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  27 Best Things to Do in Rome

Rome, Italy

by Coco Tran On September 8, 2023

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Looking to experience the best things to do in Rome Italy? As one of the world’s most captivating cities, Rome offers endless opportunities for exploration. If you’re wondering what to see in Rome or some of the best things to do in Rome. I’ve got the perfect 20 things to see in Rome and the best Rome attractions to check out.

This Eternal City brims with history, culture, art, architecture, food and romance around every corner. Wander the Colosseum’s ancient corridors, toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, feast on perfect pasta and gelato, and discover masterpieces of art and architecture. With so many iconic attractions, it can be hard to decide what to prioritize for your Roman Holiday.

Use this complete city guide to plan the perfect itinerary, navigating must-see sights like the Roman Forum, Sistine Chapel, Spanish Steps and more hidden gems.

So,  what are the top things to do in the Eternal City? With thousands of years of history and culture, narrowing it down can be overwhelming.

I’ve put together this listicle of my top 20 recommendations to make the most of your visit. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, this has something for everyone. Ready to dive into la dolce vita romana? Here we go!

To start, no trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Colosseum, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

27 Best things to do in Rome italy

1. Marvel at the Colosseum

No trip to Rome is complete without a stop at its most iconic landmark. Dating back to 80 AD, this massive stone amphitheater was the largest of its kind and could hold up to 80,000 spectators.

Wander the must see in Rome ancient halls and passageways as you imagine the grand spectacles and games that took place here. For skip-the-line tickets, book a guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

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Walking around the interior, you can imagine what it was like when it was full of cheering Romans.

Don’t miss the upper levels and underground tunnels for a behind-the-scenes look. Nearby is the Roman Forum, the political and commercial heart of ancient Rome. Wandering through the temple and basilica ruins really makes the history come alive.

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2. Soak in the History at the Roman Forum

Connected to the Colosseum is the sprawling Roman Forum, an ancient plaza filled with ruins of temples, government buildings and more.

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Walking through the Forum is like stepping back in time thousands of years. Stand on the stones where figures like Julius Caesar and Cicero once stood and be transported into the center of the Roman world. 

3. Indulge in Gelato

Does it get more Italian than enjoying a cup (or cone!) of creamy, mouthwatering gelato? Rome offers some of the world’s best gelato shops, so be sure to sample the unique flavors. My favorites include Fatamorgana, Otaleg and Gelateria del Teatro. Grab a scoop (or two) and stroll through the piazzas of Rome.

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4. Explore Vatican City

The walled enclave of Vatican City contains some of Rome’s most popular sites. Towering over everything is St. Peter’s Basilica, the epicenter of the Roman Catholic faith.

Don’t miss Michelangelo’s masterpiece painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Vatican Museums house other highlights like the Raphael Rooms. Book a Vatican highlights tour to maximize your time. 

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5. People Watch at the Spanish Steps

Rising above Piazza di Spagna are the elegant Spanish Steps, a great spot to soak in the Roman atmosphere. Visitors and locals alike gather on the steps for a gelato break or to simply watch the world go by. The area also offers high-end shopping at stores like Prada and Cartier in the nearby streets. 

6. Make a Wish at Trevi Fountain

No visit to Rome is complete without a coin tossed backwards over your shoulder into Trevi Fountain, to ensure you’ll return to the Eternal City again. As a must see in Rome, the Baroque masterpiece is believed to be fed by an aqueduct built in 19 BC.

Be sure to admire the details like Oceanus’ chariot and the Tritons.  Make sure to toss a coin in over your shoulder – legend says it will ensure you’ll return to Rome one day!

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7. Tour the Pantheon

One of Rome’s best preserved ancient buildings is the Pantheon, built as a temple to the gods in 126 AD. The enormous domed rotunda has an oculus at the top that creates a stream of natural light.

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Don’t miss the tombs of famous Italians like the artist Raphael located inside. The domed rotunda is an architectural marvel, and the oculus in the center is a highlight when the sun streams in.  Art lovers will also want to spend time at Galleria Doria Pamphilj, which houses an excellent collection of works by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael in a luxurious setting.

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8. Stroll through Piazza Navona

Lined with restaurants and cafes, this lively public square contains three lavish fountains, including Bernini’s sensational Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Street artists and musicians entertain crowds of people taking a break in the piazza. Grab a cappuccino and soak up the ambiance. 

Just a short walk away is the Piazza Navona, a lively Baroque square lined with restaurants and street performers. The Three Fountains in the center are stunning, and art lovers can see the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.

9. Explore Neighborhoods like Trastevere

For a taste of local Roman life, wander through charming districts like Trastevere. Cobbled lanes are lined with trattorias, bars and artisan shops, all buzzing with activity. Sample some supplí (fried rice balls) or pasta carbonara from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

see my list of must eat restaurants in Trastevere

This is the Rome the locals love. Stop at the Basilica di Santa Maria for its golden mosaics, or just grab a gelato and do some people watching in Piazza di Santa Maria.

