Rome Top Attractions
Rome Top Attractions
Rome, aptly named as the “Eternal City” with 2,000+ years of existence, is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Rome offers you world-class food, fun, shopping, art, museums, and thousands of years of world history right at your fingertips! Rome is a city with deep cultural heritage and a traditional, yet modern vibe that is shared amongst its nearly 3,000,000 residents. If Rome is on your list of places to visit this year, we’ve got you covered. Check out the top attractions in Rome!
1. The Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum is a top attraction that should be on the bucket list for any world traveler visiting the Eternal City. Feel the majesty and history as you get a first-hand look at the arena where gladiators once fought, still well-preserved to this day. To experience the Colosseum is like taking a walk through time, and there are some fantastic guided tours which will help enhance the experience and explain its history. There are frequent long lines and long waits to enter if you buy your tickets on-site. Avoid the wait by booking online, and guarantee your spot on the day/time of your choosing!
2. Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
Tour one of the modern world’s finest art and artifact collections at the Vatican Museums, right in the heart of one of Christianity’s most holy sights. There are relics and artworks that span around 700 years of modern history including many unique Renaissance pieces and antiquities from the far reaches of the Catholic church. With your Vatican Museums ticket you also get access to the Sistine Chapel, where you can marvel at Michaelangelo’s iconic painted work, and one of the most incredible architectural structures still standing. Remember to book your tickets online, as much like the Colosseum, long lines and wait time can keep you from getting in on schedule. Reserve ahead, and take the worry away!
3. St. Peter's Basilica
This famous Renaissance-era church is probably the most iconic of its era, with the styles of its original designs by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Bramante defining it in every corner. St. Peter's Basilica is also the burial site of St. Peter, whose tomb is reportedly located underneath the church’s high altar. This is the largest church in the world, and a great addition to any tour of Rome.
There is a strictly-enforced dress code at the Vatican Museums, which includes St. Peter’s Basilica, that you must be aware of. Shoulders must be covered by all visitors. No shorts for men, and no skirts above the knee for women. Entrance is free, but there are long lines that gather due to its popularity, so make sure to show up early. You can also purchase an audio guide, which grants you an expedited entry through a separate entrance, which saves lots of time and is very informative.
4. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum was once the center of ancient Rome, and for the Romans, a staple of daily commerce and social gatherings. It is an ancient plaza preserved right in the middle of the historical center of the city, surrounded by the iconic buildings of government offices and tribunals. Today, it stands as an architectural gem where you can see layers of Roman history throughout time, with many of the shrines and statues still intact.
Adjacent to the Roman Forum is the Palatine Hill. This is the most centrally-located of Rome’s seven hills. According to legends, this is the location chosen by Romulus and Remus for the founding of the city. From the top, you can see right into the mighty Forum (with the Circus Maximus on the other side), and explore the ruins of ancient palatial spaces that once held Rome’s elite throughout the ages.
You can access both the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill with your Colosseum ticket, which is a great deal!
5. Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo is probably best known as the location of the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s tomb, whose mausoleum is now a popular historical site and tourist attraction. The castle is nearly 1,000 years old. It was used by Papal leadership beginning in the 14th century, as a fortified tower to protect from invasion. Legend holds that Archangel Michael landed on Castel Sant'Angelo rooftop, to protect it, and to this day there is a statue atop the castle to mark this holy symbolism. It was once the tallest building in Rome! Like most attractions in the Eternal City, it is highly advisable to book tickets online, as large crowds are common, and long waits can be expected if not reserved ahead.
6. Borghese Gallery
Housed in the gorgeous Villa Borghese Pinciana, atop of the green, tree-lined Pincian Hill, the Borghese Gallery is truly a gift for lovers of art and architecture. The gallery has two floors and includes 22 rooms of paintings, antiques, and sculptures from 500 years of collections. The museum is probably most famous for its Benini and Caravaggio works, which highlights one of the best collections of Italian art in all of Europe. Tickets are required for regular admission and can only be purchased in advance, so make sure to book ahead online before visiting.
7. The Pantheon
The Pantheon has always been an important site of worship in Rome, both in ancient times and modern once. It was initially constructed as an ancient Roman temple, and became a church in 609 AD. It has one of the most gorgeous interiors on earth, and is an architectural masterpiece commissioned during Marcus Agrippa’s aggressive building campaign at the turn of the AD millennium. The Pantheon today is an active Catholic church, and is open to visitors free of charge. Its central location and millennia of visible history make it the perfect attraction for those walking the center of Rome. Make sure to check out the burial sites of Umberto I and Vittorio Emanuele II, who lie within the Pantheon tombs.
