At its height, the Roman Empire covered 2.5 million square miles (6.5 million square kilometers), but at the very center of the sprawling Empire was the Roman Forum, now a crumbling monument to the power once wielded by ancient emperors and their vast armies.
Though the Roman Forum site itself is reasonably small, it is easy to pass by a gem without realizing. The lack of information about the structures you’ll see is far from ideal, but you can pick up an audio guide for a small fee from a booth by the Arch of Titus, near to the Colosseum.
Points of interest around the forum include the front pillars of the Temple of Saturn (located at the northwest tip of the site), the oldest-surviving ruins in the complex, and the grand marble Arch of Septimius Severus, built in 203 to celebrate the emperor’s victories against the Parthians. Other popular highlights include the Arch of Titus (1st century), the Temple of Vesta and the Church of Santi Luca e Martina (both 7th century). However, with hundreds of monuments dotted around the site there are also lesser-known highlights to seek out, like the colored-marble mosaic floors inside the Curia Julia, the building in which the senate used to debate.
The best way to visit the forum is in conjunction with a visit to the Colosseum, as the ticket fee allows entrance to both attractions (as well as Palatine Hill). This ticket is valid for two days, so you can take your time to explore the site thoroughly. Bear in mind, however, the forum is only open until 6 p.m. most days during summer and until 1 p.m. on Sundays. There is little shade on the site, so sunscreen and water are essential.
Whenever you go, prepare to be amazed. It may be crumbling, but the moment you start to stroll the Via dei Fori Imperiali, you’ll see the Roman Forum remains as impressive as ever.
The main entrance is on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, but there’s another at Via San Gregorio 30.
The forum is in central Rome. Bus stops and the Metro train station Colosseo are all nearby.