If you have 4 days in Rome, you really will be able to see a lot of the city. Provided you are a fast paced visitor and that you carefully plan in advance, with a detailed day to day itinerary and booking the entrances to the various attractions, you will be able to go through all the main tourist attractions, and you’ll even manage to explore some of the ones that – despite interesting – are often skipped due to lack of time.
I know Rome quite well – though mind you, the city is so big that one is never really quite done exploring. Anyways: I have been there many times, and I have even lived there for a while. So, I thought I’d take the stress out of having to plan your Rome in 4 days itinerary. All you’ll have to do is book your flights, accommodation and tickets for the attractions that require advanced bookings.
In this post, I will tell you what you can see and do if you have 4 days in Rome, and share some insights on how to skip the lines at the most popular attractions, save a buck or two, and overall enjoy your time in the Eternal City.
Continue reading to discover all the things to do in Rome in 4 days.
A Day By Day Itinerary To Spend 4 Days In Rome
One thing I have to point out before anything else is that if you really want to make the most of your 4 days in Rome, you need to book entries to the most popular tourist attractions. Some of them only allow a capped number of visitors for strict time periods, thus getting sold out fast. If you don’t book these attractions in advance, you may end up being stuck with no way of getting in. Or you may actually get in, but only after a very long line at the ticket counter.
Don’t worry tough: I will tell you whenever you should be making reservations for the attractions mentioned in this itinerary to see Rome in 4 days. And if youfollow my tips and this itinerary, you’ll have a memorable time.
For this itinerary, I will just assume that you have a minimum of 4 full days in Rome (which means you’re planning on sleeping there a total of 5 nights).
If you are coming from the other side of the world, you probably won’t have much energy to explore the city even if your flight lands in the morning – besides, keep in mind that it will take you at least two full hours (if not more) to clear customs, pick up your luggage, find your way to the city and finally make it to your hotel.
TIP: For your first day in town, the one when you literally just get there, I recommend taking it easy and just explore the immediate surroundings, and perhaps doing a guided food tour in the evening, after you have rested a bit. This food tour is an excellent option as it starts at 5:15 pm. You can book it here.
Curious to find out more about the best street food in Rome? Make sure to read this article.
TIP: I recommend to start your day of exploration very early, to avoid the large crowds and, if you are traveling in the summer, the peak heat hours.
The itinerary I have drafted that is seriously packed, but it is logic in the sense that I recommend visiting attractions that are at an easy walking distance one from the other, so that you can minimize the time spent on public transportation.
TIP: Have lunch on the go to maximize the amount of time left for exploring. Go for street food such as pizza al taglio, supplì al telefono or some amazing gelato and then have a proper sit down meal at a restaurant in the evening.
TIP: Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll have to do a lot of walking.
Finally, let’s get to the fun bits. Continue reading to discover my suggested itinerary for 4 days in Rome.
The Colosseum is the obvious starting point when visiting Rome
Day 1: Ancient Rome
This 4 day Rome itinerary starts with what I think are the simply unmissable attractions in Rome – those you’d regret not seeing. Your starting point is the Colosseum. After visiting that, you’ll continue exploring Ancient Rome by visiting the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus, and the Baths of Caracalla. You will then continue towards the Mouth of Truth. You’ll have a stop at the Orange Garden for some of the most breathtaking views of Rome. You’ll finish off with Piramide and Testaccio.
Please note that you can completely invert this itinerary leaving the Colosseum as the last place to visit. In that case, you’ll have to opt for a night tour of the Colosseum. More about that below.
Map of day one Rome itinerary
For a better idea of the walking itinerary for day one, I thought I’d link to the map so you can see how far each place is from the other. If you enlarge the map you can even see all the places where you can stop for a drink or a bite. You can see the map by clicking here. Feel free to adjust it to your interests and needs and to remove the places you are not interested in.
Close your eyes and think about Rome. What’s the first image that comes to your mind? I bet it is the Colosseum. This is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world; a beautiful sight during the day and a breathtaking one at night, when it is beautifully illuminated. There’s no other way around it: you can’t go to Rome and skip the Colosseum.
The bad news is that there usually are very long lines to get tickets to enter the Colosseum.
To make a long story short, however, let me just say that the only way to skip the line at the Colosseum is by getting skip the line tickets online. You’ll still have to go through security, but that line doesn’t even compare to the one at the ticket counter.
TIP: During high season the Colosseum gets easily sold out. If you are traveling during the peak months, buy your tickets well in advance. If you buy tickets on the website of the Colosseum you will have to go to a separate website to specify the date and time you intend to visit.
TIP: You may want to invest in a guided tour of the Colosseum via a third party site. This way, you can specify the day and time of the tour and they will be doing any subsequent arrangements.
These are some good group tour that include skip the line tickets to the Colosseum:
TIP: Be sure to read the full description of the tour and all the inclusions and exclusions. Some tours only include the main floor, others go to the underground and the second ring as well.
Sunset over the Colosseum, as seen from the Arch of Constantine
Visiting the Colosseum at night
If you would like a more intimate experience, you can go on a guided night tour of the Colosseum. Night tours usually start at 9:30 pm and last around 2 and a half hours. In this case I recommend starting your day in Testaccio and working your way towards the Colosseum. In fact, this option may allow you a bit more time to explore the other attractions.
TIP: I recommend having dinner before your night tour of the Colosseum.
Night tours of the Colosseum include access to the underground, the first and second ring, and the arena floor – they are generally more comprehensive than other tours. They cost around €87 per person, thus being more expensive than a regular tour. If you ask me, it is totally worth paying that extra money!.
The same ticket that gives you access to the Colosseum can be used to visit the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. This is a rather big site, so you may want to do a guided tour to maximize your time and make the most of it. In fact, most tours that go to the Colosseum include a visit of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
These are some of the best guided tours that combine a visit of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum:
A few facts about the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus
The Roman Forum is one of the most interesting archeological sites in Rome. At the time of the Republic, it was a place thriving with life and the heart of the city. It was at the same time a market, a place of worship with lots of temples, the location of the House of the Senate and of brothels. During the time of the Roman Empire, it was used as a ceremonial center.
According to legend, the Palatine Hill is where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and where Romolo killed his brother and then founded Rome. This is the area where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome used to live.
Circus Maximus is an ancient chariot racing stadium and entertainment venue located between the Palatine and the Aventine Hill. It is now a large urban park that is often used for concerts and other popular events.
The Roman Forum is a must see site
Baths of Caracalla
Very close to the Colosseum you will find the Baths of Caracalla, an enormous bathing complex where a whopping 1600 persons could all bathe at the same time. Contrary to many other sites in Rome, the Baths of Caracalla do show the passing of time. They still remain a very interesting site to explore, and since they don’t get nearly as many other tourists as other places in Rome, they may be a good place to cool down after the crowds of the Colosseum and a nice addition to this 4 day Rome itinerary.
Practical information: Admission to the Baths of Caracalla costs €11. You can buy your ticket in advance here. The tour with the audio guide costs €17 and lasts 1.5 hours. You can get it here.
Mouth of Truth
La Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth in English, is located by the entrance of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, close to the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum. It’s a large marble mask that was placed by the side of the church in 1632 (though the actual mask dates back to the 1st century, when it was actually a manhole).
A Medieval legend says that the mouth bites off the hand of liars. It’s a fun place to visit for a photo.
INTERESTING FACT: The Mouth of Truth became internationally famous with the movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
A breathtaking view of Rome
After you leave the Mouth of Truth, head to the Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Garden. This is one of the most unique places in Rome, from where you will get incredible views of the city and especially of St. Peter’s Basilica. The gardens were designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and nowadays they are among the most pleasant parks in Rome.
Pyramid of Caius Cestius
At just 15 minutes from the Orange Garden and on the way to Testaccio there’s Piramide, or Caius Cestius Pyramid. Built around 12 BC, this used to be the tomb of a prominent public figure. Though the tomb has been ransacked, the fact that it’s built within the Aurelian walls helped its preservation. Sure enough, finding an Egyptian looking pyramid in the center of Rome is a fun thing!
The Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome
At just a few minutes from Caius Cestius Pyramid, you’ll find the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome. The resting place of some notable non-catholics such as poet Percy Shelley and now hosting a large cat sanctuary, the cemetery is the best place to get encompassing views of the pyramid.
The last place you’ll visit on your first full day in Rome is Testaccio. This is one of the most interesting areas of Rome, which can still count on a local atmosphere. Among the spots you shouldn’t miss in Testaccio, there is the market and the main square (Piazza Testaccio). Testaccio is also Rome’s original foodie neighborhood, so definitely a good place to stop for a meal at the end of the day.
