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With its incredible amount of history, beautiful Baroque buildings, and a reputation for simply being one of the top city destinations in the world, Rome is a must visit place. They don’t call it the Eternal City for nothing!
But there’s so much to do in the city, from the iconic Colosseum and other landmarks like the Vatican City – a country in itself – it can be tricky to decide just what to do.
So we’ve created a handy guide for the best things to do in Rome! Whether you’re on a budget and want some free things to do in Rome, or if you’re looking for something different to do at night in the city, we’ve got a great selection of things to do here.
So let’s see what’s on offer in the historic capital of Italy…
Additional reading – 17 BEST Hotels in Rome [Insider Guide].
Table of Contents
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Rome. The trick is to simply whittle it down to some of the top things that are going to be a lot of fun. So we’ve made life easy and chosen a few for you.
Rome’s roads can get pretty crazy, but exploring this city from the veins and arteries that keep it ticking is a great way to do it. So for one of the most fun things to do in Rome on two wheels, why not get yourself on a bicycle tour of the Eternal City?
Convoy around the city with a guide leading you around all the top sights of the city. We mean, how could you not throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain? Or marvel at, and definitely not cycling down, the Spanish Steps? There’s a ton of iconic things you’ll get to do on this three hour cycling bonanza.
With all the sights you’ll see, and especially if you’re keen on cycling, we’d say this is one of the best fun things to do in Rome.
Paris is famous for its catacombs, sure. But did you know that Rome has its fair share of catacombs, too? With all the history behind it (well over two thousand years of it) there’s bound to be a lot of things to discover in the city’s subterranean depths.
And there are. Going deep underground on this cool Rome tour reveals its ancient side. There’s a well preserved actual Roman street down here, as well as a spooky cavern that once belonged to the cult of Mithras – both practically two millennia old!
Fun things to do in Rome don’t get more unusual than this: you’ll also come across hundreds of burial chambers, including Capuchin Crypt, which is decorated with the bones of over 4,000 Capuchin monks! There’s an official museum here now, so you can learn all about it, too.
Literally one of the best ways to experience any new place is to sample its cuisine. And where better to get some of the tastiest food in the world than in Rome? If you’re a foodie, or heck even if you’re just a fan of eating in general, this is going to be a super fun thing to do in Rome for you.
A food tour of Rome will pit you and your stomach against the tastiest delights that the Italian capital has to offer. We’re talking delicious morsels like the simple pizza bianca (no tomato sauce) and the amazing arancini (fried rice balls stuffed with mozzarella).
But as you traverse Trastevere and check out the market at Campo de’ Fiori, you’ll also learn about how to really appreciate Italian food – like, what makes pasta really, really good? – and also pro tips like how to order food like a local.
Rome simply lends itself to romance. You can’t even say ‘romantic’ without saying Rome at the same time! Naturally, there’s a ton of things to do in the capital that make for great days out as a couple.
Though going to check out the incredible works of art and the sumptuous architecture of the Borghese Gallery is cool by itself, it’s made even better as a romantic thing to do in Rome if both of you are into art.
It’s a pretty exclusive gallery though – only 360 people are allowed in at a time. So having a special entrance ticket will really help beat the crowds and make it hassle-free day. Because we all know hassle does not mean romance in the slightest.
You’ll get two hours to wander around the gallery admiring works by masters, from Caravaggio to Raphael. After which you can top off this arty outing by strolling around the beautiful landscaped gardens that surround the Villa Borghese itself.
It’s a little bit touristy, but when in Rome… visiting the Piazza Navona is sort of something you have to do. It’s a bustling city square, with a wide choice of restaurants for you and your partner to take your pick of and dine in accordingly.
However, since the square itself can be a little touristy – as we said – with tourist prices to match, wandering a little further from Piazza Navona can reward you with some great places for food and drink.
Circus on Via Della Vetrina has vintage vibes and a tasty brunch (as well as a happy hour) on offer, whilst Cul de Sac on Piazza Pasquino has a lot of wine to choose from.
The best time, however, to visit the Piazza Navona is at Christmas when there’s a big market to enjoy. Strolling along with the festive atmosphere in the air easily makes it one of the most romantic things to do in Rome.
So you’re looking for a romantic thing to do in Rome for couples? Of course, you’re going to want to visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, but the problem is this: everyone else wants to see them too.
The famously long queue for the Vatican usually winds its way around the city walls, so make sure your day out with your other half is more amazing than stressful with skip the line access.
Be shown around the Vatican Museums and catch sight of the most impressive art collections in the world from Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. After seeing where the Pope lives, you’ll then continue on to gaze heavenward at the Michelangelo’s masterpiece inside the Sistine Chapel.
But Rome isn’t just for adults who want to dine out all the time. There are plenty of things to entertain you and your family when you visit; there’s a whole world of captivating history, for starters!
Part of Rome’s history can be seen easily at what is arguably its most famous landmark, and a definitive icon of the city: the Colosseum. And what better way to teach your children about Roman history than going to visit a building that the Romans actually built? That alone makes it a pretty cool thing to do in Rome with kids.
But seeing the Colosseum can mean crowds – and lots of them. So getting to skip the line, along with an expert guide, makes it not only a less painful experience but one that’s going to be a lot more educational for your little ones, too.
Throw in some more ancient sites, like the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, and you’re going to be in for a day of seemingly magical tales from thousands of years ago.
