Rome is a reflection of ancient western grandeur. This Italian city is a museum of architecture of another age, art from some of the most artistic periods on European history and tells stories of emperors and religions. I have created a list of the top 10 things to do in Rome to see all it has to offer!
There’s so much architecture to see and learn from, and exquisite life-like and life-size statues and frescoes to admire here. Things to do in Rome include visiting several world-famous, historical, and architectural structures that are sure to fascinate you. There are fountains to be photographed, steps to be climbed, and great outdoors to explore on foot or on two-wheelers. And then there’s the unmissable Vatican.
1. Marvel at the colossal Colosseum
Let’s begin at the obvious — the one monument that any first-time traveler to Rome is bound to have on his/her list of must-visit attractions, and a must on a list of the top 10 things to do in Rome. Rome is home to the largest and most famous amphitheater in the world. We know it as the Colosseum. Locally it is better known as Colosseo. (If you are taking the Metro, that’s the name of the station you have to get off at.)
It’s also called the Flavian Amphitheater because it was under the Flavian dynasty’s rule that this building was constructed. Built of concrete and stone, this ancient stadium is said to have had a capacity of over 50,000 people. The Colosseum is known to have staged dramas based on classics, gladiatorial competitions, and even executions. Visit this ancient landmark and you will marvel at the underground tunnels, the stands, and the sheer size of the structure.
2. Walk through the Roman Forum
If you’d like to see more of ancient Rome, like structures much older, make your way to the Roman Forum. You might want to visit this place right before or after your visit to the Colosseum because it’s just a stone’s throw away. You can even buy tickets that allow you entry into both places.
The Roman Forum serves as a site for some of the public structures that saw a lot of activity a long, long time ago. They say it was once the venue for public events of all kinds. Today with its ruins of temples, columns and arches, it stands as a testimony to the glory days of the Roman Empire.
3. Be awed by the size of the Pantheon’s dome
Yet another symbol of the architectural prowess of the ancient Romans is the Pantheon, which is why it is one of the top 10 things to do in Rome. It was built under the leadership of Emperor Hadrian, as a temple for the Roman gods. Although parts of it have been stripped of its walls in the centuries that followed, the structure still stands as an imposing building with tall columns and an enormous dome.
The Dome is the centerpiece of the temple-church. It’s not just its size that’s awe-inspiring. The oculus that lights up the place will also fill you with awe. It also is one of the most well-preserved structures in the world. The once Roman Temple is now a Catholic Church.
The place is almost always packed with tourists but if you’d like to see it when its at it lowest occupancy, get there as early as possible.
4. Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain
Just a walkable distance away from the age-old temple-turned-church is a grand fountain that’s a stunning piece of outdoor art. Built of travertine and over 80 feet in height, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world.
With its white statues of men and horses, this fountain built in Baroque style is a tribute to the Roman God, Oceanus. When you’re there, make sure to hold some coins in your right hand and toss it over your left shoulder and into the water of the fountain. It’s believed that if you throw coins into this 1762-fountain, you’ll be visiting Rome again. And who wouldn’t want that! You need several visits to cover all the interesting attractions in Rome.
5. Go up and down the Spanish Steps
Rome also has some broad and beautiful steps that are famous! Dating back to the 18th century, the Spanish Steps are said to have been built by the French Embassy so that it could have easy access to the church that the stairs now lead up to.
The 135 steps connect the two public squares of Piazza Trinita dei Monti and Piazza di Spagna. It’s also said that in the old days, artists frequented this place for its beauty and its views and this, in turn, attracted women who aspired to play models for them. With more and more people visiting the Scalina Spagna, the steps soon became a popular spot.
At the top of the steps, tourists can see the Trinita dei Monti Church and the tall obelisk before it. At the bottom is the Spanish Square with its restaurants and cafes. During the day, visitors shuffle up and down the famous steps, and in the late evening it becomes a place for people to hang out and unwind.
Go in spring and you will see lots of flowers adding beauty to the scene.
6. Chill out at Piazza Navona
Another place to spend some time with both locals and tourists is the Piazza Navona. This public square is in the shape of a rectangle because it takes the place of a stadium that once occupied the area. What was once an arena for gladiatorial contests and public festivals now features 3 grand fountains and an obelisk. And it’s framed by eye-catching architecture. It’s a beautiful spot in the top 10 things to do in Rome.
You’ll find a church and a couple of palaces among the structures there, along with restaurants and cafes. You’ll find artists, musicians and street performers doing what they do best. Go in the morning if you prefer smaller crowds. Go in the late afternoon to see the place and its grand fountains lit up and the crowds that lend this square its character.
7. See the reliefs at the Altar of the Fatherland
The Altar of the Fatherland is another of those buildings that are a coming together of art and architecture. Built of marble and encased with tall columns and reliefs and topped with a couple of chariots on its roof, it’s often referred to as ‘the wedding cake.’
The Altar of the Fatherland was built in honor of the first king of Italy — Victor Emmanuel II — after the unification of the country. Tourists visit this monument to see its pomp, the sculpture around the building, and the views from its terrace.
8. Explore Borghese Villa complex
Rome is known for several palatial buildings and among them is the Borghese Villa. Villa Borghese Pinciana once belonged to a Cardinal who was a part of the Borghese family. He loved art and the building was mainly used to showcase his art collection.
Today, the villa is a gallery rich with sculptures, paintings, sculptures, and mosaics. It has several rooms, each with a centerpiece, usually a well-known work of art. Tourists who come here to see this vast and renowned collection can also visit the garden around the villa, which is an attraction in itself, earning it a spot on the top 10 things to do in Rome.
9. Roam the outdoors of Rome
The Borghese Gardens are not the only green areas that Rome has to show off. The largest of public gardens here is that of Villa Doria Pamphili, which is landscaped to perfection. And that’s followed by Villa Ada, a local favorite, not far from the Borghese Gardens.
Then there’s the Aqueduct Park south of the city of Rome. As its name suggests, this is an aqueduct area and there are not one, but two ancient Roman aqueducts to see here. The greenery and the paths around here make the park a great place for strolls or to go biking.
Near here is also the Appian Way, the ancient highway of the Roman Empire. The age-old cobbled highway connected the empire to outlying areas and facilitated trade. What’s remaining of it still stands as a symbol of Roman engineering.
10. See the Vatican for yourself
And finally, let me remind you that you cannot visit Rome without paying your respects to the country set within the city of Rome — the Vatican. This is one of the most visited (if not the most) on the list of the top 10 things to do in Rome.
And no trip to Vatican can be passed off without visits to world-famous landmarks such as the St. Peter’s Basilica and its great entryway, St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s Basilica is the highest catholic church and wears the largest dome in all of Rome. Try to climb to the top to get breathtaking views of Rome and an aerial view of the impressive St. Peter’s Square with its curved colonnades and an obelisk.
And while you are in the Vatican, try to walk through at least a part of the enormous Vatican Museums and see the amazing collection of art it holds. Also, make sure to step into the very celebrated Sistine Chapel to see all the artistic work that Michelangelo put into its ceilings and walls.