Whether it’s your first, second, or seventh time visiting Rome, there’s plenty to do in Rome. Even locals are unlikely to have seen, visited, or eaten everything on this list. They say Rome is the Eternal City, but I can honestly say that even after spending every day of my life in a different museum or church and visiting all of the city’s stylish boutiques and delicious gelaterias, I still haven’t seen it all. I don’t think I can move around.
That’s the beauty of Rome. There is so much to do that it is impossible to do it all. Explore the city at your own pace and choose activities based on your interests, or choose all the top things to do in Rome based on sights. Whether you’re a gourmet, a history buff, or a self-proclaimed gelato expert (I think I’m starting to become one!), or you’re a shopaholic, a fan of Italian movies, or just plain looking. I don’t know. For a romantic weekend in Rome, there are countless things to do in Rome just for you!
So here are 50 of the best things to do in Rome to start you off with…
50 things to do in Rome
Let’s start with Rome’s top sights and landmarks
If you’re visiting Rome for the first time, you can’t miss these popular tourist attractions and famous landmarks of Rome.
The Colosseum is almost 2,000 years old, but in 2018, 7.4 million people visited, making it the world’s most popular tourist attraction. The largest amphitheater ever built, the Colosseum is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, an iconic symbol of the Roman Empire, and one of Rome’s finest landmarks. Basically, a must-see for anyone visiting Rome for the first time!
Travel Hack Tip: If you want to enjoy your visit even more, we highly recommend booking a tour of the Colosseum. I will post my recommended tours in Rome on another blog.
2. The Pantheon
Originally a temple before the Catholic religion took off (as fans of Angels and Demons will already know!), the Pantheon eventually became a church in the 7th century, making it the oldest Catholic church in Rome is known.
The Pantheon is famous for its round dome and opening in the middle of the roof, allowing water to flow through the center of the building when it rains!
3. Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain and one of the most famous in existence. There is a saying that he should throw three coins into the Trevi Fountain. The first guarantees a return to Rome, the second guarantees falling in love, and the third guarantees marriage. Approximately €1.5 million is raised each year and is now donated to Catholic Charities.
Travel Hack Tip: To avoid the crowds and see the fountains, you need to get there just before sunrise. In the summer, it’s still too late even if you go at 7am!
4. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
It’s surprising that the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are often listed as separate attractions, since they are part of the same complex and you only need one ticket to visit them both, this shows how important both individual locations are. The Roman Forum is an ancient square where many speeches, trials, and other government business took place during the Roman Empire.
The nearby Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills upon which Rome is said to be built, and over the years many palaces, temples, and residences of Roman emperors have been built there.
5. Castel Sant’Angelo
Across the Tiber River and the Ponte Umberto I is Castel Sant’Angelo. The castle was originally built in 134 AD as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family. The castle remains in relatively good condition, having been repurposed over the past 2,000 years as a military fortress, a castle, and now a museum.
Perfectly located between the Vatican and Rome, there’s so much to see that just taking in the view at the top is one of my favorite things to do in Rome.
6. Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
A trip to Rome automatically includes a trip to Vatican City, especially if it’s your first time there. The Vatican Museums are a collection of carefully selected Christian museums and art galleries in one complex, including the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s famous Last Judgment painted on the ceiling. The Vatican Museums is one of the largest museums in the world, so don’t stretch your legs to see it all.
7. St Peter’s Basilica
The world’s largest church, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City should be at the top of your list of things to see in Rome. It is one of the most important churches in the Catholic faith and is where the Pope makes the most public addresses and performs many sacred ceremonies. The dome also offers great views of the Vatican and Rome, but be aware that there are quite a few steps to the top!
Travel Hack Tip: Lines at the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica can be huge, and some visitors try to avoid them by booking in advance, but if you’re short on time. That would be good. However, if you haven’t booked in advance, go to the Vatican Museums in the morning and St. Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon. The lines for both museums are generally busier in the morning than in the afternoon, and at least for the Vatican Museums you can find a spot in the shade.
Museums, galleries and culture in Rome
Things to do in Rome to learn more about the city’s history
Can’t get enough of museums and galleries? Rome has around 100 museums, covering all kinds of subjects, from all-important historical art to archaeological sites, food and culture.
8. Galleria Borghese and Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese is a beautiful garden and the third largest park in Rome. There are many buildings and museums, the most famous being the Borghese Gallery. This museum exhibits paintings and sculptures by many famous Italian artists, including Bellini and Caravaggio.
