There is something incredibly special about Rome. Not only is it the Ancient Capital of the Roman Empire, but it’s the second most visited city in Europe – and for good reason. Susnet View of Rome from Castel Sant’Angelo, Italy. View from Castel Sant’Angelo | Source: Home to some of the finest artwork by Renaissance artists Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Pippo, it’s a culture vulture’s haven. But even if you’re not clued up on art, anyone can be awed by the impressive feats of Roman engineering. It’s where you’ll find the Seventh Wonder of the World, and is the gateway to the Vatican City – the smallest country in the world (and one you don’t need your passport stamped to enter). Needless to say, you can never run out of exciting things to do in Rome. Whether you plan to stay for a weekend or a week, the sheer amount of attractions in Rome can make deciding on what to do incredibly difficult, as the likelihood is, you just can’t do all of them. If you’re not sure what to do in Rome, this guide to the most memorable things to see and do in Rome will help you map out your itinerary. Top Tip for Exploring Rome: If you intend on visiting several of Rome’s top attractions, consider purchasing a Rome attraction pass by Go City. With the Explorer Pass, you can pick 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 attractions to visit from a list of top Rome sights, tours and must-sees. Get your pass here. 1. Spend a day Exploring The Vatican City, Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Fresco of Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome Fresco of Sistine Chapel, Vatican | Source: The number one thing to do in Rome is to spend the day in another country. No, you don’t need to board a plane or pass through immigration, the Vatican City is within walking distance of Rome’s city center and is considered the smallest country in the world. Though it’s small in size, it’s packed full of unmissable attractions. It’s most famous for being home to the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, but it’s also home to several important landmarks you mustn’t miss. The Vatican Museum is just one of them. The museum is an art enthusiast’s haven. With over 1,000 rooms, each decorated with the finest pieces of Renaissance art and frescos, you could actually spend a whole day here and not see it all. As well as exhibiting some of the most famous paintings such as The Last Judgment by Michaelangelo and St. Jerome by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Museum is an architectural gem that has been beautifully designed in Roman, Baroque, and Gothic styles. It also connects to The Sistine Chapel, which is most famous for its fresco paintings that adorn the walls and ceiling. These paintings were created by the famous Renaissance artist and sculptor, Michelangelo. It’s where you can see the original of his most famous painting – The Hand of God. Visitors to The Sistine Chapel are not allowed to take photos inside, and if you do try you can expect to hear the booming voice of an angry Italian security guard which will turn a few heads your way. However, there are plenty of benches against the walls so you can sit for as long as you want and admire the paintings on the ceiling. The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel are possibly the most popular and consequently busiest attractions in Rome, seeing 40,000 visitors a day. To make sure you can get a ticket, and avoid a three-hour wait in a long queue, book a ticket beforehand. If you want to avoid the crowds, go as early as possible. TICKETS: Vatican: Museums & Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket (skip the line) Early Access Tour of Museums with Sistine Chapel Address: 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City Hours: 8.30am – 6.30pm (Monday-Thursday) 8.30am – 10.30pm (Friday and Saturday) closed Sunday 2. Admire Renaissance Fresco’s in St Peter’s Basilica View of Illuminated Saint Peter`s Basilica and Street Via della Saint Peter`s Basilica & Street Via della | Source: As the home of the Catholic church, you can expect Rome’s basilicas (or churches) to be some of the most ornately detailed and beautiful in the world. The crown for the most beautiful has to go to St Peter’s Basilica or Papal Basilica of Saint Peter. Though it’s technically not in Rome, it’s in the Vatican City, it’s certainly one of the most unmissable attractions in Rome because of its stunning fresco paintings inside. The paintings, and even the architecture, were designed by some of the most famous classical artists such as Donato Bramante (who designed its facade), Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. One of the most famous paintings in the basilica is Michelangelo’s Pieta. While admiring the paintings, please be quiet and respectful. St Peter’s Basilica is often regarded as the holiest Catholic shrine and many people come here from all over the world to pray. So please keep noise levels to a minimum. Hours: 7:00am – 6:00pm (7pm in April – September) Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City TOP TIP A visit to St Peter’s Basilica