Here you will find our 30 favorite things to do in Rome, that should definitely end up on your list. Whether great sights, exciting excursions and tours or hip gastro spots: Rome has a lot to offer!
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1. Have the Sistine Chapel (almost) to yourself
Admittedly, you can really have the Sistine Chapel Rome with Michelangelo’s frescoes and paintings to yourself only if you have great influence and a corresponding purse. Absolutely affordable for everyone – and absolutely recommended by us – is a Vatican Rome guided tour for early risers, which already starts 90 minutes before the regular opening hours. Forgoing sleeping in is definitely worth it here!
2. Experience the important art of the Galleria Borghese
In some articles we have already explained to you that you should definitely secure tickets for the Galleria Borghese – the Borghese Gallery, which is more than worth seeing, before your trip! Another alternative is to book a guided tour of the exhibition. In fact, we would definitely recommend it to you! While the audio guide covers a lot of basic information, a guided tour will give you a deeper insight into the history of the gallery and its artworks – and also into Borghete’s not always entirely legitimate ways of acquiring them.
3. Enjoy the atmosphere in the orange garden…
The Giardino di aranci on the Aventine Hill will delight you right away. In this newly created park you will sit among huge pine trees and bright orange trees. And not only that: the view of the city is spectacular. You are looking directly at St. Peter’s Basilica. Especially in the evening hours, the park is a magical place. Then both hipsters and retirees gather here to enjoy the sunset over the rooftops of the city while listening to street music.
4. …and look through Rome’s most famous keyhole
Only a few meters away, queues form regularly – in front of a simple, green wooden door. The reason: the spectacular view through the keyhole! Through a magnificent portico, the view leads directly to St. Peter’s Basilica, which seems almost within reach. Of course, a fallacy – because between the Aventine and St. Peter’s Basilica lies not only the Tiber, but the whole Trastevere district, including the Gianicolo hill. An ingenious optical illusion for which it is no longer entirely clear today whether it was planned this way or whether it is simply a happy coincidence.
5. Marvel at state-of-the-art architecture and art at MAXXI
The MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo) is located a little outside the historic city center in Flaminio – but art and architecture enthusiasts should definitely take this little detour. The extravagant shell, designed by none other than star architect Zaha Hadid, not only stands in stark contrast to Rome’s ochre architecture, but also contains works of art from this century that are equally worthy of admiration.
6. Feel like the gladiators in the colosseum
The Colosseum is a must-see on any trip to Rome anyway! However, in addition to booking a regular ticket, the tours whose groups use the so-called “star” entrance are especially recommended. After a short wait, you enter the Colosseum through an impressive archway. The special thing about it: You walk along the same path that the gladiators used to enter the Colosseum in ancient Roman times. And so you find yourself right in the arena, with a spectacular panoramic view of the spectator stands. Really impressive!
7. Learn the fighting skills of a real gladiator
You always wanted to test whether you have what it takes to be a gladiator? Then the gladiator school in Rome is the right place for you. First you will learn about the ancient Roman martial arts before you start your training! Even Hollywood’s most famous gladiator, Russell Crowe, has visited here. At the end, each participant receives a certificate with his personal gladiator name. A great souvenir and a fun things to do in Rome!
8. Climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
A visit to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is an absolute highlight for many visitors to Rome! The view of St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Gardens and the rooftops of the city is truly special. The queues are correspondingly long, especially in the high season. Unlike the visit to the Basilica, the view over Rome is not free either. If you decide to climb all 551 steps on foot, you pay 8 euros; if you want to take the elevator to the first observation deck, you pay 10 euros. It is important to note that only cash can be paid here!
9. Be tempted by culinary delights on a food tour
It’s a special culinary Rome highlight: a food tour through the butcher stores, bakeries, ice cream parlors and specialty stores of Rome’s Old Town! From salsiccia to the finest cheese, family recipe pizza, arancini – here you can taste everything the city has to offer. Our personal highlight: the fried artichokes in the former Jewish ghetto! After an ice cream to top it off, you will fall into bed full and satisfied.
10. Even more feasting in the former ghetto
The Jewish community in Rome includes nearly 15,000 members, but only 400 of them live in the city’s former ghetto. The overpriced apartments in the old buildings are now mainly occupied by Roman celebrities. No wonder, then, that the clientele in the numerous excellent kosher restaurants in the tranquil alleys is 90% non-Jewish. It tastes good everywhere, but a real institution is Yotvata.
