Kathleen Lewis

Exploring Domus Aurea or Golden House

Uncover the splendors of Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea, the luxurious Golden House in Rome's Monti district.

Attraction Monti
Interior view of Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome


Domus Aurea, or the Golden House, was a lavish palace complex built by the Roman emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome. It was a symbol of his power and extravagance, but also of his downfall and infamy. Today, you can visit the remains of this fascinating site and admire the stunning frescoes, sculptures, and architecture that have survived for centuries. In this article, you will learn more about the history, significance, and features of Domus Aurea, as well as some practical tips for planning your visit.

Setting Expectations: Downsides and Time Considerations

Visiting Domus Aurea is not a typical tourist experience. The site is still under excavation and restoration, and it is only open on weekends and by reservation. You will need to join a guided tour that lasts about 75 minutes and includes a virtual reality headset that recreates the original appearance of the palace. The tour is informative and immersive, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Some of the drawbacks and challenges of visiting Domus Aurea are:

  • The site is dark, damp, and dusty. You will need to wear a helmet and a protective suit for safety reasons.
  • The virtual reality headset may cause motion sickness or discomfort for some people.
  • The tour is only available in Italian or English. You will need to bring your own headphones to listen to the audio guide.
  • The site is not wheelchair accessible and involves walking on uneven surfaces and stairs.
  • The site is often fully booked in advance. You will need to reserve your ticket online as soon as possible.

If you are willing to overcome these challenges, you will be rewarded with a unique and unforgettable experience that will take you back to the glory and decadence of ancient Rome.

Tips for your visit of Domus Aurea

  • Arrive early The site is located near the Colosseum, which is one of the most crowded areas in Rome. To avoid traffic and long queues, it is advisable to arrive at least 30 minutes before your tour time. You will need to check in at the ticket office and collect your helmet and suit.
  • Combine your visit with other attractions Since Domus Aurea is only open on weekends, you may want to make the most of your day by visiting other nearby attractions. Some of the options are: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Basilica of San Clemente.

Additional tips or recommendations for visitors are:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
  • Bring a bottle of water and a snack. There are no cafes or vending machines on site.
  • Respect the rules and instructions of the guides and staff. Do not touch or damage anything on site.
  • Enjoy the experience and take plenty of photos. You are allowed to take pictures inside Domus Aurea, but without flash or tripod.

Practical Information

Opening Hours: Domus Aurea is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The last tour starts at 3:45 pm.

How to Get There: Domus Aurea is located on Via della Domus Aurea, near the Colosseum. You can reach it by metro (line B, Colosseo station), bus (lines 51, 75, 85, 87, 117), tram (line 3), or taxi.

Price: The admission fee for Domus Aurea is 14 euros per person, plus 2 euros for the reservation fee. You can book your ticket online on the official website or through authorized agencies.

Crowds: Domus Aurea is not as crowded as other attractions in Rome, but it is still very popular and often sold out. The maximum capacity of each tour is 25 people. You will need to book your ticket in advance and arrive on time for your tour.

Weather Considerations: Domus Aurea is an indoor attraction, so it is not affected by the weather. However, the site is humid and cold, so you may want to dress accordingly and bring a jacket or sweater.

Photography: You are allowed to take photos inside Domus Aurea, but without flash or tripod. You can also take photos with the virtual reality headset, but be careful not to drop or damage it.

Accessibility: Domus Aurea is not wheelchair accessible and involves walking on uneven surfaces and stairs. It is also not recommended for people with claustrophobia, vertigo, or heart problems.

Facilities: Domus Aurea has a ticket office, a cloakroom, a bookstore, and toilets. There are no cafes or vending machines on site.

Tours: Domus Aurea can only be visited with a guided tour that lasts about 75 minutes and includes a virtual reality headset. The tour is available in Italian or English. You will need to bring your own headphones to listen to the audio guide.

Bringing Children: Domus Aurea is suitable for children who are interested in history and art. However, they may find the site dark and scary, and they may not be able to wear the helmet and suit properly. The minimum age for the tour is 6 years old.

Bringing Pets: Pets are not allowed inside Domus Aurea.

These details are subject to change; please check the official website for the latest information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Domus Aurea?

