- The Colosseum
- The Roman Forum
- The Palatine Hill
- Circus Maximus
- Piazza Venezia
- Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitol Square)
- The Pantheon
- Piazza Navona
- Trevi Fountain
- Castel Sant’Angelo and its Bridge
- The Vatican City
- St. Peter’s Square
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
- Piazza del Popolo
- Villa Borghese gardens
- The Borghese Gallery
- Other museums
- Piazza di Spagna
- Rome’s Shops
- Rome’s churches
- Trastevere district
- Campo de Fiori
- Aventine Hill
- Rome’s catacombs
1. The Colosseum
No visit to Rome can’t start without viewing the most iconic place, the Colosseum, which is located in the very Historic Center of the Capital.
It is the largest amphitheater in the Roman world, seating more than 50,000 people. In this arena, where the famed gladiatorial combats, animal fights, and Roman games were held, much blood was shed, invariably followed by tragic deaths.
The visit is not free, and you will most likely have to wait for several hours if you go during peak season.
You can avoid standing in line for hours by:
- Purchase skip-the-line tickets to the Colosseum, with or without a guided tour. You must purchase them here: https://romecolosseumtickets.tours/colosseum-tickets-rome-skip-the-line/last-minute-ticket/
- Purchase the Rome Tourist Card, an all-access pass with no time limit and free skip-the-line entry to Rome’s and Vatican City’s most famous touristic sites including the Colosseum. You can also get 20% or more off for other activities.
- Purchase the Vatican & Rome City Pass (Omnia Card). You will receive discounts on over 40 attractions as well as free public transportation.
2. The Roman Forum
The ticket purchased at the Colosseum also covers the entrance to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, so it would be a shame to miss them, as the three tourist attractions are linked together.
The forum was the city’s center, and there are relics of ancient markets, governmental buildings, and religious structures. However, there is no explanation on the site, so if you’re interested in history, you should take a guided tour.
You could do a small group trip to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It’s the most comprehensive and comes in English, Italian, Spanish, and French, which is quite helpful!
3. The Palatine Hill
This is the third attraction included with the Colosseum ticket.
Palatine Hill, one of Rome’s seven hills, is said to be the site where Romulus and Remus established the city. They are, as you may remember, the two twins who would have been found and suckled by a wolf in a cave.
This cave and the remnants of historical persons’ houses, such as Augustus, the first Roman emperor, are accessible from the summit of Palatine Hill.
4. Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus is a historical Roman circus. It is remembered as a place of games since the beginning of the city’s history: the legendary episode of the rape of the Sabine women would have taken place in the valley, on the occasion of the games called by Romulus in honor of the god Consus. Certainly, the large flat space and its proximity to the Tiber landing place where trade took place from the most remote antiquity meant that the place constituted, right from the city’s foundation, the elective space in which to carry out market and exchanges with other populations, as well as the associated ritual activities (think of the maximal altar of Hercules) and socialization, such as games and competitions.
5. Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia, one of Rome’s great squares, is located not far from the Roman Forum, at the other end of Via dei Fori Impierali. All the streets lead to Rome’s main tourist attractions from there!
This is where you may see the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, also known as the “Altare della Patria” or “Vittoriano”, a massive white marble structure dedicated to Italy’s first king, Victor Emmanuel II.
Next to the square lies the famed Trajan’s column, which features bas-reliefs depicting Emperor Trajan’s military triumphs.
The building’s roof also provides an excellent panoramic view of the entire city. A glass lift at the back of the building provides access.
This elevator’s tickets can be reserved in advance by clicking here!
They also include a Venice Palace Museum admission ticket and reservation, a Risorgimento Museum admission ticket and reservation, a panoramic view audio guide app, and a 25-minute Ancient Rome multimedia DVD.
6. Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitol Square)
Climb the long staircase leading to the Victor Emmanuel II Monument to reach Capitol Square. It was formerly the political and religious hub of Rome, designed by Michelangelo himself. You may see the following on Capitol Square:
- Senatorial Palace or Palazzo Senatorio;
- The Capitoline Museums and the Museum of Art and Archaeology are now housed at the Palazzo dei Conservatori or Palace of the Conservators;
- Palazzo Nuovo;
- The Capitoline Wolf statue, depicting the mythological she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, is one of the most well-known works of art in the city. You’ve probably seen it before.
Don’t forget to pre-purchase your tickets here.
The Capitoline Museums are without a doubt among the top museums in Rome!
7. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is another must-see tourist destination in Rome and the best-preserved ancient building in the city.
It was originally dedicated to all mythology divinities before becoming a Christian church in the seventh century. Don’t be afraid to enter; the visit is free, which is unusual enough to remark!
Inside, admire the massive dome and the oculus (the opening in the dome that provides unique lighting).
