– This post was written by Judd –
Welcome to the Eternal City. In this guide, we invite you on a virtual journey to explore the top 10 things to do in Rome. Whether you’re looking to explore Rome on a budget or are more interested in some unique things to do in Rome. These curated highlights will help you delve into the city’s rich heritage and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Rome, the capital of Italy, is a city that holds an irresistible charm for travelers from around the globe, where ancient history, exquisite art, and mouthwatering cuisine converge in a symphony of beauty and allure. From awe-inspiring landmarks to hidden gems, Rome offers so many unforgettable experiences.
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 to which millions of people make a special pilgrimage every year.
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1. The Colosseum
The Colosseum, an iconic symbol of ancient Rome, stands as a magnificent testament to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. This colossal amphitheater, located in the heart of the city, once hosted spectacular gladiatorial contests, wild animal hunts, and other public spectacles.
Its impressive architecture, characterized by towering stone walls and rows of arches, showcases the engineering brilliance of the ancient Romans. Today, visitors can explore the vast interior and imagine the roars of the crowd, as they stand on the same ground where history was made.
If you’re in a hurry you can join an express tour, although a guided tour of the arena and underground at night makes for an unforgettable experience.
💡Pro tip: Save money on three attractions by booking a combined Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill ticket, which includes an immersive multimedia video of Ancient Rome before your visit!
2. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is a masterpiece of ancient Roman architecture. It stands as a testament to the ingenuity and elegance of its creators. This remarkable structure was built over two thousand years ago as a temple to honor the Roman gods. Its most striking feature is the awe-inspiring dome. It’s a perfect hemisphere and the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
The Pantheon’s facade is adorned with grand columns which lead to a magnificent interior filled with natural light. This light streams through the famous oculus at the center of the dome. The harmonious blend of classical design, engineering brilliance, and spiritual atmosphere makes the Pantheon an extraordinary sight to behold.
The entrance is free of charge, but for a more informative experience, we recommend picking up an audio guide or joining a guided tour.
💡Pro tip: The Pantheon is free to visit but if you plan to visit on a weekend you will need to pre-book your timeslot due to the high volume of visitors. You don’t want to miss out!
3. The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is a sprawling archaeological site nestled in the heart of Rome. Once the bustling center of the Roman Empire, the Forum served as a vibrant hub for public affairs. As you wander through the remnants of temples and ancient buildings, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.
The grandeur of the Forum’s ruins includes the awe-inspiring backdrop of Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill. Exploring the Roman Forum is like walking in the footsteps of ancient Romans and offers a remarkable glimpse into a civilization that shaped the world.
💡Pro tip: The Roman Forum is located between the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Capitoline Museum, and Altare della Patria. If you visit all of them you can cut down on time and money for transport as they’re all close enough together to walk.
4. Vatican City
Vatican City is the world’s smallest independent state and the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church. Located in the center of Rome, it’s a treasure trove of art, history, and spirituality. Within its hallowed walls, visitors can explore several remarkable attractions.
The centerpiece is St. Peter’s Basilica, an architectural masterpiece and the largest Catholic church in the world. Its grandeur is awe-inspiring, from the magnificent dome designed by Michelangelo to the stunning sculptures and intricate mosaics that adorn its interior.
Another must-see is the Vatican Museums, a vast collection of art and historical artifacts accumulated over centuries by various popes. The museums boast countless masterpieces, including the famous Sistine Chapel. Here Michelangelo’s breathtaking frescoes, such as the iconic “Creation of Adam,” adorn the ceiling.
Additionally, visitors to Vatican City can explore the Vatican Gardens, a tranquil oasis that covers more than half of the city-state’s area. These landscaped gardens offer a serene retreat with lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and stunning fountains.
💡Pro tip: Every Wednesday and Sunday, the Pope publicly appears at St. Peter’s Square. If you manage to score one of the limited tickets available, you will have the opportunity of a lifetime to attend a papal audience in Vatican City!
5. Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill is a captivating site steeped in ancient history and mythological significance. As the central one of the Seven Hills of Rome, it is considered the birthplace of the city.
Here you will find the ruins of imperial palaces, grand villas, and ancient gardens. Walking through the archaeological park atop Palatine Hill, visitors can immerse themselves in the splendor of ancient Rome.
Explore the remnants of once-opulent residences and witness the architectural marvels of the past. From the legendary Hut of Romulus to the imperial palace complex known as Domus Augustana, Palatine Hill offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Roman elite.
💡Pro tip: The top of Palatine Hill offers sweeping views of the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. Try to time your visit for sunset if you want to get the best photos of Rome from up high!
6. Castel Sant’Angelo
Once the tallest building in Rome, this ancient fortress was designed by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family and himself. Over the years its purpose has changed many times, from a fortress, a papal residence, a prison, and now a museum. It was also famously depicted in the novel “The Castle of the Holy Angel” by Dan Brown. Castel Sant’Angelo connects to Vatican City by a fortified corridor called the Passetto di Borgo. This passage served as a secret escape route for popes during times of danger.
Today, Castel Sant’Angelo offers visitors a chance to explore its rich history. Inside, you can visit various rooms and corridors, including the former papal apartments and prison cells. One of the highlights of Castel Sant’Angelo is the terrace on top of the castle, offering panoramic views of Rome.
💡Pro tip: Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo combines well with a visit to Vatican City as they’re so close together. You can also purchase combined tickets to save money and time!
7. Galleria Borghese
The Borghese Gallery is a renowned art museum that houses an exceptional collection of masterpieces. Originally commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century, the gallery showcases an impressive array of sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts.
