Uncover Rome: Unmissable Things To Do in The Eternal City

Rome Travel Italy

Renowned for its ancient Roman ruins, world-class museums and medieval piazzas, Rome reveals archaeological treasures on almost every corner. And what a treasures they are.

With its three millennia of history, Rome offers visitors a trip back in time. It is one of the most incredible cities on Earth and has many unmissable things for you to see. It doesn`t matter if you have a week or may be just a few days, Rome has everything you need. The city`s impressive monuments and the dolce vita lifestyle offer so much beauty that will keep you occupied.

travel to Rome in May
Throughout its history, this spectacular city has been the centre of the civilization that once expanded its empire throughout the Europe, North Africa and West Asia.

There are numerous hidden treasures for eager travellers to find: from the Huts of Romulus, supporting the legend Rome was established on the Palatine Hill, to the remains of St Peter the Apostle, and the site of Caesar’s grave, Rome is packed with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO IN ROME

THE COLOSSEUM

Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum, one of the most iconic sights of Rome

The first tourist attraction most people head to is the Colosseum, and there`s a reason for that. The most internationally recognized symbol of Rome, also one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, dates back to 80 AD.

Flavian Amphitheatre, Rome
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre

Built by the Roman emperor Vespasian and finished by his son Titus, the largest amphitheatre ever built could hold up to 55,000 people, who were seated at the various levels according to rank. The home of the infamous Gladiator fights and dramas, three stories high travertine Colosseum with 80 entrances is an architectural marvel striking any time of the year.

Look into the area underneath the Colosseum`s floor where the wild animals were kept before there were lifted to ground level where they were forced to fight men to the death.

things to see in Rome, Italy
The arena covered with yellow sand is the place where the gladiators were able to fight for their freedom.

Over 9,000 animals are believed to have been killed during the inauguration of the Colosseum.

Due to several earthquakes, the Colosseum suffered extensive damage over the centuries. The 2,000 years old icon of Imperial Home is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an attraction not to be missed while in Rome.

GOOD TO KNOW:

The Colosseum, the Italy`s most visited attraction, is often sold out. Please note that the Colosseum`s capacity is up to 3,000 people at once, hence delays are possible even for pre-booked visitors. When entering the Colosseum, the visitors have to go through security checks.

TIP: Arrive early in the morning when the Colosseum opens or buy your Rome Colosseum ticket online ahead of time to avoid long queues. Also, consider booking skip the line ticket to help you reduce unnecessary waiting time. To understand the history of the Colosseum, book a ticket with a tour guide or with a free audio guide. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

If you would love to save some cash, consider visiting the Colosseum on the first Sunday of the month (free admission). However, the queues are accordingly long and you need to be prepared for long lines.

ARCH OF CONSTANTINE

Rome`s top 20 things to do
Arch of Constantine, Rome

Right next to the Colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine. One of the Imperial Rome`s last monuments, constructed to celebrate Constantine I`s victory over his co-emperor, was built a few years before Constantine moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantium. The last standing triumph arch in Rome is one of the best preserved monuments from ancient Rome and definitely deserves your attention.

PALATINE HILL

Palatine Hill, Rome
The Palatine Hill, the most central of the Seven Hills of Rome

Walk up to the Palatine Hill, the most desirable address in the ancient Rome where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome built their luxurious palaces. Here you can explore the ruins of the Flavian Palace (also known as the Domus Flavia or the Domus Augustana), Stadium of Domitia, the legendary Hut of Romulus and House of Livia with the ancient paintings on the walls.

According to legend, the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus were brought up by she-wolf on the Palatine Hill. Here Romulus killed his brother and the foundations of Rome were laid.

The peaceful Palatine Hill with the cooler temperatures in the summer is an ideal place to escape the crowds and offers the most spectacular views of the city.

