You will never have troubles finding incredible things do to in Rome.
The range things to do in the Eternal City is just incredible. I don’t think many other places in the world can offer such a great mixture of historical landmarks, archaeological sites, churches, museums, antique and modern art. The only one I can think of is Jerusalem, and even then the Israeli capital, to me, lacks the grandeur that Rome has.
To read more about Jerusalem, check my post “Traditional And Alternative Things To Do In Jerusalem.”
But aside from the many attractions in Rome, you are bound to enjoy its amazing restaurants and “trattorie” – where the locals also go; you won’t be able to stop eating the fantastic street food and gelato; and (provided you speak Italian) you will find the attitude and the dry sense of humor of the locals incredibly funny.
Rome is vibrant and lively; it’s chaotic yet lovely; it’s dirty yet utterly gorgeous. It is a place anybody should travel to, at least once in a lifetime – but more than that, if possible. I have lived there and could not get enough of it: there are simply too many places to visit in Rome.
There’s only one issue that you and other travelers may have visiting Rome: it is a major tourist site and tourist sites in Rome do get crowded, with lines that can at times be discouraging and make you regret going, especially if you only have a couple of days to visit. Booking tickets in advance is what to do in Rome to avoid the lines. But thankfully, not all things to do in Rome require so much careful planning.
In this post, I highlight a number of things to do in Rome – some are the most classic things to do in Rome such as visiting the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps or the Vatican City; other are among the lesser-known things to do in Rome and some are completely free. I will share some tips that will help you make the most of the city in a completely hassle free way.
13 Unmissable Things To Do In Rome
Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
Without the shadow of a doubt, visiting the Basilica is one of the unmissable things to do in Rome. This is the most famous church in Christendom, a sumptuous and splendid example of Renaissance and Baroque style, and inside there are works of Bernini, Michelangelo’s Pietà, and Vignola’s cupolas.
In order to visit, keep in mind that modest clothing is required – even in the peak summer months when the temperatures are unforgiving. The church is free to visit, but there may be lines to get in and – anyways – you may want to join a guided tour to get some background information about this work of art.
These are some of the best tours of the Vatican that include a guided visit the Basilica:
- Skip the line Vatican tour with Sistine Chapel and the Basilica – one of the most popular tours, run by The Roman Guy.
- Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and Basilica – the best, most inclusive option. It may seem expensive but it is great value for money.
- Skip The Line Vatican, Basilica and Chapel Small Group Tour – a bit more expensive if you prefer being in a small group.
- Best of Rome: Vatican and Colosseum pass – a really convenient option to visit all the main attractions in town.
- Vatican Museum and Colosseum + 48 hours hop on hop off bus tour
- Michelangelo and the secrets of the Chapel
Unfortunately, these tickets don’t include access to the Dome, one of the most amazing sites in Rome, but I know of a way to get there. Continue reading to find out.
Check out my post “How To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets.”
Wander around St. Peter’s Square
I feel somewhat thorn mentioning visiting Vatican City in general among the best things to do in Rome – after all, this is a small independent state that just happens to be set within another country. But since most people visit when they are in Rome, I guess it’s ok?
Anyways – the square of St Peter is a real must. This enormous, airy square is framed by two sets of colonnades on top of which there are statues of religious figures and popes. At the center of the square there is an obelisk taken from Nero’s circus, and on its sides two beautiful fountains. From the square, you may be able to spot the Pope as he addresses the audience during his Sunday Angelus.
Walk up St. Peter’s Top of the Dome
One of the best things to do in Rome is admiring a gorgeous panorama. There are several places from where you can do that. One of the best is the Dome, which will offer you stunning views of the square below, Via della Conciliazione, Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River. It would be a pity to miss it.
The bad news is that there’s always the longest line to reach the elevator that goes all the way to the first level of the Dome of St Peter (and then there’s stairs to get to the top). Last time I went to the Top of the Dome it was 2006 and I remember standing in line for a while, with my ex boyfriend becoming increasingly impatient despite me saying that this was one of the unmissable things to do in Rome.
If you are keen on going up, make sure to get yourself a ticket beforehand to save some time.
These tours of the Vatican all include a visit to the Dome:
- St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome Climb and Crypt – a guided tour of the Basilica with the option to climb the dome and visit the crypt.
- Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter Small-Group Tour – an all inclusive Vatican tour. It’s actually great value for money.
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.”
