Looking for the best things to do in Rome, Italy, and wondering what’s worth your time the most? Of course, you have to see the most famous places in Rome, such as the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican, or the Colosseum! But there’s so much more to do in Rome than that, and the choice of what to visit and what to skip can get overwhelming…
So to help you figure out where to go and what to do when in Rome, in this guide we share the VERY BEST experiences, TOP sights, and MOST POPULAR tourist attractions in Rome that you really shouldn’t miss.
For each place, we also include our experience-based tips and useful info for your visit. In addition, we also created a map of Rome attractions that should help you plan your sightseeing itinerary. Find out!
The capital city of Italy, Rome is one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Europe. It’s a place where you’ll find so much history everywhere you look. I often call Rome a city–museum because it truly feels like it. Every building, every monument, and every stone you come across has an interesting story behind it.
There is SO MUCH to see and do in Rome that any list of ‘the best things to do‘ would never be complete and also quite biased. On the other hand, there are also the most iconic landmarks and the most special experiences in Rome that everyone would agree are the absolute must-do’s in Rome.
So in this article, we share all of the ‘musts’ the main sights and most unique experiences in Rome that you really should try to do in the Eternal City. In addition, we also include some of our personal favorite things to do in Rome based on our various trips and personal experiences in the city.
These are all places and activities that we enjoyed the most, and we are confident that they’ll make your visit to Rome so much more special and more memorable than just ticking off the standard list of the must-sees.
This is our ultimate Rome bucket list, with lots of pictures, to give you a better idea of what exactly there is to see and do in Rome. Take a look!
How to use this guide: We start our list of the best places to visit and things to do in Rome with the musts. So the first 16 sights and attractions on our list are really considered a must, and the ones you should focus on if you have little time.
However, it’s those additional experiences listed from #17 on that will make your trip to Rome so much more special. So I highly recommend that you try to include a few of those in your sightseeing itinerary as well.
To help you plan your time, at the bottom of this article, you can find the map indicating all the main places we mention in this guide. Plus, we share some sample Rome itineraries for various trip durations.
But first, here are some of the VERY BEST places to see and things to do in Rome:
MUST DO: Visit the Colosseum Underground, Arena Floor & Upper Levels.
The Colosseum is one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome, and an absolute must-see. No matter how much time you have in the city, it should be on every Rome itinerary!
Built as an entertainment arena at around 70 AD, this impressive stone amphitheater still stands today, giving you a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into its 2000-year old past.
There are several things that you can do at the Colosseum and various levels that you can visit. I recommend going for the full experience – from discovering the secrets of the Colosseum Underground, to taking the unique opportunity to stand on the partially restored Arena Floor, to soaking in the most impressive views from the upper levels.
Good to know: The Colosseum is one of the most-visited places in Rome and booking tickets (or a guided tour) in advance is essential! If you go on your own, you can get regular priority tickets or – a bit more expensive – priority tickets that also include a visit to Arena Floor.
However, the crowds here are overwhelming and it’s not always clear where to go… So we highly recommend that you visit Colosseum with a local guide! That way, you don’t have to worry about any practicalities and have a much better idea of what you are seeing, how this arena functioned, and what life looked like in Rome during the glory days of the Roman Empire. There are countless options when it comes to guided tours, but be sure to read carefully what they include.
TIP: We did this amazing tour that includes ALL the levels of the Colosseum + a guided visit to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill and it was a great choice. Priority entrance surely helps, but having the guide with us made the visit so much more enjoyable. We didn’t have to stress about where exactly to go, which entrance to take, or how to get from one level to another. Highly recommended.
MUST DO: See the oculus of the Pantheon.
The Pantheon, located on the beautiful Piazza della Rotonda, is another place everyone should see in Rome!
Originally built as a temple to all gods, the Pantheon dates from before Christianity. The building as we know it today was built at around 125-127 AD on a site of an even older temple. The Pantheon is the world’s oldest building that is still in use today.
While most old temples and ancient landmarks in Rome have suffered from looters and plundering, the Pantheon was saved by the fact that it was converted into a church at the beginning of the 7th century.
Best known for its impressive dome with an oculus in the middle, the Pantheon is also one of the most fascinating buildings in Rome. The construction of this dome by an unknown ancient architect has been an inspiration to Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and – subsequently – all the other domes in the world.