TIP: If you are keen on eating in Testaccio, try to book a table at Flavio Al Velavevodetto – one of the best restaurants in town.
Trevi Fountain is a must see, but go early to avoid the crowds
Day 2: The Historic Center of Rome
After an intense first day, you may want to take it a bit easier on your second day in Rome. That’s why your day 2 of your 4 days in Rome is a bit more chilled. You will be walking some, but not nearly as much as on day 1; and you won’t have the stress of making reservations to skip the lines. You can just go at your own pace, stay in whichever place as long as you wish.
Map of day two Rome itinerary
You’ll find a map for this day’s itinerary here. As you will be exploring the heart of Rome, you won’t find a shortage of places where you can stop for a meal or a drink. If you want, you can add the Spanish steps on this itinerary (in which case they should be your starting point) – but keep in mind I suggest visiting them on day 3.
There is little doubt that Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic attractions in Rome, and it is only obvious to include it in the list of places you should visit in Rome in 4 days.
After some major renovation work in recent years, the fountain has been brought black to its original splendor and it’s an incredible sight.
TIP: Trevi Fountain is an incredibly crowded attraction, so head there as early as possible if you don’t want to find large crowds of tourists.
TIP: Do not even think of jumping in Trevi Fountain, or in any other fountain in Rome. There are cameras and police officers everywhere in town and if you get caught you will get a hefty fine.
Continuing on, you will pass by Piazza di Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. You may have seen it on TV news at times. You can stop by for a moment or two to take in the building, planned by Bernini for Ludovico Ludovisi, who was a young cardinal nephew of Pope Gregory XV. It was Carlo Fontana who completed the construction. He added a a bell gable above the main entrance. The building was designed for social and public functions so it serves the purpose of hosting the Chamber of Deputies quite well.
The Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome
Between Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona you’ll find the Pantheon, which is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Rome and an absolute must see when you have 4 days in Rome. The building was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and built in the 126 AD. Its Dome is thought to be the best preserved building from antiquity. Once a temple, the Pantheon became a church – which is why inside you will find the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
It is free to enter the Pantheon. You may want to opt for an audioguide to take you around (the tour lasts 35 minutes) for just €5 euro. You can get yours here.
I think Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful and pleasant squares in Rome. It’s close to the Pantheon and there are bus stops nearby in case you wish to skip other places on this day’s itinerary. The square was paved over what used to be the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano during the 15th century. Nowadays Piazza Navona is home to one of the many markets of Rome. The main point of interest is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and the Baroque Sant’Agnese church, which was built in the 17th century.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is located South of Piazza Navona and considered one of the most charming, scenic squares in Rome. The name (which means “field of flowers”) refers to the fact that in Medieval times the area over which the square was built was a meadow. It was paved in 1456, and since the late 19th century it’s been home to a popular market where you’ll find fruits, vegetables and flowers. There also are several bars and cafés.
Did you know that the cats of Rome are famous?
Largo di Torre Argentina
If you are half as much a cat lover as I am, then you have to visit Largo di Torre Argentina during your 4 days in Rome. It’s located between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia. It is a beautiful archeological site mistakenly thought to be the place where Julius Cesar died.
In fact, Cesar was murdered a couple of blocks away, at the Theater of Pompey.
Roman history aside, what first caught my attention the first time I stumbled across Largo di Torre Argentina was the cats sleeping undisturbed on top of columns and ruins. Indeed, this place is home to the oldest cat sanctuary in Rome.
You can walk around the site to reach a small entrance where you’ll find a shelter and a tiny shop that sells gadgets in order to raise funds for the care of cats. You can make a donation, by a cool souvenir (ie a Cats of Rome calendar) and play with the cats a bit.
The Jewish Ghetto of Rome is an excellent place for a lunch stop and a nice area of Rome to explore.
Established by Pope Paul IV five centuries ago, the Ghetto is where all Jews living in Rome were forced to move in. It was surrounded by walls that were built with (forced) contributions of the local Jewish community, and it had doors that were kept locked at night.
Inside the Ghetto, the Jewish community developed its own language and mastered some of the most interesting dishes of Roman cuisine. This is where you should go to try kosher dishes such as carciofi alla giudia – fried artichokes with mint and garlic.
The gorgeous Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia
After eating in the Jewish Ghetto, walk back a bit towards Piazza Venezia to admire Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. The latter was built in 1911 to celebrate the first king of unified Italy. Piazza Venezia really is the heart of Rome, where locals gather to celebrate as well as to protest. It’s where the parade of the Festa della Repubblica takes place on 2 June.
Tiber Island is the only island inside the Tiber River that you’ll find in Rome. It is connected to the city by Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio. It used to be home of the Temple of Aesculapius, which was built in honor of the Greek god of medicine and healing, Aesculapius, by orders of the Senate of Rome during a terrible plague. The temple no longer exists, but in 1584 a hospital (Fatebenefratelli) was built.
As the island is tiny, it won’t take you long to walk around before you move on to the last stop of your day 2 itinerary.
Trastevere is located on the other side of the Tiber River and it is one of the most charming, lively and interesting areas of Rome. It’s a series of narrow alleys and charming streets, with nice squares where locals and tourists alike gather at night – this is you will find the best nightlife in town, with lots of pubs, wine bars, cafés and restaurants.
It’s the perfect place to end your day of exploration with a drink in hand, unless you want to go on a food tour. In this case, I recommend one that starts in the late afternoon such as this one or this one. If you want to add wine to the equation, book this tour.
You can’t skip St. Peter’s Basilica
Day 3: Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo and Galleria Borghese
Day 3 of your 4 days in Rome itinerary will be almost as packed as your first day. You will visit the Vatican, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Spanish Steps and finish off at Galleria Borghese.
Map of day three Rome itinerary
You can download a map of your day 3 itinerary here.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
On this day, I recommend heading out no later than 7:00 AM for an early tour of the Vatican. This means you will have plenty of time to explore the other places afterwards.
The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel officially open to the public at 9:00 AM, while St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 AM and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at 7:30. Lines to get into the Vatican Museums start forming as early as 7:30 AM.
I think you should get an early access Vatican tour that includes a dedicated entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Alternatively, you can decide to visit St. Peter’s Basilica as soon as it opens and then walk around the square to head to the Vatican Museums.
All in all, I suggest going on an early guided tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica as it is a huge time saver, not to mention you’ll have the benefit of a guide taking you around sharing interesting facts about the Sistine Chapel and pointing to the best pieces of the Vatican Museums collection. An early tour also means seeing the place when it is still virtually empty. At the end of the tour, you will be guided to St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you opt for an early access tour of the Vatican, you will be done by 11:00 AM at the latest, which means you will have plenty of time to continue exploring the city.
A few facts about the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican Museums are among the largest museums in the world: there are 54 chambers and a very large collection. The real show stealer however is the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece – The Last Judgement. This is one of Renaissance’s greatest works.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church for Catholics. It was built by artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante over a site considered to be the tomb of St. Peter. The church has 11 chapels, 45 altars and an incredible number of mosaics. Inside there are Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino, as well as the Chair of St. Peter.
TIP:Modest clothing is a requirement to visit the Vatican: cover your shoulders, chest and knees.
TIP: You can take photos inside the basilica, but no photos are allowed inside the Sistine Chapel. If you get caught taking one, you’ll be escorted out of the museums.
Castel Sant’Angelo is another impressive sight
If you have 4 days in Rome, you probably have enough time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. If you don’t want to go in, you can still walk by as you make your way towards the Tiber River as you continue to the Spanish Steps.
The castle was originally a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian which then became a prison. Nowadays it is a museum.
If you would like to go in, I recommend to buy a skip the line ticket beforehand to save some time. These are some good options:
The Spanish Steps, or Piazza di Spagna as we call it in Italy, is one of the most famous places to visit in Rome and can’t be missing in a 4 day in Rome itinerary. The 185 steps that lead to the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church were built in the 18th century and face Via Condotti – one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome. The views from there are lovely. The square is often crowded with tourists but it’s a must see. There is a nearby metro station (Spagna).
Piazza Del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is located at the bottom of the Pincio (the Pincian Hill) and you will have to walk through it on your way from the Spanish Steps to Villa Borghese. It is one of the largest squares in Rome, which is often used for concerts and large social gatherings. At the center of the square you’ll be able to see the obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – the second tallest in the city. Take the steps that lead to the gorgeous Pincio Terrace for splendid views of the square (and to go to Borghese Gallery).