Go to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Right next to the Basilica you will find the Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Visiting definitely is one of the things to do in Rome. The Chapel, along with Raphael Rooms, are incredible works of art. The rest of the collection of the Museums is stunning: some of the most important world art. The museums are housed in palaces originally built for Renaissance popes.
Unfortunately, visiting the Museums and the Chapel isn’t nearly as easy as you’d hope. The lines to get inside are unbearably long – one of the last times I visited I was completely put off by them and gave up before even starting.
If you are keen on visiting, you really need to get a ticket beforehand. In fact, I actually recommend joining a guided tour (possibly one that also takes you to the Basilica) so that you can make the most of your time.
These are some of the best tours of the Vatican:
- Skip The Line Tickets for Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s
- Vatican tour
- Vatican, St. Peter’s and Sistine Small Group Tour
Make sure to read my post “How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums.”
Explore Castel Sant’Angelo
Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo is bound to become one of your favorite things to do in Rome. It is a massive fortress whose construction started in 139 AD. It was initially intended as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum but it then became a medieval citadel, a prison and a place of safety for popes during times of political unrest – there is a corridor that connects the Vatican Palace to the Castle and that provided an escape route for popes.
One fun fact about it is that it was the the set of Angels and Demons, one of Dan Brown’s most famous novels. One more reason to include it in your list of things to see in Rome.
The lines to get inside are not nearly as bad as those at the Basilica and at the Vatican. Yet, you’ll be better off booking your ticket in advance and get in through the fast track than have to wait for your turn to then dodge money out of your purse and wait for change. Sure enough, getting a fast track advance ticket is what to do in Rome to get a chance to visit this awesome place.
Make sure to get your Castel Sant’Angelo skip the line tickets before going.
Cross Ponte Sant’Angelo
Crossing the many bridges is one of the best things to do in Rome and there are so many that you have ample choice. One of the most beautiful ones, however, is Ponte Sant’Angelo. This is located right outside the castle and is characterized by the statues of angels sitting along the ramparts and by the fact that it was built with a face of travertine marble.
Discover the Capitoline Hill and Museums
Among the things to do in Rome, I recommend paying a visit to the Capitoline Hill and Museums. The palace was designed by Michelangelo and it is a real work of art in and of itself – easy to see why it is one of the top places to visit in Rome.
Inside the Capitoline Museums there is a fabulous collection of classical sculptures kept there since Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of bronze sculptures to the city of Rome in 1471. There are also paintings by Caravaggio and you will be able to see the famous statue of the she-wolf, regarded as the symbol of Rome from ancient times.
A guided tour of the Capitoline Hill and Museums generally includes a visit to the St. Mary of Aracoeli Basilica. I recommend getting tickets online in order to avoid the line and avoid any hassle.
Here are the best tours of the Capitoline Hill:
- Capitoline Museum Group Tour – a good option if you would rather be in a small group.
- Colosseum and Roman Forum Walking Tour – a very good tour that goes to the Colosseum and the center of Rome.
- Vatican and Ancient Rome Tour – actually the best option as it goes to all the most important attractions.
Go to the Colosseum
There is no other way to put it: visiting the Colosseum is one of the ultimate things to do in Rome.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site together with the historic center or Rome is one of the most iconic and photographed places in Rome. I still think that not even the best photos do it justice. It is just that beautiful that nobody with a pinch of salt in his brain would dream of skipping it when in Rome.
The Colosseum was built around 70-80 AD and at its highest capacity held up to 80000 spectator. What is remarkable is that – in a country such as Italy, which is the scene of many an earthquake – the structure is still standing, proud and visible from many places in Rome. And if you think that it is marvelous during the day, wait until you see it at night, completely illuminated!
Keep in mind that the Colosseum is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. The lines to get tickets are terrible and only a limited number of visitors are allowed in each hour. So, getting tickets in advance is what to do in Rome if you are keen on going in (and you totally should).
Tickets cost €16 + a small surcharge for the online reservation, but I honestly recommend joining a guided tour or else what you’ll see will be just a building. Guided tours usually include a visit of the arena floor, of the third tier and at times even of the undergrounds.
If you want to know more tricks on how to avoid the lines to the Colosseum, read my post “Seven Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum.”
Here are some of the best tours that include a visit to the Colosseum:
- Priority access Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill – this GetYourGuide Originals tour is synonymous with excellent quality.
- Colosseum underground tour with Forum and Palatine Hill – run by The Roman Guy, this tour is one of the most acclaimed.