Good to know: The Pantheon is still a working church and everyone is allowed to visit it free of charge. However, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome, and so there’s often a very long queue to get inside. Also, they don’t allow visitors during a mass. But, it’s one of the absolute must-do things in Rome, and so you really cannot skip the Pantheon. So be patient and definitely see the interior of this unique building!
TIP: Almost 2000 years old, the Pantheon is a fascinating place with so much history, so be sure to read a bit about it before you go. Alternatively, if you want to learn more about the Pantheon and everything you see inside, you can get an audio guide, or visit here with one of the guided tours of the historic city center.
3. Trevi Fountain
MUST DO: Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain.
No trip to Rome would be complete without seeing the famous Trevi Fountain. And, as the legend goes, you also have to throw a coin in the fountain, if you ever want to return to the Eternal City. Having thrown quite some coins in here over the years, I have to say that it definitely works – we always go back to Rome. 😉
There are two more reasons to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain – one is to find love in Rome, and the other one – to get married in Rome. Each of these ‘wishes’ requires a separate coin and you can’t throw them all together.
In addition, before you simply toss a coin in the water, you should know that there is a whole instruction on ‘the only right way’ to do it. You should stand with your back towards the fountain and toss the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. Oh, and try to have someone take a picture of you without too many other people around…
TIP: If you want to see the Trevi Fountain without the crowds, you’ll have to come very early in the morning, probably at around sunrise. For the rest of the day and in the evening, it’s always crowded here.
4. Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museums
MUST DO: Admire the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, visit Raphael Rooms, Vatican gardens, and see Momo Staircase.
Seeing the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums is another ‘must’ that should be at the top of any Rome bucket list! The Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) is the papal chapel built at the end of the 15th century. Originally called ‘Cappella Magna’, it was later renamed after the Pope that built it, Pope Sixtus IV.
It’s here that the papal conclave takes place when the new Pope has to be elected. But don’t look for the famous chimney where the black or the white smoke comes out during the conclave – it’s only installed at that time and is not something you can see when you visit.
The Sistine Chapel is best known for its incredible ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. It’s one of the most important works of High Renaissance art and a true masterpiece! But you have to take your time to really appreciate it – all the details and the perspectives.
If you spend some time looking at the frescoes above you, some of the figures almost look three-dimensional. It’s an incredible piece of art and once you see it, it’s easy to understand why it’s considered one of the most important pieces of art of all time.
But there’s more to the Vatican Museums than just this famous chapel! Some of our favorites include the four Raphael Rooms, the Gallery of Maps, a stroll through the gardens (some parts are accessible from the museum, while some others can only be seen with an extra tour), and the famous Momo Staircase.
TIP: The Vatican Museums are always busy and the tickets usually sell out days in advance. So it’s essential to book the entrance tickets upfront. However, I highly recommend visiting here with a tour instead of just going on your own. That’s if you want to be sure that you see all the musts; otherwise, just stroll around and you’ll eventually get to the Sistine Chapel by following the signs. Keep in mind that the Vatican Museums are really overwhelming for a first-time visitor.
This is one of the best early-morning tours that bring you to the Sistine Chapel before anyone else arrives.
5. St. Peter’s Basilica
MUST DO: See Michelangelo’s Pietà, visit Papal Tombs & climb the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. And don’t miss the famous Swiss Guard!
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest and most important Catholic church in the world. The building is massive and it’s difficult to imagine its scale by seeing it in the pictures or even when standing outside. You really have to see it from the inside to try to comprehend the sheer scale of this church!
Built at the site of St. Peter’s tomb, this is also the place where many Popes are buried. So in addition to seeing the church itself, I also highly recommend visiting the underground crypts.
But one of the most unique experiences in the Vatican is climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome. Not only do you have some of the best views in the city (and over the Vatican itself), but you can also walk on the interior gallery at the top of the dome itself. Seeing the church and the people below from here gives you a better idea of how huge the church really is.
On your way out of the church, on your right and just before the post office, you’ll be able to see the famous Swiss Guard in their colorful uniforms, guarding the official entrance gate to the Vatican.
Good to know: St. Peter’s Basilica can be visited free of charge and there are no tickets or reservations, but there is usually a very long queue with an airport-style security check in order to get inside. If you want to climb the Dome, you’ll have to wait in yet another line and get a ticket on the spot. We highly recommend taking the elevator for the first part, because you still have 330 steps to do inside the Dome itself afterwards.
