Best Things to Do in Rome | 2023 Guide

With its rich history, delicious food, and breathtaking architecture dating back hundreds of years, Rome is a wonder to explore. The city is bursting with bucket list items from the Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel.

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When it comes to tourist attractions, Rome has some of the most famous in the world. Even the roads are famous, with the Appian Way having existed since 312 BC. It’s still one of the foremost links to ancient Rome.

When in Rome, visit places that strike your fancy, but don’t just tick off your bucket list items. Take the time to soak in the vibrant aura of the city. Wander the streets, head out to the suburbs, eat where the locals do. Enjoy the effervescence of this grand Italian city. Take advantage of the Rome points of interest as much as possible.

There are countless places to visit in Rome, making it the perfect city to wander, as it’s easy to find your bearings with sightings of famous ruins and buildings at almost every turn. Tourist attractions in Rome double as map markers, and there’s clear signage to point you in the right direction. When it comes to what to do in Rome, Italy, you aren’t going to be short on options or opportunities.

I’ve visited Rome three times and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are an endless number of things to see in Rome, and the more I visit, the more I fall in love with it as it becomes increasingly familiar and easy to get around, and I further appreciate the deep and fascinating history of this beautiful city. When it comes to the best things to do in Rome, just taking in the sights ranks fairly high on that list.

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Vatican City at the Heart of Rome
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Best Time To Visit Rome

When you’re planning out what to do in Rome, keep the timing in mind. While the summer months are a glorious time to visit Europe, Rome can get ridiculously hot, humid, and crowded in the summer. If you can, try to avoid Rome in July and August; the heat just seems to sit over the city, and you are wiping the sweat off your brow every two seconds. Sightseeing in Rome is great at any time, but bad weather can put a bit of a damper on the experience.

The best time to visit Rome is around May, early June, or September. It will still be warm, just not as humid, and there will be fewer tourists blocking the Rome sights in the shoulder months of summer. Tourist attractions in Rome can get crowded, so you want to pick the optimal time to visit.

things to do in rome
Rome, Italy

Top Things To Do In Rome

If it’s your first time in Rome, you have some famous sites to tick off your list, and all of them are worthwhile when you’re planning out what to see when in Rome. 

The good news is that Rome is a great city to walk around, with ruins and beautiful buildings everywhere you look, but it also has an efficient and easy-to-understand metro system with only three lines–A, B, and C. A and B lines are useful to get between the main sights if you’re not up for walking but still want as many unique Rome experiences as possible.

A plan of attack is essential when visiting Rome. There are dozens of points of interest in Rome, equating to a lot of entry tickets–and also long queues! For travellers on a tight budget, you may want to figure out what are the essential Roman places to visit to see the inside of, and what can be seen almost just as good from the outside.

Aerial view of Vatican
Aerial view of Vatican

Roman Forum

If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Rome, Italy, then a good place to start your exploration is the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was once the political city centre and marketplace of the ancient Roman Empire and was filled with government buildings, temples, basilicas, and public spaces, making for a ton of unique things to do in Rome. The Colosseum, one of the most iconic features of Rome, is adjacent to the Roman Forum. It’s definitely one of the top sites in Rome.

You can buy a combined ticket for the Roman Forum and Colosseum ruins or a Roma Pass that offers reduced admission prices for a number of sites and museums. (If you’re specifically looking for free museums in Rome, you’ll have to look pretty hard; they know what their history is worth.) 

There’s usually a shorter queue at the Roman Forum entrance, so head to that site early and get your tickets, you can skip the queue and head into the Colosseum at any time. You can also buy your ticket online.

Another option is to purchase a combined Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill Priority Ticket. These are all great places to visit in Rome, Italy, and this way is perfect for those on a time limit, as it allows you to fast-track the most popular sites in the city, leaving you more time to take in some of the best places to visit in Rome. If all you have is a Rome 1 day itinerary, this is perfect for you.

rome forum
The Roman Forum

The Colosseum

If you’re looking for free things to do in Rome, it’s free to enter the Colosseum on the first Sunday of each month. Make sure you also head along to the Colosseum at night for a photo stop; it can lead to a beautiful Sunday night in Rome, with golden light streaming out of the archways. 

