The Roman Forum is one of the top things to do in Rome
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Top 10 Things to do in Rome, Travel Tips and Restaurant Recommendations – Rome Travel Guide

From iconic attractions to insider tours, magnificent churches to vibrant neighbourhoods, I’ve picked my top 10 things to do in Rome.

You would want to be made of stone if Rome did not impress you. There are ancient wonders at every corner – The Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, I could go on and on. There are so many great things to do in Rome – too many to count I’m sure, but I’ve narrowed this list to things that you can’t afford to miss – I mean don’t leave Rome without seeing them!

Rome is such a walkable city, and so many attractions are so close together, you will stumble across iconic sights constantly and feel like you are in an open air museum.

Book of Rome

In some cases I recommend pre-booking entrance tickets or guided tours, but the Roma Pass can also be a valuable asset if you are planning on using public transport.

It offers unlimited use of public transport for two or three days (excluding to and from the airport), as well as reduced-price tickets to some of the attractions in the city, including skip the line tickets at the Colosseum.

There are many ways to get from Fiumicino airport to the city centre. The Leonardo Express train to Termini station is the most popular option with singles and couples. It runs every 15 – 30 minutes depending on the time of day and the one-way cost is €14. However if travelling with a group of friends or family, a taxi is probably the most convenient option.

views from top of Vittorio Emmanuel Monument
Taxi Tips in Rome: There is a flat rate of €50 from the airport to the city centre, but make sure you take the official white Roma Capitale taxis – you will see the price clearly labelled on the side of the car.

When taking taxis in Rome always check the fare before you start. It is best to go to a taxi rank or book a taxi through your accommodation provider, rather than flagging one down.

If you are wondering where to stay in Rome – check out this post:

Read: Where to stay in Rome, my top picks fo 3, 4 and 5-star hotels

1. Take a city tour on your first day

Hop-on hop-off bus tours are usually a great way to get your bearings in a new city, but as the saying goes – when in Rome…

There are many great alternatives available here, but two of my favourites are the Vespa tour and Golf Cart tour. Both are great ways to see the highlights of Rome, so you can decide which places you want to come back to.

A vespa tour of Rome is of the best things to do with kids

The Vespa tour is a quintessential Rome experience and is ideal for couples, friends, or families with children aged five and above. The vespas have a driver / guide with space for an adult on the back, and another adult or child in the side car.

Luke and Alex loved it and believe it is the best thing to do in Rome for children. Note families or groups with five will need three vespas, which will increase the cost.

See tour here

If you have elderly people in your group, young children, or have a large family, the golf cart tour is a better option. The golf cart tour was set up by Irish man Sean T O Sallaigh of Angel Tours who wanted to bring his ageing mother on a tour of Rome.

Golf carts can take up to 8 people so they are ideal for larger families or groups of friends. I did this tour recently with five girls and we had a blast!

Golf cart tour in Rome

See tour here

2. Go inside the Colosseum

The Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Rome, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and without a doubt a must see if visiting Rome. Built almost 2000 years ago, this incredible amphitheatre once held 80,000 people and was mainly used for sporting events, executions and gladiator flights.

Its central location means you will inevitably pass by it at some stage, but don’t think you can just stroll in whenever you feel like it. Visitor numbers are restricted so it is vital that you book entrance tickets in advance.

family visit to the Colosseum

We booked an express guided tour with Angel Tours and our guide Flavio gave us great insight into what life was once like in the Roman Empire. Night tours are also available.

See tours here

3. Explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Roman Forum

Many tickets to the Colosseum include entrance to nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. If you book an official guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill you will likely visit them all together over three hours. However, combination tickets are usually valid for 24 hours so you don’t have to visit all three at the same time.

We chose to take an express guided tour of the Colosseum only, so we used our entrance tickets to explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill at our own pace the following day.