TIP: Some Vatican Museum tours (like this one) include a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica and use a separate corridor between the two, which saves you lots of time (not having to queue twice). Or you can also take a separate tour of the Basilica if you have more time and rather visit the two places separately and also take your time to climb the dome.
We did this St. Peter’s tour that included a tour of the church itself, the underground crypts, as well as the Dome climb.
6. Roman Forum
MUST DO: Walk on Via Sacra and see the (ruins of) some of the oldest buildings in Rome.
If you want to get a better idea of what the city of Rome looked like two 2000 years ago, there’s no better place to be than the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum). This is a huge archeological site right next to the Colosseum (and included with the same ticket).
For centuries, this place was the heart and soul of public life in ancient Rome. As you walk on the main street of ancient Rome, Via Sacra, it’s easy to imagine that this road was the main route where the triumphal parades were held. Here, you can see the ruins of so many buildings dating from the times of the Roman Empire.
This is also the best place in the city to understand what people mean by the ‘dust of centuries’. The entire site lies much deeper than the current street level. Note the famous ‘hanging’ door of The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, with no steps leading to it. This shows how the street level has changed during the centuries.
TIP: While you could spend at least half a day at the Roman Forum alone, it’s best visited together with the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill (mentioned below). All three sites are included with the Colosseum ticket. Many Colosseum tours also come here and I highly recommend visiting the Roman Forum with a local guide. It gives you a much better understanding of all the places and ancient landmarks that you see around you.
We took this tour that included the Colosseum underground and all the other levels, as well as Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, and we were really glad we did. This was not the first time we visited these places, but we learned so much and saw so much more than on the previous individual (unguided) visits. Highly recommended.
There are many other tours that come here as well, so pick one that suits your itinerary and interests best, but go with a guide – you’ll regret it otherwise.
7. Palatine Hill
MUST DO: Admire the views from Terraza Belvedere del Palatino, see the old palaces, gardens, and fountains.
Palatine Hill is the most famous of the seven hills of Rome and one of the oldest parts of the city. In ancient times, this was the chicest and most desirable neighborhood of Rome, the place-to-be for the rich and the famous.
Nowadays, Palatine Hill is an open-air museum/ archeological site, where you can see the remains of some grand palaces of the Roman empire. It also offers some of the best views in the city, with the Roman Forum and Colosseum on one side and Circus Maximus on the other side.
There are several viewpoints on Palatine Hill. By far the best view is from the terrace overlooking the Roman Forum and the city center, Terrazza Belvedere del Palatino.
Good to know: An entrance ticket to the Palatine Hill is included with your Colosseum/ Forum Romanum ticket, and a visit here is not to be missed. You could spend hours exploring all the ruins, but in all honesty, going without a tour guide, it will be difficult to understand what you are seeing.
TIP: Just as with the Colosseum and Forum Romanum, we highly recommend that you visit the Palatine with a guided tour. There are so many great tours that include all these places in just a few hours, so you’ll definitely find one that will suit your interests. No matter which one you choose, it will be a hundred times better than trying to make sense of all the ruins on your own.
We did and recommend this highly-rated tour that includes the Colosseum underground, Arena Floor, and – in addition – we also chose the option to visit the Roman Forums and the Palatine Hill with a guide. Even though it’s quite rushed, we saw (and learned) so much more in 3 hours than we did on any of our previous visits to Rome without a guide.
8. St. Angel’s Bridge
MUST DO: Admire the angels of St. Angel’s Bridge.
Probably the best-known and definitely the most photographed bridge in the Eternal City, St. Angel’s Bridge (Ponte Sant’ Angelo) is another landmark not to be missed in Rome.
The bridge was built in 134 AD by Emperor Hadrianus in order to connect his mausoleum (that is now known as Castelo Sant’ Angelo) to the city. This beautiful bridge and its surroundings have a long history and it’s been improved a lot over the centuries.
If you walk to the Vatican from the historic center of Rome, be sure to walk over St. Angel’s Bridge. It’s so impressive! This pedestrian bridge is lined with the statues of 10 angels (5 on each side) and right in front of you, stands Castello Sant’Angelo. The angels were commissioned by Pope Clement IX and made by the pupils of Bernini (17th century).