For a unique tour of the Colosseum, take a tour of the Gladiator Arena. You’ll be able to see the Colosseum from the eyes of its fierce combatants. When it comes to things to do in Rome on Sunday, there are a few ideas that are better.

The Colosseum, things to do in rome
The Colosseum

Palatine Hill

Allocate a couple of hours in the Roman Forum and adjoining Palatine Hill when you’re planning out cool things to do in Rome. 

Palatine Hill is the most central of the seven hills in Rome and offers good views of the Roman Forum and other parts of the city, making it a must see in Rome, Italy. If you manage to get a quieter moment, the view definitely makes it one of the more romantic things to do in Rome. 

A fun and faster way to explore the seven hills is to take an Ancient Rome segway tour. The guide will show you the most important sites along the way, and it’s an environmentally friendly way to explore this great city!

Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill, Rome

Capitoline Museums

Palatine Hill isn’t the only one of Rome’s hills worth visiting, of course. While you’re looking for fun things to do in Rome, head to the top of Capitoline Hill to find the Capitoline Museums. It has a host of art and archaeological museums, which are some of the top sights in Rome. If you’re looking for activities in Rome and you’re interested in Roman history, the archaeology in the Capitoline Museums will be perfect for you.

Capitoline Hill Square
Capitoline Hill Square. Image by Edward Lich from Pixabay

National Monument Of Victor Emmanuel II And The Pantheon

When it comes to Rome, Italy attractions, getting from one to the next typically isn’t a struggle. From the Roman Forum, you can then head over to the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, also known as the Wedding Cake,  and take in the views from the top before heading over to the striking domed Pantheon, a temple that ancient Romans dedicated to the pagan gods and one of the must see places in the Eternal City. 

You don’t need to spend much time at the Pantheon, but it’s worth a look during your Rome sightseeing. If you do want more insight into the impressive building, you can also have a 35-minute audio tour of the Pantheon.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon

Piazzas, Steps, And Fountains

While they’re valuable places to see in Rome, Italy, nevertheless, you can whiz past the next few sites pretty quickly. 

Take a photo at Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, and throw a coin into the Baroque Trevi Fountain (to ensure you’ll return to Rome). It’s still one of the must see places in Rome, but watch out for pickpockets at the Trevi Fountain. Take a peek at the famous fountain and buildings at Piazza Navona.

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Trevi Fountain, Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo 

On the banks of the Tiber River is the Castel Sant’Angelo. It was built as a mausoleum but has also spent its life as a prison and papal residence, and it’s one of the more impressive Rome attractions.

Entry is $11.20 USD (€10,) but it looks pretty impressive from the outside, too, as you approach from the Sant’Angelo bridge. If you’re starting to get a bit of monument fatigue in the evening, just snapping a few photos is one of the top things to do in Rome before you move onto the next site.

Castel Sant’Angelo 
Castel Sant’Angelo 

The Vatican

From Castel Sant’Angelo, you’re not far from Vatican City, where you can visit the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica. When it comes to Rome tourist attractions, they don’t get much more famous than Vatican City. 

If you’re keen to avoid the queues to see the Sistine Chapel, you can buy your ticket online up to 60 days before your visit. The ticket price is $18 USD (€17) with a reservation fee of $5.25 USD ( €5.) The Vatican Museums are open from 10am Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays, except on the last Sunday of the month. Entry is free on this day with the last entry at 1:45pm. If you’re wondering what to do in Rome on a Sunday, it’s a good candidate. That goes double for anyone interested in art, as the Raphael Rooms are known for their frescos.

The expansive Vatican Gardens are absolutely gorgeous and offer great viewpoints of the Vatican and its monuments. Make sure you purchase tickets specifically for the gardens, as they aren’t included in general admission. You can get a combination ticket with access to the Vatican Museums House and Gardens, or the just the Vatican Gardens.

