Top 10 things to do in Rome
Georgina Willcox | 22 January 2023
Rome has it all; great food, incredible history and friendly people. Two thousand years ago Rome ruled over one-third of the world, and the wealth and power resulted in arguably the best city in the world for history enthusiasts to visit. Contained within Rome is the smallest country in the world, The Vatican, one of the most iconic religious sites in the world. On our selected holidays to Rome, you can enjoy a guided tour of Vatican City, as well as seeing the top sights of Italy's capital. Often cited as one of the top destinations in Europe, no matter how many times you visit the ‘Eternal City', there’s always something new to find that you’ll love. Let’s uncover the top things to do in Rome.
1. The Colosseum
A trip to Rome isn’t complete without seeing one of the most famous landmarks in Italy. The construction of the Colosseum, which is the largest amphitheater in the world, was started by Vespasian in 72 AD, in the grounds of Nero's private Domus Aurea. The 50,000-seat arena was used to stage spectacular gladiatorial games in front of bloodthirsty spectators. The name Colosseum refers to the Colosso di Nerone, a giant statue of Nero that stood nearby.
2. Trevi Fountain
Located in the heart of Rome's historic centre in Trevi Square near the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona is the magnificent Fontana di Trevi. The Trevi Fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi, but he died before it was completed in 1762. Featured in films like ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘La Dolce Vita’, the Trevi Fountain is possibly one of the most famous fountains in the world. It's considered good luck to throw a coin over your left shoulder, as this will ensure a visit back to Rome! The Trevi Fountain attracts thousands of visitors and an estimated €3000 is thrown into it every day. The best time to visit is after dinner when the crowds have subsided and the fountain is beautifully lit. Take a stroll down to the Trevi Fountain after dinner and buy a gelato on the way. The Italians love their ice-cream. There are ice-cream parlours everywhere in Rome; the ones with the longest queues are always the best.
3. Spanish Steps
If you love taking photos and people watching, we recommend a visit to the Spanish Steps. It is always buzzing with people, both day and night. Hotel Eden is located on top of the steps, one of the leading hotels in the world and a perfect place to stop for a cold drink. One of our favourite restaurants in Rome is situated right beside the Spanish Steps; it's called Alla Rampa and has the best tiramisu in the world!
Trastevere is a great area to go at night. There are so many restaurants to choose from, lots of quirky boutiques and numerous bars. The atmosphere is always bustling. It is only a short taxi ride over the River Tiber, costing a few euros. Every Sunday, there is a huge flea market at Porta Portese, with traders selling everything from handbags and leather goods to religious relics. It starts early, usually about 6am and finishes around lunch time; don't miss it if you like bargain hunting.
5. The Pantheon
One of the best preserved monuments of Ancient Rome that has remained practically intact, the Pantheon was commissioned by Agrippa between 25 and 27 BC. Originally it was a temple dedicated to the pagan gods, but since 609 AD it’s been a Catholic Church. It’s famous for its dome, which is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. At the centre of the dome is a 25-foot wide opening, the oculus, which means eye in Latin, which is the only source of natural light to come through the Pantheon.
6. Piazza della Rotonda
Our favourite place to watch the world go by, and enjoy some delicious antipasti, is in the Piazza in front of the Pantheon. Try to get a table when the sun is setting and the buildings surrounding the Pantheon come awash with beautiful terracotta colours. The main shopping area is located along Via del Corso, where all the high street labels can be found. One of our favourite streets in Rome is Via Margutta, only a short walk from the Spanish steps. It is a really pretty street and home to trendy art galleries and boutiques.
7. Roman Forum
Once the centre of day to day life in Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum was a public square which held processions, speeches, trials and gladiatorial matches. Although it is now a site of ruins, it’s still a fascinating area to explore and you can still see remnants of the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, The House of the Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Julias Caesar, the site of his cremation.
8. St. Peter's Basilica
This is the largest church in Christianity and the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. From the monumental colonnade by Bernini to Michelangelo’s Dome and his remarkable Pietà, St. Peter’s is one of Rome’s most memorable sights. In our opinion, the best views of Rome and its many hills are seen from the Cupola (top of the tower) in St. Peter's Basilica. The views are astonishing from the top. You can see the top of the Pantheon, the Colosseum and beautiful Villa Borghese. It is a tough climb, but completely worth it. Take plenty of water, especially if you visit between May and September.
9. Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum houses 54 galleries, which contains ancient and Renaissance art collected by previous Popes throughout the centuries. On our selected Rome holidays, our local guide will show you the highlights of the Vatican Museum, such as the Tapestry Hall, the map rooms, Raphael's Transfiguration; saving you time trying to navigate through this extensive gallery. If you’re planning to visit without a guide, we recommend arriving early, the doors open at 9am so aim to be there from about 7.30am. This way you’ll get in quickly and won’t spend time trying to negotiate around other visitors. Plan what you want to see in advance. You will receive a map and guide when you enter, and can also opt for a handy audio guide, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the incredible works of art. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately; legs and shoulders must be covered, and hats are not permitted in certain areas. Check out the Vatican Museum website to make sure they will definitely be open on the day you plan to visit.
10. Sistine Chapel
Within the Vatican is the Sistine Chapel, which was named after Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the construction, and the chapel was built between 1477 and 1480. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted in fresco by Michelangelo and it is considered to be his most famous masterpiece. Completed in 1512, it took the artist 4 years to paint various scenes from the Book of Genesis, including ‘The Creation of Adam. Michelangelo also painted the altar wall in fresco depicting the Last Judgement. This breath-taking renaissance artwork has to be seen in person and you could easily spend hours admiring Michelangelo’s incredible creation.
It’s no wonder the Eternal city is one of the top places in the world to visit, there are plenty of things to do in Rome. We would recommend a holiday Rome to anyone looking to combine culture, style and architecture against a vibrant and beautiful backdrop. Visit the Eternal City for 3 Nights on our Rome City Break Holiday or take our 7 nights ‘Highlights of Rome and Umbria including Assisi Holiday.
Looking to go beyond the capital? We also offer a variety of holidays to Italy and if you’re looking for inspiration on where to visit in the country, then check our recommendations on the Top 10 places to visit in Italy.