I have to start by saying that putting together a 7-day tour in Rome is a very difficult task. Just browse the list of attractions in Rome: there are plenty of cool things to do, always lack of time! So, if you’re looking for the best things to do in Rome, I’m glad you’re here!
My first time in Rome happened because of a stopover (that amazing way of getting to know two destinations with one ticket). And it was a huge gift. Since that first time, I fell madly in love with the city.
Today it is my favorite city in the world, and I feel a twinge of pride whenever I start talking about it or giving travel tips to friends. Everyone says they notice my love affair with the Eternal City.
Well, I hope you also enjoy these tips a lot. I explored everything I could in 7 days and will show in this article my 15 top things to do in Rome. Read on!
Best Things to Do in Rome
1. The Colosseum
The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Rome is the Colosseum. This massive structure was built by the Roman emperor Vespasian in 72 CE and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles.
With a capacity of over 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was one of the largest buildings in the world at the time and remains one of the most famous attractions in Rome today. Highlights include the arena floor, where you can imagine the bloody battles that took place, and the underground chambers, where animals and gladiators were kept before fights. Guided tours of the Colosseum are available, which I recommend if you want to learn more about this fascinating piece of history.
And did you know that the Colosseum is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World? It was named as such in 2007, along with some other pretty amazing attractions. So if you’re looking to tick another wonder off your list, add the Colosseum to your itinerary.
Important: With this same ticket, you are also entitled to visit the Roman Forum and Mount Palatine.
2. The Roman Forum
Visiting the Roman Forum is one of the best things to do in Rome, and it’s located right next to the Coliseum.
This was the heart of the social and commercial life of the entire Roman Empire. In its palaces, commercial transactions were carried out, laws were passed, convicts were sentenced, and the most important decisions of the empire were made. And in its squares and temples, the public and religious life of its citizens was carried out.
Walking through the Forum, I got to know other historic buildings, such as the Arch of Titus, the Giulia Basilica, and the Temple of Saturn. These ruins preserve the history of Rome and take you on a journey back in time. Get ready for a good walk all day.
3. Palatine Hill
Palatine Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome and is located in the center of the city. This is where legend says that the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus.
Whether or not that legend is true, there’s no denying that Palatine Hill has a long and rich history. In fact, it was the most desirable residential area in Rome during the time of the Roman Empire. Some of the ruins that remain today date back to the 9th century. Among the attractions on Palatine Hill are the Baths of Septimius Severus, Domus Flavia (palace of the Flavian Dynasty), and the House of Livia (the wife of Augustus).
While Palatine Hill may not be as popular with tourists as some of the other Rome attractions on this list, it’s still definitely worth a visit. After all, how many people can say they’ve walked on the same ground as some of the most famous historical figures in the world?
4. Vatican City
To start the second day in Rome (which was Saturday), I chose to visit the Vatican. The smallest country in the world inside Rome. The idea was to make the most of the day and try to avoid the crowds that go to the Vatican on Sunday to meet the Pope.
I entered the Vatican through St. Peter’s Square. And as soon I was inside, I was impressed because its entire perimeter is full of columns that seemed to want to hug me.
I decided to take advantage of the first time to visit the Vatican Museums. I say “museums” in the plural because the place is a complex, with 17 different museums gathered in one place.
In the museums, I saw sculptures, paintings, chandeliers, tapestries, sarcophagi, Egyptian art, Etruscan art, maps, ancient literary works, and more. It’s quite possible to spend a lifetime strolling inside.
I recommend buying Vatican museums tickets in advance! This was one of the longest lines I encountered in Rome.
5. St. Peter’s Basilica
Then, I visited St. Peter’s Basilica, a tour that offers one of the most beautiful views of Rome and the Vatican. It is here in the Vatican, and more specifically in St. Peter’s Basilica that you will have the most spectacular view of Rome, in my opinion.
It shows St. Peter’s Square, Castel Sant’Angelo and the River Tiber. In other words, it would be a shame to miss this place.
The bad news is that there is always a huge queue to get to the elevator that goes to the first level of the dome (and then you have to climb the stairs to get to the top). But it’s still worth the climb.
I ended the day with the sunset at St. Peter’s Square, an unforgettable moment of the trip. Definitely, this is one of the top tourist attractions in Rome that you can’t miss.
6. Castel Sant’Angelo
If you are in the Vatican, you have another monument a stone’s throw away, the Castel Sant’Angelo. It is located on the right bank of the Tiber River, and to access it, I had to cross a pedestrian bridge that bears the same name.
Initially made as a family mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian, it underwent several transformations over time, not only in terms of architecture, but also in relation to its use. It has functioned as a mausoleum, military fortress, state prison, and national museum since 1925.
The castle has five levels to visit, where I was able to see the mausoleum, the jail, a military museum, and the papal apartment with fresco paintings. On the upper level, you’ll find the statue of the archangel.
7. Piazza Navona
This is one of the top attractions in Rome! This has been a designated public space since the 15th century, and it is undoubtedly the most beautiful baroque square in Rome. It’s three fountains that stand out are:
- Neptune Fountain: in this fountain, the god Neptune is seen attacking sea lions. In each of the cardinal points of the fountain, there is a nereid. We also find horses that were added after the first construction of the fountain.
- Fountain of the Four Rivers:the four most important rivers of the time are represented here, which were the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile, and the Rio. At the center of this fountain, there is a 16-meter high obelisk.
- Source of the Moor:the source of the Moor represents an African fighting a dolphin and surrounded by newts.
The Piazza is a fun place to be and often features artists and street markets, depending on the time of day and week you visit.
8. The Pantheon
You can’t come to Rome without seeing the Pantheon, one of Rome’s most preserved ancient monuments. It is a former Roman temple that was converted into a church in 609 AD by Emperor Phocas.
This building is most famous for its massive domed roof, which is an engineering marvel. This dome was once the largest in the world for over 1,300 years and is still the largest unsupported dome in the world. There is an oculus (hole) in the center of the dome that allows natural light to enter and also serves as a ventilation system.
In addition to its impressive architecture, the Pantheon is also home to the tombs of several famous Italian artists and kings, including Raphael and King Vittorio Emanuele II. All this makes the Pantheon to be one of the most famous places in Rome and a top attraction in Italy.
9. Spanish Steps
If you’re looking for a place to people watch and do some shopping, the Spanish Steps are the perfect spot. These steps were built in the early 1700s and were designed to connect the two squares of Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinita dei Monti.
The steps are one of the most famous attractions in Rome and are often crowded with tourists, especially during the summer months. The best part is that it is surrounded by some of the most famous streets in the city, such as Via Dei Condotti, full of shops and restaurants. So whether you’re looking to shop or just take in the sights of Rome, the Spanish Steps is the perfect place.
10. Catacombs of San Calisto
The Catacombs of San Calisto are one of the most interesting Rome attractions. These underground burial chambers date back to the 2nd century and were used by early Christians. They are also largest and most extensive catacombs in Rome, with over 20 kilometers (12 miles) of tunnels.
Today, the catacombs are open to the public and offer an interesting glimpse into early Christian burial practices. However, note that visits to the interior are always carried out with a guide since getting lost in any of them could be quite dangerous. In addition, it is not recommended for people who have acute claustrophobia.
11. The Trevi Fountain
You can’t come to Rome without throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. After all, why would you want to pass up the opportunity to make a wish?
This baroque-style fountain was completed in 1762 and is one of the top attractions in Rome. The fountain depicts a statue of Neptune (the god of the sea) with horses, shells, and tritons. A real eye-catcher, especially in the evening hours, when the water and the figures are atmospherically illuminated.
I went in the afternoon, and of course, it was packed with people. To take the photo with the Trevi Fountain alone, you have to go very early in the morning, preferably before 8 am. Later on, it starts to fill up with tourists. Or, go late at night, when most people are asleep.
As I was leaving, I decided to toss my coin in the fountain. They say if you flip a coin, you’ll go back to Rome. With two, you will find love. And with three, marriage. I threw one, coming back to Rome is the important thing!
12. The Borghese Gallery
A visit to the Borghese Gallery is one of the best things to do in Rome for any art lover. This incredible museum is located in the magnificent Villa Borghese, a huge park in the center of the city.
This gallery contains one of the finest collections of art in Rome, with paintings and sculptures by some of the most famous artists in history, including Caravaggio, Raphael, and Rubens. The gallery is particularly well-known for its incredible collection of Bernini sculptures, which are considered some of the best in the world.
And since this gallery is among the most famous places in Rome, you can only stay inside for two hours. Therefore, I recommend making a reservation in advance so that you can ensure you get a spot.
13. The Appian Way
The Appian Way was once a great road connecting Rome to Brindisi, in the extreme south of Italy. It was built in 312 B.C. and was originally a military road.
The creation of the road was associated with the name of Appius, one of the high officials of Rome. Today, part of the Appian Way begins right within the city.
Along the way, I enjoyed the beautiful sights of ancient monuments as the antique gate of San Sebastian, tombs, entrances to the catacombs, the sanctuary, and many other interesting sights.
14. The Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla is the second largest Roman public bath in the most impressive city of Rome. They were built between the years 212 and 216 by order of Emperor Caracalla. And today, they have become among the top tourist attractions in Rome to visit.
Baths of Caracalla are gigantic structures, more like fortresses. In fact, these huge baths were not only used for hygiene purposes, but also included other facilities such as dry and steam saunas, swimming pools, gymnastics and sports facilities, gardens, social rooms, hairdressers, libraries, and shops.
15. Trastevere Neighborhood
One of the most beautiful and charming neighborhoods in Rome is the Trastevere. This beautiful neighborhood by itself is quite an attraction, as there are many things to see and do while you visit.
From its beautiful Sisto Bridge to climbing the Gianicol hill, I spent hours without getting bored. What I liked the most about this neighborhood was everything, yes, everything! Its cobbled streets, with many little houses in which the vines falling on its walls, make it a charming place. Make a point of visiting this neighborhood when in this city.
There are many top tourist attractions in Rome to visit. However, I only recommend these if you have at least a week in Rome. Within 6-7 days, you’ll have a lot to visit, as there is no shortage of attractions in Rome.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in Rome