9. MAXXI (National Museum of the 21st Century Arts)
It’s easy to focus on 2,000-year-old ruins and forget that Rome has so much new to offer, including the MAXXI Art Gallery. Housed in a proper contemporary building, MAXXI is the perfect place to see all things contemporary art, including workshops, conferences, performances and installations.
10. Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Personally, it’s one of my favorite things to do in Rome. The Keats-Shelly Memorial is dedicated to the British Romantic poet who spent much time in Rome, in particular John Keats, whose home the museum is now located in, and of course his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is a museum.
This modest museum recreates the house as it was in the early 19th century and features works by Keats, Shelley, Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde, and many other contemporary writers.
11. Capitoline Museums
Located on another of Rome’s famous seven hills, the Capitoline Museums are a group of art and archaeological museums. In 1471, the Pope donated a collection of bronze coins to the people of Rome, which were kept at this location on the Capitoline Hill.
This museum is believed to be the first art museum in the world, as art was usually kept in private collections and was never displayed to the public in this way.
12. Doria Pamphilj Gallery
One of the most well-located activities in Rome, the Doria Pamphili Gallery is another fascinating and important gallery in Rome. The gallery is located in the Doria Pamphili Palace and is still owned by the Doria Pamphili family, whose collection includes art and furniture.
13. National Museum of Pasta Foods
Even if you don’t usually like museums, this might give you a twist. Yes, Rome is home to the National Museum of Pasta Foods. It’s a cute little museum that won’t take up much of your time, where you can learn about the history of pasta, see art made from pasta, and even have a gift shop where you can buy.. you guessed it, pasta. Definitely a good one if you’re visiting Rome with kids.
14. National Roman Museum
If the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum don’t meet your requirements for Roman ruins, then you should visit the National Museum of Rome’s four ancient sites across the city. The museum exhibits the ruins themselves and artifacts from the Baths of Diocletian, Crypta Balbi, Palazzo Altemps, and Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.
15. Cinecittà Studio Tour and Museum
This is one of the must-see museums in Rome for movie buffs. A short metro ride south of Rome is Cinecittà, Europe’s largest film studio and museum. Here you can admire an exhibition dedicated to Italy’s most respected film director Federico his Fellini and tour the backlot (including ancient Rome and the set of the film Gangs of New York) with his guide on an informative tour.
Piazzas and neighbourhoods in Rome
Where to wander around Rome
You’ll probably spend a lot of time exploring Rome’s museums, galleries, and other activities. To get the most out of this walk, be sure to wander through some of the most beautiful little side streets and grand squares along the way.
16. Centro Storico
Centro Storico or “Historic Center” is the name given to the center of a city. In Rome, this is where visitors can find local cafes in tree-shaded cobblestone alleys and side streets, as well as luxurious palaces and stately museums.
Most of the popular things to do in Rome’s Centro Storico are on this list, but if you’re feeling a little lost and don’t know what to do next, this is the area for you. Just walking around the Centro Storico is one of the best things to do in Rome.
17. Piazza Navona
This square is one of the best (and quietest) in Rome. There are lots of small cafes and restaurants, but it’s also home to Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers.
18. Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia is a huge square located right next to the Roman Forum, and was once the location of the Embassy of the Republic of Verona in Rome. There is also a prominent statue of Vittorio Emanuele II just outside the building.
19. Piazza di Spagna
One of Rome’s most famous (and popular) squares, Piazza di Spagna is home to the Spanish Steps and Boat Fountain, and is one of the best places to refill your water bottle around Rome!
20. Piazza del Popolo
More urban and less atmospheric than Rome’s other squares, Piazza del Popolo is located in the north of the city, near Villa Borghese. Public executions were once held here, and the square’s proximity to the ancient Via Flaminia street made it one of the first sights of Rome for travelers.
If you want to get a taste of the local atmosphere of Rome, you need to cross the Tiber River to Trastevere. Trastevere has all the best restaurants and hangouts, making it the perfect base for your trip to Rome.
Churches in Rome
The most beautiful, ornate Roman Catholic churches
For me, I haven’t been to Italy without setting foot in at least one church, and I haven’t been to Rome without setting foot in at least 5 churches. Here are some of the best churches in Rome, but honestly, any church in Rome is usually hundreds of years old, ornate and incredibly beautiful!
22. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
This cathedral is one of the most visited churches in Rome, second only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, of course. He is one of the seven pilgrimage churches in the world where the famous architect Bernini is buried.
23. Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano
Interestingly, St. Peter’s Basilica is not a cathedral, so it is actually St. Giovanni Basilica, not the Roman Basilica. What’s even more interesting is that although this church is located in Rome, it technically belongs to the Vatican and has the same kind of privileges as an embassy.
24. San Pietro in Vincoli
This small cathedral for devout Catholics making pilgrimages to Rome does not look like much on the outside, but it is an important church in Rome. Here you will find one of Michelangelo’s most beloved statues of Moses, as well as the partial remains of Pope Julius II.
25. Basilica of San Clemente
The Cathedral of San Clemente is actually not one, but three entire churches built just under 1,000 years ago. These were actually built on the ruins of old churches dating back to the beginnings of the Christian religion.
26. The Mouth of Truth in the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
I’m not sure if the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin would be as popular if the “Mouth of Truth” statue hadn’t appeared in the classic movie “Roman Holiday” starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck . According to mythology, if you put your hand into the mouth of this large stone face and you lie, your hand will be eaten.
Where to eat Gelato in Rome
One of the best things to do in Rome, in my opinion…
You can’t go to Rome and not try some gelato! And these days, it’s super easy to find vegan options too, so everyone can enjoy delicious gelato in Rome!
27. Il Gelato di San Crispino
Many of Rome’s best gelaterias are a tedious distance from major landmarks. Luckily, Il Gelato di San Crispino is probably one of the best places to eat gelato, and it’s right near the Trevi Fountain. It is also famous for being featured in the book Eat Pray Love.
28. Old Bridge Gelateria
There are several Old Bridge gelaterias around Rome, but the most famous one is in Vatican City and may be the best gelato shop in the independent city-state. Plus, it’s in a great location, on the way from the Vatican Museums to St. Peter’s Basilica!
29. Gelateria del Teatro
One of Rome’s most prolific and beloved gelaterias. We have a wide selection of seasonal flavors, and you can see the kitchen from behind the counter, so you can see that our gelato is made on-site daily.
30. Il Gelatone Roma
Although not a 100% vegan gelateria, Il Gelatone Roma has more vegan gelato flavors than most other gelaterias. Note that gelato is made from milk, sugar, cream, and sometimes eggs, and the sign often just says “no milk”. The same goes for sorbet; not many people know that traditional sorbet recipes sometimes include egg whites. You may need to ask to make sure it’s 100% vegan, so keep that in mind!
31. Giolitti Gelateria
This gelateria is said to be the oldest in Rome. It’s a little more expensive than other gelaterias, but the portions are generous and they actually have tables and chairs outside.
32. Gelateria Fatamorgana
This gelateria in the Trastevere district also caters to vegan diets and offers a wider variety of gelato flavors than most traditional gelato shops in other parts of Rome.
Where to eat and drink in Rome
Drink espresso, eat pasta and do as the Romans do!
Italian food is everyone’s favorite dish, right? Pizza, pasta, coffee… they are all crowd favorites and you must try all the best of Italy while in Rome.
33. Drink Espresso at Tazza d’Oro or Caffè Sant’Eustachio
Many Italians start their day with an espresso at a local cafe. These two cafes are the best in the city and are practically rivals. Try each cafe and see which one you prefer!
34. Buy local produce at Campo de’ Fiori Market
Even if you’re not staying in an apartment in Rome and can’t cook with the fresh fish and local produce sold at this market, it’s definitely worth a visit. There are also bags of locally made dried pasta available to take home.
35. Eat pasta at La Tavernaccia da Bruno
Like most of Rome’s most popular restaurants, La Tavernaccia da Bruno is located in the Trastevere district and is a great restaurant serving local Roman cuisine, which is not as sophisticated as in northern Italy. Truly delicious local home cooking!
36. Partake in Apertivo at SALOTTO 42
Apertivo (an aperitif with snacks) is a northern Italian tradition that is very original and spread throughout Italy. One of the best bars in Rome for an aperitif is Salotto 42. Light snacks are provided. Although it is located very close to the Pantheon, it is not very crowded at this time of the night.
37. Drink cocktails at Black Market Hall
Cocktails in Rome usually mean something modern, trendy, and a little hipster. That’s definitely the case with his Black Market Hall, one of the coolest cocktail bars in Rome.
