Are you looking for information about the Pantheon Rome? You are in the right place!
If you are reading this, chances are you are planning on visiting the Pantheon during your trip to Rome. Indeed, you simply can’t visit the Rome and skip the Pantheon: this is one of the best things to do in Rome.
The Pantheon of Rome is the kind of place you never get tired of admiring. The rather imposing structure faces one of the prettiest squares in Rome – Piazza della Rotonda. This is one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome, together with the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain.
Rome’s Pantheon is incredibly well preserved and has a fascinating, interesting history. It is such an iconic building that each year it attracts a whopping 7 million visitors.
One of the most frequent questions about Rome Pantheon is whether there is such thing as a Pantheon ticket. Back in January 2017, the former Italian minister of culture Dario Franceschini announced that Pantheon tickets would start being charged. It took several changes of government for Pantheon tickets to finally become a thing in July 2023.
If the Pantheon is high on your list of places to visit in Rome, you will be glad to find information on how to avoid the crowds, what to expect when visiting, and information about Pantheon tickets and guided tours. Continue reading!
The History Of The Pantheon Rome
The Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple that actually takes its inspiration from the (much) earlier Ancient Greek temples. In fact, it even takes its name from Ancient Greek: pan meaning “all” and theon meaning “gods”. By extension, the name means “Temple of All Gods”.
A temple was originally built here during the early reign of Emperor Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD) by consul Marcus Agrippa between 25 and 27 BC. It was part of an extensive building program carried out under Agrippa after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The temple, which was a wooden structure was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD, and only the façade remained.
The date of when the temple was rebuilt is unknown. The main theory is that Emperor Hadrian (76 to 138 AD), who apparently oversaw its construction, retained the Latin inscription on the front of the temple which reads, in English:
“Marcus Agrippa, Son of Lucius, made (this building) when consul for the third time.”
The Pantheon as we know it today was built between 118 and 125 AD, during the reign of Hadrian, who presumably wanted to keep the building as close to the original as possible – and that included the inscription. Like its predecessor, this building burnt in 110 AD as a consequence of lightning.
The other, newer theory, is that work on the reconstruction of the Pantheon was carried out under Emperor Trajan (53 – 117 AD) instead. Bricks were marked with his imperial seal which dates the bricks to the 110s.
In this case the rebuilding of the Pantheon is thought to have been a final work to cement Trajan’s legacy, though Hadrian evidently presided over the finishing touches of the project.
Another mystery is whether or not the Pantheon was ever used as a temple at all. While it is decorated with statues of Roman gods – Venus, Mars, etc. – some scholars believe that it is not a temple in the traditional sense, but more of an Imperial sanctuary.
It is considered that around the time of its original construction there was a “leader cult” starting up surrounding both Julius Caesar and the first Roman emperor, Augustus. It was a display of the emperor’s power and authority rather than a place to worship gods.
Whatever it was, the Pantheon was not to remain a pagan site. On May 13th, 609 AD, under the Byzantine Emperor Phocas (547 – 610 AD), it was given to Pope Boniface IV and consecrated, becoming a Christian church: St Mary and the Martyrs.
It got its name due to the relics of various Christian martyrs that were taken from the catacombs and buried beneath the Pantheon at this time. Because of this, the Pantheon was actually saved from much of the destruction that befell many of the other pagan sites throughout the city – but it wasn’t entirely unscarred.
In 663, Emperor Constantine II (630 – 668 AD) visited Rome and ordered that many ancient buildings be stripped of their metals and marbles. It is said that he stripped the “bronze tiles” from the Pantheon’s roof and shipped them to Constantinople.
Over the centuries, much of the Pantheon’s splendor has been removed – its external marble paneling, for example, as well as marble columns.
By the Renaissance, the Pantheon became the site of a long list of high profile burials including the likes of Raphael and the composer Angelo Corelli. Around this time, the Pantheon was decorated anew with paintings.
It was also an inspiration for many architectural projects at the time, too, with the dome in particular directly inspiring the huge dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Today, the Pantheon is the final resting place of Italian royals (King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I and his wife, queen Margherita), and was supposed to be the final resting place for all the monarchy before it was abolished in 1946.
It may surprise you to learn that the Pantheon is actually still used as a Catholic church; masses are held on Sundays and holy days, and sometimes even weddings take place there.
Nowadays, the Pantheon of Rome is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town and it is not uncommon for it to be used for weddings. It remains one of the best preserved buildings of antiquity. Until the 20th century, this used to be the largest concrete building in the world.
The Pantheon is 43 meters (141 feet) wide and 43 meters (141 feet) high, thus being a perfect sphere resting in a cylinder. Its most attractive part is the Dome, said to have inspired Michelangelo into building the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The only source of natural light in the Pantheon is the oculus, an opening located at the center of the dome that is little over 8 meters in diameter. Needless to say, water flows in when it rains, but the floor, which is entirely built in marble (as this was a ceremonial place) is gently sloped and there are drains that allow the flow of rainwater.