11. Eating an ice cream at the Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is the center of dolce vita in Rome.What could be better than strolling through the square around the fountain of four streams with a delicious ice cream? Get it the best nearby at Frigidarium, a classic that is also known from various travel guides. Moreover, in the picturesque little Via del Governo Vecchio, queuing feels only half as bad as elsewhere!
12. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is world famous and should be at the top of every Rome traveler’s list. Every day, thousands of tourists flock around the fountain – and throw their loose change into it. Because an old legend says that a coin toss into the Trevi Fountain in Rome helps fate in a very concrete way. That is why the question of how many coins to toss is particularly relevant:
- 1 coin means that you will eventually return to the eternal city.
- 2 coins should make you fall in love with a Roman or a Roman woman.
- 3 coins make the happiness perfect: Soon the wedding bells will ring!
So, make sure the visit of the Trevi Fountain is on your things to do in Rome list.
13. Discover the cradle of ancient Rome on the Palatine Hill
The Palatine Hill is the cradle of Rome. The history of the city begins – if we believe the legend – in 753 BC. The story goes that the brothers Romolus and Remus got into a dispute about which hill to found a city on: the Palatine or the Aventine. They put on a bird show, each positioning themselves on one of the two hills. Romolus on the Palatine emerged victorious, whereupon he founded a city here and became ruler. A visit to the impressive ruins from different centuries is therefore a fixed part of the program of a visit to Rome!
14. Walk through the eerie catacombs and crypts
In our opinion, the exploration of catacombs and the crypts should not be missing from any visit to Rome! While the catacombs date back to a time when Christians were still under persecution and were only allowed to perform their funerals and rites outside the gates of the city, the crypts are evidence of the customs of various monastic orders. The best way to discover sub-Irish Rome is to take a guided Crypts & Catacombs tour!
15. Stroll down the Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps with its 138 artfully curved steps is one of the must-sees of every trip to Rome. No matter what the time: Italian life is raging around the Spanish Steps in Rome. Since August 2019, however, there has been a decisive change: sitting on the steps is now prohibited. Longer lingering at the stairs is therefore unfortunately no longer possible. Instead, you can now stroll up and down in a relaxed manner without stumbling over tourists and luggage. 😉
16. Examine your conscience at the “mouth of truth”
You feel like a little test of courage? Then be sure to visit the Bocca della Verità – the Mouth of Truth. A photo here is among the most popular Rome memories ever. According to legend, the stone slab with the large face and wide-open mouth once served as a kind of anonymous mailbox through which the inhabitants of Rome could “blacken” their fellow citizens in case of misconduct. If someone threw in a false accusation, the mouth should bite off the liar’s hand. But so far he has always been gracious!
17. Walking between machines and busts in the Centrale Montemartini
The Centrale Montemartini power station, opened in 1912, had been in operation for just half a century when it went off the grid in the 1960s. At the turn of the millennium, it came to life again when the Capitoline Museums had to relocate parts of their exhibition due to lack of space. For example, thousands of years old, snow-white marble busts can now be found among heavy steel machines from the industrial age. A real eye-catcher!
18. Drink a coffee in Rome’s most famous bar
The San Calito bar is known from numerous films – for example, the Oscar-winning drama “La Grande Bellezza”. Whether young or old, for afternoon coffee or late at night – the bar is always a popular meeting place. In 2018, the hustle and bustle became too much for the neighbors – and the San Calisto bar had to close temporarily. But in the meantime it is – fortunately! – open again. Be sure to try the caffè corretto – with a good shot of grappa.
19. Try the best pizza in town
Actually, Antico Forno Roscioli is a bakery where Romans also buy their typical sweet breakfast temptations. But the store is also widely known for its excellent pizzas from the tray. Crispy and thin, just the way the Romans like it! For many the best pizza in Rome!
20. Stroll through the impressive Baths of Caracalla.
The ruins of the Baths of Caracalla Rome are no less impressive than the excavations on the Palatine Hill – but much less visited. Here you can take a leisurely stroll and admire the imposing, up to 50 meters high foundation walls of the complex. The largest thermal baths in ancient Rome consisted of numerous, smaller baths as well as libraries, pubs and gardens. The latter still invite you to take a little breather from the hustle and bustle of the city.
21. Take a bike tour to the Appia Antica
Outside the city walls lies the Via Appia Antica, which was many things to the Romans: an ancient trade route, an open-air museum – and also a recreational area. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle around Trevi Fountain and Co, but still see a lot, this is the right place. From the magnificent Basilica of San Sebastiano begins the traffic-calmed part of the Via Appia Antica, which invites both to long walks and bike rides. Book a guided tour by e-bike from the city center! Your guide will take you to the most beautiful and interesting spots of the Appia Antica and will tell you a lot of exciting things!
