43 Great Things To Do In Rome

You will never have troubles finding incredible things to do in Rome.

Not many places in the world can offer such a great mixture of historical landmarks, archaeological sites, churches, museums, antique and modern art such as that of the Eternal City, all served with an abundant side of delicious local food (best if enjoyed in the many “trattorie” – AKA local restaurants) and gelato.

Rome is vibrant and lively; it’s chaotic yet lovely; it’s dirty yet utterly gorgeous. If you are curious to know more about everything that the Italian capital has to offer, you are in the right place. Continue reading to discover the best landmarks in Rome; some well-hidden gems and to get a few tips on how to make the most of the city and dodge the crowds of tourists.

St Peter's Basilica
Without a doubt, St. Peter’s Basilica is a must see when in Rome

Table of Contents

19 Unmissable Things To Do In Rome 

Visit St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is actually located in Vatican City, a small city-state found in the very center of Rome. Built over a site thought to be the tomb of St. Peter, this is the most famous church in Christendom, a sumptuous and splendid example of Renaissance and Baroque style. Inside, you’ll find the works of prominent artists such a Michelangelo’s Pietà; Bernini’s Baldacchino and Chair of St. Peter’s; Bramante and Vignola. The church has 11 chapels, 45 altars and many beautiful mosaics.

The church is free to access, but you’ll have to go through security before being let in, and you’ll need to be dressed modestly – cover your shoulder, chest and knees and you’ll have no trouble walking in.

To make the most of the church, you may want to consider joining a guided tour. You can book it here. For a tour that also goes to the underground grottoes and the Dome, click here.

St Peter's Square
One of the prettiest things to see in Rome is the view from the Dome of St. Peter’s

Walk up St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

There are several places from where you can get incredible views of Rome. One of the best is St. Peter’s Basilica 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.

While the church is free to visit, access to the Dome costs €8 – if you walk the 551 steps to the top – or €10 if you opt to take the elevator to the first terrace and then walk the remaining 320 steps.

You can book your guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome climb here or here.

Wander around St. Peter’s Square

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 – one by Carlo Maderno, and the other one by Rome’s favorite Renaissance artist Gianlorenzo Bernini. From the square, you may be able to spot the Pope as he addresses the audience during his Sunday Angelus.

Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are one of the most impressive art galleries in the world

Go to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

Right next to St. Peter’s Basilica you will find the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel, along with Raphael Rooms, are incredible works of art – this is where you can admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Last Judgement. The Vatican Museums are housed in palaces originally built for Renaissance popes and house one of the most impressive art collections in the world, spread across 54 chambers.

Visits to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel must be booked in advance. You can get your tickets here. If you’d rather join a guided tour, you can book it here.

what to do in Rome
You will love Castel Sant’Angelo

Explore Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo is 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.

Castel Sant’Angelo was also the set of Angels and Demons, one of Dan Brown’s most famous novels.

Should you want to visit, get your tickets in advance here.

Cross Ponte Sant’Angelo

Linking the two sides of the Tiber River there are many bridges. Ponte dell’Angelo, right outside Castel Sant’Angelo and lined with angel statues which are the work of Bernini and his scholars, is by far the prettiest bridge in town – so make sure not to skip it!

Piazza del Campidoglio
The beautiful Piazza del Campidoglio

Discover the Capitoline Hill and Museums

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Rome is the Capitoline Hill and Museums. The square – Piazza del Campidoglio – was designed by Michelangelo and it is a real work of art in and of itself.

Inside the Capitoline Museums – spread across the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo – 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.

To get tickets to the Capitoline Museums, click here. For a guided tour that also goes to St. Mary of Aracoeli Basilica click here.

Quirinal Palace – the residence of the President of Italy

Pop by Quirinal Palace

One of the Seven Hills of Rome, Quirinal Hill is the location of the Palazzo del Quirinale, completed in 1583 and the 11th largest palace in the world by area. Prominent Italian artists such as Maderno and Bernini worked on the palace, which once was the summer residence of the Pope. After the unification of Italy it became the residence of the king. It now is the residence of the Italian head of state, this is a unique place to visit: you can tour the reception rooms and the grand gardens.

Should you want to visit, don’t forget to book in advance here.

places to see in Rome
You can’t go to Rome and skip the Colosseum!

