It may not be Rome’s most famous sight, but since it’s widely regarded as the birthplace of the Roman Empire, perhaps Palatine Hill ought to be. Perched atop a mound that overlooks the Colosseum, this network of ruins and palaces is a vital piece of history.
With mythical origins and a commanding position over the city, Palatine Hill quickly became the neighbourhood of choice for some of the Empire’s most powerful rulers. Today, thanks to archaeological excavation, you can explore the site for yourself and see what remains of these monumental structures.
Getting to Palatine Hill by train
Palatine Hill is the heart of historical Rome. Centrally-located, right beside other significant landmarks such as the Colosseum, finding it should be straightforward.
If you’re happy getting around Rome on foot, then that’s definitely recommended – with a city like this one, you never know what you might find along the way. But if it’s a little out of reach or you’re only visiting Rome for the day, you’ve plenty of good options when it comes to using public transport.
Which station is nearest to Palatine Hill?
There are two metro stops in close distance to the hill’s main gate. These are Colosseo, and Circo Massimo, which are both on the blue line, meaning which station is most convenient will depend on the direction you’re travelling in.
Buses are also an option, and there’s a stop placed just down the road from the entrance path. Several bus routes call past here – including the 51, 75, 81, 85, 87, C3, n3s, nMB and nMC services – so there’s every chance you could arrive almost door to door from your accommodation.
If you have no luck with those, there are even more bus stops a couple of hundred metres away on the other side of the Colosseum, which the 117 and 118 services call at.
Even that doesn’t cover all your options. Rome also boasts a tram system, and you’ll find a stop just 150 metres over the road from the path up to the main gates. This is called Parco Celio stop and is served by line 3 and line 8.
If you’re still stuck for ideas, don’t forget how integrated and affordable Rome’s public transport can be. Almost all services across the bus, tram, and underground metro are managed by the same operator. This means just one ticket can allow you to hop between different modes as you go.
Tip: If you only have a single journey to make, a 100-minute ticket is an obvious choice. You could also consider something like a weekly ticket, which could give you access for the entirety of your trip.
Exploring the Palatine Hill
Rome’s Palatine Hill is not one single structure. It’s a complex of historic buildings that include palaces, theatres, homes, and monuments added to the site through the ages. While some stand in ruin, many remain. Others have been restored to impressive condition, and are a real sight to behold.
Here’s just some of what you can expect to see as you journey through the complex.
Palace of Domitian
Dominating the hill is the Palace of Domitian, constructed between 81 and 92AD. It was built at the order of Emperor Domitian and served as the residence for several subsequent emperors. Some of them expanded and added to the estate over time.
Just like how we would separate working and private quarters in modern life, the Palace was split three distinct sections to allow for this. The first, the Domus Flavia, was designed for conducting business and entertaining guests. This can be seen through its network of large, tall rooms which would have hosted many significant visitors at a time.
Beside this is the Domus Augustana, the central and residential section of the palace, with its intricate network of rooms and peristyle courtyard gardens. Finally, the Stadium of Domitian is on the eastern side and was most likely a private sunken garden in the layout of a hippodrome.
The Houses of Livia and Augustus
Livia and Emperor Augustus were husband and wife, and this elegant villa within the Palatine Hill complex remains well intact in the present day. As Rome’s first emperor, Augustus’s home is suitably grand. The structure contains beautiful frescos and impressively-preserved wall paintings that need to be seen to be believed. Livia’s house lies just beside it and is no less impressive in its scale and detail.
The Hut of Romulus
Roman elites had long claimed Palatine Hill as the home of Romulus, the mythical founder of the city of Rome. During his rule, Emperor Augustus had excavation work carried out on the hill, and subsequently declared an iron age hut to be the home of Romulus, and thus the birthplace of Rome itself. Incredibly, the hut still stands today and is one of the site’s smallest but most essential structures.
The Palatine Museum
To truly understand how the residents of Palatine Hill lived and how life here evolved over time, The Palatine Museum is well worth a visit. The exhibit includes hundreds of small artefacts found buried within site, along with vivid recreations of how the complex would have looked in its heyday.
Palatine Hill History and Facts
The origins of Palatine Hill are shrouded in legend. Ancient Romans considered the hill to have been the home of Romulus and Remus, mythical twin brothers whose story is used to explain the founding of the city of Rome. In reality, the area of Palatine Hill is thought to have been occupied by humans long before these ancient tales, as far back as the 10th century BC.
A desirable neighbourhood
As Rome grew beyond all imagination, the area of Palatine Hill became one of the city’s most prestigious spots for the Roman elites to live. Not only were its mythical associations a huge draw, but its high altitude offered cooler temperatures and cleaner air, well away from the noisy and often unsanitary conditions below.
Wealthy Romans began constructing their elaborate and luxurious villas on the hill. Before long, it became the postcode of choice for Emperors including Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian. Between the three of them, they constructed most of what remains on Palatine Hill today. Much stands in ruin, but specific structures remain in surprisingly good shape given they were built around 2,000 years ago.
