Last Updated on October 19, 2021 by

For those who are heading to Italy this summer, here’s a list of the best things to do in Rome by Chinese-Italian local, Jiayi Wang from The Diary of a Nomad.

Steeped in history and culture, the Eternal City of Rome is one of the most magnificent dream travel destinations in the world. The historical city is power packed with so many ancient monuments and breathtaking attractions, that you’ll need to stay in Rome for 3 days at the very least in order to get a good grasp of what it has to offer.

With so much to do and see in this city, here are the absolute top things to do in Rome — experiences that you can’t miss on a first-time visit to the Eternal City.

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13 Top Things to do in Rome

1. Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi is one of the most iconic attractions in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Built by architects Salvi and Pannini, it stands 86 ft high and is simply a marvel to look at. After taking photos, be sure to toss a coin or two into the fountain.

There’s a legend that says if you toss one coin into the fountain, you will return to Rome. If you toss 2 coins, you will come back and fall in love in Rome. If you toss 3 coins, you’ll end up marrying that person in Rome.

Whether or not you believe in this legend, all the coins in the fountain get collected at the end of the month and donated to charities, so it’s for a great cause!

fontana di trevi - trevi fountain - things to do rome italy

2. Wander Around the Majestic Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of the most famous landmarks in Italy and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s no wonder why, as it was the largest amphitheatre of the Ancient Roman Empire and hosted gladiator games for over 500 years. After many earthquakes and bombings, only a part of it stands today.

Visiting the Colosseum can easily take half a day, and it can get crowded so we recommend booking priority tickets online to avoid waiting in line for hours. You can also join a guided tour to get exclusive access to more interesting parts of the Colosseum.

13 Incredible Things to do in Rome, Italy

 

3. Explore the Fascinating Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Right next to the Colosseum lies another marvelous remnant of Ancient Rome: the Roman Forum, which used to be the political hub of the ancient Roman Empire. The ruins you’ll see there today represent what used to be temples and monuments back in the days, when citizens would gather around the area for social and religious activities.

Don’t miss the Palatine Hill right next to the Roman Forum either. From there, you can get a really stunning view of the Colosseum! A regular entry ticket to the Colosseum includes entrance to both the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, so it would be a shame to not stop by.

foro romano - best places to visit in rome italy

4. Walk Up the Gorgeous Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps is one of the most scenic places in Rome, and the view only gets better once you start climbing them. There are 175 steps to climb up, and you can do so at a leisurely pace, while admiring the vistas from above. Please note that sitting on the stairs is no longer allowed as of 2019 and might incur a fine.

As you climb up the stairs, there are two terraces you can stop at to enjoy the views. The first one gives you a pretty cool view of the shopping street, Via dei Condotti!

spanish steps rome - top sights in rome

5. Visit the St. Peter’s Basilica & Dome

No trip to Rome would be complete without a stop at the stunning Vatican City, located right at the heart of Rome. This tiny country is home to the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, and once you’re inside, you can find plenty of stunning frescoes and statues. 

Don’t forget to climb up to the dome of the basilica during your visit. There are 550 steps to climb, and while it might be exhausting, you can also do half of it with an elevator if you wish. The view from the top is absolutely marvelous; you’ll get to see pretty much the entire city of Rome!

vatican city - must see in rome italy

6. Explore the Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel

Do not visit the Vatican without seeing the Vatican Museums, home to some of the most unique art in the world. Inside the complex, there are numerous rooms and galleries to check out, especially the Raphael Rooms and the Gallery of Maps.

The highlight of the Vatican Museums, though, is the Sistine Chapel. This Michelangelo masterpiece took four years to complete and is an unbelievable sight. The fresco-covered ceiling is absolutely marvelous, and definitely worth all the hype.

When visiting the Vatican Museums, remember to wear clothes that cover your shoulders, thighs, and necklines. This dress code is obligatory for both men and women before entering the museums!

inside the vatican museum - rome travel blog

7. Marvel at the Magnificent Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the oldest monuments in Rome and dates all the way back to 126 – 128 AD. One of the best things to see in Rome, the Pantheon is extremely well-preserved and a true time capsule into the past.

Walking inside, you’ll find an open-air dome which you can stand underneath for a cool photo. You can also visit some of the tombs inside the building. In fact, the Pantheon is the burial place for many famous Italian people, such as artist Raphael and Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy.

patheon - rome italy things to do

8. Take a Stroll in Piazza Navona

Next to the Pantheon lies another marvelous attraction — Piazza Navona, one of the most stunning squares in Rome. This square is home to a lot of artists and performers, so the atmosphere is perfect, especially if you’re visiting Rome with kids. 

You can take a stroll past the several gorgeous fountains in the square, grab a gelato, relax on a bench, or have your portrait drawn by one of the many talented artists around. It’s a great place to simply unwind and take a break from all the walking around.

what to do in rome italy - fountain at piazza navona

9. Have a Picnic in Villa Borghese and See the Galleria Borghese

While Rome is filled with ancient monuments, there’s also a gigantic green space right in the heart of the city. Villa Borghese is a big park complete with a lake, a gallery, and tons of spacious green fields. It is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and relax in nature.