CIRCUS MAXIMUS

Circus Maximus
Circus Maximus

Walk along the remains of the Circus Maximus, the grandest horse race arena in ancient Rome, which is today home to a public park. Rebuilt by Emperor Trajan as a 250,000 seater, the oval shaped area with amazing views of Palatine Hill, used to be Rome`s largest stadium.

ROMAN FORUM

Roman Forum, top attraction in Rome
The remaining ruins of the Forum have survived centuries

Another must-see attraction in Rome is the Roman Forum. Step back in time and admire ancient ruins at the Roman Forum, located right next to the Colosseum.

day out in Rome, Italy
Wander the same streets that Caesar walked a couple of millennia ago

Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman Forum was not only the chaotic market place, but was also filled with the temples, squares and the Senate House. The Forum also hosted public trials and speech making. Today, the centre of power and life in ancient Rome largely consist of crumbling ruins of ancient temples, palaces and baths.

TIP:  The Forum Romanum is a huge archaeological site. To appreciate the layout of the Forum which is not marked sufficiently, it is best to view the whole area from the above (the Capitoline Hill or the Palatine Hill).

Foro Romano, Italy
The Forum Romanum begin in the 7th century BC and was abandoned after the fall of Rome in 476 AD

THE MAIN SIGHTS OF THE ROMAN FORUM

  • the Rostra from which speeches were made
  • the Temple of Satur
  • the triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus (the best preserved of the Forum`s monuments) and Arch of Titus
  • the Curia Julia, the reconstructed ancient Roman Senate House (the building is the second version of the one built by Caesar)
  • the House of the Vestal Virgins: the residence of the Vestal priestesses who tended the sacred flame at the temple
  • the restored section of Temple of Vesta, one of the ancient Rome`s most sacred shrines
  • the Temple of Caesar (Temple of Divus Iulius) built on the exact spot of Julius Caesar`s cremation (visit his tomb – the rock which is the part of the altar of the temple)
  • the Temple of Romulus
  • the remains of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius

GOOD TO KNOW:

The Forum Romanum, the iconic landmark of the Roman Empire is by far one of the city`s most popular tourist destinations. The Forum can be very busy, so be prepared for a lot of people and long queues. If you do not fancy waiting in the line for a long time, consider visiting the peaceful Palatin Hill first as it is linked with the Forum Romanum.

TIP: Those who did not buy their tickets to the Colosseum in advance (or the tickets are already sold out) can buy combined tickets at the Roman Forum (the queue for the ticket is much shorter).

ADMISSION FEE: A combined ticket for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, starting from €16 (valid for 24 hours, starting since November 1, 2019)

TICKETS TO COLOSSEUM, ROMAN FORUM AND PALATIN HILL

FREE ADMISSION TO COLOSSEUM without a pre sale: 21st November 2019 , 18th December 2019

If you visit the forums at night there are light shows that illustrate what each foro used to look like back in the day.

VATICAN

Vatican Attractions, Rome
St Peter`s Basilica, Vatican

A trip to Rome is not complete without a visit to the Vatican. The independent city-state within the heart of Rome is home to the world famous sites, including Piazza San Pietro, St Peter`s Basilica (one of the holiest Christian sites in the world), the Vatican Museums and Michelangelo`s masterpiece The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.

Enjoy the view of the Vatican from the top of the basilica`s famous cupola, visit the secret rooftop coffee shop with breath-taking views of the Vatican or explore the unseen site of the Vatican hidden beneath the Basilica. Those who want to know all that the Vatican has to offer and don`t want to miss its hidden gems should read our post about the Vatican.

READ MORE ABOUT THE VATICAN:

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CASTEL SANT` ANGELO

Castel Sant`Angelo bridge, Rome
Castel Sant`Angelo

Another historic attraction to witness in Rome is Castel Sant`Angelo, which is home to the remains of the ancient Roman Emperor Hadrian. Due to its close proximity to the Vatican, Castel Sant`Angelo was used by the Catholic Church as a castle and a papal residence. This impressive sight also includes a secret corridor used as an escape route by popes, connecting it with the nearby Saint Peter`s Basilica. The Castle of the Holy Angel was also used as a prison, today it is a museum with a stunning views of the magnificent St Peter` Basilica.

