logo
  • google plus
  • Twitter

Rome Attractions - Things to Do - Day Trips in Rome

Rome Top Attractions - Things to Do in Rome

OVERVIEW OF ROME ATTRACTIONS

A city with one of the greatest cultural and architectural legacies in the world, there is so much to see that planning ahead is essential. Near the top of most lists would be the Colosseum, the magnificent temple of the Pantheon, and of course the Vatican Museums including Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel. You can walk in Ancient Roman footsteps in the ruins of the Forum, and spend a romantic moment at the Trevi Fountain, tossing a coin in to ensure your return. If you want to chill out away from the monuments and statues, there are some excellent beaches nearby, such as Santa Marinella, which can be reached in a 50-minute train ride from Termini station. There are also some excellent theme parks near the city such as Rainbow Magicland in Valmontone (opened in 2011) which has a range of thrilling rides for all ages.

Top Rome Attractions - Paris Day Trips

Church of San Luigi dei Francesi (Free)

img

The reputation of this church rests largely on a trio of paintings by the master Caravaggio, depicting the life of St Matthew. They attract a large number of visitors due to the excellent use of light and shade. Although admission to the church is free, dropping a coin into the special box will cause the paintings to be illuminated. San Luigi dei Francesi was built as the National Church of France in Rome between 1518-89. This is evident from the exterior statues which portray Charlemagne, St Louis and St Jeanne of Valois among other French heroes. The interior is also richly decorated with a superb ceiling by Domenichino and there is an ornate Merklin organ. The church was built by Domenico Fontana, and Catherine de Medici stepped in to ensure its completion after Rome was sacked in 1527. The site had been owned by the monks of the Abbey of Farfa, who escaped to Rome after their abbey was burned by the Saracens in 898.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Basilica di San Clemente (Paid)

img

This church, although beautifully decorated, is a lot more than meets the eye. Below street level, you can go down through two floors holding the remains of two previous churches, as well as a dwelling house dating from around 100 AD. This reveals how, over the centuries, Rome has gradually been built on top of itself. Start off in the ground level church, built around 1100, and take in the sumptuous interior including Byzantine mosaics. You then descend to the previous 4th century basilica, converted from the home of a Roman nobleman. In the basement of this is a mithraeum, a temple used by members of the cult of Mithras. You will find the altar devoted to the Persian god portraying him slaughtering a bull and a figure showing him being born from the rock. These were first discovered in excavations in the 19th century - and are themselves built on top of a previous building which may have burned down during the Great Fire of 64 AD. All in all, a fascinating and unique opportunity to explore the multileveled nature of Rome’s architectural history.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

The Colosseum (Paid)

img

What can be said about this iconic monument? No trip to Rome can be complete without taking in one of the oldest stadiums in the world and what remains the largest amphitheatre. Although damaged by earthquakes and stone robbers, enough remains to give an impression of how grandiose it must have appeared when it was completed in 80 AD. The Colosseum has three levels of arches on its surviving outer wall which once held statues. It was used for gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, mock sea battles, executions and plays. After the initial build, two layers of underfloor tunnels and rooms were constructed in which animals and slaves were kept. This is clearly visible today, as the original arena floor has largely disappeared. Seating was segregated into many distinct sections of society from the Emperor down to the poorest citizens. On hot days, a large awning was pulled across the top of the arena.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Pantheon (Free)

img

One of the most iconic buildings in the world, this impressive structure has been standing for almost two thousand years. The name means “Temple dedicated to all the gods” but since the 7th century it has been used as a Roman Catholic church. After entering through the vast pillars at the front, you can take in the magnificent dome with its hole at the top, which lets in natural light. Known as the oculus, any rain that falls through is dealt with by the drainage system in the floor. Although the inscription on the front states that it was built by Marcus Agrippa, the current form of the temple was constructed by Hadrian, who retained the facade after the rest of the building was destroyed. It is actually the third incarnation of the Pantheon after the first two were gutted by fire. The building has been used as a tomb since the Renaissance period, and houses the remains of the painter Raphael among many others. It is still in use as a church today.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