Once the estates of Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian filled most of the site, succeeding emperors built their own palaces elsewhere. Some churches and convents were constructed around Palatine Hill through the Middle Ages. At the same time, other areas were used as a botanical garden during the Renaissance period.
After that, Palatine Hill was left mostly untouched until the modern era, when archaeological digs began, and the site eventually opened to the public.
Restaurants, Bars, and Stores at Palatine Hill
Bordered by other significant draws like the Colosseum and the Domus Aurea, Palatine Hill’s surroundings are something of a tourist hub. As a result, you’ll find yourself at no shortage of eateries, bars and boutiques to start or end your trip up the hill with. Given the area’s popularity, it can be busier and pricier than other parts of the city. Still, many nearby venues are well worth a visit nonetheless.
The best restaurants near Palatine Hill
There are plenty of places to grab a quick snack or something more substantial in the vicinity of Palatine Hill, including lots of the beautiful Italian fare that Rome is famous for.
- Rosso Eat Drink Stay – take out or eat in, with a selection of savoury pasta and meat dishes served alongside sweet favourites
- Court Delicati Roma – a Pan-Asian inspired menu that offers an exciting break from the local cuisine
- Osteria Circo – a rustic Italian restaurant serving a selection of local meats, cheeses and the freshest salads
- Ristorante Apuleius – tuck into a tasty three-course menu in an alfresco setting
- Caffetteria Italia al Vittoriano – a stylish and shaded terrace for enjoying a morning coffee or lunchtime snack
- Torcè – a small and charming family-run ice cream shop with 100 years of history
The best bars near Palatine Hill
If you’ve visited Palatine Hill in the peak of the afternoon, there’s no better way to cool off than with a local beer, wine or colourful cocktail. Thankfully, you’ve a ton of options in the area, and there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
- Yellow Bar Aventino – a small and friendly locals’ bar serving up cold beers and light snacks
- Brewdog Roma – a familiar name for British visitors with tons of crisp craft ales on draft
- Camden Town – a friendly and cosy British-themed pub stocking all your usual favourites
- Enoteca Wineconcept – a small wine bar and store offering up the best vintages the region has to offer
- La Vineria Di Angelino – a chic and stylish wine bar with plenty of space on its shaded outdoor terrace
Shopping near the Palatine Hill
Being right at the historical centre of Rome, you won’t have to travel too far from Palatine Hill to indulge in some retail therapy. That being said, you may have a short walk on your hands before you get out of the more touristy areas and off the beaten path, where all the best independents and boutiques are.
If fashion’s your thing, there’s a fantastic cluster of stores a few hundred metres northeast in Monti. Meanwhile, the biggest and most famous fashion houses are a picturesque 25-minute stroll north of Palatine Hill.
Opening Times and Prices
The great news is that Palatine Hill is open every single day of the year, excluding Christmas Day and New Years Day. Opening times do vary quite a bit throughout the year, however.
While the hill always opens at 08:30, closing times change seasonally. Because there’s little artificial lighting on-site and it could become dangerous when dark, with last entry one hour before that day’s close. Palatine Hill hours are:
2nd January – 15th February:
08:30 – 16:30
16th February – 15th March:
08:30 – 17:00
16th March – last Saturday of March:
08:30 – 17:15
Last Sunday of March – 31st August:
08:30 – 19:15
1st September – 30th September:
08:30 – 19:00
1st October – last Saturday of October:
08:30 – 18:30
Last Sunday of October – 31st December:
08:30 – 16:30
It’s strongly advised that you get your Palatine Hill tickets online in advance of your trip. There is a €2.00 reservation fee for this, but it’s a small price to pay if it means securing a spot while you’re in and around Rome.
The best bit? The day ticket you’ll receive doesn’t just grant you entry to Palatine Hill, but to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum too! The only catch is that you’ll need to visit all three on the same day, but they’re in such close proximity to each other that this should be easy to do.
Palatine Hill entrance for adults over the age of 25 stands at €16.00. This falls right down to €2.00 if you’re aged 18 – 25. And anyone under the age of 18 can get in for free! They’ll still need a ticket though, so don’t forget to reserve their place when you book.
Widely considered the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the beating heart of Rome, no trip to the city is complete without exploring the spectacular Palatine Hill.
Travelling to Rome by train
Italy is blessed with a fantastic high-speed railway network, making it easy to travel to Rome by train. Roma Termini is the main railway station in the capital and it's served by several speedy services, including Trenitalia's Frecciarossa ("Red Arrow") services and Italo trains. Thanks to high-speed trains, you can get from Florence or Naples to Rome in under 1h 20m, Milan to Rome in 3h 10m and Venice to Rome in 3h 26m.
And if you're travelling onwards from Rome, why not continue by train? The capital has links to Venice, Florence, Milan, Verona and Genoa - to name but a few places you can reach by rail! So why not hop on a train and say arrivederci to Rome!