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10. Tour the Villa Borghese Gallery & Garden

Housed in a beautiful 17th century villa, the Galleria Borghese displays an astonishing art collection.

Marvel at masterpieces like Bernini’s David and Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte. Beyond the classics and Renaissance art, they have a great collection of paintings by Caravaggio. Rent a pedal boat and relax on the small lake. Just make sure to book [timed entry tickets]( in advance to skip the lines. 

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11. Take in the View from Il Vittoriano

Rising above Piazza Venezia is this monument to Italian unification, nicknamed the “Wedding Cake” for its white marble. Take the elevator up to the top terrace for panoramic vistas over Rome’s rooftops, including the dome of St. Peter’s in the distance. Breathtaking!

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12. Visit the Capitoline Museums

Overlooking the Roman Forum are Renaissance palaces housing these museums focused on ancient Roman art. Sculptures like the iconic Dying Gaul and Capitoline Wolf are must-sees. And don’t miss the view of the Forum and Colosseum from the Tabularium. 

13. Explore the Catacombs

For an eerie adventure, venture into Rome’s underground catacombs where early Christians buried their dead.

The haunting tunnels give a glimpse into ancient Roman funerary practices. Popular sites to visit include the Catacombs of San Callisto and Domitilla. Join a [catacombs tour]( for skip-the-line access. 

14. Tour the Domus Aurea

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Recently opened to the public are the excavated remains of Emperor Nero’s sprawling “Golden Palace” that once covered parts of the Palatine, Esquiline and Caelian hills. The ancient ruins feature elaborate frescoes and a massive statue of Nero. Book [ahead of time]( for access to this fascinating site.  

15. Stroll through Villa Borghese Gardens

Rome’s Central Park, these beautiful green gardens provide the perfect escape from the city bustle. Rent a bike or pedal boat, admire sculptures and architecture, or just relax under the shady pine trees. Ahhh! 

16. See Caravaggio Paintings

Baroque painter Caravaggio was a rebel who pioneered dramatic lighting techniques. See prime examples of his work at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi and museums like the Borghese and Doria Pamphilj. The stunning realism will blow you away.

17. Explore Ostia Antica

For a trip back to ancient Rome, take a train 30 minutes south to the exceptionally well-preserved ruins of Ostia Antica. Wander the streets, see ancient frescoes and mosaics, and tour an old Roman bath complex at this off-the-beaten-path site. 

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18. Take in the Views from Gianicolo Hill

Rising above Trastevere is Gianicolo Hill, offering panoramic views over Rome.

The walk up is lined with statues and fountains. At the top you’ll find the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola. Continuing to Piazzale Garibaldi reveals the ultimate overlook of St. Peter’s dome and more. 

19. Sample Roman Street Food

Instead of just restaurant dining, experience quick bites and snacks from Roman street food vendors and kiosks.

Savor pizza al taglio (rectangle pizza by the slice), supplì, roasted chestnuts and more. The stalls around Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori are top spots to try. Book this awesome tour that combines a golf cart tour + food tour of rome!

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20. Climb the Cupola of the Basilica di San Pietro in Vatican City

No visit to the Vatican is complete without climbing to the top of St. Peter’s iconic dome, the tallest in Rome. Designed by Michelangelo, the dome soars 440 feet over St. Peter’s Square, providing jaw-dropping panoramic views over Vatican City and central Rome.

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You can take the stairs or elevator for an additional fee up to the small space between the outer and inner domes called the cupola. From here, you can gaze out over the impressive piazza and get a close look at the colorful mosaics that line the interior of the dome.

The climb is steep and narrow in parts with over 500 steps, so be prepared for close quarters and a bit of claustrophobia! But emerging at the top is well worth it for the sweeping vistas. Go early in the day for the best views and fewer crowds. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Rome from above!

21. Day Trip to Pompeii

While not actually in Rome, no Roman holiday is complete without a day trip south to the ruins of Pompeii. Frozen in time by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this archaeological site is incredible.

Wander the preserved streets to see intact homes, shops, temples and even human remains. A glimpse into the daily life of ancient Romans. Can book from Rome.

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22. Indulge in Local Treats at Rome’s Liveliest Morning Market

No matter what part of Rome you’re in,prepare to do a lot of walking!Wear comfy shoes and be ready to navigate the winding cobblestone alleyways. I’d recommend a guided walking tour on your first day to get oriented and introduced to the city’s highlights and hidden gems.

23.  Visit the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II

No trip to Rome is complete without seeing the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, also known as the Altar of the Fatherland.

This magnificent white marble monument dominates Piazza Venezia with its grand neoclassical façade and statues honoring the first king of unified Italy. Climb the steps to the top for sweeping panoramas over the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and city center. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies at the base of the altar.

The flame is guarded 24/7 by soldiers in elaborate uniforms representing different branches of the armed forces. Seeing the changing of the guard ceremony at the monument is an iconic Roman experience. Don’t miss this imposing tribute to Italian unification!