St Peter in Chains (Free)

img

This church was built in the 5th century to contain the chains which bound St Peter, both those from Jerusalem when he was held by Herod and the Roman ones when he was imprisoned by Nero. The chains are thought to have fused together miraculously. While these are a moving sight, another huge draw for the church is a masterpiece by Michelangelo, the statue of Moses which adorns the incomplete tomb of Pope Julius II. This well-loved statue portrays Moses with horns, intended to imply that his face shone with the radiance of the Lord; the Hebrew words for “beams of light” and “horns” are very similar. The basilica contains several other interesting artworks including the ceiling fresco by Parodi depicting the fusing of the chains, dating from 1706. There is a stunning mosaic of St Sebastian from the seventh century, and the highly unusual and ornate tomb to Cardinal Aldobrandini, featuring the motif of the Grim Reaper.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Trevi Fountain (Free)

img

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to this brilliantly elaborate fountain, with its statues and tumbling water pouring into a pool full of coins. The story goes that if you throw in a coin, you are sure to return to Rome. The fountain occupies a surprisingly small space at the junction of three alleys. It was completed in 1762, after over a hundred years of designs and plans to replace the earlier fountain, a project that was initiated by Pope Urban VIII in 1629. Oceanus, the god of water, stands at the centre of the fountain, flanked by the goddesses Abundance and Salubrity. It is a highly popular spot to sit and watch the world go by, and is also well worth visiting at night when the fountain is beautifully lit. Behind the fountain is the Palazzo Poli, which has Oceanus standing in its central arch.
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

St. Peter’s Basilica (Free)

img

The most famous church in Rome and the centre of the Vatican (link), St Peter’s Basilica stands in the vast Piazza San Pietro (link). It is one of the most important Catholic sites in the world and it is from here that the Pope delivers sermons to huge crowds in the Piazza. The basilica is reputed to contain the remains of St Peter, the first Pope, below its altar. The tomb was excavated in the 20th century. The present church was built between 1506-1626, replacing the earlier 4th century basilica. Among those involved in the new church’s design were Michelangelo and Donato Bramante. The famous dome is an iconic image of Rome’s skyline. For a small fee, you can ascend the dome for breathtaking views across the city. The basilica itself is built to enormous proportions, and there are a large number of chapels inside dedicated to various saints. The interior is fabulously decorated with marble, gold leaf, reliefs and sculpture.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Sistine Chapel (Paid)

img

Another must-see attraction when in Rome, Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring ceiling in the Sistine Chapel has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Between 1508 and 1512, he crafted a staggeringly detailed sequence of paintings depicting the story of the world from its first creation by God to mankind’s fall from Grace and the prophesying of the coming salvation by Christ. This went far beyond the original remit for the job, as commissioned by Pope Julius II, which was to paint Jesus’ twelve apostles. Michelangelo later returned to paint the Last Judgement on the wall behind the altar, a fearful and apocalyptic work. In addition, the chapel features paintings of the life of Moses on the southern wall and the life of Jesus on the northern wall, by other artists including Botticelli and Perugino. The ceiling underwent extensive restoration between 1984-94 to remove centuries of damage by candle smoke, and now appears extremely fresh and bright.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (Paid)

img

Walking through the remains of the Roman Forum with its huge array of former temples, government buildings, arches and memorials is like stepping back in time. With a little imagination you can conjure up in your mind’s eye what was the once the bustling centre of the city’s political and commercial life. Everything went on here, from markets to elections, processions, debates and gladiatorial contests. When the Forum began to decline as the Roman Empire waned, it gradually became swallowed up by layer upon layer of debris. This has gradually been excavated over the last two centuries, and the process is still very much ongoing. One of the most notable sights, the Arch of Septimius Severus, built in 203 AD, was among the first to be uncovered beginning in 1803. Also to be seen is the Basilica of Maxentius, of which remains one of the largest fragments in the Forum, and the partially reconstructed Senate. Palatine Hill looks down on the Forum, and according to mythology is the birthplace of ancient Rome as it was where the brothers Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Piazzas (Free)