is free, but queues can be extremely long. Either arrive at opening or purchase special skip-the-line tickets or join a guided tour as they have access to special security line. Here is a guided tour with an art historian tour guide, and includes a climb to the top Michelangelo’s magnificent Dome. 3. Step Back in Time at The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill the outer walls of the colosseum with the rising sun bursting through The gorgeous Colosseum | Source: Possibly the most famous attraction in Rome, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is the Colosseum. Built in the year 70 AD, this impressive structure was built as a stadium for 50,000 spectators. It was where the Romans watched gladiator games during ancient times, from fights to chariot races. Across the road from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, the ancient ruins of the old market of Rome. Here you can see the remains of temples, several ancient government buildings, and what was once the market. At the top of the Forum is Palatine Hill, one of seven hills in Rome. It is said that the hill is home to the cave where Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus, were taken in by the she-wolf. It is also supposedly the place where Hercules defeated Cacus. Since all of these Rome attractions lie next to each other, it makes sense to see them altogether. Luckily, it’s possible to book combined tickets before you visit. Hours: 9.00am – 7:15pm Address: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Rome, Italy 4. Marvel at Roman Engineering in The Pantheon square with the pantheon and tall spire in front The Pantheon | Source: If you’ve already visited the Colosseum and The Forum, you might be thinking this is all very impressive but it’s still a ruin. If you want to see some of the best preserved Roman architecture and engineering, then you’ll want to check out The Pantheon. It was originally built as a Pagan temple and then converted into a church, which is most famous for the circular opening in the ceiling. The oculus, sometimes referred to as ‘The Eye of the Pantheon’ or ‘Eye of God’ was built as the only light source in the building. You might be asking yourself “what happens when it rains?” since there is no cover. The answer is that the floor is tilted, so the water drains through 22 hidden holes that lead to the underground cisterns built by the Romans. This is just another marvel of Roman engineering that leaves your mind boggled. The Pantheon is also home to the tombs of many of Rome’s greatest artists and royals, such as King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto 1, and his wife Queen Margherita of Savoy, and the Renaissance artist, Raphael. It’s not a huge building and there’s not too much to see, so we recommend getting the audio guide to give you a brief history lesson of this marvel in Rome. Hours: 9.00am – 6:45pm (closed Tuesdays) Address: Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Rome, Italy 5. Throw a Coin in The Trevi Fountain stunning Roman building with trevi fountain in front Throw your coin in for good luck! Source: You cannot take a trip to Rome without visiting the Trevi Fountain. Perhaps THE most unmissable thing to do in Rome is to throw a coin in the fountain for good luck. To do this, you need to stand with your back to the fountain and throw the coin over your left shoulder with your right hand. Fair warning, the fountain is another one of Rome’s most popular attractions and is nearly always busy. You may need to wait a while before you can find a spot near the fountain to throw your coin. You should also note that the fountain is drained for cleaning every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8am-9am, so try to avoid these times. Hours: 24 hours Address: Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Rome, Italy 6. Shop Luxury Brands Around The Spanish Steps spanish steps with pink flowers on it The Spanish Steps | Source: The Spanish Steps are another attraction that is often regarded as one of the top places to visit in Rome. And while they are gorgeous and intricately designed, the steps themselves don’t take too long to see. Starting in the Piazza di Spagna, the steps lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church, which was built in the 16th century. It’s definitely worth getting a photo on the steps, but if you’re looking for things to do nearby, then it is also the perfect spot to do some luxury shopping. Fair warning, the brands around the Spanish Steps tend to be high-end designer brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dior. If your wallet doesn’t stretch for these brands, don’t worry, Italy is known for its fashion, and you’ll find more affordable boutique stores around this area too. Hours: steps open 24 hours, shops generally open between 10.00am – 7.30pm Address: Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Rome, Italy 7. Drink An Espresso in Piazza Navona statue of naked man in the middle of water fountain in the piazza Navona Source: Rome is full of amazing Piazzas and one thing they all have in common is they are lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes with outdoor seating areas. If you’re feeling tired after exploring all the best sites in Rome, then sitting back with an espresso is the perfect pick-me-up. The Piazza Navona is one of the oldest piazzas in the city. It was built in ​​the 1st Century AD, as the Stadium of Domitian. It was once a competition arena where the Romans went to see games. You could argue it was the Colosseum before the Colosseum. Today you can see two fountains in the center of the piazza, which is surrounded by palaces and churches. The piazza was made famous by the movie Angels and Demons starring Tom Hanks, which was a movie adaptation of the book, also set in Rome. Hours: Piazza is open 24 hours, restaurants usually operate between 9.00am – 2.00am Address: Piazza Navona, 00186 Rome, Italy 8. Explore the Villa Borghese Gardens Water fountain with statues and trees in the Villa Borghese gardens Villa Borghese Gardens | Source: If you’re looking for relaxing and free things to do in Rome then you might enjoy meandering around the Villa Borghese gardens. The gardens are the largest urban park in Europe and are also where you’ll find the Rome Zoo, Pincio’s Water Clock, and Silvano Toti Globe Theatre. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Rome with kids, it’s possible to hire roller blades and bikes from the main gates and whizz around the historic gardens. As well as visiting the gardens, the Borghese Gallery is also worth a visit. It’s located inside the Villa Borghese and is where you can see paintings by artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio. Book your spot on the Borghese Gallery tour with the gardens Hours: 9.00am to 7.00pm (Last admission to the Gallery at 5.00pm) Address: Piazzale Napoleone I, 00197 Rome, Italy 9. Visit the Roman Catacombs The catacombs in Rome are one of the more unusual and interesting attractions in the city. You can only visit the catacombs with a guide, who will explain the ancient burial rituals and point out the unique archaeological wonders. The catacombs are underground, subterranean passageways and the former burial grounds for the Christians and Jews in the 3rd century AD. It is said half a million Christians and Jews were buried here, including 16 Popes. There are several catacombs in Rome, but the largest and most important is the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus. Join a guided tour of that here. Hours: 9.00am – 11.45pm, 2.00pm-5.00pm (closed Wednesdays) Address: Via Appia Antica, 110/126, 00179 Rome, Italy READ MORE: You can see catacombs in Paris as well 10. Explore the Castel Sant’Angelo Bridge and Castel Sant Angelo and Tiber River. Bridge and Castel Sant Angelo and Tiber River. | Source: The Castel Sant’Angelo lies just outside the Vatican City and was built as the tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family in 135 AD. It was also used as a fortress and prison of the Papal Residence. It’s the oldest castle in Italy and is now one of the most important museums. It has seven levels of exhibits, including the Papal quarters, execution ground, and of course, some ancient frescos. For history lovers, you’ll not want to miss this enlightening attraction in Rome. You can get your skip the line tickets to Castel Sant Angelo here. Hours: 9.00am – 7.30pm (Monday – Sunday) Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193 Rome, Italy 11. Enjoy A Gelato gelato in a cone Who does not love gelato? While you might be thinking gelato is just ice cream, you had better not say this to any Italians! Gelato is much softer and is traditionally made with less fat, so it’s slightly better for you than ice cream. If you’re visiting Rome in the summer, it can get quite hot and there’s very little cloud cover, so gelato is a perfect way to cool down on a warm day. A famous gelato shop in Rome is Gelateria dei Gracchi just a few minutes’ walk from the Vatican. What’s great about this shop is that they not only use fresh, seasonal fruits but they have gluten-free and lactose-free options too. One of our writers, Adam, enjoyed sampling gelato on his Rome food walking tour. Hours: 1.00pm – 8.00pm Address: Via dei Gracchi 272 00193, Rome, Italy 12. Kick Back and Relax in the Trastevere District small street with terracotta colored homes covered in green plants So pretty | Source: If you’re finding all the historical things to do in Rome tiresome, then you’ll want to head to one of Rome’s outer districts for some peace and quiet. One of the best places to kick back and relax is in the Trastevere district. Located in the south of the city, across the river from the Colosseum, this district is an ancient working-class neighborhood, famous for its quaint, narrow alleyways and medieval houses. Many of these houses have been turned into boutique shops, cafes, and bars with outdoor terraces. Some important Roman figures built villas here, including Julius Caesar. This area is particularly lively at night and is full of backpackers looking for a fun night out in the bars and clubs. If this isn’t your scene, don’t worry, it’s a totally different vibe in the daytime.