8. Trevi Fountain
Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Pannini’s masterpiece fountain in the center of Rome is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, and the largest fountain in all of the city. The fountain was built to mark the main terminal point of Rome’s famous ancient aqueducts and has been beautifully refurbished for aesthetics over the past thirty years. It is very popular amongst tourists for pictures, and to throw coins in, as legend says this will bring you back to the Eternal City, and grant you love during your journey. The Trevi Fountain is easy to walk to from anywhere in the center of Rome. Be aware, however, that it is busy with tourists for most of the day into the night, so expect crowds.
9. Spanish Steps
If you’re going to visit the Eternal City, even if just for a day or two, a trip to the Spanish Steps is a must. This majestic 18th-century stairway connects Piazza di Spagna at its base, with Piazza Trinità dei Monti at its top. In the top square stands Trinità dei Monti church, which is another popular attraction, and one of Rome’s late Renaissance architectural beauties. Check out the lively scene at the base of the steps, where tourists and vendors gather around the fountain, and sprawl amongst the steps and square.
10. Piazza Navona
This large square is a bustling display of Rome’s classic urban culture and design through the ages. The term “Navona” is Italian for “big ship”, and refers to the time where the piazza was flooded and used for mock naval battles. In its earliest concept, it was built as a stadium for chariot races, and for a brief period even hosted gladiator contests.
Later, it became home to the city’s main market, and served as a center of commerce and entertainment throughout history, much like it still does today. Piazza Navona is adorned with beautiful architecture from the Baroque period, which are now home to some of Rome’s finest hotels and restaurants. You can dine, shop, or stay in the square, as well as check out the famous Bernini and Della Porta fountains at each end, made in the image of Neptune (southern end), and a Moor wrestling a dolphin (northern end).
11. Baths of Caracalla
The Roman baths have been used for millennia as the inspiration for the modern spa, and the representation of rest and relaxation for cultures throughout the former Roman Empire and beyond. The Baths of Caracalla are Rome’s 2nd-largest “thermae” baths, dating back to around 200 AD. The entire complex covers approximately 25 hectares of land, and have been restored and refurbished a number of times over the past 150 years to preserve their structure and appearance. This is a fantastic way to get insight into the leisure and health habits of ancient Romans, while walking through the sprawling historic ruins that remain largely intact to this day. Make sure to check out the subterranean tunnels that connect the rooms beneath the bath house floors!
12. The Catacombs
Rome’s famous catacombs are an ancient network of burial sites that sprawl underneath the city center. The Roman Catacombs were built during Hadrian’s reign in the 2nd century AD, and though mostly used by Rome’s Christians, also include sections of Pagan burial sites. There are several catacombs accessible to the public. The most famous is Via Appia Antica, which takes you from outside the old city walls on a walk into the underground area. Some other popular catacombs to visit include the oldest, Catacombs of St Domitilla, the biggest, Catacombs of St Callixtus, and the most intriguing, Capuchin Crypt, where around 4,000 monks were buried. Only five of the Roman Catacombs are open to visitors. Tickets can be purchased online for convenience, and there are different price options available for kids, groups, and tours.
13. Capitoline Museums
The Capitoline Museums are actually one single museum containing various sections of art and archeological findings, set at the top of Rome’s Capitoline Hill. The museum was created during the Papal era of Sixtus IV (1471) and modernized in 1536 under the guidance of Michaelangelo. The Capitoline Museums contain world-renowned collections of both Medieval and Renaissance art and artifacts, including some of the best-preserved busts of famous Roman figures throughout time. It is widely regarded as the world’s first museum, and continues to preserve its heritage while modernizing to include new displays and exhibitions of their historic works. Tickets are available at accessible-prices with discount rates for EU citizens (age 18-25), and free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
14. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Known as the Eternal City’s largest “Marian” church (Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary), the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is truly a sight to behold. The images and reverence to the Virgin Mary are incredible, with iconographic artworks and one-of-a-kind mosaics of veneration that mark its halls and ceilings. The Basilica is spacious and meticulously planned, which makes it easy to walk through while learning about its history. It is centrally located near Rome’s Termini Station, and easy to access by walking, taxi, or public transport.
15. Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica is an ancient village and historical archeological site located at the mouth of the Tiber River, about 25 km (15 miles) southwest of Rome. In ancient times, this was Rome’s first seaport and its first “colonia”. The village is incredibly well preserved, making it a popular excursion for visitors, as you can walk through millennia of history and still see the structural integrity it was built with first-hand. People under 18 enter for free, with full price tickets fluctuating depending on age, disability, and student status.