25 Best Things to Do in Rome (Italy)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Rome stands as one of the finest and oldest cities in the world. The history of Rome spans over 2500 years and it has been a center of power, politics, culture and development since its inception. Creation of the city is steeped in legend and mythology and there are various different accounts of how this majestic place was built. Various Roman emperors have ruled mighty Rome and this is the place where the colossal Roman Empire grew from.

As time progressed, various monuments, palaces and religious buildings have been constructed in the city and these now stand as beautiful tourist attractions and a reminder of the cities glorious past. Rome is consistently ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe and with sights such as the Colosseum and the Vatican, it is easy to see why.

Lets explore the best things to do in Rome:

1. Colosseum

ColosseumSource: Catarina Belova / shutterstock

This mighty structure is one of the most renowned and iconic landmarks in the world and a trip to Rome would not be complete without visiting the Colosseum.

Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum was constructed between 70-80 AD and at its peak was estimated to hold 80,000 spectators.

This building was used to hold game, gladiator tournaments and other forms of entertainment and would regularly be attended by the Roman Emperors.

Located to the south west of the main terminus train station, the Colosseum is easily accessible and has a metro station in close proximity.

Marvel at this famous structure from all angles, and ensure that you brave the queues and step inside to truly appreciate the enormity of this ancient place of celebration.

Get skip-the-line ticketsRome: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill Priority Tickets

2. St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s SquareSource: Mistervlad / shutterstock
St Peter’s Square

Rome holds a small country within a country – The Vatican.

This independent state is one of the most important religious sites in the world and St. Peter’s Square is an iconic place where many significant events have taken place.

Located at the front of the Vatican state, the square is actually circular and is framed by two huge sets of colonnades – Standing on these columns are beautiful statues of various religious figures and previous popes.

In the centre is a imposing obelisk which was actually taken from Nero’s Circus and looks Egyptian rather than Roman.

At the far end of the square stands the iconic St Peter’s Basilica and in front of this a set of chairs are usually set out for papal ceremonies.

Take in the enormity of the square, see the crowds of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope and use this as a starting point to explore the Vatican.

Top rated tour available: Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square Tour

3. St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s BasilicaSource: Vladimir Sazonov / shutterstock
St. Peter’s Basilica

Possibly the most recognizable and celebrated religious building in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica stands as a true triumph to the power and decadence of the catholic religion and it is held as one of the holiest shrines for its followers.

Standing at the far end of St. Peter’s square, the Basilica has a beautifully designed front facade and is crowned with statues of the Apostles and Jesus.

Inside the Basilica, the architecture and decoration is simply divine and it is regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

You will be amazed at the sheer amount of decoration and detail, and how the light falls in stunning rays at certain points during the day.

Both Michelangelo and Bernini contributed to the design and you can see their handiwork in the immense dome and stunning Gloria sculpture.

Don’t forget to climb to the top of the dome to see an aerial view of St. Peter’s Square. On this guided tour of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, climb to the upper level of the Dome and see the panoramic views of Rome, then go underground to admire the historic grottoes.

4. The Pantheon

Pantheon, RomeSource: Boris Stroujko / shutterstock
Pantheon, Rome

The mighty Pantheon stands as one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world and is one of Rome’s most famous attractions.

Constructed in 118 AD by emperor Hadrian, the building that stands today was actually built on the site where an earlier temple stood that was commissioned by Agrippa.

At the front of the building stands a rectangular porch lined with huge columns and a dedication to Agrippa on the triangular pediment.

The interior features a magnificent dome that has a series of stone patterns and a central coffer that allows light to spill through.

Located in the center of Rome on the Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon should be a true highlight and is another must visit.

5. Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain, RomeSource: Luciano Mortula - LGM / Shutterstock.com
Trevi Fountain

There are not many other fountains in the world as lavishly decorated and sculptured as the Trevi fountain.

Constructed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, the fountain pays tribute to the Roman God Oceanus who can be seen riding his chariot pulled by Tritons and taming several Hippocamps.

The detail of the sculptures is simply wonderful and the whole facade and fountain are a true work of art.

It has become a tradition to throw coins into the water over your shoulder for good luck although trying to do so next to hundreds of other tourists might prove difficult! Located in close proximity to the Pantheon and Quirinale palace, this fountain should not be passed up on when walking through the streets of Rome.

6. Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps, RomeSource: Jon Chica / shutterstock
Spanish Steps, Rome

Located in the Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti, the 135 Spanish Steps were constructed in 1725 to span the gap and slope between these two popular squares.

