Rome’s Circus Maximus—a massive arena for chariot races, games, religious ceremonies, and civic events—was the largest stadium in the Roman Empire. A major restoration in 2016 yielded a spruced-up archaeological site comprising arched walkways, ancient shops, a newly excavated cobbled road, and the Circus track’s oblong outline and starting gates.
Measuring more than 2,000 feet (610 meters) long and 387 feet (188 meters) wide, and capable of holding an audience of 150,000, the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo) was built on the plain between Aventine Hill and Palatine Hill in the sixth century BC. Five centuries later, Julius Caesar gave the venue its distinctive shape—especially suited to chariot racing. The stadium was enlarged repeatedly over the next several centuries, and Emperor Trajan completely rebuilt it in the early second century. Its last recorded use dates from the sixth century, after which the site fell into disuse and became a public park.
Today, as one of the most important sites dating from imperial Rome in Italy’s capital, the Circus Maximus is best visited as part of an Ancient Rome guided tour, which also includes skip-the-line access to the underground chambers and arena inside the Colosseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum. You can combine private Circus Maximus visits with an Aventine Keyhole tour, for the iconic view of St. Peter’s Basilica through the famous garden door.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Circus Maximus is a must-see for ancient history and architecture buffs, and all first-time visitors to Rome. Older children especially enjoy visiting this huge Roman circus and imagining it filled with thousands of cheering Roman spectators.
- Circus Maximus and combo tours are mostly outdoors, so be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. A hat and sunblock are particularly important in summer.
- The Circus Maximus is accessible to wheelchair users except for the Torre della Moletta (a watchtower located on the site dating from the Middle Ages) and the highest perimeter terrace.
How to Get There
The Circus Maximus is located between Via dei Cerchi and Via del Circo Massimo in central Rome. Take the metro’s Line B to Circo Massimo station, located directly in front of the archaeological site.
When to Get There
The Circus Maximus is open from Tuesday to Friday for guided tours, and on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm to the general public. As it’s an outdoor archaeological site, try to visit on clear days when the temperature is mild.
The Egyptian Flaminio Obelisk
The towering Flaminio Obelisk (Obelisco Flaminio) in the center of Rome’s Piazza del Popolo was built in Egypt in the 13th century BC. Emperor Augustus had it brought to Rome in 10 AD and placed as part of the central barrier in the Circus Maximus. Pope Sixtus V moved it to its current location in 1587.