CENTRO STORICO

The narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways that make up the Centro Storico have been inhabited for at least 2,000 years. Get lost in the streets and discover its ancient ruins, baroque piazzas and Renaissance palaces or have a gelato or an Aperol spritz in one of the stylish bars or trattorias. The choice is yours; this is what La Dolce Vita is all about.

PANTHEON

Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon

Admire the nearby Pantheon, one of the best preserved buildings in Ancient Rome. Originally built as a Roman temple dedicated to the pagan gods, the Pantheon was later turned into a Christian church. 

The beauty of the building can be appreciated especially from the inside.

2,000 years old Pantheon designed by Emperor Hadrian is a marvel of engineering. With its huge dome hidden behind the Classical portico it is one of the best things to see in Rome. When you visit, make sure you look at the breath-taking domed ceiling with the hole in the middle, letting the light and rain in.

The Pantheon`s dome, one of the first and the largest unsupported concrete domes ever built, has been model from many other buildings.

Marbled floors lined with tombs of Rome`s kings (e.g. King Victor Emmanuel II) and other famous figures (Italian artist Raphael), the Pantheon is truly amazing architectural wonder.

GOOD TO KNOW:

The Pantheon is free to enter, which is why is the best time to visit it early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

PIAZZA DELLA ROTONDA

Piazza della Rotonda, Rome
Piazza della Rotonda

Take a wander around Piazza della Rotonda and be amazed by the stunning Renaissance fountain surrounded by the Ramses II obelisk. Explore the maze of narrow streets around the Pantheon and have a lunch in one of the lively restaurants and café.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

Free things to do in Rome - Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain

After visiting the Pantheon, take a ten minute walk and you will find yourself in front of one of the most iconic fountains in the world: the Trevi Fountain.

After the major renovations in the recent years, the Fontana di Trevi is gracing its beauty once again. Standing 26 metres (85 feet) tall and 49 metres (161 feet) wide, Baroque masterpiece made of white Travertine, is a truly breath-taking site. The largest fountain in Rome featuring the god of the Sea (Neptun) surrounded by horses and two Tritons is one of the most touristic places in Rome.

Urban traditions say that by tossing a coin into the Trevi`s waters guarantee a return visit.

Things to do in Rome at night
It is estimated that 3000 euros are thrown into the Trevi Fountain every day

FUN FACT: A famous tradition of throwing a coin in the Fountain raises over €1.5 million (£1.3 million) of coins every year. The money is used by Rome City Council for the maintenance of cultural sites and other social welfare projects.

GOOD TO KNOW:

For most of the day, the Trevi fountain is extremely crowded. For a more peaceful experience, plan ahead and visit the fountain early in the morning.

TIP: Despite its masses, the Trevi Fountain is a very romantic place after dark.

SPANISH STEPS (SCALINATA DI TRINITA DEI MONTI)

must see attractions in Rome: Spanish Steps

Once you have finished admiring Fontana di Trevi, take a romantic walk to Piazza di Spagna, which is where Rome`s famous Spanish Steps are. Made famous by Audrey Hepburn’s movie Roman Holiday, the curving Baroque steps have become one of the most popular Rome attractions.

Built to link the square with the twin tower church of Trinita dei Monti above, Spanish steps are a famous meeting place for tourists and locals alike. After their recent facelift, a long grand staircase was reopened to the public and tourist battle for the best spot in front of this Roman masterpiece.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Rome has banned tourists from sitting on the famed Spanish Steps (now subject to a fine of 250 euros)

PIAZZA NAVONA

  • Travel Done Clever at Piazza Navona
  • Piazza Navona, Rome in Italy

Uncover Piazza Navona, located just a short walk from the Pantheon. Built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, an oval shaped piazza lined with luxurious cafes, palaces and shops, is one of the prettiest squares in Rome. Here you can find the famous Bernini Fountain of the Four Rivers with an Egyptian Obelisk at its centre. The bustling square is dominated by Sant`Agnese in Agone church, Baroque architecture and two more fountains.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Discover the Stadium of Domitian, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, hidden underneath Piazza Navona. Explore Rome`s first stadium for competitive athletes which also hosted gladiator games after a fire at the famous Colosseum.

CAMPO DE` FIORI

If you do go shopping, be sure to pick up some fruits, vegetables, or some flowers at the market at Campo de` Fiori. Located south of Piazza Navona, the colourful market is a bustling place every morning from Monday through Saturday. A place of execution in past, now home to market, restaurants and bars where young people hang out in the evening.

FUN FACT: Campo de` Fiori was one of the roughest areas of medieval and Renaissance Rome. Caravaggio, the famous Italian painter, killed a young man after losing a tennis match on the square. Campo de`Fiori was also a place of execution.

TRAJAN`S FORUM AND MARKETS

The Trajan`s Forum, Rome
The Trajan`s Forum, Rome

A short walk from the Colosseum the Trajan`s forum can be found. Once home to administrative offices, 2 libraries, basilica and a shopping mall with 150 shops selling everything from fruits to fresh fish, the Trajan Forum was the last Imperial forum constructed in ancient Rome. The archaeological complex can be seen for free from viewing platforms.

Trajan`s Forum built by Trajan (one of the greatest builders of Roman times) to commemorate his final conquest of Dacia (present Romania)

GOOD TO KNOW:

Those interested in Trajan`s Forum history can also visit the Museum of the Imperial Fora and the Trajan`s Markets with the remains of the first shopping mall in the ancient times.

ADMISSION FEE: € 15.50 (adults), children under 6 years for free

TIBER RIVER

Tiber River, Rome
Tiber River

Stroll along the tranquil banks of Tiber River and enjoy spectacular views Rome`s iconic sights, including St. Peters Basilica or Castel Sant`Angelo. According to legend, twin brothers Romulus and Remus were abandoned on the Tiber River.

PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

Piazza del Popolo, Rome
Piazza del Popolo, a location of public executions in the past

If you have time, don`t miss famous Piazza del Popolo, where you can find many incredible sights. The oval shaped neo-classical square, identified by the almost identical baroque churches, various fountains and one of the tallest Egyptian obelisks in Rome, is one of the largest squares in the city.

Next to the northern gate of Rome (Porta del Popolo), the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo can be found. The basilica might not be on every traveller`s list in Rome, but it should not be overlooked. Impressively decorated Santa Maria del Popolo with paintings by Caravaggio and Chigi Chapel with mosaics designed by the painter Raphael, is one of Rome`s treasures and a real jewel.

According to legend, the Emperor Nero`s remains were buried under a walnut tree on the exact place where the altar of the Basilica is located.

THE VICTOR EMMANUEL MONUMENT

Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument Rome
Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument, Piazza Venezia

The Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo aren`t Rome`s only famous squares – you may also have heard of Piazza Venezia. Located at the heart of Rome where 4 major roads meet, Piazza Venezia with the Victor Emmanuel Monument is impossible to miss. The impressive white marble monument, dedicated to the first king who united Italy, is the Victor Emmanuel`s mausoleum and offers the panoramic views.

week in Rome, Italy
Views from the Monument

TIP: The Victor Emmanuel monument and its museum can be visited free of charge. However, if you would like to visit the roof of the monument with a café for the breath-taking views, the fee of 7 euros is charged for the lift.

TRASTEVERE

Trastevere, Rome

Trastevere, located right in the city centre on the west bank of the River Tiber, is no longer Rome`s best-kept secret, but it is still a must-see when in the Eternal City.

