You will never have troubles finding incredible things to do in Rome. This is one of the best cities in Italy.
Not many places in the world offer such a great mixture of historical landmarks, archaeological sites, churches, museums, antique and modern art such as the Eternal City, all served with an abundant side of delicious local food (best 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.
I am a Rome expert – I have lived there and have visited more times than I can remember. In this post I will help you discover the most amazing things to do in Rome; some hidden gems and to get a few tips on how to make the most of the city.
Rome is a city that requires lots of planning if you want to maximize your time there – but don’t forget to leave some room for spontaneity. Let the city surprise you!
16 Unmissable Things To Do In Rome
Visit the Colosseum
Visiting the Colosseum is one of the unmissable things to do in Rome for first-timers.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is iconic! Built between 72 and 82 AD initially on orders of Emperor Vespasian, it was completed under Titus. At its highest capacity it held 80,000 spectators, who enjoyed shows of gladiators and wild animals, among others.
Unfortunately the Colosseum we see today is not what it once was. Throughout history, it was damaged by earthquakes and it was used as a quarry, so marble was taken from it to build other places in Rome.
However, it remains an unmistakable icon of Rome. You can admire it in all its glory from the outside, but don’t miss the chance to go inside too!
Just outside the Colosseum you can spot the Arch of Constantine, one of the many commemorative arches in Rome. It was built in 315 AD to celebrate Constantine victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
If you want a more in depth visit, get the more expensive tickets that give you access to the Arena and the Colosseum Underground, where you get a better understanding of how masterful Roman technology actually was.
Tickets to the Colosseum include admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
You can get plain tickets here.
Guided tours are usually include a visit of the arena floor, of the third tier and at times even the undergrounds. I recommend this small groupo guided tour run by Touriks – you may want to ask them to have Mario as your guide: he’s my favorite in Rome!
You may also want to consider this night tour of the Colosseum – it’s a great way of seeing the Colosseum when it is not nearly as crowded.
Read my post How To Get Tickets To The Colosseum.
Explore the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
During the early Republic the Roman Forum was a chaotic place with food stalls, brothels, temples and the Senate house.
Eventually the food stalls were replaced by business centers and law courts and the Forum remained a ceremonial center under the Empire. Today, it is one of the most impressive archeological sites in the world.
The most impressive sights here are the Temple of Saturn, and the Arch of Titus, which you will find on the Via Sacra.
The Palatine Hill – one of the Seven Hills of Rome – 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, it was once the residence of emperors and aristocrats.
Nowadays, exploring this open-air museum is one of the best things to do in Rome to understand the life of Roman aristocrats – and to appreciate the impressive views of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and beyond from the Terrazza del Palatino.
There’s also a lovely garden with olive groves, roses and other gorgeous plants.
Tickets to the Colosseum include admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. I actually recommend a guided tour as the site is quite large and there is a lot to see. Most tours of the Colosseum will also take you to the Forum and the Palatine hill.
Make sure to also check out Trajan’s Markets, part of Trajan’s Forum. Known as the first shopping mall in history, you can see it as you walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali, on your way to the Colosseum.
Visit St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro, in Italian) is actually located in the Vatican City, a small city-state in the very center of Rome. Built over the tomb of St. Peter and completed in 1626, this Renaissance and Baroque church is the most famous in Christendom, the largest and most important Catholic church in the world.
It’s also the tallest building in the city – and nothing taller can be built in town.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, you’ll find the works of prominent artists such as the Pietà by Michelangelo; Bernini’s Baldacchino and Chair of St. Peter’s; Bramante and Vignola. There are 11 chapels, 45 altars and many beautiful mosaics.
I also recommend exploring the underground crypts, where popes are usually buried, and taking your time to wander around St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro in Italian).
This enormous, airy square is framed by two sets of colonnades decorated with statues of religious figures and popes. In the square you can also spot an obelisk and two fountains – one by Carlo Maderno, and the other by Bernini.
The square and St. Peter’s Basilica are guarded by the famous Swiss Guards, which you’ll recognize because of their colorful uniforms.