Interesting fact: Bernini himself made two angels for this bridge as well, but the Pope found them too beautiful and too valuable to be placed on the bridge. So the originals were replaced by the copies. If you want to see the two original angels, you can admire them at the Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte church in Rome.
This bridge serves as a gateway to the Vatican and is often extremely busy, especially during the opening hours of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. But if you can come here early in the morning before the crowds arrive, it’s absolutely magical!
TIP: If you want to see some nice views of Rome’s cityscapes, visit Castel Sant’Angelo and go to the rooftop. But if you are short on time, this museum is not an absolute must in Rome.
9. Piazza Navona
MUST DO: See the fountains.
Probably the best-known of all the town squares in Rome, Piazza Navona is the biggest and also the most beautiful one. And no trip to Rome would be complete without at least a quick visit here.
Piazza Navona has a rather unique – very long – shape. This is because it was built on the site of the ancient Roman Stadium of Domitian and follows its form.
In the center of Piazza Navona, stands a big obelisk and the 17th-century Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi). It was designed by Bernini and is one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. In addition, don’t miss two other impressive fountains – the Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno) on the northern side of the square and the Moor Fountain (Fontana del Moro) on the southern end.
In addition, check out the impressive 17th-century Baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. The church is dedicated to St Agnes, an early Christian martyr, who was executed at the Stadium of Domitian at this location.
Nowadays, Piazza Navona is a bustling meeting place, with lots of cafes and restaurants lining its sides. Just beware that a cup of coffee here costs 2-3 times the price of other cafés nearby, and the quality of the food isn’t amazing. But if you want to sit down and do some people-watching, it’s a beautiful place for that!
TIP: While the early morning is the best time to take pictures of Piazza Navona without the crowds, be sure to come here in the evening as well. It’s such a lively and bustling place and it feels totally different than during the day.
10. Campo de’Fiori market
MUST DO: See the statue of Giordano Bruno and buy some local delicacies at the market.
Campo de’ Fiori is one of the nicest town squares in Rome. As its name suggests, in the past, it was a field of flowers and was only developed in the 15th century. It quickly became a popular gathering and trading place, but also a site for many religiously-tinted executions.
In the center of the square, stands the statue of martyr Giordano Bruno. He was a 16th-century philosopher who was burned alive for his progressive thinking (supporting Copernic’s idea that the Earth is rotating around the sun and not the other way around).
Nowadays, Campo de’ Fiori is the site of a bustling market where you can buy all kinds of local produce, exotic fruit, flowers, etc. While some market stalls are catering mainly to tourists with all kinds of Italian pasta, colorful liquors, etc., the market is also popular with the locals who come here for fresh fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and meat.
Good to know: The market is open daily except on Sundays, between 7 AM and 2 PM. In the evening, Campo de Fiori is a popular gathering place, and there are lots of nice restaurants and cafes in this area. But – as it usually is with places to eat in Rome – the restaurants on the square itself are quite expensive and don’t always have the best reputation. So check out the ones a bit further away.
11. Piazza Venezia
MUST DO: See the huge, temple-like Altar of the Fatherland monument.
Piazza Venezia is a big and very busy square squeezed in between the city center on one side and the Roman Forum on the other. It’s one of the must-see places in Rome that you’ll inevitably pass on your way to/from the Colosseum.
Piazza Venezia is best known for the colossal monument – Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria) – and the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II. But – just as everywhere in Rome – there’s so much more to see and do here, including ancient ruins, several churches, the nearby Capitoline Hill and Museums, etc.
TIP: If you have some time to spare, you can also take an elevator to the top of the monument for panoramic views of Rome. There’s a small fee, but it’s well worth it.
12. Trajan Forum & Via dei Fori Imperiali
MUST DO: Walk Via dei Fori Imperiali.
One of the must-see streets of Rome – Via dei Fori Imperiali – links Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. This wide avenue lined with statues of the Roman emperors is like a museum in itself.
On one side, you have the earlier-mentioned Roman Forum, and on the other – the archeological sites of Forum of Augustus, Trajan Forum, and many other historic places.
You can see a lot from the street and there are some information panels here and there. So you can just walk around a bit and try to imagine what Rome must have looked like more than 2000 years ago. If you have some extra time, you can visit several museums here. Trajan’s Market, a 2nd-century Roman market, is quite interesting to see.
13. Capitoline Hill
MUST DO: See the Capitoline She-wolf, the symbol of Rome.
Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio) sits right next to Piazza Venezia. This beautiful square and the impressive staircase leading to it were designed by Michelangelo. Here, you’ll also find the City Hall of Rome and Capitoline Museums, which house a big collection of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian antiques.
This is also where you can see the statue of the Capitoline Wolf (Lupa Capitolina), the symbol of Rome.
This statue depicts an old legend, according to which a she-wolf saved and cared for Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who later founded the city of Rome. The original statue can be found inside the museum, but you can also see its replica outside.
TIP: Behind the city hall, you can also find a panoramic terrace with nice views of the Roman Forum. This is one of the best viewpoints of Rome that is really easy to visit.
14. Spanish Steps & Piazza di Spagna
MUST DO: Explore Piazza di Spagna and walk to the top of the stairs.
Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps is another of the must-see places in Rome.
Built in the early 18th century, these stairs connect Piazza di Spagna in the historic city center to Piazza Trinità dei Monti on top of the hill. It’s an impressive staircase that has been featured in various movies and is also often depicted on many postcards and travel guides. Every spring, the staircase is decorated with beautiful flowers, and it looks even more beautiful!
At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll see the Fountain of the Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia), just one of the many of Bernini’s masterpieces in Rome. Piazza di Spagna is also lined with colorful buildings and surrounded by the most luxury boutique shopping area in Rome. Here, you’ll also find some nice cafes and restaurants. If you like cakes or the English tea experience (and don’t mind the high price tag), check out the famous Babington’s tea room at the bottom left of the stairs.
At the top of Spanish Steps stands Trinità dei Monti church. The church is nice, but not an absolute must, but it’s worth going up the stairs just to say that you’ve done it and also for the nice views of the city. For even better views, don’t go back the same way you came, but continue to the left in the direction of Pincio Terrace and Piazza del Popolo (more info below).
Good to know: It is forbidden to sit or eat on the Spanish Steps. It’s a beautiful monument and the city tries to preserve it that way.
15. Villa Borghese Gardens & Gallery
MUST DO: See the art masterpieces at Villa Borghese Gallery and also be sure to explore the park.
Villa Borghese is one of the biggest and most beautiful parks in Rome. It’s best known for the Borghese Gallery, a beautiful villa-museum that houses some of the most beautiful artworks by Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Canova, and others. Art lovers consider this as one of the best museums to visit in Rome!
While the Gallery only requires an hour or two, the park itself is huge and you could spend an entire day walking around. There are several other museums here, fountains, walkways lined with sculptures and art, flower gardens, playgrounds for kids, and even a zoo. In summer, you can also rent a boat on the small lake, rent bikes, etc.
Good to know: If you want to visit the Borghese Gallery, you have to book in advance! Also, the tickets are timed, so be sure to arrive on time. You can opt for a regular entrance ticket, or join a guided tour that covers the museum as well as the beautiful gardens. If you want to see the best of the museum and the gardens in just a few hours, we recommend going with a tour.
16. Piazza del Popolo
MUST DO: See the obelisk and the fountains.
Piazza del Popolo (literally ‘the People’s Square’) is another large and impressive town square that deserves a quick visit. It’s located at the Aurelian city walls, right at one of the old city gates of Rome, Porta Flaminia.
Piazza del Popolo is a huge square, a place where several big streets meet. One of the streets leads in the direction of the Vatican, the other – towards the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The famous Via del Corso leads towards Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, and Via del Babuino – towards Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps.
In the center of Piazza del Popolo, stands an Egyptian Obelisk and the Fountain of the Lions. There are two other fountains – Fontana del Nettuno and Fontana della Dea di Roma – at the western and eastern sides of the square. And it’s also flanked by two impressive churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto.
TIP: If you want to experience the ‘wow’ effect that Rome’s first-time visitors must have had upon arrival, be sure to enter the square via the city gate.
Now that we covered the absolute must-see places in Rome, I really want to add a few more places and experiences to this list. It’s these additional sights and activities that will make your trip to the Eternal City so much more special!
These are worth it just as much as the ‘musts’ listed above!
Here are some more amazing things to do in Rome that we highly recommend:
17. Check out some of Rome’s best viewpoints
The city of seven hills, Rome has quite a few places from where you can admire some panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
We already mentioned the views from St. Peter’s Dome, the Palatine Hill, or from the top of the monument at Piazza Venezia. In addition, don’t miss the views from Pincian Hill, Gianicollo Hill, and potentially also from Aventine Hill. We indicated all of these on our map of Rome attractions at the bottom of this post.
