A visit to the Roman Forum is a chance to step back in time and get a feel for the Roman Empire. You can picture shoppers and street sellers going about their business, see where politicians gave lively speeches at the Rostrum, and walk in the footsteps of returning soldiers, along the Via Sacra.
The monuments haven’t always been so visible. After the fall of Rome, the Forum descended into disrepair, and in mediaeval times it was known as the ‘cow meadow’ and was a happy home to Rome’s four-legged inhabitants. Excavation began in 1898, revealing the secrets of ancient Rome for all us to see.
Head to the Curia Julia and Colonna di Foca to see where politicians and senators debated issues of the day. You can also see the remains of the Rostrum, a platform for top speakers of the day, and the spot where Shakespeare had Mark Antony declare “friends, Romans, countrymen…” in his play ‘Julius Cesar’.
The Roman Forum is home to many temples. Some of them are dedicated to ancient gods and goddesses, and others are built by the Romans themselves. Locals believed building their own temple gave them godlike status. One of the most iconic is the Temple of Saturn, dedicated to the god of wealth and home to Rome’s riches. It’s eight surviving columns are one of the most photographed structures in the Forum.
You’ll also find the home of the Vestal Virgins, priestesses who swore a vow of celibacy and dedicated their lives to the keeping flames in the temple of Vesta burning. Vesta was the goddess of home and hearth, and allowing the fire to die was thought to endanger the fortunes of Rome itself.
There are some important tombs here too. Romulus, the founder of Rome, is buried in front of the Curia and his grave is marked by The Lapis Marble. You’ll also find the Temple of Cesar, the place where one of Rome’s most famous citizens was cremated after his assassination.
The Forum is also home to some of Rome’s more grisly history. Severed heads of political opponents were routinely displayed as a warning to adversaries, and it’s the place where Cicero met his fate at the instruction of Mark Antony.
Prepare for your visit
Allow at least half a day to visit the Roman Forum; it covers a large area, so you’ll need comfortable clothes, a good sun hat, and plenty of water. The site’s open from 8. 30am until one hour before sunset, and you can check exact times on the website. It’s busiest between 11am and 2pm, so an early-morning visit means you’ll miss the biggest crowds and the heat of the day.
You can buy a ticket that combines the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The ticket allows one entry into each site over two days. Buy your ticket in advance, so you can choose the time and day you want to visit, and avoid those long queues.
Some tickets include an audio guide, and you can wander the Forum at your own pace while listening to tales of ancient Rome. On the other hand, if time is short, then choose a walking tour. With an expert guide, you’ll be able to cover the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill in around three hours.
There are no food outlets at the Roman Forum, so you may want to factor in time for a bite to eat and to recharge your batteries for the rest of your day. There are plenty of places to eat nearby, from simple pizzerias to fancy rooftop restaurants.
How to get there
The easiest way to reach the site is by Metro. Hop on the blue line and jump off at Colosseo. The nearest entrance to the Forum is along Via dei Fiori, near Piazza Venezia.
If you plan to visit Palatine Hill as well, it’s a good idea to start your visit there. The queue at Palatine Hill is smaller, and the walk up the hill is more gradual. You’re rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the city and the Forum, which is a great way to get a feel for it before you go down to look around the monuments.