If you’ve been wondering about free museums in Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica can be visited for free any day of the week from 7am. You can also get great views of Rome from the Basilica’s dome from 8am daily, making it one of the more impressive sites to see in Rome. There’s a dress code to enter the Vatican City monuments, which means there are no shorts, miniskirts, or bare shoulders.

If you prefer to avoid the crowds and long lines, you can appreciate these sites so much more with an early tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. The 4-hour tour gives entry to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, and it’s one of the best things to do in Rome.

St Peter's Square
St Peter’s Square

Saint Peter’s Basilica

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, known simply as Saint Peter’s Basilica, is a fantastic example of Renaissance-style architecture. Located in the Vatican City and adjacent to St. Peter’s Square, this 16th-century church has served as a place of pilgrimage and hosts liturgical functions presided by the pope. 

For a unique view of the St. Peter’s Basilica dome itself, head up to the Knights of Malta Keyhole on Aventine Hill. It offers a striking view, making it one of the more unique places to go in Rome. If you’ve seen La Dolce Vita, the dome will probably be familiar to you.

On the same side of the Tiber River as Vatican City lies Gianicolo Hill, which serves as another good free viewpoint of the city.

Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter’s Basilica. Image by Carlo Armanni from Pixabay

Galleria Borghese

When it comes to art museums, few are as gorgeous as the Galleria Borghese. In the past, they’ve curated an entire collection of works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, including Apollo and Daphne, and the collection is consistently as impressive as that. 

In ancient Rome, it was the Villa Borghese, and it can thank Scipione Borghese for its art collection. When it comes to attractions in Rome, few are more beautiful. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, typically from 9 AM to 5 PM. If you’re looking for things to do in Rome at night, though, the Galleria Borghese is open until 9 PM on Thursdays.

Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese

St. Callixtus Catacombs

If you’re more interested in seeing Rome off the beaten track, you’ll probably love the St. Callixtus Catacombs, an ancient underground burial place. 

If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Rome, then this will probably be one of your top sites to see in Rome. While not as creepy as the Paris ones, which are home to hundreds of skulls, the Catacombs offer an insight into Rome’s history. The bones have been removed from the tourist route of the Catacombs, which can be explored with a guide only. The hour-long guided tours are available in a number of languages, including Italian, English, and French.

These catacombs date back to the second century and were the burial place of 16 Popes, and they’re one of the top places to see in Rome, Italy. The cemetery goes down four levels, with some areas more than 20 metres (21.75 yards) deep. The Catacombs can be visited between 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm, making it one of the best things to do in Rome at night. They are closed on Wednesdays. Entry is $10.50 USD (€10).

You can also take a guided tour of the St. Callixtus Catacombs and explore the historic catacombs, learn about the official cemetery of the Church of Rome, see underground crypts, and view the ancient frescoes. If your kids are at the stage where gross things are cool, it could be one of the best things to do in Rome with kids.

You can get there on bus 118 (direction Villa Dei Quintili) from the metro station Circo Massimo. It’s near the Roman Forum.

St. Callixtus Catacombs
St. Callixtus Catacombs

Priscilla Catacombs

If you’re into the macabre, then another of the great activities in Rome is the Priscilla CatacombsThese Catacombs are closed Mondays, but open 9am to noon and 2pm-5pm Tuesday through Sunday. Entry is $9 USD (€8). You can get there on the Metro B line, getting off at Libia station and walking 10 minutes.

Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt is also on the creepy side for Rome activities. The bone church is said to be decorated with more than 3500 bones of Capuchin monks, so it’s one of the more unusual things to do in Rome. It’s located inside the Capuchin Museum on Via Veneto near the Barberini Metro station. Entry is $9 USD (€8), which includes the museum entry.

For those who are brave enough, you can do a combined Capuchin Crypt and Catacombs of Priscilla After Hours Tour. The tour gives you access to the catacombs after hours, allowing you to explore the tunnels without the crowds. 

