What to Do in Rome: Our 22 TOP Rome Attractions
Planning a city trip and wondering what to do in Rome and which sights you shouldn't miss? We'll show you 22 great attractions in Rome with useful tips for planning your trip.
Rome is 3000 years old – that’s enough time to accumulate an incredible amount of top attractions. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see all of Rome’s sights. So the question is: what are the absolute highlights in Rome?
That’s what we’re going to show you in this article: We’ll give you our picks for the 22 best things to do in Rome that you shouldn’t miss. In addition, we’ll provide practical tips for your city trip to Rome.
What to do in Rome? The most important attractions on a map
To help you find your way around, we have put together a map with all 22 Rome sights from our article. You can also download the map and view it offline.
When you think of Rome, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Colosseum. It is Rome’s most famous sight and an absolute must-see. The Colosseum has been around for over 2000 years and is the largest amphitheater ever built.
The Colosseum is impressive from the outside, but we recommend a visit from the inside as well. You will learn everything about the history of the building and the brave gladiators.
The number of visitors to the Colosseum is limited and the line outside seems endless. Therefore, you should definitely buy a ticket online in advance to avoid having to wait in line. The ticket also includes admission to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
The Roman Forum is a large archaeological excavation site in the middle of Rome, right next to the Colosseum. In ancient Rome, the Roman Forum was the center of political, social and economic life.
You can still see that very well today: Walking through the site, you see remains of great palaces, basilicas and temples. It really feels like stepping back in time to the Roman Empire.
To visit the Roman Forum you can only buy a combined ticket including the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. You can find it at our #1.
It all started on the Palatine Hill. This is where the first Roman houses were built almost 3,000 years ago. Today, it is one of the most important excavations of Rome. Take a walk around the site to explore the ancient ruins where Roman emperors once resided.
As almost everywhere in Rome, there are lots of tourists on the Palatine Hill, too. However, the park still feels like a little oasis of peace with its pine trees and away from the noisy city traffic.
The area is huge, so make sure to plan enough time for your visit. We recommend to stay for at least two hours. On the grounds are many information boards in English with useful details about the ruins. A visit to the Palatine Hill is also covered by the combined ticket we linked to in #1.
Closed every 1st Sunday of the month
Another attraction of Rome you shouldn’t miss on your city tour: the Trevi Fountain. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world.
It consists of a huge, magnificent palazzo facade and statues of tritons standing on a rocky landscape of white stone. The water flows around the sculptures into the basin, which is about 50 meters wide.
There is no time of day when the Trevi Fountain is not crowded with tourists. If you do make it to the basin, toss a coin over your right shoulder into the fountain – it’s supposed to bring good luck. Two coins and you will fall in love with a Roman. By the way, the money is regularly fished out by the city and is donated to charity.
Our tip: At night the Trevi Fountain is illuminated and looks even more impressive.
Castel Sant’Angelo was initially a mausoleum in ancient Rome until the popes converted it into a castle in the Middle Ages. Inside, the castle holds a prison, the papal apartments, burial and treasure chambers. There even is a secret corridor to Vatican City.
Our personal highlight, however, is the rooftop terrace. From here you can enjoy a fantastic view of all the major sights of Rome. There is also a restaurant with a panoramic view at the top. The most beautiful view is in the late afternoon when the sun is setting.
Our tip: With the Rome City Pass, admission to Castel Sant’Angelo is free.
Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Rome has many catacombs, but unfortunately they are all located outside the city center. In total there are 60 catacombs in Rome, the most worth seeing are the Catacombs of Callixtus.
These are the first Christian catacombs in Rome. The entire area extends over 15 hectares and lies almost 20 meters underground.
The catacombs are located right next to the old Roman road Via Appia and you can easily combine these two attractions of Rome. Getyourguide offers a great bike tour for this.
If you don’t want to do a bike tour, we recommend this guided tour. It only costs 1.40 euros more than the entrance fee and you get lots of interesting information about the construction.
Bocca della Verità
In the portico of the church of Santa Maria hangs a white marble disc, with face and open mouth. According to legend, anyone who puts his hand in his mouth and lies will have his hand bitten off. Hence the name: the mouth of truth. Do you dare?
The artwork is over 2000 years old and is made of a type of marble that only exists in Turkey. It wasn’t until the movie “A Heart and a Crown” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, that the relief became a well-known highlight of Rome.
No one really knows what the true meaning of the slab is. The most likely is that it was a manhole cover in ancient Rome. Well, we think the legend is much more captivating.
