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Fun Things to Do in Rome – Top 13 Things to Do + Daytrips

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Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 10-million tourists crossing its vibrant borders each year. Founded in 750 BC, the territory of Rome is actually older than the country of Italy itself, and the empire’s territory used to cover almost all of Europe!

From the ancient architecture to the incredible people watching in the piazzas to (arguably) the best food in the world – Rome has so much to offer for new and old visitors. After visiting the Eternal City 5 times, I have unique insights on how to best see the chaotic, cobblestone streets of Rome.

This list includes popular attractions for first-time visitors, the best things to do in Rome, plus hidden gems that only the locals would know! Use this guide as the perfect 2-3 day itinerary, which honestly, is about all the time you’ll need in Rome. We’ll also cover free activities and incredible day trips that are only an arm’s reach from town.

Fun Things to Do in Rome

Fun Things to Do in Rome 1

The 13 Best Things to Do in Rome

I’ve visited Rome from many perspectives – once with family, once while studying abroad, once as a solo female traveler, and twice with romantic partners. I think these unique visits make me adequately qualified to explain the best and worst parts of Rome, from at least a few different angles.

Frankly… It’s not my favorite place in Italy. The country is filled with breathtaking cities and every type of terrain you could imagine (Dolomite mountain hikes, luxurious Amalfi coastlines, the warm Tuscan countryside and vineyards, etc.)

Despite it not being the most relaxing place to visit, Rome is probably one of the most historical, fascinating, and lively places I’ve ever been. I personally won’t spend more than a few days in Rome because it’s too chaotic for my taste. But you can see the main attractions in a single day if need be, or stay for a week or more if you want to leisurely absorb everything there is to do and see.

Here are the top things to do in Rome, whether it’s a repeat or first-time trip:

1. Colosseum, Arena, Forum, & Palatine Hill

I combine all of these into one stop because they’re all very close. Opt for a tour that starts through the Forum and Palatine Hill. The forum holds the world’s oldest shopping center, one of the earliest public courts, and even the remains of Ceasar after his assassination.

Take a hike up Palatine Hill to overlook some of the best views of the city. Rome’s beauty will surround you in a panorama that includes the Forum, the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, Circus Maximus, and the valley. Next, hike up the steps where you’ll pass the Arch of Constantine, dedicated to another emperor who was assassinated (common power struggles in ancient Rome, an average Tuesday for them).

This will lead you to the Colosseum, originally known as ‘the Flavian Amphitheater’ (you’ll find this name carved at the entrance of the amphitheater). I highly suggest you choose a tour that has access to the arena because there are thrilling stories and recollections of this historic culture. These times were brutal, savage, merciless, and ruthless, so these landmarks serve as a reminder of the Roman prestige, ambition, and engineering prowess that changed the world.

Colosseum, Arena, Forum, & Palatine Hill

Colosseum, Arena, Forum, & Palatine Hill 1

2. Go Back in Time at The Pantheon

Another icon in the Eternal City is the original temple of Rome, the Pantheon. The word ‘Pantheon’ literally translates to ‘all gods’ in Greek and this monument was built 2,000 years ago to be the house of the Gods. In current times, it is still the most well-preserved building in the city, and some believe it’s the most in-tact ancient building in the world.

The dome was formerly covered in gold, the columns were shipped in from Africa, and the concrete was made of volcanic ashes from Naples. The internal skylight dome is the largest of its kind and there has never been an unreinforced concrete dome of this scale.

It is a peaceful temple with a rare energy, great restaurants and coffee shops nearby, and my favorite store in town, the 4-story Zara 🙂 It’s free to walk inside of the Pantheon and you will be blown away by its stature and magnificence.

Go Back in Time at The Pantheon

3. Visit The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, & St. Peters

Although it’s not my favorite part of town, the Vatican deserves a spot near the top of this list. If you haven’t been before, it’s absolutely worth experiencing.

The Vatican is actually its own city-state (quite literally the smallest country in the world), and it is also HQ for the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope’s home. This area is a complex anomaly, it’s calm yet chaotic, humble yet lavish, and abstinent yet this region has the highest wine consumption rate on earth.