If you happen to be there on a Sunday, head to St. Peter’s Square just before 12:00 pm to listen to the Pope addressing the audience during his Angelus. It lasts around 20 minutes and it’s in Italian, but very moving even to non-religious people (it certainly was to me!).
To get into St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus you’ll have to go through security checks.
You can visit the Basilica di San Pietro independently or take a guided tour. The church is free to access, but you’ll have to go through security, and you’ll need to be dressed modestly.
This combined guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica also goes to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
This tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is excellent if you also want to visit the underground grottoes and climb the Dome.
I recommend this fantastic St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb & Crypt by Walks of Italy – it’s one of the most comprehensive and thorough.
Walk up St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
To get incredible views of Rome climb St. Peter’s Basilica Dome (Cupola di San Pietro in Italian), from where you can see St. Peter’s Square, Via della Conciliazione, Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River.
Michelangelo’s masterpiece was designed following the style of the Pantheon. Construction actually started when Michelangelo was already 71, in 1546, and was not completed before he died in 1564, but only in 1590 thanks to the work of Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana.
Climbing the Cupola di San Pietro is certainly one of the most challenging things to do in Rome, but it’s also rewarding: make sure to bring your camera!
You have two option to get to the Dome: climb it in full, or only in part on a combination of elevator + stairs. If you climb the while thing, you will go up 551 steps. Otherwise, the elevator takes you to the first terrace, from where you enjoy a stunning close up view of the Dome, and you then walk the remaining 320 steps via a narrow and steep staircase.
You have to pay a separate fee to climb the Cupola di San Pietro.
Your best option if you are looking for a guided tour is this fantastic St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb & Crypt by Walks of Italy. Otherwise, you may want to consider this tour of St. Peter’s Basilica that goes to the Dome too.
For more information, head over to my post A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.
Go to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Close to St. Peter’s Basilica you will find the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, so you really must include them in your Rome itinerary!
Originally Cappella Magna, the chapel was named after Pope Sixtus IV, upon whose wishes it had been built. Here you’ll find Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Last Judgement, painted between 1508 and 1512.
The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are housed in palaces built for Renaissance popes and house one of the most impressive art collections in the world, spread across 54 chambers – including the famous Raphael’s Rooms (my favorite piece there is his School of Athens), the Gallery of the Maps, and a collection of classic statues.
The Sistine Chapel is usually the final stop on the visit – remember it is not allowed to take photos or talk there. On the other hand, keep your camera ready to take photos of the iconic helix double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932 you will be walking along to exit the museum complex.
Visits to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel must be booked in advance. You can get your tickets here. Factor a minimum of two hours for your visit.
The Vatican Museums are massive and can get quite crowded, so you may feel overwhelmed there. I actually recommend a guided tour so you don’t have to worry about which route to follow, and which pieces you should focus on. Here are some great options:
My favorite is this Pristine Sistine Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour. It starts early, before the larger crowds arrive, and includes a buffet breakfast on the premises; and it also goes to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Alternatively, there’s also this Complete Vatican Tour which includes a visit of St. Peter’s Basilica too.
In case you are visiting Rome in the summer, you may want to consider Walks of Italy’s Vatican Museums Night Tour with Sistine Chapel – it’s an after hours tour that includes apertivo drinks in the courtyard.
You should also read my post How To Get Vatican Tickets.
If you are visiting Rome in the months, consider adding a visit to the Vatican Gardens too! Open to the public since 2014, they can be visited on guided bus tours that depart from the Vatican Museums.
You can book a guided tour of the Vatican Gardens via the official site here.
Explore Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is massive fortress whose construction started in 139 AD. Initially intended as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, it became a medieval citadel, a prison and a place of safety for popes during times of political unrest.
There is a corridor known as the Passetto di Borgo – that connects the Vatican Palace to the Castle and that provided an escape route for popes. It was also the set of Angels and Demons, one of Dan Brown’s most famous novels.
You can walk inside to visit the permanent exhibit, admire the beautifully frescoed rooms, and for magnificent views of the city.
Should you want to visit, get your tickets in advance here.
You should also read my post A Guide To Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo Rome.
