Circus Maximus in Rome Jeremy Vandel

The Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus is one of the most astonishing and fascinating landmarks in the history of Ancient Rome. Considered to be the largest sports stadium built by man, this archaeological area was the site of legendary entertainment activities for nearly a thousand years.

Built in the Murcia Valley, between the Palatine Hill and the Aventine Hill in Rome, the Circus Maximus is 600 meters long and 140 meters wide. With a capacity of about 300 thousand people—six times more than the Colosseum—it could host a quarter of the Roman population at the time. Just to give you an idea of the dimensions, the biggest football stadium in the world, Rungrado May Day Stadium in North Korea, has a seating capacity of 114 thousand.

Once a year, the Circus Maximus became the venue for an important and popular celebration—the Ludi Romani (Roman Games). The festival was held from September 12-14 (later extended to September 5-19) to honor the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. The games were organized by the curule aediles (formal magistrates) and included horse-drawn chariot races, gladiator fights, theatrical performances, foot races, animal fights, and more.

Today, the famous racing tracks are covered in grass, and there’s little else left to see. After archaeological investigations, it became a public park in 2016—a great spot to take a break from sightseeing the area around it. Besides, the site is used for concerts and events these days.

History of the Circus Maximus

Along with amphitheaters, Roman circuses were the main centers of entertainment. However, the Circus Maximus was the biggest public space of all in Rome and was a huge achievement for architecture at the time.

Monarchical period (753 to 509 BC)

The place where the Circus Maximus was built, was initially a large, flat area formerly known as Vallis Murcia. On the one hand, the valley used to drain rainwater towards the Tiber River. On the other hand, from the time of the city’s foundation, it was the perfect place for people to come together, conduct market activities, and socialize with other communities.

In the 6th century BC, the fifth king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus, ordered the construction of a horse race track. This was the first part of the Circus Maximus; there were no grandstands or carceres (explained below) at that time. The stream that flowed through the valley, was channeled and bridged.

Republican period (509 - 27 BC)

In 329 BC the carceres were built. The literal translation of the word carceres is dungeon or prison, but here it refers to the horses’ stables and the starting points for the race. Athletes entered the stadium through the Pompae gate and the Romans sat on the hills surrounding the circus to watch the spectacles. The grandstands were built later.

Starting from 46 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar had the first masonry seats constructed in the circus and gave the building its final shape.

He also ordered the digging of a canal that served to drain water into the river that ran along the outer side of the circus. Furthermore, it had the function of protecting the spectators from the wild animals involved in the games.

A fire in 31 BC (the first of three) destroyed a big part of the first wooden structure. Emperor Augustus had it rebuilt, added a pulvinar (imperial box), and placed new decorations on the spina (separation wall).

The cavea, the space intended for spectators, was divided into three levels. These were horizontally separated by corridors and vertically divided by stairs. The lower part that was nearest to the track was occupied by the senators. The part above it was reserved for the horsemen and the rest for the remaining audience.

Imperial period (27 BC - 476 AD)

A second fire in 64 AD lasted six days and destroyed a large part of the city and the Circus Maximus, which was then rebuilt by Nero.

Also the emperor Titus made changes to the Circus Maximus. In 81 AD, two years after his death, Domitian ordered to build the Arch of Titus in his honor. Back then it was added to the stadium but today it’s not there anymore to be admired. By the way, this arch shouldn’t be confused with the arch of the Roman Forum.

Trajan also influenced the refinement and enlargement of the stadium. After a major fire in 103 AD he decided to rebuild the circus but this time he replaced wood with stone. Most of what remains of the circus today dates back from this time. Other emperors who made changes to the circus or ordered restorations include Domitian, Antoninus Pius, Caracalla, and Constantine I (also known as Constantine the Great).

Medieval era (476 - 1492)

At this point, the dimensions of the circus were remarkable, as mentioned in the introduction. The external facade had three tiers: the lower one was twice as high as the other two and had arches. The cavea rested on masonry structures, which housed the passages and stairs to reach the different seating sections, the internal service areas, and the exterior elongated tabernae (shops).

After the Circus Maximus fell into disrepair during the Middle Ages, the area was used for vineyards and vegetable gardens. At that time, the district was owned by the noble Frangipane family who had large numbers of simple huts built there.

From 1145, the family also owned the Torre della Moletta on the south side of the circus. It was called like this because it used to stand next to a mill. However, people also used to call it the Torris in Capite Circi, Turris de Arco, or Torre dei Frangipane.

