Rome is a city where you are surrounded by history and I love it! The thought that I could be standing on a spot where Julius Caesar made history, for example, boggles my mind. It is impossible to see all of what Rome has to offer in a short time, but these are my favourite top 10 Rome attractions.

 

Rome skyline
Rome skyline

 

Top 10 Rome Attractions

 

1. The Colosseum

This is an iconic sight and you cannot miss visiting it. It was opened in 80 AD and seated more than 50 000 people.  Around 5 000 animals were killed at the opening, which I find horrific, but I guess that times were different then.

The ticket office queues are always incredibly long so purchase tickets in advance online or make your way to the Palatine entrance (Via San Gregorio) that is not usually as busy.

 

The Colosseum Rome
The Colosseum Rome

 

2. The Vatican Museum & the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican is the world’s smallest nation and covers around 50 hectares. The museum is spectacular, not only for the works of art but for the architecture as well. There is so much to see that it is overwhelming and I recommend doing a guided tour to get the most out of your visit. I was lucky enough to have an art restorer as my guide and I came away with a fascinating insight into many of the works of art. It made a huge difference to the enjoyment of my visit.

The queues to the ticket office are often very long and it is advisable to book in advance. I have struggled to buy tickets online previously, so book as far in advance as possible to avoid being disappointed.

 

Vatican Ceiling
Vatican Ceiling

 

3. St Peter’s Basilica

Your approach to the Basilica is through the magnificent Piazza San Pietro. The curve of the colonnade represents arms embracing you as you make your way to the church.

As you walk through the square, keep your eyes open for a circular black and white marker inscribed with the words Centro del Colonnato. There is a marker on each side of the square, either between the obelisk and the columns, or the fountain and the columns.  Place your feet on the marker and you will see that the columns all line up perfectly so that you only see the first row. The second row is completely hidden. This is known as Bernini’s Illusion.

Entrance to the Basilica is free, but you will have to wait for ages if you arrive later in the day. The Basilica opens every day from 7:00 a.m. and the best way to beat the crowds is to be there early. Remember to dress appropriately with your knees and shoulders covered or else you will not be permitted entry.

Once you are inside the Basilica look to the right for a sign saying “Cupola”. This directs you to the ticket office and a lift which goes up to the dome. To get to the top you can either climb the 551 steps or take a lift and then climb 320 steps for 360-degree views of Rome.

 

St Peters Rome
St Peters Rome

 

4. The Pantheon

The first Pantheon was built in 27 BC. It was replaced in 118-125 AD by Hadrian’s rotunda.  Although it was originally a pagan temple in 609 AD it was turned into a church. It is still a church today and you can attend mass there on Sundays.

Much of the building remains unchanged. There is an altar now, but otherwise, you are in a space that is much like the ancient Romans experienced.

The dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It is quite dark inside, but the oculus (the hole in the roof) provides light. It also serves another purpose to act as a tensioner around the ring and provides structural support for the dome. I never cease to be amazed at these ancient feats of engineering.

Look out for the tomb of Raphael, who died aged 37, in a plain sarcophagus on the right-hand side. There are a couple of other artists and 2 kings buried here as well.

 

The Pantheon
The Pantheon

 

5. The Trevi Fountain

The fountain dates from 1732 and is crafted onto the back of a palazzo. This masterpiece is the work of the architect Nicola Salvi. Not only is it the largest Baroque fountain in the city, but it is also one of the most famous fountains in the world. It is built of travertine, which is the same material that was used in the building of the Colosseum.

Much of its fame has to do with Hollywood movies. The most popular tradition says that if you face away from the fountain and toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome one day. I always do this, just for fun, and so far it has worked for me! There are a number of other traditions as well all involving love and marriage. If you would like to read more about these then this is the place for it.

Approximately 3000 are collected at the end of each day from the fountain and given to charity. Don’t be tempted to drink the water, even though the source is one of the purest in Rome the coins in the water make it undrinkable.

The Trevi is always open and because the water comes from an aqueduct it is never switched off unless it is undergoing repairs.

 

The Trevi Fountain Rome
The Trevi Fountain

 

6. The Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna

The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1726 from a design by Francesco de Sanctis and were financed by a French diplomat. Their correct name, in Italian, is Scalinata Della Trinità dei Monti and is named after the church at the top of the stairs.

The hourglass square at the bottom gets its name from the nearby Spanish Embassy.

The 135 steps lead to a whimsical fountain at the bottom created by Bernini. There is very low water pressure at the bottom of the steps so they came up with the design of a leaking boat to solve the problem. That’s why there are none of the usual jets normally associated with fountains.

