All first-timers in Rome make it a point to visit the Colosseum, but the Roman Forum typically receives less attention. This always strikes me as odd, considering this is one of the most important archeological sites in the Eternal City, one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world, and especially knowing that Roman Forum tickets are actually included in those for the Colosseum.
Beautifully located between the Capitoline Hill and the Palatine Hill (two of the most famous hills of Rome), literally on the other side of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is an incredible place to visit – not to mention of the best places in Rome to get stunning views of the Colosseum.
Going to the Forum knowing what to expect will certainly help you have a good experience. In this post, I will share some basic information about it and a few tips for visiting.
The History Of The Roman Forum
Essentially, the Roman Forum was the center of ancient Rome’s government. Known in Latin as Forum Romanum, the site was (and still is) an icon of the city.
Alongside the government buildings that were located in the Forum, it was also a place for gladiatorial matches, criminal trials, and public speeches.
It was also at the Forum that many day-to-day activities of life in Rome took place, all among a series of statues and monuments to deities and the greats of the day. It was also a center of commerce.
The history of the Roman Forum is traditionally traced back to Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome (in 753 BC). It was originally situated outside of the walls that made up the Sabine fortress that was once located here.
It is believed to have become a public meeting space and market around 500 BC at the time of the founding of the Roman Republic.
The location of the Forum on low-lying land between the Palatine and Capitoline Hill meant that it was surrounded by many ancient temples and shrines. This central location gave it a certain amount of prestige.
During the Roman Republic (509-29 BC), the Roman Forum expanded massively. Additions included arches, statues, and basilicas alongside other buildings which were intended to be gathering places for various purposes. The earliest basilica, basically a meeting hall with aisles, was built in 184 BC.
Major work took place in the 80s (BC). The central plaza was raised and marble paving stones were added, which remained intact for over a millennium. In 78 BC the Tabularium (Hall of Records) was built at one side of the Forum.
The forum was the site not just for politics and daily life but for pivotal events that shaped the history of Rome, too – just like Marc Antony’s famous words, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…” And, following Julius Caesar’s death, a massive state funeral was held and his funeral pyre was located here at the Forum.
More additions took place during the Roman Empire, with the last major expansion taking place in 312 AD during the reign of Emperor Constantine. Sadly, many of the most ancient of the buildings at the site were destroyed in 410 during the sack of the city by the invading Visigoths.
During the Middle Ages, the Forum fell into disrepair. Known then as Campo Vaccino (literally “Cattle Field”), it was used for grazing livestock.
In 1803 archaeologist Carlo Fea excavated the site, thus rediscovering the Roman Forum. It wasn’t fully excavated until the early 20th century.
Things To See At The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum today is one of Rome’s most popular sites, attracting an estimated 4.5 million visitors per year. It’s no surprise: this is where visitors can really get up close to ancient Rome and see the architecture firsthand.
Excavations are amazingly still taking place. New finds are being unearthed continually, and the new discoveries are shedding light on the long history of the city. For example, pottery and food scraps were discovered in 2009 – dating back to the 8th or 9th century BC, indicating a possible earlier date for the founding of Rome.
Some of the must-see buildings and monuments include:
Temple of Saturn
Built around 498 BC, the Temple of Saturn is believed to be one of the Roman Forum’s earliest religious buildings. This current iteration was rebuilt, however, and dates back to 42 BC. It had a dual function as a treasury, as the deity Saturn was associated with agriculture and therefore prosperity. Money was managed and stored here, almost like an early bank.
Curia (Senate House)
The Curia or Senate House has been rebuilt many times through its existence. This was the place for political meetings and various governmental events. In the 7th century AD, it was converted into a church, and today it is one of the most intact buildings in the Forum thanks to restoration work through the centuries.
This was the Roman Forum’s main thoroughfare. It connected up the main sites in the area, stretching all the way to the Colosseum from the Capitoline Hill. During the reign of Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) it was paved and had colonnades added on either side.
The Via Sacra (literally “Sacred Road”) was also used for state and religious processions. But it was also simply just a road, where many daily occurrences took place – sex workers looking for business and dice playing included!
Arch of Titus
Constructed in 81 AD by Emperor Domitian, the Arch of Titus was intended to honor his brother, the former Emperor Titus, and his victory during the Siege of Jerusalem (70 AD). It was built straddling the Via Sacra and has become the template for ceremonial arches throughout the rest of history – including Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
Still standing to this day, the Arch of Titus measures up at over 15 meters high and 13 meters wide. If you look carefully, the panels that decorate it tell the story of the fall of Jerusalem.
Check out my post The Most Beautiful Arches In Rome.
The Temple of Castor and Pollux
Dedicated to the twin-brother demigods, Castor and Pollux, this temple was built in 484 BC. Castor and Pollux – the twins of Gemini fame – were the sons of Leda and Zeus (while in the form of a swan). The temple was built to commemorate the victory of the Battle of Lake Regillus in 495 BC.
Throughout history it has undergone various phases of construction; it was destroyed by fire in 14 BC, for example. Today you can still see the remains of the temple with its surviving podium, and three columns topped by the ornate entablature. The fact that it remains so intact makes it one of the most iconic parts of the Roman Forum.
The Rostra was part of the Roman Forum where people could give speeches. There was a long tradition of speaking to the masses from this elevated platform, including Marc Antony’s famous speech among others. It was decorated with the remains of ships taken as trophies from the Battle of Antium in 338 BC.