- Colosseum and Forum Walking Tour – a great option that takes you to the 3 main sites.
- Skip The Line Colosseum Guided Tour
- Skip The Line 3.5 Hours Colosseum And Rome Walking Tour – it is a very expensive tour, but keep in mind you really see all the highlights of Rome.
- Colosseum S.U.P.E.R – seven unique experiences in Rome
- Colosseum underground by night – a great option if you want to experience the Colosseum by night.
- Colosseum underground guided tour – similar to the one I have just mentioned, but it runs during the day.
Admire the Arch of Constantine
This arch was built in 315 AD to celebrate Constantine victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge. It is located right next to the Colosseum, so you won’t be able to skip it. The structure is 21 meters tall and carved in it you will be able to depict many representations of Roman history. I am sure you will also love how photogenic it is!
Head to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Visiting the Roman Forum is one of the greatest things to do in Rome. It is located right next to the Colosseum – so you can visit in on the same day. In the early Republic days this was a chaotic place with food stalls, brothels, as well as temples and the Senate house. Eventually the food stalls were replaced by business centers and law courts and the Forum remained a ceremonial centre under the Empire.
As this is one of the must-see in Rome, there obviously is an entrance fee to go in – but the good news is that tickets to the Colosseum include admission to the Roman Forum, and viceversa! Even more good news is that tours of the Forum sold online are generally sold together with visits to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, thus allowing you to visit three of the best places in Rome in one go and skipping the lines for all of them.
The Palatine will easily become one of your favorite places to visit in Rome. According to legend, this hill is where the twins Romulus and Remus were brought up by a wolf and where Romulus, having killed his brother, founded the village that later on became Rome. Historically speaking, the Palatine was once the residence of emperors and aristocrats.
These are some of the best tours that include a visit to the Forum:
- Skip The Line Colosseum And Ancient Rome Walking Tour – a great walking tour of ancient Rome that is actually great value for money.
- Skip The Line Colosseum and Forum Walking Tour – a bit more budget friendly, but not as inclusive.
- Colosseum: Priority Entrance + Arena Floor, Forum & Palatine Hill Package – another great all inclusive tour.
Marvel at the Pantheon
One of the unmissable things to do in Rome is visiting the Pantheon. This was built in 126 AD, upon orders of Emperor Hadrian and served as a temple. It later on became a Catholic church. Its Dome is considered one of the best preserved buildings from antiquity. Inside you will be able to see the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
There is no admission fee for the Pantheon, as it is a church. But if you want, you can get an audio-guide thanks to which you can go on a self-guided tour for about 35 minutes. It costs €6. You can get yours here.
Check out my post “A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon, Rome + What You Should Know About Pantheon Tickets.”
Go on a tour of Galleria Borghese and Borghese Gardens
One of the best things to do in Rome is visiting the many art galleries, and there is no doubt that Borghese Gallery should be the first one you go to. The art exhibit with paintings and sculptures of Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian is something you really don’t want to miss. And the gardens are a truly enchanting place – especially the Pincio terrace, from where you can enjoy beautiful views of Piazza del Popolo. It really is a must-visit.
I recommend going on a small group tour to fully enjoy this incredible place – not to mention, if you pre-book the visit you can save time and skip the lines at the entrance. They even have VIP tours, for an even more intimate experience.
Here are some good tours of Villa Borghese:
- Borghese Gallery Reserved Entrance Ticket – the most basic option, but you still get to see it all.
- Borghese Gallery With Optional Guided Tour
- Borghese Gallery small group guided tour
- Borghese Gallery And Gardens Half Day Tour – a great option if you have more time and want a guide also for the gardens.
Make sure to read my post “Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines.”
Admire the most amazing views of the city
One of the nicest things to do in Rome is taking in the views.
I did say that the views from St. Peter’s Basilica Dome are impressive. But did you know there is another place where you can admire the city and which is completely free to access? The Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) is located on the Aventine Hill (Aventino), at an easy walking distance from the Colosseum. The gardens were designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and very well kept. From there you will get the most impressive views of Rome and the Vatican.
For more views of Rome, head to the Gianicolo, or Janiculum. This is the second highest hill in Rome and from there you can see all the way across Trastevere, a famous neighborhood. Keep in mind it’s a bit of a walk to get there, but once you are up you can also visit the small Renaissance temple of Tempietto del Bramante and the 16th century Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.