Cross Ponte Sant’Angelo
Linking the two sides of the Tiber River there are many bridges. Ponte dell’Angelo, outside Castel Sant’Angelo is lined with angel statues (five on each side) the work of Bernini and his scholars (commissioned by Pope Clemens IX).
The bridge was built by Emperor Hadrian in 134 AD to link the city with his mausoleum (now Castel Sant’Angelo). The best views of Castel Sant’Angelo and the bridge are from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele or Ponte Umberto.
Discover the Capitoline Hill and Museums
The Capitoline Hill and Museums are some of the best places to visit in Rome. The square – Piazza del Campidoglio – was designed by Michelangelo and is where Rome’s City Hall is located.
This is where you will be able to spot Rome’s famous Capitoline Wolf statue – the statue of Romulus and Remus suckling on the she-wolf.
Inside the Capitoline Museums – spread across the Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo – there is a collection of classical sculptures (Egyptian, Greek and Roman) 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 the famous statue of the she-wolf (the Capitoline Wolf), symbol of Rome from ancient times.
From the terrace you can get stunning views of the Roman Forum.
To get tickets to the Capitoline Museums, click here.
Marvel at the Pantheon
Built in 126 AD by Emperor Hadrian as a temple, the Pantheon later on became a Catholic church. Its Dome is considered one of the best preserved buildings from antiquity, the largest unsupported dome in the world, and today the Pantheon remains the oldest building in use – in the world!
Spend some time outside to marvel at Marcus Agrippa inscription and the large Corinthian columns that support the outer structure. The best photos are from the lovely fountain just outside.
Inside you will be able to see the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II, and spot the Oculus, the only source of light.
The Pantheon is no longer free to visit. You can get tickets which include an audioguide in advance.
Alternatively, you can join this guided tour run by Touriks.
You should also read my post A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon, Rome.
Tour Galleria Borghese and Borghese Gardens
One of the best things to do in Rome if you love Baroque art is visiting Borghese Gallery, home of the most impressive art collection in town with paintings and sculptures of Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio, Raphael, Rubens and Titian.
The beautiful villa belonged to the Borghese family and was built in the early 17th century by architect Flaminio Ponzio.
The collection was started by Scipione Borghese, a Cardinal and one of the patrons of Bernini. It is here that you can see Bernini’s masterpieces Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Proserpine, and David,
Surrounding the villa there you will find the gorgeous borghese Gardens – one of the most beautiful parks in Rome. It connects Villa Borghese to Piazza del Popolo – make sure to spot the Giardini del Pincio (Pincian Hill). This is also a locals’ favorite spot for a run in Rome.
Visits to Borghese Gallery are timed (2 hours time slots) and must be booked in advance – you can do that here.
For a tour of the gallery and the gardens, click here.
Make sure to also read my post How To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets.
Check out the best museums in Rome
The Vatican Museums, Borghese Gallery and the Capitoline Museums are certainly among the best museums in Rome, but there are many more you should visit! Here is a short overview of my favorite ones:
CENTRALE MONTEMARTINI – Located in Ostiense, in the beautifully converted Rome’s first electrical power plant, it houses Greek and Roman statues, a collection of mosaics and the carriage of a train purposely built for Pope Pius IX.
DORIA PAMPHILJ GALLERY – Located in Via del Corso and built in the 17th century by Pope Innocent X, this is a private collection and the Doria Pamphilj family still lives on the premises. The building is magnificent and in the gallery where you can admire works of Caravaggio, Caracci and Bernini, as well as paintings by the Flemish Masters.
KEATS-SHELLEY MEMORIAL HOUSE – Not far from Doria Pamphilj Gallery, right by the Spanish Steps, this small but well curated is located where English Romantic poets Keats and Shelley lived – their room, the library. The views from the terrace overlooking the Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti are fabulous too!
PALAZZO BARBERINI – Purchased by the Italian Government in 1949, the 1623 Palazzo Barberini houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art, with more than 1,400 works including pieces by El Greco and Raphael. My favorite is Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes.
Explore Trastevere, Rome’s coolest neighborhood
Trastevere is located on the other side of the Tiber River from the historic center of Rome, and an actual easy walk from the Vatican.