Temple of Vesta
The 7th-century Temple of Vesta, complete with the surrounding House of the Vestal Virgins, features a circular structure that remains to this day. Worship of the goddess Vesta – deity of the hearth, home, and family – usually took place in everyday Roman homes.
Because of that, it is believed that the architecture of the temple takes inspiration from the architecture of Roman houses. The surviving structure indicates that there would have been 20 Corinthian columns atop a podium.
Where To Get The Best Views Of The Roman Forum
If you’re visiting the Roman Forum, it’s not just about witnessing it up close – getting a good view of the Forum from a vantage point is also a must. Luckily there are a number of different spots where you can do just this.
One of the best viewpoints to get a close glimpse of the Roman Forum is Piazza di Campidoglio on Capitoline Hill. There’s a small terrace here behind the Fontana della Dea Roma that practically overlooks the Roman Forum.
The view from the nearby Gemonian Stairs (nicknamed the “Stairs of Mourning”) is also worth a look. Both of these are free of charge.
Another good view of the Roman Forum can also be obtained from Palatine Hill – which you can visit with the same ticket you’ll use to access the Forum.
But for an even closer and rather panoramic view out over the Forum, head to the Statue of Julius Caesar along the Via dei Fori Imperiali.
Practical Information For Visiting The Roman Forum
Now that you know the Roman Forum is most definitely 100% worth your time to visit – and now that you also know its top sights – it’s time to start thinking about the nitty gritty of visiting. Here is all the important information you’ll need to make your trip run smoothly:
Accessibility of the Roman Forum
Access to the Roman Forum has improved in recent years, with new pathways and installations creating increased access for those using wheelchairs or people who may have difficulty walking.
Having said that, the Roman Forum is not fully accessible. However, it is possible to book on a specialist tour for those with disabilities that provides better access to the sights within the Forum.
There is a barrier free walkway with a smooth surface that starts at Via Sacra and passes by a string of the Forum’s top sights, including the Temple of Romulus, the Temple of Vesta, and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.
Do you need a guide to visit the Roman Forum?
You do not need a guide to visit the Roman Forum, and you can definitely visit independently; but I wholeheartedly recommend getting one if you want to learn more as you explore the site. Hiring a guide would be an entertaining insight into the Forum; they can tell you intricate details about historic events and anecdotes that make it come to life.
The added bonus of tours of the Roman Forum is that they are usually sold along with tours of the Colosseum – this is a great advantage!
One of the best tours around is Walks of Italy Skip the Line: Premium Colosseum Tour with Roman Forum & Palatine Hill – you can book it here.
Another great option is the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill guided tour sold on GetYourGuide. You can check it out here. And for a tour that also goes to the Arena Floor of the Colosseum, click here.
Audio guides are currently not available.
How much are Roman Forum tickets?
Standard Roman Forum tickets are €16 per person. For EU citizens between the ages of 18 and 25, it’s €4. For children aged 17 and under, admission is free of charge. Admission is also free for those with disabilities (including an accompanying person). There is an additional €2 online booking fee.
Currently, Roman Forum tickets must be booked online in advance of your visit. You will need a Green Pass – Italy’s vaccination passport – to enter.
Note that the ticket also includes the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, and is valid for 24 hours from your first entry.
You can get your Roman Forum tickets on the official website here – but take care to note that tickets bought on the official site are not refundable and modifications are not allowed.
For more flexibility, consider getting tickets on a third-party booking site such as GetYourGuide or Tiqets – they are a bit more expensive, but can be cancelled up to 24 hours in advance. Get your fully-refundable Roman Forum tickets here.
Make sure to read my post How To Get Roman Forum Tickets.
Roman Forum opening hours
The Roman Forum is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm between October and February. During the spring and summer, it is open until 8:30 pm instead. Last admission is an hour before closing.
How long do I need to visit?
There is a lot to see at the Roman Forum, so I would say allow for – at the very least – an hour and a half for your visit. For a real in depth visit, however, I would recommend around three hours. If you have the time, a full afternoon would be even better. If you are really into history or simply want to truly take it all in, then a full day would not be wasted at the Roman Forum.
Should I visit the same day I go to the Colosseum?
If you were wondering this, then let me tell you: yes, of course. The Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill, is covered by the same entrance ticket that grants you access to the Colosseum. So if you go to one, you may as well go to the other – and it won’t take you a long time to travel between them, either. In fact, they’re right next to each other! Besides the tickets are only valid for 24 hours.
Food at the Roman Forum
Unlike in the ancient world, there is no food available today at the Roman Forum. Picnics are also not allowed, so don’t think about bringing your own food into this area. Don’t forget: this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and not a food court.
However there are drinking fountains called nasoni located within the Roman Forum, which you may need especially on a hot day. If you need to grab a bite to eat either before (recommended) or after your visit, then you can find cafes dotted around the nearby area for a quick snack.
Facilities at the Roman Forum
As well as nasoni, there are thankfully other facilities that visitors may need to use at the Roman Forum. Here you will find several toilets marked with “WC” signage, so you won’t ever be too far from finding one if necessary.
How to get to the Roman Forum
The nearest metro station to the Roman Forum is Colosseo (Metro Line B).
Buses will stop at the Fori Imperiali bus stop. Bus routes include 75, 81, 673, 175, 204. Tram Line 3 also stops here.
For more tips on places to visit in Rome, and suggestions on how to plan your trip, check out these posts:
- The Most Impressive Landmarks In Rome
- The Best Tips For Visiting Rome
- The Best 3-Day Itinerary For Rome
- How To Visit Rome In A Day
- The Most Interesting Ancient Sites In Rome