img

Rome has a splendid array of squares or piazzas with wonderful architecture, fountains, and many other features. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is the Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s Square) in the Vatican (link), in front of St Peter’s Basilica (link), which is packed to capacity during Papal addresses. At the centre of the square is a 4400-year-old Egyptian obelisk standing 25.5 metres tall. There is also the Piazza di Spagna from which you can ascend the Spanish Steps (link). The Piazza del Campidoglio sits atop Capitoline Hill and is the seat of the Italian government and the Capitoline Museums (link). Here you will also find the statue of the she-wolf nursing the twins Romulus and Remus who founded Rome. Piazza Venezia is the home of magnificent palaces such as Palazzo Venezia and Palazzo Bonaparte (home of Napoleon’s mother), as well as the imposing monument of Victor Emanuel II. The directions below refer to Piazza San Pietro.
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Baths of Caracalla (Paid)

img

One of those intriguing attractions that give an insight into what daily life was like for the Romans, these baths were built in the 3rd century to provide a sort of leisure centre for citizens of all classes. The complex would have had a lavish and opulent interior with many statues and highly detailed mosaic tiling, pieces of which can still be seen. Water was supplied by an aqueduct and the baths were heated by an underfloor hypocaust system. A vast network of tunnels enabled this, with the woodburning maintained by slaves. In addition to hot, cold and medium baths, there were also two libraries, gyms for wrestling and boxing, a swimming pool, and shops. Today, visitors can wander around the still-impressive ruins and visualise the splendour of the ancient baths. The site is enormous, covering 33 acres. It’s well worth getting the audioguide to enrich your understanding as you tour the grounds.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

The Vatican on the Last Sunday of the Month (Free)

img

This is when the Vatican Museums (link) including the Sistine Chapel (link) open their doors for free. They are not open on any other Sunday of the month. The admission hours are only from 9am-12.30pm, but visitors can remain until 2pm. You need to be aware that demand is understandably high so it is worth waiting until later in the morning when the initial early queue has died down. The Museums contain a wealth of stunning artworks, detailed in their own article (link), and of course Michelangelo’s legendary ceiling of the Sistine Chapel barely needs an introduction. After taking in these sights, you may be lucky enough to catch Pope Francis delivering one of his midday addresses to the crowds in Piazza San Pietro (link) from a window of St. Peter’s Basilica (link).
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Vatican Museums (Paid)

img

These museums are where the vast accumulation of artwork built up by the Roman Catholic Church over the last 500 years, including many Renaissance masterpieces, is on display to the public. The complex includes the Sistine Chapel (link) with Michelangelo’s world-famous ceiling. The Museums were founded by Pope Julius II in 1506 after the chance discovery of a marble sculpture in a nearby vineyard, which was snapped up by the Vatican (link). There are now seven museums, four of which display sculptures including many classical Greek and Roman pieces. In the Pinacoteca Vaticana art gallery, treasures including da Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness, Raphael’s Madonna di Foligno and Caravaggio’s Entombment are to be found. There is also the Collection of Modern Religious Art, and the Vatican Historical Museum, the newest museum which was founded in 1973, which contains portraits of Popes going back to the 16th century and an archive of Papal modes of transport including the well-known Popemobile.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Arch of Constantine (Free)

img

Another famous sight in Rome, this splendid arch was built in 315AD to celebrate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius and is located between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The optimum view of the arch is to be had from the top of the Colosseum. It has three archways, and stands 21m high. The arch is decorated with an abundance of reliefs and statues, with the architects reusing parts of earlier monuments from the times of Hadrian, Aurelius and Trajan to tell a continuous story of various triumphes. It seems the reason for this may have stemmed from a combination of the short time frame in which to construct the arch (it was consecrated three years after Constantine’s triumph) and the Emperor’s desire to align himself with past rulers’ glories. The arch has been hugely influential on other monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and London’s Marble Arch.
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Capitoline Museums (Paid)

