ROME CITY GUIDE: Must do in Rome
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, this Rome city guide and tips will come in handy.
Rome is the capital of Italy and the old Roman Empire with a long, fascinating history and rich culture. This city offers so many remarkable sights, attractions, and activities. You’ll need a lifetime to see everything. However, it’s definitely worth a try to pack in as much as you can into a holiday. Luckily this Rome city guide will help you find out the best things to do, museums, markets and more.
Why visit Rome
Why should you visit Rome? Also known as the Eternal City, Rome homes some of the world’s most remarkable architecture, art, and historic monuments.
Romantic souls will be satisfied with exquisite dinners in world-renowned restaurants after an evening walk along the piazza. History enthusiasts will adore learning about the Roman Empire in museums and eager foodies will indulge themselves in gelato and other delicacies.
Rome offers a large selection of things to do, therefore organizing your trip can be overwhelming. Use this Rome city guide to help you get the Italian holiday you deserve.
Essential Rome travel tips
LANGUAGE: Italian is the most spoken language.
MONEY/ATM: Get some Euros before you go but don’t worry about taking lots of cash since most shops and restaurants accept cards. You’ll only need change for small transactions (like all that gelato you’re excited to try.)
ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES: For your electronic appliances, pack a universal adapter with surge protection. All the plugs in Italy are Type C, F, and L with a standard voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50Hz.
VISA: All EU nationals will only need to present an identification document to enter Italy. However, if you are a non-EU traveler, you will need to present a valid passport and a visa at the Italian port of entry. More information here
Best time to visit Rome
The most popular time to visit Rome is summer, starting from June until early September. Prices will be higher due to the high season but, despite this, August is the least comfortable month. Temperatures rise to muggy and sticky, and most Italians are on holiday from the middle of August until the end of the month. Locals flee to the beach, so most hotels, restaurants, and shops in the city are closed.
The low season is between November and February when many establishments close because of a lack of tourists. The average temperature in winter is around 10 ° Celsius.
Temperatures begin to rise in April, so between then and June is the best time to visit Rome.
How much is a trip to Rome?
Rome on a budget is totally possible if you know where to look.
Some budget hostels are available for as little as €15 per night or €45 for a private room. Mid-range hotels start at €50 per night up to 120€. However, Airbnb is becoming a very popular option, with rooms at €30 per night and an entire apartment for €70.
In the most touristy areas, a sit-down meal with wine can cost up to €35 per person. You’ll also get a €3 ‘coperto’ fee added to your bill, for service and bread. Snacks, such as paninis and pizzas, are around $6-8 and are the cheapest option when eating out.
Seeing most of the historical monuments and architecture is free. However, some attractions can be quite expensive. Tickets for the Colosseum and Roman Forum are 20€, for Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel €30, and bike tours can be up to €50. Therefore, you must consider buying the Roma pass to get discounts on museums and attractions with unlimited travel on public transport.
How to get around Rome
Rome has a metro system, although it only has three lines. It’s the smallest metro system in Europe! It only gets you to the most important landmarks.
Therefore, the buses are the best way to get around Rome, as they run 24 hours a day and have extensive routes. A day pass on any public transport is just 7 euros, and you can buy tickets in any metro station, newsagents, or convenience store.
Best historical things to do and see in Rome
In this Rome city guide, you will find the best things to see and do. The city has a rich history and you can easily spend a whole day admiring these historical marvelous monuments.
The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Colosseum is a famous landmark, built-in 70-80AD, which remains one of the most visited sights in the country. It used to hold 80,000 spectators – including Roman Emperors – to watch gladiator tournaments and other forms of entertainment. These gladiators were war slaves, trained to fight to the death. The games were abolished in 438AD.
Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square
The Vatican is a separate, independent state and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s like a country within a country.
St. Peter’s Square is circular, in the middle of the state, and framed by two huge colonnades with statues of famous religious figures. At the far end is the iconic Basilica where people rest in the hope to spot the Pope. It’s free entry to see the St. Peter’s Basilica, though there are long queues. The architecture and art found here are mesmerizing, photos just don’t do it justice.
This is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Herds of tourists gather to stand in awe of one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman buildings. Emperor Hadrian constructed it in 118AD on top of a previous temple, which burnt down in a fire.
Today, you can see its gorgeous porches and magnificent interiors. The area around the Pantheon is usually packed, with tourists, street artists, or hungry bellies finding a traditional dinner in the surrounding restaurants. It’s easily reachable, in the center of Rome, and an architectural masterpiece you’d be foolish to miss.
The Trevi Fountain
This is one of the most famous and photographed fountains in the world and considered a Baroque masterpiece. It was constructed in 1762, displaying the Roman God Oceanus riding his chariot pulled by Tritons. Try to squeeze yourself amongst other tourists and throw a coin over your shoulder into the water for luck.
These are 138 steps, in between the Piazza Trinita dei Monti and Piazza di Spagna. They were constructed in a butterfly design to fill the gap and slope between the two popular squares.