You may also view the tombs of Raphael (the great artist) and Victor Emmanuel II (the 1st King of Italy) here.
You should also acquire an audioguide if you want to learn more about the history. It is possible to book it here.
You can also take a guided tour of the Pantheon for more in-depth information.
8. Piazza Navona
The Piazza Navona is located close to the Pantheon. It’s one of Rome’s most gorgeous and well-known squares! There, you can admire the three fountains listed below:
- The Quattro Fiumi Fontana
- The Nettuno Fountain
- The Moro’s Fontana
It’s a nice area to take a drink or eat ice cream on one of the numerous terraces, but be aware that the prices are high because it’s a popular tourist destination.
9. Trevi Fountain
Located near to the Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) is the most famous fountain in Europe. A must-see attraction for anybody visiting Rome.
This fountain is also known for holding a great number of wedding proposals due to the mystique around it. According to legend, a young girl had to give the location of the spring to the Romans in order to save her virginity.
Numerous statues in the basin depict an allegory of the sea, with Neptune on his chariot in the center.
According to tradition, you should throw two coins: one to make a wish and the other to ensure your return to Rome.
A huge baroque mansion behind the fountain adds to the attractiveness of the place. Just one thing: the place is constantly busy, so taking a nice photo of the fountain with no unwanted heads will be difficult.
Here you’re also at an ideal location to recover from your emotions after the Trevi Fountain with the savor of an ice cream cone!
In fact, you are extremely close to one of Rome’s two top ice cream stores, San Crispino on Via della Panatteria. The line is frequently impressive, but the best things in life are the most difficult to achieve! And, because opinions on ice creams vary, you can also visit San Crispino’s direct competitor, the gelateria “Giolliti” on Via Uffici del Vicario. Whichever option you select, you will face the same problems of long lines and a variety of tastes.
10. Castel Sant’Angelo and its bridge
Let us now proceed to another popular tourist destination in Rome: Castel Sant’Angelo.
Simply go up the Tiber River to the St. Angelo Bridge, and the castle of the same name is on the opposite bank. You can also walk from St. Peter’s Square to the castle in 5 minutes.
The bridge is adorned with ten statues of angels created by Bernini. The view of the city and the river from the bridge is spectacular.
Emperor Hadrian, on the other hand, created the Castel Sant’Angelo to function as a mausoleum. Later on, it began to play a significant military function, even serving as a shelter for popes during invasions. They’ve even established direct contact with the Vatican.
You may tour the castle, as well as the tombs and former popes’ chambers. The fantastic view from the rampart walk should not be overlooked.
You must, as always, purchase skip-the-line tickets in advance. Check out what’s on offer here.
11. The Vatican City
Even if you are not religious, a visit to the Vatican is a must during your time in Rome.
It is the world’s smallest country, but it is one of the most popular stops on an Italian tour. Only priests and nuns, nobles, guards, and the Pope are permitted to live there.
You should not miss the following attractions while visiting the Vatican:
- The Square of Saint Peter
- The Basilica of St. Peter in Rome
- The Museums of the Vatican
- The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican Pass allows you to visit the Vatican and all of its attractions without having to queue. It is quite convenient because it grants you priority entrance to the museums as well as a guided tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
12. St. Peter’s Square
The famed St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) will welcome you to the Vatican. Millions of pilgrims and tourists visit this square each year.
St. Peter’s Square was designed with one premise in mind: they wanted as many people as possible to view the Pope giving his benediction from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Two colonnades round the square, each with roughly 280 columns and 145 saint sculptures. An Egyptian obelisk rises in the center of St. Peter’s Square, encircled by two enormous fountains.
The long lineups to enter the basilica begin in this square.
13. St. Peter’s Basilica
You must be patient to visit St. Peter’s Basilica (or be smarter than others and purchase bypass-the-lines tickets).
However, once inside, the majestic basilica will make you forget about the endless lines. There are numerous shrines and monuments to appreciate, as well as magnificent baroque décor. To see:
- The numerous funeral monuments of Popes;
- The well-known Saint Peter’s Statue;
- The massive dome, designed by Michelangelo.
The dome is accessible from the basilica’s right side. You must first take an elevator and then, the most difficult part, climb 323 additional steps.
It’s not for claustrophobics because the ceiling is low and the passageways are narrow, but your efforts will be rewarded by a wonderful perspective of Rome.
Because admission to Saint Peter’s Basilica is free, there is always a very large waiting line at any time of day.
To avoid wasting time, especially if you plan to spend a weekend in Rome and want to see as much as possible, purchase a skip-the-line ticket or a guided tour. Both will give you first-priority access.
The dome can also be accessed for a fee. It must be reserved in advance.
14. The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
You should definitely visit the Vatican museums while in Rome.
More than 13 museums are housed in a massive architectural complex stretching over 7 kilometers!
