The Baths of Diocletian—the largest public baths in Imperial Rome—once covered 32 acres (13 hectares). Though much of the original complex was destroyed or integrated into later churches and palaces, what remains still offers a sense of the vast structure, which hosted up to 3,000 bathers in its heyday. The Basics
A visit today includes a portion of the original baths—its high ceilings, a funerary sculpture, and two second-century tombs. You can also walk its 16th century garden, dotted with art. The original complex, built from 298 to 306 AD, encompassed a gymnasium, library, stadium, gardens, galleries, and walking paths. Much of it was converted into other buildings, notably Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, Church of San Bernardo alle Terme, and National Roman Museum.
Like many ancient Roman ruins, the Baths of Diocletian are difficult to interpret without the help of a guide as part of an archaeological tour. Many private tours of Rome’s most important ancient sites include a visit to the Baths of Diocletian and the adjacent National Roman Museum, along with skip-the-line access to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable shoes when visiting the Baths of Diocletian and National Roman Museum to allow for lots of walking.
- Tours of the baths are especially fascinating for Roman history enthusiasts.
- If you plan on visiting the Church of St. Mary of the Angels and San Bernardo alle Terme during your tour, wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- The site is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
- There are restrooms and a bookshop at the National Roman Museum, adjoining the baths.
How to Get There
The Baths of Diocletian are across from the main Termini train station in central Rome and can be reached on foot by crossing Piazza dei Cinquecento. Both of the city's metro lines and numerous bus lines stop at Termini.
When to Get There
The baths and museum are open Tuesday through Sunday. Tour midday when most visitors are taking break for lunch to enjoy the ruins and museum collection with fewer crowds.
The Importance of the Baths in Ancient Rome
Bathing was an important cultural ritual in Roman society, and a visit to the baths was not just a form of relaxation for ancient Romans, but a social and even political act where business and policy meetings often took place. Rooms ranged from cold to warm to hot water, with saunas, swimming pools, and spas in addition to libraries, performance spaces, and gardens.