Definitely go for skip-the-line tickets so you’re not standing in the enormous line for hours. Take the time to explore extravagant architecture and artwork, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel which took 4 years to complete, and St. Peters Basilica, the resting place for one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.

Visit The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, & St. Peters

4. Eat & drink your heart out!

As an unwavering foodie, this activity is at the top of my heart’s list.

Since I’ve visited many times, I don’t typically stop at the Colosseum, Vatican, or other typical tourist spots because I’ve already seen them. At this point, I come to Rome to EAT.

Enjoy the open-air markets like Campo di Fiori, pizzerias, and local panini shops. Snack on world-class pasta, risotto, arancini, bruschetta, frutti di mare (seafood), and of course, gelato!

By day – Coffee is a way of life in Italy. Expect to sip your espresso at coffee bars while standing up, usually at the counter. If you’re anticipating coffee like you would find in the U.S., order an Americano (which is just watered-down espresso).

By night – Sip chianti, brunello, barolo, sangiovese and other lucious Italian varietals. The Trastevere is my favorite neighborhood for amazing food and wine bars (my favorite is Spirito DiVino). And rooftop bars are in style during the warm months but will be closed in the off-season (check out Cielo Terrace, located near the Spanish Steps).

Eat & drink your heart out!

5. Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain

It may be cliche, but nonetheless, tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain is truly magical! Book your evening around the Rione II neighborhood, the home of the Trevi Fountain which was built in 1732.

As a romantic epicenter of the city, the Trevi Fountain has been seen in countless films. It holds an enchanting quality that draws in people from all over the world! Sadly, the original architect didn’t live to see its completion, but there is a ton of history built into the details, like the Ace of Cups sculpture which was built in the name of revenge.

The Rione and Trevi areas are very fun, filled with narrow streets, shops, gelaterias, and drool-worthy eateries. Stop at a fantastic nearby restaurant down the alleyway, La Chianti, where you can sit on the patio for a romantic dinner and dessert. Right across from the restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall bar that serves Limoncello Spritzs for the perfect nightcap.

Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain

6. Picnic at Villa Borghese Park

If you’re looking for a relaxing nook in the heart of town, the Villa Borghese Park is a perfect safe haven for you. Borghese is the 3rd largest public park in the city and visiting the garden is always free. There are sculptures, ponds, and museums scattered amongst the landscaping.

The Galleria Borghese (museum) does have a charge for entry, but it’s worth the small fee to see one of the most impressive art collections in Rome. The Galleria houses Bernini’s The Rape of Proserpina, more accurately described as the Abduction of Proserpina.

After a picnic, head towards the Love Locket Pathway or rent a boat to get closer to the Tempio di Esculapio, a stunning temple across the lake.

Picnic at Villa Borghese Park

7. Peruse the Street Art of Ostiense

The Guardian publication actually named the Ostiense district as ‘one of the coolest neighborhoods in all of Europe!’ This hip and eclectic quarter is one of the best areas in town for nightlife, discos that stay open til the wee hours of the night, hip bars, and gourmet bistros.

And you’ll have so much fun discovering that Rome isn’t just about ancient and Renaissance paintings. This bohemian neighborhood is filled with colorful street art and murals that add a ton of character to the already charming area. Look out for popular pieces like the Wall of Fame, ROA’s Jumping off Wolf, and Blu’s creation, I Mille Volti.

Peruse the Street Art of Ostiense

8. Shop at Via Condotti

If you’re looking to shop until you drop, check out the Via Condotti, a chic street that begins at the Fontana della Barcaccia, a fountain in front of the Spanish Steps.

This shopping area is known for luxury-name brands and top fashion retailers. You’ll find stores like Gucci, Prada, Dior, Hermes, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, etc. As you mosey down the cobblestone streets, you’ll find smaller-scale shops with more affordable options like H&M, Zara, and discounted outlets.