img

Renowned as holding one of the most outstanding collections of ancient statuary and artefacts in the world, the Capitoline Museums are housed in a complex of buildings which itself holds the distinction of being designed by Michelangelo himself. The three palaces facing on the central Piazza del Campidoglio were either designed or modified by the artist. Among the treasures inside are parts of the gigantic bronze statue of Emperor Constantine and the statue of Marcus Aurelius, once the centrepiece of the piazza. The Capitoline She-Wolf with Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) is also of great interest. An audioguide will greatly enhance your understanding of the pieces on display. The buildings are connected by a tunnel under the piazza, ideal for a rainy day. It forms its own gallery with spectacular remains of ancient dwellings in their original location and a touching collection of Roman epigraphs. However, you should venture out to the piazza if conditions are fine for a superb view of the Ancient Forum (link).
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Borghese Gallery (Paid)

img

Another substantial collection of stunning Renaissance masterpieces, this gallery deserves a place on any trip’s itinerary. It is housed in a villa once belonging to the Borghese family, and displays part of a collection that was begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 17th century. You are sure to see something you recognise in the gallery’s array of treasures, such as the much-loved sculpture Apollo & Daphne by Bernini. Also by the same artist are David and Truth Unveiled by Time. Caravaggio is represented by St. Jerome and Boy with a Basket of Fruit among others, and you will also find Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love and The Scourging of Christ as well as works by Raphael and Rubens. It’s well worth renting the audio guide for an extra Euro. The gallery also contains the National Museum of Musical Instruments, featuring a diverse selection of instruments from around the world and dating back to Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Appian Way (Free)

img

Where better to indulge in a bit of vigorous walking or cycling than on an ancient Roman road? This is definitely an experience that shouldn’t be missed while in Rome and by walking along here you will be taking footsteps into history. The road was built in 312 BC. You can get to the start via a subway and bus. Starting from the Domino Quo Vadis church, you will pass the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metello and the catacombs of St. Callistus, both well worth investigating. The authentic ancient cobbles start after the old Forte Appio, but be aware that these are extremely difficult to negotiate on a bike so you will either want to use the paths at the roadside or push the bike for this section. This is, however, the most attractive part of the road, with many little monuments and tombs and beautiful cypress and pine trees, and you will really get a feeling of being back in the heyday of Rome. There is however a bloody aspect to the road as it was here that over 6000 slaves were crucified following the suppression of the uprising led by Spartacus.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Il Vittoriano (Free)

img

This vast edifice built of white marble is a tribute to King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the unified Italy. It was erected between 1885-1925, the work of several sculptors. There is a very wide central staircase, Corinthian columns, fountains, and equestrian statues of the king and the goddess Victory. Located in the centre of Rome, there are fantastic paronamic views to be had from the roof. There is a glass elevator you can take up to the top for a small charge. The rest of the building is free to enter, and also contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the eternal flame. The soldier was buried here in 1921. You can also see the Museum of Italian Unification, with lots of information on this turbulent period which ended with the conglomeration of Italy into a single state. There is also access to the church adjacent to the Capitoline Museum (link).
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Spanish Steps (Free)

img

Located on the Piazza di Spagna, these legendary steps are a great spot for people watching and are usually busy. It is the widest staircase in Europe. Its 135 steps ascend to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti with its beautiful church. At the bottom is the highly ornate Fountain of Barcaccia. The steps were constructed between 1723-25 by the architect Francesco de Sanctis of Spain, hence their name. The Piazza di Spagna has other interesting features, such as the house occupied by English Romantic poet John Keats, where he died in 1821. It now houses the Keats-Shelley Museum. The area also has some lovely shops and restaurants, and a good view is to be had from the top of the steps.
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Castel St Angelo (Paid)