Today the tower looks a bit abandoned, but in the Middle Ages, it was part of the Frangipani’s defense line near the Palatine, of which there are no remains.

The last game in the Circus Maximus was organized by Totila in 549 AD, almost a thousand years after the stadium was first used. At this time there was no longer an institution that organized races, games or other entertainment in the stadium. Besides, the Christian culture considered the bloody exhibitions unethical.

Renaissance (1492 - 1789)

During the Renaissance, the Circus Maximus became the headquarters of stores, workshops, handicraft businesses, and homes. In 1587 (at the request of Sixtus V), the two large Egyptian obelisks that originally stood on the spina were brought to light at Piazza del Popolo and Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano.

There are also traces of the Jewish community of Rome at that time. In 1645, a Hebrew cemetery was established on the slopes of the Aventine hill, some cypress trees of which still indicate the ancient location.

In this historical period, circus shows took on a distinct character compared to the one developed at the time of Ancient Rome, also due to the Catholic persecutions mentioned before. These were milder performances, with jugglers, acrobats, puppets, and trained animals; which took place in different buildings. These shows were very far from the bloody and vicious contests of the Circus Maximus.

According to written sources from that time, a company of stonemasons was allowed to demolish buildings and appropriate materials in broad daylight, under the supervision of the authorities. For the creation of St. Peter’s Basilica, for example, materials (including travertine) from the Colosseum, the Fornix of Lentulus, the Circus Maximus, and a hundred other monuments were used.

Contemporary age (1789 - present)

Nowadays, the ancient layout of the circus is recognizable due to the persistence of the structure of some artisan stores (a blacksmith, a curtain workshop, and a tavern) at the end of Via dei Cerchi, under the Palatine Hill. The liberation work took place between 1911 and the following years.

In the 1930s, extensive excavations brought to light a large part of the hemicycle and the remains of the Arch of Titus. Later, the area was ceded to the Fascist Party, which, because of its great symbolic value, used it for events such as the National Textile Exhibition of 1937-1940.

In the post-war period, it returned to being green space, in which the ancient structures were substantially abandoned.

Subsequent interventions have given the monument a new identity, redefining the area of the hemicycle by restoring the structures, curbing the site, and constructing new visitor paths with associated lighting systems.

Recently completed archaeological research in 2016, has enriched the framework of knowledge about the monument. Today, numerous events are held every year in the ancient Roman circus.

Among the many artists that have performed here are the Rolling Stones (71.527 people audience), Bruce Springsteen (100.000 people audience), and Genesis (500.000 people audience). The circus has also hosted celebrations, such as Italy’s victory at the 2006 World Cup and the Golden Jubilee of Pope Francis.

Monuments and majestic works of the Circus Maximus

The circus is full of architectural creations and structures from different periods of Roman history. Some of the most relevant have been mentioned in the historical section of this article and will be explained in more detail below.

The various religious and symbolic monuments are linked to the circus’s origins and the ancient events that took place in the Murcia valley. Think of ceremonies and celebrations related to the main phases of the agricultural cycles.

The Spina

The racecourse was divided into two parts by a 217-meter long elevation, the spina (Latin for spine). A stream originally flowed through the valley at this spot but was canalized and partially covered to keep flowing under the spina.

At the ends of the spina stood the metae (turning posts) around which the wagons had to race. At one end of the spina, there were seven bronze eggs and seven dolphins to count down the rounds of races (these were added between the II and the I century BC) Additionally, it was decorated with sanctuaries such as the Ara Consi (an altar dedicated to the god of agriculture), the ancient altar of Murcia (the goddess of the Valley) and two red granite Egyptian obelisks (placed by Augustus in 10 BC and 357 AD by Constantius II).

The Hemicycle

The eastern hemicycle of the Circus Maximus is a section that’s documented on the Forma Urbis (an ancient marble map of Rome) and partially preserved until the last century thanks to the continuous use of some of its structures.

The now visible external spaces are arranged according to the paths. Some are provided with a staircase to the upper floors, others with a direct passage from the first floor to the ima cavea (lowest part of the tribune). Finally, there are the tabernae (stores) that are open to the street side and separated by walls and elevated wooden floors.

It’s precisely this part of the circus that made the Great Fire on the night of July 18, 64 AD spread so quickly. Because of the stores full of flammable goods, and the flames that were fed by the wind, it ended up destroying a huge part of the city.

