What to do in Rome
Whether romantic or family, Rome is the ideal capital to spend a weekend of 2 or 3 days, especially since the city can be easily visited on foot! Visiting Rome , this city filled with history and magnificent monuments will be an unforgettable experience.
So that you can see all the main places of interest in Rome, and plan your itinerary in the Eternal City, here is our guide to things to do and see in Rome. You will also find our advice of itineraries to visit Rome in 1, 2 and 3 days and our selection of the best accommodations of the city at the end of the article.
So, what are the must-see tourist sites?
Visit Rome: the essentials
1. The Colosseum and its bloodthirsty games
To make you happy and because it is the emblematic place of interest to visit in Rome , we start our tour by the Colosseum, which is located in the ancient center. With a capacity of more than 50,000 spectators, it is the largest amphitheater in the Roman world . A lot of blood was poured into these arenas where they organized the famous gladiator fights, wild beasts and Roman games that always resulted in horrible deaths.
The tour is not free and you will probably have to wait for long hours before getting there if you are going in high season. A good plan is to get the “Roma Pass” , a 2-day pass that entitles you to a free museum (of which the Colosseum is a part) with the added bonus of not lining up and having access to the lines. bus and metro also free for 48 or 72 hours. The 48h version costs 28 € and the 72h 41.50 €
2. The Roman Forum
The ticket bought at the Colosseum also includes access to the Roman f orum and to Palatine Hill (which I am talking about just below), so it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to visit, especially since the 3 sites are contiguous to each other. to another . The forum was the center of the city and one can observe the ruins of ancient markets and administrative or religious buildings . However, on the scene you will find no explanation, so I advise history buffs to opt for a guided tour.
3. The Palatine Hill
This is the third site included in the entrance ticket to the Coliseum. The Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of the city of Rome, but according to the mythology it is especially the place where was founded the city by Remus and Romulus, but yes you know, these 2 twins who would have been collected and raised by a she-wolf in a cave. At the top of the Mount, you will have access to this cave and the ruins of the residences of historical figures such as Augustus, first Roman emperor.
4. Piazza Venezia
Not far from the Roman Forum, at the other end of the Via dei fori impierali , is piazza Venezia, the central square of Rome from which all the streets leading to Rome’s main tourist attractions start . It is here that you can admire the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II , also called Vittoriano, a huge white marble building dedicated to the first king of Italy , Victor Emmanuel II.
Next to the square is the famous Trajanne column whose bas-reliefs retrace the military conquests of the emperor of the same name.
5. Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitol Square)
Climb the broad staircase leading to the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II and you will come across Capitol Square , where the political and religious heart of the ancient city of Rome once stood, which was designed by Michelangelo himself. ! We find there:
- The Senate Palace
- The palace of the conservatives
- The new palace , which today houses the Capitoline Museum and the Museum of Art and Archeology with among others, the statue of the suckling wolf Remus and Romulus, that you could see in all the history books. Do not forget to get your tickets for the museum in advance !
6. The Pantheon
To continue on the visit of the monuments of Ancient Rome, go to the Pantheon , certainly one of the best preserved buildings of the period. Originally dedicated to the veneration of the deities of mythology, it becomes in the 7th century a Christian church. Do not hesitate to enter, the visit is free (rare enough to be reported). Inside, admire the immense dome, whose oculus (the opening in the dome) gives the place a particular brightness.
See also the tombs of the famous artist Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II (the same you could admire the building built in his honor on piazza Venezia).
In the heart of the historic center and not far from the Pantheon, is Piazza Navona , one of the most beautiful and famous squares in the city. Built on the old stadium of Domitian, it kept its oval shape. We come to admire its 3 fountains:
- The fountain of the four rivers
- The fountain of Neptune
- The fountain of the Moor
You will have the opportunity to have a drink or eat an ice cream on one of the many terraces of cafes but beware, this place being very touristy, the prices are too!