Continue reading to discover how to make the most of your time at the Pantheon, Rome, and whether it is worth getting a Pantheon ticket for an audioguide or a guided tour.
Practical Guide For Visiting The Pantheon
Pantheon opening hours
The Pantheon opening hours are from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every day. Last access is at 6:40 pm.
The site is closed on 1st January, 1st May and 25th December.
Remember that the Pantheon is a functioning church, and visiting the Pantheon is not allowed during functions. Keep this in mind as it may affect your visit.
How to get Pantheon tickets
Visiting the Pantheon used to be free until a few days ago. However, only up to 160 visitors would be allowed inside for every 30 minutes time slot, which meant that a long line would form at the door – though it would move fairly swiftly.
As of 3 July 2023, and as reflected on the official website of the Pantheon, all visitors must get Pantheon tickets before their visit.
Pantheon tickets cost €5 can be purchased online on the website Musei Italiani (you will have to register as a user before purchasing the tickets), or directly at the ticket counter in front of Pantheon. You can pay by cash or credit or debit card.
Alternatively, you can get Pantheon tickets on Tiqets: they include an audioguide too.
How long do you need to visit the Pantheon?
This is totally up to you. Most people take around 20 minutes, with some taking literally just 5 minutes to peep in, quickly look around at the Royal tombs and the Oculus, and then head out to look for a place to eat or drink nearby.
I recommend lingering a bit longer – and in fact audio-guided tours last between 25 and 35 minutes. This really is a unique place! In fact, you may want to get an audioguide or join a guided tour to get a more insightful experience.
Guided tours of the Pantheon
You may want to consider joining a guided tour to make the most of this incredible building. Some of the options available are budget friendly so you won’t break the bank.
This is the official website to get Pantheon Rome audioguides. Audioguides cost €10 and last 25 minute. The official website also sells tours with a live guide.
Fast track Pantheon tickets with audio-guide – this is the most budget friendly option that includes a ticket and an audio-guide.
Pantheon audio guide tour – This audio-guide tour lasts around 35 minutes and you can use smartphone tickets. You need to select the option to include Pantheon tickets included. It is definitely one of the best options around.
Pantheon tour – This excellent guided tour with a live guide lasts 45 minutes. Having a live guide means you can ask lots of questions too!
Rome highlights: fountains and squares walking tour – A 2.5 hour walking tour of Rome that goes to the best squares and most beautiful fountains and includes a visit of the Pantheon. You also get a live guide and it is very budget friendly.
The best time to visit Pantheon
The best time to visit the Pantheon is early in the morning. The site opens at 9:00 am, so head to Piazza della Rotonda at 8:00 am and grab breakfast with a view while you wait for it to open. This way you can be the first to enter and you will have it almost all to yourself.
I actually recommend the nearby Hotel Cesari, where the buffet breakfast starts at 7:00 am and costs €15 for non-guests: it is served on the 6th floor on a gorgeous terrace.
Whenever I walk by any time after 11:00 am, the line to walk in is terribly long. Plan to visit at opening hours and you’ll likely get inside in a breeze!
Lines are at their worst from late morning to early afternoon, but start thinning out towards early evening. If you do arrive and there’s a line, just check out the exterior and come back later – or get there earlier another day.
Or else, plan to have lunch at the nearby Armando al Pantheon (easily the best restaurant in the area), explore the surroundings after lunch (you can easily get to Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain) and come back towards the early evening.
I would also recommend avoiding visiting the Pantheon on the weekend as that’s when it is most crowded.
In terms of the time of year you should visit the Pantheon, I have bad news: Rome is packed with tourists almost throughout the year. If you really want to avoid the largest crowds, plan a winter trip and travel to Rome in January or February.
How to get to the Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon is located in Piazza della Rotonda, a very lively square in the historic center of Rome that is packed with cafés and restaurants. It’s a five minute walk from the bustling Piazza Navona, and 10 minutes on foot from Piazza Venezia, so if you’re in the area it’s an easy stroll.
BY METRO – The nearest metro stations are Spagna and Barberini, both a 15 minutes walk.
BY BUS – To get there by bus, hop on a bus connecting the Vatican to Termini Station (ie buses 40, 60 and 64) and get off at Largo di Torre Argentina, from where it is a 5 minutes walk.
BY HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS – Finally, you can also consider getting the hop on hop off bus, which stops near Piazza Navona, a 4 minutes walk from the Pantheon. You can book your hop on hop off bus here.
Taking Pantheon Rome photos
Photography is allowed at the Pantheon.
What to wear when visiting the Pantheon
The Pantheon is ultimately a church, so you need to be dressed modestly, covering your legs and shoulders when you walk in. If you are wearing a skirt, make sure it covers your knees. You should also cover your shoulders and cleavage, so if you are visiting Rome in the summer and wearing a strappy top, make sure to pack a shawl to cover up before you walk in.