Borghese Gallery has a fine art collection
Taking the steps from Piazza del Popolo to the Pincian Hill you will find a trail that goes through the park and takes you to Galleria Borghese, a museum that you absolutely have to visit if you have 4 days in Rome.
Borghese Gardens are absolutely gorgeous and Borghese Gallery has one of the finest art collections in the world, with paintings and sculptures of artists such as Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian.
Galleria Borghese has timed entrances and only allows 360 visitors at once. This means that it’s never really crowded. However, if you want to visit at a specific time you have to book in advance. In fact, I recommend booking in advance because it gets sold out in the peak season.
Make sure to arrive at the gallery at least 30 minutes before your visit – keep in mind that it takes up to 30 minutes to walk there from Piazza del Popolo.
On your last day in Rome, I recommend going to places that aren’t as famous as the rest, but just as interesting. You will start with a couple of churches and then move to the Catacombs and the Appian Way, but if churches aren’t your thing you can just skip them. You can even head directly to Garbatella for a walk in one of the nicest neighborhoods of Rome. Finally, if you feel like you want to get out of town completely, skip this itinerary and consider going on a day trip.
The map for your fourth day in Rome can be found here. Once you open it, you will notice that the distances are a bit longer than on previous days, so you may want to a bus or a taxi to move from one place to the other. If you click on the train icon on the map you will get the public transportation options.
San Clemente Basilica
If you enjoy visiting churches, make sure to go to San Clemente Basilica. Not even people who visit Rome regularly go – I only visited a couple of years ago for the first time!
The church was built on a site where Christians used to pray when they still couldn’t practice their religion freely. There are various levels of the church, following a number of excavations that uncovered remains from the 1st century as well as the 4th. Apparently there even is an older level of a building that was destroyed by the fire caused by Nero in 64 AD.
San Clemente is quite close to the Colosseum and small and easy to explore. There are panels explaining everything, but in case you want to join a guided tour, there are some good ones.
I used to live in Esquilino, a few blocks away from St. John in Lateran, and walked by it (and marveled at it) every day on my way to class. That’s why I thought I’d include it in my list of places to visit in Rome in 4 days.
You may ignore this, but this church actually is the cathedral of Rome, and the seat of the Pope in the city. It’s the oldest basilica in town, but doesn’t nearly get as many visitors as St. Peter’s Basilica.
Standing in front of the church there’s the Lateran Obelisk, known as the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. The church is known for its Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps thought to be those that Jesus walked up while heading to his trial in Jerusalem. You may know them as those steps that pilgrims climb on their knees. In fact, this is the only way visitors are allowed to ascend.
Here’s a selection of the best guided visits to St. John in the Lateran:
The Appian Way is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Rome
The Catacombs and the Appian Way
The Appian Way is a nice addition to this itinerary. It was built in 312 BC and remains one of the oldest surviving roads in the world. At the time of the Roman Empire, it connected Rome to other important cities such as Naples and Brindisi, and it was used for military and commercial purposes.
Along the Appian Way, make sure to stop by the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and St. Sebastian. St. Callixtus catacombs is where 16 popes and several martyrs have been buried.
If you want to join a guided tour of the Appian Way and the Catacombs, these are a few good options:
Garbatella has yet to become a big tourist attraction. This remains one of the most local neighborhoods in Rome, and gained a lot of popularity in Italy when it was used to film a famous TV series. The neighborhood was first built in 1918, and had the reputation of being a dangerous place. This has evidently changed and it is now thought to be one of the nicest areas to live in Rome.
There are various attractions in Garbatella: museums, art galleries and churches such as St. Paul’s Outside The Walls. Here you can still enjoy an authentic local meal, without any of the crowds of the historic center.
Ottaviano is a great place to stay for easy access to the Vatican
Practical Tips For Your 4 Days In Rome
Where to stay in Rome
There are many excellent hotel options in Rome – some of them quite pricey, actually. I recommend staying in the historic center, so that you have easier access to all the main attractions and don’t have to count on public transport all the time. Ottaviano offers easy access to the Vatican; while Esquilino, which has more budget friendly options, and Monti, are closer to the Colosseum.
These are some good places to stay in the area of Ottaviano:
You can walk this itinerary for 4 days in Rome on your own. I recommend joining guided tours to make the most of the various attractions you visit – especially since they will take the stress of having to make separate reservations for the entry time.
You may want to consider a guided tour of Rome that goes to all the most famous attractions. Here are a few good options:
You may consider getting a 72 hours Roma Pass even though you actually have 4 days in Rome, and use it to go to all the main attractions and get discount for others, access public transportation and, in some cases, even have transportation to the airport.
These are some good 72 hours Roma Pass options:
Omnia Card for Rome and Vatican City: it includes skip the line tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, preferred access with an audio-guide for St. Peter’s Basilica, access to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Mamertine Prison. Tickets to the Colosseum are not included.
Visit Pass Rome Gold – a pass that offers fast track access to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums; St. Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo; the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hills. It also includes an app to draft your itinerary and link to download an audio guide for the Forum and the Palatine. Public transportation is included.
Visit Pass Rome Platinum – a more expensive option than the others, but you get an actual guide inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
Omnia Vatican and Rome card – the most expensive option, but it really is the most inclusive pass with all the most popular attractions included. You even have a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket valid for 72 hours.
Best of Rome all access pass – this pass provides fast track entrances to the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills, and an audio-guide. It’s not clear whether transportation is included.
Whichever pass you pick, make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions.
Keep in mind that even when you have the Roma Pass you are required to book your entry to sites such as the Colosseum and the Borghese Gallery. That’s why booking individual tours and skip the line tickets may be a better options.
These are the best tours with skip the line access to the site:
It is always a good time to visit Rome, but I feel the city is at its best in October: the days are still nice and long-ish, temperatures mild (not as hot as in the summer, but incredibly pleasant), and sites are slightly less crowded. Keep in mind that in the late spring and early summer months you can take advantage of the longer days and of the longer opening hours of the various sites.
Avoid going in August if you can. It’s when Italians get out of the cities, so you won’t really find locals and the lines of tourists at sites are the longest.
Getting to the center of Rome from the airport is very easy
How to get to Rome
There are two airports in Rome – Fiumicino, for intercontinental flights and all major airlines; and Ciampino, for budget flights to Italy and Europe. Both airports are well connected to the city by taxi and cabs, buses and (in the case of Fiumicino) trains.
You can get from Ciampino Airport to Rome city center by taxi or bus. Several companies depart regularly – Terravision is probably the most reliable one. You can book Terravision bus tickets here.
You’ll have more options to travel from Fiumicino Airport to Rome. The cheapest mode of transportation is the express train, which runs every 15 minutes (or every 30 minutes late at night). You can buy tickets and check the timetable online.
TIP: Remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train! There are machines along the platform. If you fail to validate, you may have to pay a fine.
Other options include taxis, which have a €48 flat rate, or a private transfer, either shared or private.
You can’t count on Uber in Italy, so if you think you may need a taxi every now and then, download MyTaxi.
Unless you are staying really far away from the center, the best way to get around Rome is on foot, and this itinerary for 4 days in Rome is meant to maximize the amount of things you can see in any given area and allows you to avoid having to use the metro or the buses.
Locals may have a different opinion, but public transportation in Rome is quite efficient and there are many buses and two metro lines (a third one is still being built). Remember to validate your ticket before getting on the bus or metro.
You can get a Rome public transportation pass valid for 72 hours here. It may seem pricey but keep in mind it includes transfer from Ciampino airport.
TIP:Do not ride horse pulled carriages. With the traffic and noise in Rome, those animals suffer and you surely don’t want to contribute to their pain.
If you need to check out of your hotel in the morning but your flight or train is not until the evening, you may want to leave your luggage in storage at a central place. Check out this one or this one. Termini train station may overall be a better option as that’s where you’ll have to go to catch your train to the airport or to other cities.
Other useful tips
Mind the dress code
Remember to dress appropriately, or you may be denied entry to certain sites. Keep your knees, shoulders and chest covered if you intend to visit churches, even during the summer. Wear a long linen skirt or pants and take a scarf or shirt to wear when you are meant to walk inside.
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure you can use your smartphone in Italy and that you can access data to follow maps and use the internet if needed. Download maps that you can use offline, just in case.
Get a guide book
You may want to carry a good guide book with information about the places to visit in Rome in 4 days, as well as some good pop out maps – just in case you can’t access internet.
Regardless of the season, drink plenty of water throughout the day. Carry a bottle you can refill on the go: tap water is safe to drink in Rome and there are fountains everywhere. If you are at a restaurant, ask for “acqua” and you’ll usually be served bottled water.