Moletta Tower

At the southern end of the Circus Maximus, there was a medieval tower, also known as the Arch Tower (Turris de Arco). Given its location near the triumphal monument with three arches, erected in honor of Emperor Titus at the entrance to the Hippodrome. However, it was also called the Moletta Tower (Torre della Moletta), due to the presence of a mill that was associated with it from the thirteenth century until the 1930s.

The third name that was used for the tower is Torre Frangipane, after the name of the noble Roman family that, already established on the Palatine hill and in the area of Velabro, in the mid-12th century wanted to extend its properties towards the circus. According to the first known document about the tower (from March 18, 1145), it seems that the abbot of the nearby monastery of San Gregorio gifted the structure to Cencio Frangipane. However, this wasn’t the only tower that the family owned, so don’t confuse it with, for example, the Torre di Scimmia (Monkey Tower) near Piazza Navona.

The square-shaped tower consists of blocks of peat alternated with bricks and marble, as the materials changed a lot during the different periods. Around the mid-nineteenth century, with the thorough change of the site, the Moletta Tower appeared to have been incorporated into various buildings. Today, the tower is one of the best-preserved structures of the Circus Maximus.

The Mill

In the thirteenth century, the presence of a mill at the foot of the tower was documented. In 1217 it belonged to Jacopa de Normanni de Settesoli, wife of Graziano Frangipane de Settesoli. She’s still famous for having received St. Francis of Assisi in her palace. It seems that after the death of her husband, the lady claimed ownership of the circus complex, including the mill.

Over the centuries, engravings, drawings, and paintings showed a water passage at the Tower. It was incorporated into all kinds of buildings. This can be seen, for example, on Mario Cartaro’s 1576 map of Rome, G.B. Falda’s 1676 map of the capital, and finally G.B. Nolli’s 1748 map.

Arch of Titus

According to ancient sources, there was already an arch in the Circus Maximus in the Republican age, built by Lucius Stertius in 196 BC. And another arch was destroyed in 68 AD by Nero and lastly, the Arch of Titus was built two years after his death (in 81 AD) by Domitian. Not to be confused with the main Arch of Titus on the Via Sacra.

The arch was located along the route for triumphal processions organized by the victorious generals and emperors upon their return from a battle. The procession began in the Campus Martius, parading towards the Circus Maximus, passing under the arch, and headed to the temple of Capitoline Jupiter on the Capitol. The Arch of Titus is depicted on reliefs, mosaics, and various coins.

Built from Luna marble, it was decorated on the fronts by four columns of about 10 meters high and supported by four pillars. The Corinthian capitals were about 1.15 meters high and the front of the arch was adorned with figurative reliefs.

Through the centuries, different parts of the work were demolished or reused for other constructions. At first, it happened in the upper part of the arch and then in the columns. Ancient pieces of the arch were found in the archaeological investigations of the years 2014 and 2015.

Aqua Crabra

During the 12th century, during the pontificate of Callixtus II, the city was provided with a new aqueduct, called the Crabra (also known as Aqua Mariana or Aqua Maranna del Maria). It was Rome’s first true medieval aqueduct, so well known that later the term “marrana” colloquially referred to all the irrigation canals of the Roman countryside.

The watercourse continued along the Aurelian walls, reached the Circus Maximus passing through the central arch of the Arch of Titus, on the same route of more ancient post-Roman aqueducts, and crossed all the Murcia valley, to flow into the Tiber next to the Cloaca Massima (large sewer).

The water was partly transported to the valley and managed through a system of locks and cisterns that were spread across the circus. This way, it became possible to irrigate the gardens, which now occupy a large part of the Roman circuit.

This water system and its use have marked the valley for centuries: factories and workshops were built until it became an industrial area. After 1909, the aqueduct was used for irrigation purposes, until the final covering and deviation of its urban route.

Although the Circus Maximus is nowadays a public park with some ruins, the underground section seems to be completely intact. However, the archaeological excavations are blocked by the embankment of the river’s water. Perhaps, one day, it’ll be possible to admire the remains of the majestic work in its integrity.

