25 things to do in Rome year round

written by Eleanor Aldridge

updated 14.09.2023

Find the best things to do in Rome from exploring museums and feasting on pizza to digging into catacombs, climbing domes and rambling around ruins.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Rome - your essential guide for visiting Rome.

1. Visit The Pantheon in Centro Storico

One of the top things to do in Rome is to visit The Pantheon — the most intact ancient monument, with the largest, unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Inside, you'll be amazed by Hadrian's engineering expertise, as the diameter precisely matches its height (43.3m), and the oculus (a hole in the centre of the dome) measures 8.7m across.

The Pantheon also houses the tomb of Raphael. This can be found between the second and third chapels on the left, with an inscription by the humanist cardinal Pietro Bembo: “Living, great Nature feared he might outvie Her works, and dying, fears herself may die.”


The spectacular Pantheon dome and Oculus, Pigna, Rome © Pavel Ilyukhin/Shutterstock


2. Eating pizza — one of the best things to do in Rome

Rome is surpassed only by Naples in the quality of its pizzas, and even this is arguable if you prefer the thin and crispy Roman pizza. It is best when baked in a wood-burning oven (forno a legna). Other Roman street food includes various deep-fried specialities, or fritti, like supplì (fried rice balls with mozzarella), arancini (supplì with added tomato), as well as spit-roast chicken and porchetta.


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Roman pizza: thin, crispy and baked in a wood-burning oven © Fabiano's_Photo/Shutterstock

3. See Rome's finest art at Museo Nazionale Romano

Museo Nazionale Romano has several locations and between them, they contain Rome's finest art collections. A five-minute walk west of Sant’Agostino, Piazza Sant’Apollinare is the home of the beautiful Palazzo Altemps. Begun in 1477 and completed just under a hundred years later, it now houses a branch of the Museo Nazionale Romano, which contains the cream of the museum’s collections of Roman statuary.

Across from Santa Maria degli Angeli, Palazzo Massimo is home to one of the two principal parts of the Museo Nazionale Romano – the other is in the Palazzo Altemps. It’s a superb collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.

#03 Museo Nazionale Romano

Explore ancient art at Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome

4. Wander around Villa Borghese Gardens

When looking for things to do in Rome, don't miss the green and beautiful Villa Borghese, the city's largest park often described as its lungs. Along the edge of Villa Borghese, you'll find the Pincio Gardens, designed by Valadier in the early nineteenth century.

Adorned with dilapidated busts of classical and Italian heroes, these gardens offer magnificent views over the rooftops and domes, stretching all the way to St. Peter's and Janiculum Hill.

The benches are pleasantly shaded and a good place to take some weight off your feet. The nineteenth-century water clock at the back is a quirky attraction, and there’s a carousel, a decent café-restaurant, and a couple of places to rent bikes.

The gardens at Villa Borghese in Rome © Shutterstock

The gardens at Villa Borghese in Rome © Shutterstock

5. Browse Galleria Borghese for Bernini sculptures

The Galleria Borghese, housed in a lavish villa (the “Casino” or “little house”) on the far eastern side of the Villa Borghese park, was built in the early seventeenth century. It was originally intended as a “museum of the universe”.

The gallery has since taken its place as one of Rome’s great treasure houses and should not be missed. Be sure to book in advance. It goes without saying that the pretty gardens that surround the gallery are well worth a visit.

Villa Borghese, Galleria Borghese, Roma, Italy © Shutterstock

Villa Borghese, Galleria Borghese, Roma, Italy © Shutterstock

6. Finish the evening with Gelato

Italian ice cream (gelato) is justifiably famous. However, there is a big difference between the artisanal kind made in the traditional way with wholesome natural ingredients and the highly coloured, industrial pap that is increasingly available across the city centre. Be sure to choose carefully and when in doubt look for the words “artigianale di produzione proprio” or “gelato artigianale”.

Most bars have a fairly mediocre selection, so for a real choice go to a proper gelateria, where the range is a tribute to the Italian imagination and flair for display.