9 Unusual Things To Do In Rome
See the Optical Illusion of St.Peter’s Dome
I have just mentioned that the views of Rome from the Orange Garden are incredible – but let’s face it, one of the best and most fun things to do in Rome if going up Via Niccolò Piccolomini to see the optical Illusion of St.Peter’s Dome. The street is aligned with St. Peter’s Dome in a way that, as you walk along, the Dome appears at first huge and then smaller and smaller!
Visit the Baths of Caracalla
Not far from Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla are one of the coolest places in town and visiting is one of the things to do in Rome. This is an enormous bathing complex (around 1600 people could bathe there at the same time). It suffered the passing of time way more than other sites in Rome, but it is still pleasant to explore – especially as it gets way less visitors than other places in Rome.
It costs €11 to get into the Baths of Caracalla. You can buy your ticket in advance here. If you want to get an audio-guide as well, the ticket costs €17 – the visit will last around 1.5 hours. You can get it here.
Explore the Domus Aurea
Among the most unique things to do in Rome there’s visiting the Domus Aurea. This is a beautiful villa built upon orders of Emperor Nero after the great fire of 64 AD destroyed most of the city. The site only opened to the public a few years ago, and excavations continue – to the point that visitors have to wear a hard hat.
At the time of Trajan, the villa was used as a foundation for his public baths and he demanded that doors and windows were sealed and art covered – yet it is still possible to see some of the frescoes. Most of them are still covered in dirt, while restores painstakingly bring them back to their original beauty.
The Domus Aurea is opened on weekends only, and you need a guide for your visit. You can book this tour, which also goes to the Colosseum.
Go to Villa Farnesina
Located in Via della Lungara 230, close to the Tiber between Vatican City and Trastevere, Villa Farnesina was built in 1506. Inside, hyou will find some of Raphael’s best frescoes. Just that should be enough to make you want to go!
Villa Farnesina is open Mondays to Saturdays from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, and every second Sunday of the month from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is €6.
Marvel at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Built in the 17 century upon orders of Pope Innocent X, this palace is located in the heart of Rome, in Via del Corso 305. It’s a great art gallery and palace where you can admire paintings and ceilings made by artists such as Caravaggio, Caracci and Bernini.
I recommend hiring a guide for your visit. These are the best tours available:
TOP TIP: A nearby great find is Keats-Shelley Memorial House, a small museum dedicated to English Romantic poets and with a fantastic library. The views of the city from the terrace are fabulous too!
GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind you may come across the name written as Pamphili.
Visit San Clemente Basilica
If you want to visit a lesser known church in Rome (at least to foreigners!) head to San Clemente Basilica. This is one of the oldest church in town, built over a site that Christians used to pray when they still had to hide their faith. Subsequent excavations brought out various levels of the church: one dates back to the 1st century, and one to the 4th century. Apparently there’s an even older one that went destroyed during the 64 fire caused by Nero.
San Clemente is located close to the Colosseum and you can visit it independently thanks to the panels that share precious information.
If you’d rather join a guided tour, these are some good ones:
- San Clemente and Quattro Coronati Church small group tour
- Crypts and Catacomb tour with Bone Chapel visit
- Christian Rome and underground basilica tour
And St. John in the Lateran
You gathered so much: visiting churches is one of the things to do in Rome. But one of the most unique things to do in Rome is actually going to those that most people outside of Italy have hardly heard of. My favorite is easily San Giovanni in Laterano – St. John in the Lateran. And I promise you the fact that I lived close-by and that I walked by it every day on my way to class has little to do with it. This church really is marvelous!
St. John in Lateran is located in the Esquilino neighborhood. It is the seat of the Pope in the city of Rome and the oldest basilica in town. There, you will be able to see the Lateran Obelisk, thought to be the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world and located right outside the church, which is famous for its Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps said to be the one Jesus climbed to go to his trial in Jerusalem.
Go to Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica
If you are looking for unusual things to do in Rome, head straight to the the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Built in the fourth-century upon orders of Pope Liberius over a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele, this is the largest of the 26 churches in Rome that are entirely dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
According to legend, the Virgin appeared before the Pope and demanded that he ordered the construction of a church. Inside, the style is a mixture of early Christian and Baroque.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another cool, lesser known church to visit in Rome is Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.
Explore the The Catacombs and the Appian Way
Visiting the Appian Way is one of the things to do in Rome. This famous road was built in 312 BC to connect Rome to cities such as Naples and Brindisi. It was used for both commercial and military purposes. You can also visit the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, where 16 popes have been buried.
