16 Best things to do in Rome

The Best things to do in Rome

“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”- Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter

My thoughts about Rome

Rome was our last stop in a whirlwind vacation consisting of a Mediterranean cruise and a tour of Italy's major cities.

It left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was fascinating. A city with many layers, Medieval, Renaissance, Imperial and Republic. There are historical sites around every corner and you wonder what scenes they've witnessed over the centuries. We downloaded Rick Steve's audio guides and explored the attractions under his guidance. We also did the "free" (no charge but tip expected) walking tours in Rome but were not as impressed as we were with them in Venice. Nevertheless, if you're heading to The Eternal City and are wondering how to plan your time,  here's the perfect 3-day Rome itinerary .

On the other hand, I didn't realise how much I yearned for the South African bush until I was in Rome. The city was overrun with tourists and the chaos and crowds made me yearn for the solitude and serenity of the bush. We had some unsavoury experiences when my son forgot his new Florentine leather bag - containing his new tablet - on a bench near the Spanish Steps for a few minutes and it was stolen. Light-fingered Luigis also tried to open my husband's backpack on more than one occasion, on the Pickpocket Express (Bus 64) - while looking for valuables which they didn't find.

Nevertheless, Rome is a photographer's dream, with so much to see and capture.

Here are the 16 Best things to do in Rome

1. Explore the Colosseum

Best things to do in Rome

Inside the Colosseum

Step into the ancient world as you explore the Colosseum, where gladiators once battled in front of roaring crowds. Its towering arches and historical significance make it a must-see attraction.

2. Wander through the Roman Forum

Wander through the ruins of the Roman Forum, once the bustling heart of the Roman Empire. Imagine the political and social life that unfolded among its ancient columns and temples.

3. Tour the Vatican Museums

Vatican City

Vatican City

Discover a treasure trove of art and history in the Vatican Museums, with highlights including Michelangelo's awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel ceiling and a vast collection of priceless artifacts.

4. Enjoy nature at the Borghese Gardens

best things to do in Rome

Villa Borghese Gardens

Enjoy a serene escape in the Borghese Gardens, Rome's largest park, where lush greenery and sculptures create a peaceful atmosphere ideal for a leisurely walk or a relaxing picnic. We spent half a day at the beautiful Villa Borghese Gardens, where we rode these family bicycles. There were also segways available.

5. Marvel at the Arch of Constantine

best things to do in Rome

Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine is an iconic Roman triumphal arch, which stands as a symbol of victory and power. Located near the Colosseum, it commemorates Emperor Constantine's triumph over Maxentius in 312 AD, offering a glimpse into ancient Roman art and history.

6. People watch at Piazza Navona

Enjoy the lively vibe at Piazza Navona, where cafes, street artists, and the iconic Fountain of the Four Rivers create a bustling ambiance perfect for people-watching.

7. Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

best things to do in Rome

The Trevi Fountain

Throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return to Rome. This Baroque masterpiece is a sight to behold, especially when illuminated at night. The Fountain was undergoing renovations during our visit however I had seen it on a previous visit, when I threw a coin - and did indeed return years later. 

8. Explore Trastevere

Get lost in the charming streets of Trastevere, where you can savour authentic Roman cuisine, shop at boutique stores, and soak in the neighborhood's bohemian atmosphere.

9. Learn about the city's history at the Capitoline Museums

Delve into Rome's rich history at the Capitoline Museums, housing an impressive collection of sculptures, paintings, and historical artifacts.

10. Visit the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

Best things to do in Rome

Vittorio Emanuele Monument

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument is often called the "Wedding Cake" due to its grandiose white marble design. A striking neoclassical monument, it was erected to honour Italy's first king and unifier, Vittorio Emanuele II, and provides panoramic views of the city from its rooftop terrace. The monument was built at the end of the 19th century and is relatively new, compared to the other famous monuments in Rome.

11. Climb The Spanish Steps

best things to do in Rome

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps is a sweeping staircase of 135 steps which connects the Piazza di Spagna at the base with the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. It offers a picturesque spot for both locals and tourists to gather, especially during the spring when the steps are adorned with vibrant flowers. Be careful with your belongings though.

12. Visit The Pantheon

best things to do in Rome

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is an architectural marvel known for its iconic dome with a perfect oculus at its center, allowing natural light to stream in. First built as a temple, it now serves as a church and remains a testament to ancient engineering and design brilliance. The painter Raphael is buried here as well as two kings of Italy and a queen.

13. Visit the Castel Sant'Angelo

best things to do in Rome

Castel Sant'Angelo

The Castel Sant'Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a majestic fortress in Rome with a rich history. Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, it later served as a papal residence and a prison.

14. See The Pyramid of Cestius

Pyramid of Cestius

Pyramid of Cestius

Did you know that there is a pyramid in Rome? Built in 12BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate, it is one of the best-preserved pyramids from ancient Rome.

15. Savour Italian pizza

best things to do in Rome

Pizza a Taglio

Of course, you can't go to Rome and not enjoy some Pizza a Taglio - Pizza by the slice!

16. Enjoy some gelato

Treat your taste buds to some delicious Italian gelato. With a multitude of flavors to choose from, it's the perfect way to cool off and indulge while exploring the Eternal City.

Good to know

1, First and foremost, pack comfortable shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking, and there's no shortage of cobblestone streets.

2. Speaking of walking, take advantage of Rome's many pedestrian-only areas. They're great for people watching and doing some window shopping.

3. If you are sightseeing in summer, do carry a sunhat and use sunscreen. It can get very hot.

4. If you still want to do some sightseeing before you check into your hotel, or after you check out of your hotel, it's a great idea to store your luggage in a safe place while you explore.

Some more photos of Rome

Roman photos

Two gladiators have a conversation while waiting for customers

best things to do in Rome

The levitating man impresses tourists.


Roman photos

Forum of Augustus

Roman photos

Tiber River


Roman photos

Fresh fruit stall in Rome - the grapes and watermelon we bought were delicious

Have you been there? What were the best things to do in Rome for you?

Here's how to see Rome in two days .

Find accommodation in Rome.

Download Rick Steve's audio guides.

best things to do in Rome

5 comments on “16 Best things to do in Rome”

  1. Hi, very nice post. I was looking for something similar to this. Thanks for this useful information.

  2. Hey,

    I liked your photos, they bring back wonderful memories from my trip to Rome and Florence several years ago. Rome is magnificent, so many places to visit but my favorite was St Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's Pieta.

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