One of the best things to do in Rome with kids to spend an afternoon, or even the whole day exploring the old neighbourhood of Trastevere. The area is full of interesting sites and small lanes to adventure down, and is a fantastic place for your family to see a more authentic side of the city.
The picturesque, quiet streets ooze atmosphere and it’s the perfect place to stop off for some gelato at one the many cafes that dot the small squares in the area. Make sure you pay a visit to the Church of Santa Maria in the centre of the district: it’s a truly magical place to see for any age.
Inside, the church is decorated in glittering golden mosaics from the 12th-century that look when the church candles are lit in the evening.
Seeing history in all the ancient buildings that Rome has to offer is one thing, but what about living a slice of ancient history for yourselves? That’s what Gladiator School is all about. Yes, that’s right: your children can actually become a gladiator for a day!
Beginning with a trip to a museum to learn all about the gladiators and their fights against each other (and with wild animals), you and your children will then end up at the Gladiator School itself. You get to feel how heavy the real equipment was before your little ones get to spar with wooden swords.
There’s an instructor, of course, so nothing will get out of hand – don’t worry about that! But the sheer excitement of doing battle with fellow mini gladiators in this playful re-enactment of history is surely one of the most fun things to do in Rome with kids.
Rome is known to be a pretty expensive place. So if you’re on a budget, or even if you’re backpacking through the city, we want to help you out with a few cool free things to do in Rome.
The Via Margutta is something of a mecca in Rome. That’s because it featured heavily in Roman Holiday – the first American film to have been entirely shot in Italy. So it’s got some fame among film buffs; it’s even led it to become something of an upscale area.
Simply strolling along this narrow lane in the heart of Rome, fans of the film will feel like they’re literally in Roman Holiday. Those who don’t know the film will just be utterly charmed by the rustic old beauty of this otherwise unassuming lane.
And for art lovers, head there in early May or November every year: you’ll find the 100 Pittori (or 100 Painters), an open-air art exhibition that’s been running for over fifty years!
Take a step back in time with a walk along the oldest highway in the whole of Europe. Built all the way back in 312 BC, the road ran straight all the way from Rome to the coastal city of Brindisi in the South of Italy.
At the time it was the longest road in the world as was incredibly important to the Romans who used it to transport military goods across the country. The first 10 miles of the Appian Way now run through the Parco dell’Appia Antica and are scattered with interesting historical monuments.
As you walk along this incredible piece of human history, think of the Roman soldiers and even Caesar himself who would have walked over the same stones. Now how can that not be one of the best free things to do in Rome?
Aside from all of the amazing historic sites, Rome also plays host to numerous markets. The city’s incredible markets are a must if you want to learn more about local life and soak up more of the city’s authentic side.
Make your way to Borghetto Flaminio Market for vintage finds, visit the historic Campo de Fiori for a taste of local delicacies, or explore Fontanella Borghese Market to see the amazing artwork.
The best thing about markets is that you get to experience a huge helping of a city without parting with any cash at all which makes wandering the markets one of the top free things to do in Rome.
Just be warned: you might find it hard not to spend your cash once you see some of the designer goods and mouth-watering food on offer.
Rome’s busy in the daytime, sure, but the night is when it truly comes alive. Its piazzas buzz, the narrow lanes are filled with people heading out for dinner, and everything seems pretty romantic. The nightlife is strong here.
As we mentioned, the city takes on a different hue as evening falls, so taking a walking tour of Rome seems just the ticket. You’ll learn a thing or two about Rome as you do so, of course.
You, and a knowledgeable guide, of course, will traverse the city – but not before witnessing a sunset from Pincio Terrace, complete with incredible vistas of the city. This alone makes an evening tour of the city one of the best things to do in Rome at night.
You’ll be visiting places like Piazza di Spagna as it begins to liven up, walking past beautiful Baroque fountains as they glisten in the street lights, and watching Campo de’ Fiori as it becomes a different and altogether more lively space after dark.
For something truly extravagant, head on over to the Auditorium della Conciliazione. Here you can see a weird and wonderful show that’s based entirely on Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece, The Last Judgement
That’s right. Complete with a light show that projects (almost) the entire painting inside the walls of the auditorium and a whole boatload of audiovisual special effects, it’s definitely up there with unusual things to do in Rome at night.
It’s the brainchild of producer Marco Balich, but also features music in collaboration with names like Sting, of all people.
So if you don’t want to go to a club or a bar, but would rather experience something that will pretty much dazzle you into speechlessness, then this one is most definitely for you.
Treat yourself during your trip to Rome and go and see a performance at the Teatro dell’Opera. The magnificent venue originally opened in 1880 and, while from the outside it might seem a little plain, wait until you see the world of elegance that awaits on the other side of the doors.
The opera house is the perfect setting to see a powerful opera performance, but also a really exciting place to see the ballet.
With its wonderfully ornate costumes and powerful musical performances, there can’t be a better, more cultural thing to do in Rome at night, and tickets are often surprisingly reasonable too!
And we’ve come to the end of our guide to the best things to do in Rome. As you’ve just read, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the Eternal City. Just book your accommodation (check out our top rated hotels in Rome) and work out where to stay with our ultimate neighborhood guide to Rome.
The Italian capital offers up some great chances for romantic things to do with your partner, as well as chances for your families to get to grips with history at the Gladiator School. Whatever you want to do, there’ll be something for you to do.
All that’s left for you to do now is to book some time off for your very own Roman Holiday!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!