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.

The Colosseum was built between 72 and 82 AD – initially on orders of Emperor Vespasian. It was however completed under Titus. At its highest capacity it held up to 80,000 spectators, who went there to enjoy shows of gladiators fighting among themselves or against wild animals; as well as more sophisticated shows. What is remarkable is that – in a country such as Italy, often the victim of earthquakes – the structure is still standing, proud and visible from many places in the city.

Tickets cost €16 + a small surcharge for the online reservation and include admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You can get them here.

Guided tours of the Colosseum are recommended for a more in depth experience. They usually include a visit of the arena floor, of the third tier and at times even of the undergrounds. You can book your tour of the Colosseum here.

Arch of Constantine
Seeing the Arch of Constantine is one of the things to do in Rome

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!

Roman forum
The Roman Forum is one of the best sites in Rome

Head to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill

Located right next to the Colosseum, during the early Republic days the Roman Forum 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.

Legend says that the Palatine 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.

As these are some of the most famous places to visit 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, and most tours of the Colosseum will also take you to the Forum and the Palatine hill!

Trajan's Markets
The first shopping mall in history?

Visit Trajan’s Markets

The Mercati di Traiano were part of Trajan’s Forum, one of the most impressive imperial forums. Known as the first shopping mall in history, researchers now seem to agree it was actually meant to house the offices of local administration. Now it’s home to a fantastic museum with an impressive collection of archeological pieces. The views of the forum from there are impressive!

To get tickets to Trajan’s Markets, click here.

Rome Pantheon
The Pantheon is an unmissable attraction

Marvel at the Pantheon

Built in 126 AD, upon orders of Emperor Hadrian as a temple, Rome Pantheon 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.

Borghese Gallery
Villa Borghese is one of the coolest places to visit in Rome

Go on a tour of Galleria Borghese and Borghese Gardens

Borghese Gallery is one of the most interesting art galleries in Rome, with paintings and sculptures of Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian is something you really don’t want to miss.

Villa Borghese, where the gallery is located, was built in the early 17th century by architect Flaminio Ponzio on land owned by the prominent Borghese family, to which Camillo Borghese, who became Pope Paul V in 1605, belonged. The collection was started by his nephew Scipione Borghese, a Cardinal and one of the patrons of Bernini.

The villa is located in the heart of a gorgeous park, accessed from Piazza del Popolo and home to several statues scattered around in Giardini del Pincio (Pincian Hill).

Visits to Borghese Gallery are timed and must be booked in advance.You can book your Galleria Borghese ticket here.

You can book your small group tour here. For a tour of the gallery and the gardens, click here. You can book your private tour here.

Basilica di San Clemente
The impressive Basilica di San Clemente

Visit San Clemente Basilica

If you want to visit a lesser known church in Rome head to San Clemente Basilica. This is one of the oldest churches 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 AD fire caused by Nero.

Contrary to most churches in Rome, visiting San Clemente Basilica is not free. Admission is €10. Once inside, the panels will guide your visit. To make the most of this and other churches in Rome you may want to join a guided tour. You can book it here or here.

San Giovanni in Laterano
The facade of San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica

And St. John in the Lateran

San Giovanni in Laterano – St. John in the Lateran, in English, is located in the Esquilino neighborhood and is Rome’s Cathedral – not to mention the oldest Basilica in town, although much of what you see today is Baroque, as the church faced several reconstructions after fires.

San Giovanni in Laterano 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.

Inside, you can also see the 1367 Gothic tabernacle and the 315 baptistery built upon wishes of Emperor Constantine in AD 315.

Visiting the church is free. For a guided tour of St John in the Lateran, click here.

Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the most impressive churches in Rome

Go to Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica

Santa Maria Maggiore was in the 4th century upon orders of Pope Liberius over a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele. It 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. 

Appian Way
The Appian Way

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. Along the Appian Way 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.

Lots of tours in Rome go to the Catacombs and the Appian Way. For the best reviewed tour, click here or here. For a bike tour of the Catacombs and the Appian Way, click here.

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 (52.5 feet) underground and 2 km (1.2 miles) south of the Appia Antica and still have the remains of humans, unlike the other sites.

views of Rome
A breathtaking view of Rome from the Janiculum

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.