An evening stroll with gelato, one of the best things to do in Rome with kids © Irena Mila/Shutterstock

7. Gaze at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

When exploring things to do in Rome, make sure to visit the Roman Forum and Palatine, situated at the very heart of the city. Although the ancient ruins might not appear as a mighty centre of power today, their evocative charm remains undeniable. For a suggested route around the Forum, start at the Largo Salaria Vecchia entrance, where you'll find the western section, and then continue eastward from the Temple of Vesta.

From the Arch of Titus, the uphill path takes you to the Palatine Hill, where the city of Rome was legendarily founded by Romulus. The path, paved with ancient stones, leads past olive trees. Bear right at the massive fallen column of Euboean marble, then make a left at the tall brick pier before turning immediately right to follow the box hedges towards the Farnese Gardens.

Roger Mapp

See the heart of the ancient world at the Roman Forum and Palatine

8. Make time for the Vatican Museums

The Vatican may be the world's smallest country, but it's also the world’s largest museum complex. A fifteen-minute walk out of the northern side of the piazza takes you up to the only part of the Vatican Palace that you can visit independently, the Vatican Museums.

If you have found any of Rome’s other museums disappointing, the Vatican is probably the reason why. So much booty from the city’s history has ended up here, and so many of the Renaissance’s finest artists were in the employ of the pope. Thee result is a set of museums so stuffed with antiquities as to put most other European collections to shame.

Enjoy this tailor-made trip to Italian Cities of the Renaissance, discovering the historical landmarks that the country's top cities have to offer; from the ancient sites of Rome to the waterways of Venice and the cobbled streets of Florence.

Gallery of the maps Vatican Museum Rome

A visit to the Vatican is one of the essential things to do in Rome

9. Find the Trevi Fountain by chance

When searching for things to do in Rome, make sure to explore the area south of San Silvestro. Across Via del Tritone, where a network of narrow, seemingly aimless streets unveils one of the city's most astonishing sights - the Trevi Fountain, or Fontana di Trevi. It is a huge, very Baroque gush of water over statues and rocks built onto the backside of a Renaissance palace.

The fountain is fed by one of Rome’s most celebrated water sources, the Acqua Vergine, which also surfaces at the Barcaccia Fountain in Piazza di Spagna.

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Night view over fountain di Trevi in Rome ©  trabantos/Shutterstock

One of Rome's most iconic sights, the Fountain di Trevi © trabantos/Shutterstock

10. Visit the Basilica of San Clemente, the epitome of Rome

It's often said that San Clemente epitomises Rome: an ancient temple, which sits under a slightly less ancient basilica and is topped by a faintly newer church. The street-level church is a superb example of a medieval basilica. Its facade and courtyard face east in the archaic fashion, and there are some splendid twelfth-century mosaics in the apse.

The choir is partitioned off with beautiful white marble slabs repurposed from the older lower basilica. Perhaps the highlights of the main church, though, are the fifteenth-century frescoes by Masolino in the chapel, whose soft, yet vivid, colours show scenes from the life of St Catherine on the left.

San Clemente, interior of the church

Uncover the layered mystery of Basilica San Clemente in Rome

11. Discover Domus Aurea

Located on Oppian Hill, one of the peaks of the ancient Roman Esquiline, is the park of Colle Oppio, which you'll find almost opposite the Colosseum when seeking things to do in Rome.

A fairly undistinguished open space (and a slightly unsavoury spot after dark), it does, however, hold the remnants of two important Roman structures. These are the imposing fenced-off remains of Trajan’s Baths and Nero’s magnificent Domus Aurea, which lies underneath the baths complex.


Domus Aurea, the fascinating restoration of Nero's Golden House © Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

12. Stroll around Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona, Rome’s most famous square and as picturesque as any in Italy, is the focus of the surrounding area. The best time to come is at night. Then the inevitably tourist-geared flavour of the place is at its most vibrant. The crowds hanging out around the fountains, people-watching while nursing a pricey drink at a table outside one of the bars, or watching the buskers and street artists entertain the throng.


Graceful Piazza Navona is the unofficial centre of Rome © Belenos/Shutterstock

13. Ostia Antica, ancient Rome's harbour city

There are two Ostias. One is the busy seaside resort of Lido di Ostia, while the other is one of the finest ancient Roman sites you’ll find. It is comprised of the excavated remains of the port of Ostia Antica. These ruins are one of the best things to do in Rome itself, and well worth devoting a day trip from Rome to.


