Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour

Walking through the heart of Ancient Rome with a view of the Roman Forum and the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Walking through the heart of Ancient Rome with a view of the Roman Forum and the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

By Vicky · Published Mar. 18th, 2024 · Updated Mar. 27th, 2024

This self-guided walking tour of Rome’s Ancient Centre heads from the Colosseum through the Roman Forum, up to Capitoline Hill and back.


This walking tour starts from a bus stop by the Colosseum. It’s 5 minutes on the bus from the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, or easily accessible on the bus from elsewhere in Rome. Alternatively, there’s also a metro station called Colosseo at the same place.

Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour Map

Tips for Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour

Top Things to See in Rome’s Ancient Centre

On this self-guided tour of Rome’s Ancient Centre, you’ll visit the main Roman ruins in the city centre plus the Capitoline Hill & the grandiose Monument to Victor Emmanual II. If you prefer a guided tour of the ruins, this guided tour in English* is a great choice.

  1. Colosseum
  2. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
  3. Capitoline Hill
  1. Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
  2. Trajan’s Forum
  3. Forums of Augustus & Julius Caesar

Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour Route

This walking tour starts from the Colosseum. Before heading inside, head up the hill to the north of the monument for some great views. At the top of the steps there’s a nice area to take photos. If you head up the street a bit further, you can walk into the little Giardinetto del Monte Oppio which has more great Colosseum views. The view from here is slightly better in the afternoon, so you can also visit after your walking tour through Ancient Rome. For more iconic views, check our article Best Viewpoints of the Colosseum.

A closeup view of the Colosseum on a walking tour of Ancient Rome

Return down the street a little, then take a left and left through the gate into the larger park. Walk along this track to the corner and you’ll find even better views of the Colosseum, especially in the morning as the sun rises. After admiring the scene, head back down and walk around the outside of the Colosseum to the queue at the front (west) end. If you haven’t bought tickets in advance (highly recommended), then you’ll need to head to the ticket office first.

1. Colosseum

Key Information: The Colosseum is open daily from 8:30am until between 4:30pm and 7:15pm depending on the season. All tickets to the Colosseum also include entry to the Forum & Palatine (stop 2 on this walking tour). When you book tickets, you must reserve a time for the Colosseum. However, you can enter the Palatine and Forum at any time with the validity time (24 or 48 hr) of your ticket.

Summary of Ticket Options for the Colosseum, Forum & Palatine Hill
Summary of Ticket Options for the Colosseum, Forum & Palatine Hill

There are several different ticket options for the Colosseum. If you’re pressed for time, the best is the Standard €18 ticket. However, for the best overall experience, one of the Full Experience tickets is definitely worth it. These allow you to walk on the Arena Floor in the Colosseum and access the SUPER sites (extra areas within the overall complex) in the Palatine & Forum area. Another great advantage is that they’re valid for 48 hours, meaning you can visit the Colosseum first thing one morning, and then visit the Forum & Palatine the next.

When your time is called you can join the queue to enter the building. Keep your ticket out as it will be checked many times (at least 4 times) on the way in. You also need some ID e.g. a passport or driving license. There’s a quick bag check, so obviously don’t bring anything dangerous.

Viewpoint inside the Colosseum in the sunshine on a walking tour of Ancient Rome

Inside the Colosseum

Once you get inside, you’ll be in one of the corridors on the outer edge. Almost immediately there’s a good viewpoint of the inside, though it can be quite crowded. A short distance later is the entrance to the arena floor. You can only enter here with a special ticket, so it’s much less crowded inside.

On the upper levels, there’s an exhibition about the construction and history of the Colosseum and other iconic monuments in Rome. There are also several more great viewpoints of both inside the arena and outside towards the Roman Forum. When you’re ready, head back out and to the Arch near the front of the Colosseum.

Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch dedicated to, as the name suggests, Emperor Constantine. It celebrates his victory over the previous emperor and his rival, Maxentius, whom he defeated in a great battle in 312 AD. This battle is depicted low down on the arch, with other sciences showing religious ceremonies and triumphal processions.

Now, head into the Forum. The entrance opposite the Colosseum is the busiest one. Unless you’re here early (recommended), it’s probably worth it to walk 5 minutes along the Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Victor Emmanuel II Monument to find the less crowded side entrance on the Forum’s north side.

2. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Roman Forum & Palatine Hill Viewpoint

Key Information: The Forum and Palatine are open from 9am and close at the same time as the Colosseum. The SUPER sites open at 9:30am and close slightly earlier than the rest. There is NO FOOD inside, so stock up beforehand as you’ll be inside for at least a few hours. Visiting first thing in the morning is the best time, since the entry queue is shorter, there are fewer people inside, and you’ll enjoy the cooler hours of the morning.

The Roman Forum & Palatine Hill cover the remains of the heart of Ancient Rome. This is where most of the important public buildings, temples and palaces during the Roman Kingdom and later Roman Empire. There’s lots to see here, so read our guide to the Top Things to See in the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill for an overview of what not to miss.

The quickest way to reach the Capitoline Hill, the next stop on this walking tour of Ancient Rome, is to leave the Forum at the far end. There are some steps upwards by the Arch of Septimus Severus where you can exit (but you can’t enter here).

3. Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill, a stop on a self-guided walking tour of Ancient Rome

The Capitoline Hill was the smallest, yet most important hill of Ancient Rome. Several major temples dotted the hill but were later destroyed. The current looks come from the Renaissance when Michelangelo designed the Capitoline Square (Piazza del Campidoglio). Today there are several things to see on this hill.