The nightlife hotspot of Rome, Trastevere is packed with cool bars, cafés, pubs and restaurants, and it is overall very lively – especially in the summer. So avoid planning to stay there if you actually value your sleep!
Other than that Trastevere is maze of pretty alleys is simply fun to explore, but you will also find gorgeous churches such as Santa Maria in Trastevere, a basilica with a beautiful painted glass, and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, a 5th century church was built to house the remains of the saint. Go inside to see the 13th century fresco of the Last Judgement by Pietro Cavallini.
For more detailed information, you should also read my post A Complete Guide To Trastevere.
Other neighborhoods of Rome you may want to visit are Testaccio, Rome’s foodie neighborhood; Ostiense, home of the Non-Catholic cemetery of Rome and the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, built around 12 BC; the Jewish Ghetto, home of Rome’s synagogue; EUR and Garbatella.
Enjoy the best views of Rome
One of the top things to do in Rome is taking in the views. My favorite views are from the Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) on the Aventine Hill (Aventino). They were designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico. Head there for sunset for a romantic experience.
For more views, especially at sunset, head to the Gianicolo, or Janiculum Hill. The second highest hill in Rome can be accessed on an easy (though uphill) walk from Trastevere (just walk past Porta Settimiana).
The Janiculum Hill is home to a statue of Garibaldi on horseback, and you can also see the small Renaissance Tempietto del Bramante and the 16th century Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.
Take a day trip to Ostia Antica
If you take just one day trip from Rome, go to Ostia Antica. Once the main port city of the Roman Empire (it was larger than Pompeii!), it was abandoned after the collapse of Rome. Gorgeous temples, apartments blocks, theaters, warehouses and even a firefighters’ station were left behind.
Mud from the river covered the city, but excavation works brought its marvels back to life.
Walking around the site is incredibly pleasant – especially as it is not nearly as crowded as other sites in Rome.
To make the most of Ostia Antica I recommend a guided tour. Click here for more information.
Go inside 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 and the oldest churches in Rome. Much of what you see today is actually Baroque, as the church faced several reconstructions after fires.
Outside the church you can spot the Lateran Obelisk, the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. It is an impressive facade, but the interiors are stunning!
Inside you can see the 1367 Gothic tabernacle and the 315 baptistery built by Emperor Constantine in AD 315. Next-door you’ll find the Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps that Jesus climbed to go to his trial in Jerusalem.
For a guided tour of St John in the Lateran, click here.
Explore the Catacombs and the Appian Way
If you are staying in town long enough, visiting the Appian Way is one of the cool things to do in Rome. This famous road was built between 312 and 264 BC to connect Rome to cities such as Naples and Brindisi. It was used for commercial and military purposes.
Since Rome forbid the burial of people inside the city’s walls, there are many catacombs built along the Appian Way. You can check out the 9th century Church of Domine Quo Vadis, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, where 16 popes were buried.
You may also want to visit the Catacombs of Domitilla. 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.
You can certainly visit the Appian Way independently, but a guided tour will help you make the most of all the places to visit along the way. Lots of tours in Rome go to the Catacombs and the Appian Way.
The best tours are actually bike tours such as this one, as they allow you to see quite a bit and avoid the terrible traffic of Rome too.
10 Truly 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, having fun is also what to do in Rome!
Places like Trastevere, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona, Via del Corso are the go-to places for a stroll, for a bit of shopping and to enjoy a good gelato. Continue reading for a selection of the most fun things to do in Rome.
Visit the spectral Capuchin Crypt
Officially called Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins and known as the Church of Bones, this church was commissioned in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII, whose brother Antonio was a Capuchin friar. Construction ended in 1631.
The crypt – where taking photos is prohibited – contains the bodies of around 4000 friars who died between 1500 and 1870. They were placed there upon orders of Cardinal Antonio Barberini after they had been exhumed from the friary of Via dei Lucchesi.
See the Optical Illusion of St.Peter’s Dome
If you have enough time, one of the most unique things to do in Rome is seeing the optical Illusion of St. Peter’s Dome from Via Niccolò Piccolomini. 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!