Elements with a symbolic meaning

Several parts of the circus had symbolic meanings: the 12 doors of the carceres were linked to the signs of the zodiac and the months of the year; the four colors of the teams represented the seasons; the metae represented the borders of the East and the West; the seven laps of the race symbolized the planets and the days of the week; and one of the two great Egyptian obelisks (the one that Augustus placed) was dedicated to the sun. There was also a temple built into the seating area on the south side of the Circus Maximus which was dedicated to the sun and the moon.

Curiosities about the Circus Maximus

Chariot races were the most popular spectator sport of Ancient Rome, even more beloved than gladiator fights. It was a traditional and accessible form of public entertainment, celebrated on each of the over 100 holidays per year.

The chariot races

The spectacle began with a procession of trumpeters, followed by the magistrate, the charioteers, and priests. They paraded along the track, going around the spina and ending in front of the pulvinar (imperial tribune). The start of the competition itself was marked by the magistrate, who threw a white handkerchief from the platform above the carceres.

The greatest difficulty in the race occurred at the moment of making turns around the spina at high speed. This is also why the races were dangerous, and sometimes deadly, for both the charioteers and horses. There was a huge risk that the chariots would overturn. For this reason, the left horse was usually the strongest and most competent.

The spectators attended the competitions with great enthusiasm and participation, which sometimes resulted in conflicts between the various teams. These clashes also ended up being politically exploited. The races ended up going beyond the meaning of mere sporting competitions and expanded their sphere of influence to the whole society.

The charioteers

The winner of a race was assured of a bright future, regardless of his social class. The crowd placed huge bets on the games and in addition to crowns and palm branches, even cash prizes were received by the victorious charioteers. They had the chance to become loved by the spectators, similar to modern sports champions. Moreover, those who won more than a thousand races were given a special name: miliarius.

One of the best *aurighi (*charioteers) in Roman history, with over 2000 victories, was Flavius Scorpus. He was a slave, as were many charioteers, and was able to become a libertus (freed slave) by buying his freedom from his prize money.

The charioteers wore leather helmets and jerkins in the colors of their fraction (white, green, red, or blue). The chariots were also color-coded and could be pulled by 4, 6, 8, or 12 horses. They had to circle the spina seven times, a total distance of approximately 11km.

The reins were tied around the chest of the charioteers so they could use their weight to steer the chariot. They also carried a dagger with them, at all times, to cut the reins in case of an accident. However, it often happened that a charioteer couldn’t cut the reins loose in time and was dragged across the racetrack by the horses—at a furious speed.

The racehorses

The horses were loved by the people. Their names were known to the public and written on mosaics, walls, cups, bronze plates, etc. Phrases such as “Vincas non vincas, te amamus Polidoxe” meaning “Whether you win or lose, we love you Polidosso” were carved into a mosaic floor in the baths of Pompeian in Numidia.

The horses wore harnesses decorated with sparkling studs and their tails were tied in a tight knot (to avoid entanglement with the reins). They were imported from farms in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, and North Africa and were rigorously trained for at least two years before they were allowed to participate in a race.

Most supporters knew the exact age of their favorite horses, where they came from, how many times they had won, and with which other horses and which charioteer they formed a team.

Here’s another example of the special treatment that the animals received. Volucer, a horse of Lucius Verus, was fed with raisins and walnuts instead of barley and used to wear a purple caparison on his back. When he died, his master had a special tomb built for him. Besides, winning horses were rewarded with laurel wreaths, palm branches, and bushels full of gold coins.

Other animals

Besides the horses, there were also other animals to be admired in the Circus Maximus. In 186 BC, Marcus Fulvius Nobiliore introduced lions and leopards to the public, after returning victoriously from Greece.

From that moment, exotic animals—that were never seen before—became an essential element of public entertainment. There were various ways in which they were exhibited. From bloody fights between them (or against gladiators) to shows where they were simply put on display in large cages.

As much as many animals were praised, this also had a downside. The violent and raw aspect of entertainment led to the death of a large number of beasts. The total number of animals killed during races and games was innumerable. Only the inauguration of the Circus Maximus and that of Pompey’s theater cost the lives of more than a thousand creatures.

Ludus Troianus

Aside from chariot races, the Circus Maximus was also used for other types of mass entertainment. The Ludus Troianus, for example, were equestrian parades that simulated battles, presented by young Roman aristocrats.

The term Ludus Troianus is derived from the word “truia” which means dance or round. According to some sources, this word is also connected to the verb ”amptruare”, which indicated the evolution of the sacred war dance of the Salii priests.