View of St. Peter's Basilica
Seeing the optical Illusion of St.Peter’s Dome is one of the best things to do in Rome

9 Unusual Things To Do In Rome

See the Optical Illusion of St.Peter’s Dome

For more views of Rome, go 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! 

Knights of Malta keyhole
The view of St. Peter’s Basilica through the Knights of Malta Keyhole

Peep in through the Knights of Malta Keyhole

Located on the Aventine Hill, in the lovely Piazza Cavalieri di Malta – which was designed by Giovan Battista Piranesi in 1765 – the Knights of Malta Keyhole is a truly unique place, part of the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic order which had a prominent role during the crusades and actually a sovereign entity according to international law. You literally only go there to peep in through the keyhole to spot St. Peter’s Basilica Dome in the distance. It’s worth it!

Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are among the most impressive sites in Rome

Visit the Baths of Caracalla

Not far from Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla are one of the coolest places to visit 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 town, but it is still pleasant to explore.

Domus Aurea
The exterior of the Domus Aurea

Explore the Domus Aurea

The Domus Aurea 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 when visiting.

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 restoration works painstakingly bring them back to their original beauty.

Villa Farnesina
Villa Farnesina

Go to Villa Farnesina

Located in Via della Lungara 230, close to the Tiber between Vatican City and Trastevere, Villa Farnesina was built in the 16th century upon orders of the Farnese family. When Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III in 1534, he started acquiring even more works of art to store inside – so you will be able to find some of Raphael’s best frescoes, as well as works by Giacomo della Porta, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and Michelangelo. 

For guided tours, click here.

Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini is home to one of the best museums in Rome

And to Palazzo Barberini

Purchased by the state in 1949, Palazzo Barberini, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1623, houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art, where you can see more than 1,400 works of art including pieces by El Greco and Raphael. The best piece in the gallery is by far Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Galleria Doria Pamphilj
The stunning interiors of Galleria Doria Pamphilj

Marvel at Galleria 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.

For tickets to Doria Pamphilj Gallery, click here.

Then pop into Keats-Shelley Memorial House

Not far from Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Keats-Shelley Memorial House is a small museum dedicated to English Romantic poets and with a fantastic library. The views of the city from the terrace are fabulous too!

Ara Pacis
The Ara Pacis is one of the most interesting museums in Rome

Admire the Ara Pacis of Augustus

The Altar of Peace was commissioned in 13 BC when Augustus returned after three years in Hispania and Gaul. You’ll be able to see it in a small museum whose building was designed by Richard Meier.

Rome attractions
Meeting the locals is what to do in Rome for fun

12 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 also a city where you can and will have lots of fun! 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 is Fatamorgana, by the way!

Continue reading for a selection of the most fun things to do in Rome.

Mouth of Truth
The Mouth of Truth

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 and see what happens! 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.

Vespa in Rome
Driving a vintage Vespa is one of the most fun things to do in Rome

Go on a Vespa tour

If you ever watched movies like the above mentioned Roman Holidays and La Dolce Vita, you will love riding around Rome 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 without getting lost.

There are several Vespa tours of Rome for sale online. If you are a fan of the vintage Vespa with manual transmission, you can consider this tour here. If you just want to rent a Vespa, click here.

Fiat 500 tour of Rome
The most iconic Italian car!

Explore Rome on board a vintage Fiat 500

The vintage Fiat 500 is one of the most iconic Italian cars. You can occasionally spot some shiny, super well-kept ones in the streets of Rome, ready to be photographed, yet, for a real fun experience, you should consider riding one: it certainly is a fun way of roaming the city! Fiat 500 guided tours of Rome don’t come cheap, but keep in mind that keeping these cars come at high costs.

You can book a guided Fiat 500 tour of Rome here.

places to see in Rome
Who said that art can’t be fun? Spotting street art is what to do in Rome – photo courtesy of Valeria Preci (flickr)

Spot all the street art 

If you like art with a bit of a twist, a street art tour is what to do in Rome. Areas like the Quadraro have been completely renovated thanks to 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.

If you’d rather go on a tour, you can consider this one.