Mind the scams
Tourists are a target of scams anywhere in the world and Rome is no different. Locals in Rome are friendly, but beware of overly friendly people; always keep your stuff with you to avoid pickpockets; don’t accept help from strangers who offer to carry your bags or help getting tickets at the train station (and never surrender your own ticket) and never touch things that are offered to you ie a rose or a bracelet. A polite but firm no is a good way to go, though my favorite is to ignore any offer.
Finding where to stay in Rome, the gorgeous capital of Italy, can be easier said than done. But with the tips shared in this post, you won’t have to worry a bit.
Rome is the most visited city in Italy and one of the most visited cities in the world – and for a good reason. The Eternal City is packed with many incredible sights, and its atmosphere is truly magical. Whatever your travel tastes and your budget needs, you are bound to find something to keep yourself entertained.
This is a city with an incredible historic and cultural heritage. Events happen round the clock. You will find incredible archeological sites, beautiful churches, and fantastic examples of modern and even street art. You can spend years exploring Rome and never quite get done.
Rome is lively and chaotic; it is colorful, artsy and sophisticated. It is dirty – there’s no denying that. But you can’t help falling in love with it. What I love about Rome is that for as touristy as it is, the city has retained its character. This is a place where you will find an incredible mix of locals who’ve lived there for generations; expats who now call the city home; and tourists who are there for a short period of time.
I should also add that the Italian capital is expensive (one of the most expensive cities in Europe). While you can find an excellent selection of places to stay in Rome, you are going to have to dig carefully to find a good deal, and grab it as soon as it comes, before someone else does.
In this post, I will help you find where to stay in Rome, selecting the best areas to stay and pointing out to the best places to stay in each of them.
The historic center is perfect to explore the city
Finding Where To Stay In Rome
I lost count of how many times I have been to Rome. In fact, at some point I have even lived there as I attended a course on travel design. I lived in Esquilino back then, between Vittorio Emanuele and San Giovanni in Laterano. I loved the area. It felt local, despite being very international, and it was lively yet quiet.
In case you haven’t realized yet, I love Rome through and through. I honestly think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world (if not the most beautiful!), with so much to offer, so much history and culture. Every time I visit, I marvel at the magnificent archeological sites; I visit the cat sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina and I indulge in the best street food and gelato you can find in Italy (in my humble opinion, obviously).
Since I have vowed to get to know the city better, every time I go to Rome I stay in a different area.
Finding good hostels or excellent hotels in Rome is not hard. The good news is that there are many good places to stay. The bad news is that the city is literally packed with tourists in high season – between April and October. That’s why I recommend making advanced reservations.
What you should know when looking for where to stay in Rome is that some areas are significantly more chaotic than others; you may encounter a lot of traffic or noise coming from bars and restaurants. On the other hand, quieter areas with fewer hang out places may have less options for eating out.
Sure enough, you have to consider the area where to stay in Rome if you are a light sleeper – I spent most of my time in Esquilino using ear plugs to sleep as the noise was a bit too much for me!
If you feel stuck in your search for the best place to stay in Rome, stop worrying! I am here to help.
Continue reading to discover the best places to stay in Rome.
There are many excellent areas to stay in Rome
Where To Stay In Rome – The Best Options
Before I get into a detailed description of each best area to stay in Rome, let me get straight to the point and mention my favorite hotels and hostels in town.
Absolutely plush rooms and an excellent location in the heart of the historic center of Rome make this small hotel one of the best places to stay in Rome. Guests can easily reach the Vatican, Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo. Rooms are insulated so you won’t have to worry about the noise coming from the street. It’s excellent value for money. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
If you want to have easy access to the Vatican Museums and to Saint Peter’s Basilica, this is the place for you: it’s located right on the other side of the street. The spacious rooms are decorated in classic design, and there even is a common kitchen for guests. Breakfast is included in the price. You can’t beat it in terms of value for money, especially when it comes to its location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Another excellent property close to the Vatican. In this case, rooms are very modern, if only a bit small. Guests can require an airport shuttle and, depending on their booking, breakfast is included in the price. Clickhere for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This excellent hostel is very conveniently located in the heart of the historic center of Rome, very close to the Spanish Steps. It’s very budget friendly and offers a selection of dorms as well as private rooms. The common areas are modern, comfortable and perfect for socializing. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This hostel is in a perfect location, close to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano and to Basilica di San Clemente, in the heart of Esquilino. It features comfortable private rooms and very modern and perfectly equipped dorms. There is a well equipped kitchen and a fabulous terrace to hang out on sunny days. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
In the heart of Rione Monti and close to Santa Maria Maggiore church, this hostel is at a mere 10 minutes walk from the Colosseum. It features private rooms as well as dorms. It’s not the most budget friendly hostel in town, but it’s worth the price to stay in a comfortable, well located place. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
This modern studio apartment in the area of Prati is perfectly equipped for a comfortable stay. It fits up to 4 guests so it is a great budget friendly option for a family with kids. Click here for the latest rates.
This apartment is very close to Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’Angelo and comfortably fits up to 4 persons but it is especially good for couples looking for a romantic getaway. It’s very well equipped, with a modern finish. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
A great one bedroom apartment nicely located between Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori. It comfortably fits a couple. The bigger apartment with two bedrooms is perfect for a family or for a small group of friends. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Continue reading for my tips on where to stay in Rome.
The historic center is probably the best area to stay in Rome
Where To Stay In Rome – The Best Neighborhoods And Places To Stay
Historic Center – Where to stay in Rome for: First Timers
If it is your first time in Rome, there is no question: the Historic Center – or Centro Storico, as we say in Italian – is the best area to stay in Rome for you. This is a busy area, probably a bit noisy, but you’ll have easy access to most of the attractions in town – places such as Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the like.
Another advantage is that you’ll have no shortage of places to eat, cafés, and small interesting shops. The two main downsides is that it’s not cheap to stay there and that there is no real metro station other than at Piazza di Spagna – which opened again in May 2019 after months of being shut down for restoration works.
TIP: Make sure to book a guided walking tour of Centro Storico to get a proper introduction to the area. There even is a free walking tour you can book here.
Esquilino (including Termini and San Giovanni) – Where to stay in Rome for: A more local feel / Budget friendly options
All people visiting Rome end up in Esquilino at some point during their trip. This is where Termini Train Station is located and it is likely you’ll take the train or bus from the airport that leaves you right at the station.
While the immediate surroundings of Termini aren’t exactly the best place to stay in Rome (it’s chaotic, noisy and it can be dodgy), if you go deep into the heart of Esquilino, in the area of Vittorio Emanuele or near San Giovanni, you will find a neighborhood that is full of character. It’s international for a lot of immigrants live there; but these have become an integral part of the Roman community and just as much local as everyone else who’s lived in Rome for generations.
Esquilino is also where attractions such as San Giovanni in Laterano are located, as well as Basilica di Santa Maria Degli Angeli e Dei Martiri. It’s also where my absolute favorite restaurant in Rome – Trattoria Vecchia Roma – is located (make sure to book it in advance as it is always packed). To top things off, it’s way more budget friendly than the historic center.
TIP: Book a guided tour of the Basilicas and the Catacombs to make the most of this fantastic area. You can reserve it here.
Monti is among the areas to stay in Rome for easy access to the Colosseum
Monti – Where to stay in Rome for: History lovers
Between via Nazionale and the Colosseum, Monti easily wins as one of the best places to stay in Rome. Historically a red light district of Rome, and the place where gladiators used to base themselves, it now is an area packed with hipster bars, coffee shops and nice boutiques. If there is one thing missing that’s a selection of excellent restaurants (there are some, but they aren’t my favorite).
The main reason you should pick Monti as your area where to stay in Rome is that in terms of location it can hardly be topped. You will be walking distance from the Colosseum, and at a one metro stop distance from Termini, where you can catch transportation to anywhere else in the city (or out of the city).
TIP: Remember that you need to book your visit of the Colosseum well in advance. You can make reservations here.
If you want to stay close to the Vatican, you should stay in Prati
Prati and Vatican – Where to stay in Rome for: Easy access to the Vatican
If you want to be the first getting in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning, then Prati is where to stay in Rome. This area is very safe, affluent and green – lots of trees lining the streets. There are some good restaurants, a nice daily market, and it’s an overall very pleasant area of town.
LOCAL TIP: The area around Piazza Cavour is where you’ll find some of the best restaurants in this “Rione” of Rome.
