With its rich history, delicious food and breathtaking architecture dating back hundreds of years, Rome is a wonder to explore.
The city is bursting with bucket list items from the Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel.
But when in Rome, don’t just tick off your bucket list items. Take the time to soak in the vibrant aura of the city. Wander the streets, head out to the suburbs and eat where the locals do and enjoy the effervescence of this grand Italian city.
Rome is the perfect city to wander as it’s easy to find your bearings with sightings of famous ruins and buildings at almost every turn, and there’s clear signage to point you in the right direction.
I’ve visited Rome three times and still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. The more I visit, the more I fall in love with it as it becomes increasingly familiar, easy to get around and I further appreciate the deep and fascinating history of this beautiful city.
Best Time to Visit Rome
While the summer months is a glorious time to visit Europe, Rome can get ridiculously hot, humid, and crowded in the summer. If you can, try to avoid Rome in July and August the heat just seems to sit over the city and you are wiping the sweat off your brow every two seconds.
The best time to visit Rome is around May or early June or September. It will still be warm, just not as humid and there will be fewer tourists in the shoulder months of summer.
Top Things To Do In Rome
If it’s your first time in Rome, you have some famous sites to tick off your list. The good news is that Rome is a great city to walk around ruins and beautiful buildings everywhere you look, but it also has an efficient and easy to understand metro system with only three lines – A, B and C. A and B lines are useful to get between the main sights if you’re not up for walking.
A plan of attack is essential when visiting Rome. There are dozens of sites equating to a lot of entry tickets – and also long queues! For travellers on a tight budget, you may want to figure out what is essential to see the inside of, and what can be seen almost just as good from the outside.
A good place to start your exploration of Rome is at the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was once the political centre and marketplace of the ancient Roman Empire and filled with government buildings, temples, basilicas and public spaces. The Colosseum, one of the most iconic features of Rome, is adjacent to the Roman Forum.
You can buy a combined ticket for the Roman Forum and Colosseum for €12. There’s usually a shorter queue at the Roman Forum entrance, so head there early and get your tickets, then you can skip the queue and head into the Colosseum at any time. You can also buy your ticket online. It’s also free to enter the Colosseum on the first Sunday of each month. Make sure you also head along to the Colosseum at night for a photo stop – it’s beautiful with golden light streaming out of the archways.
I recommend allocating a couple of hours in the Roman Forum and adjoining Palatine Hill. Palatine Hills is the most central of the seven hills in Rome and offers good views of the Roman Forum and other parts of the city.
From the Roman Forum, you can then head over to the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II and take in the views from the top before heading over to the striking domed Pantheon – an ancient temple dedicated to the pagan gods. You don’t need to spend much time at the Pantheon, but it’s worth a look.
You can whiz past the next few sites pretty quickly. Take a photo at Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, and throw a coin into the Baroque Trevi Fountain (to ensure you’ll return to Rome). Watch out for pickpockets at the Trevi Fountain. Take a peek also at the fountain and buildings at Piazza Navona.
On the banks of the Tiber River is the Castel Sant Angelo. It was built as a mausoleum but has also spent its life as a prison and papal residence.
Entry is €10 – but it looks pretty impressive from the outside too as you approach from the Sant Angelo bridge, so if you’re starting to get a bit of monument fatigue – snap a few photos and move onto the next site.
From Castel Sant Angelo you’re not far from Vatican City, where you can visit the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica. If you’re keen to avoid the queues to see the Sistine Chapel, you can buy your ticket online up to 60 days before your visit. The ticket price is €16 with a reservation fee of €4. The Vatican Museums are open from 10am Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays, except on the last Sunday of the month. Entry is free on this day with last entry at 1.45pm.
St Peter’s Basilica can be visited for free any day of the week from 7am. You can also get great views of Rome from the Basilica’s dome from 8am daily.
There’s a dress code to enter the Vatican City monuments which mean there’s no shorts, miniskirts or bare shoulders.
For a unique view of the St Peter’s Basilica dome itself, head up to the Knights of Malta Keyhole on Aventine Hill.
On the same side of the Tiber River as Vatican City lies Gianicolo Hill, which serves as another good free viewpoint of the city.
Off the well-beaten tourist path is the St Callixtus Catacombs – an ancient underground burial place. While not as creepy as the Paris ones, which are home to hundreds of skulls, the Catacombs offer an insight into Rome’s history. The bones have been removed from the tourist route of the Catacombs which can be explored with a guide only. The hour-long guided tours are available in a number of languages including Italian, English, and French.
These catacombs date back to the second century and were the burial place of 16 popes. The cemetery goes down four levels, with some areas more than 20 metres deep. The catacombs can be visited between 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm. They are closed on Wednesdays. Entry is €8. You can get there on bus 118 (direction Villa Dei Quintili) from the metro station Circo Massimo, near the Roman Forum.