38. Eat pizza at Ivo a Trastevere
Another restaurant in the Trastevere area. This restaurant is one of the best pizzerias in Rome serving traditional Neapolitan style pizza.
39. Drink beer at Open Baladin
Not even Rome is immune from Europe’s craft beer boom. Although Open Baladin is a little outside of the center of Rome, it has one of the largest selections of imported and local Italian beers.
40. Eat more pasta on a budget at Pastificio Guerra
If you want to enjoy the best pasta on a budget, one of the best things to do in Rome is to do it. Pastificio Guerra sells fresh pasta to take away, and as you can imagine, it’s very popular, so be prepared to wait!
If you’re looking for more restaurants, check out our post on the 5 best places for brunch in Rome.
10 essential tips for traveling to Rome: A must-read for first-time visitors
Read more about travel hacks
Other fantastic things to do in Rome
The best shopping, viewpoints and other things to do in Rome
This is the best of the rest of the great activities to do in Rome. There are several viewpoints, some shopping spots, and some surprises!
42. Galleria Alberto Sordi
It’s essentially a shopping mall, but because it’s in Rome, it has a roof and was built in the Art Deco style in the early 1900s. If you like overseas shopping, this is a place you can’t miss!
43. Aventine Hill
Another of Rome’s seven hills (I believe this is only number 4 on this list!), it is a great viewpoint overlooking Rome. You may have seen “Aventino Keyhole” on Instagram. There, St. Peter’s Basilica rises up from among the trees on the hill.
44. Mercato Monti Urban Market
Like Galleria Alberto Sordi, you’ll also find high-end vintage accessories and jewelry at Mercato Monti Urban Market. While from the outside it may look like an all-time favorite hodgepodge sale, the small businesses inside are all selling fairly high-end items in the €100-€150 range.
45. Pincio Hill
This is technically the hill on which Villa Borghese is located, but it is worth mentioning in its own right as a place with great views of Rome. It’s the perfect place to sit on a bench and read a book, with stunning rooftop views of Rome in front of you.
Travel Hack Tip: This is the perfect place to watch the sun set over Rome. We have another blog post with all the best places to watch the sunset in Rome.
46. Street Art in Ostiense
Just south of the Aventine Hill is the Ostiense district. Although Ostiense doesn’t have many activities for tourists, Ostiense’s street art culture has really taken off recently and is a must-see for any street art fan visiting Rome. The mural runs through the entire building and goes on and on!
47. Largo di Torre Argentina
This is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Rome. Plaza de Torre Argentina is the ruins of the Theater of Pompey and where Julius Caesar is believed to have been murdered. This site was excavated in 1929, and soon stray cats from the city of Rome descended on this site and claimed it as their own. Today, this ruins has a cat sanctuary where you can visit the cats!
48. Ancient Appian Way
Did you think there’s no place to go hiking in a huge city like Rome? Well, the Via Appia is a 2,000-year-old pilgrimage route that runs from Rome to Brindisi in southeastern Italy. This route is very well preserved and allows you to walk or cycle along part of the road closest to Rome.
49. Domus Aurea
I predict that in a few decades this will be one of the most popular ancient Roman ruins to visit in Rome. In the 1st century, Domus Aurea was a huge palace built by Emperor Nero in 64 AD. This luxurious palace was said to be a disgrace to Nero’s successors and was rebuilt, stripped of its marble and jewels and completely filled with earth.
The palace is still being painstakingly excavated, and what has been discovered is interesting. Domus Aurea is only open on weekends and requires advance reservations.
50. Be a Roman Gladiator for a day
Did you watch Russell Crowe’s “Gladiator” and think it would be really cool to be a gladiator yourself? During your stay in Rome, enroll in the Roman Gladiator School and not only learn how to fight with a sword, but also learn how to fight in real life. Learn more about gladiators and their daily lives. At the end of the session you will be given a certificate and a gladiator name. Perfect for both kids and big kids.
These are 50 great things to do in Rome! How many things have you ticked off your Rome bucket list?
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About travel hacks
If you’re ready to pack your bags for Rome, be sure to read our packing guide for fall travel – what’s the weather like in Rome in October, and what should you bring?
If all this information is feeling a little overwhelming, here are some simple travel hacks to make planning your trip to Rome a breeze. Select some of the things you want to see from this list and add them to Google Maps. Make sure you have the app installed on your phone and you can pinpoint all the places you want to go on a map. For a guide on how to do this, see How to actually use Google Maps while traveling.