Visiting the Eternal City? From the iconic to the lesser-known, here are the top things to do in Rome. Roman magic is well-documented, to say the least, but it’s easy to overlook the number of things you can do here.
Italy’s capital is on par with the world’s most famous cities, former capitals of the world, cities with vast archaeological treasures, iconic art collections, and enough cultural heritage to last a lifetime. The Eternal City does not disappoint.
What’s the best thing to do in Rome? Visitors are thrilled at every corner of the city’s museums, restaurants, and markets. Rome lives up to the hype and even some expectations. In this article, you will find out the top 10 best things to do in Rome.
It’s impossible to begin a list of things to do in Rome without mentioning the Colosseum. The largest amphitheater ever built, the Colosseum (or “Flavian Amphitheatre”) dates from 70 to 80 AD. Built during the year, it could accommodate up to 80,000 spectators.
Once the arena was filled with water and ships, it was built to host gruesome performances for the public, including gladiatorial battles, animal hunting, executions, and even naval battles. Today, you can explore underground tunnels, arena floors, and grandstands. The fifth floor is also open to the public, giving him a 360-degree view of the theater. To book a tour inside the Colosseum check it out.
An ancient Roman temple dedicated to “all the gods,” the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Rome and continues to inspire visitors today. Built in 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian on the site of his Temple of Agrippa to Marcus, it features the world’s largest (unreinforced) dome with a diameter of 142 feet. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for Pentecost weekend (he’s June 9th this year), be sure to attend the Sunday mass, when rose petals fall from the oculus during the celebration.
Overlooked for years, Rome’s four National Museums are now one of the Eternal City’s most exciting cultural programs, showcasing ancient sculptures and contemporary works, interactive videos, and more. The museum contains important archaeological artifacts discovered in Rome and is spread across four sites: Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, the Baths of Diocletian, and Crypta Balbi. A combo ticket of €11 gives you access to all 4 attractions over 3 days. Check it out.
Founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century, the museum houses one of the world’s largest and most important collections of art, spread across 54 galleries, courtyards, and cloisters. The Sistine Chapel is home to thousands of ancient sculptures, Raphael’s works, and, of course, Michelangelo’s frescoes. If you have time and plan ahead, a ticket to descend into the Vatican Necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens, complete with fountains, plants, and a replica of the Grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes Please make a reservation.
Emperor Nero’s extravagant Domus Aurea (Golden House), considered one of the most impressive residences of its time, offers a glimpse into the Roman underground. Built between 64 AD and his 68 AD as a great recreational complex near the Colosseum, it straddled many of Rome’s ancient hills until it was destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. The site is currently undergoing restoration, but visitors are welcome to take guided tours every Saturday and Sunday. A virtual reality tour of him is also available to help bring the villa’s former glory to life.
Affectionately called the City of the Seven Hills, Rome is known for its beautiful landscapes and numerous terraces with spectacular views of the city’s skyline. Located above the Trastevere district, Gianicolo isn’t technically one of his legendary hills, but it’s the highest point in Rome and offers sweeping views of the Eternal City, making it worth the hike. The elegant fountain featured in the opening scene of La Grande Bellezza, Acqua Paola’s Fountain, is nearby and is sure to take your breath away in its majesty.
Built-in the late 19th century, the Teatro dell’Opera is a neoclassical opera house that hosts around 200 performances each year, from opera and ballet to contemporary dance. The Opera House has collaborated with renowned directors and fashion houses such as Sofia Coppola, Valentino, and Dior to create innovative shows. During the summer months, open-air performances take place in the impressive Terme di Caracalla (The Baths of Caracalla). This sprawling archaeological complex was built between 213 and 216 AD and featured an outdoor swimming pool, sauna, library, shops, and more.
Rome has two top football clubs, AS Roma and SS Lazio. Both play at the Stadio Olimpico, the largest sports venue in Rome. Only the most intrepid visitors may want to watch a match between Rome and Lazio (a wild “derby”), but a trip to the stadium is a million miles away from the elegance of the Centro Storico. It promises a spectacle of flares and chants and a touch of atmospheric drama. If you prefer a more low-key experience, you can also catch a rugby match here during the Six Nations Championship Tournament in late winter.
Castel Sant’Angelo, “The Castle of Angels” is an impressive cylindrical fortress built on the banks of the Tiber River by Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. Originally commissioned as a mausoleum for Hadrian and his family, it was later used by the Popes as a fortress and castle. Also included is a secret escape route that connects the structure to Vatican City. Today, it’s a museum with frescoed rooms, a collection of medieval weapons, and expansive views of the city of Rome and nearby St. Peter’s Basilica.
Commissioned in the 16th century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to house his impressive art collection, the Galleria Borghese remains one of Rome’s leading museums. An avid art collector, Cardinal Jean Lorenzo was one of his early patrons of Bernini and was also a big fan of Caravaggio’s work. Museum highlights include Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, Canova’s Paolina with his Bonaparte, and Caravaggio’s Boy with a Fruit Basket. Originally built as a suburban villa, the Pleasure Palace is still surrounded by the extensive gardens of Villa Borghese. Take a stroll through the park after your visit.
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