Rome, the capital city of Italy, is a cosmopolitan city packed with history, culture, and delicious food.
With nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture, and culture on display it’s no wonder that hordes of tourist’s flock to this city every year. Because of its popularity among tourists, there are also plenty of accommodation options.
There are so many things to do in Rome, from exploring its churches and historical buildings to museums, shopping, and restaurants. It’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed while planning your Rome itinerary, which is why we have created the ultimate Rome activity guide.
Pick and choose what you want to get up to according to your interests.
Things to do in Rome
Tours in Rome
When your time is limited, or you’d just prefer to have someone take you around and show you the ropes, then the best thing to do is join a tour. There are loads of different tours available in Rome, varying from mode of transport to the different areas as well as a few niche tours for specific interests.
Like most popular tourist destinations, there is the iconic Hop on Hop Off buses available. Stops along the route include the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, St. Peter's and Santa Maria Maggiore, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Palatine Hill, and more!
For the energetic bunch, there are bicycle tours which cover the major highlights. Most are about two to four hours, and you can even find some that combine the bicycle tour with a food tour. Otherwise, join a walking tour or Segway tours.
A few unique tours:
And if you’ve covered all the city highlights and want to spread your wings a bit, there are a few tours of nearby destinations. You can head out into the ancient tunnels of Rome’s catacombs, the place built to house the dead of Rome. This three hour tour includes transport by bus as well as viewing the exterior of the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella along with the ancient Roman aqueducts and walking along the old Appian Way. If you’re a wine lover, then head out to a wine tasting tour in Tuscany.
Top Attractions in Rome
The Colosseum is arguably one of Rome’s most iconic icons. The 2,000-year-old Flaviant Amphitheatre is the biggest ever built. This is where the Romans would watch the gladiators and other spectator events. You can now see the building in all its glory as the restoration was completed in 2016.
There are loads of tours of the Colosseum, including private tours, along with underground tours.
The Roman Forum was rediscovered in 1803 after a century of excavation. It is now open to the public, free for you to wander through the open-air museum which dates to 6th-century BC. You’ll find well-preserved temples and monuments, free audio guides, and loads of information explaining what you are seeing.
Most of the Colosseum tours include Roman Forum, like this one.
The Pantheon was originally built by Emporer Hadrian in 125AD and is very well preserved. The main highlight is the oculus, a 9m-round aperture where the light travels through, in the ceiling. The best time to visit is when the sun is shining so that you can see the whole interior illuminated with shafts of light. Though, it’s also fun to go when it rains as you can see the falling water ‘disappear’ into 22 tiny holes.
There is no admission charge for Pantheon, though there are guided tours that you can join to get a deeper experience. If you’re budget is lower, then opt for the audio guide.
Vatican City Museums & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican City Museums are packed with history, culture, and art. There are paintings, tapestries, plates and sculptures among other fine works - as well as some gardens. Highlights include the Greek Cross Gallery, Cabinet of the Masks, the Sala degli Animali, the Upper Galleries, and masterpieces by Renaissance masters in the Raphael Rooms.
The Sistine Chapel is the office residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. All of the frescoes of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are the work of Michelangelo, who spent four years painting the vault between 1508 and 1512.
The queues here can get long, so it’s worth buying tickets online before you go. Buy a skip-the-line ticket online for entry to both the Vatican City Museums and Sistine Chapel.
St Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica, located in the Vatican City, is considered one of the Catholic Church’s holiest temples and an important pilgrimage site. This is where the Pope presides many liturgies all year round. The church can accommodate 20,000 people, and is home to extremely impressive pieces of art. Artwork includes a large bronze baldachin designed by Bernini and The Pieta, a sculpture by Michelangelo and the statue of St Peter on his throne.
Visitors shouldn’t miss out on climbing to the top of the dome, which has beautiful views of St Peter’s Square. The entrance to the Basilica is free, though climbing to the top of the Dome has a fee.
You can also go underground and explore the ancient Roman necropolis, where the remains of Saint Peter are buried. The best is to join a tour which includes both St Peter’s Basilica and the necropolis.