For more information, you may want to read my post The Vatican Dress Code, which will apply to the Pantheon too.
You should also pay respect and keep quiet for the duration of your visit – signs scattered around the site will remind you of that.
Where to stay near the Pantheon
I have written a full post that includes recommendations of places to stay that are near the Pantheon and which have views of the Pantheon. You can read it here.
To really understand how cool the dome and oculus of the Pantheon is, I recommend getting a view from above. The nearest place for this is the rooftop bar/restaurant at Hotel Minerva, where you’ll be able to get a side view of the amazing dome from basically the same level.
What To See When Visiting The Pantheon
The pronaos (portico)
The Roman Pantheon offers up a glimpse into the intricate world of Roman architecture. This starts with the pronaos or portico. This is the entrance to the temple.
Originally the Pantheon would have been located above ground level, and would have been approached via the use of steps. However, over the years different construction projects have meant that the ground around the Pantheon has been raised, with the portico now sitting at ground level.
Prior to it being stripped of its materials, the pediment (the triangular space above the columns) was probably decorated by a gilded bronze relief sculpture. Look closely and you’ll be able to see the holes in the walls where clamps would have held the sculpture in place. One theory is that it was a sculpture of the Imperial eagle set within a wreath.
Elsewhere in the portico, of course you will notice the columns. These gray granite columns were quarried in Egypt in the eastern desert of the country at Mons Claudianus, a quarry used by the Roman Empire.
Each of the columns were dragged over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the quarry on wooden sledges. Each one weighed in at 60 tons and had a length of 11.9 meters (39 feet) and a diameter of 1.5 meters (4.11 feet). They were then floated along the River Nile during spring floods on a barge – an epic journey!
After this they were taken by boat across the Mediterranean to the port of Ostia, where they were conveyed on barges up the River Tiber to their final destination. This was still 700 meters from the Pantheon. The columns were again dragged to the construction site. So when you’re there, consider the crazy journey these columns have made to get here today.
Another thing to admire in the portico are the huge bronze doors. These doors are actually the oldest of their kind in Rome. They were thought to have been a 15th-century replacement, but further analysis has confirmed they are the original 1,900-year-old Roman doors.
Once you enter the Pantheon, you can’t help but looking upwards.
Weighing in at 4,535 tons, the concrete dome of the Pantheon is a testament to Roman engineering. The structure is created using a number of intersecting arches, which in turn sit on eight piers. The arches line up with eight bays around the floor of the Pantheon; these play host to statues. The use of arches helps to hold the weight of the enormous dome up above.
As well as ancient concrete (still not crumbling!), the dome of the Pantheon is made out of travertine at its thickest points, then as it curves upwards the material shifts to terracotta tiles, with tuff (a rock made out of volcanic ash) and pumice at the top.
But the cherry on top in terms of genius engineering is the oculus. This round hole at the top of the dome is not just an atmospheric place for light to spill through; it’s actually situated at the point where the dome would have been most vulnerable to collapse, and therefore lightens the load. It’s one of many pieces of architectural trickery that make the Pantheon so impressive.
Today, the Pantheon still holds the record for the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Inside, the Pantheon is a large room that’s open to the elements – in two parts only. It’s only the door and the oculus that allow natural light in. Throughout the day, as the sun moves across the sky, light changes in this space.
In a kind of reverse sundial, the Pantheon’s interior can mark time with light rather than with shadow.
But the oculus not only offers a striking design detail, it also allows hot air to escape, thereby cooling the space. And during rainstorms, the floor at the base of the oculus is subtly inclined so that water will run off into a drainage system.
There are designs of circles and squares built into the marble floor in a sort of checkerboard pattern. It reflects the squares arranged in concentric circles in the dome, though in an uneven, eye-catching way.
As it is a Catholic church, there are also a number of high altars, apses, and Christian decorations that have been added over the years. There’s a 7th-century Byzantine icon of the Virgin of the Child, given by Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV to celebrate the Pantheon becoming a place of Christian worship.
Artwork and tombs
There are many artistic masterpieces to be found in the Pantheon Rome. In the first chapel on the left (the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Holy Land), there are paintings located by the side of the altar by Francesco Cozza.
There are also a number of 17th-century canvases created by the likes of Giovanni Peruzzini and Francesco Rosa.
Interestingly this particular chapel is also known as the Chapel of the Confraternity of the Virtuosi al Pantheon – a group of artists and musicians formed in the 16th-century to ensure that worship was upheld in the chapel.
Members of this group included Bernini, Algardo and Cortona. The confraternity exists to this day, though under the name The Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts.
There are also a number of tombs at the Pantheon. One of the most iconic is that of Raphael, the Renaissance artist and architect.
If you only have a few days in Rome, you may find some use in my itineraries to help you plan your visit:
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- The Best Day Trips From Rome
For more hacks on Rome attractions, read the following posts:
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines
- How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line
- How To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets And Skip The Line
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines
- A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome