Colosseum in Rome

The Best 15 Things to do in Rome with Important Travel Tips & Guides

I visited Rome back in 2016. It was during the chilly Winter season, yet the sun shone brightly on our faces. You can see the rays of the sun, peaking from behind columns standing centuries of years old . I’ve a fascination for ancient structures and how they survived the time of both human and natural brutal forces. This is a guide that lists the top 15 things to do in Rome for first-time travellers, inclusive of important travel tips you must know before planning a trip there.

About Rome, Italy

Rome is the capital city of Italy. There are so many things to do in Rome. Yearly, millions of travellers come to admire the triumph of roman art and architecture. Founded back in 753BC by King Romulus, Rome is said to be one of the oldest inhabited areas in Europe. Due to its long ancient history, Rome’s city centre is similar to a big open-air museum with ancient structures scattered all over the city area. It is also listed as an UNESCO Heritage site.

Located within Rome’s city centre lies the world’s smallest independent country – the seat of Roman Catholic Church – The Vatican City.

How to use the Public Transport in Rome, Italy

The public transportation system in Rome is integrated. This means that purchasing a ticket will give you access on all forms of transportation – inclusive of buses, trams, trains and metro.

It only excludes the following transportations:
– The Leonardo Express Train (that runs between Fiumicino Airport and Termini Station)
– Any airport bus or trains from the airports
– Trains between between Rome City and the cruise port, Civitavecchia
– Sightseeing buses

Tickets can be easily purchased at kiosks located in metro stations or at any newstands or tobacconists. Ticket machines are also available in different languages so you should not have any difficulty navigating around it.

Types of Tickets:

1. Public Transport Tickets
As a tourist, you can choose to purchase either a single ticket (100 minutes) or a 24, 48, 72-hour ticket or a 7-days travel pass. Prices follow respectively: € 1.50/€ 7.00/€ 12.50/€ 18.00/€ 24.00. You must stamp your ticket at the machine before you board any form of public transportation in Rome.

2. Sightseeing Bus Tickets
Alternatively, if you prefer to have a guide tell you about the various attractions in Rome, opt for a Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour (€ 22.00). It will bring you to the must-visit places in Rome and you will not have to hassle about finding your way around.

3. Roma Pass
Getting a Roma Pass (€ 32.00) is another popular option for tourists. This is the only pass that is inclusive of airport transfers in addition to unlimited public transportation within Rome city. Ticket options are either 48- or 72- hours. Furthermore, you will also get free admission into up to two listed attractions of your choice. Note that the Vatican Museums are not in the list of participating attractions.

4. OMINIA Vatican & Rome Card
As mentioned earlier, the OMINIA Vatican & Rome Card (€ 130.00) is an all-in-one tourist travel card in Rome. It gives you fast-track access to over 30 attractions, unlimited public transportation and use of the sightseeing bus in Rome.

Where to stay in Rome, Italy?

As with almost any place you visit, the rule of thumb is to book a place close to a metro station. The next rule of thumb is probably to try to stay as close to the city center as possible or wherever the attractions are at.

Here is a list of the best (& affordable) places to stay in Rome next to major attractions:

The Colosseum: Soggiorno Downtown and B&B Room To Rome are fantastic places to stay at. Prices are less than $100 per night and they are located within close proximity to the famous Colosseum and other ancient roman attractions.

Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps: Trevi Fountain Guest House and Hotel Cosmopolita are great choices if you want to stay closer to Rome’s modern attractions. You should stay near the Trevi Fountain if you want to take undisrupted pictures with it in the morning. It gets massively packed with crowds from 10am onwards.

Vatican City: If you love museums and would like to allocate more than a day touring Vatican city, you can opt to stay at either Le Fornaci or Dejavu Room. These are highly-rated accommodations that are located close to Vatican City at low prices.

The Best 15 Things to do in Rome, Italy

There are so many things to do in Rome. I have gethered this list for people who are first-time travellers to the city. These are the things to do in Rome that all travellers will need in order to fully experience its wonders.

It is recommend for you to purchase the OMNIA Vatican and Rome Card (€ 130.00) to save money on your travels. It is a 72-hour ticket that gives you fast-track access into over 30 attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Vatican Museums. It also comes with unlimited use of public transportation and use of the sightseeing bus in Rome.

The map shows the location of the 15 Things to do in Rome, indicated by a pink camera icon. Zoom in to the map to have a better feel and idea of where the 15 attractions are located.

1. Colosseum

At the highest of the list of things to do in Rome, it is none other than visiting the ancient Colosseum. It is the number 1 attraction in Rome and certainly an attraction no tourist would miss.

A short history of the Colosseum

The history of the Colosseum began back in 72AD. Over 12,000 jewish captives were brought to built Rome’s largest amphitheatre, where they worked in extreme harsh conditions. It was the tallest ancient roman building ever constructed and soon came to symbolise the power and advanced engineering skills of ancient Rome. Animals and captives from faraway lands were brought to the centre of the Colosseum for entertainment. purposes. What went on within the Colosseum was brutal. Up to 5000 animals were slaughtered in a single day, and thousands of prisoners and gladiators left as corpses.