These are some good guided tours:
- Crypts and Catacomb tour with Bone Chapel visit – a good guided tour with great reviews.
- Catacombs and the Appian Way tour – takes you to two different attractions.
- Catacombs and crypts small group minibus tour – a very good option if you prefer a small group.
- Appian Way, Aqueducts and Catacomb bike tour – the best option for more active travelers.
TOP TIP: A great alternative to the main site may be the Catacombs of Domitilla, named after the family that ordered their digging. They are 16 meters underground and 2 km south of the Appia Antica and still have the remains of humans, unlike the other sites.
9 Absolutely Fun Things To Do In Rome
Chances are that when you visit Rome you will want to immerse yourself in its incredible history and millenary culture. However, Rome is an incredible vibrant and fun city. Places like Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, Via del Corso are not only among the best tourist attractions in Rome, but also the go-to places for a stroll, for a bit of shopping and to enjoy a good gelato (the best gelaterie are Grom in Piazza Navona and Lemon Grass in Via Ottaviano, by the way).
But going for a stroll, shopping, eating gelato, going to open air concerts and to the White Night are old classics. So I have put together a short selection of other fun things to do in Rome.
Put your hand in the Mouth of Truth
According to a Medieval legend, the Mouth of Truth bites off the hand of liars. You can give it a try – it’s one of the most fun things to do in Rome. It’s located right by the entrance of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. It was originally a large marble manhole that dates back to the 1st century and which was placed right by the church in 1632. The Mouth of Truth became internationally famous thanks to the movie Roman Holidays, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
Go on a Vespa tour
If you ever watched movies like Roman Holidays and La Dolce Vita, you will love this one! One of the most fun things to do in Rome if riding around on a Vespa scooter. It will make you feel a bit like a local.
If you are brave enough and not worried about getting lost, you can just rent a scooter and go around independently. Otherwise, if you are not too confident to dodge the streets of Rome by yourself you can opt for a guided Vespa tour. Personally, I’d prefer that: Rome is huge and it is easy to get lost in the maze of boulevards and narrow alleys. A local guide is bound to take you to the nicest places to visit in Rome without getting lost.
The following are some of the coolest Vespa tours in Rome:
- Vintage Vespa guided tour of Rome – keep in mind that a vintage Vespa has manual transmission!
- 24 hour Vespa 125 LX rental
- Half day Vespa Tour with Private Driver
- Rome by night with a Vespa
Spot all the street art
Visiting the many art galleries is one of the unmissable things to do in Rome. But let’s face it: art can at times be a bit boring. If you are anything like me and enjoy a museum every now and then, but find street art and urban renovation projects to be more fun you will definitely enjoy going all the way to Quadraro.
This is is what to do in Rome to admire some incredible street art projects. This part of town is not nearly as touristy as the rest, so the benefits in going are many: it is local, it is free and it is fun.
Make sure to check out this street art tour of Rome!
GOOD TO KNOW: Another incredible example of how a decrepit building was beautifully converted is the Centrale Montemartini, currently one of the most interesting museums in Rome. It’s located in Ostiense.
Go on an off-the-beaten path tour
All travelers like going local – including a proper tourist like myself. But in a city like Rome this isn’t exactly easy, because it is huge and extremely touristy. The good news is that there are companies such as Withlocals, that offers off-the-beaten track tours guided by a local. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Rome if you to learn a bit more about the culture and way of life of its people (without getting lost).
Join a food tour
There is little doubt that eating is one of the things to to in Rome – and one you will truly enjoy. Food in Rome is heavenly. Whether eating at a fine restaurant or at a local trattoria; grabbing gelato on the go; biting into some street food it’s really hard to go wrong. Going on a food tour is what to do in Rome to enjoy all of its flavor.
There are all sorts of food tours you can take in Rome: wine and food tasting tours; beer and food tasting tours; day tours and evening tours; Michelin stars food tours for extremely refined palates; Withlocals Roman Food Tour: the 10 tastings (I’d personally opt for this: eating street food is what to do in Rome!). They even organize food tours based on location – Testaccio food tours and Trastevere food tours are just two examples.
Here are the best food tours in Rome:
- GetYourGuide Originals street food tour of Rome – one of the best options, it’s an Originals so it means quality.
- Street food tour with a local guide – the most recommended food tour in Rome.