8. The Trevi Fountain
Always near the Pantheon, it is there that is the most famous fountain of Europe. The fountain of Trevi , it is the obligatory passage of any visitor in Rome and in particular of the lovers, one does not count anymore the requests for marriage which took place at the foot of this fountain! It owes its name to a girl who, to save her virginity, would have been obliged to reveal the location of the source to the Romans.
In the basin many statues representing an allegory of the sea with in its center the god Neptune on his chariot. The tradition is that we throw two pieces, one to make a wish and the other to be sure to return to Rome . Behind the fountain, a large baroque palace that contributes much to the charm of the place. By cons I warn you right now the place is crowded and you will have a hard time making the perfect picture of the fountain with no head beyond! The Trevi Fountain is a place of interest in Rome.
9. Enjoy a gelato (Italian ice cream)
After the Trevi Fountain , to recover from your emotions (if you’ve been asked to marry or have kneeled in a sweaty stress!) Or just to take a break from your day’s journey is the moment to enjoy an ice cream. You are at the ideal location, near one of the 2 best ice cream parlors in Rome: San Crispino on Via della Panatteria . The queue is often impressive, but the best things are in life.
And as opinions often diverge on the best ice cream in Rome, I also give you the name of the direct competitor of San Crispino, the gelateria “Giolliti” located in Via Uffici del Vicario with the same problem of queuing and multiple choices of perfume. And yes, as you know from our articles on Nice or Annecy , Travel Tips, we are big fans of ice!
So if I have a pro advice to give you, it is: test the 2! It’s best to make your own opinion, is not it?
10. Go shopping in Rome
Shopping on Via del corso
Then take the Via del Corso to do some shopping at reasonable prices with big brands such as Zara or H & M.
Shopping Via condotti
If you have a higher budget or just want to admire the windows, because it’s a bit like our Champs Elysees with the long list of luxury boutiques that are there, continue your way on the Via Condotti . It is the most prestigious street of Rome with signs such as Gucci, Armani or Prada.
11. Spanish Steps
The Via Condotti will lead you straight to the charming Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps in French), certainly one of the most beautiful and popular, thanks to the beautiful perspective it offers. The Spanish Steps are located at the foot of the monumental staircase that connects the square with the church of Trinité-des-Monts , located on a hill. The flowery staircase is the perfect place for a short break and welcomes tourists but also many Italians who have a meeting place.
At the foot of the stairs is the Barcaccia fountain which adds to the charm of the place and brings a little refreshment.
12. Visit the churches of Rome
As I told you, at the top of the stairs is the church of Trinité-des-Monts which offers a breathtaking view of the city. Its location makes it one of the most famous churches in Rome but knew that the city has no less than 900?
For lovers of these places of worship, which for some are real gems of architecture, here is a small list (of course not exhaustive) of the most beautiful churches in Rome.
Start with the 4 largest basilicas in the world, all of which are in Rome:
- St. Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican I’m talking about in detail a little bit lower
- The Basilica of St. John Lateran : second largest after St. Peter’s, it is also the cathedral of Rome
- St. Paul’s Basilica outside the walls which marks the site of the tomb of St. Paul
- The Basilica Santa Maria Major , the largest sanctuary in the city erected for the Virgin Mary
Some other churches of interest to see in Rome:
- Church of Gesu
- Church of St. Mary of Tastevere
- Church of St. Peter the Links
- St. Clement’s Basilica
- Church of St. Mary of the Conception
Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (my favorite in Rome)
13. Garden of Villa Borghese
North of the Spanish Steps is the largest and certainly the most beautiful park in Rome. The park of Villa Borghese offers a little welcome calm after the crush in the streets. You will be able to walk in the wide shaded alleys and at the edge of a lake surrounded by temples, statues and many fountains. The park also has a beautiful botanical garden. To access it, go to porta pinciana or piazzale flaminio , the 2 entrances to the park.
14. Visit the museums of Rome
The park of Villa Borghese also houses 3 museums:
- The Borghese Gallery which presents a collection of paintings and sculptures.