Visit Rome’s quirkiest museum

Another incredible example of how a decrepit building – Rome’s first electrical powerplant – has been beautifully converted, Centrale Montemartini, in Ostiense, is one of the most interesting museums in Rome. The exhibit inside – Green and Roman statues – are strikingly at odds with the industrial machinery and wide spaces of the building. The effect is ever so interesting!

You can get tickets to Centrale Montemartini here.

Get off the beaten path

All travelers like going local. 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 offer off-the-beaten track tours guided by a local. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Rome if you are keen learn a bit more about the culture and way of life of its people (without getting lost) and especially if you want to visit places that you may have never heard of before.

My favorite ones are the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome, located in the Testaccio neighborhood. This is the resting place of many famous non-catholics that lived in Rome, many of them artists such as Percy Shelley. The cemetery is also home to one of Rome’s many cat sanctuaries, and offers views of the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, built around 12 BC to be the tomb of a prominent public figure.

Want to push yourself even further? Why don’t you go to EUR – it’s one of the most interesting neighborhoods in town.

For more unusual places to visit in Rome, read my post 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path.

spaghetti cacio e pepe
Nothing beats a good cacio e pepe when in Rome

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.

A food tour is a good idea to take in all the flavors the city has to offer. There are so many to pick from: wine and food tasting tours; beer and food tasting tours; day tours and evening tours; Michelin stars food tours for extremely refined palates, and more. There are also food tours based on location – Testaccio food tours and Trastevere food tours are just two examples.

For the most popular food tour in Rome, click here. For a street food tour, click here. If you’d rather opt for a night tour, consider this one. Finally, take a look at this tour of Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto.

Take a cooking class

If you love Italian food but don’t just want to eat it, but also learn how to prepare it, one of the most fun things to do in Rome is attending a cooking class. You can then 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?). It’s also a great way to meet local families and learn a bit more about local culture and way of life.

To book your cooking class in Rome, click here.

cats of Rome
Did you know that the cats of Rome are famous?

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 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, so you can go in to pet the resident cats, and shop for small souvenirs such as a cat of Rome calendar or to make a donation to support the charity that runs the sanctuary.

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. Here is a brief overview of each of them.

TESTACCIO – 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 I have mentioned above.

TRASTEVERE – The nightlife hotspot of Rome, Trastevere 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 – 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.

quartiere coppedé
Quartiere Coppedé

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, 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.

Campo de Fiori
The lovely Campo de’ Fuori market

Visit a market or two

The Italian capital is packed with markets and exploring them is a lot of fun. While some remain a local affair, and you’d literally only go there to bag some fresh produce – others, while continuing to offer good produce, are located in more accessible locations, so you can easily visit them too even if you are in town for a short time.

Campo de’ Fiori is probably the most famous one. The name means “field of flowers” and refers to the meadow on top of which the square was built. The market takes place every day but Sundays since 1869!

Check out this guided tour of Campo de’ Fiori market with plenty of food tastings. For a guided tour of the most famous markets in Rome, click here.

Via dei Fori Imperiali
Ideas on what to do in Rome that is budget friendly: walking along Via dei Fori Imperiali

3+ Budget Friendly And Free Things To Do In Rome

I won’t deny it: Rome isn’t exactly a budget friendly destination. Yet, you will find plenty of free things to do in Rome, and many others that are actually quite budget friendly. To save a bit when in town, use public transport instead of taxis to cover longer distances – locals love complaining about it, but it’s actually quite efficient. Trattorie are a good option for food as they are significantly cheaper than regular restaurants. And then, there are lots of attractions that don’t charge a fee. Here is what you can’t miss!

Altar of the Fatherland
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Rome

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.

You can get to the terrace of the Altar of the Fatherland for free (if you take the stairs) or for just €7 if you take the elevator.

Visit all the squares and fountains

This is one of the best free things to do in Rome, and you can literally days at end just doing some old good people-watching! Here is a selection of the squares in Rome you can’t miss:

CAMPO DE’ FIORI – Mentioned above and home to Rome’s most famous market.

PIAZZA NAVONA – Situated on the ancient Stadium of Domitian, which was founded in the 1st century AD, the square is known for Bernini’s masterpiece the Fountain of the Four River; but make sure not to miss the Fontana del Moro and Fontana del Nettuno, and Borromini’s church of Santa Agnese in Agone.