- 4 hours food tour by night – another excellent tour, this one is by night.
- Food tour of Roman neighborhoods – a lovely tour that goes to Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto.
- Mamma mia! Rome’s best family food tour
- A taste of Rome – private food tour
Make sure to read my post “All The Food In Rome You Should Eat: 25 Delicious Dishes.”
Take a cooking class
If you love Italian food, one of the most fun things to do in Rome is attending a cooking class. If you don’t love Italian food, I have no idea why you are reading this post!
Ok, joking. If you want to master the art of pasta, gelato, saltimbocca, abbacchio (lamb), and the many specialties of Roman Kosher cuisine (did you know that one of the largest Jewish communities outside Israel lives in Rome, by the way?), attending a cooking class is what to do in Rome. It’s also a great way to meet local families and learn a bit more about local culture and way of life.
These are some of the best cooking classes in Rome:
- Authentic Roman dinner
- Roman pasta class: Carbonara and more
- Yummy family fun: pizza-making class
- Make your own pasta and ciambelle
- Family and pasta: fun cooking class
Visit a cat sanctuary
If you love cats as much as I do, then you will have a great time visiting one of the many cat sanctuaries in Rome. The oldest and possibly the most famous one is that of Largo di Torre Argentina, which is very central (right between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia). It’s located in an archeological side thought to be the place where Julius Cesar was murdered (though in fact he was killed a couple of blocks away, at the Theater of Pompey).
The sanctuary is open to visitors who are welcome to pet the resident cats, and who can shop for small souvenirs such as a cat of Rome calendar (it’s actually a very popular souvenir to get in Rome) and even make a donation to support the charity that runs the sanctuary.
There are more cat sanctuaries scattered around town, but the one in Largo di Torre Argentina is the most famous one.
Explore Rome’s coolest neighborhoods
Testaccio, Trastevere and Garbatella: you may have heard of them already. Either way, make sure to at least go for a walk in each of them. They are great places to people-watch.
Testaccio is known as Rome’s original foodie neighborhood – there is no way to avoid it if you are a food lover. There you will also find the Non-Catholic cemetery of Rome and the Pyramid of Caius Cestius – which was built as the tomb of a notable roman at the time when Rome was a fan of all things Egypt.
Trastevere is the nightlife hotspot of Rome – it is packed with cool bars, cafés, pubs and restaurants, and it is overall very lively. It’s maze of pretty alleys is simply fun to explore.
Garbatella is often unknown to foreigners. It became popular with Italian tourists when an incredibly famous Italian TV series was filmed there. The neighborhood, which was first created in the 1920s, used to have a bad reputation but it is now thought to be one of the best ones to live in rome.
Go in search of Art Nouveau
If you are a fan of Art Nouveau, you really have to go on a search for the gems you can find scattered around town. Some of the best examples of this artistic trend can be found in Quartiere Coppedé, which is not far from Borghese Gardens.
Another place to look for Art Nouveau is Galleria Sciarra, which is at a short distance from Trevi Fountain. This was built between 1885 and 1888 upon orders of Prince Maffeo Sciarra and was meant to serve as an upscale shopping mall, but it now hosts mostly offices.
6 Budget Friendly And Free Things To Do In Rome
I won’t deny it: Rome isn’t exactly a budget friendly destination. The good news is that tickets for Rome attractions aren’t that expensive – if you think about it, €16 to visit the Colosseum, one of history’s masterpieces, isn’t bad at all (especially when compared to the price you have to pay to visit places in other countries that don’t nearly compare in terms of beauty or culture).
Having said that, my usual recommendation to save some money is to travel slow – the more you move around, the more you are bound to spend on transportation or food or on expensive hotels you will have to find in the Centro Storico – the center of town (or else, you will waste time commuting). But I have good news for you: I know what to do in Rome when on a tight budget.
Enjoy the views from the Altar of the Fatherland
Known as Vittoriano as it was built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria in Italian) is located in Piazza Venezia, which you are likely to pass by on your way to the Colosseum. Not many know, but it actually is a really cool place to get stunning views of the Forum and all the connected sites all the way to the Palatine Hill. It’s open every day from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm and you can get to the terrace for free (if you take the stairs) or for just €7 if you want to use the elevator.