St. Peter’s Square
Designed by Bernini during the seventeenth century, St. Peter’s Square houses over 300,000 people and is probably one of the worlds most famous squares. Located in Vatican City at the feet of St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands of liturgies have been held here. The most impressive part of the square, besides its size, are its 284 columns and 88 pilasters that flank the square in a colonnade of four rows. Above the columns there are 140 statues of saints created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini.
The Spanish Steps were made famous by Audrey Hepburn’s 1953 film Roman Holiday. The steps are a wide irregular gathering place consisted of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces. They connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its beautiful twin tower church dominating the skyline. The steps are free to visit, be prepared for the crowds (at any time of the year). It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of Rome.
The Trevi Fountain is located at the back of the Palazzo Poli and is the biggest fountain in baroque style in Rome. It’s also one of the most popular fountains in the world. The fountain earns around €3,000 each day with tourists throwing coins in for ‘good luck’. This is a beautiful fountain, and you most definitely need to visit while in the city. You can easily visit yourself (it’s free, of course) otherwise a lot of the general tours of Rome will include a stop at the fountain.
Museums in Rome
The Galleria Borghese, housed in the Villa Borghese, is one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the world. It houses sculptures by Bernini, Canova and other great artists. The building’s gardens are also a popular attraction and the third largest park in Rome.
Tickets can sell out fast. You can plan ahead and book a timed entrance ticket online.
The Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) are found in Piazza del Campidoglio. The museums are owned and administered by the Municipality of Rome. The museum is made up of two buildings: the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo. Both offer an impressive collection of Roman paintings and sculptures. You can also buy entrance tickets online.
Museo Nazionale Romano
The Museo Nazionale Romano features four main collections, each found in different palazzos. The four collections include: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Baths of Diocletian, and Cryta Balbi. The museum offers a combined admissions ticket for all four buildings.
The Museo Nazionale Romano is divided into four main collections, all found in different palazzos. The National Museum of Rome offers visitors a combined admissions ticket for the four buildings that make up the museum and the price-quality ratio is excellent.
Other museums in Rome worth visiting:
- National Gallery of Modern Art: featuring artwork from Paul Cezanne, Antonio Canova, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh.
- Palazzo Barberini: Baroque construction that houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.
- Galleria Doria Pamphilj: the best-known private art gallery in Rome.
- National Etruscan Museum: features works from pre-Roman Italian antiquity.
- Villa Farnesina: a mansion built between 1505 and 1511.
Food Experiences in Rome
Pizza, pasta, gelato, and vino! Apart from the churches and historical sights, Rome is all about food. Get ready to pack on a few pounds while touring Rome as you will be feasting on delicious treats every day. All foodie’s in Rome need to experience as much of the cuisine in this region as they can. One way to do that is to join a foodie centered tour of Rome. We’ve done some digging and found the below tours that sound super delicious!
Foodie tours in Rome:
- Pizza making course with dinner. Learn the ins and outs of delicious Italian pizza with a local chef, followed by feasting of your delicious, freshly made pizza.
- Secret Food Tours: sample some of Italy’s finest foods in the historic center, including pizza, pasta, Italian hams, wines, cheeses, and Sicilian gelato.
- 6-course lunch / dinner with Roman dishes: Discover and taste the true Roman and Jewish cuisine with a cozy 6-course menu in the historic center of Rome.
- 4-Hour Food and Wine Tasting Tour: Taste the foods and wines of Rome on a 4-hour walking tour of the historic center from Campo de’ Fiori to the Trastevere. Sample the best of Italian cuisine in unique locations and local eateries that produce only the highest quality produce.
- Gourmet Street Food Tour with a Local: Taste the street food gourmet treats of Rome on a 2.5-hour walking tour with a local guide. Sample typical Italian produce such as gelatos, pizza, cheeses, panini and espresso.
You should also check out all of the food markets in Rome.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out our Rome Accommodation Guide for a few options.
Travel tip shared by Bridget Langer for Travel Dudes