Each of the 135 steps features a wide stone ledge and are framed by stone walls.

At the top of the steps you can find a large crucifix obelisk and many inscriptions carved into the stone.

At the bottom of the steps, the Piazza di Spagna is spacious and contains a variety of shops and cafes.

Alternatively, at the top of the stairs is the Trinita dei Monti church which in itself is a fine attraction.

Included in: Fountains and Squares Small-Group Walking Tour

7. Roman Forum

Roman Forum, RomeSource: Viacheslav Lopatin / shutterstock
Roman Forum, Rome

Possibly one of the most important Roman ruins in Italy, the Roman Forum is an ancient site that consists of many ruins that were once the centre of Roman public and political life.

Various temples, squares and arches stood here including the temples of Saturn, Titus and Vesta and the Arch of Severus.

Much of these structures still stands today and you can still see some of the arches and building foundations and walls.

Located next to the Colosseum and Altar of the Fatherland, the Roman Forum really is an important site for your consideration.

Tickets can be bought for entry to both the Forum and the Colosseum and it is advised to allow ample time to properly explore the ruins and learn about the history of this place.

8. Sistine Chapel

Sistine ChapelSource: byggarn.se / shutterstock
Sistine Chapel

Part of the Vatican museum complex, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most renowned religious chapels in the world and has a stunning amount of detail and iconography.

Situated in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel was extensively restored in the 1400’s and the place where the papal enclave takes place – It is here that a new pope is selected.

The Sistine Chapel is particularly famous for its extensive and detailed decorations including the Last Judgement fresco by Michelangelo and the ceiling artwork.

These two magnificent pieces are artwork are considered some of the most influential and important in religious history.

Ensure you dedicate plenty of time to view this astonishing structure and the wonders held within.

Combo ticket available: Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket

9. Vatican Museums

Museo Pio-ClementinoSource: Kiev.Victor / shutterstock
Museo Pio-Clementino

This treasure trove of classical and historical artwork has been built up over many centuries by various popes and includes some of the most important pieces of artwork in the world.

Located within the confines of the Vatican state, the museums hold over 70,000 pieces of artwork.

A dual ticket can be purchased to see both the Sistine Chapel and the museums and it is advised to devote enough time to see both properly.

Split into several different section, the museums include the Museo Pio-Clementino, the Museum Chiaramonti, the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco and the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano each of which contains different artworks and themes.

Notable piece include the Transfiguration by Raphael, the Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio and the breathtaking gallery of maps.

10. Piazza Navona

Piazza NavonaSource: kavalenkava / shutterstock
Piazza Navona

Built on the site of the stadium of Domitian, the Piazza Navona was built in the 15th century and has remained a popular attraction ever since.

Located in close proximity to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, the square is a great place to visit whilst walking through the city center.

This large square is usually full of artists and street vendors and the surrounding buildings frame the open space perfectly.

Notable elements of the square include the Fontana del Moro and Fountain of Neptune with their fantastic sculptures, the Palazzo Braschi, the Palazzo Pamphilj and the Saint Agnese in Agone church.

11. Castle Saint Angelo

Castle Saint AngeloSource: Di Gregorio Giulio / shutterstock
Castle Saint Angelo

Also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Castle Saint Angelo is a circular fort and castle complex that was once the tallest building in Rome.

Created in 129 AD, the castle is truly ancient and was originally intended to serve as a Mausoleum for the Emperor.

As time progressed, the castle became part of the Vatican state and was connected to St.

Peter’s Basilica via a huge corridor named the Passetto di Borgo.

Today the castle stands as a museum and contains wonderful exhibits about the history of the structure throughout history.

It is also possible to climb to the top of the castle ramparts for fantastic views across to St. Peter’s square and the city of Rome.

12. Palatine Hill

Palatine HillSource: xbrchx / shutterstock
Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient areas in modern Rome and is the central most hill in the Tiber region.

Standing 40 metres above the historical Roman Forum it provides a fantastic viewing position and from here you can see the expanse of Rome laid out before your eyes.

In Roman mythology, this is the location where the legendary Romulus and Remus were supposedly found who then went on to build the city of Rome.

Several structures still stand on this site today including the Flavian Palace and the Temple of Cybele.

Admission to the Roman Forum includes access to Palatine Hill so ensure you make the climb and visit this fantastic viewpoint.