A Ludus Troiae was organized at the time that Sulla resigned, and another one while Caesar was in power. However, the most famous ones were organized by Augustus.


The arena of the Circus Maximus was flooded with the waters of the Tiber and naval battles were recreated (navalia proelia) in which two opposing teams—composed of gladiators or prisoners of war, sentenced to death—faced each other and recalled unforgettable naval battles.

Finally, one could also watch representations of field battles (also performed by young Roman aristocrats), foot races that lasted several hours, or gladiator fights. Again, all contests were stimulated by betting and enthusiastic cheering.

The Kidnapping of the Sabine Women

One of the most famous mythical stories from the early days of Rome is the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women (also known as the Rape of the Sabine Women or the Abduction of the Sabine Women). This is the myth in a nutshell.

Young Rome had a big problem. Romulus had welcomed anyone into the city who wanted to live a different life. Resulting in a large number of new residents, mainly (male) foreigners, fugitive slaves, and exiles. Therefore, after only one generation, the city was struggling with a shortage of women.

This is how the Roman historian Titus Livius (ca. 59 BC - 17 AD) described the situation:

“Due to lack of women, Rome’s greatness would last only one generation. There was no prospect of offspring at home and no marital alliance with the neighbors. On the advice of the Senate, Romulus sent envoys to the neighboring tribes, to request collaboration including marriage rights for the new people."

The attempt to get more women to the city failed, so the Romans decided to change course. During the Consualia, a festival that took place in the Circus Maximus, the city expected many visitors from the surrounding area. The Sabines also visited the feast with many of their women and families. At a certain point during the celebration, the Roman men rushed through the crowd looking for the most beautiful women (possible virgins) to kidnap.

The Sabines were furious and swore revenge but had to wait for a more suitable opportunity. It’s said that a total of 683 women had been taken. After the incident, Romulus asked the women to moderate their anger and give their hearts to the Roman men. He assured them that they would be treated well and that their new husbands would do their best to win their love.

A year later, the Sabines were ready to fight the Romans and take back their women. In the meantime, they had remarried to the Romans, re-found happiness, and in some cases even had children from their new husbands.

However, when they showed up in Rome, the Sabine women unexpectedly intervened. With this gesture, both sides stopped fighting and decided to collaborate—stipulating a peace treaty, on the road that for this reason would be called Via Sacra (Sacred Street).

The numerous fires

As mentioned in the historical section of this article, the Circus Maximus (and its surrounding area) was destroyed several times by major fires. There were three fires in particular: the first in 31 BC (during the reign of Augustus), the second which was many times more damaging in 64 AD (during the reign of Nero), and the third in 103 AD (during the reign of Trajan).

The damage was severe in all cases. The first fire destroyed the wooden structure of the circus but was rebuilt by Emperor Augustus. The second, better known as the Great Fire of Rome, lasted six entire days. Both the circus and most of the houses were made of wood and the streets were very narrow. This caused the fire to spread quickly through the city and only four of the city’s fourteen neighborhoods were spared.

Hereafter, a rumor spread through the city that Emperor Nero himself had caused the Great Fire. To distract the people’s attention, Nero accused a group of followers of a new faith in Rome of lighting the fire. These were the first Christians, which made Nero the first Roman emperor to have them persecuted.

The third fire in 103 AD was the final one that led to the last major rebuilding of the Circus Maximus. The stadium was now three levels high and made entirely out of stone with open arcades on the outside. It also had all kinds of stores, brothels, betting offices, etc., and the lowest part of the tribune (ima cavea) was covered in marble.

Other circuses in Rome

The Circus Maximus wasn’t the only stadium in the city. There were others such as the Circus of Nero and the Circus Flaminius—which disappeared to make room for the Theater of Marcellus. However, the Circus Maximus was the only one that was constantly rebuilt and renovated.

The Circus of Nero

Nero’s Circus, also known as the Circus of Caligula or Circus Vaticanus, was ordered to be constructed by Emperor Caligula. He was a great fanatic of chariot racing and wanted to have a circus on the Vatican Hill—a piece of land that belonged to his mother. Caligula’s Circus was barely smaller than the Circus Maximus (approximately 540 meters long and 100 meters wide).

However, because of the public executions of Christians and criminals ordered by Nero, the circus is now known by his name. Vespasian, Nero’s successor after the four-year reign of the emperor, wanted to erase the memory of his predecessor and closed the stadium. After this, it deteriorated into ruin until Constantine the Great had the last remains torn down to build the St. Peter’s Basilica on that spot.