Visiting the Colosseum

The least crowded time to visit the colosseum at 8.30am. There is no entrance fee on the first Sunday of each month, but I’d recommend you just pay to go on another day to avoid the crazy crowds.

The Colosseum entrance ticket costs €12.50 and it includes entry to visit Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. It is advised to purchase your tickets online in advance to escape queuing at the ticket office. Alternatively, you can also pre-book a guided tour if you’d rather someone to bring you around.
Note that tickets to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are usually sold together.
Opening hours for the Colosseum can be found here.

2. Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was where the first Romans met and gathered, in the dale between the eminent seven hills of Rome. It was densely built up with a rich mixture of buildings with different functions, histories, associations and mythologies clustered around its sides.

Roman Forum

There are important structures and monuments you should visit around the Roman Forum. Namely, they are the Curia (the senate house), the Temple of Antoninus Pius, the Temple of Castor and Pollux the Temple of Saturn the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Vesta, the House of the Vestals and the Arch of Titus.

3. Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill can be found adjacent to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It stood as the aristocracy in the monarchy through the republican times and into the imperial era.

Views from Palatine Hill

Some of the most famous architectures to view on Palatine Hill would consist of the Stadium of Domitian, the Hut of Romulus, the Flavian Palace, the House of Livia, and the House of Augustus.

4. Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is Rome’s largest and most gorgeous borough fountain. It dates back to ancient Roman times, and served as the terminal point of the aqueduct Aqua Virgo, which means “the Virgin’s water”. The story states that a young maiden revealed the source of water to a group of Roman soldiers. Emperor Augustus then ordered a 22km long aqueduct to be built with the aim of leading the water to the thermal baths.

Entry to view the fountain is free of charge as it is located at a public area. From 10am onwards, it gets extremely packed around the fountain. Arrive early if you want to steer away from the crowds. You can also buy a ticket to explore the area nine meters underground of the Trevi Fountain.

5. Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps is a popular meeting space in Rome. It is also one of the longest and most extensive staircases in the whole of Europe. It connects the lower Piazza di Spagna to the upper Piazza Trinita dei Monti and its church. The history of the steps started from the 17th century, when the church was under French ownership. In order to connect the church to the popular piazza below, the French ordered the construction of a massive elegant staircase. In 1717, a design competition was held. It was won by a rather unknown architect named Francesco de Sanctis.

Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy

Viewing the Spanish Steps is free of charge as it is located in a public space. Crowds pour in around noon as you can see from the picture above.

6. Trastevere

One of the less touristy things to do in Rome would be to tour the Trastevere. The name Trastevere actually means “across the Tiber River”. The neighbourhood has over 3,000 years of history, where numerous cafes, bars and small stores lined the streets over the centuries.

Things to do at Trastevere would include sightseeing at Piazza Di Santa Maria for one of the oldest churches in Rome, climbing to the tip of Gianicolo hill for views of Rome City & cafe hopping. In the evenings, Trastevere becomes a “party area” where the locals gather at bars to drink .

7. St. Peter’s Square (The Vatican City)

The list of things to do in Rome can’t be fulfilled without a visit to Vatican City – The seat of the Roman Catholic Church. As you step into Vatican city, the first sight to see is St. Peter’s Square. Designed by Bernini back in the 17th Century, this is a grand public space to hold vast numbers of people who would come here to see the pope.

This was where remarkable events in history had taken place. It was also where Martin Luther sparked the Protestant reformation in 1571 and the Catholic Church advanced with what is known as the Counter-Reformation. The piazza is central to understanding counter-reformation architecture.

At Vatican City, the main places of interest include the following:
– St. Peter’s Square (Free entry)
– St. Peter’s Basilica (Free entry)
– Sistine Chapel (Paid Entrance)
– Vatican Museums (Paid Entrance)

Tips to visiting Vatican City

Due to its popularity, the Vatican City is extremely packed even during non-peak periods between November – March. The only way to skip-the-line is to book a guided tour to visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica altogether.

Budget Option: If you’re looking to save on expenses and do not want to book a guided tour, you can opt to buy your Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Ticket online. It comes with quick entry so you can skip-the-line. However, this option does not include skip-the-line tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica.

8. St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is located just in front of St. Peter’s Square. It is one of the biggest religious buildings ever and the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It has the volume to hold more than 60,000 people. The Basilica was named after St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles, and the first Bishop of Rome.

Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica

The entry into the church is free if you do not mind queuing. Do note that you will also need to dress modestly to enter it. If you do not want to book a tour, the best time to visit the church would be at 7am (or earlier), which is their opening time. Here is a FOC audio guide to discover more about the church.

9. Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is another key activity of the things to do in Rome. It is the most prominent Chapel in the world and is also a personal Chapel for the Pope. In 1508, Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to re-paint the ceiling of the Chapel. Completed in 1512, the ceiling became one of the most extravagant pieces of art ever painted in history.

Large numbers of tourists visit the Chapel each day to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece. You’d strain your neck if you look for too long, but you can try to observe how 3D-like the paintings are. It was truly awe-inspiring.

