Things to do in Rome

Legend has it that Romulus founded Rome from the top of Palatine Hill in 753 BC. With more than two millennia of history, the city offers a spectacular and unmatched array of sights and experiences.

Rome's most famous ancient attraction is the Colosseum, the great arena of the gladiators dating back to 80 AD. Nearby lies the Roman Forum, established in the 7th century BC, and now the ruins of what was once the social, political and commercial centre of the Roman Empire. Next on the list of historic attractions is the Pantheon, where tourists enter the great church through massive bronze doors to marvel at the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built. Watching the sun stream into the church through the oculus is an unforgettable experience.

Within Rome's borders lies the independent state of the Vatican City. Its museums house one of the world's great art collections, culminating in Michelangelo's famous frescoes adorning the Sistine Chapel. Rising above these spectacular works of art is Italy's largest basilica, St Peters. Michelangelo was also the architect behind the soaring dome that looks down over St Peter's square and beyond.

Tourists still thirsting for art can visit the Museo e Galleria Borghese for paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian, and sculptures by Bernini. The Capitoline Museums are the oldest public museums in the world, dating back to 1471, and house an incredible collection of sculptures.

Those tired out by the endless attractions can fall back into the Roman way of life. Wander the streets, relax at cafes and watch the world go by before heading to a pizzeria or trattoria for authentic Roman fare, gelato and a shot of strong Italian coffee.

Trastevere photo

Trastevere

Separated from central Rome by the Tiber River, Trastevere is a picturesque medieval neighbourhood characterised by a quirky Bohemian atmosphere. Its narrow cobblestone streets are…

Trastevere

Separated from central Rome by the Tiber River, Trastevere is a picturesque medieval neighbourhood characterised by a quirky Bohemian atmosphere. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with overhanging flower boxes and washing lines and are home to numerous cafes, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. The area has long attracted artists, celebrities and expats, escaping the grand developments of central Rome. There are some glorious old churches, perhaps the most lovely being the Basilica of Santa Maria, which has wonderful mosaics and draws many visitors into the area for the first time. It is quite different at night time, when it seems more elegant, and it's worth visiting more than once.

Capitoline Hill photo

Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill was the original capital of Ancient Rome. Once housing the Senate, it's the smallest but also the most famous of the Seven Hills. The main feature of the area is Mi…

Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill was the original capital of Ancient Rome. Once housing the Senate, it's the smallest but also the most famous of the Seven Hills. The main feature of the area is Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio, which is bordered by the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the twin structures of the Palazzo dei Senatori and Palazzo Nuovo. Boasting the largest collection of classical sculptures, notable statues include The Dying Gaul, the Resting Satyr and The Capitoline Wolf. Paths cut along the side of the hill from the Campidoglio allow visitors to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Forum and Colosseum, with the Hill giving an overawing sense of the Roman Empire's peak glory.

Address Piazza del Campidoglio, Rome

Website www.museicapitolini.org

Opens Museums are open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am to 8pm. Closed 1 January, 1 May, and 25 December.

Admission

€15 (adults) for access to all the museums, with concessions available.

Roman Forum (Foro Romano) photo

Roman Forum (Foro Romano)

The site of Ancient Rome's commercial, political and religious centre rests in the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. The Forum's main thoroughfare, Via Sacra, slice…

Roman Forum (Foro Romano)

The site of Ancient Rome's commercial, political and religious centre rests in the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. The Forum's main thoroughfare, Via Sacra, slices through the old market square and former civic centre. Some of the best-preserved and most notable monuments include the impressive Arch of Septimus Severus, the former atrium of the House of the Vestal Virgins and the Temple of Vesta. Also of note are the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and the Arch of Titus, built to celebrate Titus' destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. To the right of the arch are stairs snaking up the Palatine Hill, through a series of terraces to the Farnese gardens. The scented avenue, festooned with roses and orange trees, gives way to a magnificent vista over the Forum.

Address Via dei Fori Imperiali

Website www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-life/roman-forum.htm

Opens Open daily from 8.30am until dusk. Closed on New Year's Day, 1 May and Christmas Day

Admission

Free

The Colosseum photo

The Colosseum

Known to be one of the most impressive buildings of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum was the largest structure of its era. Once holding crowds of 55,000 spectators entering via 80 e…

The Colosseum

Known to be one of the most impressive buildings of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum was the largest structure of its era. Once holding crowds of 55,000 spectators entering via 80 entrances, this enduring symbol of ancient Rome tenaciously clings to its foundations as the site of former gladiatorial conquests and brutal public entertainment. Its architecture boasts an impressive array of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns and an underground network of cells, corridors and elevators used to transport animals from their cages to the arena. The magnificence of the original structure has been eroded through the years by pillaging and earthquakes so that only a skeletal framework remains, but it remains truly unforgettable and awe-inspiring.

Address Piazza del Colosseo

Website www.the-colosseum.net/around/visit.htm

Opens 9am to 6.15pm in summer, and from 9am to 4.30pm in winter.

Admission

€12 (adults); €7 (reduced fee)

Pantheon photo

Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the world's most inspiring architectural designs. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's is still the world's largest unreinforced conc…

Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the world's most inspiring architectural designs. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. Built as a temple to the Roman gods by Hadrian in 120 AD, it's perfectly proportioned floating dome rests seductively on sturdy marble columns. The only light source is the central oculus, which was used by the Romans to measure time, and the dates of equinoxes and solstices. The sunlight pouring through the oculus and illuminating the floor in the otherwise dark church is quite a sight. The south transept houses the Carafa Chapel and the tomb of Fra Angelico rests under the left side of the altar.