- The Etruscan National Museum and its collection of pre-Roman artefacts and jewelery
- The national gallery of modern and contemporary art including paintings by Van Gogh and Cézanne
Besides the museums located in the park, there are of course many others to see in Rome, for example:
- Capitol museums I told you a little bit above
- The Vatican Museums : more than 13 museums grouped together in a huge architectural ensemble, almost 7 kilometers long! Several possible routes ranging from 1h30 to 5 hours of visit. But rest assured all routes end at the very famous Sistine Chapel.
- The Palatine Museum which includes all the elements discovered on the site of Palatine Hill
- The National Gallery of Ancient Art with a collection of Italian and European paintings. Go there to admire the works of Raphael or Caravaggio.
15. Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo and Piazza del Popolo is located near the Villa Borghese . It is one of the great squares of Rome not to be missed with its set of fountains, 3 churches and obelisk. From the square, climb the stairs to the top of the hill, you will have a beautiful view of the square to the Vatican.
16. The bridge and Castel Sant’Angelo
From the piazza, you can then follow the Tiber to the bridge Saint-Ange and the castle of the same name on the opposite bank. The bridge is decorated with 10 statues representing angels, all designed by Bernini . On the bridge you will have a magnificent view of the city and the river.
The Castel Sant’Angelo , meanwhile, was built by Emperor Hadrian to be his mausoleum. But it ensured thereafter an important military role and served as refuge to the popes during certain invasions, a direct access had even been put in place until the Vatican. You can visit the castle, see the tombs and the ancient apartments of the popes. Also not to be missed: the view from the walkway.
17. The Vatican
A long corridor leads from Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican next door. Even if you are not religious, a visit to the Vatican is a must during a stay in Rome . It is the smallest country in the world yet is one of the most visited during a circuit in Italy. Only priests and nuns, some dignitaries, guards, and of course the pope are allowed to live there.
Anecdote about the guards: they are only Swiss and must of course be Catholic. He swears allegiance to the pope in person. This tradition goes back to the sack of Rome in 1527 when the Swiss guards protected the pope during his escape from Castel Sant’Angelo.
18. Saint Peter’s Square
You will enter the Vatican via the famous St. Peter’s Square . Every year it welcomes thousands of pilgrims and millions of tourists.
It is from this place that the Pope gives all these speeches from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, which has been built so that as many people as possible can see it. Two colonnades surround the square, consisting of nearly 280 columns and statues of 145 saints who surmount them.
In the center of St. Peter’s Square stands an Egyptian obelisk surrounded by two large fountains. It is from this square that the long queue goes to visit the basilica.
19. St. Peter’s Basilica
To visit St. Peter’s Basilica , it will be necessary to arm yourself with patience, But once inside you will forget the long hours of waiting so much the basilica is impressive. Inside you can admire many altars and monuments . The Baroque style decoration is of great richness. Four monumental pillars contribute to the grandeur of the place. To have :
- The many funerary monuments of the popes
- The famous statue of St. Peter
- The gigantic cupola designed by Michelangelo.
Know that from the right side of the basilica you can have access to the dome. First by taking an elevator then, the hardest remaining to do, by climbing 323 additional steps. Attention is not made for claustrophobic, the ceiling is low and narrow corridors but your effort will be greatly rewarded by the magnificent view of the city of Rome.
Access to St. Peter’s Basilica is completely free. You will just have to undergo a search at the entrance. Access to the dome is not free.
After the basilica and to stay on the right bank of the Tiber, I advise you to visit the district of Trastevere . This neighborhood is becoming more and more trendy and a little “bobo” but for now it has retained all its charm. You will be (relatively) safe from the crowd to discover its typical narrow streets and flowers. Here there is no big historical monument like in the rest of Rome, but a real “Italian” neighborhood with its inhabitants . In the streets stop in the small shops of artisans and traders. I personally visited in October, but it seems that in high season, many tourists visit this area, which becomes less quiet!