Ostia Antica, one of Italy's best preserved ancient Roman sites © Cosmin Sava/Shutterstock

14. See Ara Pacis, the Altar of Augustan Peace

On the west side of Piazza del Augusto Imperatore, the Ara Pacis or “Altar of Augustan Peace” is now enclosed in a purpose-built structure designed by architect Richard Meier. It was built to replace the barely watertight structure built during the Fascist era. Its angular lines and sheer white surfaces of local travertine limestone dominate the river side of the square.

The remarkable highlight here is a superb example of imperial Roman sculpture. This is a picture of a family at the height of its power, with little inkling of the scandal and tragedy that would afflict it in years to come.

Ara Pacis Museum interior Rome

The intriguing Ara Pacis in Museo dell'Ara Pacis, Rome

15. Catch Roma-Lazio at Stadio Olimpico

Football fans in Rome are in good company, especially during the notorious Roma-Lazio Derby at Stadio Olimpico. The city's largest sports stadium, accommodating 70,000, sets the stage for this intense match. The electric atmosphere resonates throughout Rome, making it one of the best things to do in Rome for any football enthusiast visiting the Eternal City.


70,000 seater Stadio Olimpico is Rome's largest sports stadium © horseman82/Shutterstock

16. Head to Campo de Fiori, day or night

The long oblong of Campo de’ Fiori is home to a lively fruit and vegetable market. Surrounded by restaurants and cafés, the square is busy pretty much all day. Its role as the heart of the area’s nightlife, and the consequent glut of bars and outdoor drinkers (largely foreign students), has taken away some of its charms. This is especially true in the evenings at least, but for all that, it still remains one of the city’s most appealing squares.

Rome, Italy - People eating at outside tables in Piazza Campo de Fiori on  a sunny Sunday.

A stroll through the Campo de Fiori is one of the best things to do in Rome for the atmosphere

17. Explore the Capitoline Museums

Leave plenty of time for the Capitoline. Both these museums are considered to be among the greatest in Rome and contain collections spanning antiquity to the Renaissance. Capitoline Museums feature some of the city’s most important ancient sculptures.

The Palazzo dei Conservatori, which occupies the right-hand side of the Piazza del Campidoglio is perhaps the natural place to start a tour of the Capitoline Museums. It has a large collection of ancient sculptures on the first floor and in the wing at the back, and paintings on the second floor.

The Palazzo Nuovo, the smaller of the wings, is across the square from the Palazzo dei Conservatori, also accessible by way of an underground walkway that holds the Galleria Lapidaria, a collection of Roman marble inscriptions.

Capitoline Museum, Palazzo Nuovo courtyard

The Capitoline collections cover Roman statuary to Renaissance art

18. The one and only Colosseum

The Colosseum is Rome’s most awe-inspiring ancient monument and one which, unlike the Forum, needs little historical knowledge or imagination to deduce its function.

Once inside the arena, you’re free to wander around most of the ground level, circling the remains of the arena and observing its maze of brick walls. You’ll get a better view from the lower tier, reached by steep stairways leading up from the entrance. Here also, in the connecting corridor, is a space for temporary exhibitions on all things Roman, a display of fragments of masonry and a decent bookshop.

Welcome to this whirlwind tailor-made tour of Rome, also known as the Eternal City. Rome is one of the most photogenic cities on earth, so make sure you pack your camera.

Italy, Lazio, Rome, Colosseum, the Colosseum in warm light

Nothing compares in size and ingenuity to the Colosseum in Rome

19. St Peter’s Basilica, the most visited church in Rome

The Basilica di San Pietro, better known to many as St Peter’s should be on your list of things to do in Rome. The principal shrine of the Catholic Church was built on the site of St Peter’s tomb and worked on by the greatest Italian architects of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Not so long ago you could freely stroll around the piazza and wander into the basilica when you felt like it. Now much of the square is fenced off, and you can only enter St Peter’s from the right-hand side.

You also have to go through security first, and the queues can be long unless you get here before 9 am or after 5 pm. Bear in mind that you need to observe the dress code to enter, which means no bare knees or shoulders – a rule that is very strictly enforced.