    The Domus Aurea, or Golden House, was a vast landscaped complex built by the Emperor Nero on the Oppian Hill in the heart of ancient Rome after the great fire of 64 AD. It replaced and extended his Domus Transitoria and included a lake, a canal, a nymphaeum, and a theater. It was destroyed by fire in 104 AD and its frescoes were discovered by a young artist in the 15th century.

  • How can I visit the Domus Aurea?

    The Domus Aurea is open to visitors only with guided or accompanied tours. You need to book your visit online or via call center. The access is allowed to a maximum of 23 people, including guides and companions, for each time slot. Inside the Domus the temperature is around 10 degrees. Appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes are recommended.

  • What can I see at the Domus Aurea?

    The Domus Aurea offers a unique experience that will take you into the heart of a genuine archaeological dig where you can observe the recovery and restoration phases ‘live’ and at the same time relive the dreams of a somewhat “extravagant” emperor. You can also enjoy a virtual reality tour that will recreate the original appearance of the palace.

Must see

  • The Octagonal Room

    This is one of the most impressive rooms of the Domus Aurea, with its dome-shaped ceiling and oculus. It was probably used as a dining room or a reception hall. The room has an innovative design that inspired later architects such as Michelangelo and Brunelleschi.

  • The Grotesque Frescoes

    The walls and ceilings of the Domus Aurea are covered with colorful frescoes that depict fantastic creatures, plants, animals, and geometric patterns. These paintings are called grotesque because they were found in grottoes (caves) by Renaissance artists who admired their style and copied them in their own works.

  • The Nymphaeum

    A nymphaeum is a shrine dedicated to nymphs, water spirits in Greek and Roman mythology. The nymphaeum of the Domus Aurea was a large artificial grotto decorated with fountains, statues, and mosaics. It was designed to create a sense of wonder and illusion for Nero and his guests.

  • The Colossus of Nero

    This was a gigantic bronze statue of Nero that stood near the entrance of the Domus Aurea. It was about 30 meters high and depicted Nero as the sun god Helios. After Nero's death, the statue was moved and modified by his successors to represent other emperors or deities.

Lesser known stories and Interesting Facts

  • The Domus Aurea was a symbol of Nero's extravagance

    The Domus Aurea (Latin for "Golden House") was a vast landscaped complex built by the Emperor Nero after the great fire of 64 AD that destroyed a large part of Rome. It replaced and extended his previous palace, the Domus Transitoria, and covered an area of about 50 hectares (125 acres) between the Palatine and the Esquiline hills. It was richly decorated with frescoes, marble, jewels, and ivory, and featured a huge artificial lake, gardens, vineyards, and a colossal statue of Nero himself.

  • The Domus Aurea was inspired by the wonders of the East

    Nero was fascinated by the culture and architecture of the East, especially after his visit to Greece in 66-67 AD. He wanted to recreate the splendor of the palaces and temples he had seen there in his own residence. He hired architects and engineers from Greece and Asia Minor, and imported exotic materials and artworks from Egypt, Syria, and Persia. He also incorporated elements of Hellenistic and Egyptian religion into his palace, such as a temple dedicated to Isis and a rotating dining room that mimicked the movement of the celestial spheres.

  • The Domus Aurea was a source of inspiration for Renaissance artists

    The Domus Aurea was soon abandoned and buried after Nero's death in 68 AD, as his successors tried to erase his memory and restore the public lands he had confiscated. The palace remained hidden for centuries, until a young Roman accidentally fell into one of its chambers in the late 15th century. He discovered a series of rooms filled with colorful frescoes depicting mythological scenes, animals, plants, and geometric patterns. These paintings, known as "grotesques", were a revelation for the Renaissance artists who visited them, such as Raphael and Michelangelo. They copied and adapted the style and motifs of the ancient Roman art in their own works.

  • The Domus Aurea was damaged by several earthquakes

    The Domus Aurea was not only neglected and plundered by later emperors, but also suffered from natural disasters. Several earthquakes in the 9th, 13th, and 15th centuries caused parts of the palace to collapse or crack. The most severe damage occurred in 847 AD, when an earthquake destroyed the vaults of the main hall and the colossal statue of Nero. The statue was later dismantled by Pope Paul I and replaced by a bronze figure of St. Peter.