Going north of the district, go up the hill of Janiculum to admire a beautiful panorama of the city.
21. Where to eat in Rome: lunch in a trattoria!
The Trastevere district is also the perfect place to enjoy pizza or good pasta in a traditional trattoria . Full of authentic addresses with small terraces and all without tourists, this is the perfect combination!
Some cool addresses in the neighborhood:
- Roma Sparita : Large terrace, traditional Roman cuisine. Do not miss the specialty of the restaurant: the “cacio e pepe” spaghetti with pecorino and pepper served in a cheese shell. This is our favorite quality / price ratio. Attention obligation to reserve.
- Antico Arco : Excellent dishes (including risotto) and very good wine list. Most: you are taken a sample of your spouse’s dish in a cup so you can taste it.
- Tonnarello : Excellent typical cuisine with a very pleasant setting. Hearty plates at affordable prices.
Of course if you are not in the neighborhood for lunch, you are not going to starve with the many choice of trattorias, restaurants and sandwich bars right in the historic center of Rome :
- Birra e sale : Located next to piazza Navona. The sandwiches are delicious and made with fresh products. To try especially the deli and cheese board.
- Pizzeria Loffredo : Very good pizzas and fresh pasta. Wide choice of dishes. Friendly atmosphere and very welcoming staff. Attention better to book. Perfect price / quality ratio!
- Il Tamburello di Pulcinella : small family restaurant with kitchen made by the mamma. Pizzas, pasta, desserts, everything is homemade and for a very reasonable price. A tip: remember to book
22. Campo di Fiori
Since I made you salivate with my good addresses, let’s continue on this momentum. To breathe the good fresh products and admire the bright colors, I advise you to take a little tour by the campo di Fiori . Every morning (except Sunday) there is a market for fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Although popular with tourists because located in the historic center of Rome, this small market has kept all its authenticity. If you want to bring back good products from Italy this is the ideal place because it is cheaper than elsewhere in Rome.
23. San Lorenzo District
Like the district of Trastevere , the San Lorenzo district is less known to visitors in Rome and yet it deserves a small detour. Originally a working-class neighborhood, today it is the student district, with Roman universities. Artists are also appropriate and street art is very developed. For lovers, the nightlife is very important and beers not at all expensive!
24. Aventine Hill
A peaceful neighborhood, beautiful gardens and an incomparable view of the city , this is what Aventine Hill has to offer!
You can also add:
- The Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome
- The famous surprise door, Piazza dei cavalieri di Malta by which people line up to look through the keyhole (I will not say more!)
Ah and more, the Aventine Hill will offer you one of the most beautiful views of Rome. A good, I already said? ^^
25. Visit the Catacombs of Rome
I will end on an unusual activity to do in Rome: the visit of the catacombs including that of Sainte-Calixte . They are the largest in the city and cover almost 15 hectares. They served as cemeteries for Jews and Christians. On the walls you will see representations of the Christian life such as baptism and scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The visit of the Catacombs of Rome is obligatorily done with a guide and lasts about 30 minutes, which is very convenient if you have little time.
Other catacombs such as those of San Sebastian, Domitilla or Priscilla are also visited.
How many days to visit Rome?
The time you are going to want to spend in Rome will depend on two things:
- The type of traveler that you are : quick and who does not like timeouts, or who likes to take his time!
- The season you visit the city : And yes, in high season, the queues are much longer!
If you are a “fast” traveler
It is possible to visit Rome in 2/3 days . It is the ideal time to discover the main places of the Italian capital, without any dead time.
If you are a “quiet” traveler (or with children)
In this case, it is better to have about 5 days in Rome , which will allow you to explore the attractions of the city at your own pace.
If you only have one day, you will have to focus on one thing: Ancient Rome or the Vatican , for which I propose a route a little lower.