img

A building with a pretty tumultuous and fascinating history, it started out as Hadrian’s mausoleum in 139 AD. Later on it was converted into a castle and raided by Visigoths and other invaders, causing the destruction of its original statues. Since the 16th century, it has been topped by one very notable statue; the Archangel Michael sheathing his sword, which symbolises the end of the plague of 590. The first statue was replaced by the current bronze version in 1753. From the 14th century, the castle was used as a place of refuge for Popes during any attack on the city. It was converted into a museum after use as a castle ceased in 1901. You need to be prepared for a fairly strenuous climb to the top, but it’s rewarded with spectacular views over the city. There are also lots of interesting exhibits giving an insight into the castle’s many uses over the centuries; it also functioned as a prison.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

National Roman Museum (Paid)

img

Here you will find spectacular statuary and mosaics of the Classical period. Although there are several branches of the museum, the one located in the Palazzo Massimo al Terme near Termini railway station is held to be the best. The palace was completed in 1887 on the site of a former villa. The sculptures on the ground and first floors date from the last days of the Republican era up to early Imperial times - the 2nd century BC to 1st century AD. They include the famous Greek work The Boxer at Rest and a series of portrayals of Roman emperors. On the first floor is also the Portonaccio Sarcophagus with intricately carved battle scenes. The second floor holds the mosaics and wall frescoes which once adorned noblemen’s houses, giving an idea of the lavish nature of their living spaces. Highly notable are the mosaics displaying detailed garden scenes, which come from the villa of Livia, wife of Augustus. The basement holds an extensive collection of Roman coinage as well as another sarcophagus containing the Grottarossa Mummy.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

La Bocca della Verità (Free)

img

Translated as “The Mouth of Truth”, this large round stone with a man’s face, thought to be a depiction of the ancient god of the River Tiber, is a popular tourist attraction. You can queue up to put your hand in its mouth, the legend being that anyone who tells a lie will have their hand bitten off. The stone is located in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, its home since the 17th century. It is around two thousand years old and believed to have originally been part of a fountain. It reached great public prominence thanks to its role in the Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday. There is normally a substantial queue to see the stone, so the best advice is to visit at lunchtime, or take a photo of it from outside the wall. A small donation in the collection box is appreciated.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Centrale Montemartini (Paid)

img

Undoubtedly the most unique of Rome’s museums in terms of setting, the Centrale Montemartini forms a fascinating juxtaposition between ancient and modern; a collection of 400 classical statues as well as busts, tombs and mosaics, displayed in a former power station with all fixtures still in situ. The items were moved here after a reorganisation of the Capitoline Museums (link) in 1997. Many were unearthed between the 1890s and 1930s in ancient Roman gardens. The plant, known as the Montemartini and located in the south of the city, was the first to provide electricity to the Roman public. The preserved machinery makes for a highly interesting exhibit in itself. Initially conceived as a temporary exhibition space, the idea went down so well that the artwork has now found a permanent home there.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants

Barracco Museum (Paid)

img

One of the most underrated museums in Rome, here you will find a modest but important collection of ancient sculpture and other artefacts from Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, Greece, Mesopotamia, Etruria and Rome. The collection was built over half a century by Baron Giovanni Barracco, who donated it to the city of Rome in 1902. Among the pieces are a rare sphinx thought to depict Queen Hatshepsut, of whom most likenesses were destroyed, and Egyptian funereal masks, canopic jars for storing body parts and sarcophagus lids. The collection is housed in a charming sixteenth century palace, built for Thomas le Roy, a French prelate and official at the papal court. This lends an extra level of interest to the atmosphere as small architectural details such as the fleur de lis show the noble status that was bestowed on le Roy.
Visiting Times and Busiest Months
Getting there
Discount Cards - Travel/Eating/Entry Fee
Nearby Attractions
Nearby Restaurants


3% Cashback Offers