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Who loves going to shopping malls and choosing special goods at the best prices? Today, we mainly think about malls as places to shop clothes, perfumes, food and even tech products, but what about ancient times? The tradition of visiting malls is old and it dates back to Ancient Rome or even before.

While citizens of the Roman Empire spent most of their public life in the old center of the Eternal City, which is the Roman Forum, they enjoyed even more Trajan Markets, considered to be the “ancestor” of modern malls.

Trajan Markets are a big complex of ruins located just a few steps away from the Colosseum, near Roman Forum and Trajan Forum. They appear as a multi level building which has been built using the lands at its best. The construction in fact is nestled between the Quirinal Hill and the forum valley and it was used both as a mall and administrative site and to support the flank of the hill.

Check out below and learn all about the oldest shopping mall in the world.


Trajan Markets: then and now

Trajan Markets were named after the Emperor Trajan, who ordered the building of the first covered markets in history. They are deeply linked with the impressive Trajan Forum nearby and in fact they were as one with it.

Trajan Markets were arranged in two parts, the upper side and lower side with a total of 6 six different levels. They were provided with several alleys and stairs so each level could be easily connected with others and romans could move between them. The upper side had an administrative function and in fact offices were located there. The lower side instead was meant to be a place for trades where it was possible to shop products coming from the most remote sites of the Empire.

If you stare at the markets from outside from Fori Imperiali Street, you will admire a beautiful semi-circular shape. Built by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus, it resembles the ancient market of Petra in Jordan both in style and shape, in fact the architect himself knew local art well as he was born in that country. 

Later in the centuries, Trajan markets played different roles: at first, it was turned into a fortress, then into a cloister and later into barracks by local wealthy families. Today, Trajan Markets host the Roman Forum Museum which is accessible from Via IV Novembre, the winding street that connects Quirinal Hill with the area of the Roman Forum below. Therefore, Trajan Markets are now arranged in several areas, each one showing different architecture styles of ancient Rome, with beautiful decoration and lovely sculptures. Moreover, special limited exhibitions are held here from time to time.


Know before you go

Trajan Markets are open every day from 9.30 AM to 7.30 PM except on bank holidays. You can easily reach them by subway line B, stopping at Colosseum and walking along Fori Imperiali street.

Tickets can be purchased both online and at the ticket office.

Usually a visit to Trajan Markets can be one or two hours long, depending on how much you want to see and how many questions you want to ask your guide. Luckily, despite being a well preserved monument of Ancient Rome, they are not among the most requested sites and you will find less queue there. However, as their history is full of details and changes, it is recommended to visit and include them in Rome Private Tours, in order to have an expert qualified guide to show you all their treasures.

3rd Dec 2021