Skip to content

Rome: A Guide to the Best Things to Do and See in the Eternal City

Photo things to do in rome

Rome, the capital city of Italy, is a destination that needs no introduction. With a history spanning over 2,500 years, Rome is a city that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the birth of great civilizations, and the creation of some of the world’s most iconic landmarks. From ancient ruins to Renaissance masterpieces, Rome is a treasure trove of history, art, and culture.

The history of Rome dates back to 753 BC when it was founded by Romulus and Remus. Over the centuries, Rome grew into a powerful city-state and eventually became the capital of the Roman Empire. It was during this time that many of Rome’s most famous landmarks were built, including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum.

Today, Rome continues to be a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. Its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit city for anyone interested in exploring the past while enjoying all the modern amenities of a cosmopolitan city.

Key Takeaways

  • Rome is known as the Eternal City and is a popular tourist destination.
  • The top attractions in Rome include the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.
  • Exploring the ancient ruins of Rome is like taking a journey through time.
  • The best museums in Rome offer art, history, and culture, including the Vatican Museums.
  • The Vatican City is a must-visit for those interested in Catholicism and its history.

The Top Attractions in Rome: A Comprehensive Guide

1. Colosseum: The Colosseum is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Rome. This ancient amphitheater was built in 70 AD and could hold up to 50,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, and other public spectacles. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of this magnificent structure and learn about its fascinating history.

2. Pantheon: The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world. Originally built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, it is now a church and a popular tourist attraction. The dome of the Pantheon is a marvel of engineering and its interior is adorned with beautiful marble and intricate mosaics.

3. Trevi Fountain: The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous landmarks and a must-visit for any traveler. Built in the 18th century, this Baroque masterpiece depicts Neptune, the god of the sea, surrounded by tritons and sea creatures. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome.

4. Spanish Steps: The Spanish Steps are a popular meeting place for both locals and tourists. This monumental stairway of 135 steps was built in the 18th century and connects the Piazza di Spagna with the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. It is a great spot to sit and people-watch or enjoy a gelato from one of the nearby cafes.

5. Piazza Navona: Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful squares and is known for its stunning Baroque architecture. It is home to three magnificent fountains, including Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers. The square is also lined with cafes, restaurants, and street performers, making it a lively place to visit day or night.

6. Roman Forum: The Roman Forum was once the center of political, religious, and commercial life in ancient Rome. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of temples, basilicas, and other important buildings that once stood here. It is a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of ancient Romans.

7. Piazza del Popolo: Piazza del Popolo is one of Rome’s largest and most famous squares. It is surrounded by beautiful churches, fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk. The square offers stunning views of the city and is a great starting point for exploring Rome’s historic center.

8. Villa Borghese: Villa Borghese is a large public park in the heart of Rome. It is home to several museums, including the Galleria Borghese, which houses a collection of Renaissance and Baroque art. The park is a great place to relax, go for a walk, or rent a bike and explore its beautiful gardens.

9. Castel Sant’Angelo: Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress located on the banks of the Tiber River. Originally built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, it later served as a papal residence and a prison. Today, visitors can explore its impressive architecture and enjoy panoramic views of Rome from its rooftop terrace.

10. Circus Maximus: Circus Maximus was once the largest stadium in ancient Rome and could hold up to 250,000 spectators. It was used for chariot races and other public events. Today, all that remains are the ruins of the stadium, but it is still worth a visit to imagine what it must have been like during its heyday.

Exploring the Ancient Ruins of Rome: A Journey Through Time

1. The Roman Forum: The Roman Forum was the political, religious, and commercial center of ancient Rome. It is a sprawling complex of ruins that includes temples, basilicas, and other important buildings. Visitors can walk along the ancient streets and imagine what life was like during the time of the Roman Empire.

2. Palatine Hill: Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome and is said to be the birthplace of the city. It was once home to emperors and aristocrats and is now an open-air museum with ruins of palaces, gardens, and other structures. From the top of the hill, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Rome.

3. Appian Way: The Appian Way is one of the oldest and most important roads in ancient Rome. It was built in 312 BC and connected Rome to Brindisi in southern Italy. Today, visitors can walk along a section of the road and explore the ruins of tombs, villas, and other ancient structures.

