For some 2,000 years, through sieges, fires and earthquakes, the Pantheon has stood proud at the heart of the Italian capital. Originally built as a temple to the Roman Gods, this incredible structure has survived the ages almost entirely intact, spending much of its time as a Catholic church – which it remains as today.
For anyone looking to sample the sheer scale and ambition of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon should be top of the list. It’s a feat of engineering and work of art every bit as astounding today as it must have been back then.
In that case, let’s waste no time. Where is it and how do we get there?
Getting to the Pantheon
The Pantheon is located deep within Rome’s most ancient street network, opening up onto a small and pretty piazza,which can be accessed by any one of a number of snaking lanes. It’s not too far at all from other landmarks like Piazza Navona or the Baths of Nero, but the tight street layout can make it difficult to spot, so it’s a good idea to have a map to hand or to have planned out your walking route in advance.
Which station is nearest to the Pantheon?
Being in Rome’s historic centre, it has never been possible for underground metro lines to pass beneath the land surrounding the Pantheon. The closest you can get will be the Barberini stop, which sits on the orange line (Line A), just over a kilometre north east. Fortunately, the walk should only take you 15 minutes and you’ll even be able to tick off the Trevi Fountain en-route.
You’ll be able to get much closer if you travel by bus. The Largo di Torre Argentina stop is just 250 metres directly south of the Pantheon, and a huge number of routes call past here, including the 30, 40, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81 and 87 among many others.
You could also opt for Rome’s quick and efficient tram network. The Venezia stop sits on Line 8 and is around 450 metres south east of the Pantheon, or a gentle nine minutes’ walk.
Don’t forget, Rome’s transport network is both affordable and integrated. That’s because all services across all modes are run by the same company, allowing you to hop between trams, trains and buses using the same ticket. Which ticket type suits you best will depend on your trip – with options ranging from a 100-minute permit through to a weekly pass.
Exploring the Pantheon
Not only was the Pantheon of Ancient Rome groundbreaking in its scale, ambition and design for its time, but it has remained so well into the modern era. It’s probably the best preserved monument of Ancient Rome we have, so there’s so much to learn from the Pantheon in its every detail. Here are just a few things to keep an eye out for when you visit.
Though it does contain a few flourishes, the Pantheon’s outer facades seem very plain when compared with its grand interior. But there’s still something fascinating on show here – and that’s the material the building is made from. Though its exact composition is unknown, the Pantheon’s structure is believed to be formed from a material that’s remarkably similar to modern-day concrete.
As you approach the Pantheon’s entrance, the towering Portico will quickly overshadow you. This grand entrance is held up by 16 Corinthian columns, each standing at 12 metres tall and weighing 60 tons each. It’s thought the stone for these columns was quarried in Egypt and transported to Rome via the River Nile and across the Mediterranean Sea.
Atop the columns is a pediment bearing the inscription “Marcus Agrippa Luci filius consul tertium fecit”. This translates as “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucio, consulate for the third time, built”.
The Pantheon’s dome is easily its most breathtaking feature. Not only was it the largest of its kind in the world when built, but it remained so for 1300 years, and still ranks among the largest unsupported domes on the planet today. With a diameter of 43.30 metres, it’s a little known fact that the dome actually forms half of a perfect sphere. That’s because the distance from the basement of the Pantheon to the tip of the dome is in direct proportion at 43.30 metres also.
While the Pantheon has no traditional windows, it’s instead illuminated by a circular opening at the top of its dome, known as an ‘oculus’. This is thought to have been inspired by a similar feature in the Domus Aurea, and results in a spectacular beam of light flooding the chamber on bright days. Though on wetter days, it can lead to flooding of a different kind!
Pantheon History and Facts
The story of the Pantheon begins in 27 B.C., when the structure was ordered to be built by statesman Marcus Agrippa as a temple for Roman Gods. Completed within two years, it was instantly recognised as one of Ancient Rome’s greatest landmarks and boldest achievements. But it didn’t last.
The original Pantheon sadly met the same fate as many Ancient Roman structures. It was destroyed by fire sometime around 80 A.D, but quickly rebuilt at the order of Emperor Domitian. Only to burn down again around 30 years later.
A new Pantheon
Thankfully for us, Ancient Romans were so often undeterred, and Emperor Hadrian certainly was when we had the Pantheon built for a third time sometime around 126 A.D.
The name Pantheon is taken from the Greek words pan, meaning “all”, and theos, which translates as “gods”. We certainly know that the structure was built as a temple for the Roman Gods, but much else about this spectacular structure is shrouded in mystery. Due to a lack of record keeping, we can’t say for sure who designed it, what usually took place inside the early Pantheon, and even the Pantheon’s age.
From temple to church
During his reign, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and expanded the rights and freedoms of Christians within the Empire. He also shifted the capital of the Roman Empire away from Rome to Constantinople, or modern-day Istanbul. With its role in Roman society reduced, many of the Italian capital’s landmarks gradually fell into disrepair, including the Pantheon itself.