13. Galleria Borghese

Galleria BorgheseSource: Karel Gallas / shutterstock
Galleria Borghese

Situated in the Borghese Villa complex, the Galleria Borghese is an important art museum that contains a myriad of fine paintings, sculptures and antiques.

Established in 1903, the Borghese complex is found in the northern part of the inner city next to the Via Pinciana road.

The impressive building has a beautiful and ornate front facade that has many stone statues and decoration.

Spread across twenty different rooms, the extensive Borghese collection includes works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens and Titan.

Allow ample time to view the masterpieces on display here and also the magnificent Borghese Villa gardens.

Book online: Borghese Gallery Ticket with Escorted Entrance

14. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria MaggioreSource: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Rome is packed full of fantastic religious and historical buildings and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one such structure.

Listed as a Basilica Major, it is one of the largest churches in Rome and is located in the Piazza of the same name.

The front face of this magnificent building features a central array of stone columns topped with statues and many inscriptions.

Furthermore there is also a large bell tower that rises above the surrounding buildings.

Whilst the outside is stunning in its own right, interior is simply breathtaking and features a huge amount of gold decoration, fresco’s and detailed paintings both on the walls and ceilings.

Of particular interest is the Borghese chapel that features some beautiful paintings and gold sculptures.

15. Villa Borghese Gardens

Villa Borghese GardensSource: Elena Pavlovich / shutterstock
Villa Borghese Gardens

Located within the Borghese Villa complex, the gardens of the same name are a true triumph and provide a welcomed respite from the abundance of historical architecture found in Rome.

As the third largest park in Rome, the gardens cover just under 200 acres of land and contain the Borghese Gallery and the Gallery of National Modern Art.

The garden contains various sections including the Casino Borghese that contains sculptures by Bernini, the Villa Giulia that contains the Etruscan Museum and the remnants of other villas too.

Furthermore you can also find various paths and trails that lead through the extensive arrangement of plant life and trees, and landscaped areas of garden with flower arrangements, fountains and beautiful bodies of water.

16. Trastevere

TrastevereSource: Catarina Belova / shutterstock

This ancient part of Rome is considered to be one of the few places where you can see authentic Roman life and get a real feel for the city and how its residents live.

Located on the west of the River Tiber, Trastevere is the 13th rione of Rome and is packed full of narrow cobbled streets and character.

Ancient houses line the winding streets and many pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars can be found here too.

It is not uncommon to see washing hanging out between the streets and for the locals to be shouting to each other from building to building.

This is Rome at its most unabashed and simplistic form.

Visit Trastevere for a real slice of culture and take to the streets at night to enjoy some lively nightlife.

Related tour: 4-Hour Traditional Food Tour and Wine Tasting

17. Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the FatherlandSource: Blue Planet Studio / shutterstock
Altar of the Fatherland

Another colossal monument located in the heart of Rome, the Altar of the Fatherland is dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel who was the first king of unified Italy.

This large stone monument is located in close proximity to the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

At the front of the monument stands a large bronze statue of Emmanuel and many other stone sculptures.

The front facade features a row of ornate columns and is also highly decorated.

At the base of the monument there is also an interesting museum that is dedicated to the unification of Italy and the early years of its history.

18. Ponte Sant Angelo

Ponte Sant AngeloSource: Viacheslav Lopatin / shutterstock
Ponte Sant Angelo

The bridge of Saint Angelo spans the epic River Tiber and creates a footpath between the Castel Sant’Angelo and the near side of the river.

Opening up directly from the front of the castle, this bridge has great symmetry and it is considered one of the most beautiful and decorative bridges in Rome.

Created with a face of travertine marble, the bridge stands out against the sometimes murky colors of the Tiber and offers some fantastic photographic opportunities.

A main feature of the bridge is the 10 angel statues that sit at intervals on the top of the ramparts; these angels have fantastic detail and each is carrying a different object of significance.

Book online: Castel Sant’Angelo with Reserved Ticket

19. Quirinale Palace

Quirinale PalaceSource: V_E / shutterstock
Quirinale Palace

This stately structure and complex stands as one of the official residencies of the current President of Italy and is located on the Quirinal Hill in the centre of Rome.

In total, the complex spans 110,500 square metres and is one of the largest palaces in the world.

Inside the main part of the palace are a series of richly decorated rooms, courtyards, staircases and chapels.

A guided tour is possible of the palace and there is also several exhibitions that detail its history and use.

The Quirinale gardens are also considered quite spectacular with many plants, trees, flower arrangements and water features.

20. Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del PopoloSource: Christophe Faugere / shutterstock
Piazza del Popolo

The Piazza del Popolo is one of the finest squares in the world and literally translates as square of the people.

Surrounded by historical structures such as the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the Porta del Popolo gateway and the Basilica Parrocchiale, the squares offers a great deal to explore.

To the immediate east of the square lies the Pincio hill which offers fantastic views of the Piazza and of Rome.

In the center of the Piazza stands the huge Popolo Obelisk which like the one present in St. Peter’s Square was moved from Egypt.

Several ornate fountains frame the square including the Fontana del Netuno and the Fontana dell Obelisco.

This is a great place to relax and soak up the scenery or enjoy the views from the Pincio.

21. Arch of Constantine

Arch of ConstantineSource: Sergej Borzov / shutterstock
Arch of Constantine

Dedicated to the great Emperor Constantine to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, the Arch of Constantine is the largest of its kind in Rome and stands next to the Colosseum.

Built in 315 AD it is among the oldest structures in the city and still retains a great amount of its original detail and artwork.

Standing at 21m high it is clearly visible from the surrounding areas and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome.

The artwork and sculptures present on the arch are an amalgamation of many different themes and combine together to form a wonderful display of ancient history.

Some plinths display soldiers, other show prisoners and scenes of war, whilst others contain elaborate inscriptions.

When visiting the Colosseum, ensure to take ample time to admire this fantastic arch.

Included in: Vatican City and Ancient Rome Full-Day Small Group Tour

22. Basilica di San Clemente

Basilica di San ClementeSource: Renata Sedmakova / shutterstock
Basilica di San Clemente

This is one of the lesser known churches in central Rome but is just as opulent and historical as the likes of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Listed as a Basilica Minor, the church is actually split into three distinct sections that span a time frame of some two thousand years.

The original basilica was created in the 2nd century and the current form was completed in 1123 AD. Whilst the exterior of the church is nothing special, the interior is quit spectacular and features a huge amount of decoration and artwork.

In particular, the high altar and ceiling of the second basilica feature some intricate artwork and fresco’s, laced with gold trimmings and an abundance of color.

Located in close proximity to the Colosseum, this church is a great establishment to visit.

Discover the Basilica and it’s underground: St. Clemente & Quattro Coronati Church Small Group Tour

23. Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia, RomeSource: Irene Ignateva / shutterstock
Piazza Venezia, Rome

Considered a central thoroughfare and hub in the city of Rome, the Piazza Venezia is one of the busiest parts of the city and forms an intersection for several of the main roads.

Located at the bottom of Capitoline Hill, several important streets disperse from here including the Fori Imperiali that leads to the Colosseum.

Important monuments located on the square include the Piazza Venezia, the Altar of the Fartherland and Trajan’s Column.

24. Villa Farnesina

Villa FarnesinaSource: stoyanh / shutterstock
Villa Farnesina

Located in the historical Trastevere district of Rome, the Villa Farnesina is a fantastic example of a Renaissance villa complex and is considered a fine example of architecture and design.

Constructed in the 16th century for Agostina Chigi, this spacious villa changed ownership over the years and now serves as a museum.

Aside from the amazing architecture, the villa also features some beautiful and detailed fresco’s created by the renowned Renaissance artists Raphael.

Each room is packed full of iconic artwork and sumptuous detail and is a true glory to behold.

Private tour: Farnesina Gallery 3-Hour Private Tour

25. Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

Fontana dei Quattro FiumiSource: Tiago Pestana / shutterstock
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

This ornate and detailed fountain is located in the center of the Piazza Navona and was designed by the legendary sculpture, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Created for Pope Innocent X in 1651, the fountain resides outside the Pamphili Palace which served as a family residence for the Pope.

The fountain depicts the four river gods and in the centre stands a large Egyptian Obelisk.

Each of the four statues pays tribute to one of the major rivers in the world – The Nile, The Danube, The Ganges and the Rio de la Plata.

25 Best Things to Do in Rome (Italy):

  • Colosseum
  • St Peter’s Square
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • The Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps
  • Roman Forum
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Vatican Museums
  • Piazza Navona
  • Castle Saint Angelo
  • Palatine Hill
  • Galleria Borghese
  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Villa Borghese Gardens
  • Trastevere
  • Altar of the Fatherland
  • Ponte Sant Angelo
  • Quirinale Palace
  • Piazza del Popolo
  • Arch of Constantine
  • Basilica di San Clemente
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Villa Farnesina
  • Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi