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Visit the Baths of Caracalla

In the Italian capital you can easily find buildings dating back thousands of years, one of them is the Baths of Caracalla. Regardless of the period in which you visit the city, these baths are a great option, as you will find a fascinating environment that will transport you to the past.

Luisa María Lugo

Luisa María Lugo

10 min read

Visit the Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla | © Wikimedia

Among the best preserved ancient Roman constructions are the Baths of Caracalla or Terme di Caracalla. Unlike many other similar places found in other parts of the world, those in Rome were a very complete social complex.

Although they were not the only baths in the city in ancient times, they were the most luxurious. Today it is possible to enter them, see their different areas and imagine the splendor they had while they were in operation. If you spend about a week in Rome, don't hesitate: a visit is a must. What can you see and do in this amazing place? I'll tell you below!

1. Tour the Baths as if you were living in ancient Rome

Touring the Baths| ©Patrick Denker
Touring the Baths| ©Patrick Denker

With the first activity I'm talking about, you feel like an ancient Roman who goes to the Baths for his personal hygiene routine. Augmented Reality glasses are available on site, if you put them on, you see how the building begins to reconstruct itself in front of your eyes.

Those who participated in the design of the Baths had the objective that these were samples of how wonderful Roman architecture could be. Therefore, it had the following characteristics in its construction and decoration:

  • Walls covered with marble.
  • Mosaic floors.
  • Sculptures considered works of art.
  • Heating and water supply systems.
  • Drains that kept the water clean.

With augmented reality you have the opportunity to relive much of this architectural wonder. Orient the glasses to the place you want and in a few seconds you see how it was in ancient times, when the baths were visited by thousands of people a day. You can even see recreations of the sculptures.

Book a guided tour of the Caracalla Baths and the Aventine Hill

2. Stroll through the gardens of the facilities

Gardens of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Steve Knight
Gardens of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Steve Knight

Although the green areas are not the same as they were in the first centuries of this era, they are still places worth being in. The exteriors of the Baths are very well maintained, for visitors to stroll through while enjoying the views.

The ruins of the Termas are impressive, so just imagine what they were like in ancient times. The building was very complete, not only did it have rooms where you could take baths with cold, warm and hot water, it also had a large swimming pool. In the Termas there was even a garden, as this was intended to be a real area of enjoyment.

The gardens were surrounded by a great wall that protected the whole construction. Every corner of these thermal baths is full of history. Do you like outdoor places? If so, I encourage you to read my guide to the best parks in Rome.

Book a subway tour of Rome

3. Get an audio guide to learn more about the Thermal Baths

A room at the Termas| ©Larry
A room at the Termas| ©Larry

As I said before, these hot springs are full of history and, although some visitors prefer to tour them on their own, you may want a guide. Inside the place an audio guide is sold to those who want it, with it you make a complete tour of the ancient construction.

The Baths of Caracalla were very different from others that existed in Rome at that time, within them there were several sections. The most interesting thing is that these were ordered with the objective that many people completed a complete hygiene routine. The sections were as follows:

  • The vestibules.
  • The changing rooms.
  • The gymnasium.
  • The laconicum, this was a sudatorium with high temperature in order to activate perspiration.
  • The caldarium (its pillars are still standing), here they bathed with very hot water and used a strigilum to eliminate sweat and other impurities.
  • Tepidarium, for baths with warm water.
  • Frigidarium, here there were four pools in which baths were taken with cold water to tone the body.
  • Natatio, an open-air area with an Olympic pool.

It can be said that the Baths of Caracalla were like country clubs, because in addition to the named areas, they had porticoes and libraries. Looking at a plan of the ancient baths gives you an idea of how large the facilities were.

Book a guided tour of the Caracalla Baths and Aventine Hill

4. See the mosaics that are still on the site

Thermal Baths Mosaic| ©Patrick Denker
Thermal Baths Mosaic| ©Patrick Denker

Although many of its incredible elements were taken elsewhere, some sections of the floor still have the original mosaics. These are samples of how beautiful the building was centuries ago. In addition, there are portions of some of the drawings that were found there.

The Baths stopped functioning in 537 A.D., at which time the aqueducts that supplied the city were destroyed. As a consequence, people stopped going to the baths and, with the passage of time, they were abandoned.

Due to the abandonment, the majestic building was attacked by looters who took away its sculptures and valuable materials, such as marble. That is why today you cannot see all the luxuries that the baths once had. In addition, much of the site was destroyed in an earthquake in 847.

5. Enter the subway of the Baths

Subterranean of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Carole Raddato
Subterranean of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Carole Raddato

In addition to the great construction that was visible to all who visited the Baths of Caracalla, the building had subway levels. Slaves worked there all day long to ensure the optimal functioning of the baths and pools. Today, these have been converted into a museum of the baths.

They were not always accessible to visitors, but a few years ago they opened their doors to receive them. There were the hydraulic systems, boilers, furnaces and chimneys. All this helped the Romans who went to the baths every day to enjoy their baths.

The space was adapted so that people can enter and see the objects that have been found during excavations in the area. If you would like to visit other subway museums in Rome, I leave you with this article about a comparison of two of the largest catacombs in Rome.

6. Take the tour on your own

Inside the Baths| ©Serge Baillargeon
Inside the Baths| ©Serge Baillargeon

In addition to the Augmented Reality and the audio guide, it is possible to walk around the hot springs without any of these aids. If you prefer, you can walk through the facilities on your own, no matter if you are alone or in company. All along the way you will see signs that tell you about the area you are in.

Some things to keep in mind during the tour is that it is a one-way tour and the exit is at a different gate than the entrance. The map of the visitor's route that you can find on the official website of the hot springs is very helpful when you do the tour on your own.