4. Catacombs of Rome: The Catacombs of Rome are underground burial sites that were used by early Christians. They are a fascinating glimpse into the early days of Christianity and offer a unique perspective on Roman history. Visitors can explore the narrow tunnels and see the ancient frescoes and tombs.

5. Ostia Antica: Ostia Antica was once a thriving port city and is now an archaeological site that offers a glimpse into daily life in ancient Rome. Visitors can explore the ruins of houses, shops, and public buildings, as well as a well-preserved amphitheater and a beautiful mosaic floor.

The Best Museums in Rome: Art, History, and Culture

Museum Name Type Location Visitors per year
Vatican Museums Art and History Vatican City 6 million
Galleria Borghese Art Villa Borghese 400,000
National Roman Museum History and Art Various locations 1 million
Capitoline Museums Art and History Piazza del Campidoglio 1 million
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia History and Art Villa Giulia 100,000

1. Vatican Museums: The Vatican Museums are home to one of the world’s greatest art collections. Highlights include the Sistine Chapel, which features Michelangelo’s famous frescoes, and the Raphael Rooms, which showcase the work of Renaissance painter Raphael. The museums also house ancient Roman and Egyptian artifacts.

2. Galleria Borghese: The Galleria Borghese is located in Villa Borghese and houses a collection of Renaissance and Baroque art. Highlights include sculptures by Bernini and paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian. The museum is small and intimate, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the artwork.

3. Capitoline Museums: The Capitoline Museums are located on Capitoline Hill and are the oldest public museums in the world. They house a vast collection of ancient Roman statues, sculptures, and artifacts. The museums also offer stunning views of Rome from their rooftop terrace.

4. National Roman Museum: The National Roman Museum is spread across several locations in Rome and houses a vast collection of ancient Roman artifacts. Highlights include the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, which features beautiful frescoes and mosaics, and the Crypta Balbi, which offers a glimpse into ancient Roman daily life.

5. MAXXI – National Museum of 21st Century Arts: MAXXI is a contemporary art museum designed by architect Zaha Hadid. It showcases works by Italian and international artists and hosts temporary exhibitions, film screenings, and performances. The museum’s unique architecture is worth a visit in itself.

The Vatican City: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Catholicism

1. St. Peter’s Basilica: St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and the spiritual center of Catholicism. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and is home to many important works of art, including Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s Baldachin. Visitors can also climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views of Rome.

2. Sistine Chapel: The Sistine Chapel is located within the Vatican Museums and is famous for its ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The frescoes depict scenes from the Bible, including the Creation of Adam and the Last Judgment. Visitors can admire these masterpieces in a quiet and contemplative atmosphere.

3. Vatican Museums: The Vatican Museums are a treasure trove of art and history. In addition to the Sistine Chapel, they house a vast collection of ancient Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art. Visitors can spend hours exploring the museums’ galleries and admiring works by artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Titian.

4. Papal Audience: Attending a papal audience is a unique experience for Catholic pilgrims and visitors alike. Every Wednesday, Pope Francis holds a general audience in St. Peter’s Square or in the Paul VI Audience Hall. It is an opportunity to see the Pope up close, receive his blessing, and listen to his teachings.

The Best Views of Rome: From Hilltops to Rooftop Bars

1. Gianicolo Hill: Gianicolo Hill offers some of the best panoramic views of Rome. From here, visitors can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Tiber River, and the rooftops of the historic center. The hill is also home to a beautiful park and a monument dedicated to Italian unification.

2. Pincian Hill: Pincian Hill is located near Villa Borghese and offers stunning views of Rome’s historic center. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax, have a picnic, or enjoy a romantic stroll. From here, visitors can see the Spanish Steps, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the rooftops of Rome.

3. Janiculum Terrace: The Janiculum Terrace is located on Janiculum Hill and offers panoramic views of Rome’s historic center. It is a great spot to watch the sunset and see the city come alive at night. The terrace is also home to a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of Italy’s national heroes.

4. Aventine Hill: Aventine Hill is one of Rome’s seven hills and offers beautiful views of the city. From here, visitors can see the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica framed by trees and enjoy a peaceful walk through the orange groves of the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden). The hill is also home to the famous Keyhole of Rome, which offers a unique view of St. Peter’s Basilica.