Palatine Hill, Rome
Palatine Hill

The Roman Forum is a large rectangular space in the centre of Rome that is packed with ancient ruins and resembles a massive  archaeological site. We didn’t have a guide to explain the importance of specific buildings here, so it would be wise to avail of this if booking a tour of the Colosseum.

However, I found Palatine Hill, which is often overlooked, even more impressive. It was once home to luxury villas, and has less crowds and plenty of wide open green spaces – its hard to believe you are inside Rome’s city centre. This is accessed from inside the Roman Forum – don’t miss it.

4. Visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Visiting the Vatican is one of the top things to do in Rome

The Vatican Museums are visited by over six million people every year and have one of the largest collections of art in the world. They also form the entrance to the Sistine Chapel – you can’t visit the Sistine Chapel without first walking through the 54 galleries that house over 20,000 art works.

Visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Rome, I felt obliged to visit them, but I was so glad I did – they are fascinating.

You don’t need to be an art lover to appreciate the mastery and the staggering wealth that you see before you. I was mesmerised by the painted ceilings, 3D paintings that look like sculptures, mosaic floors that took 12 years to make, and the incredible marble sculptures – which moved me so much more than I expected.

Ceilings at Vatican Museums

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took Michelangelo four years to paint – some say he lay on his back on scaffolding while painting it. Popes are still chosen and crowned in the Sistine Chapel, and I believe it is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Sistine Chapel, Rome

If you want to visit at your own pace you should at least book skip-the-line tickets – otherwise you could be standing in line for hours. We booked an express tour with Angel Tours and would highly recommend it.

Our guide Valeria gave us most of the highlights in just 90 minutes – although you could easily spend a day here. She was particularly good with kids, and conducts treasure hunts, asking them to find animals and objects in paintings and mosaics to keep them interested.

See more here

I’m told the breakfast tour is also excellent, where you can enjoy breakfast in the Vatican, while skipping the crowds – although you need to be an early riser – the meet time is 7.30 am.

See tour here

5. Marvel at St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

I understand finding time for all the top things to do in Rome can be difficult, so if you don’t have time to explore The Vatican over a full day, I urge you to make time to at least visit St Peter’s Basilica –  you will thank me for it. As well as being the largest church in the world, I guarantee you will be in awe of its interior.

Regardless of your religion, its immense size and beauty will surely impress you, although I did find the extent of the wealth a little unsettling. Michelangelo’s Pietá is a must see. It is hard to believe it was Michelangelo’s first work and completed when he as just 23 years old. This alone has been valued at a staggering 300 million.

Bernini’s Baldachin is the centre piece of the altar, and take time to marvel at Michelangelo’s dome, as well as the gold painted walls and mosaics that took years to create. St Peter’s tomb is also located inside.

Visiting St Peters Basilica is one of the top things to do in Rome

You can also climb the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, which offers incredible views from the top. There are 551 steps in total, and the climb is narrow in parts, so may not be suitable for anyone who doesn’t like tight spaces. There is an elevator that allows you skip 320 of the steps, leaving only 231 to climb.

See tours here

Top tips for visiting The Vatican

visiting the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica with chlldren

The Vatican Museums and all tours are closed on Sunday, making Saturday is one of the busiest days to visit. St Peter’s Basilica is usually closed on Wednesday mornings for the papal audience, however, this results in the Museums and Sistine Chapel being quieter on Wednesday.

The best days to visit the Vatican if you want to see both the museums and St Peter’s Basilica, are Tuesday and Thursday. Lunch time is the optimum time as many aim to arrive early mornings or late afternoons to beat the crowds. Many museums in Rome are closed on Monday so people flock to the Vatican then too.

Taxi Tip: If booking a tour of the Vatican Museums, don’t fall for the well known Rome taxi scam. It is easier for taxis to pick up fares at St Peter’s Square, so even when you say you want to go to the Museums, they will try to leave you at St Peter’s Square. We fell for this even though I knew about it – the entrance to the museums is about 15 minutes walk from St Peter’s Square.