Although Paris and Milan are considered to be the fashion capitals of the world, Via Condotti rivals them as a worthy competitor. On your way, you’ll find the famous Column of Marcus Aurelius, located in the Piazza Colonna. You can take epic photographs on the Spanish Steps and stop at the nearby Baths of Agrippa, which served as a blueprint for Roman bathhouses in ancient times.

Shop at Via Condotti

9. Peek through the Knights of Malta Keyhole

In close proximity to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, you’ll find one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Behind a large green door in the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, there is a mystical easter egg hidden in the hedges – the Knights of Malta Keyhole that serves as a looking glass to see 3 countries simultaneously (Italy, Malta, and the Vatican City).

This is one of my favorite free things to do in Rome. There are nearby sights like the Church of Santa Maria del Priorato, the Giardino degli Aranci (garden), and the Tiber River.

Peek through the Knights of Malta Keyhole

10. Discover the Underground Roman Catacombs

Visiting the catacombs in any city will add a spooky vibe to your vacation. If you’re into the macabre – the catacombs are an extraordinary experience. There are more than 60 catacombs and crypts in the Eternal City, holding thousands of tombs that are buried dozens of meters underground.

The early Romans (of the 2nd through 5th century B.C.) did not believe in burying the dead inside of city walls. Modern historians believe this to have been a conscious effort to promote hygiene or limit the spread of disease, which is why you’ll find most Roman tombs are above or below ground.

Discover the Underground Roman Catacombs

11. Tour the Golden House of Nero (Duomos Aurea)

In front of the Colosseum, you’ll find the Duomas Aurea which was created by Nero in 1 century AD. It’s one of the most gorgeous and unknown archeological sites in the City of 7 Hills, developed when the Emporer, Nero, wanted to create a ‘new’ Rome in his name “Neropolis.”

The Golden House is open to the public for adults and children, nestled on Oppian Hill. Even after great fires in the city, restoration efforts have allowed the beautiful work to be enjoyed, including frescoes, marble artwork, and highly-decorated public bath houses.

I find it to be one of the more peaceful activities in a bustling city like Rome. I go here to meditate and get still, leaving space for the energy of rebirth amongst the destruction and ruin.

Tour the Golden House of Nero (Duomos Aurea)

Non-Touristy Things to Do in Rome

While some of the above activities are a bit touristic, there are also infinite options to get off-the-beaten-path of Rome. Some unique and fun things to do in Rome that you may not have considered are:

  • Spend an afternoon wandering the smallest district in town, Quartiere Coppede
  • Take photos at the 2nd highest peak in the city, Belvedere del Gianicolo
  • Enroll in an authentic Italian cooking class
  • Shop on Sundays at the Porta Portese Flea Market
  • Have a virtual reality experience at the Baths of Caracalla
  • Visit the park of the aqueducts, Parco degli Acquedotti
  • Witness the hidden gem, Galleria Sciarra
  • Enjoy the Teatro Marcello, an older theater than the Colosseum
  • Participate in a Roman derby or event at the Stadio Olimpico
  • Walk through the fairytale lands of the Ninfa Gardens
  • Watch an outdoor movie at the Villa Medici
  • Visit an island in the middle of Rome, Isola Tiberina

The Best Daytrips from Rome

Spend 1-3 days in Rome, and then use it as a catalyst for all of the incredible cities nearby! Some of my favorite day trips from Rome are:

  • Naples
  • Pompeii
  • The Amalfi Coast
  • Positano
  • Sorrento
  • Capri
  • Cinque Terre
  • Florence
  • Siena
  • Tuscany
  • Chianti
  • Montepulciano

Honorable mentions include:

  • Herculaneum
  • Mount Vesuvius
  • Bologna
  • Trivoli
  • Orvieto
  • Santa Marinella
  • Ostia Antica
  • Venice
  • Ponza Island
  • Assisi
  • Bomarzo

The Best Daytrips from Rome
Check out these packing guide resources that will help you plan a successful trip: 27 Top Italy Packing List Items for 2023 and 19 Top Rome Packing List Items for 2023.

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