Peep in through the Knights of Malta Keyhole
Located on the Aventine Hill, in Piazza Cavalieri di Malta – designed by Giovan Battista Piranesi in 1765 – the Knights of Malta Keyhole is part of the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic order with a prominent role during the crusades and a sovereign entity according to international law.
Peeping through the keyhole you can spot St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. Taking actual good photos is quite hard. Chances are there will be a small line of people waiting to check out the view.
You should also read my post The Best Rome Hidden Gems.
Put your hand in the Mouth of Truth
This is one of the most iconic places to visit in Rome! Located by the entrance of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, what we now know as the Mouth of Truth was originally a large marble manhole that dates back to the 1st century and which was placed by the church in 1632.
The site became famous thanks to the movie Roman Holidays, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. 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!
Shopping is definitely what to do in Rome for a fun afternoon out, and you won’t have a hard time finding a thing or two (or ten) to take home with you.
There are two main streets in the historic center of Rome where you can go shopping .
If you have a regular budget, opt for Via del Corso, which is your typical high street fashion hotspot.
If you have money to splurge, head to Via Condotti, where you will find some of the most famous designer stores in the Italian capital such as Armani, Prada, Bulgari and the likes. The streets around via Condotti are also packed with nice boutiques.
For something a bit more quirky or unique, you may want to head to Trastevere where there are also plenty of nice shops.
For more ideas, make sure you also read my post Where To Go Shopping In Rome.
Go on a Vespa or Fiat 500 tour
If you ever watched movies like Roman Holidays and La Dolce Vita, you will want to ride around Rome on a Vespa. If you are brave enough and not worried about getting lost, rent one and go around independently. Otherwise, you can opt for a guided Vespa tour.
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.
If you don’t like the idea of driving a moped through the crazy traffic of Rome, you have the option of a vintage Fiat 500 tour. This is one of the most iconic Italian cars. You can occasionally spot some shiny, super well-kept ones along the streets of Rome. Tours aren’t cheap, but keep in mind that keeping these cars come at high costs.
You can book a guided Fiat 500 tour of Rome here.
Spot all the street art
A street art tour is one of the cool things to do in Rome. There are many parts of town where you can admire gorgeous murals. One of them is Quadraro, which is not nearly as touristy as the rest, so you will be away from the crowds.
You could also go to Ostiense or Tor Marancia. The latter is a bit further away from the center and can be a bit tricky to get to, but there are quite a few murals to see, with lots to take inl so consider hiring a guide to take you around.
Join a food tour or a cooking class
Food in Rome is heavenly and eating is one of the unmissable things to to in Rome. With so many great restaurants in Rome, a food tour is a good idea to take in all the city’s flavors and decide what to eat next.
There are 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, but for a quieter experience you may want to consider a tour that goes to the Prati neighborhood, which is not as busy.
This is the most popular food tour in Rome: it goes to Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto,
You should also take a look at this tour of Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto that also goes to Campo de’ Fiori.
Finally, you may want to consider this food tour that goes around Prati neighborhood.
If you’d rather opt for a night tour, consider this one that lasts a whopping 4 hours.
However, if you want to master the art of Roman cuisine, of the most fun things to do in Rome is attending a cooking class. You can learn how to make pasta like a local – see if you manage to make cacio e pepe pasta like the one and only Felice a Testaccio does!
Other cooking classes will focus on the specialties of Roman Kosher cuisine such as carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes), which are however seasonal.
Cooking classes are also a great way to meet local families and learn a bit more about the local way of life.
You may want to consider this Rome Pasta-Making Class: Cook, Dine & Drink Wine with a Local Chef.
Having gelato is one of the unmissable things to do in Rome, but you have to do it right! Not all gelato in Rome is good. Stay away from the large chain gelaterie – there are a few in the historic center. Look for the smaller places that scream local.
My overall favorite gelateria in Rome is Fior di Luna, in Trastevere. Its gelato is the perfect combination of creamy, smooth and melts in your mouth.
Also in Trastevere, Otaleg makes some excellent fruit flavors – you won’t even realize they don’t have milk! For one of the most historic gelaterie in town, head to Fassi in the Esquilino district. Finally, there’s Giolitti near the Parliament, which is an old times’ classic.