Wander the narrow streets of a picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere and watch the world go by in one of the authentic Roman restaurants and trattorias. Don`t forget to taste some traditional dishes like “Carbonara” or pizza at reasonable prices.

Trastevere – a charming neighbourhood with medieval lanes and bohemian atmosphere transports visitors back to the ancient Roman times.

FONTANA DELL`ACQUA PAOLA

what not to miss in Rome
Fontana dell`Acqua Paola, also known as “the big fountain”

Those who are after the hidden gems of Rome should visit the beautiful Fontana dell`Acqua Paola, situated at the top of the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo Hill). The 400 year old monumental white fountain with a baroque background is well preserved and is well worth a visit.

GOOD TO KNOW:

The Janiculum Hill, considered the “Eight Hill of Rome” offers stunning views of the Eternal City (all the most important Roman monuments can be seen from here).

FREE THINGS TO DO IN ROME

Free things to do in Rome, Italy
  • explore the 2,000 old Pantheon
  • visit the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum for free on selected days (free admission, hence very crowded)
  • stroll down via dei fori imperiali connecting the Colosseum with Piazza Venezia
  • see the Roman Forum from the Fori Imperiali streets without a need to pay for an entry
  • be amazed by the Trojan Forum which can be viewed from the terraces for free
  • toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain
  • see the Spanish Steps
  • visit St Peter`s Square in the Vatican
  • see the Pope at St Mark` Square (every Wednesday morning when the Pope is in Rome)
  • admire St Peter`s Basilica (the main floor)
  • marvel at Castel Sant`Angelo
  • go running at the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium, now home to a public park
  • visit the Victor Emmanuel monument, located at the Piazza Venezia, for stunning vistas
  • take a break in the Villa Borghese Garden – one of the most beautiful gardens in Rome
  • admire Caravaggio`s famous paintings in Santa Maria del Popolo
  • explore Santa Maria Maggiore
  • enjoy unspoilt views of Rome from the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo Hill)
  • see not touristy 400 years old beautiful Fontana dell`Acqua Paola, located on the Janiculum Hill
  • have a picnic among the orange street in the Orange garden, located on the Aventine Hill (the gardens offer vistas with St. Peter`s Basilica, the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the other historic landmarks
  • visit museums that are free the first Sunday of the month
  • go on a Rome free walking tour of the historic centre (a twice daily)
  • stroll the narrow cobblestoned streets of Trastevere (one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Rome) and have a lunch in one of the traditional trattorias

WHAT TO DO IN ROME AT NIGHT

  • enjoy the nightlife in Trastevere or Centro Storico
  • take a night tour in Rome and discover the Eternal city without the herds of tourists
  • admire the Trevi Fountain
  • avoid the crowds and visit the Vatican Museums at night
  • admire Rome after dark and have an unforgettable Tiber River Night Cruise
  • take a Colosseum night tour and uncover the Rome’s most iconic monument at night
  • chill out at Piazza Navona and check out its beautiful palazzi and fountains
  • see the Spanish Steps without the crowds
  • step back in time and experience Rome and its incredible architecture in one of the light shows in Rome (e.g. Viaggio nei Fori”, the light show at the Forum of Augustus or Julius Caesar’s FORUM)
  • experience the best food in Rome on Rome Evening Food Tour
  • head for a show to the stunning Teatro dell’Opera

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things to do in Rome

Have you been to Rome in Italy? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below.

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10 thoughts on “Uncover Rome: Unmissable Things To Do in The Eternal City

  1. Fantastic post and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing, I would love nothing more than visit Rome and uncover many of its hidden treasures. Knowing that the Vatican is within easy reach too only makes this city even more desirable!
    I look forward to your next post! Aiva

    1. You are very wellcome Aiva, we are pleased that you love our post ❤ Rome has many incredible landmarks we are definitely planning to return to the Eternal city to unravel more treasures. Safe travels x x

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