ancient Rome.
Some of the remains of this ancient stadium can be found at the edges of the square, a remarkable sight in a modern-day city. Before it was referred to as the Stadium of Domitian it was called the “Circus Agonalis,” a reference to the word “agones,” or “games.”
One of the most fascinating monuments on the square is the “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” or “Fountain of the Four Rivers.” This was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most famous sculptors of the 17th century. It features an ancient obelisk as well which dates back to the reign of Emperor Domitian in the late 1st century A.D.
19. Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian were another public bath and entertainment complex of ancient Rome. They were constructed during the reign of Emperor Diocletian between 298 AD and 306 AD and were commissioned by his co-emperor Maximian.
The remains of the baths are located on the northeast summit of the Viminal Hill, the smallest of Rome’s 7 hills. The complex was the largest bath complex ever constructed in ancient Rome and was active until the year 537, the year that the Ostrogoths destroyed the aqueducts supplying the water for the complex.
Today, the site is occupied by remains of the ancient complex, the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme which uses architectural elements of the baths into its design, and a branch of the National Roman Museum.
20. Palazzo Farnese
The Palazzo Farnese, also known as the “Farnese Palace,” is one of the most fascinating palaces in the city of Rome. It was commissioned by the wealthy Farnese family in the year 1517, the high point of the High Renaissance, and seriously expanded in the year 1534. It’s located on the Piazza Farnese in the Regola district of Rome
During this expansion phase, the architect of the building was nobody else than Michelangelo, one of the most famous Renaissance artists in history. The structure was meant to emphasize the importance of the Farnese family, and most importantly that of Pope Paul III himself.
The building got into the hands of the French Government in the year 1874. It was seized, however, by the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini and is now on loan to the French Government for a symbolic euro. The building serves as the French embassy in Rome today.
21. Mausoleum of Augustus
The Mausoleum of Augustus is one of the most famous landmarks in Rome, mainly because it was constructed by the First Roman Emperor in 28 B.C. It served as his tomb and was one of his first building projects to be completed.
The structure is located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore on the Campus Martius in Rome, just north of the historical center of the city. It can be found right in between the San Carlo al Corso church and the Museum of the Ara Pacis, the monumental altar built by Augustus to commemorate the peace he brought to the Empire.
The Mausoleum complex has been completely restored between 2017 and 2021 and has been opened to the public again since March 1, 2021. It’s bound to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome as it’s the first time since the 1970s that the structure is accessible to the public.
22. Trajan’s Column
Trajan’s Column is a huge victory column located on Trajan’s Forum, a public space of ancient Rome constructed by Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd century A.D. It’s located just to the north of the Roman Forum and right across Trajan’s Market, the ancient shopping mall.
The column is fascinating because it has a spiraling bas-relief that depicts 155 scenes of the victory of the Romans in the Dacian Wars, the reason why it was constructed between 107 and 113 A.D.
The column is huge as it stands over 35 meters (115 feet) tall and has a diameter of 3.7 meters (12.1 feet). There’s a spiraling staircase inside which leads all the way to the top of the monument as well.
23. Galleria Borghese
The Galleria Borghese is one of the most famous art galleries in Rome and is located in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. The Villa is located on the Pincian Hill in Rome and is situated within an immense pubic park of 80 hectares (197.7 acres).
This immense landscaped public park was originally part of the Galleria complex but is now a separate tourist attraction in Rome. The landscaping of the park as it looks today was completed in the 18th century after originally being designed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 17th century.
The Villa Borghese was used as a party house on the edge of Rome and as a place to store the Cardinal’s art collection. He was one of the early patrons of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most famous sculptors in history who designed St. Peter’s Square. The art collection also features works of Carravaggio, Veronese, and Rubens.
24. Basilica of Maxentius
The Basilica of Maxentius is also known as the “Basilica Nova” or the “Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine” and is an ancient structure located in the Roman Forum. It was built in the early 4th century during the reigns of Roman Emperors Maxentius and Constantine I.
Apart from being the largest building constructed on the Roman Forum, it was also the final Basilica built in the city of Rome. It has a very simple rectangular design and featured an open space in the center which was used for a wide variety of purposes.
The most remarkable feature of this large structure is the fact that it was built using arches, something often used in bathhouses but not in basilicas. This allowed the central open space to be much bigger as it didn’t require columns for support.
25. Victor Emmanuel II Monument
The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument is also referred to as the “Altare della Patria” or “Altar of the Fatherland” and is a huge national monument that was built in honor of King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy between 1861 and 1875 since the 6th century.
The monument is located between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill in the center of Rome and its construction started in 1885. Even though the monument was inaugurated in 1911, it wasn’t fully completed until 1935.
The structure was built as a forum in itself, similar to the agoras of ancient Greece and Rome. It features three levels with the top level being characterized by a portico featuring a massive colonnade. This makes this amazing monument in Rome an impressive sight to behold!
26. Marcello Theater
Marcello Theater is also referred to as the “Theater of Marcellus,” is an ancient Roman open-air theater that was completed at the start of the Roman Empire. It was formally inaugurated by Augustus himself in the year 12 B.C. after construction had started at the end of the Roman Republic.
Even though it’s hard to imagine today, the theater was huge as it had a diameter of 111 meters (364 feet), the equivalent of a large football pitch.
The theater was the most important of its kind in ancient Rome and was named after Augustus’ nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus who had died in 23 B.C.
27. Temple of Portunus
The Temple of Portunus is also referred to as the “Temple of Fortuna Virilis” (manly fortune) and is one of the most remarkable little structures from ancient Rome. Not because of its enormous size but for the fact that it’s one of the best-preserved ancient temples in the city of Rome.
Its history remains a bit obscure as it’s not certain to who the temple was dedicated. It could be that it was dedicated to Portunus, the god of keys, doors, and livestock, but the temple was referred to as the Temple of Fortuna Virilis since the Renaissance.
Either way, the original temple on this site was built around the 3rd or 4th century B.C. but was rebuilt between 120 and 80 B.C. It’s located on the Forum Boarium, the location of the original docks of the city of Rome.
This concludes our list with the most famous landmarks in Rome. As you can see, Rome is literally filled with history, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world!