Rome is big, it’s loud, and it’s also one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. This – combined with its religious significance – makes it an epicenter of culture which millions of people make a special pilgrimage to every year.
Whether you’re drawn to history, crave delicious cuisine or you’re a sucker for beautiful art, Rome has it all. We saved you the trouble and compiled a list of 10 iconic things to do in Rome, which we’d rather you not tell your friends you missed:
1. The Pantheon
Built almost 2,000 years ago, the Pantheon (literally) still stands the test of time, proving Ancient Rome’s architectural ingenuity and its development in concrete technology. In fact, the structure’s massive rotunda is still the largest unreinforced dome made entirely of cement in existence. The entrance is free of charge, but for a more informative experience of this former temple, we highly recommend picking up an audio guide.
Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of ancient Rome, the Colosseum is a sight to behold and needs no introduction. Funded by spoils of war, the biggest amphitheater ever built held numerous sporting events and gladiator battles for half a millennium. Nowadays, you can visit the ancient arena and soak up its chilling history, but make sure you get your ticket in advance, as lines can get long during peak periods! Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Not too far from the Colosseum, you’ll find ancient Rome’s central hangout, the Forum. With its complex system of buildings and temples, this area was central to commercial and religious life during the heyday of the Roman empire and its remaining structures are just as impressive. Give yourself a few hours to visit, as it’s slightly spread out.
Once the tallest building in Rome, this ancient fortress was designed by
Beautifully located in a former villa, which is very much a piece of art in itself, this museum features some of Bernini’s more iconic sculptures such as the Rape of Proserpine and his version of David. Moreover, you will encounter numerous masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Peter Paul Rubens. The gallery is located in a lovely garden, so it’s a great opportunity to picnic while taking a break from all the art.
6. See the pope
Every Wednesday and Sunday, the pope makes a public appearance at St. Peter’s Square. If you manage to score one of the limited tickets available, you will have the opportunity of a lifetime (and the bragging rights) to tell your friends that you saw the pope in Vatican City.
Speaking of St. Peter’s Square, make sure you come back and check out its basilica in all its glory. The waiting time to enter the church can take over an hour, so skipping the line here is highly recommended. Insider tip: there’s a fun optical illusion if you look at the basilica from Via Niccolò Piccolomini street – the further you walk away, the bigger the St. Peter’s Basilica looks!
You can’t visit Rome and not go to the Vatican, it’s heresy. Located in the smallest country in the world, the Vatican’s museum is chock-full of masterpieces, including its crown jewel, Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. We can guarantee the Vatican will be full of visitors during any season or time, so make your life easier and buy tickets ahead to skip the line.
Technically the world’s first museum, this is the perfect place to enrich your knowledge about the city’s history. Some of the more notable pieces in its collection are the famous she-wolf sculpture featuring Rome’s founders Romulus and Remus, Medusa by Bernini, and a fountain in the form of a horn-shaped drinking cup. The museum takes its name from the hill it’s situated on, so count on a great view of the Roman Forum while you’re there.
10. Trajan’s Markets
Ever wonder how Ancient Romans shopped till they dropped? Well, look no further. The Markets of Trajan were built for Emperor Trajan around 107-110 AD, and are considered to be part of the world’s first great shopping mall complex with some 150 shops and administrative offices. This multi-level structure boasts an impressive display of the Ancient Romans’ architectural ability and is still just as endearing today.
*Honorable mentions go to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Campo de’ Fiori Square for market bargains during the day and vibrant nightlife in the evenings. If there’s another unmissable Roman attraction you think should have been mentioned, you might find it in our top 10 alternative things to do in Rome!