 

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps

7. Santa Maria del Popolo

Legend has it that Nero’s ghost, in the form of demon crows, lived in a cursed tree and terrorised the area. Pope Paschal II convinced the locals, in 1099, that a church paid for by the people (il popolo) and built on the site of the tree would solve the problem.

The most important change occurred in the 16th century with the renovation of the presbytery and the choir. Bernini made additional changes in the 17th century.This spectacular church has magnificent Renaissance works and Baroque influences.

There are works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini. Look out for Raphael’s Chigi Chapel, which was completed by Bernini nearly 100 years later. The skeleton design in the floor features in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.

 

Santa Maria del Popolo
Santa Maria del Popolo

8. The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the heart of the Roman Empire for hundreds of years. It was a collection of temples, monuments, meeting places and markets where most of the commercial undertakings took place. It had its origins around 3000 years ago but started playing a more central role in the 6th century BC. When Augustus was ruler the forum was elevated to a different level. It is said that Augustus turned the city from brick to marble during his reign.

In the Middle Ages, it was called Campo Vaccino (cow field). Much of the marble was stolen over the years. Excavation began in the 18th century.

It is a fascinating area to wander through and watch the archaeologists still uncovering the mysteries of the past.

 

The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum

 

9. Piazza Navona

This elegant square is a tribute to the glory of Rome. It was built over the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano which was used for racing and paved over in the 15th century. For almost 300 years it was home to the city’s main market.

Pope Innocent X commissioned the refurbishment of the square which was mostly owned by his family. The church was rebuilt and one of the most over the top fountains was created by Bernini called the Fountain of the Four Rivers. It features an Egyptian obelisk and represents the personification of the rivers Nile, Danube, Ganges and Plate.

The Fountain of the Moor (Fontana del Moro) is at the other end of the square. Bernini added the Moor holding a dolphin in the mid 17th century. At the far end of the square is the Fountain of Neptune which shows Neptune, who is surrounded by sea nymphs, fighting with a sea monster

The square is a paradise for pedestrians and is the perfect place to take part in the Italian tradition of passeggiata. To find out a bit more about it here’s the link to a previous post of mine.

 

 

10. Trastevere

This is not so much a single sight, but rather an area and one of my favourite parts of Rome, which is why I have included it. It has a Bohemian feel to it and has still retained its medieval charm. It is packed with restaurants and nightlife, but it is as pretty as a picture in the daytime as well.

Don’t miss Piazza di Santa Maria, in the heart of the district where you will find one of Rome’s oldest churches. The first construction on the sight was in 221 AD. It has become known for the famous 13th-century mosaics.

Take time to “get lost” in the beautiful cobbled streets and ivy and bougainvillaea covered buildings. You have to stop along the way to enjoy la dolce vita with a glass of prosecco, or aperitivo and soak up the atmosphere. It is also a great place for foodies with a huge range of trattorias, wine bars, microbreweries and pizzerias to choose from.

 

Street in Trastevere
Street in Trastevere

When it comes to the top 10 Rome attractions there are going to be a variety of opinions. These are my top 10 and are a totally subjective choice. I can’t wait to go back again to delve a little deeper into the Eternal City and uncover more of its secrets.

 

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Rome the best  attractions guide
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Rome attractions guide
Rome attractions guide
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45 COMMENTS

    • Italy is such a beautiful country to visit and there is so much to see. It is also easy to get around so you can explore further afield without any great difficulty.

  1. I admire the heritage beauty of Rome. What a place! Your post is a great reference for the people travelling to Rome.

    Thanks for the share,

    All the best.

  2. I can’t believe I still haven’t been to Rome! Great comprehensive list and great tip about purchasing the tickets of the Colosseum online. Nobody wants to spend their holiday waiting in line!

  3. That last time I was in Rome I was 11 years old and bored with all the churches! I do believe we visited all these places but I don’t remember a thing haha! I should go again!

    • My daughter feels the same way. I dragged her all over with me and much of what she saw she has forgotten about as well. Now she wants to go back!

  4. Being Italian, I have to agree with your suggestions: especially the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel! Not going there would be a crime, it’s so beautiful! Also good advice on buying tickets online, it saves time!

    • The cost of the tickets might be slightly more expensive, but it is worth it when you have limited time available.

  5. Yass!!! I’ve returned to Rome three times and visited these same attractions every time. Never gets old! Rome has got to be one of my favorite cities in the world! <3

    • It oozes charm and you are surrounded by so much history it’s like a window to the past. I love visiting Rome.