Pincian Hill is located between Piazza del Popolo and Villa Borghese gardens. Some of the best views can be found at Terrazza del Pincio and a smaller terrace to the east of it. These are very popular sunset viewpoints in Rome offering stunning views of the city center with St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.
Belvedere del Gianicolo viewpoint on Gianicollo Hill is located on the other side of the river, and almost on the opposite side from Pinician Hill. It gives a great view of the city center as well.
Orange Garden (Giardino degli Aranci) on the Aventine Hill is another beautiful place for stunning cityscapes and panoramas.
LEARN MORE: Best Views in Rome (+ photos & a map with exact locations)
18. Bicycle on the Ancient Appian Way
If you are looking for more unique things to do in Rome, then I can highly recommend a visit to the ancient Appian Way. Walking or driving over a road that’s been there for over 2300 years is such a unique experience. I can’t even try to describe the feeling this place gives you – it’s something you just have to experience.
Built around 312-264 BC, the Appian Way connected Rome to Brindisi in Southern Italy. It was mainly used for military purposes in order to facilitate the expansion of the Roman Empire. Once completed, the road spanned for over 563 km (350 miles).
Since it was forbidden to bury people inside the city in the past, Appian Way is also lined with many mausoleums and ancient family graves. You can still see (parts of) some of them today.
While you can discover the Appian Way on foot, I highly recommend that you come here by bike. The nicest sections near Rome are quite far from the city center, so you’d need to take a bus otherwise. And you can’t walk that far if you need to take the bus back to the city center. Whereas if you come by bike, you can easily explore a much bigger section of the Appian Way and get a much better feeling of what this road was about.
TIP: Appian Way is quite bumpy and coming here with a regular bike won’t be that much fun either. Ideally, you have a sturdy electric mountain bike. We visited the Appian Way with this amazing e-bike tour and it was one of the most memorable experiences in Rome. In addition to driving on the Appian Way, we also explored the Catacombs of St. Calixtus, visited the ancient aqueducts, walked on the city walls, and so much more. Highly recommended!
To me, and also to my teenage son, this was one of the absolute favorites of our recent 4-day trip to Rome. Hands-down, one of the most special things you can do in Rome.
Good to know: There are various tours that include a visit to the Appian Way in their itinerary (by bus, bike, etc.). No matter which tour you choose, it’s well worth it. Going with a guide, you don’t have to worry about getting there (and back), and you can be sure to visit the most impressive parts of this centuries-old road and learn more about its fascinating history.
19. Take a food tour
While there are so many incredible landmarks that you must-see in Rome, as far as ‘things to do’, taking a food tour is definitely one of the VERY BEST things to do in Rome!
There is probably no better way to get to know the real Rome than by taking a food tour with a local guide! In the past, I always thought that you can just ‘organize’ your own food tasting by checking out some local shops, markets, or researching the better restaurants, and that food tours weren’t really worth it… But it’s really not even comparable…
Recently, we did a few food tours in various places, and it has become one of my favorite ways to explore a place. It’s such a great way to get to know the city just a bit better, hear some local anecdotes, learn various new dishes, and visit some cool places that most tourists don’t know about.
Anyway, back to food tours in Rome. There’s such a big variety of food tours that it might be difficult to choose. I’d say just pick one that suits your itinerary best (in terms of starting times, but also the area they visit).
Here are some of our hand-picked recommendations for some of the best food tours in Rome:
- Rome street food tour. This is the tour that we did on our recent visit in Rome and it was excellent. It runs twice a day (lunch or dinner), and starts and ends in the heart of the historic city center, making it quite easy to include it into any itinerary. It also includes a visit to the Jewish Ghetto (and a delicious cake there!).
- Food tour in the city center + Trastevere. This is a nice food tour for those who are looking to try a bigger variety of local dishes and wines. It’s more expensive because it also includes a 3-course dinner.
- Food tour near the Vatican. This is an excellent dinner tour that takes you to some very local places, far from the areas frequented by tourists. If you’re looking for a more authentic experience, you can’t go wrong with this highly-rated tour.
- And there are many others, or you can opt for various cooking classes as well.