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO – One of the largest squares in Rome, at its center you’ll be able to spot the Egyptian obelisk, built on the orders Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) and brought to Rome in 10 BC at the request of Augustus.

PIAZZA DI SPAGNA – Known overseas as the Spanish Steps, it’s named after the Spanish embassy for the Vatican City, the Palazzo di Spagna, located here since the 17th century. It’s where you’ll find Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia.

PIAZZA VENEZIA – The very heart of the city, it’s actually named after Cardinal Venezia, whose nearby palace was built in 1455.

PIAZZA DI TREVI – Perhaps the most iconic square in Rome, thanks to the beautiful Trevi Fountain.

And the churches

Visiting churches is very budget friendly – at times there is a really small fee to access the cloister. I can’t possibly name all the churches you should visit in Rome, so let me mention a few (other than those I have already talked of above) you may want to consider visiting.

SANTA CECILIA IN TRASTEVERE – Devoted to Roman martyr Saint Cecilia, who died at age 14, this 5th century chruch was built to house the remains of the saint. Go inside to see the 13th century fresco of the Last Judgement by Pietro Cavallini.

SANTA MARIA DEL POPOLO – This church is located in Piazza del Popolo. Legend says it was built in 1099 upon wishes of local residents, who wanted a religious building to scare away the ghost of Nero who was haunting the area. The church was enlarged by Bramante in 1505 and then by Bernini. Go inside to admire the works of Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael.

SANTA MARIA SOPRA MINERVA – Close to the Pantheon and built over the Temple of Minerva, its construction started in 1280 and finished in 1453. Inside, you can see the the 1521 statue of the Risen Christ by Michelangelo.

SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI – Construction of this church, which is also known as Basilica Eudoxiana, started in 431. Inside you can see Michelangelo’s statue of the Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II, as well as the chains that St. Peter worn in the Mamertine Prison of Jerusalem.

SAN LUIGI DEI FRANCESI – Close to Piazza Navona, this church was designed by Giacomo della Porta and then built by Domenico Fontana between 1518 and 1589. Other than the gorgeous façade, the church is worth visiting to admire Contarelli Chapel, with Caaravaggio’s paintings about the life of St. Matthews.

Have you ever been to Rome? What other things to do in Rome can you recommend? 

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts about Rome for more itineraries and ideas:

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27 thoughts on “43 Great Things To Do In Rome”

  1. I visited Rome in July this year. A wonderful city for me only rivalled in its Grandeur by Vienna.The most off putting thing about th city was the constant harassment from street vendors, trying to sell me tickets, take items, water and tat. My tip is to start answering them in a language they won’t understand. I started using Ghaidlig (Scottish), they just fire you a quick look and walk away. Just one phrase will do…”Tha mi gu math, tapadh leibh.” (I’m good, thank you).

  2. Hello! Thanks for the tips. I’m a feeelance travel writer and editor, and the correct spelling is “the Colosseum.” Happy travels!

  3. Touts can be found in any major tourist city. I never found Rome to be so bad – though mind you, I am Italian! In any case, I think that either ignoring or saying a simple “no thank you” in the local language (which is “no, grazie” in Italian) is what to do in Rome to keep touts away – and actually, that applies to any country.

  4. Hi Allie, thanks for the comment and thanks for the clarification. I am Italian, we say “Colosseo” and in my first draft of this post I had written Colosseum all over, and it kept being marked as misspelled. I then checked online and saw that in American English it is written Coliseum and indeed the spell check didn’t mark it as misspelled anymore. To be fair, I like Colosseum better than Coliseum, so I will change it back 🙂

  5. Some handy suggestions here. I’m keen to travel to Rome for a Six Nations rugby game, so I suppose that will be out of season in terms of mass tourism. Nonetheless, thanks for the ideas.

  6. You will love it! Don’t forget to try tonnarelli cacio e pepe. My mouth is watering at the thought!

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  14. Rome is a place of great beauty and history. A very interesting place to visit. And I am fascinated with one of the famous architecture in Rome which is the Colosseum, the intact ruins from the time of the Roman empire are really amazing. Visiting the city is a worthwhile experience, the city is simply superb…

  15. Thanks for all the tips, I’m spending 4 nights in Rome in mid January, first time with a child. Is this enough time to see most of the major attractions and are they open every day during winter? Also is it likely to snow?