  6. I love Rome! I agree to book your tickets online for the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, other wise you will be waiting in line forever! Last time I was in Rome I had a fast track ticket into the Sistine Chapel and it was a lovely experience. I didn’t know the Trevi Fountain collects €3000 at the end of each day! Nice to hear they give it to charity.

    • It is great that the money goes to charity. Fast track tickets are the best especially when you have limited time.

  7. I can’t believe i still haven’t visited Rome 🙂 I can’t wait to one day see the Colosseum. Just imagine how much blood there must be in the soil, it’s terrifing! I would love to take the steps up the St. Peter’s Basilica! When I read that the Trevi Fountain generates 3000 Euro a day, I almost decided to create a fountain myself 😀

  8. I was also amazed how much cash is donated via the Trevi; that’s magnificent! I have to say that I love Rome best in the early morning, when it’s quieter and I can stand and breathe and take it all in. I’m going to have to visit Trastavere next time.

  9. I’m a HUGE fan of Roman architecture, so all of your suggestions are absolutely great for me! The colosseum has been on my bucket list forever, and would love to see the beautiful artwork in the Sistine Chapel. The fountain and pantheon would also be great places to see!

  10. Great post on the attractions in Rome! I was there recently and enjoyed reliving the experience through your post. Next trip you might want to check out the Borghese Gallery. Like so many things in Rome, it helps to get advance tickets, but its definitely worth the effort.

    • I keep meaning to get there and I always run out of time. Too much enjoying la dolce vita in Rome. 🙂 Hopefully, next time and I will prebook the tickets. Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. The last time I was in Rome was in 2008. Almost 10 years ago (man!!!!) I would love to get back to this city and explore the sights again. I haven’t done all of what’s mentioned in the list!

  12. Unfortunately, the Trevi fountain was closed for repairs when we were there. They had a pool set up with a picture of the fountain behind it, so people could still throw their coins, but it wasn’t the real experience for sure. We still loved Rome though. Fantastic city!

  13. Rome’s history is just incredible, I now want to return! I’ve visited all of these places except Santa Maria del Popolo so I’m excited to add that to my list. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. Your list is definitely the top sights in Rome. I am reminded of our trip to Rome when we spent three days there. There was so much to do that we promised ourselves that we would come here again and after so many years I still have not 🙁 It was so long back that they were still using Liras!

    • Ha Ha! I remember the Lira. Everything seemed to cost a huge amount of money, but in fact, it wasn’t too much at all when you did the conversion. It is so much easier with the euro.

  15. Your photographs are absolutely stunning. Rome is on my list of places I need to visit. Like you, I would be in awe as I walked down streets that so many historical figures have walked. And the sights!! So beautiful. Thanks for the hints to beat the crowds.

  16. We just came back from Rome. Can you believe we didn’t make it to the Spanish Steps? I found it to be everything I expected and more. I have to say, Rome gets stuck in your heart. I can’t wait to go back.

    • What a pity you didn’t see the Steps, but now you have an excuse for another visit. It’s true, it does draw you back. I have now been 4 times and I still want to go back and see more of it.

  17. Rome is one of those destinations that feels like a dream. I was there a decade ago, which makes me feel old, but I managed to make it to seven of these. I’m really sad that I missed the Pantheon. The thing that makes me most upset is that I sat on the steps and ate lunch. Haha. I was 17, and thought I had seen plenty of Italian churches… Young and stupid. Haha. The Forum was probably my favorite thing that I saw. So much history!

    • My husband often says “not another church” when I drag him into one, but afterwards, he admits that the loved the experience. I am sure that you discovered a different Rome when you were 17 that was just as enjoyable and 7 sights is fantastic! You could always go back for the others 🙂

  18. I just love Rome too my friend and I can go there over and over again. The best bit is that no matter how many times you go there, you always find something new to explore. You post took me right back thre and I just want to pack my bags and go there now. You have some great tips on where to go and I do love the Roman Forum and The Pantheon

    • I totally agree with you that every time you visit Rome you discover something new. I am happy that I was able to take you back to Rome with this post. It’s great to take a trip down memory lane.

  19. Rome is the ideal destination for history lovers, isn’t it? Every street is a museum and you can even find glimpses of the underground city through glass floors of shops and cafes. Would love to go back. After all, we did drop a coin at Trevi.

  20. Having adored Roman Holiday as a child, visiting Rome was always on my list, and when we finally went I loved being able to explore the sights I recognised from the film, all the top sights of Rome. There’s something magical about seeing such ancient history within a modern and bustling city, but where there is something ancient at every corner!

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