7. Think about what an architectural marvel it was when it was built

Corridors of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Vyacheslav Argenberg
Corridors of the Baths of Caracalla| ©Vyacheslav Argenberg

The Baths of Caracalla fulfilled all their functions for several centuries, among them was to demonstrate how wonderful the Roman constructions were. Today they are ruins, and yet, admiring the huge walls, they are astonishing. As you walk through the Baths, remember everything that once was.

The systems that brought water to the baths, its heating and drainage were very sophisticated, hence everything worked optimally. From the architectural point of view, the place had a complex design, construction and operation. Today we are surprised at how well planned every point was.

The ways in which the areas of the Termas were distributed facilitated the mobilization of people and contributed to the comfort of all. The ruins may make you forget all this, but I encourage you to think about how extraordinary its construction and the appearance of this building was.

8. Have a bite to eat while enjoying the tour

Enjoying Street Food| ©Marta Dzedyshko
Enjoying Street Food| ©Marta Dzedyshko

Near the remains of the hot springs there is usually a stall where visitors can buy snacks. This is ideal if you are going to spend a few hours getting to know this incredible place, as there are not many restaurants nearby.

Of course, if you eat at the hot springs, do not leave waste on the floor, it helps the area to maintain a good condition. On the other hand, if you want to know where to eat in Rome, in another article I will tell you about the best places to do it.

9. Theatrical performances with the ruins of the Baths in the background

Plays and Opera in the Caracalla| ©Katia
Plays and Opera in the Caracalla| ©Katia

Today, the Baths are still used, obviously not in the way they were many centuries ago. Sometimes theatrical performances are planned in the Baths, so its great walls are seen in the background. Undoubtedly, a unique environment.

When you travel to Rome and visit the Baths of Caracalla you do well to find out if in the next few days a play will be presented. If such an event is planned, get information on how you can attend.

10. Attend opera performances in summertime

Opera at the Baths of Caracalla| ©Dan McCune
Opera at the Baths of Caracalla| ©Dan McCune

During the summer, the Baths of Caracalla are the stage for the shows planned by the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. Since 2001, the remains of the great building have been the perfect setting for the great performances of the opera and ballet season.

In several decades of the 20th century these performances also took place, but were interrupted for various reasons, including World War II. But now it takes place uninterruptedly every summer, if you visit the Italian capital at this time, why not get more information about the shows?

On the website of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma are published all the performances, including those at the Terme. If you want to know what else to do in Rome in summer, read my guide.

What is the price of admission to the Baths of Caracalla?

Starting the tour at the Baths| ©Carole Raddato
Starting the tour at the Baths| ©Carole Raddato

Tickets are priced from 4€, what you are charged depends on your age and whether you are a European citizen. Minors and students of certain majors enjoy free access to these ancient baths.

It should be noted that tickets do not include guided tours, so it is also possible to purchase an audio guide. This has an approximate price of 7 €, in case you buy it, do not forget the following:

  • Ask if it is available in Spanish.
  • On some occasions, they are usually sold out due to the number of visitors to the place.

I recommend that if you have the opportunity (and do not want to do the tour on your own, i.e. without a guide), you purchase the audio guide. Although there are informative signs, they do not show as much information. In addition, they are far apart from each other.

Where to buy the augmented reality glasses?

Enjoying Virtual Reality at the Hot Springs| ©DAB
Enjoying Virtual Reality at the Hot Springs| ©DAB

At the ticket office where you buy your tickets to the Baths you also ask for the glasses. These are useful if you want to see what the building looked like, what sculptures were there and what the marble-covered walls looked like. The recreation is accurate, as the existing records of the Baths of Caracalla were taken into account when creating it.

As with the audio guides, Augmented Reality glasses are sometimes not available. The reason is that the number of visitors exceeds the number of glasses available to the administration of this building.

What are the opening hours of these ancient Roman baths?

Remains of the Thermal Baths Mosaics| ©Shadowgate
Remains of the Thermal Baths Mosaics| ©Shadowgate

The days of the week when they are open are from Tuesdays to Sundays. The opening time is at 9:00 and the closing time depends on the day of the year, normally, there is access until 18:30.

Due to the security measures implemented by Covid 19, the Termas currently have limited admissions. A certain number are allowed inside, so you may have to wait a bit to get in.

Where are they located?

Entrance to the Baths of Caracalla| ©Andy Montgomery
Entrance to the Baths of Caracalla| ©Andy Montgomery

The Baths are located in Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, if you don't know much about Rome, don't worry. One way to locate the area is to know which places are nearby, the best known are the following:

The ways to get to the Baths are very similar to those of the places mentioned above. Access to them is not difficult, as the nearby terrain has no difference in elevation.

How to get to the Baths?

Rome subway| ©Juan Enrique Gilardi
Rome subway| ©Juan Enrique Gilardi

Two public transports that are valid for you to use to go to the Baths are: the subway and the bus. Once you are in Rome, the way to reach your destination successfully is:

  • By subway: line B takes you to the Circo Massimo stop, this is about 2 kilometers from the Baths.
  • By bus: buses 628 and 760 are the ones you can take to reach the Baths of Caracalla.

In case you want a guide to the Rome Metro, you can find it on this page. Click on the link and get all the information and tips about this Roman means of transport.

Is there parking at these Roman Baths?

Visitors to these thermal baths in Rome have access to a parking lot, this contributes to the maximum enjoyment of your tour. In addition, there are adequate restrooms on site. Nowadays, the thermal baths also have the necessary amenities for those who enter them.

Surely with what you have read here you want to know more about the Termas, what they looked like in ancient times and what you will see in them. I have found a video in which they analyze these points, I leave you the link.