TIP: It is absolutely necessary that you get a skip the line ticket to visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, or else your risk being stuck in the line. Get yours here.
Ostiense, Garbatella and Testaccio – Where to stay in Rome for: An affordable area that is still very local
Ostiense, Testaccio and Garbatella are one next to the other and are among the nicest places to stay in Rome. Here you will find nice restaurants and trattorie that don’t cost an arm and a leg; cool bars to hang out at night; plenty of shopping opportunities; as well as beautiful squares and a lot of interesting sights. This part of town is where the Mouth of Truth is located, and it’s home to Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the non-Catholic cemetery.
Testaccio is home of one of the most famous second hand markets in Rome – Porta Portese. Garbatella, built as a social experiment in the 1930s, is one of the most pleasant and peaceful areas of Rome. Ostiense is where some parts of Roma Tre university are located, so it is a young area thriving with life.
If you decide to base yourself in this part of town, you will be able to count on very good public transportation to explore the rest of the city.
TIP: Make sure to go on a guided street art tour of Testaccio, Ostiense and Garbatella. It’s a great way to get to know the area. Book it here.
Best places to stay in Ostiense, Garbatella and Testaccio:
Keep in mind that the choice of places to stay in this part of town is a bit more limited so booking in advance is truly necessary! You may want to look into the nearby Aventine for more hotel options.
Trastevere is one of the nicest areas to stay in Rome
Trastevere – Where to stay in Rome for: A fantastic night scene
Trastevere is located on the other side of Testaccio, once you cross the Tiber River. It’s one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Rome. It’s a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys that has become the hotspot of Rome in terms of nightlife, as it is packed with good small restaurants and bars.
There are two downsides to Trastevere. As it is very lively, it’s also very noisy – so don’t opt to stay there if you are a light sleeper. Also, there is no metro stopping there, which means you’ll either have to walk everywhere, or have to familiarize yourself with the – at times complicated – bus system.
TIP: Make sure to try the amazing street food that you can find in Trastevere. You can book a street food tour here.
LOCAL TIP: If you get a chance, go eat at Cencio La Parolaccia. It’s a famous trattoria where you will literally get insulted by the staff. It’s surreal, but funny.
Thought to be the most romantic neighborhood in Rome, the Aventine is where to stay in Rome if you are a couple on a honeymoon looking for a place where they can admire the city from above. The Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) is a fantastic spot to catch sunset and views of San Pietro. Other than that, it’s actually a bit off the tourist path – which may be a welcome thing if you don’t want to be surrounded by crowds of other tourists.
TIP: There aren’t that many places to stay in Aventino, so make sure to book yours in advance.
I hope this post is of great help in deciding where to stay in Rome. This is an incredible city, and every neighborhood mentioned here has something to offer. The great news is that for as large as the city it, it’s not too difficult to navigate – the public transportation system is more than decent, despite the complaints or locals and some occasional mishaps.
I have always found Rome to be safe; however you should be aware that areas that are crowded with tourists such as the train station – especially Termini Station – are often the target of pickpockets. Keep a low profile and mind the scams – ie people offering to help you with your tickets, or with your luggage.
The only areas that I recommend avoiding are those that are very far from the center – ie Tor Bella Monaca, Torre Maura and Rebibbia. But why would you go there anyways? They are just residential, really.
Further Readings About Rome
If you are only spending a short time in Rome, you may find my itineraries helpful:
You simply can’t visit the Eternal City and skip the Pantheon, Rome.
I have been to Rome more times than I can remember. I have even lived there for a while years ago. The Pantheon of Rome is one of the places in the city that I will never get tired of visiting. Each time I go, I am in awe of how incredibly well preserved it is, and I am fascinated by its interesting history.
The Pantheon of Rome is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and each year it attracts a whopping 7 million visitors. Sure enough, you wouldn’t want to miss it when visiting the Italian capital.
Although at the moment you won’t need to purchase Pantheon tickets, you may find use in some tips on how to avoid the terrible crowds and how to make the most of it; and you may like to know what to expect when visiting.
In this post, I will highlight everything you should know before visiting the Pantheon, Rome, and what you need to know about Pantheon tickets and guided visits.
The Pantheon is one of the most popular attractions in Rome
A Bit Of Information About The Pantheon, Rome
Built between 118 and 125 AD, during the reign of Hadrian, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings of antiquity. Until the 20th century, this used to be the largest concrete building in the world.
On the site where the Pantheon as we know it today is located there were two other buildings – both of them destroyed by a fire. The first building, which was a wooden structure, was built n 25-27 BC by consul Agrippa during the reign of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome. It was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD, and only the façade remained.
The Pantheon was then rebuilt under orders of Emperor Domitian, but like the previous one, the building burnt in 110 AD as a consequence of lightning.
The Pantheon of Rome is 43 meters wide and 43 meters high, thus being a perfect sphere resting in a cylinder. It’s most attractive part is the Dome, which is said to have inspired Michelangelo into building the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The only source of natural light in the Pantheon of Rome is the oculus, an opening located at the center of the dome that is little over 8 meters in diameter. Needless to say, water flows in when it rains, but the floor of the Pantheon, which is entirely built in marble (as this was a ceremonial place) is gently sloped and there are drains that allow the flow of rainwater.
As the name Pantheon explains, the building was originally a temple to “all the gods” (pan means all in Greek, and theos means gods). It was turned into a Christian church in the 7th century. This helped preserve the building, as its materials
The building was turned into a Christian church in the 7th century and became the burial ground of several artists such as Raphael as well as of the former Italian royal family.
Nowadays, the Pantheon of Rome is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town and it is not uncommon for it to be used for weddings.
Continue reading to discover how to make the most of your time at the Pantheon, Rome, and whether it is worth getting Pantheon tickets for a guided tour.
The only source of light at the Pantheon is the oculus
Useful Information For Visiting The Pantheon, Rome
Getting Pantheon tickets
Good news! You don’t need to get Pantheon tickets. As this is a church, it is completely free to visit.
However, be prepared for large crowds of tourists waiting in line to get in. The line moves quite swiftly, and just as swiftly visitors exit. Furthermore, there are no security checks – as opposed to other tourist attractions in Rome.
How much time do you need to visit the Pantheon?
This is totally up to you. Most people take around 20 minutes, with some taking literally just 5 minutes to peep in, quickly look around and then head out to look for a place to eat or drink nearby.
I actually recommend to spend a bit longer inside the Pantheon. This really is a unique place and you should make the most of it while you are there. This is why I recommend joining a guided tour when visiting. More information about guided tours of the Pantheon below.
Guided tours of the Pantheon, Rome
While there is no such thing as Pantheon tickets, you may want to consider joining a guided tour to make the most of this incredible building. Some of the options available are so budget friendly that it would be a pity to miss them!
These are the best guided tour options to visit the Pantheon:
Pantheon audio guide – it only costs €6.50, the tour lasts around 35 minutes and you can use smartphone tickets. Definitely one of the best options around.
Pantheon guided tour – it costs €20 and lasts around 35 minutes, with a live guide. It’s basic and straight to the point, but good.
Guided tour of the Pantheon – this tour is one of the most complete around. It lasts 3 hours and costs €35; you’ll visit the Pantheon, Palazzo Montecitorio, and walk along the River Tiber to the Ara Pacis Augustae altar. You’ll finish your visit at the Mausoleum of Augustus.
The Pantheon is located in Piazza della Rotonda, a very lively square of Rome that is packed with cafés and restaurants. The nearest metro station is that of Piazza di Spagna, from where it is a 15 minutes walk.
Alternatively, you can take any bus that connects the Vatican to Termini Station (ie buses 40, 60 and 64) and get off at Largo di Torre Argentina, from where you will have to walk for about 5 minutes.
Finally, you can also consider getting the hop on hop off bus, which generally has a stop near Piazza Navona, which is at just 4 minutes walk. You can book your hop on hop off bus here.
If you head there very early, you can have the Pantheon to yourself
The Pantheon can be visited year round, but the opening times vary depending on the day of the week and on whether or not it is a public holiday. You may want to research online or enquire with your hotel to double check whether the day you are intending to visit is a public holiday, as in that case you will only have the morning to explore it.
The following are the opening times of the Pantheon:
Monday to Saturday: from 9:00 am to 7:15 pm.
Sunday: from 9:00 am to 5:45 pm.
Public holidays: from 9:00 am to 12:45 pm.
How to avoid the crowds at the Pantheon
The best way to avoid the crowds at the Pantheon is to head there as early as possible. As the site opens at 9:00 am, you may want to head to Piazza della Rotonda, where it is located, at around 8:00 am and sit in one of the coffee shops nearby while you wait for it to open. You can have breakfast with a view and be the first to enter and you will have the Pantheon of Rome almost all to yourself.