In the meantime, Christianity had become the predominant religion of the Romans, and it was this that would bring new life to the Pantheon. In 609, Pope Boniface received permission from Emperor Phocas to have the building converted into a Christian church, to be known as Sancta Maria ad Martyres – St. Mary and the Martyrs.
It’s largely because of this change of purpose that we can still marvel at the Pantheon today. The Papacy has had the resources to maintain and repair the structure through the ages, and its status as a sacred site has bought it an element of protection.
The Donkey’s Ears
As is the case for many other famous Roman landmarks, architects could never really leave the Pantheon alone. During the Baroque period of the 17th and early 18th centuries, two bell towers were awkwardly attached to the front of the Pantheon, built in the theatrical style of the time. Romans hated these, feeling that they ruined the clean and classical architecture of the original structure, and subsequently branded them ‘The Donkey’s Ears’.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t make it out of the 19th century still standing.
The modern Pantheon
Both a sacred religious site and an icon of Roman art and architecture, it’s no surprise that the Pantheon was adored by figures of Italian high society. It would go on to be the burial place of Renaissance figures such as the painter Raphael, architect Peruzzi, and composer Corelli. Later, several Italian kings would be laid to rest here, including Vittorio Emanuele II and his son Umberto I.
Today, the Pantheon is a must-see tourist spot in the Italian capital, though still functions a Catholic church.
Restaurants, Bars, and Stores at the Pantheon
Lying at the heart of Rome’s network of ancient streets, you won’t have to walk far from the Pantheon to enjoy a tagliata or tipple, either before or after your visit. The narrow and winding streets around here can be tricky to navigate, so it’s always good to have a map to hand or some idea of where you’re going.
To help get you started, we’ve put together some of the best eateries, watering holes and must-shop stores you’ll find in the immediate area.
The best restaurants near the Pantheon
Being in such a central location, you’ve a ton of restaurants nearby and plenty of variety among them. From breakfast til’ super-late, you should find something nearby that takes your fancy.
- Lost Food Factory – a lunch spot serving fresh, delicious sandwiches and paninis in a cosy diner setting
- ParmAroma– a small and friendly basement eatery offering hearty Italian fare, alongside superb local meats and cheeses
- Kisaki Ramen & Sushi – a modern, stylish Japanese restaurant with an extensive menu of fresh sushi and classic dishes like ramen and yakisoba
- Enoteca Corsi– a charming lunchtime-only spot, with an extensive wine selection for that early-afternoon tipple
- GROM – an authentic gelato shop, with ice cream made only from seasonal and perfectly ripe fruits harvested in Italy, free from all colouring, aromas or emulsifiers
- PaStation Roma – a small and chic eatery serving up some of the freshest pasta dishes to be found in all of central Rome
The best bars near the Pantheon
After taking in the architectural splendor of the Pantheon, there’s every chance you’ll want to unwind with a coffee or cocktail. Fortunately, you won’t need to travel far to enjoy one (or both) of these in a spectacular and characterful setting.
- Hotel Minerva Rome Rooftop Bar – a beautiful terrace bar just metres from the Pantheon, offering spectacular views over the crooked roofs of historic Rome
- Wine Bar Fortunato Roma Centro – an intimate and eclectic wine bar with a vast selection of wines and spirits, as well as a terrace with views of the Pantheon
- Salotto42 – a chic and colourful cocktail bar mixing up innovative flavour combinations, all inspired by the produce of the region
- Trinity College Pub – a friendly, Irish themed bar with a traditional mahogany interior and all the usual favourites on tap
- Friends Café – a super stylish steel and glass interior paired with a great selection of wines in a casual atmosphere
Shopping near the Pantheon
You won’t be surprised to know you’ll find some of Rome’s swishiest retail spots a stone’s throw from the Pantheon. You’ll find plenty of boutiques and quirky fashion stores along nearby Via Frattina and Via dei Condotti, which are only 450 metres north east from the Pantheon, around eight minutes to walk.
You’ll find another cluster of stores 350 metres to the west of the Pantheon, just across the Piazza Navona, which specialise in fashion accessories. Highlights here include eclectic selection on show in TOKO, or the more traditional offering at Vestopazzo.
Opening Times and Prices
If you’re planning a visit to Rome, you’ll be glad to know it’s almost certain that the Pantheon will be open when you visit. The site is closed on only three days of the year: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and 15th August, with limited opening on 1st May which is a national holiday. However, as the building remains a functioning Catholic church, you won’t be able to enter if Mass is taking place.
This often occurs on Saturday at 17:00, or on public holidays at 10:30, but could happen at other times so check schedules before you try to enter. If one is taking place, you may simply wish to wait in the area for a while.
Excluding the three days a year it closes, the Pantheon is open every day from 09:00 until 19:00, with last entry no later than 18:30.
The good news? As it’s a place of worship, the Pantheon is free to enter, and you don’t even need to book a Pantheon Rome tickets. That being said, for the best experience you may wish to show up as early as possible so as to beat the larger afternoon crowds.
As one of the Empire’s grandest and best preserved landmarks, no trip to the Italian capital is complete without experiencing this feat of ancient engineering
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!