Circus Flaminius

The Circus Flaminius was ordered to be built by Gaius Flaminius Nepos, who was censor in 221 BC and also had the important Via Flaminia constructed. The circus was located southeast of the Campus Martius near the Tiber River and was approximately 500 meters long. After Augustus divided the city into 14 regions, the Circus Flaminius along with the entire campus belonged to Region IX.

The circus was used for various types of public entertainment, including horse races during the Ludi Taurii (games held every 5 years in honor of the di inferi, the gods of the underworld) and the Ludi Saeculares (a religious celebration involving sacrifices and theatrical performances). It’s unclear if chariot races were held at the Circus Flaminius.

The circus was mainly a place for social gatherings, attending markets, and reciting eulogies. However, the most important function was that it was the starting point of the triumphal marches of the victorious Roman generals. On the day of the victory march, the spoils of war were displayed in the circus, after which they left in a long procession to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

In the 2nd century BC, three theaters and an amphitheater appeared near the circus, which took over its cultural function. But temples and porticos were also built on the grounds of the circus, which now became smaller and smaller. By the time of Emperor Augustus, only a square remained (approx. 300 meters long). Until the 4th century, the Circus Flaminius was still in use as a monumental square.

An interesting event that took place in the former Circus Flaminius, was the inauguration of the Forum of Augustus in 2 BC. For this purpose, the circus was partially flooded and 36 crocodiles were slaughtered during naumachies (recreated naval battles).

How to reach Circus Maximus

Being one of the most important monuments of Rome, and being located in the central area of the city, the Circus Maximus can be reached by various means of public transportation, by taxi, or by foot.

By metro

The metro station “Circo Massimo” on line B is right in front of the circus, on Viale Aventino. From this entrance, you can also access the Circo Experience tour.

A single ticket (BIT) costs € 1.50, but there are also metro tickets for 24h, 48h, 72h hours, or for one week available.

More info on the metro of Rome.

See details on tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By tram

Line 3 connects Villa Borghese (Villa Giulia stop) with the Trastevere area, where you can get off at the Aventino/Circo Massimo station.

BIT tickets for €1.50 (for a single journey) can be used for Rome’s tram network, as well as other available public transportation options.

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By bus

You can reach the Circus Maximus with four different city bus lines:

Closest stop
Closest stopCirco MassimoCirco Massimo/Roseto Comunale and Circo Massimo MBAventino/Circo MassimoCirco Massimo
ItineraryIt crosses Rome from north to south, connecting Villa Borghese with Montagnola.This line also crosses Rome in a north-south direction, following the course of the Tiber as far as Tiber Island.It crosses Rome from Indipendenza to Poerio/Marino, passing by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Colosseum, and the Circus Maximus.It connects the Vatican (Piazza Risorgimento) with an area outside the historical and touristic center of Rome, passing by Piazza Navona and the Circus Maximus.

The city buses use the same tickets that are also valid for the metro, trams, and suburban trains. The cost of a single bus ticket is therefore always €1.50 (BIT) and is valid for all other means of public transportation.

Find more info about buses in Rome.

See details about tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By taxi

Cabs are obviously the most comfortable option, but they are also the most expensive and are not guaranteed to be the fastest way to get to the Circus Maximus due to the heavy traffic in the central area of Rome.

However, this means of transport is a good option if you feel like chatting with a cab driver, who can tell you a few secrets of the city or entertain you with his typical Roman humor.

The best way to get a cab in Rome is to book it by phone, mobile apps, or simply by going to a cab stand.

See detailed information on taxis in Rome.

By foot

Definitely the most recommended option to enjoy the monumental beauty of the Eternal City to the fullest.

Located not far from the Tiber, the circus can be a final destination of a walk along the river. Starting, for example, at Castel Sant’Angelo or further south from Ponte Sisto.

An alternative route can be passing the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine and the Arch of Titus, Palatine Hill, and finally the Circus Maximus.