Photography at the Pantheon
Photography is allowed at the Pantheon of Rome. While you can carry your camera, I recommend not bringing in any selfie stick – they may be a nuisance to other visitors.
Etiquette and dress code
As the Pantheon is ultimately a church, make sure to pay respect and keep quiet for the duration of your visit – signs scattered around the site will remind you of that. Although there won’t be tight checks such as at St. Peter’s Basilica, I recommend that you are dressed appropriately too: make sure to cover your legs and shoulders.
Further readings about Rome
If you only have a few days in Rome, you may find some use in my itineraries to help you plan your visit:
If you are among the lucky ones that are planning a longer stay in the Eternal City, you may also want to leave the city for a day trip. In this case, head over to my post“20 Great Day Trips From Rome.”
If you have 3 days in San Francisco, you can see a lot of the city and get a good idea of its atmosphere and of what it has to offer.
Incredibly multi-cultural, with an out of this world art scene, blissfully open-minded and liberal, it’s easy to fall in love with San Francisco. This is one of the most beautiful, lively, interesting cities in the US.
Mind you – I don’t think 3 days will do justice to San Francisco (in fact, to any city!) but if that is all you have, you may as well try to make the most of it.
But I have good news for you: if you prepare in advance – planning your itinerary, booking entrances to the most popular attractions, sticking to the plan and keeping good timing – you’ll manage to see a lot of the city and you will even get a chance to relax and take in the incredible vibe. And needless to say, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to dine at one of the many fabulous restaurants scattered around town.
What if you have no time to draft an itinerary, or your trip is a very last minute thing though? Worry not – I am here to help! I have put together a great San Francisco 3 day itinerary, which tells you exactly what to do in San Francisco in 3 days. All you have to do is making reservations for your flights (unless you’ve already done that), your accommodation (I have tips about that, by the way) and the various attractions.
In this post, I will prepare a great itinerary, providing tips to help you skip the lines at the most popular attractions. I will also tell you about the best time to visit San Francisco, how to get there and how to move around. And since this is one of the most expensive cities in the world, I will do my best to share some money saving tips.
Continue reading to discover how to make the most of your 3 days in San Francisco.
Alcatraz must be included in any San Francisco 3 day itinerary
A Day By Day Itinerary For 3 Days In San Francisco
One thing I want to stress is that if you only have 3 days in San Francisco, but want to see the most popular attractions, you should stick to a planned itinerary. Booking attractions in advance and joining a guided tour here and there will help you save some time – and also some money.
I will tell you whenever I believe you need to make advanced reservations or book a guided tour during this San Francisco 3 day itinerary. Follow it religiously, and you’ll have 3 memorable days in San Francisco.
The assumption of this itinerary that you have at least 3 full days in San Francisco (which implies sleeping there 4 nights, or at least getting there very early on the morning of day one). You’ll need to have an early start every day – it’s tiring, but worth it.
This itinerary allows you to visit attractions that are more close to each other on the same day, so that you can walk from one to the other and minimize the use of public transportation or taxis.
I have included all the things you should to in San Francisco in a short amount of time – those you shouldn’t go home without having seen them. As this itinerary is packed, I recommend eating lunch on the go – grabbing a sandwich or a quick bite – and sitting down for a meal in the evening. You may even want to book your table at one of San Francisco’s best restaurants.
Continue reading to discover what to do in San Francisco in 3 days.
This San Francisco 3 day itinerary starts with what – in my opinion – are the unmissable attractions. Your first stop is the Alcatraz. Tours there start at 10:00 am, but if you are willing to pay more you can even enter as early as 8:00. This more expensive option means having the place to yourself. You will then head to the Ferry Building Marketplace, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Palace of Fine Arts, Lyon Street Steps and Crissy Field. Your last stop will be Golden Gate Bridge, where I recommend going on a sunset cruise.
Map of day one San Francisco itinerary
To give you a better idea of the itinerary you need to follow, I have created a map that you can see on Google Maps by clicking here. You’ll be able to get exact directions from one place to the other, places to visit along the itinerary – in case you feel like adding to it!; where to stop for a bite or a drink along the way. Feel free to remove places you are not interested in, or to add to the itinerary and make it even more packed.
You can’t visit San Francisco and not go to Alcatraz Island – that’s why I am recommending it as your very first stop. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was a maximum security prison, located on an island in San Francisco Bay. The prison was built in 1910 – 1912 as a military prison; it became a federal prison in 1934 and operated until March 1963, when it was closed due to the very high maintenance costs.
Throughout time, Alcatraz held some of America’s most ruthless criminals – one of them being Al Capone – who were moved there since the waters of San Francisco Bay are so cold, and the currents so strong that it was impossible to escape the island. It even became the subject of some very famous movies, such as Escape from Alcatraz.
In order to visit Alcatraz Island and prison you need to book a tour – and you should do so well in advance. I have selected the best tour options for you – all of them also include a tour of the city:
If you have 3 days in San Francisco, you have to explore Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes, it is very touristy and quite crowded – but there’s a good reason for that. This is the Historic Waterfront District of San Francisco, where you’ll find some fun things to do, and an infinity of good restaurants. Make sure to stop by Pier 39, a fun mix of souvenir shops, bars, restaurants and even a carousel in the middle; Ghirardelli Square, and to admire the famous sea lions.
TIP: Avoid eating at Pier 39 if you are on a budget – with tourists also come very high prices. A better option may be Ghirardelli Square, home of the famous Chocolate Company.
Money Splurging TIP: If, on the other hand, budget is not an issue, head straight to Boudin Bakery for the best clam chowder you’ll ever have.
You can book a good guided tour of Fisherman’s Wharf here.
The Palace of Fine Arts is one of the most iconic buildings in town
Palace of fine arts
This is one of the most iconic buildings in San Francisco. Originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, rebuilt in 1965 and having undergone several restoration works (both for the building and the garden surrounding it), it now hosts art exhibition and it’s a popular wedding location.
Lyon Street Steps
You could head straight to Crissy Field if you want, but it’d be a pity to miss the incredible views from Lyon Street Steps. These 322 steps may be challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with a splendid panorama which includes the nearby Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco Bay and the beautiful mansions of the Pacific Heights District.
Crissy Field is one of the most chilled places in San Francisco – the kind of place where you’ll see people waking their dog, families with children, and people running or exercising. It will be a nice place to relax and spot some local life before heading to the final stop for the day.
Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute must
Golden Gate Bridge and cruise
Much like Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge is a top tourist attraction in San Francisco and you simply can’t miss it – it has to be included in any San Francisco 3 day itinerary. Whether you look at it from above, on a helicopter tour, from below, from a cruise, or your ride a bike or walk across it (there are a bike lane and a pedestrian walkway along the entire length of the bridge), you just have to go.
If you want, you can even treat yourself to a cruise or a tour that take you across the bridge. I have selected the best:
Your second day in San Francisco will be just as packed and it is all about walking and enjoying the views while exploring some of the most quaint neighborhoods in town. You’ll finish off at Coit Tower, from where you’ll be able to admire a fabulous sunset. Make sure to head out nice and early.
Map of day two San Francisco itinerary
You can download the map for your second day in San Francisco itinerary here.
The Haight-Ashbury district is where the hippie movement was born in the 1960s. It now is a very interesting neighborhood to explore, with Victorian buildings, vintage shops, record stores, eateries and cool cafés and an overall artsy vibe which is probably just a reminiscence of what it used to be in its heyday.
Castro is so close to Haight-Ashbury and on the way to Mission Dolores Park, so I thought I’d add it to this 3 days in San Francisco itinerary. This is the gay neighborhood of San Francisco. Among its landmarks there are the rainbow crosswalk and the Castro Theater. You’ll also find plenty of interesting shops, good cafés, great bars and nice restaurants. If you want, you can even join a guided tour of Castro. You can book it here.
Mission Dolores Park and the Mission District
The Mission District was once known as the Mission Lands, referring to the lands that were part of the Misión San Francisco de Asís and names after Mission Dolores Parish, which was built in 1776.
It’s an interesting neighborhood to explore, which has retained its Latino character despite its gentrification. Make sure to admire the street art on Clarion Alley and to pass by Mission Dolores Park, a favorite hangout spot especially at weekends – the views from there are absolutely breathtaking.
You can book a guided street art and food tour of Mission District here.