No matter which tour you choose, I’m sure it will make your visit to the Eternal City so much more special. For us, it was one of the best experiences in Rome, and the only regret we had was that we didn’t think to foresee more time and do several food tours instead of just going for lunch or dinner.
Next time we’re in Rome, we’re going for a different food tour every day!
20. Explore the fascinating underground sites
With a rich, centuries-long history, Rome is full of unique underground sites where you can literally take a trip back in time. So no list of the best things to do in Rome would be complete without mentioning some of the best underground experiences in the city.
There are so many interesting underground sites to see in Rome and quite a few of them are open to the public and can be easily visited (albeit, often only with a guide). It can be overwhelming to even know where to start or which ones are worth it the most. So to help you out, we made a small selection of some of the best ones.
Here are a few of our favorite underground places to visit in Rome and how to see them:
- Colosseum Underground. Easy to visit with a guided tour of the Colosseum. Just be sure that the tour you book actually includes the underground level (standard tickets don’t). Here you can find a selection of tours that visit the Underground. And this is the tour that we did (and highly recommend).
- Papal Tombs. Right under St. Peter’s Basilica and can be visited free of charge, but do expect a queue. We went with this guided tour of the Basilica that also included the dome climb, and somehow just entered the crypts without having to wait. So I’m not exactly sure if they have some kind of priority. But you can also visit this level and see where many Popes are buried on your own. The actual St. Peter’s tomb is located even deeper and that level is not easy to visit (requires a special Vatican tour).
- Capuchin Crypts. Located close to Piazza Barberini and quite easy to visit on your own. Many underground tours include a visit here, some in addition to some interesting places that are located much further away from the city center.
- Domus Aurea – the ‘Golden House’ of Emperor Nero. It’s located close to the Colosseum, and you can join one of the guided tours if you want to visit inside (you can opt for just a guided visit or a tour that also includes an amazing VR experience). There are also some tours – like this one – that visit Domus Aurea in combination with the Colosseum.
- St. Clement Basilica. Located just a few minutes walk from the Colosseum, this is a truly unique place. Under the 12th-century church, there’s a 4th-century basilica, and yet another level deeper, a 1st-century pagan temple. You can easily visit on your own. Tickets are available online, but you can also just get a ticket on the spot.
- Catacombs. There are many ancient catacombs in Rome, and they’re all located outside the historic city walls. So you’ll need some kind of transportation for them. The most famous are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, and entrance tickets include a guided tour (you can only visit with one of their guides). We recommend visiting the catacombs with organized tours – that way, your transport is taken care of, and these tours usually include a few other sites. We visited the catacombs with this wonderful e-bike tour that included the Appian Way, ancient aqueducts, and more.
These are just a few examples of the best underground sites that you can easily see in Rome. Even if you just visit a few of these places, it will make your trip to the Eternal City so much more memorable. Well worth it!
LEARN MORE: Rome Underground (Best Sites + Map & Info)
21. Get off the beaten path
In addition to all the famous landmarks and popular tourist attractions in Rome, one of the best ways to get to know the real Rome is to get a bit off the beaten path.
We already mentioned the underground sites that are totally worth your time. But there’s more, so much more to see in Rome! So if you have some time to spare, check out some local neighborhoods and lesser-known sights as well!
Discover the colorful streets of Trastevere, try some local restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto, or check out the quirky architecture of Quartiere Coppede. Visit some lesser-known archeological sites, admire the stunning art at one of the many museums, or spend some time at a local market… There’s so much more to see and do in Rome than just visiting its main sights!
This is not only a great way to escape the crowds, but you also get to know the city a bit better and get a better idea of what Rome is truly like. If you are not sure where to start, through the link below, you can check out our guide to some of the nicest lesser-known places that we recommend to see in Rome.
LEARN MORE: Rome Hidden Gems
22. Go (window) shopping at luxury boutiques
Among many other things, Italy is also famous for its fashion. And while Rome isn’t Milan, you’ll find all the big names in the fashion industry represented here. So no trip to Rome would be complete without doing some (window) shopping at some of the most famous luxury boutiques!
One of the best areas to go shopping in Rome is the neighborhood around the Spanish Steps – Piazza del Popolo. Here, you’ll find some of the most expensive fashion retailers in the world. In addition, there are also lots of main-street brands too.
