Okay, I’m going to be honest. When I visited Rome, I didn’t have the best time. In fact, I was happier when I was leaving.
But please don’t let me put you off. Everyone will experience places differently and just because I didn’t have an enjoyable time, doesn’t mean that won’t either.
If you want to find out more about my time in Rome, you can click here to read My Rome Story.
I will say this though…
Regardless of my overall experience, Rome has some of the most amazing and awe-inspiring sights that I have ever seen. That’s one thing that I cannot take away from Rome, and it’s the one thing that I loved about Rome.
To help you out and to make sure that you don’t miss any of the top sights in this Italian city, I have put together this blog post detailing my favourite places and must-sees.
I need to stress that these are my must-sees. If I detailed everything that there is to see in Rome this blog post would be the size of War and Peace – if not bigger!
For your convenience, I have also pinpointed all their locations on this handy Google Map. This should help you to calculate the distance to each attraction from where you are staying and help you plan a convenient route.
To view the map in a separate browser tab, click here.
Now to put the meat on the bones, here are the top sights that you simply must not miss when visiting Rome.
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Back in its hey-day, the forum was the marketplace and the centre of public life in Rome. It was the venue for elections, public speeches, commercial affairs, criminal trials and gladiator matches.
Palatine Hill is part of the archaeological site and stands 40 meters above the Roman Forum
Depending on your budget and the amount of time that you wish you spend here, you can view the ruins for free simply by walking around the outer edge, or you can purchase a ticket to enter the forum.
The ticket cost is €12.00 and this gains you access to the Roman Forum as well as the Colosseum (next on my list). You can purchase tickets from a number of entrances around the Roman Forum, but I recommend that you go to the ticket gate for Palatine Hill. This entrance is usually much quieter than the others.
Probably the most iconic landmark in Rome, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built.
It was used for public spectacles, executions, gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights and hunts, re-enactments of famous battles and even mock sea battles where the arena was flooded with water.
The Colosseum was used for ‘entertainment’ for 390 years. In that time, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people and 1,000,000 animals lost their lives inside.
If you are working on a budget, you can view the Colosseum from the outside free of charge. If you wish to go inside then you will need to purchase a ticket. (Please see ticket information in the Roman Forum section above.)
I also highly recommend that, should you get the opportunity, you also visit the Colosseum at night when it fully lit up.
Arch of Constantine
At 21 metres high, it is the largest triumphal arch in Rome, consisting of three arches with an attic above.
It was built between 312 and 315 AD to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge by Constantine I as described on its attic inscription.
The arch spans the route that the emperors took when they returned to Rome in triumph.
The scale and detail of this monument can only be apricated when viewing in real life. Sadly, the photographs do not do it justice.
Piazza di Spagna & Spanish Steps
Piazza di Spagna is one of the most famous squares in Rome and it lies at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
The square is named after Palazzo di Spagna, the seat of Embassy of Spain. The steps (all 135 of them) were built to link the church, Trinità dei Monti, which resided at the top, to the Spanish square below. Hence the name, ‘Spanish Steps’.
Do take care when climbing the steps, and especially when coming back down, they are very smooth and therefore very slippery.
TIP: Fancy some high-end shopping? Whilst I was visiting the Spanish Steps, I noticed that the main road leading directly up to the steps was lined with designer shops. If you fancy a bit of a splurge, then this may be your ideal time.
Built between 118 and 125 AD, the Pantheon is the most preserved building in ancient Rome. It was built as a temple dedicated to all the Gods of pagan Rome. In fact, the word Pantheon is a Greek adjective meaning ‘honour all Gods’.
Behind the numerous columns lies a giant dome. To this day, it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
In the centre of the dome, there is a hole. This is known as the eye of the Pantheon, or Oculus. It has a diameter of 27 feet and it is completely open to the weather. If it rains, the water enters the building and is carried away through drains.
The Pantheon is free to enter unless you require a guided tour, in which case there is a fee per person. I strongly advise getting here early in the morning as the queue to enter can get rather large.
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world and arguably the most beautiful.
Coins are thrown into the fountain using the right hand and over the left shoulder. Supposedly, if you do not throw a coin into the fountain, you will never re-visit Rome.
It is estimated that a total of €3,000 are thrown into the fountain every day. There have been regular attempts to steal the coins even though it is illegal to do so. In 2016, an approximate total of €1.5 million was collected from the fountain and used to subsidise a supermarket for those in need in Rome.
When I visited Trevi Fountain, the crowds were insane – you would have thought that I was at a Beyonce concert. Therefore, again, I recommend that you visit this site early in the morning.
Vatican City, Vatican Museums & St Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world with a population of fewer than 1000 people. It covers just 109 acres which are encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy. It is governed by an absolute monarchy with the Pope at its head. There is no charge to visit here, however, some of the city is not open to the public.
St Peter’s Basilica is one of the holiest sites in Christendom and is also free of charge, though there are admission fees in order to access a few parts, such as the famous Dome.
The Vatican Museums is home to classical sculptures and the most important works of Renaissance art in the world. The 70,000 pieces (20,000 of which are on display) was built up by the Popes throughout the centuries. It is also the home of the Sistine Chapel, one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. For more information, click here to view the museum’s official website.
NOTE: When visiting St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and city please note that there is a strict dress code. Clothing must cover the shoulders and trousers/skirts must be below the knees. This applies to both men and women.
In English, Castel Sant’Angelo means Castle of the Holy Angel and it was once the tallest building in Rome. It was originally built for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Later it was used by the popes as a fortress in times of danger (there is a passageway which still connects the castle to the Vatican), and now it is a museum.
The castle is split into five floors and, on the upper floor, there is a large terrace where you can view the city of Rome from above.
Piazza Navona & Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome hidden amongst its many side streets.
In the centre of the square stands the famous fountain, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or, Fountain of the Four Rivers. The sculptures represent four river Gods and the four major rivers of the four continents – the Danube representing Europe, the Ganges representing Asia, the Rio de la Plata representing the Americas and the Nile representing Africa.
Although some people don’t class this as a must-see, I enjoyed the vibe of this square – beautiful architecture, ornate fountains and the option for a bite to eat and some al-fresco dining. It’s one of my favourite places in Rome for a spot of lunch.
Have a great time!
Sadly, that’s it from me. But I hope that I have helped you plan an unforgettable time exploring ancient Rome. It may not be my favourite city, but there are lots of attractions to see and admire.
When you get back from your trip, please comment below and let me know how it went. I’d love to get your take and experience of Rome.
And if you find any other must-see sights that need to be in this post, please do let me know.