Another burial ground to visit is the Priscilla Catacombs. These Catacombs are closed Mondays, but open 9am to noon and 2pm-5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Entry is €8. You can get there on the Metro B line, getting off at Libia station and walking 10 minutes.
The Capuchin Crypt is also on the creepy side. The bone church is said to be decorated with more than 3500 bones of Capuchin monks. It’s located inside the Capuchin Museum on Via Veneto near the Barberini Metro station. Entry is €8, which includes the museum entry.
Want more things to do in Rome? Check out this article by Time on Best Things To Do in Rome
Where To Stay in Rome
There’re dozens of hostels across Rome. I like to stay near the Termini train station as it’s convenient to get to and from the airport and to do day trips.
My preferred hostel in Rome is Alessandro Downtown and I’ve stayed here twice – mainly because of its location, only a 10-minute walk from the Termini train station. Rooms are basic but clean and the staff is really friendly. They have a sister hostel called Alessandro Palace Hostel Rome.
Rome is a big city and there’s lots of choice in accommodation but I find near the Termini train station is a good central location. I was able to walk to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain from the Alessandro Downtown hostel.
Hostel dorms start from around €22 a night for a five-bed mixed dorm but the more popular, higher rated hostels are more around the €30-€35 mark per night in the high season. Budget hotels start from about €50 per night.
I haven’t stayed in any hotels in Rome but check out this guide for some ideas.
Find and book these hotels on our favourite accommodation search website: Booking.com
AirBnB is also a good option in Rome and there’s plenty of places to stay including the trendy neighbourhood of Trastevere.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive a discount to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
Where to Eat & Drink in Rome
You’re in the home of gelato, Aperol spritz, and pasta. One of the great things about Rome, and Italy in general is the food. Don’t get me started on Four Cheese Gnocchi (Quattro Formaggi)!
If you’ve never had an Aperol spritz before then Rome is the perfect place to try one. They’re refreshing and delicious, especially on those hot Roman summer days.
Aperol is a citrusy orange-red liquor combined with prosecco and soda. They’re usually served with a small bowl of potato crisps. Bet you won’t stop at one especially on a hot Rome day.
There’s a lot of restaurants to choose from. Generally, I haven’t found great food around the tourist areas like the Colosseum area but the gelato is molto bene (very good!) wherever I’ve gone.
Gelato tastes the best in its birthplace. It’s fresh, it’s cold, and it’s delicious and will cool you down on a hot summer’s day. I found some great places near the Spanish Steps. I remember at one stage during a July visit to Rome I was having about three gelatos a day to try all the different flavours – they were that good I could not stop at one.
Make sure your gelato comes from stainless steel containers which usually means it’s freshly made.
Here’re some of the top spots to get gelato in Rome.
For an authentic taste of Italy away from the tourist trap restaurants, head to the Testaccio and Trastevere neighbourhoods. They’re not the prettiest neighbourhoods but they are frequented by locals. You can get there on the Metro B line stopping at the Pyramide station or walk along the Tiber.
Here’s a good list of restaurants to try throughout Rome in the Testaccio neighbourhood.
Another neighbourhood to try is San Lorenzo, one of Rome’s student districts. This is a great place for cheap eats and bars.
Looking for more restaurants to try while in Rome? This The Telegraph’s guide to Rome restaurants will give you plenty of ideas.
How Much Time Do You Need in Rome
Plan at least three to four days in Rome to really soak it in. There’re dozens of key sights to see and they will be a lot more memorable explored slowly rather than simply stopping by and checking off your list.
You can also use Rome as a base to see other cities and attractions such as Naples or Pompeii, adding another two or three days to your stay.
Here’s a list of great day trips from Rome. The train network is easy to navigate in Italy and offers good connections between Rome and other Italian cities and towns.
In about an hour you can reach the town of Tivoli by train, which is home to the grand Villa d’Este – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The expansive villa offers beautiful gardens and fountains. Entry is €8. The villa is about a 15-minute walk from the Tivoli train station.
You can also visit the Tuscany region from Rome and enjoy a wine tour in the famous Chianti wine region, or wander the beautiful historic centres of Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi.
Also, you can check out these Rome itineraries
About The Author: Lisa Owen is The Little Adventurer. She’s a passionate freelance writer, photographer, hiker and all around outdoor lover with an insatiable thirst for adventure. You’ll most likely find her hitting the hiking trails, skydiving, chasing waterfalls or weaving her way through cobblestoned streets. She’s currently taking a break from public relations to follow her travel dreams. You can follow her current six-month trip around the world on Instagram.