The museums feature a remarkable collection of works of art by prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Raphael, among others.
Here are some of my favorite museum exhibits:
- The Vatican Pinacoteca, where Italian paintings are displayed chronologically in Raphael’s apartments, with beautiful frescoes documenting the papacy’s history
- Bramante’s Staircase, a very dramatic double helix staircase located near the exit of the Vatican Museums, has a gallery of global maps and a ceiling embellished with paintings from the 16th century.
There are numerous different itineraries ranging from 1h30 to 5 hours to discover them. It is recommended to allocate at least three hours to see the Vatican museums.
But don’t worry, all tours conclude at the world-famous Sistine Chapel! Its Michelangelo-painted ceiling is one of the most famous pieces of art in Vatican City. Michelangelo’s fresco painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512 is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. The Sistine Chapel is a vast papal chapel within the Vatican that was built between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, after whom it is called.
It is important to note that the Vatican museums are closed on Sundays.
If you don’t want to wait at least 2 hours before entering the Vatican Museums, you must purchase a skip-the-line ticket, just like you did for the Colosseum.
15. Piazza del Popolo
From Vatican City, you can easily reach Piazza del Popolo, which is close to Villa Borghese.
It is one of Rome’s major squares. With its fountains, three churches, and obelisk, it is a prominent attraction. Climb the stairs from the square to the top of the hill for a stunning view of the Vatican.
16. Villa Borghese gardens
The largest and most beautiful public park in Rome is located here.
After the congested streets and tourist attractions, the Villa Borghese gardens provide a nice respite. You’ll be able to walk through broad, shaded lanes and along the side of a lake surrounded by temples, statues, and several fountains. There is also a lovely botanical garden in the park and Piazza di Siena where an International horse show takes place every year.
To access these, go to either the Porta Pinciana or the Piazzale Flaminio park entrances.
17. The Borghese Gallery
The Villa Borghese Gardens also house one of Rome’s most popular museums, the Borghese Gallery.
During your visit, you will be able to appreciate countless paintings and sculptures in the Borghese villa’s twenty or so beautiful rooms. It was owned by a wealthy family who wielded considerable power in the Roman nobility.
To see what is regarded as one of the richest collections of Italian art, book your tickets as soon as possible (most of the time, they don’t even offer them at the ticket office because everything is already sold out online).
18. Other museums
There are two further museums at the Villa Borghese Gardens:
- The Etruscan National Museum (click here) with its pre-Roman artifacts and jewelry collection;
- The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, which features Van Gogh and Cézanne paintings.
In addition to the museums in the park and the Vatican, there are numerous other museums to visit in Rome, including:
- Piazza del Campidoglio is home to the Capitoline Museums. I discussed them a little earlier in this Rome guide Palazzo Barberini, which is notable for housing works by famous Italian painters. If you were unable to obtain tickets for the Borghese Gallery, here is a viable option;
- The Palazzo della Cancelleria and its Leonardo da Vinci exhibition;
- Caravaggio’s artworks can be found in the Doria-Pamphilj Gallery;
- The Colonna Gallery is devoted to the Baroque era;
- Museo Palatino, which has everything archaeologists unearthed on Palatine Hill, and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, which houses a collection of Italian and European paintings. You should go there to see Raphael’s or Caravaggio’s works.
19. Piazza di Spagna
From Villa Borghese, you will easily reach the picturesque Piazza di Spagna, which is undoubtedly one of the most popular squares due to the stunning view it provides.
The Piazza di Spagna is at the base of the monumental stairway that leads to the Trinità dei Monti church. Tourists and Italians alike will enjoy a quick respite on the lovely staircase. A popular meeting spot.
On the square, there is also the Barcaccia fountain, which contributes to the ambiance.
20. Rome’s Shops
Piazza di Spagna is the direct entrance to the Italian capital’s two main commercial streets:
- Via del Corso: Offers some bargain shopping with big brands like Zara and H&M;
- Visit Via Condotti: Rome’s most prestigious boulevard, boasting names such as Gucci, Armani, and Prada. Similar to the Champs Elysées in Paris!
21. Rome’s churches
No visit to Rome is complete without a tour of Rome’s stunning churches.
The Trinità dei Monti church, located at the top of the Piazza di Spagna stairs, provides a breathtaking view of the city. Its location makes it one of Rome’s most famous churches. The Pope and Christianity have definitely a weight in a city that hosts over 900 churches.
Here is a list of Rome’s most magnificent churches, some of which are architectural wonders.
Let us begin with the four largest basilicas in the world, all of which are located in Rome:
- The St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City;
- The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome’s cathedral, is the second largest after the Basilica di San Pietro;
- The Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura marks the location of St. Paul’s grave;
- The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the city’s greatest shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Other interesting churches to visit in Rome include:
- Church of the Holy Spirit;
- Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica;
- San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica;
- San Clemente al Laterano Basilica;
- Santa Maria della Concezione Church;
- Sant’Ignazio di Loyola Church.