St Peter's Basilica, the most impressive and significant church in Rome © Vladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock

20. Wander the evocative Protestant Cemetery

Rome's wildly beautiful non-Catholic cemetery in Testaccio claims to have the highest density of famous graves in the world. The “Protestant” Cemetery has long been the burial place of non-Catholics of all nationalities. You’ll also find atheists, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the odd Jew or Muslim buried here.

It is nonetheless one of the shrines of the English in Rome and a fitting addition to a visit to the Keats-Shelley House on Piazza di Spagna.


The Wild and Poignant Protestant Cemetery in Rome © Vinicio Tullio/Shutterstock

21. Take a look around the Piazza del Popolo

At the far end of Via del Babuino, the oval-shaped expanse of Piazza del Popolo is a dignified meeting of roads laid out in 1538 by Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese) to make an impressive entrance to the city. The monumental Porta del Popolo went up in 1655, and the work of Bernini, whose patron Alexander VII’s Chigi family symbol – a pile of hills surmounted by a star – can clearly be seen above the main gateway.

During summer, the steps around the obelisk and fountain, and the cafés on either side of the square, are popular hangouts. But the piazza’s real attraction is the unbroken view it gives all the way back down Via del Corso, between the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, to the central columns of the Vittoriano.

Piazza del Popolo (People's Square) in Rome © Shutterstock

Piazza del Popolo (People's Square) in Rome © Shutterstock

22. Admire the Castel Sant'Angelo

The great circular hulk of Castel Sant’Angelo, designed and built by Emperor Hadrian as his own mausoleum, offers a captivating experience when seeking things to do in Rome.

Inside the mausoleum, a spiral ramp leads from the monumental entrance hall up into the centre of the mausoleum itself, passing through the chamber where the emperor was entombed. It continues to the main level at the top, where a small palace was built to house the papal residents in appropriate splendour.

Castel Sant'Angelo at sunset with tourists © Shutterstock

Castel Sant'Angelo at sunset with tourists © Shutterstock

23. Do some people watching at the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna) sweep down in a cascade of balustrades and balconies a few steps from Giorgio de Chirico’s house. This was the hangout, during the nineteenth century, of young hopefuls waiting to be chosen as artists’ models.

It is still a venue for international posing and fast pick-ups late into the summer nights. It was, in fact, a largely French initiative to build the steps. Before their construction, the French church of Trinità dei Monti was accessible only by way of a rough path up the steep slope.

After a few decades of haggling over the plans, the steps were finally laid in 1725, and now form one of the city’s most distinctive attractions, perfect for strollers to glide up and down while chatting and looking each other up and down.

Spanish Steps Piazza di Spagna, Rome © Shutterstock

Spanish Steps Piazza di Spagna, Rome © Shutterstock

24. Don't forget Vatican Gardens

Most of the Vatican’s sights of interest are easily accessible; others require a little forward planning. The Vatican Gardens, which are dotted with sculptures and fountains and offer great views of St Peter’s, can only be visited on a guided tour. They can be toured either on foot or by an open-top bus with a pre-recorded audio guide. Tickets include entry to the Vatican Museums, so you’ll probably want to make a day of it.

Iconic view on Vatican Gardens from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica © Shutterstock

Vatican Gardens, Rome © Shutterstock

25. Visit Piazza Venezia

There’s not much need to hang about on Piazza Venezia itself: it’s more a place to catch a bus or pick up a taxi than soak up the atmosphere. The legacy of nineteenth-century Rome, looked quite different a couple of hundred years ago when it was the domain of the Venetian Pope Paul II. Then Palazzo Venezia dominated this part of the city, its gardens reaching around its south side, where the Vittoriano now stands.

The other buildings on Piazza Venezia pale into insignificance beside the marble monstrosity rearing up across the street from San Marco. The Vittorio Emanuele Monument or Vittoriano, was erected at the end of the nineteenth century as the “Altar of the Fatherland” to commemorate Italian Unification.

Piazza Venezia in Rome, statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy

Piazza Venezia in Rome, the statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy © Shutterstock

Find more accommodation options to stay in Rome and read our guide to the best areas to stay in Rome.

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Eleanor Aldridge

written by Eleanor Aldridge

updated 14.09.2023

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