The Painted Ladies are a pretty sight – especially with the backdrop of the skyline
Alamo Square’s ‘Painted Ladies’
If you think about San Francisco, the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square definitely come to mind. These houses – which became even more famous than they already where with the TV show Full house – are beautiful, colorful examples of Victorian style architecture, and what’s even better about them is that right behind them you can see the skyline of San Francisco.
If you like modern art, a stop at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a must – skip it if it is not your thing. This massive museum was opened in 2016 and its exhibits spans across 7 floors. You’ll find pieces of famous artists including Frida Kahlo. You can book your visit here or here.
Union Square is a shopping hub
Union Square is mostly a shopping hub, with department stores and designer boutiques, art galleries and plenty of nice cafés. This part of town is always busy with life, but also extremely expensive, so I don’t really recommend to do anything other than sightseeing.
From there, you can also hop on the famous San Francisco cable car to get to Chinatown. It’s a short ride, really – but this is an unmissable (albeit touristy) thing to do that. Just so you know, those cable cars have been running since 1873!
Did you know that San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest around? It was created in 1848 and since then the Chinese community has become an integral part of local society. In Chinatown, you will be entertained by all sorts of shop – from leather shops to butchers and fruit stalls.
Make sure to visit the Fortune Cookie factory (San Francisco is where these popular cookies were invented) to learn about the history of this famous cookie, and if you have time join a guided food tour of Chinatown. You can book it here.
North Beach and Coit Tower
One thing I have noticed traveling around the US is that Chinatown and Little Italy are often right next to each other. San Francisco is no different. Close to Chinatown there’s North Beach, aka San Francisco’s Little Italy, where the Italian American influence is still very much a thing. It’s the kind of place where you’ll find all sorts of Italian grocery stores and bakeries, as well as Italian-American restaurants.
If you fancy trying the best specialties, you can join a North Beach and Little Italy guided food tour, which you can book here.
The best day to end this day of exploration is by walking up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. If you make it in time, make sure to hang out for sunset as the views are splendid.
Make sure to ride the cable car at least once!
Your last day in San Francisco will be a much more relaxed one and for once you don’t have to head out at the crack of dawn (unless you are leaving that night, in which case an early start is recommended). You’ll be visiting one of San Francisco’s most popular park, and then head to Lands End for gorgeous views.
Map of day two San Francisco itinerary
You can download the map for your final day in San Francisco itinerary here.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a nice addition to your San Francisco 3 day itinerary. The park is massive, and inside you’ll find San Francisco’s Botanical Garden, as well as a few museums: De Young Museum is an art gallery, whereas the California Academy of Sciences includes a fantastic planetarium. The only downside is that they are both quite expensive.
If you feel like you need guidance in exploring Golden Gate Park you can join a guided tour. Here are a couple of good ones:
Lands End is another beautiful park of San Francisco, where you will find a nice network of walking trails along the cliffs. The views of the ocean from there are stunning, and you can even see the remains of the Sutro Baths, a complex of public saltwater swimming pools.
Ocean Beach is the longest beach of San Francisco, a place where locals go to surf and even just hang out.
Muir Woods are perfect for a day trip
The Best Day Trips From San Francisco
If you have a bit more time in San Francisco, or decide to ditch a few of the attractions recommended, you may even include a day trip out of the city even if you only spend 3 days in San Francisco. The ones below are the most popular ones.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of the US most famous national parks. It honestly deserves more than a day, but if that is all you have you may as well go. Visit it for a chance to admire the giant sequoias.
These are the best guided tours of Yosemite National Park leaving from San Francisco:
Another beautiful place that can be easily explored from San Francisco is Muir Woods, home of the Californian Redwood trees. There are several tours departing daily from San Francisco. These are the best:
If you are a wine lover, then drop all other options and head straight to Napa and Sonoma Valley for a wine tasting tour. A guided tour will allow you to learn about the process of wine making and will obviously include several tastings. These are the best tours:
The first thing you need to consider before planning your trip to San Francisco (or to anywhere else in the United States) is that, unless you hold a US passport, you will need to get an ESTA. This can be easily obtained online and it usually has a cost of around €30 – which includes the processing fees as well.
An ESTA visa will grant you the right to enter the country and to spend up to 90 days there. It is usually valid for 2 years, which is perfect if you are planning to visit the US a few times in a relatively short time period.
Keep in mind you will need and ESTA even if you only intend to transit through the US on your way to another country.
A beautiful night view of San Francisco
Practical Tips For Your 3 Days In San Francisco
Where to stay in San Francisco
There is no other way to put it: San Francisco is expensive, and so are hotels there. Be prepared to pay a lot of money even for a hostel. I have selected the best places to stay in town, based on budget options.
San Francisco can get really crowded with tourists in the summer months, and very cold in the winter ones. That’s why I think the best time to visit is shoulder season, in the fall (with October and early November being the best choices) or Spring (March, April and May).
How to get to San Francisco
BART, the trans-bay underground, connects San Francisco airport with the city. This is the most budget friendly way of getting to town. You can buy your BART transfer here. Alternatively, you can opt for
How to move around San Francisco
Moving around San Francisco if fairly easy and if you base yourself downtown you can walk to most places. If you want to cover longer distances, you can count on the city’s bus system, MUNI, which is fairly cheap. BART, the trans-bay underground, is faster – but it doesn’t cover the entire city. The best app for car rides is Uber.
It is no secret that I am in love with Tel Aviv, and that it is pretty much the only city where I can see myself living, other than Cagliari, where I grew up. There are so many things to do in Tel Aviv, so many places to visit, that I am never quite done exploring.
But more than anything else, I feel like I belong there: I have lots of friends; I know my way around; and simply feel comfortable. Tel Aviv feels like my home away from home; the only place in the world where I am regularly mistaken for a local – until I speak, that is, and people realize I can only mutter a few words of Hebrew (because speaking Hebrew is an added bonus when in Tel Aviv).
I didn’t expect to fall for Tel Aviv. Like most people, I went to Israel to visit Jerusalem, and decided to stay a couple of extra days to see what the hype for Tel Aviv was all about. It didn’t take me long to realize. I found Tel Aviv to be lively yet chilled; political yet welcoming. It is the kind of place where it’s virtually impossible to get bored. Finding fun activities in Tel Aviv is easy, regardless of one’s interests and tastes: there’s always something going on; there’s always someone around, at whatever time of day or night.
Every time I am in Israel, I find new and interesting activities in Tel Aviv – like the time I was walking along Rothschild and found myself in the middle of a silent concert: I spotted a small crowd, two musicians seemingly playing without making any noise, wore a pair headphones I was offered and listened to some great music, dancing along to tunes that passers-by could not hear.
I know that it isn’t every day that one may bump into a silent concert. Either way, Tel Avis is a lot of fun throughout the year, and you should visit for sure. Here are 21 things to do in Tel Aviv to make the most of it.
Looking for what to do in Tel Aviv? The beach is a good option!
21 Fun Things To Do In Tel Aviv
Go on a city tour
Going on a city tour is one of the best things to do to properly discover the city. A good walking tour will hit most of the places to visit in Tel Aviv, such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Habima Square and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion; Rabin Memorial; Reading, the old power station; Rothschild Boulevard and even the beaches and the waterfront. A fun way to explore the city is that of going on a segway tour of Tel Aviv.
A walking tour of Tel Aviv is a must – Habima Square is unmissable
Tel Aviv is extremely bike friendly, and pretty much everyone in Tel Aviv goes around by bike. Biking lanes connect the entire city, and bikes can be rented at pretty much every corner in town and at any good hotel or hostel. Once you can get hold of a bike, make sure to explore the city; to get to the old Reading power station; to bike along the waterfront and to make your way to Old Jaffa. There even are amazing bike tours that can be easily booked online.
TIP: Other than bikes, you can now also rent scooters. I have never done it to be honest – I am not confident I’d be able to ride it. But locals swear by it as a way to zip through traffic.
Biking is what to do in Tel Aviv in order to get around
Explore Old Jaffa
Old Jaffa is considered part of the greater Tel Aviv area, and one of the best places to visit in Tel Aviv. Needless to say, you have to explore the narrow alleys of Old Jaffa, passing by the Clock Tower, the Flea Market, the Wishing Bridge, Andromeda’s Rock and Al-Bahr Mosque. There are daily free walking tours of Old Jaffa that depart at 2:00 pm from the Clock Tower. Jaffa Port is an incredibly cool place to visit during weekends, when Tel Avivians crowd its many fabulous restaurants.