Visit a market or two
There are many markets in Rome. Some remain a local affair, and you’d literally only go there to bag some fresh produce. Others 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 “meadows” and refers to the meadow on top of which the square was built. The market takes place every day but Sundays since 1869!
Once there, don’t forget to spot the statue of Giordano Bruno, burnt alive in this spot the 16th century – when the square was used for public executions – because of his progressive thinking.
7 + (Almost) Free Things To Do In Rome
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 budget friendly. Here are my favorite ones.
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’ll pass on your way to the Colosseum. Locals don’t love it at all – they call it the wedding cake.
Yet, there’s no denying that the views of the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill from the terrace are impressive.
You can get to main terrace of the Altar of the Fatherland for free. Access to the upper terrace is by elevator only and there’s a small fee for that – totally worth it if I may say!
Spend some time in Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna is 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 gorgeous Fontana della Barcaccia.
The famous 132 steps connect the square to the beautiful church of Trinità dei Monti: from its terrace you can enjoy views of the famous Via Condotti, one of the best shopping streets in Rome. Interestingly, we refer to the staircase as “scalinata di Trinità dei Monti” in Italian, but you will know it in English as the Spanish Steps.
Hang out in Piazza Navona
This is one of the best free things to do in Rome, perfect for people-watching! It’s close to the Pantheon, so you have no excuses.
Situated on the ancient Stadium of Domitian, founded in the 1st century AD, Piazza Navona 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.
I also recommend this tour of Navona underground. It’s a great way of learning more about what used to be in the area during ancient Rome times!
Walk around Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest squares in Rome. You will find it at the very end of Via del Corso, in the historic center of Rome. It’s overlooked by the Pincio Terrace – a staircase at the site of the square will take you to the terrace from where you can enjoy impressive views.
At its center you’ll be able to spot the Flaminio Obelisk. The square is also home to two churches – Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Santa Maria del Popolo was built in 1099 upon wishes of local residents, who wanted a religious building to scare away the ghost of Nero from the area. It was enlarged by Bramante in 1505 and then by Bernini. Inside, you can admire Caravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul, and the Crucifixion of St. Peter.
Throw a coin in Trevi Fountain
Perhaps the most iconic (and crowded) place to visit in Rome, this masterpiece of Baroque art was completed in 1762.
At its center, you can see a statue of the bearded Ocean, sitting in his chariot pulled by two beautiful horses. The statues representing Abundance and Health are placed on its sides.
This is probably the most crowded place in Rome, and it’s actually a quite confined space. If you want to avoid the crowds you really have to visit at odd hours – I’d say sunrise, if not even in the middle of the night.
Make sure to throw a coin in the fountain. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Rome for first-timers – if you do, you’ll go back for sure. It’s also supposed to help you find love in Rome. And by all means don’t put your feet in the fountain: you will be fined if you do!
Visit other churches in Rome
Most churches in Rome are free. Here are a few (other than those I have already mentioned) you may want to consider visiting.
SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE – Beloved by locals but still lesser known to tourists, this church in the Esquilino neighborhood, close to Termini Station, was built in the 4th century upon orders of Pope Liberius over a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele. It’s the largest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome.
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, 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, it was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontana between 1518 and 1589. The church is worth visiting to admire Contarelli Chapel, with Caravaggio’s paintings about the life of St. Matthews.
BASILICA DI SAN CLEMENTE – Built over a site that Christians used to pray when they still had to hide their faith, it’s underground is home to one of Rome’s Mythraic Temples.
Visit a cat sanctuary
If you love cats as much as I do, visit one of the many cat sanctuaries in Rome. The most famous one is in Largo di Torre Argentina, right between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia. It’s located in an archeological site thought to be the place where Julius Cesar was murdered.
The sanctuary is open for visits, so you can go in to pet the resident cats, get a cats of Rome calendar or to make a donation to support the charity that runs the sanctuary. They even have a long distance-adoption program. I adopted Mozart from there!
Have you ever been to Rome? What other things to do in Rome can you recommend?
Make sure to read my other posts about Rome for more itineraries and ideas:
- Why Visit Rome?
- 18 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Rome
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- 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
- How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center
- 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