Another solution for a quick tour of Rome is not to make the visits inside the monuments (and therefore do not have to queue!). In the latter case, it is possible to see the vast majority of places described in this guide on a day . It is nevertheless quite physical and you will have to walk relatively quickly!
Finally last solution to avoid queues and get discounts, get the OMNIA Card. Enjoy free entry to the main Rome and Vatican places of interest, fast-track tickets, free public transport and a full city bus ride.
Visit Rome in 1 day
For those who only have one day in Rome, I advise you to focus on ancient Rome. Here is a feasible itinerary for a day:
- Start from piazza Venezia , with the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
- Direction to Piazza del Campidoglio
- Then visit the Colosseum , the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill for the view of the city. Plan a good half day
- Have lunch in a trattoria
- To continue on ancient Rome, start with piazza Navona
- then visit the Pantheon and stop at the Trevi Fountain.
- Shopping Via Condotti
- End the day with the Spanish Steps of Rome
Visit Rome in 2 days
If you have 2 days in Rome, in addition to the first day presented above, I suggest you go for a walk on the Vatican side for your 2nd day in the Eternal City:
- Start with a visit to the Vatican, its museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
- Find a nice trattoria for lunch !
- Visit the Castel Sant’Angelo and admire the Ponte Sant’Angelo
- To end the day in peace, go to the Garden of Borghese Village .
- If you have the time (and motivation!) You can do one of the 3 museums present on the site.
Visit Rome in 3 days
In 3 days in Rome, the best advice I can give you is to take your time. Can be some of the above mentioned visits less quickly, get lost in the streets of the city and enjoy the Italian lifestyle. Some suggestions:
- Enter some of the churches you will come across during your walk through the city
- Take time to stroll around the Trastevere district
- Go to the market of Campo di Fiori
- Visit the Catacombs of Rome
- Go quiet on the Aventine Hill and enjoy the gardens and the view of Rome
Tourist map of Rome
This tourist map of Rome, convenient to record on your phone, will certainly be able to serve you during your trip:
How to get to Rome
As all roads lead to Rome, it should not be too difficult x)
Getting to Rome plane remains the simplest solution, especially since there are really cheap flights from big cities with lowcost companies like Easyjet. In addition, the great advantage of the city is that as I said in the introduction, she can visit very well on foot!
Where to sleep in Rome
The cons is more complicated, because in Rome, housing at a good price is not really easy, so we have selected for you our 5 favorite hotels, each in a different price category! One last tip: if you can, book now! There is a very high demand in Rome and the best hotels leave very quickly.
- Residenza Pompino : Located near the Vatican, simple but modern and clean, this is the best option for a stay in Rome on a tight budget. The double room is 42 euros per night. You will not find cheaper, and as well placed!
- Hotel Capannelle Roma : Located 10 kilometers from the historic center. A little out of the way but a bus line to the center passes right by. Spacious and bright room from 69 € per night, breakfast at 9.5 €. Goodies: quiet location, outdoor pool, varied breakfast and private parking. Our big favorite for his performance / price ratio!
- Chez Alice Vatican : Located 450 meters from Saint Peter’s Square. Contemporary room with neat decoration from 95 € per night, breakfast included. Most: ideal location, terrace overlooking the Vatican, warm welcome.
- Roma Luxus Hotel: Luxury hotel located just 400 meters from Piazza Venezia. Elegant double room, contemporary and chic from 200 € per night, breakfast 20 €. The most: the design of the rooms, the 5 * service, the quality of the breakfast, the spa, the staff at the top. This is the ideal hotel if you do not have a budget restriction!
If you want to save a little money, you can stay near Rome. I recommend you to opt for the comfortable camping option with a night in a bungalow. The Camping Village Rome is located just 15 minutes drive from the Vatican and offers chalets and bungalows from € 30 a night ! Comfortable, clean, air-conditioned and modern, this is the ideal solution for small budgets!
Are you going to Rome for a few days? What do you want to do? And if you know the city, what did you visit?