I can’t quite decide what my favorite area of Tel Aviv is. I love Levontine and its low key bars and restaurants, the music scene and the interesting buildings – so decadent yet so charming. Florentine is my go to area for a night out, as there is an incredible choice of pubs and bars. And Neve Tzedek, one of the coolest places to visit in Tel Aviv,is the perfect place for an afternoon hang-out, with its cute coffee shops and boutiques. In doubt, I recommend walking around all neighborhoods.
Observe the beautiful Bauhaus architecture
In 2003, Tel Aviv was declared UNESCO-rated for its beautiful Bauhaus architecture. This style was implemented throughout the city by architect Sir Patrick Geddes in the 1930s and 1940s. The architects who designed the buildings believed in egalitarianism and carried socialist ideals – hence the flat roofs of the buildings, thought to be communal areas for the residents.
Of the original 4000 Bauhaus style buildings of Tel Aviv, only a few hundreds have been restored. Taking a guided Bauhaus tour is is a great way to admire this interesting architectural style. You can book it here. You can even go on an architecture walking tour which you can book here.
Wander around in search for street art
Street art in Tel Aviv is pretty much anywhere. I found a lot of it in Old Jaffa; I came across some great pieces in Levontine. Yet, the biggest surprise in terms of street art is the new bus station in HaHagana. Hardly considered one of the places to visit in Tel Aviv, I actually went there to catch a ride to Nazareth and ended up exploring it because the street art was just that interesting. Make sure to go – even if you don’t have to catch a bus. Or else, go on a guided tour.
Looking around for street art is a great way to explore Tel Aviv – I saw this at the old bus station
Go to the beach…
Mark the words of an expert – I come from Sardinia after all, and I know what a good beach looks like. Tel Aviv is blessed with really good urban beaches. Whether for a simple walk along the waterfront during the fall or spring season, or a dip in the clear Mediterranean waters when the temperatures rise, going to the beach is what to do in Tel Aviv for either fun and relaxation. The good news is that a bunch of them are also pet-friendly!
TIP: If you manage to swim across the waterbreak lines, you’ll get a fabulous view of Jaffa from the water.
Going to the beach is one of the best ways to enjoy the city
…to the pool…
If you happen to be in Tel Aviv during the summer months (you’ll be happy to know that summer drags alone for quite a few months here) make sure to spend a day at Tel Aviv coolest open air pool. Gordon Pool is right by Gordon Beach, at the very beginning of Tel Aviv waterfront’s walk. Access is around €20 ($20 USD) for a full day, and with that you get access to the changing facilities, showers and a locker, as well as to the loungers by the pool.
Gordon Pool is a fabulous swimming pool and the dream of all swimmers. It’s a 50 meters long open air pool filled with sea water at just about the perfect temperature for swimming. It honestly is the perfect place to train and hang out on a hot day.
… or to the park
Park Hayarkon is a great urban oasis in Tel Aviv and the place to go to for a family picnic or for activities such as biking, running, climbing (yes, there’s a climbing wall!) etc. If looking for a place to hang out during the weekend, Park Hayarkon may be a very good option.
One of my favorite places to visit in Tel Aviv is Reading power station, not far from Park Hayarkon
Admire a fabulous sunset
The light is special at sunrise and sunset, but I am generally too lazy to wake up before dawn to take pictures of sunrise. The great news is that Tel Aviv geographic position is perfect to stare at the sun setting on the horizon and dipping into the Mediterranean. Indeed one of the nicest things to do in Tel Aviv is admiring the sunset. All it takes is checking at what time the sun sets depending on the season, and walking to the waterfront to enjoy the show.
Watching the sunset is a must – even cats know it
Get the buzz of Carmel Market
I love markets. I find them to be the perfect place to observe a bit of local action, and to learn more about the culture of the city and country I am visiting – whether through the items on sale (food does say a lot about a country!); or through the behavior of people at the market (do they bargain the prices? Do they yell for attention?).
When it comes to breakfast, Israelis take it to a whole new level. Salads, bread, tahini, eggs and what not are ever present at any proper breakfast table there. In Tel Aviv, breakfast (or better, brunch), is the most important meal, and if you are looking for what to do in Tel Aviv on a Friday morning, I’d say that eating brunch is just the thing. It is the perfect way to kick off Shabbat, apparently, and there’s a wide range of fantastic restaurants that are famous for their amazing brunches.
The best places for brunch in Tel Aviv are Café Sheleg, on Ge’ula street almost at the corner with Allenby – it’s a small, quaint café where you’ll get a fantastic local vibe; and Benedict, which has several locations around town (I tried the one on Rotschild) and serves breakfast 24/7.
Get stuffed on hummus…
It’s worth repeating that food in Israel is simply delicious and actually very healthy. There’s an abundance of vegetables and salads, and a great selection of vegetarian and vegan food. In fact, Tel Aviv is considered one of the best cities for vegan travelers. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or not, you have to get stuffed on hummus. The best hummus in town is allegedly found at Abu Hassan, which is actually located in Old Jaffa.
Looking for unmissable things to do in Tel Aviv? Eat hummus!
… then burn it off
I swear I haven’t seen an overweight person in Tel Aviv, despite all the hummus eating that goes on. People stay fit by biking, running, walking their dog, surfing, swimming (see what I just wrote about Gordon Pool), playing beach volley and matkot – a popular game similar to beach tennis. Sure enough, staying fit is a must when in Tel Aviv.
I am hardly a shopaholic, but I admit that I find the beautiful boutiques scattered around Tel Aviv very tempting. Whether looking for the latest trends or for vintage clothing, shopping is what to do in Tel Aviv when wanting to splurge some cash.
If you want a local shopping experience, go to Dizengoff shopping mall. Shops aren’t honestly that great, but the architecture of the mall is interesting. You may get stuck there for a while – it was designed so that the exit is hard to find!
Pet all the cats
I love cats and I miss my cats dearly whenever I travel. The fun thing about Tel Aviv is that there are a lot of cats around. Most of them are strays and the locals take care of them, paying for their health care and food expenses. If you love cats as much as I do, you’ll have a blast stopping and taking photos of the many strays and petting them. Some cats are incredibly shy, but there are some who are very human-friendly.
Petting all the cats is such a cute thing to do.
Go on a pub crawl
I am hardly a drinker. In fact, I can endure half a pint of beer without getting drunk, and a pint of beer to become giggly and tipsy. But let’s face it, the bar and pub scene in Tel Aviv is fantastic and going on a pub crawl is one of the most fun things to do in Tel Aviv, regardless of the amount of alcohol you may end up drinking. Pub crawl tours of Tel Aviv can be booked online here for more than reasonable prices (considering how expensive the city is!).
Enjoy the vibrant nightlife
My friends think of me as the biggest potato couch ever. Comes the weekend, and all I want to do is grab a book and sit in the comfort of my home. Yet, Tel Aviv nightlife is so much fun that whenever I am there I feel compelled to go out. Go to Sputnik and Radio – although I shall warn that they are very smokey. Either way, enjoying the city’s incredible nightlife is a must.
Go to a festival
Not a month goes by in Tel Aviv without some major festival taking place. Whether it is a cultural event, a concert, or a huge parade such as Pride, there’s always something going on and it would be a pity to miss it if in town. One of the best things to do in Tel Aviv is attending a festival.
Hang out at a fantastic hostel
As one of the best destinations in Israel, there’s no lack of great hotels in Tel Aviv. I am hardly a backpacker, actually (in fact, I claim to be an unsuccessful backpacker). Yet, whenever I am in town, I prefer staying in hostels: picking a good hostel is what to do in Tel Aviv, especially if keen to save a few bucks. My favorite hostel in town is Abraham – it’s where I stay whenever I visit. Another friend loves Little Tel Aviv, because it’s smaller and quieter.
Hostels in Tel Aviv have been taken to a whole new level, becoming incredible meeting points for artists and musicians; places where it is possible to enjoy a drink, a concert, an art exhibition and even a traditional meal. Locals as well as tourists hang out at some of the best hostels in Tel Aviv, such as Abraham.
Sick of it all? You can easily get out of the city.
Get out of the city
Why would anyone who loves Tel Aviv as much as I do ever want to get out of the city? I won’t hide it: Tel Aviv can be incredibly intense at times. There’s a lot of traffic on weekdays, and it does get very hot in the summer. So, getting out of the city is a great way to recharge your batteries.
Luckily, the city is very well connected by bus and collective taxis that go pretty much anywhere in the country, and it is easy to get out whether for just one day or more. Furthermore, car rentals in Israel are very cheap, thanks to the high competition (it may well be the only cheap thing available).
A day trip to visit the Masada is one of the nicest things to do in Tel Aviv
Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated July 2019). Learn more about me here…