At the top of the steps leading out of the Forum, you get a great close-up view of the Arch of Septimus Severus and you can clearly see all the carvings in detail. Opposite this is the entrance to the Mamertine Prison. Further up the stairs is a great viewpoint of the Forum and Capitoline Square itself, and there’s another viewpoint of the Forum on the other side of the square.

Viewpoint of the Forum from Capitoline Hill on a walking tour of Ancient Rome

Mamertine Prison

Key Information: Open daily 9am-5pm, tickets cost €10, get tickets in advance here*.

The Mamertine Prison is one of the oldest prisons in the world. Today from the outside, it looks like a normal church. This church, from the 17th century, was actually built over an 11th-century church, which itself was built over the prison. The Romane held several prominent figures here, such as Saint Peter and Saint Paul, though the original prison dates from much earlier in the 7th century BC.

Capitoline Museums

A replica of the Capitoline Wolf (feeding Romulus and Remus).

Key Information: Open every day 9:30am to 7:30pm. Tickets cost €13.

The Capitoline Museums are a group of art and archaeological museums, with the first museum dating all the way back to 1471. The collections include a wide range of artefacts, sculptures, paintings, and archaeological finds, mostly from ancient Rome. Some of the highlights include the famous bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, the Capitoline Wolf, and the colossal statue of Constantine. You can see a replica of the Capitoline Wolf (feeding Romulus and Remus) outside.

Basilica di Santa Maria

Key Information: Open daily 7:30am-7pm. Free entry.

The Basilica di Santa Maria was constructed in the 12th century over an ancient Roman temple. It’s famous for its frescoes and intricate marble sculptures. To get to the church, head around the corner and up the steps, before returning the same way or out of the main entrance.

4. Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, a grandiose white building with Columns in the centre of Rome

Key Information: Open daily 7:30am-7pm. Free entry to the terrace, €12 for the lift to the very top.

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, also known as the Altar of the Fatherland, is dedicated to the first king of a unified Italy and to the Italian unification movement (the Risorgimento). Although it looks like you can reach the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II from Capitoline Square, you can’t. Instead, you have to go all the way down and then back up again on the large staircase next door.

View from the terrace near the top of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II on a self-guided walking tour of Ancient Rome

It’s free to walk up the steps to the terrace fairly near the top. There are great views from here of central Rome plus over the other side to the Colosseum. You can walk all the way around the terrace, and there’s a cafe on the far side. Here you’ll also find the lift to the top, which sometimes has a queue. Tickets for this cost €12 and include the Museum of Palazzo Venezia (housing various artworks and trinkets) and the Museum of the Risorgimento (about Italy’s unification).

5. Trajan’s Forum

Trajan’s Forum is one of the most famous and well-preserved Imperial Forums. Built by Emperor Trajan around 110 AD, it was a monumental complex intended to serve as a centre for politics, commerce, and administration in ancient Rome. Trajan’s Column, a monumental 30-metre tall column, is particularly worth checking out. Around the outside, spiraling reliefs depict scenes from Trajan’s military campaigns against the Dacians (in modern-day Romania).

Trajan's Column

You can see a lot of Trajan’s Forum from the outside by walking along the main road and walkways. However, you have to pay to visit the museum inside the Market, and there’s another cool museum in the Palazzo Valentini just behind the Column.

Trajan’s Markets Imperial Forum Museum

Key Information: Open every day 9:30-19:30, tickets cost €14.50.

Trajan’s Market is a large complex of ancient Roman ruins that used to be a multi-story market and administrative centre. It’s one of the earliest examples of a shopping mall in the world and features semi-circular halls and tabernae (shops) arranged around a central courtyard.

Trajan's Markets Imperial Forum Museum, a stop on a walking tour of Ancient Rome, Italy

Today, the museum inside showcases artefacts, sculptures, and architectural fragments from the nearby Imperial Forum of ancient Rome. Other exhibits cover the lives of ancient Romans and the achievements of the Roman Empire. It’s quite a large place so you could spend several hours here.

Palazzo Valentini

Key Information: Open Wed-Mon 10am-7pm, tickets cost €12.

Palazzo Valentini has a cool underground archaeological area, which includes well-preserved ancient Roman ruins. During excavations, archaeologists discovered a section of an ancient Roman villa, including a complex of rooms with mosaic floors, beneath the palace. Today you can visit ‘The Domus Romane of Palazzo Valentini’, where virtual reconstructions, projections and audio recreate the ancient Roman villa and really bring its history to life.

6. Forums of Augustus & Julius Caesar

Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus Caesar

The Forums of Augustus & Julius Caesar can be best seen from either side of the Via dei Fori Imperiali. The Forum of Augustus is next to Trajan’s Forum, while that of Julius Caesar is on the opposite side of the road. Both Forums were built as the political and administrative centre of the Empire.

In the Forum of Julius Caesar, the most important building was the Temple of Venus, which housed a statue of Caesar’s legendary ancestor, Aeneas. The idea was to emphasize this connection and therefore his legitimacy to the throne. In the Forum of Augustus the Temple of Mars Ultor was the principal building and depicted scenes from the Emperor’s military victories.

This is the end of the Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour. For more info, check out our guides to the Top Things to see in the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, or Best Viewpoints of the Colosseum.

Best Guidebooks for Exploring Rome

Lonely Planet Rome*

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Rome*

Lonely Planet Italy*

Check out Trastevere or the Lateran & Aventine to explore other districts of Rome. For some great walks slightly further from the centre, walk along Via Appia Antica, check out Ostia Antica, discover the Park of the Aqueducts, or for more walking tours and hikes see our Italy page.

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