At the top is a twin tower church, and at the bottom, there are various shops and cafes nestled into narrow lanes. They can get very crowded in the summer because they’re too small to fit the influx of tourists. For this reason, you’re no longer allowed to sit on the steps.
Castle Saint Angelo
Created in 129AD, this used to be the tallest building in Rome. This ancient castle is connected to St. Peter’s Basilica through a large corridor called the Passetto di Borgo.
Nowadays it’s used as a museum showcasing historical exhibitions such as paintings, military memorabilia, and sculptures. This stunning renaissance building gives homage to its fascinating past while displaying exceptional views of the city.
Best museums in Rome
Just walking the streets feels like you’re walking in a public museum. Whatever corner you turn you see jaw-dropping, century-old piazzas and structures. However, make sure to follow this Rome city guide to not miss some of the best museums the city has to offer.
Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel
The ancient treasures found here are some of the most astounding classical and historic pieces in the world. Located inside the Vatican state, over 70,000 pieces of artwork are displayed across rooms, chapels, and galleries. The most jaw-dropping part has to be the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo and a handful of other painters. This room is usually packed with guests staring up at the intricately painted ceiling. A close second must-see to the chapel are the Raphael rooms.
These museums are the second largest in the world – the Vatican being the first – and the first ever for public art. It’s technically one museum spread across two buildings. Nowadays, it displays art and archaeological treasures for those interested in Rome’s history, from the ancient era to the Renaissance. Michelangelo designed the monumental staircase inside.
This beautiful Renaissance villa was built in 1612 to display Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s private collection. It consists of works by Raphael, Rubens, Bernini, Titian, Caravaggio, and more. Some neoclassical and baroque sculptures are displayed too.
Here they manage crowds through a reservation system and limited tickets, therefore remember to book your visit online.
National Gallery of Modern Art
Founded in 1883, this modern gallery is home to the best contemporary art of Rome. Here you can find over 4,400 paintings and sculptures. Some of the Italian artists who display work across its 55 rooms are Giacomo Balla and Giorgio Morandi. However, it also features some international artists such as Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Pollock. The collection from the 19th and 20th centuries is enormous and only enhanced by the building’s ornate architecture.
Best Markets in Rome
One thing you must do in Rome is to visit their local markets, or ‘mercato’. Some of these have been around for decades, while others are new for the growing international tourist population. Feel like a local while browsing in the best markets Rome has to offer. From fresh ingredients to clothing and unique antiques there is a market for every kind of tourist.
This market is dedicated purely to food and the joy that it creates. It has earned its title as one of the biggest food markets in Europe, one of a kind. It’s in the Vatican area and attracts tourists and locals from every corner of the city. Here they come together to purchase fish, fresh cheeses, fruits, vegetables, meats, honey, dried fruits, nuts, jams and many many more.
Over 300 stalls inside a glass and concrete building have been hustling and selling since the late 1800s.
Mercato Porta Portese
Rome hosts this legendary flea market every Sunday, no matter the weather. It was founded in 1945. Here you can find trinkets, gifts and gem for whatever your heart desires. There are antiques, vintage shoes and clothes, home accessories, books, furniture and more.
Scavenge carefully through the hundreds of stalls but keep vigilant as some have lower quality and occasionally fake goods. Keep your things close to you as it’s usually very busy.
Mercato di Borghetto Flaminio
This is another favourite flea market north of Piazza del Popolo. It’s a great spot to find second-hand designer clothes, accessories and antiques. It was more recently founded in 1994 by two friends who wanted to open the first vintage sale for amateurs. Here you can find a mixture of flamboyant vintages to intricately designed decorations. There is a small entrance fee of €1.60.
Mercato delle Stampe
Here there are huge collections of magazines and books, mostly in Italian if your language skills are up to the task. If not, there are plenty of art, photography and illustration books. Many stalls also sell posters, jewellery, old-fashioned ornaments and suitcases. The locals behind the stores are friendly and love chatting to new consumers.
Mercato Monti: Urban market
Another unmissable market is situated in the centre of the city, near the Colosseum. Open only on weekends, it’s placed undercover, therefore there’s no excuse not to squeeze in a visit. Even locals flock here to find some vintage-style garments and meet new Italian designers.
It has a newer and more creative vibe to some of the older markets. Therefore, the stalls sell pretty original and often modern items. You can find accessories, uniquely designed clothing, homewares, prints, shoes and more. Click here to find more information.
Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio
In 2012, this market was moved to the Testaccio neighbourhood, a more modern location. It sells and showcases predominantly food, with a huge variety of fresh and tasty products. You can buy locally grown ingredients, like meat, fish, pasta, vegetables and more. It’ll surprise you with its variety, you might even find the occasional stall for clothes, footwear and homeware items. Click here for more information.
In this Rome city guide, I’ve covered just a few must-do things in Rome. No matter the length of your visit, I hope these travel tips have helped you create the perfect itinerary.
If you found this Rome city guide helpful let me know in the comments below.