22. Wondering about Rome’s only pyramid
In the last century BC, Egypt became a Roman province under Emperor Augustus. And so it was only a matter of time before the upper classes of the city also had the first tombs built after the models from the desert. A total of four pyramids were built in this way in Rome. Today, only one of them is still standing, but it is excellently preserved: the Pyramid of Cestius. It was also incorporated into the Aurelean city walls in the 3rd century AD and today borders the city’s Protestant cemetery, which is also worth a visit as a place of seclusion.
23. Go for a spin in the convertible bus when the sun shines
The colorful, open hop-on hop-off buses of the various providers should not be missing in any major European city! This is a good thing, because especially for “first-time visitors” the buses are the ideal way to get an overview of the city and to get from A to B very easily. That is why they are one of the most recommended Rome activities. There are five different operators in Rome, all of which (with the exception of the yellow Roma Cristiana buses) serve the same 8 stops. Some also offer tours to the catacombs.
24. Visit the hip Monti
Monti was once the red light district of Rome – but those days are long gone! Today, the streets in the hills above the Colosseum are filled with beautiful cafes, hip vintage markets and stores, and many small squares where you can mingle with hip Romans in the evening with a beer in hand. The small Piazza della Madonna dei Monti with its mighty fountain is considered the heart of the district, both by day and by night. At noon you can make yourself comfortable with an ice cream on the steps of the fountain – in the evening it gets loud and colorful here. Thanks to the numerous bars and kiosks on the square, the mood here is then always exuberant.
25. Explore the market of Testaccio
Directly at the foot of the Aventine lies the Testaccio district – still a real insider tip among travelers to Rome. Above all, the topic of food is capitalized here. The neighborhood market moved just a few years ago – and is now located in a modern area where each stall has its own small box. The space in the middle of the cubic sales areas serves as a café. So as you stroll, you’ll feel like you’re walking through one big food mall!
26. Experience the sound of the cannon at the Gianicolo
Climbing the 82-meter-high Gianicolo hill in Trastevere doesn’t require outstanding physical fitness, but you’ll still be a bit out of breath when you reach the top. But the spectacular view over the city with its countless church domes will definitely compensate you – so this is one of the best things to do in Rome! At noon, there is a special spectacle to watch here every day: In a small square below Terrazza Garibaldi, the military fires a single cannon shot here. This ritual was introduced by Pope Pius IX in 1847 with the aim that all the church bells of Rome should ring at the same time.
27. Explore the former Mussolini’s boulevard
The EUR neighborhood in the south of Rome is the most modern and newest in the city. It was commissioned in 1938 by Mussolini, who planned to celebrate both his twentieth anniversary in power and the Universal Exposition here four years later (EUR also stands for Esposizione Universaledi Roma). However, because of World War II, the project could not be completed until the 1950s. Today it is popular residential area, but also a bizarre showcase of Fascist architecture. Already from the highway you can see one of the most impressive buildings: the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, which is now the headquarters of the fashion company Fendi.
28. Spend a fun day at Rainbow Magic Land
The name says it all at the largest amusement park in the metropolitan region: Rainbow Magicland is all about magic and sorcery. The still young park was only opened in 2011 and offers all kinds of fun for young and old on an area of over 600,000 square meters. There are a total of 38 attractions to discover, including numerous fast-paced roller coasters. In addition, there are plenty of magic shows. Tickets are available from about 31 euros, children of course pay a reduced price.
29. Dam over the ruins of Ostia Antica
In Ostia Antica, at the gates of Rome, merchant ships once docked, supplying the eternal city with goods from distant lands. The ruins of the important trading city are still worth a visit today. You can easily get to Ostia Antica by regional train from Ostiense station. If you want to learn more about the excavations, we recommend booking a half-day tour including a guide. The meeting point is still in Rome itself, travel costs are also included.
30. Experience unique excavations in the world-famous Pompeii
As you already know, there is an infinite amount to discover in Rome. But even despite the abundance of sights and activities in Rome, among our things to do in Rome is a side trip to Pompeii! Ancient Pompeii is less than 2 hours away from Rome and is therefore perfect for a day trip. You can walk the trail on your own, book a shuttle bus or book a guided tour.
Want to learn more about the city besides our things to do in rome? Then be sure to read our Rome Guide and learn which are the best sights in Rome.