Address Piazza della Rotonda

Website www.pantheon-rome.com/opening-hours/

Opens Open Monday to Saturday, from 8:30am to 7:30pm; on Sundays from about 9am to 6pm. Closed New Year's Day, 1 May and Christmas Day.

Admission

Free

The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna photo

The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna

The graceful Spanish Steps elegantly curve from the Piazza di Spagna to the Church of Santa Trinit dei Monti, a pastel-tinted neoclassical building. The shopper's paradise of Via C…

The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna

The graceful Spanish Steps elegantly curve from the Piazza di Spagna to the Church of Santa Trinit dei Monti, a pastel-tinted neoclassical building. The shopper's paradise of Via Condotti leads back from the Spanish steps to Via del Corso, and during spring the steps are decorated with pink azaleas. At the base lies Bernini's boat-shaped Barcaccia Fountain, and to the right is the unassuming Keats-Shelley Memorial House. The steps are iconic and if you do walking tours of Rome you are almost guaranteed to stop here, with lots of artists and musicians performing in the area which gives it a festive feel.

Address Piazza di Spagna

Website www.italyguides.it/en/lazio/rome/squares-and-fountains/spanish-steps

Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) photo

Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

The tiny Piazza di Trevi has been immortalised through this fountain built for Pope Clement XII. Arguably the most famous and most beautiful fountain in all of Rome, it's also the …

Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

The tiny Piazza di Trevi has been immortalised through this fountain built for Pope Clement XII. Arguably the most famous and most beautiful fountain in all of Rome, it's also the largest Baroque fountain in the city. The fountain marks the terminal point of an ancient aqueduct that supplied Rome for more than four hundred years. Tossing a coin over your shoulder into the water with your back turned is supposed to guarantee a return trip to Rome. This well-known myth has ensured that thousands of euros are thrown into the fountain every day. The money is used for charitable projects so visitors are at least supporting a good cause.

Address Piazza di Trevi

Website www.trevifountain.net/

St Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) photo

St Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

The Basilica lies above the reputed site of St Peter's tomb, containing notable sculptures including Michelangelo's Pieta. In the central aisle stands Arnolfo da Cambio's bronze st…

St Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

The Basilica lies above the reputed site of St Peter's tomb, containing notable sculptures including Michelangelo's Pieta. In the central aisle stands Arnolfo da Cambio's bronze statue of St Peter, its foot worn down by the constant flow of pilgrims' kisses. Proudly resting above the papal altar is Bernini's Throne of St Peter. The Vatican Grottoes, containing papal tombs, can be reached by steps from the statue of St Longinus. This is the legendary site of St Peter's tomb and advance permission has to be obtained to view it. Tours of the Necropolis, called the Scavi Tour, take about 90 minutes and are fascinating.

Address Piazza San Pietro

Website www.stpetersbasilica.info/contacts.htm

Opens Open daily from 7am to 7pm (April to September), and 7am to 6pm (October to March).

Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel photo

Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel

Scandal has somewhat tarnished the Vatican over the years, but this does not detract from the magnificence of the art collections housed within its buildings or the passion the cit…

Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel

Scandal has somewhat tarnished the Vatican over the years, but this does not detract from the magnificence of the art collections housed within its buildings or the passion the city inspires in the many pilgrims who flock to its holy sites. The Sistine Chapel is known for its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo which looms above the frescoes on the side walls, while the altar wall is covered by The Last Judgement. The chapel is justified in its fame and leaves travellers breathless; it is a profoundly special place to visit. The Vatican Museums provide access to one of the world's greatest collections of art. The galleries stretch over four miles (6km) and include the magnificent Raphael Rooms, the Etruscan Museum and the Pio-Clementino Museum, boasting the world's largest collection of Classical statues.

Address Viale Vaticano

Website www.vatican.va

Basilica di San Giovanni photo

Basilica di San Giovanni

The Basilica of St John Lateran was built in the 4th century by Constantine the Great and was the first church built in Rome. As the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, it ranks abov…

Basilica di San Giovanni

The Basilica of St John Lateran was built in the 4th century by Constantine the Great and was the first church built in Rome. As the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, it ranks above all other Roman Catholic churches. The official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope, it's here where he celebrates Mass on certain religious holidays. The building is characterised by its 18th-century façade, containing several important relics, a 13th-century cloister and an ancient baptistery. Inside are numerous statues and paintings, the High Altar that can only be used by the Pope and a cedar table that is said to be the one used by Christ at the Last Supper. Across the street is one of the holiest sites in Christendom: the Palace of the Holy Steps, believed to be the 28 marble steps of Pontius Pilate's villa. They have been in Rome since 1589.

Address Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano

Website www.turismoroma.it/cosa-fare/basilica-di-san-giovanni-in-laterano?lang=en

Opens Open daily from 7am to 6.30pm

Admission

Basilica is free but €2 for entrance to the Cloister

Villa Doria Pamphili Park photo

Villa Doria Pamphili Park

The best place to go to get some fresh air and a break from traditional sightseeing is the Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest landscaped public park in Rome. It's extremely large, b…

Villa Doria Pamphili Park

The best place to go to get some fresh air and a break from traditional sightseeing is the Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest landscaped public park in Rome. It's extremely large, boasting streams, a lake, lots of shaded areas and plenty of open grassy spaces. There are playgrounds, a skating rink and soccer fields, as well as pony rides, along with a little restaurant for refreshments. The park is lovely all year, even in winter, though it's obviously at its best in good weather. Playgrounds and parks are hard to find in Rome which automatically makes Villa Doria Pamphili a big hit with families visiting the city.

Address Via San Pancrazio

Website www.villapamphili.it/