Monumento Vittorio Emanuele II
The “Typewriter” is the national monument of Italy – something like the Statue of Liberty in New York for the United States – and is dedicated to the Italian king. You will find the monument at Piazza Venezia. Measuring over 130 meters wide and almost 80 meters high, you definitely won’t miss it.
The nickname was given to the monument by the Romans because the geometric shape is indeed reminiscent of a typewriter. The building also houses a museum about the former Kingdom of Italy. The actual highlight though, is the outlook terrace, which you can reach in a glass elevator.
Admission to the building itself and the museum is free, the elevator costs 12 euros. Unfortunately, you can’t reserve tickets, so get there as early as possible to avoid waiting in line for too long.
Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are among the largest and most important museums in the world. Here you can see art collections of all the popes and admire real treasures of mankind. The highlight is of course the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s world-famous ceiling painting.
However, a visit to the Vatican Museums is also time-consuming, because there are about 1,300 rooms to see. Obviously, you will hardly be able to see them all, but you should definitely plan three to four hours for the Vatican Museums.
Our tip: Order your tickets online and book the entrance for as early as possible in the morning and on a weekday. The museums are one of the top sights of Rome and always packed with tourists.
The Spanish Steps are also one of the top sights in Rome. With 136 steps, it connects the Piazza di Spagna with the church Santa Trinità dei Monti. From the top you have a fantastic view over Rome and the super chic Via Condotti, Rome’s designer shopping street.
The name comes from the Spanish Embassy, which is located just below the stairs.
The stairs are usually full of tourists. If you want the most deserted photo possible, it’s best to come early in the morning or late at night.
Attention: Since summer 2019 it is forbidden to sit on the Spanish Steps and violations can result in a fine of up to 400 euros. Walking up or down the stairs is not a problem though.
A church that doesn’t look like a church at all: the Pantheon was once a Roman temple before being converted into a church in the early Middle Ages.
The giant dome was the largest in the world for a proud 1,700 years. It has an almost nine meter wide circular opening in the center through which the sunlight falls into the hall. However, ingenious drainage systems on the dome ensure that never a drop of rain falls into the Pantheon’s interior.
Admission is free, but the church is always very crowded. In our opinion, it’s still worth waiting in line. If you want more information about the Pantheon, there are tickets with an English audio guide featuring storytelling and videos. It’s the best way to experience this phenomenal architectural achievement.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world and the center of the Catholic faith. Inside the Basilica you will find, for example, Michelangelo’s famous work La Pietà and the huge bronze canopy by Bernini.
Admission is free, but there is also a long line at the entrance. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, your shoulders and knees should be covered. Of course crop tops aren’t suitable either.
You can also visit St. Peter’s Basilica on a guided tour and skip the line. The tour also includes the ascent to the dome, from which you have a fabulous view of all of Rome.
St. Peter's Square
St. Peter’s Square is located in Vatican City and is a must-see of Rome. The huge square is surrounded by two colonnades that form the state border between Vatican City and Italy.
Every Wednesday morning, the general audience of the Pope takes place in St. Peter’s Square. For this purpose, four large screens are set up so that spectators can better follow what is happening.
If you’re not interested in an audience, it’s better to postpone your visit to the square until another day, because large parts of the square will be closed off.
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Rome. There are many cafes and restaurants, street artists and musicians. Sit in one of the cafes or stroll around and enjoy the lively hustle and bustle of the square.
The square is especially famous for its three large fountains. The most magnificent is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Its statues represent the great rivers of the continents known in the 17th century: Danube, Nile, Ganges and Río de la Plata.
Our tip: In the evenings, Piazza Navona is a popular meeting place in Rome’s city center and you can easily immerse yourself in the city’s nightlife.
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo (meaning “People’s Square”) is one of the most famous squares in Rome and was once the square that travelers from The North entered first.
In the center of the square stands the second largest and second oldest obelisk outside Egypt. At the north end of the square you can see the city gate Porta del Popolo and the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, at the southern end are twin churches, Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Of course, there are also numerous cafes and restaurants to relax in. And, if you don’t need a coffee break, the popular shopping street Via del Corso also starts here.
Another beautiful viewpoint is the Capitol Square (Piazza del Campidoglio). This beautiful square, designed by Michelangelo, is home to Rome’s City Hall and the Capitoline Museums. The museums have some great art collections and exhibitions on Ancient Rome.
The Capitol Square is only slightly elevated, but right in the center of Rome, so you have a great view of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Therefore, the square is perfect to take photos of Rome’s old town.
