For visitors, Pantheon, is a must-see destination that promises an enchanting journey through ancient Roman architecture.
This comprehensive guide offers you insights into how best to visit this ancient temple turned church, from booking guided tours complete with a wealth of historical insights, to experiencing its splendor on your own.
I remember my first Roman sightseeing experience was visiting the Pantheon. I had just moved into my first apartment in the city and had two friends staying as guests at my house. We decided to go for a walk and get gelato at midnight at a shop near the Pantheon.
I never realized how close it was to where I lived and how easily I could just walk to it. I remember approaching it from the back and then suddenly being in front of this magnificent, pearly building that seemed to glow against the night sky along with a full moon.
We sat on the steps of the fountain in the piazza and ate my gelato, facing the Pantheon, mesmerized. I think that is the moment when it hit me that I now live in Rome.
To this day, I love walking past the Pantheon- it never gets old. I have been inside on several occasions as well.
How to Visit the Pantheon
Book a Tour
There are several different kinds of tours you can book to experience the Pantheon. There are tours available at the front desk of the site, but there are also plenty of independent tour groups that provide their services. Here are the options for tours that are generally available no matter what agency you decide to go for:
- Guided tours: These tours include a tour guide who will escort groups around the Pantheon to share information about the history, symbolism, architecture, decorations, and activities of the former temple turned church.
- Tours with headsets: This is just an extension of the guided tours where the groups are provided with headsets that make it easier to listen to the tour guide while walking and following at your own pace.
- Private tours: These are semi-private tours that create much smaller groups and enter the Pantheon at points where the crowds are much scarcer. These tours are a good option for a much more peaceful and less rushed experience of the Pantheon.
- Audio guide tours: A much more independent option would be to book a tour with a personal audio guide. This gives you the freedom to move around the Pantheon at your own pace and even to choose what details of the art or architecture you would like to pay more attention to while skipping others.
I personally really like audio guide tours for when I am traveling or exploring solo, as it feels like a much more intimate experience with yourself and the space you are occupying. Having detailed information on hand on a device just enriches your self-guided tour.
However, the guides for tours can be so much more knowledgeable and be able to share details and stories about the Pantheon, providing the ‘human touch’ in storytelling that, for some, can make audio guides feel a little sterile and boring.
It really depends on what appeals to you and your senses the most, as well as your budget for visiting the Pantheon and personal preferences and intentions on what parts of it to experience.
Experience it Independently
Of course, there is always the option to go into the Pantheon on your own and admire the architecture and art using any knowledge you may already have beforehand.
Even without deep diving into the history of it, the Pantheon is a beautiful site to witness. Either way, I believe it is worth it to go inside the Pantheon instead of just admiring its exteriors.
What to Expect on a Tour
A tour of the Pantheon will always start from the outside on Piazza della Rotonda. Some tours will also share information about the surroundings of the Pantheon, including the fountain in the middle of the square, which is called Fontana del Pantheon or Fountain of the Pantheon, built by Giacomo Della Porta, featuring an ancient Egyptian obelisk.
Your guide will then help you observe the exterior architecture of the building, including the columns, the dome, the inscriptions, and the facade.
Once inside the Pantheon, the following factors will definitely be discussed:
Dome and Oculus
The dome is considered a perfect hemisphere with a diameter equal to the height of the temple from the ground to the top of the dome.
The dome has a circular opening in the middle, called the oculus, with no glass or covering and lets natural light flood the insides of the space. During the day, it acts as a sundial, with different times of the day being marked by a beam of sunlight on the floor in different positions.
You can also watch rain drop down to the floor of the Pantheon through the oculus, which is a mesmerizing and tranquil sight, being one of my favorite little activities to do alone when it rains.
There are several tombs within the Pantheon of important historical figures such as King Victor Emmanuel II, Queen Margherita of Savoy, King Umberto I, and the widely visited tomb of the Renaissance painter Raphael which is part of the first chapel on the right side when you enter the building.
There are seven chapels located all around the circular interior of the Pantheon with decorated altars within the alcoves providing visitors with a space for prayer: there is the Chapel of Annunciation; Chapel of St. Joseph; Chapel of the Holy Spirit; Chapel of St. Thomas; Chapel of the Crucifixion; Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel and Chapel of the Madonna di Loreto.
The floor of the Pantheon is made of a beautifully patterned marble that slopes a bit toward the center to help with drainage after it rains through the oculus. Your tour may include more information about the materials used for the floor in ancient Rome, the geometric patterns of its current version, and other facts about its use and characteristics.
Seasons, Holidays, and Special Occasions
The Pantheon is open to visitors all year round. However, it is important to note that seasons do play a big part in how comfortable a visit will be, even though
Rome seems to have an eternal tourist season. The peak is during the summer, with large swarms of crowds and queues to the entrance that makes it less of a desirable experience.
If the summer season can not be avoided for your trip, the summer crowds might still be the best times to visit the Pantheon may be earlier in the morning or later in the evening before its closing.
The Pantheon is closed for the holidays:
- Christmas Day (25th December)
- New Year’sDay (1st January)
- Epiphany (6th January)
- Easter Sunday (depends on what date this holiday falls on for the year)
- Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29th June)
- In August, most locals leave the city for vacation, so less business and attractions activity takes place, which may mean that the Pantheon will have reduced opening hours.
On the seventh Sunday after Easter, the Christian Pentecost holiday is celebrated most beautifully at the Pantheon. Massive amounts of rose petals are dropped into the temple’s interior from the oculus dome, showering down 43 meters to the ground.
If you think watching the rain fall through the oculus is beautiful, rose petals surpass that visual. I believe this is one of the best ways to experience the inside of the Pantheon ritualistically. I know witnessing it myself this year was one of the most magical experiences I have had while appreciating Roman architecture.
- Since the Pantheon serves as a church, it is essential to be appropriately dressed to enter it. Shoulders and knees both need to be covered.
- There has been a rule change recently, and a ticket is now required to enter the Pantheon.
- The Pantheon is open daily from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, considering any holidays and specific occasions.
- To help you further plan your trip, remember that guided tours for the Pantheon usually take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Self-guided tours can take ten to fifteen minutes or more, depending on your mood and intentions.