Useful tips for your visit

  • If there’s a chance of rain on the day of your visit, bring a raincoat or umbrella. Also, take into account that guided tours might be canceled on such days.
  • Access to the park is free and it’s open to the public at all times. It’s a perfect spot to take a break and enjoy a little picnic.
  • If you’re curious about what the stadium used to look like, we recommend you buy tickets for the Circo Experience. This is a 40-minute guided tour around the ruins and uses virtual reality and augmented reality to bring the monument to life.
  • If you also want to visit the archeological part of the Circus Maximus, you can buy a two-in-one ticket that includes the entrance, plus the Circo Experience.
  • Tickets can also be purchased via phone, a ticket counter on Viale Aventino, and several tourist info points. Here you can check out the points of sale and visiting guidelines.

Nearby places of interest

As mentioned before, the Circus Maximus is surrounded by other places of interest. Here’s a list of attractions you could visit while you’re in the area.

House of Augustus

The House of Augustus, or the Domus Augusti, is located on Palatine Hill. It was the main residence of the first emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus.

On a tour, you can visit, among other things, the private studio of Augustus and admire beautiful (well-maintained) frescoes that are over 2,000 years old.

It’s located on the southwest slope of Palatine Hill, 120 m from the Circus Maximus (a 2-minute walk).

Roman Forum

This was the epicenter of social, political, religious, and cultural life in ancient Rome. It was also the heart of the empire and the ruins found here are surprisingly interesting.

No trip to the Eternal City would be complete without a visit to this majestic complex. It’s a must-see site and access is included in the Colosseum entry ticket.

The entrance to the Roman Forum is 900 m north of the Circus Maximus (an 11-minute walk).

Arch of Constantine

Among the three arches of triumph that still exist in Rome, this is the best-preserved one. The striking monument was built in the early fourth century to commemorate the victory of Constantine I at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.

It’s the last great monument of Imperial Rome and was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of Constantine’s reign. It’s an imposing 21 meters high and 25.6 m wide and stood on Rome’s triumphal route.

The Arch of Constantine is located 900 m northeast of Circus Maximus (an 11-minute walk).

Palatine Hill

The Palatine is one of the seven hills of Rome and the first that was inhabited. Since the imperial period, it was the hill where the emperors built their palaces.

Here you can visit, among others, the remains of the residences of the House of Augustus, the Domus Tiberiana, the House of Livia, the Domus Aurea, the Farnesian Gardens, the Domus Transitoria, and the Hut of Romulus.

The entrance of the Palatine is located approximately 500 m from the Circus Maximus (a 6-minute walk).

Palace of Domitian

It’s the largest building on Palatine Hill and served as the official residence of Roman emperors for 300 years. It was completed in 92 AD and consisted of three parts: the Domus Flavia (public wing), Domus Augustana (residential wing), and the stadium.

The palace of Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus used to be extravagantly decorated with columns, frescoes, friezes, fountains, and exotic marbles. Today, it’s one of the best-preserved ruins on Palatine Hill.

It’s about 1 km away from the Circus Maximus (a 15-minute walk).

Imperial Fora

The Fori Imperiali consists of a series of monumental fora (public squares). These were built over a total period of 150 years, between 46 BC and 113 AD. Over the years, Caesar, Vespasian, Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan contributed to its development.

The Imperial Fora was built to replace the Roman Forum after it became too small due to strong population growth and could no longer fulfill its purpose as the center of Rome.

The entrance of the Imperial Fora is approximately 1 km northeast of the Circus Maximus (a 15-minute walk).

Ludus Magnus

The Ludus Magnus was the largest of the four ludi (gladiatorial schools) known from ancient Rome. The rectangular building complex was commissioned by Emperor Domitian (81-96) and completed by Hadrian (117-138).

The building was located in the valley between the Caelius and the Esquiline, east of the Colosseum—to which it was connected by a subterranean passage.

The Ludus Magnus is located 1.3 km northeast of the Circus Maximus (a 16-minute walk).

Domus Aurea

The remains of the great palace that Emperor Nero ordered to be built in 64 AD can be visited in a virtual reality experience tour.

The VR glasses allow you to explore Nero’s extravagant residence in all its glory and get an idea of what it would have looked like at the time.

The entrance to the Domus Area is 1.6 km northeast of the Circus Maximus (a 20-minute walk).

Basilica of San Clemente

This intriguing building complex is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Pope Clement I. The first tier was built in the fourth century, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in Rome.

Over the centuries, three successive floors have been built over it, of which the top three can be visited. During a visit, you can admire (among other things) the underground temple of the Persian sun-god Mithras and numerous medieval frescoes.

The Basilica of San Clemente is located 1.5 km from the Circus Maximus (a 19-minute walk).