The Baths of Caracalla, known as the Thermae Antoninianae in Roman times, are one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal complexes in the world. Visit the impressive remains of the ground floor to get an idea of the vast complex, which housed the most sumptuous baths of its time.
Built in AD 212 during the reign of Emperor Caracalla, the 25-hectare complex included three different baths, two gyms, a swimming pool, and a library. Open to Romans from all social classes, the Terme di Caracalla was more a center for leisure than strictly baths, though the Aqua Marcia aqueduct (the longest in Rome) was specifically built to provide water for the vast bathing areas. The baths were in use until AD 537, when invaders destroyed the aqueducts that supplied water and plundered the sculptures and precious materials decorating the baths; in the year AD 847, an earthquake destroyed part of what remained of the complex.
Like many ancient Roman ruins, the Baths of Caracalla are difficult to interpret to the untrained eye, so it’s worth booking a guide as part of an archaeological tour. Many small-group tours of Rome’s most important ancient sites include skip-the-line entrance to the Baths of Caracalla, along with the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Circus Maximus. You can tour these attractions on foot or join a bike or Segway tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Baths of Caracalla is an outdoor archaeological site, so wear a hat, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes when visiting.
Tours of the baths are especially fascinating for Roman history enthusiasts.
The site is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
There are restrooms and a bookshop at the site.
How to Get There
The Baths of Caracalla archaeological site is located in south-eastern Rome, within walking distance from the Circo Massimo metro station that connects with the main Termini train station.
When to Get There
The archaeological site is largely open-air, so visit when the weather is clear and not too hot. In summer, arrive first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the midday sun.
The Politics of the Baths
The Baths of Caracalla was constructed by the notoriously spiteful Emperor Caracalla as part of a political propaganda campaign. Because the extravagant complex was open to all Roman citizens and completely free of charge, it eventually helped improve the emperor’s popularity among the public.