Join A Guided Street Food Tour

Rome is a foodie’s paradise, full of trattorias, pizzerias, gelaterias, and everything in between. To maximise your experience, consider joining a guided food tour where you will sample street food, iconic Roman suppli, cured meats, and pizza. 

With this tour, you have the option of exploring the Jewish Quarter and Campo de Fiori Square, where you’ll tour one of Rome’s oldest open-air markets.

You’ll also sample various local wines and beers, finishing off the tour with the best gelato Rome has to offer.

Campo de Fiori
Campo de Fiori

Get Off The Beaten Path

Secret City Trails is one of the most unique attractions we have come across in not just Rome, but all around Europe. It’s one of the more unusual things to do in Rome, but definitely worth it. 

They offer urban treasure hunts for travellers who want to experience Rome off the beaten path, who want to see a city from a local perspective or who explore at their own pace. The concept is simple: Book a game online and receive the first location of your tour via a link on your phone. Follow the riddles and unlock curious local stories to reveal your next destination and explore the city from a totally new perspective. Think charming streets away from the crowds, hidden murals, or the best gelato and pizza in town! 

secret city trails
Secret City Trails is a fun way to explore Rome!

Where To Stay In Rome

When you’re planning a trip to Rome, it’s important to know where you’re going to stay, especially in relation to your top things to do in Rome. There are hundreds of hotels in Rome. 

READ NEXT: Where To Stay In Rome

Piazza di Spagna, things to do in rome
Piazza di Spagna, Rome

Luxury Hotel

Hotel Caravita

Located just 300 metres from the Trevi Fountain and right on the famous shopping street Via del Corso, this five-star boutique hotel offers sustainable accommodations with modern amenities and personalised service. The modern rooms and suites offer luxuries such as plush bathrobes, soundproof walls, and minibars.

You’ll be just a 4-minute walk away from the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the best shopping in Rome. There are countless cafes and restaurants near the hotel, and the onsite Terrazza Caravita restaurant is fabulous. The restaurant’s terrace offers panoramic views of Rome’s historic centre, six stories above the tourist crowds. 

Mid-Range Hotel

NH Collection Roma Giustiniano

The NH Collection Roma Giustiniano holds an ISO 14001 environmental certificate and is perfectly located for reaching Rome’s historic centre on foot. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo. If you’re lucky, you may even get a room with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica!

The rooms are spacious, with a modern design scheme and amenities like an espresso coffee machine, rain effect shower, and patented Sleep Better mattresses. Luxury suites are also available with private terraces and fantastic views of Rome’s iconic landmarks. The onsite Zenzero & Cannella Restaurant specialises in traditional local cuisine with a modern twist and an impressive wine list.

Budget Hotel

The RomeHello

For budget travellers who don’t mind a 15-minute walk to most of Rome’s attractions, The RomeHello Hostel is a great choice. Offering both dorm-style and private rooms with ensuites, this hostel is in a wonderful historic neighbourhood full of piazzas, museums, shops, and restaurants.

RomeHello offers homemade pasta cooking classes, pizza cooking classes, and even a free guided tour through historic sites and lesser-known spots in the Eternal City. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes around the hostel and an onsite bar and grill that offers pub fare and craft cocktails.

Where To Eat & Drink In Rome

You’re in the home of gelato, Aperol spritz, and pasta. One of the great things about Rome–and Italy in general–is the food. Don’t get me started on four-cheese gnocchi (quattro formaggi)!

If you’ve never had an Aperol spritz before then Rome is the perfect place to try one. They’re refreshing and delicious, especially on those hot Roman summer days.

Aperol is a citrusy orange-red liquor combined with prosecco and soda. They’re usually served with a small bowl of potato crisps. Bet you won’t stop at one, especially on a hot day in Rome.

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Fruity cocktails

There are a lot of restaurants to choose from. Generally, I haven’t found great food around the tourist areas in central Rome like the Colosseum area, but the gelato is molto bene (very good!) wherever I’ve gone.