  16. Hi Angela, thank you for leaving a comment and I am glad you found my post useful. 4 days is enough to cover all the main attractions – which will be open, except on holiday days. I have detailed guides on the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s that you may want to read for more details, including opening hours and closing days, and they have plenty of tips on how to get tickets (you need to book in advance). I am also planning a series of itineraries to explore Rome – so you may want to subscribe to be notified of when the posts come out 🙂

    Also – the chances of snow in Rome are very very slim!

  17. Itinerary would be extremely helpful! I’ve read your posts in regards to passes, transport etc, there is so many that I don’t know which to book. I have a ten year old child and was wondering what would be the best itinerary with children. How far in advance should I book the tickets and also is it worth reserving a day to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa? We have two full days in Venice prior Rome, would it be best to see Pisa from Venice?
    Cheers Angela

  18. I honestly don’t recommend going to Pisa for a day trip from either Venice or Rome – stay closer to the area. If you go so far, you waste your day while you could visit something just as nice (if not nicer) much much closer. For day trips from Rome – stay tuned as I also have that post coming out soon that will give you plenty of ideas. As for tickets: keep in mind that places like the Colosseum get sold out quick, so I’d say even 4 months in advance or more is good!!

  19. Thanks for this article, very helpful as I am planning to visit Rome in November.
    This was the most accurate article I have found so far. I am already feeling that I’m gonna love this city 🙂

  20. So glad to know you find it useful. Make sure to read my itineraries too – they will come in handy with the planning 🙂

  21. We were in Rome just recently , my husband and myself where we met up with our daughter and son who went on their own Euro vacation. First week of October and though there were still a lot of tourists jut like us , our guides on several tours said it was a lot less compared to the summer months, and if we really wanted the top tourist places of Rome to ourselves we should visit during the winter months – like January -February. : ) We did all the skip the line tours with wonderful and very knowledgeable guides ,we took the Palatine Hill , Roman Forum and Colosseo guided tours as well as the Vatican Museum , Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica tours. On our own we went up the Janiculum Hill and Aventine Hill and peeked thru the Aventine keyhole(must do). We also walked through Via del Corso and visited on our own The Pantheon (free) , Piazza de Spagna , Piazza Navona where you can have coffee in one of the restaurants / coffee bar and do people watching. We also visited endless churches, and dont forget Trevi Fountain , toss your coin and wish to come back , I did 30 years ago and I did came back this time with my husband, its my favorite spot in Rome. Drop by Campo di Fiori theres an Osteria there that prepares their own hand made pasta to die for… Wednesday , fall in line early to get a good spot for the Pope’s Liturgical reading… Rome is beautiful and hard not to fall in love with. And oh ! we did a day trip to Firenze / Florence, it was beautiful too… We will be coming back next year , may I ask what other places to do a day trip to coming from Rome or spend a day or two ? Thank you.

  22. Nice article. I just spent two months in Rome and enjoyed the easy, slow uptake of layers upon layers of history, art, music and food. I would suggest a day trip to Ostio Antica (use your metro ticket for the train), To Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius (use a bus tour), may be the architectural museum in Naples for the limited Gladiator exhibit (train). Also recommend getting some of the tickets in advance, check for the summer time concert/ opera/play schedules in advance and buy tickets. Often times they’re held at archeological sites on special times (Baths of Caraccala). Villa Cellimontana (in Celio district) has weekend live music concerts both mid day and evening. Read up on your the sites you visit briefly t will make more sense to you. Take a 3 hour bike tour of the Appian way. The pandemic, during my visit has seemingly eliminated the need for “pass the line tickets” as there are hardly any lines, specially if you get your tickets ahead of time online. Check out the summer evening/night time special hours for places like the Colosseum, the Vatican, Baths of Caraccala..etc Don’t try to see everything in a short time, just go with the flow. You may have to come back.

  23. I was there for 2 weeks – returned on Sunday. Thanks for the tips. This post refers to things that are strictly in Rome, not to places visited on day trips (I have a separate post for that). Baths of Caracalla concerts were suspended (I certainly searched for them). Skip the Line tickets are still necessary in many places as even less visitors are allowed at the moment. Did you see the loooong line at the Pantheon, to check the Green Pass?

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