The 8 Top Attractions in Rome – Things to do in Rome 

October 9, 2023

The first time I visited Rome, I was 13 years old. My dad surprised me with this unforgettable gift for my bar mitzvah. Instead of having a party with my entire class, he took me on an overseas flight to one of the most incredible destinations in Europe. Even as a child, I was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of Rome. I developed a love for the food, particularly the most amazing pizzas I’ve ever tasted. Since then, I’ve returned to Rome multiple times, and on each occasion, I discover new things to do, see, and eat there.

Rome stands as one of the world’s most beautiful and ancient cities. Its history spans over 2,500 years, and it has been a hub of power, politics, culture, and development since its inception. The city is steeped in legends and mythology, and the various accounts of its origins have always intrigued me.

As one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, Rome boasts renowned attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican, making its allure easy to understand.

After numerous trips to this stunning city, it’s time for me to share all that I’ve learned. In the following guide, I’ll cover all the top attractions and provide tips for your first visit to Rome!

The Colosseum as the most popular attraction in Rome

My Top 8 Recommendations for Things to Do in Rome

#1 Visit the Colosseum

This impressive structure is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, and a trip to Rome would not be complete without a visit to the Colosseum (some people travel just for this!).

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built, and it was constructed between 70-80 AD. At its peak it could hold 80,000 spectators!

Mainly used as a home for gladiatorial tournaments, this famous structure was used for viewing cruel forms of entertainment that the Roman emperors regularly attended. You can easily get there by train or bus from almost any area of the city.

Note: No matter what season or day you go, expect a long line. Every time I have visited over the years, there was always a long queue. But don’t let that deter you – this is a must-see while in Rome!

#2 Check Out St. Peter’s Square

Rome contains a small country within a country – the Vatican. This independent state is one of the most important religious sites in the world and St. Peter’s Square is an important place where many significant events have taken place.

Located in front of the Vatican State, the square is actually circular and framed by two giant sets of columns – on these columns stand beautiful statues of various religious figures and past popes. In the center, there is an impressive obelisk that was actually taken from Nero’s Circus. At the far end of the square stands the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica, and in front of it is usually placed a set of chairs for papal ceremonies.

Main square in Rome, Vatican

#3 Head to St. Peter’s Basilica

Perhaps the most famous and recognizable religious building in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica stands as a true testament to the power of the Catholic Church and is held as one of the holiest shrines for its followers.

Standing at the far end of St. Peter’s Square, the basilica has a well-designed façade and is adorned with statues of Jesus and other saints. Inside the basilica, the architecture is simply divine and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. You’ll be amazed by the amount of decoration and detail, admiring how the rays of light fall in precise angles and create a stunning sight to behold.

Both Michelangelo and Bernini contributed to the design and their handiwork can be seen in both the enormous dome and the stunning Gloria sculpture.

In a guided tour of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, you can climb to the upper level of the dome and see the panoramic views of Rome. Then, you can descend to the underground part to admire the historic crypts.

#4 View the Pantheon

The majestic Pantheon stands as one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world and is one of the most famous attractions in Rome.

Constructed in 118 AD by Emperor Hadrian, the building that stands today was actually built on the site of a previous temple built by Agrippa.

Located in the center of Rome on Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon is a must-visit destination.

Ancient Rome at sunset, buildings in the background

#5 Admire the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous religious landmarks in the world. Located in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, it was extensively restored in the 1400s. This is where the new pope is elected.

The Sistine Chapel is particularly famous for its detailed decorations, including Michelangelo’s Last Judgment fresco and the incredible paintings that cover the ceilings. Be sure to leave plenty of time to explore this chapel. 

#6 Browse the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums, home to classical and historical art, were built over centuries by various popes and contain some of the most important works of art in the world.

Located within the borders of Vatican City, the museums contain over 70,000 works of art (!) Be prepared to come with time to spare. A double ticket can be purchased to see both the Sistine Chapel and the museums, and it is recommended to take enough time to see both properly.

The museums are divided into several different sections, including the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Chiaramonti Museum, the Gregoriano Etrusco Museum, and the Gregoriano Egizio Museum, each of which contains different works of art and themes. The highlights include Raphael’s Transfiguration and Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ.

#7 Wander the Borghese Gardens

Located within the Borghese Villa complex, these gardens provide a welcome respite from the abundance of historical architecture found in Rome.

As the third-largest park in Rome, the gardens cover just under 200 hectares of land and contain the Borghese Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art.

The garden contains different sections including the Borghese Casino which contains sculptures by Bernini and Villa Giulia, home to the Etruscan Museum and the remains of other villas.

There are also plenty of walking paths leading you through an abundance of plants, trees, and landscaped garden areas with flower arrangements and fountains. This is a perfect place to stroll in the morning or afternoon, enjoying art in total peace and tranquility.

#8 Go to the Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine was dedicated to the great emperor Constantine to celebrate his victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. It is the largest of its kind in Rome and stands near the Colosseum.

Built in 315 AD, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city that has been preserved in its original form. The works of art and sculptures that appear on the arch are a combination of different themes that come together to create a sequence of ancient historical stories.

 A museum hall in Rome with paintings, a perfect attraction

Tips for First-time Travelers to Rome

Plan Carefully

Rome has so much to offer that it can be challenging to decide where to go and what to see first. I recommend planning your trip carefully in advance to get the most out of your time. Make a list of must-see attractions, such as the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Pantheon. Then, check opening hours and admission fees to avoid long lines and save money. I also suggest booking tours in advance to ensure you get a spot and a knowledgeable guide who can enrich you with new information.

Explore the Neighborhoods of Rome 

One of the best ways to experience Rome is by wandering through its different neighborhoods. Each area has its own unique atmosphere and attractions. For example, Trastevere is a charming and vibrant neighborhood with narrow streets, alleyway restaurants, and friendly bars. Monti is a trendy and fashionable area with vintage shops, cool cafes, and beautiful street art. So, put on comfortable shoes and go for a walk in the neighborhoods that are close to your home or hotel, and be sure to trek to those that are further away too!

Eat Like a Roman

Food is a big part of Italian culture, and you don’t want to miss out on the amazing cuisine. Start your day with a cappuccino and cornetto (Italian croissant) at your local cafe. For lunch, try an Italian classic such as pasta alla carbonara or cacio e pepe. And for dinner, indulge in a good pizza and end on a sweet note with tiramisu! Pro tip: when choosing a restaurant, stay away from tourist areas.

Use Public Transportation

Rome is a big city, and walking everywhere can be tiring. Fortunately, Rome has an efficient public transportation system that includes buses, trams, and the metro. I recommend buying a daily or weekly pass to save money and time. Another option is to rent a bicycle.

Buy a Data Package Abroad

Finally and, maybe, most importantly, I recommend setting up a data package before you go. Wi-Fi is not always available, and having internet access on the go can be incredibly useful for navigating the city, finding restaurants, and staying in touch with friends and family.

You can get a local SIM card or a package from your current mobile operator, but if you’re looking for a more convenient and cheaper option – try the eSIM from the company eSIMple.

An eSIM is a digital SIM card that is embedded in your smartphone through an app. It can be easily activated by downloading the app and scanning the QR code. Plus, with eSIM, you can easily switch between different cellular networks without having to physically swap SIM cards.

For more information on SIMs for Italy, click here.

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