Gelato tastes the best in its birthplace. It’s fresh, it’s cold, and it’s delicious and will cool you down on a hot summer’s day. I found some great places near the Spanish Steps. I remember at one stage during a July visit to Rome, I was having about three gelatos a day to try all the different flavours. They were that good. It’s hard not to stop at one.

Make sure your gelato comes from stainless steel containers, which usually means it’s freshly made.

You can also enjoy vegan gelato. Head to the Prati area, about a 5-minute walk from Piazza del Popolo, and you’ll find Gelarmony, a gelato spot with a whole room dedicated to vegan gelato! They have a wide range of flavours, but try the hazelnut!.

gelato rome
Gelato in various flavours

Here are some of the top spots to get gelato in Rome.

For an authentic taste of Italy away from the tourist trap restaurants, head to the Testaccio and Trastevere neighbourhoods. They’re not the prettiest neighbourhoods, but they are frequented by locals. You can get there on the Metro B line, stopping at the Pyramide station, or walk along the Tiber.

If you are in the area and looking for a quick breakfast bite, then Caffe Trastevere will do the trick. They have plenty of vegan options, including a fine selection of vegan croissants, pastries, and doughnuts. You can even enjoy an Italian coffee with soy milk.

Coming Out is a pleasant cafe and pub with friendly staff and a warm atmosphere. There are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, and you’re sure to feel at home when you stop in.

Located just steps away from the Basilica di Santa Maria, Er Pizzicarolo offers al fresco dining, refreshing cocktails, tasting platters with local cheese, cured meats, preserves, and of course the quintessential panini. This is the perfect spot to relax and people-watch before you continue exploring Rome’s historic center.  

Here’s a good list of restaurants to try throughout the Eternal City, with options ranging from vegan dishes to Italian comfort food. The list also includes the latest cutting-edge haute cuisine and microbreweries that have opened since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another neighbourhood to try is San Lorenzo, one of Rome’s student districts. This is a great place for cheap eats and bars.

One of San Lorenzo’s gems is Pizzeria Il Grano. Tucked away from the crowded tourist attractions, this restaurant specialises in made-from-scratch pizzas, veggie-based dishes, and beautiful desserts. There are plenty of amazing meat-based dishes as well. 

Looking for more restaurants to try while in Rome? The Telegraph’s guide to Rome restaurants will give you plenty of ideas. 

Authentic Italian pizza, Italy
Authentic Italian pizza

How Much Time Do You Need In Rome

Plan to spend at least three to four days in Rome to really soak it in. There are dozens of unique Rome experiences and they will be a lot more memorable when explored slowly, rather than simply stopping by and checking off your list. While it’s true that there are a lot of top sites in Rome, you don’t want to waste any of them.

You can also use Rome as a base to see other cities and attractions. For example, Naples or Pompeii, adding another two or three days to your stay.

Here’s a list of great day trips from Rome. The train network is easy to navigate in Italy. It offers good connections between Rome and other Italian cities and towns.

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In about an hour you can reach the town of Tivoli by train, which is home to the grand Villa d’Este, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The expansive villa offers beautiful gardens and fountains. Entry is $9 USD (€8). The villa is about a 15-minute walk from the Tivoli train station.

You can also visit the Tuscany region from Rome and enjoy a wine tour in the famous Chianti wine region, or wander the beautiful historic centres of Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi.

 

Have You Ever Been To Rome? What Tips And Advice Would You Give To First-Time Visitors To The Capital Of Italy?

 

About The Author: Lisa Owen is The Little Adventurer. She’s a passionate freelance writer, photographer, hiker and all-around outdoor lover with an insatiable thirst for adventure. You’ll most likely find her hitting the hiking trails, skydiving, chasing waterfalls or weaving her way through cobblestoned streets. She’s currently taking a break from public relations to follow her travel dreams. You can follow her current six-month trip around the world on Instagram.

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