22. Trastevere district
The Trastevere neighborhood should not be missed on your visit to Rome.
It is situated on the Tiber’s right bank, on the same side as the Vatican City.
This neighborhood is getting increasingly popular and “Hipster,” yet for the time being it has preserved all of its unique charm.
You’ll definitely enjoy exploring its distinctive tiny and floral streets. There are no large historical monuments here, as there are in the rest of Rome, but rather a genuine “Italian” neighborhood with its population and local stores.
Go up Gianicolo Hill on your route to the north of the neighborhood to see a stunning view of the city.
Trastevere is also a great place to eat pizza or delicious pasta in a typical trattoria. There are numerous traditional local eateries with wonderful modest terraces and not too many visitors, making it the ideal place.
Some nice spots in the neighborhood include:
- Roma Sparita: A large terrace serving authentic Roman cuisine. The restaurant’s specialty is the “cacio e pepe” spaghetti with pecorino cheese and pepper served in a cheese shell. This is one of the tourists’ favorites because of the excellent value for money. Reservations are required.
- Antico Arco: Excellent food (particularly the risotto) and an excellent wine list.
- Tonnarello: Traditional, great cuisine in a relaxing setting. Large portions at reasonable pricing.
Of course, if you’re not in the area for lunch, you won’t go hungry with so many trattorias, restaurants, and sandwich shops located in the heart of Rome’s ancient center:
- Birra e sale: This restaurant is located near Piazza Navona. Sandwiches are tasty and crafted with fresh ingredients.
- Loffredo Pizzeria: Excellent pizzas and delicious pasta. A fantastic range of foods. The ambiance is friendly, and the personnel is quite accommodating. Reservations are strongly advised. Excellent value for money!
- The Tamburello di Pulcinella is a small family restaurant where the food is prepared by the mother. Pizzas, pasta, and desserts are all created from scratch and are reasonably priced. Reservations are strongly advised.
23. Campo de Fiori
Let’s keep going now taking a walk through the Campo de Fiori to appreciate the smell of fresh produce and observe their vibrant hues.
Every morning (except Sunday), a fruit, vegetable, meat, and seafood market is open. Despite being popular with tourists due to its location in Rome’s ancient center, this little market has managed to retain all of its originality.
It’s the ideal location for bringing high-quality Italian things home, and it’s much cheaper than in Rome’s tourist zones!
24. Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill (“Aventino” in Italian) has a tranquil neighborhood, magnificent gardens, and an unrivaled perspective of the city to offer.
You can also include:
- Santa Sabina all’Aventino Basilica;
- Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta is home to the famed Aventine Keyhole. People will be waiting in line to peep through the keyhole;
- The Municipal Rose Garden of Rome, unique in the world for its spectacular position, lies on the slopes of the Aventine Hill, facing the remains of the Palatine Hill, just above the Circus Maximus. Of contained dimensions, it offers a magnificent view that ranges from the Palatine Hill to the bell tower of S. Maria in Cosmedin, to the dome of the Synagogue, to the Vittoriano, up to the observatory of Monte Mario. The Rose Garden is home to around 1,100 species of roses from all over the world, even as far away as China and Mongolia. Among the most curious, are the Rosa Chinensis Virdiflora, with green petals, the Rosa Chinensis Mutabilis, which changes color with the passing of the days, and the Rosa Foetida, a malodorous rose. All that makes it a very romantic place for a visit with your loved one;
- The Parco Savello is known in Rome as the Garden of Orange Trees. It is approximately 7,800 square meters in size and is located on the Aventine Hill. The park has a fantastic perspective of the city. Raffaele De Vico developed the garden as it is today in 1932.
25. Rome’s Catacombs
I’ll conclude our list of the top things to do in Rome with a unique activity: a visit to the catacombs. I recommend seeing the Catacombs of Callixtus, which are probably the best.
They were once utilized as Jewish and Christian cemeteries, and they occupy over 15 hectares. There are depictions of Christian life on the walls, such as baptism and scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
The catacomb tour in Rome takes about 30 minutes and must be done with a guide.
If you want to visit Rome’s catacombs during your trip, the Capuchin Crypt, which is located downtown, adjacent to the Trevi Fountain, is the most convenient.
Other catacombs to visit are San Sebastian, Domitilla, Catacomb of Priscilla, and Sant’Agnese, the latter related to the martyrdom of the young Agnes, buried here, and dating back to the beginning of the 3rd century AD. Attested in the oldest documents concerning Roman martyrs, her cult was one of the most widespread in Rome in the first centuries of the Christian era.