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24. Stroll Across the Ponte Sant’Angelo

One of Rome’s most beautiful bridges, the Ponte Sant’Angelo spans the Tiber River, connecting the historic center to the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Completed in 134 AD, this pedestrian bridge features ten angel statues designed by Bernini lining the sides. The angels represent the Passion of Christ and provide a mesmerizing sight as you cross the bridge.

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On the south end, stroll through one of the most charming neighborhoods in Rome, the medieval Jewish Ghetto. Taking in the view of the bridge along the riverside walkway is especially atmospheric at night when the statues are illuminated. Crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo makes for a romantic walk between Vatican City and the historic center!

25. Stroll Down the Ancient Appian Way

For an escape from the bustling city, take a walk down the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road that once connected Rome to Brindisi in southeast Italy.

Stretching for 360 km, this strategic military and economic artery is lined with crumbling monuments, impressive tombs, and Roman villas. Walk a couple miles down the old stone road past historical sites like the Circus of Maxentius, Tomb of Cecilia Metella, and the Catacombs.

Wandering this legendary ancient highway lets you see a quieter side of Rome filled with ruins and greenery. Rent bikes to travel further down the Appian Way and avoid the uneven cobblestones. Don’t miss this opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, merchants and emperors!

26. Climb Palatine Hill

For an immersion into ancient Roman history, visit Palatine Hill, the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and the mythical site where Romulus and Remus were said to have been discovered.

As the oldest occupied site in Rome dating back to the 8th century BC, the Palatine was home to ancient Roman emperors and aristocrats with the Imperial Palace complex and the House of Augustus still standing in ruins. Walking amongst these ruins, you’ll also find temples, basilicas, and stadiums.

Don’t miss the Farnese Gardens perched atop the hill for panoramic views over the Roman Forum. Wear sturdy shoes to climb and explore this archaeological gem for insights into Rome’s majestic imperial past.

27. Take A Golf Cart Tour of Rome

For a fun and unique way to explore Rome’s top sights, embark on a guided golf cart tour! Companies like City Wonders offer small-group tours in comfortable, street-legal golf carts that can nip through Rome’s narrow streets and whisk you between major attractions. With an expert guide doing the driving, you can learn about the history and highlights while riding through places like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and more. The small carts mean you can get up close to sites without walking. Tours run both day and night, allowing you to see Rome’s monuments illuminated. It’s a quirky, laid-back way to discover the Eternal City’s iconic sights!

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When hunger strikes, be sure to try Rome’s fabulous cuisine! Stop at an authentic trattoria for mouthwatering pasta carbonara, cacio e pepe, and amatriciana. Grab a slice of perfect, thin-crust pizza al taglio, or atrapizzino – a pizza sandwich stuffed with fillings like meatballs or eggplant.

And you must sample the divine gelato, with unique Roman flavors like rose or rice. My favorite spots are Fatamorgana and Gelateria del Teatro.

Rome is an incredible city, but with so much to see it can be overwhelming! My best advice is not to overschedule yourself, and leave room to wander and discover. Alternate busy sightseeing days with time to simply sit in a piazza with a glass of wine and plate of pasta, and soak up la dolce vita.

Use this guide to help plan your perfect trip, then embrace the magic of the Eternal City. Let me know if you need any other suggestions – I hope you have a wonderful time in one of my favorite cities in the world!

Here are some additional tips for visiting Rome:

– Buy skip-the-line tickets for big attractions like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums to bypass the long queues

  • Wear comfortable shoes for walking on cobblestones. Leave the heels at home!
  • Head to major sights early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid peak crowds
  • Take the metro to get between major sites quickly – buy a 1-3 day pass 
  • Always validate your metro and bus tickets or risk steep fines
  • Carry a water bottle – drinking fountains are rare and bottled water pricey
  • Try cappuccino and cornetti (Italian croissants) for breakfast
  • Eat pizza al taglio (by the slice) on the go or a long lunch at a trattoria
  • End your evenings strolling with gelato in hand – it’s the Italian way!
  • When in doubt, stop at a piazza and people watch with a prosecco or aperol spritz
  • Don’t just see the big attractions, wander Rome’s charming neighborhoods too
  • Look up – some of Rome’s most amazing sites are on the ceilings!
  • Make reservations for restaurants or risk no availability 
  • Bring cash for cabs, snacks, etc since many spots are cash only
  • Learn a few handy Italian phrases – locals appreciate the effort 
  • leave room in your itinerary for spontaneity & wandering – embrace la dolce vita!

So there you have it – my top recommendations for savoring the most of your Rome visit! Whether you’re spending a few days or a few weeks in the Eternal City, this list has iconic sights along with some hidden gems. Let Rome’s thousands of years of history, culture, art and cuisine sweep you away.

Just beware – like so many visitors before you, the charms of Roma may capture your heart and have you dreaming of your next trip before you’ve even left. Enjoy la dolce vita!

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