5. Rooftop bars and restaurants: Rome is home to many rooftop bars and restaurants that offer breathtaking views of the city. From here, visitors can enjoy a drink or a meal while taking in the sights and sounds of Rome. Some popular rooftop venues include the Terrazza Borromini, the Roof Garden at Hotel Forum, and the Aroma Restaurant at Palazzo Manfredi.

The Best Food and Drink in Rome: A Culinary Adventure

1. Traditional Roman dishes: Rome is known for its delicious and hearty cuisine. Some traditional Roman dishes include pasta carbonara, spaghetti cacio e pepe, and saltimbocca alla romana (veal with prosciutto and sage). Visitors should also try Roman-style pizza, which is thin and crispy, and supplì, deep-fried rice balls filled with mozzarella.

2. Pizza and pasta: Rome is home to many pizzerias and trattorias where visitors can enjoy authentic Italian pizza and pasta. Some popular pizza toppings include margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil), quattro formaggi (four cheeses), and diavola (spicy salami). For pasta lovers, classics like spaghetti alla amatriciana and fettuccine alfredo are a must-try.

3. Gelato: Gelato is a must-have treat when visiting Rome. This Italian-style ice cream is made with fresh ingredients and comes in a variety of flavors. Some popular gelato shops in Rome include Giolitti, Gelateria del Teatro, and Fatamorgana.

4. Wine and cocktails: Italy is known for its excellent wines, and Rome is no exception. Visitors can enjoy a glass of red or white wine with their meal or visit a wine bar to sample different varieties. For cocktail lovers, Rome offers a wide range of bars and lounges where they can enjoy classic Italian cocktails like the Aperol Spritz or the Negroni.

Shopping in Rome: From High-End Boutiques to Local Markets

1. Via Condotti: Via Condotti is one of Rome’s most exclusive shopping streets and is home to high-end designer boutiques such as Gucci, Prada, and Valentino. It is a great place to shop for luxury fashion, accessories, and jewelry.

2. Via del Corso: Via del Corso is one of Rome’s main shopping streets and offers a mix of high-street fashion, department stores, and souvenir shops. It is a great place to shop for clothing, shoes, and accessories at more affordable prices.

3. Campo de’ Fiori Market: Campo de’ Fiori is a lively square in the heart of Rome that hosts a daily market. Here, visitors can find fresh produce, flowers, spices, and other local products. It is a great place to shop for ingredients to cook an authentic Italian meal or to pick up souvenirs.

4. Porta Portese Market: Porta Portese Market is one of Rome’s largest flea markets and takes place every Sunday. Here, visitors can find a wide range of items, including antiques, vintage clothing, furniture, and collectibles. It is a great place to hunt for unique treasures and bargains.

Day Trips from Rome: Exploring the Surrounding Countryside

1. Tivoli: Tivoli is a charming town located about 30 kilometers east of Rome. It is known for its beautiful gardens and historic villas, including Villa d’Este with its stunning fountains and Villa Adriana, the former residence of Emperor Hadrian.

2. Ostia Antica: Ostia Antica is an archaeological site located about 30 kilometers west of Rome, Italy. It was once the bustling port city of ancient Rome and served as a gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. The city was founded in the 4th century BC and reached its peak during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Today, Ostia Antica is a well-preserved site that offers visitors a glimpse into the daily life of ancient Romans. The ruins include a theater, baths, temples, and houses, providing a fascinating insight into the social, economic, and cultural aspects of Roman society. The site is easily accessible from Rome and is a popular day trip destination for tourists seeking to explore the rich history of the region.


What are some popular tourist attractions in Rome?

Some popular tourist attractions in Rome include the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

What are some free things to do in Rome?

Some free things to do in Rome include visiting the Piazza Navona, exploring the Appian Way, visiting the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, and walking through the Villa Borghese gardens.

What is the best time of year to visit Rome?

The best time of year to visit Rome is during the spring (April to June) or fall (September to November) when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.

What is the dress code for visiting religious sites in Rome?

Visitors to religious sites in Rome should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. Hats should also be removed before entering churches.

What is the best way to get around Rome?

The best way to get around Rome is by walking or using public transportation, such as the metro, buses, or trams. Taxis are also available but can be expensive.

What is the currency used in Rome?

The currency used in Rome is the Euro.

What is the time zone in Rome?

The time zone in Rome is Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+1).