Visitors can marvel at works by renowned artists such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Canova. The museum’s collection includes famous pieces like Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne,” and Caravaggio’s “Boy with a Basket of Fruit,” among many others.
💡Pro tip: Surrounding the Borghese Gallery is the Villa Borghese, a beautiful and expansive park. The gardens provide a serene and picturesque escape from the bustling city. Visitors can stroll through the park, relax on the grassy lawns, rent a paddleboat on the lake, enjoy a picnic with stunning views, or explore with a rented golf cart!
8. Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain, an iconic masterpiece nestled in the heart of Rome, is a mesmerizing blend of Baroque art and ancient mythology. This majestic fountain stands at the junction of three bustling streets. Its centerpiece is a magnificent statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, surrounded by intricate sculptures and ornate reliefs.
Water cascades down in a symphony of sound and movement, creating a captivating display that reflects the grandeur of Rome’s artistic heritage. Legend has it that tossing a coin into the fountain ensures a return visit to the Eternal City. This tradition is observed by countless visitors who eagerly seek to capture the magic and charm of this enchanting landmark.
💡Pro tip: The Trevi Fountain is always super busy, so visit it as early in the morning as possible if you want to get some photos without the crowds! For something a bit more unique, you can also do a guided tour of the underground aqueduct below the famous fountain.
9. Altare della Patria
The Altare della Patria is a monumental structure located in the heart of Rome. It’s also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, the Altar of the Fatherland, or the “Wedding Cake” by locals.
This grandiose white marble edifice stands as a symbol of Italian unity. It honors Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a united Italy. It features a neoclassical design, with sweeping staircases, grandiose colonnades, and a central equestrian statue. The monument is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a solemn memorial that pays tribute to fallen soldiers.
💡Pro tip: Visitors can ascend to the panoramic terraces via a glass elevator and enjoy breathtaking views of Rome’s skyline.
10. Capitoline Museum
Technically the world’s first museum, this is the perfect place to enrich your knowledge about Rome’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.
💡Pro tip: The Capitoline Museum is next door to the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument, so you can explore both attractions in one go.
Unusual Things to Do in Rome
If your Rome vacation is long enough to afford you time to explore the city at leisure, you might also be interested in seeing some places off the beaten track. There are some great options if you’re looking for more unique attractions and experiences than the usual top 10 things to do in Rome.
Visit the Museum of Illusions
For some weird and wacky photo opportunities while in Rome, head to the Museum of Illusions! This museum houses a wide range of illusions, interactive installations, impossible objects, and paintings that are bound to make you think.
Indulge on a food tour!
There’s no better way to ensure you taste all the best local dishes in Rome than on a food tour. There are some great Rome food tours to choose from. Either the street food tour or the paint and sip experience, where you can do some painting while sipping Italian wine and eating pizza, are the best options!
Visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus
One of the most unusual things to do in Rome is not for the faint of heart! You can join a tour to explore the most intriguing sections of some enormous 3rd-century catacombs, which contain the remains of half a million Christians.
Take a cruise along the Tiber River
One of the best things to do in Rome, that most people don’t think of, is to enjoy the city from the water. A sunset Tiber cruise with wine is a very romantic choice. You can also use a hop-on hop-off boat ticket to get around the city via the river.
Immerse yourself in the Leonardo Da Vinci Experience
Discover the ingenious mind of the original Renaissance man at the Leonardo da Vinci Experience. This is one of the most unique things to do in Rome, especially with kids, and this exclusive exhibition bears all, from his flying machines to his most parodied paintings.
How many days do you need in Rome?
The number of days you need in Rome depends on your interests and the pace at which you prefer to explore. To get a good overview of the city and have time for the best things to do in Rome, three to four days is best. Within those days, you can visit must-see attractions like the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the Trevi Fountain. You’ll also have time to wander through charming neighborhoods and savor delectable Roman cuisine.
If you have more time available, extending your stay by a few days allows for a deeper exploration of the city. You can dedicate more time to visit lesser-known attractions or exploring the many museums and art galleries. This extra time also allows for more flexibility to relax, revisit favorite spots, or take day trips to nearby destinations.
Is Rome an expensive city?
Rome can be considered a moderately expensive city to visit. The overall cost will depend on various factors such as accommodation, dining choices, activities, and personal preferences. It is possible to enjoy Rome on a budget though!
Some things to consider include the costs of accommodation. These can vary significantly depending on the location, amenities, and type of accommodation you choose. Rome also offers a wide range of dining options to suit different budgets. Check out the local trattorias, pizzerias, and street food vendors for delicious meals at low prices.
Rome has an extensive public transportation system for getting around the city. Purchasing a Roma Pass can help save money on transportation costs. Of course, Rome is known for its rich historical and cultural heritage, which includes iconic attractions like the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the Roman Forum.
While entrance fees to these sites can add up, there are also many options to save money. Purchasing a tourist card which includes discounted entry to multiple sites is one of the best options.
When’s the best time to visit Rome?
Spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) are considered the best times to visit Rome. During these seasons, the weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds.
Generally, you want to avoid the peak tourist season, which falls in July and August. These months can be hot, humid, and crowded, as many travelers flock to Rome during their summer vacations.
If you prefer to enjoy the city with fewer tourists and more manageable temperatures, plan your visit during the shoulder seasons or even during the quieter months of late winter. Follow these tips and you’ll be enjoying your fabulous Rome vacation in no time!