  • The Domus Aurea is still under restoration

    The Domus Aurea has been undergoing restoration since the 1990s, as part of a project to protect and enhance its cultural heritage. The restoration involves consolidating the structures, removing the vegetation and humidity that threaten the frescoes, installing a new ventilation system, and creating a new visitor center. The project also aims to recreate the original appearance of the palace through virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.

Historical Background

The Domus Aurea was built by Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (37-68 AD), the fifth emperor of Rome and one of the most controversial figures in history. He came to power in 54 AD after the death of his adoptive father Claudius, who had married his mother Agrippina. Nero soon eliminated his rivals and enemies, including his mother, his first wife Octavia, his tutor Seneca, and many senators and generals. He also indulged in artistic pursuits, such as singing, playing the lyre, writing poetry, and performing on stage.

In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome, lasting for six days and seven nights. It destroyed three of the fourteen districts of the city and damaged seven more. The fire started near the Circus Maximus, where Nero had planned to build his new palace. Many Romans suspected that Nero had ordered the fire to clear space for his project. According to some sources, Nero watched the fire from his palace on the Palatine hill, playing the lyre and singing about the fall of Troy. He also blamed the Christians for the fire and persecuted them brutally.

Nero took advantage of the fire to rebuild Rome according to his own vision. He designed a new urban plan that included wider streets, porticoes, fountains, and public buildings. He also started the construction of his Domus Aurea, a lavish palace complex that occupied a large part of the city center. He spared no expense or effort to make it the most magnificent residence ever seen. He imported rare materials and artworks from all over the empire, and employed the best architects and craftsmen. He also added features that reflected his personal taste and whims, such as a revolving dining room, a lake with naval battles, and a 35-meter-high statue of himself.

The Domus Aurea was not well received by the Roman people or the Senate. They saw it as a symbol of Nero's tyranny, extravagance, and megalomania. They resented his appropriation of public lands and resources, and his neglect of the common good. They also feared his increasing instability and paranoia, as he executed or exiled anyone who opposed or criticized him. In 68 AD, a series of revolts broke out in Gaul, Spain, and Africa, supported by some of the governors and generals. Nero lost the loyalty of the army and the Senate, and was declared a public enemy. He fled from Rome and committed suicide in a villa near the city. He was the first Roman emperor to die by his own hand.

After Nero's death, his successors tried to erase his legacy and restore the traditional order. The Domus Aurea was stripped of its valuables and filled with earth. The lake was drained and replaced by the Flavian Amphitheater (the Colosseum). The statue of Nero was removed and replaced by a statue of the sun god. The palace was forgotten for centuries, until it was rediscovered in the Renaissance. It became a source of inspiration for many artists, who admired its beauty and originality. It also became a subject of study for historians and archaeologists, who sought to understand its history and significance.

Nearby Restaurants

  • La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali A family-run restaurant that offers traditional Roman cuisine with a modern twist. Try their homemade pasta, meat dishes, and desserts.
  • L'Asino d'Oro A cozy restaurant that specializes in Umbrian cuisine, using seasonal ingredients and local products. Don't miss their soup of the day, lamb chops, and chocolate cake.
  • Aroma A Michelin-starred restaurant that boasts a stunning view of the Colosseum from its rooftop terrace. Enjoy their creative Mediterranean dishes, paired with fine wines.

Nearby Attractions

  • The Colosseum The largest and most famous amphitheater in the world, where gladiatorial games, animal hunts, and mock battles were held for the entertainment of the Roman people.
  • The Roman Forum The heart of ancient Rome, where political, religious, and social activities took place. Explore the ruins of temples, basilicas, arches, and monuments.
  • The Palatine Hill The oldest and most aristocratic part of Rome, where emperors and nobles built their palaces. Admire the remains of imperial residences, gardens, and museums.


The Domus Aurea is one of the most fascinating attractions in Rome, as it reveals the personality and ambitions of one of the most notorious emperors in history. It also showcases the artistic and architectural achievements of ancient Rome, as well as its influence on later periods. Visiting the Domus Aurea is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the past and experience its wonders through modern technology.