An Easy Guide to the Trajan’s Markets Amazing Ancient Site

Opened to the public in 2007, Trajan’s Markets is not as nearly visited as it should be. Even though located very close to Piazza Venezia, right beside the Trajan’s Column everybody can see during a standard Rome tour, it attracts a fraction of the numbers the Colosseum sees every day.

Probably its entrance behind Piazza Venezia is a little hidden from the main tourist route and makes it a little harder to find it, but I guarantee you, it’s totally worth the detour.

The Trajan’s Markets were built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD to hide and support the cut made on the slopes of the Quirinale hill to build Trajan’s Forum. Even though this huge complex is known as the “markets” of Trajan, its purpose was actually different. Unlike what was believed at the moment of the discovery, this site was not used as a market for selling goods, fruits, veggies, or livestock but was actually the administrative center of the nearby Forum of the emperor Trajan.

It might not be on your list if you have only one day in Rome, but if you can afford at least 3 days in the eternal city or even better, a full week, I recommend considering it because it will inevitably add great value to your trip. We thoroughly visited it and while I was expecting to be done in an hour or so, we wandered around the markets and museum for more than two hours. It was so interesting that we didn’t even notice the passing of time and that lunch hour was nearing the end.

We wrote a complete guide to visiting the Trajan’s Markets in Rome including our tips to best enjoy your experience.

Do you want to go off the beaten path? Click here to discover 5 secret sights in Rome!

Image: Trajan's Markets from Trajan's Forum in Rome city center

History of the Trajan’s Markets in Ancient Rome

Just like the name evokes, Trajan’s Markets are a fantastic archaeological site in central Rome. Re-discovered at the beginning of the 20th century and entirely repurposed between 2005 and 2007, this was a multifunctional center at the service of the adjacent Trajan’s Forum, so dealing with the administrative duties for the place where the emperor organized his public functions and official events.

Historians reached this conclusion due to how the spaces inside the complex were allocated and connected among each other through staircases and streets not accessible by carts. This shows that they were used as offices closely linked to the nearby Trajan Forum, including the one of the “procurator”, the judge in charge of the whole administration of the complex and the forum.

Other areas show the rooms that are believed to be used as the working place of treasurers of the imperial finances, some as the venue for official ceremonies and public events.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Trajan’s Markets were still in use. This is why archaeologists found several traces of later interventions. In the Middle Ages, local noble families occupied the large complex to turn into a fortress also adding defensive towers and giving it a military structure.

Different eras, different purposes. Between the 15th and 16th centuries, the complex went through a time of full neglect, while on the second half of the 16th century several changes were made to adapt to the convent of Santa Caterina da Siena that occupied it. After the Italian unification, the building is occupied by military barracks until the first half of the 20th century when the works of historical digging and restoration begin.

Image: Trajan Markets museum in Rome

What to See in the Trajan’s Markets in Rome

The layout of Trajan’s Markets consists of several buildings that opened directly on the street and is structured in six layers on the slopes of the Quirinale hill. From the building, after walking along the Great Hemicycle, you can go down and step inside the actual Trajan’s Forum, the large archaeological site visible from Piazza Venezia.

This is truly an incredible visit because the markets are a large ancient building displaying a rich collection of relics and the forum itself is an important landmark from imperial Rome.

Image: Statues at the Trajan Markets museum in Rome

Trajan’s Markets is not only an archaeological site like, for example, the Colosseum or the Roman Forum. All across the buildings of the complex, in fact, is the Museo dei Fori Imperiali, one of Rome’s richest museums.

Your tour will start from the ground floor right after the entrance with a visit to the Great Hall. This was probably the venue for official ceremonies and the introduction to the complex of the markets and the history of the Imperial Fora.

Follow along with the rest of the rooms, each of them devoted to the introduction of every single imperial forum ending with the section devoted to Trajan’s Forum and the 17th-century cistern where you will see a collection of amphorae.

Image: Great Hemicycle in Trajan's Markets Rome archaeological site

Among all the exhibitions, some fascinating collections are on the upper floor with relics from Caesar and Augustus Fora, the public spaces of two of Rome’s most important figures and leaders. The Trajan’s Markets are obviously conceptually and geographically linked to the city’s imperial fora, so arguably the best place to set up such a fascinating museum.

Wander the alleys and the decorations of Caesar’s Forum (46 BC), Augustus’ Forum (2 BC), the Templum Pacis (75 AD), Nerva’s Forum (97 AD), and Trajan’s Forum itself (112 and 113 AD). The imperial fora are recognized as a superb collection of monumental squares built in about 150 years in the center of Rome for the administrative and judiciary activities as well as venues for celebrations and official events.

Going down from the Great Hemicycle, where offices and archives of the tax clerks were, towards the ancient Via Biberatica road, step outside the Markets in the actual forum of the emperor Trajan where you will find relics of carved pillars and walls.

Practical Info for Visiting the Trajan’s Markets

  • Address: Via Quattro Novembre 94.
  • How to reach: Very easy here with public transport, any bus going down Via Nazionale from Stazione Termini such as 64 or 40 Express. If you are coming from the other side, any bus stopping at Piazza Venezia such as 51, 60, 63, 81, 64, 628, or tram n. 8.
  • Opening hours: Daily 9.30 am-7.30 pm. Last entrance an hour before closing.
  • Entrance fee: €13.
  • Website.
Image: Relics at Trajan's Markets in Rome

What to See near the Trajan’s Markets

Trajan’s Markets are in the very city center, literally minutes from Piazza Venezia, Via del Corso and Fontana di Trevi, so you will be close to most Rome’s major landmarks. The place is a perfect fit in between any of the normal things you can do in the Centro Storico and Tridente area, whether this is sightseeing or heavy shopping.

Along Via del Corso, do some window shopping, duck into Galleria Alberto Sordi for some more boutiques, take a little detour to see the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, or head forward to the Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti before ending up in the beautiful Piazza del Popolo from which you can go sideways and visit the other two roads of the Tridente, Via Ripetta and Via del Babuino, and do some extra shopping.

If you have already visited Tridente and Centro Storico, from Trajan’s Markets you can head uphill and get around the lovely Monti neighborhood. Even though quite a popular place among travelers, you will find some important hidden gems including the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, or a lovely vintage market, as well as experience the “square” lifestyle so dear among Romans sitting outside, enjoying a meal al fresco, strolling the streets.

Where to Eat near the Trajan’s Markets

In the immediate surroundings of the museum, I didn’t really find worth-mentioning eateries, but with a short walk, you will find a few restaurants around the Trevi Fountain you might want to check, such as Baccano for good food, a large and very comfortable ambiance, albeit a little pricey, or the casual and more affordable Aromi Bistrot in the same Via Quattro Novembre 137/M-138.

If you are up for a casual but lovely meal, balanced and healthy, head up Via del Corso towards Piazza del Popolo and turn right on Via Borgognona to grab a table at Ginger Sapori restaurant. If you have time for some extra walk, try your luck at Armando al Pantheon, one of Rome’s best restaurants serving delicious Roman traditional dishes.

Photo of author

About The Author: Angela Corrias

Hi, my name is Angela Corrias! I am an Italian journalist, photographer, and blogger living in Rome. After over ten years of living abroad, I finally came to the conclusion that in order to better organize my future adventures, I needed a base. Since I know and love Rome so much, I moved back to the Eternal City. This is how Rome Actually was born. Here, I cover everything about Rome, from the local food to the culture to Roman history.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.