Via del Corso
The Via del Corso is the ultimate shopping street in Rome. Here you will find everything the shopper’s heart desires. From luxury fashion designers to H&M and the like. In addition, the street also connects almost all Rome’s major sights.
In the north, it starts at the huge Piazza del Popolo, which was once the gateway to Rome, and ends at Piazza Venezia, very close to the Colosseum.
Via the crossroads you can also get to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Halfway there is also the Piazza di Monte Citorio, where the seat of the Italian government is.
The nightlife district Trastevere
Trastevere is located on the other side of the Tiber and is the nightlife district of Rome. The neighborhood is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and nightclubs. So, there is always something going on until late at night in Trastevere.
But, what’s to see in Trastevere during the day? A stroll through Trastevere in daylight is also one of the best things to do in Rome. The narrow streets, ivy-covered house walls, small artists’ studios and colorful laundry on clothes lines are simply picturesque.
So make sure to plan an evening in Trastevere to enjoy an aperitif and feast on Italian cuisine. There are even special street food tours during which a local guide will take you to the best locations for good food in Trastevere.
Villa Borghese Park
Villa Borghese is actually not a building, but a beautiful, large park in the center of Rome. There you will find Italian gardens with fountains, a lake where you can rent pedal boats, a zoo, various cafes and even a horse racing track. Right next to the park is a great viewpoint called Terrazza del Pincio.
Especially if you’re traveling with kids in Rome, the park offers a welcome change and some relaxation for the whole family.
You can also explore the Villa Borghese by bike. We like this tour a lot, which includes a picnic in the park:
The site is also home to one of Rome’s most beautiful museums, the private art collection Galleria Borghese. Since the number of visitors is limited, you’ll need to buy tickets online in advance, and it’s best to do so as early as possible.
Galleria: closed on Mondays
The most beautiful view of Rome can be seen from the terrace of Parco Savello, which the Romans also call the Orange Garden. The nickname says it all: the park is full of evergreen orange trees, which also bear fruit in winter.
The park is open to the public, so you can just stroll around and relax. It is located on the Aventino hill, south of the Trastevere district.
Our tip: The most beautiful view of Rome is at sunset. The perfect time to walk to Trastevere afterwards to enjoy an aperitif!
The Campo de' Fiori Market
The Campo de’ Fiori market takes place in the square of the same name. Translated, the name means flower meadow. Many tourists therefore expect a flower market, but the name just comes from the fact that there used to be a flower meadow in ancient times.
You will find fresh fruits and vegetables from the Roman countryside, spices, Roman sausages and cheese, but also leather goods, jewelry and souvenirs. Around the market there are many restaurants and cafes where you can sit and watch the hustle and bustle.
Our tip: Be sure to haggle! The merchants like to quote higher prices for tourists. If you bargain, your chance are high to save a few euros.
If you’re familiar with Portobello Market in London, then you know what to expect at Mercato Monti.
The market is held every Saturday and Sunday from September to June in the conference hall of the Grand Hotel Palatino. It is not as big as the Portobello Market, but there are lots of great original items for vintage fashion lovers.
Besides designer clothes, jewelry and handbags from past decades, you will also find stalls of alternative designers from Rome. Many of them have their small boutique in Monti district, like the store King Size Vintage, where you can find fashion from the 60s and 70s.
By the way, if you like flea markets, we have another real Rome insider tip for you: the Porta Portese flea market in the Monteverde neighborhood.
General travel tips: The best way to see Rome’s sights
Finally, we’ll give you some practical travel tips for your city trip to Rome to help you plan your stay.
How many days do you need for Rome?
Even if you spend a whole week in Rome, you won’t be able to see all of Rome’s sights.
However, a weekend trip will allow you to see the main attractions in Rome. If you have more time, all the better: you will certainly not get bored here.
Our tip: Combine your city trip to Rome with a longer beach vacation! In the vicinity of Rome you will find some beautiful resorts and beaches that are worth a trip to the sea. Ideally, you should plan about 10 days, for a relaxed combination of sightseeing and beach vacation.
What to do in Rome in 3 days?
Of course, if you only have a short period of time, you’ll have to focus on the absolute highlights of Rome. We recommend the following activities in Rome.
- Forum Romanum
- Trevi fountain
- Peters Square and St. Peter’s Basilica
- Drinking a cappuccino at Piazza Navona
- Climb the Spanish Steps
Do you know any more Rome sights?
These were our 22 recommended must-see attractions in Rome. Have you ever been to the Italian capital? Do you have another must-see Rome sightseeing tip? Tell us more in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!