Shoulders must be covered and no shorts or skirts are allowed above the knee, and whatever way you choose to visit – prebook tickets in advance!

6. Go inside the Pantheon

Visiting the Pantheon is one of the top things to do in Rome

The Pantheon was one of the most surprising churches I visited in Rome – it is an architectural masterpiece! Located in the city centre – it is free to enter and a must visit. Reservations are required on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays if you are accessing without a guided tour.

Built in 126 AD, it is still home to the world’s largest dome – I was surprised to learn it was larger than St Peter’s Basilica.

Its cylindrical structure is astonishing – the height to the oculus (opening at the top) and the diameter of the interior circle are the same – 43.5 metres. The oculus allows natural light to flood the interior and when it rains, there are drain holes so the floor does not flood – how did they build this 2000 years ago?

We were lucky to visit The Pantheon during our Vespa tour so our guide gave us this information – if visiting alone I suggest getting an audio guide to learn more about this magnificent building.

7. Discover Trastevere

Dining at Trastevere

Trastevere is a gorgeous neighbourhood that is packed with lively bars and restaurants just over the Tiber river – Trastevere means beyond the Tiber.

Similarly to what has happened in other capital cities, Trastevere was once a working-class area that has been rejuvenated and is now one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the capital. Expect cobblestone streets, colourful buildings and streets thronged with outdoor cafes and restaurants.

Doorway at Trastevere

Mostly car-free, its backstreet alleyways and pretty piazzas are a pleasure to explore and make sure you allow time to soak up the atmosphere over lunch or dinner. A food tour of Trastevere is another great way to explore this vibrant neighbourhood.

See tours here

8. Go to the top of Vittorio Emanuele II Monument at Piazza Venezia

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument at Piazza Venezia

This is another imposing monument that you can’t help but notice when visiting Rome – its modern style is in complete contrast to the adjacent Roman Forum, and while locals were not too happy about its construction, it is one the top things to do in Rome.

The Piazza Venezia is a hive of activity with many restaurants and cafes offering outdoor dining. Rome’s famous shopping street Via del Corso is opposite the monument and the ancient ruins of the historic centre surround it.

Known as the Altar of the Fatherland, this monument was dedicated to King Vittorio Emmanuelle II who was the first king of Italy. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was subsequently placed inside, along with a museum.

Vittorio Emmanuel Monument, Rome

It is free to enter but you can pay a pricey €7 to use the glass elevator to get to the top – it is one of the more modern things to do in Rome. There is also a bar and restaurant at the top offering fabulous views of the historic centre, including the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

9. The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is one of the top things to do in Rome

You simply can’t visit Rome without seeing the Trevi Fountain! It is known as the world’s most famous fountain and is located in the heart of the city centre, so it is likely you will pass by it numerous times.

Completed in 1762, I was surprised by how modern it looked, until I was told that Italian Fashion brand Fendi paid over two million dollars to have it sandblasted back in 2015. Legend has it that if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder you will either return to Rome, or fall in love. Over one million Euro is taken from the fountain each year and donated to various charities.

I recommend visiting at night time to see the fountain lit up, and to avoid the large crowds.

10. The Spanish Steps

Climbing the Spanish Steps is one of the top things to do in Rome

I believe the Spanish Steps is one the most over rated attractions in Rome, and I had many more interesting places to make this list, but as one of Rome’s top attractions, I felt obliged to include it! However, visiting the Spanish Steps does come with some advantages – it is one of the top Instagram locations in Rome, and you don’t have to pay to see them!

The Spanish Steps’ central location at the top of the Via del Corso (main shopping street), means that you can easily admire them without too much effort. The Piazza di Spanga ( Spanish Square) is a nice place to shop and people watch – incidentally the name comes from the location of the Spanish Embassy, which has been there since the seventeenth century.