Be sure to walk to the lake inside the park, and to visit the Galleria Borghese, which features tons of masterpieces by painters like Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Raphael. If you’re into art history, you’ll especially love all the frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures laying around.

galleria borghese - best in rome

10. Admire the Beautiful Altare della Patria

Another incredibly beautiful place to see in Rome is the Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia. This monument is super eye-catching and was inaugurated in 1911 as a tribute to the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. Its striking white marbled facade is very photogenic, but that’s not all there is to it.

You can climb up to the terrace of this monument to get a pretty cool view of the rooftops of the historic center. Be sure to also walk around Piazza Venezia to get different perspectives of this building — it’s truly spectacular!

altare della patria - top things to do in rome

11. Photograph the Picturesque Castel Sant’Angelo

Not too far from the Vatican lies a magnificent castle that’ll make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Castel Sant’Angelo is situated at the end of a picturesque bridge, and if you stand on the bridge, you’ll get a stunning viewpoint and photo spot. 

The admission fee into the castle is quite expensive and to be honest, not really worth the price. However, the castle is totally worth seeing from the outside. Take a stroll down the riverbank afterwards to see it from different angles, too!

castel d'angelo - rome sightseeing

12. Dine in the Trastevere neighborhood

For a taste of some authentic Italian food, head over to the neighborhood of Trastevere, known as the foodie district of Rome. Check out this list of best dishes to try in Italy.

In Trastevere, you’ll find plenty of great restaurants offering authentic local dishes. Some of the must-try places are Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 and Trapizzino. During your time in Trastevere, be sure to also stop by the stunning Piazza di Santa Maria, where you can sit down and unwind to a gorgeous view.

italian trattoria in rome - rome things to do

13. Take a Relaxing Evening Stroll in the Historic Center

After seeing all the most incredible attractions in Rome, don’t forget to revisit many of them at night, when monuments are gloriously lit up and the atmosphere is a lot calmer. In fact, taking an evening stroll in Rome is definitely one of the must-do activities in town. You’ll see a lot fewer tourists and will be able to see a different side of Rome.

Be sure to stop by the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps especially. These spots will look completely different than during the day, and you’ll be able to get better photos without the crowds as well! 

best things to do in rome italy - night stroll in rome


Rome Travel Guide

How to Get to Rome

Getting to Rome is very simple. Almost every international airport from big cities around the world offers flights to Rome’s Fiumicino airport (AKA Leonardo da Vinci International Airport). In fact, you can fly directly to Rome from cities like NYC, Shanghai, Dubai, and Rio de Janeiro. 

There are cheap flights from New York to Rome for just $400 return at the moment. Flights from Los Angeles to Rome are under $500 return. If you’re in Europe, budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair offer airfares as low as $50 return. 

Search for Flights to Rome

how to get around rome italy


How to Get Around Rome

Rome is a very walkable city, and you can reach most of its tourist attractions by foot. Walking is also the best way to explore Rome because every corner of the historic center is photogenic and beautiful. You can definitely get to know the city a lot more this way. 

If you’d rather take public transport, though, there are definitely some options too. The Metro is the best way to get around central Rome if you don’t enjoy walking. Most of the tourist attractions have Metro stations close by. Just be very careful of your belongings while riding the Metro because pickpockets thrive there!

Alternatively, you can also take buses to get around, but this is less recommended because the traffic situation in Rome is pretty terrible, and buses are usually not punctual either. This is definitely a more time-consuming option than taking the Metro.

how to get around rome italy


Where to Stay in Rome

The best neighborhood to stay in Rome is the centro storico (historic center). This is where almost all the famous attractions are, so you’ll be within walking distance of them, which is super convenient. 

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stay somewhere less touristy, look for some hotels or Airbnbs in Trastevere. Staying next to the Vatican is also a great idea if you plan to get there early to avoid the long lines.

Luxury: Hotel Martis Palace – Located right in the historic center, this hotel has a gorgeous sun terrace with a breathtaking view of Ancient Rome.

Mid Range: Vaticano Julia Luxury Rooms – This hotel offers great breakfast, clean rooms, and a location that’s right next to the Vatican. Though the rooms are luxurious, they’re very reasonably priced and not too expensive.

Budget: Roma Central Guest House – Though it’s not exactly in the historic center, this hotel is within walking distance of most attractions in Rome and offers stunningly clean rooms at very good prices. 

hotel martis palace rome italy - best places to visit in rome


Where to Eat in Rome

  • Cantina & Cucina: This restaurant is right next to the stunning Piazza Navona and offers delicious local pasta and pizza. Be sure to try their polpette too!
  • Dar Poeta: This pizza joint in Trastevere offers various topping choices. Their pizza is incredibly tasty, and they have yummy dessert as well!
  • Nannarella: This authentic restaurant in Trastevere offers scrumptious pasta (be sure to try their cacio e pepe) as well as delicious tiramisu!
  • Mimì e Coco: This is another great place to taste some authentic Roman cuisine. They’re located right in the historic center and have an atmospheric outdoor dining area.

where to eat in rome italy


About the Author: Jiayi Wang

Jiayi Wang is the writer and photographer behind The Diary of a Nomad, a travel and photography blog with a special love for less visited destinations. Having been raised in Italy since she was six years old, Jiayi calls Rome home.


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