One of the best-known luxury shopping streets is Via dei Condotti. Here, you’ll find brands like Gucci, Prada, BVLGARI, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, and many others. For (much) more affordable fashion, head to Via del Corso. Here you’ll find stores like GAP, Levi’s, Nike, and similar.
And even if you aren’t planning to buy anything, you really can’t say you’ve been to Rome and not walked on Via dei Condotti…
Good to know: Most stores are open daily from 10-11 AM to 7.30-8 PM.
23. Have some of the best gelatos in the world
No list of the best things to do in Rome would be complete without mentioning its gelatos. Rome has some of the best ice cream in the world! And even if you are only visiting Rome for a day, you should make some time for at least one or two gelatos.
There are so many really good gelaterias in Rome that it would be difficult to mention even a small part of them. Here are some of the most famous: Giolitti and Della Palma (both very centrally located), and also Venchi (with multiple stores in the city).
TIP: Don’t just assume that every gelateria you come across is just as good, however. There are quite some places (especially close to the main tourist attractions) that sell mediocre ice cream. It’s usually still quite ok, but can’t even compare to the best artisanal ice cream, so make a bit of effort and locate a really good one!
We also indicated these and some other really good gelaterias in Rome on our map of Rome attractions below.
Map of Rome Attractions & Sighseeing Itinerary Suggestions
To help you get a better idea of where all the main Rome attractions are located, we created a map indicating all the main points of interest and top sights mentioned in this article.
This should help you plan your time a bit better. Just please keep in mind that you can only visit a few of the main tourist attractions in a day. It’s busy everywhere, distances between some sights are quite big, and even with the skip-the-line tickets, you’ll need several hours for each place (if you visit inside). So plan your time well!
TIP: If you are not sure where to start, we have some sample sightseeing itineraries that can help you plan your time in Rome:
How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.
So, this is our guide to the best of Rome. Of course, there’s SO MUCH more to see and do in Rome than we covered here. Much more than you could ever see in one short visit…
But if you want to experience the VERY BEST that Rome has to offer, this list should help you do just that.
We also highly recommend that – in addition to the ‘musts’ – you try to add to your itinerary a few extra places and activities that we included in this guide. Take a food tour, bike the Appian Way, or visit an underground crypt… – it’s these more unique experiences that will make your visit to Rome even more memorable and more special.
For more information and useful tips for your visit, please also see our guide with top travel tips for Rome via the link below. It’s an essential read when planning your trip!
LEARN MORE: Tips for Visiting Rome
Where to Stay for Sightseeing in Rome
PRO TIP: In order to make the most of your visit to Rome, we recommend staying in the heart of the city. Our favorite area to stay for sightseeing in Rome is close to the Pantheon – Piazza Navona.
It’s so conveniently located that you’ll be able to visit most of the main sights of Rome on foot. Plus, there are lots of good restaurants here too.
Here are some hotel recommendations in the heart of the historic city center of Rome, for all budgets:
- €€€€€ Eitch Borromini Palazzo Pamphilj – a very popular luxury 4* hotel overlooking Piazza Navona.
- €€€€ 9HotelCesari – a nice, recently renovated 4* hotel with the most beautiful rooftop bar/ restaurant. This is where we stayed on one of the recent trips. Would go back, even if just for their terrace where we had so many amazing breakfasts and cocktails.
- €€€ Albergo Abruzzi – a popular 3* hotel close to the Pantheon.
- €€ Navona Theatre Hotel – 3* hotel with a very good price/ quality/ location ratio. One of the bestsellers.
- €+ Hotel Primavera – a popular 2* hotel offering good value for the location.
READ ALSO: Where to Eat in Rome (tips for finding the best food and some restaurant recommendations)
More travel inspiration for your trip to Italy:
- Where to go: Best places to visit in Italy
- Cities: Best Italian cities to see
- How to plan your time: Italy Itinerary for 2 Weeks
- Venice: Top sights & attractions in Venice + Tips for Venice Gondola Ride
- Milan: How to see the best of Milan in 1 day
- Lakes: Best of Lake Garda + Bellagio + Where to Stay at Lake Como
- Mountains: Best places in the Dolomites + Hiking in the Dolomites + Trentino
- Coastal areas: Amalfi Coast + Capri Island + Cinque Terre + Italian Riviera
- More… for more information and inspiration for a big variety of destinations, please check our Italy travel guide.
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