Visit all the squares
This is one of the best free things to do in Rome, and you can literally spend hours just doing some old good people-watching! Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona (famous for Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), Piazza di Spagna (or Spanish Steps as you likely know it) Piazza di Trevi (with its famous Trevi fountain) and even Piazza Venezia with its view of Campidoglio are completely free to access. If you want to avoid the large crowds at Trevi Fountain, going super early in the morning or late at night is what to do in Rome.
And the churches
Visiting churches is very budget friendly – at times there is a really small fee to access the cloister. Trinità dei Monti, at the top of the Spanish Steps, is a great one – and from there you can enjoy beautiful views of Piazza di Spagna below. San Pietro in Vincoli is a lesser known visited church where you will be able to find Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Even the Basilica is free – but the lines to get in can get very long.
Take advantage of free admissions to museums on Sundays
If you are traveling on a budget, check out the Free Sundays. A bunch of museums and other sites in Rome, including the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine – are free on the first Sunday of each month. The entire list can be seen here: it’s in Italian (there is meant to be an English page but it doesn’t share the same information for some reason) but it is rather self explanatory. Of course, free access implies waiting in line to get in, but if time is not an issue this is definitely what to do in Rome if on a tight budget.
In general, I wouldn’t recommend to count on this for a free visit, unless your budget is really limited!
Stay at a self catering apartment
My first tip to save money when in Rome is to rent an apartment rather than go to a hotel or bed and breakfast. That means having a kitchen and being able to cook, thus saving massively on meals – besides it is fun to shop for groceries in the many markets of Rome and to cook using fresh local produce.
Opt for trattorie rather than restaurants
I know that eating out is one of the most fun things to do in Rome, and it is still possible to do so – eating in trattorie or gorging on street food is what to do in Rome when your budget is tight.
Other Useful Tips For Your Trip To Rome
Where to stay in Rome
As any proper tourist destination, the Eternal City has a wealth of accommodation options that range from budget backpacker hostels, to holiday rentals, guest houses and bed and breakfasts, hotels and luxury hotels. Choosing where to stay in Rome is more a matter of location than anything else – checking sites are nearby may be a good way to select a hotel.
Staying in the area around Vittorio Emanuele metro station is one of the things to do in Rome to have easy access to a number of attractions, including the Colosseum which is a bit of a walk, but totally doable, and San Giovanni in Laterano Church. Not to mention my favorite restaurant in town (Trattoria Vecchia Roma) is located there. A good place to stay in Vittorio Emanuele is Zefiro Home.
If visiting the Vatican is one of the top things to do in Rome, the Orange Garden B&B may be one of the top choices. Tthe view of the Dome of the Vatican from the dining room is simply stunning.
Here is a selection of excellent places to stay in Rome:
- My Bed Vatican Museum is literally located right in front of the gate of the museums, and has excellent rooms – spotless and comfortable. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Navona Rooms offers modern, well organized rooms steps away from Piazza Navona. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- The RomeHello has excellent, well organized dorms as well as private rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
For more accommodation options, read my post “A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome.”
How to get to Rome
As one of the world’s most visited city, Rome is really easy to get to. There are two airports: Fiumicino, which is the main airport, a bit outside of Rome; and Ciampino, which is closer to the center and used by budget airlines.
While there are no trains connecting Ciampino to Rome Centro Storico, getting the train from Fiumicino to Roma Termini Station is what to do in Rome to get there on the cheap – a one-way ticket costs €14.00 euro. Tickets can be bought online on Trenitalia website, or directly at the station.
An even cheaper way to get from either Fiumicino or Ciampino airport to the center of Rome is via bus or shuttle. Tickets can be bought directly online. There’s even shuttle and transfer services connecting Civitavecchia (the nearest port) to Rome – they also can be bought online.
Keep in mind that some Roma Pass include transportation to or from the airport.
Check out my post on “How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.”
Best time to visit Rome
If you ask me, it is always a good time to visit Rome. Yet, there are some months where the nicest tourist attractions in Rome are even more crowded than usual. I recommend avoiding the summer months, because it is too hot and there are too many tourists.
Going in October is what do in Rome to be able to enjoy great weather, less tourists and all that the city has to offer.
Have you ever been to Rome? What are your recommendations on things to do in Rome?
Further readings about Rome
Make sure to read my other posts about Rome for more itineraries and ideas:
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- The Perfect Itinerary For 3 Days In Rome
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- Where To Get The Best Views Of Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- 20 Great Day Trips From Rome
- The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It
- 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy
- A Guide To The Best Places To Visit In Italy
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