*Note that photo-taking is banned inside the chapel.
There are security guards around to ensure that you do not take out any cameras. However, the reason being is that flash photography will harm the paintings. If you want to sneak and take a picture, check that your camera flash has been switched off.

You will not need to wait in line to enter the Sistine Chapel. The queue starts at the entrance of the Vatican Museums as they are attached to each other.

10. The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums displays collections that were built up by the Popes over the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical works and most important compositions of renaissance art in the world. The Vatican Museums holds a massive number of 54 galleries.

Being one of the most sizable museums in the world, a guided tour takes about 3 hours to complete (inclusive of the Sistine Chapel). Even if you do not go by a guided tour, the standard stay is at least 2 hours to walk through the entire area.

11. Altar of the Fatherland

The Altar of the Fatherland was built as a monument for the first King of unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. The national monument is one of the city’s most impressive attractions, complete with intricate engravings, impressive statuary, and beautiful art. Corinthian columns, wide staircases and a statue of Victor Emmanuel II upon his horse are all on display.

The monument is well-worth a visit with great views from the top of it. Entrance into the building is free except for taking the elevators to reach the Terrazza delle Quadrighe on top of the monument. Tickets for the elevators can be bought at the ticket office and there is no need to queue.

12. The Pantheon

The Pantheon has been the best preserved temple from ancient Rome for over 2,000 years. The name Pantheon means “all the gods” as this was where many gods of the Empire were worshipped. Its massive one-piece columns were shipped from Egypt and its beauty has inspired architects throughout the ages. Step into the Patheon to view its dome shaped ceiling, where the oculus is the only light-source in the building.

Entry into the Pantheon is free of charge. It opens daily from 8.30am and closes in the evening around 6pm, depending on the season. More information on its opening hours can be found here.

13. Arch of Constantine

In ancient times, arches were built to celebrate especially military victories. What is so special about the Arch of Constantine is that it is the first arch that celebrates a victory not over a foreign power, but over a Roman rival.

Viewing the Arch of Constantine is free of charge. It is absolutely beautiful, built with white marble and full of detail which will engage you with its story telling.

14. Piazza Navona

After being flooded by loads of history, the next best thing to do in Rome is to chill. Piazza Navona is a public space with tourist attractions, restaurants and cafes located within close proximity.

Here, you can admire the beautiful Piazza Navona fountains, visit the the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and devour delicious Tarfuto at Tre Scalini Cafe.

15. Piazza del Popolo (The People’s Square)

Piazza del Popolo is another well-known large public square in Rome. Splendid buildings lined the square, each of them with a story dating back for centuries.

What to see at Piazza Del Popolo:

1. Porta del Popolo: Since antiquity, the northern entrance welcomed travelers to the city. Restoration works in the 17th century included the adding of a plaque above the arch for the entrance of Queen Christina.

2. Santa Maria del Popolo: Built in the late 11th century, it is the oldest of the three churches at the square.

3. The Obelisk: The Obelisk is at in the center of the square. It is an orginal Eqyptian Obelisk that was owned by Ramesses the 2nd. Constructed in the 19th century, the fountain around it is called Fontana dell Obelisco.

4. Santa Maria Dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto: Twin churches built in the 17th century.

Things to do in Rome: An Itinerary Guide

It is recommended to spend a minimum of 2 full days in Rome. The history of Rome is so rich that some may prefer to have at least 3 days in the city. Here is a easy summary of the things to do in Rome for each day in a 3 days’ itinerary:

Day 1 – Visit Ancient Rome: Colosseum, the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Trastevere
Day 2: Visit Central Rome: Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Altar of the Fatherland and the Piazzas
Day 3: Vatican City: St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel & the Vatican Museums.

Read the related article, 3 Days in Rome: A Complete Rome Itinerary with Travel Tips, for a more comprehensive 3 Days in Rome Itinerary.

Things to do in Rome: Pre-essentials

When is the best time to visit Rome, Italy?

The best time to visit Rome is during between October to April. This is when the weather is comfortable and the city is not overcrowded due to any holiday season. Avoid July and August, which is their peak summer months and it gets crowded. Although it is cold during Winter Season, the weather rarely dips below freezing point. It will still be relatively comfortable to walk around with a winter coat.

I previously visited Rome during their New Year’s celebration. It was a memorable experience to watch fireworks go off above the Colosseum. The weather was around 5 degrees celsius and bearable at 12am.

The Currency used in Rome Italy

The currency used in Rome is the Euro (€).

Tipping in Rome, Italy

You are not expected to tip at restaurants or to taxi drivers in Italy. Service charges are already included in menu prices for restaurants. However, you may want to leave a 5-10% for waiters depending on the quality of their service.

Is it Safe to visit Rome,Italy?

Rome is a relatively safe place to travel to. Except for the occasional pickpocketing and other petty crimes. Just be sure to keep your belongings close to you. An important tip to prevent pickpockets is to NEVER leave your valuables in the pockets of your coats. You can put your phone in your pocket but be sure to be holding onto it AT ALL TIMES if you do.

Related articles for Italy:
8 Best Things to do in Venice | Important Travel Tips & Guide
Exploring Venice, Italy: A Photobook Series

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