More things to do in Rome…

Piazza del Popolo, Rome

There are many places that I could have added to this list of top things to do in Rome, but the above are my ‘must visits’. If you have time I suggest visiting the Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo too – they are two of the most beautiful squares in Rome. They are packed with street vendors and artists they are an ideal place to grab a coffee or Aperol Spritz and watch the world go by.

Movie lovers will want to visit the famous Bocca della Veritá – also known as the Mouth of Truth from Roman Holiday, and if time allows take some time to explore the beautiful gardens at Villa Borghese.

Rome is one of those magical cities that should be revisited as often as possible, so I am sure if you do this you will add lots more places to the list!

Where to eat in Rome

Pasta in Rome

Home to the best pasta and pizza in the world – it is hard to find a bad restaurant in Rome – however there are a few that you shouldn’t miss. I have selected some of my own personal favourites, as well as some top recommendations from readers below. All of these should be booked in advance.

Emma Restaurant is said to have the best pizza in Rome and has a lively atmosphere. Don’t expect your average pizza here, all ingredients are listed by age and location. Expect 46 months aged Pata Negra pizza, Bufallo Mozzarella cheese from Paestum, and 24 months aged Parma Ham.

Pizza at Emma Restaurant, Rome

Trattoria da Enzo – There are many great restaurants in Trastevere but this one was the most recommended to me. It is highly recommended on TripAdvisor too and boasts authentic Italian pasta in a great location.

Trattoria Luzzi serves up delicious pizzas close to the Colosseum. This kerbside pizzeria was recommended to me by locals, and we enjoyed delicious pizza here. If you are looking for good food at cheap prices, this is the spot. It’s not a fancy restaurant, and don’t expect fine wines or even spirits for that matter, but it is good choice for an alfresco pizza after a visit to the Colosseum.

Il Chianti – This was one of my favourite restaurants in Rome. As well as having Villa Antinori (one of my favourite wines) at a reasonable price, the food and service was superb. The pasta dishes were delicious, as was my starter of bresaola with apple and parmesan.

Located beside the Trevi Fountain, if you make a reservation for dinner, you can enjoy the fountain lit up afterwards without the crowds!

Bresola in Il Chiani - one of the best restaurants in Rome

Oro Bistrot at NH Collection Roma Fori Imperiali is the perfect rooftop bar and restaurant to appreciate the beauty of Rome. We enjoyed a delicious lunch here, and although expensive (and no kids menus), its views are unrivalled. I’m not sure it was worth the expensive price tag, but the location is hard to beat.

As an alternative to dining, why not book a table for pre-dinner cocktails? The city views are equally as impressive at night time when the monuments are illuminated, and will be easier on your wallet too! Book here.

restaurants in Rome with views

Bonci Gabriele – For the best take-away pizza in Rome, look no further. Renowned around the world, dough master Gabriele Bonci’s pizza-by-the-slice shop is popular with locals as well as tourists. Located close to The Vatican, this is the place to go if you want a quick bite, but don’t want to compromise on taste.

The Jewish Ghetto is now considered one of the elevated dining areas in Rome and is home to many gourmet-style restaurants. There is a wide variety of food available, most restaurants don’t only serve Kosher food, and its main square is a great spot for al-fresco dining.

A food tour is another great way to sample the best local restaurants, and you may even get some cooking skills thrown in. See various food tours here.

Where to stay in Rome

hotels in Rome with best views

Rome’s historic centre is wonderful and I urge you to stay as close to it as possible. With the exception of The Vatican, most of the top attractions are within 20 minutes walk of each other.

Nevertheless, if price is factor, and you have to stay on the outskirts of the city, don’t despair – public transport is excellent – but purchase the Roma Pass (more details above).

I’ve picked some hidden gems, hotels with roof-top bars, family apartments, and luxury five-star hotels in this post:

Read: Where to stay in Rome, my top picks fo 3, 4 and 5-star hotels

While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, it is important to note that attractions are subject to change. Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.

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