Explore the top places to see in Rome: a journey through history

Explore the top places to see in Rome: a journey through history

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30 April

Have you visited Rome yet? You’ve already seen the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and St Peter’s Square on screen. You might think you know what the Italian capital is like, but there’s no substitute for going there yourself. Once you’ve actually climbed the Spanish steps, explored the city’s ancient alleys, and walked through some of the world’s most spectacular ruins, you’ll really understand how Rome got its nickname of the Eternal City. Join the visitors who’ve been enchanted by the city for literally thousands of years. Here are our favourite attractions, the top places to see in Rome…

The Colosseum

Go big or go home. We had to start with this jaw-dropping monument, which has to be one of the most recognisable structures in the world. Yes, there are dozens of Roman amphitheatres scattered across Italy and other Mediterranean countries, but the Colosseum in Rome is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and it’s still standing in remarkably good condition, almost 2,000 years later.

You can go inside the Colosseum, taking a guided tour that will help you learn more about its history. Choose your tour carefully: there are different levels and internal areas, and some packages are quite limited. Of course, you may prefer to just stay on the outside and admire the view. Either way, don’t miss the Colosseum by night. Lit up against a dark sky, it’s even more dramatic and impressive than it is during the day.

The Colosseum in Rome, seen on a sunny day with clouds above, filled with tourists around its perimeter

The Pantheon

How could anyone make a list of the best tourist spots in Rome without mentioning the Pantheon? Like the Colosseum, this religious building dates back to the glory days of Ancient Rome. History buffs will love it because of its fascinating story. It was originally built as a temple to the Ancient Roman gods, but after a few centuries, it was transformed into a Catholic church as the empire began to embrace Christianity.

The Pantheon’s religious status means that it has been in continual use for centuries, so it’s one of the best-preserved ancient buildings anywhere in the world. Thousands of travellers flock here each year, as it’s commonly considered one of the top places to see in Rome. Don’t forget your glasses when you pay a visit — you’ll want to examine every part, as it’s full of thrilling hidden details. Make sure to check out the decorations on the ceiling and the floor, and don’t miss the chance to see the tombs where some of Rome’s most illustrious citizens are buried.

Interior view of the Pantheon in Rome, showcasing the coffered concrete dome with a central oculus that illuminates the cylindrical building.

The Trevi fountain

Make a wish! The Trevi fountain has been the star of all kinds of movies and TV shows, and almost every traveller who passes through Rome stops here to snap a few pics. Tossing a coin into the fountain is a rite of passage, but be warned: if you really want your wish to come true, there are certain rules you have to follow.

Okay, time to take notes. First, turn your back on the fountain. Next, close your eyes and hold your coin in your right hand. You’ll need a bit of dexterity for this, as you’ll have to toss it over your left shoulder into the water while you make your wish. If you’re feeling particularly superstitious, locals recommend that you toss three coins, which each has its own meaning. The first one means you’ll come back to Rome someday, the second that you’ll meet the love of your life, and the third that you’ll get married. Well, who are we to argue with an ancient superstition?

Oh, and one quick note. You may remember the famous scene in La Dolce Vita in which Anita Ekberg jumped into the waters of the fountain. Tempting as it seems, getting yourself wet in the Trevi is strictly prohibited, not to mention a fast way to get yourself a fine — and you’ll be paying a lot more than loose change.

Night view of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, illuminated by lights that highlight the detailed sculptures

Saint Peter’s Square

The first reason Saint Peter’s Square makes it onto our list of the top places to see in Rome is simple: you’ll cross an international border to get there. The independent state of Vatican City is located entirely within Rome — how cool is that? The border between the two nations is completely open, so don’t worry about visas and passports. You can just stroll from one to the other, and you’ll suddenly be out of Italy and inside the world’s smallest country.

Look out for the Egyptian obelisk that stands in the square. Emperor Caligula brought it here in 37 AD, offering a fun, quirky reminder of the square’s past. Today, many know Saint Peter’s Square as the Pope’s backyard. Catholics from across the world flock here on pilgrimage, along with other curious travellers who just want to see what the fuss is all about. The man himself usually addresses the crowds from his balcony on Wednesday mornings, and crowds of up to 10,000 people pack themselves into the square to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father.

St Peter’s Basilica

You might be content to just hang out in the square, but you’ll be missing out! St Peter’s Basilica has definitely earned its spot on our list of the top places to see in Rome. In fact, we reckon this is one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the world, so you really ought to check it out for yourself.

Once the site of a Roman circus, this extravagant building is now a legendary house of worship. Inside, you’ll see stunning Renaissance art, including gorgeous mosaics by Giotto and Raphael. One of the most interesting sights will send a shiver down your spine: the body of Pope Innocent XI, generally seen as one of history’s greatest popes, who died in 1689 and has been kept on display ever since. He’s fully dressed and masked, so you won’t be able to catch a glimpse of his bones, but it’s a bit of a spooky sight nonetheless!

Frontal view of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City under a clear sky

The Sistine Chapel

Yes, there are more places to visit in Rome located right on St Peter’s Square. Here’s one that needs no introduction. The world-famous fresco by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is enough to take your breath away. Yes, you’ve seen the Creation of Adam before — it’s one of the best-known pieces of art in the entire world, but nothing compares to seeing it close up. Trust us on that.

True art fans have the chance for a unique experience at the Sistine Chapel. It doesn’t come cheap, but you can buy special tickets that let you visit the chapel before it’s officially open. Imagine gazing up at that awe-inspiring fresco without any tourist hordes getting in the way. If you’re an art lover, this is one way to make your trip to Rome even more memorable.

Close-up view of Michelangelo's intricate ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums

We promise we’ve almost finished our selection of the top places to see in Rome in St Peter’s Square. The Vatican Museums are a fascinating sight, as they contain treasures from around the world amassed by hundreds of popes throughout the centuries. We love the Egyptian collection, the contemporary art and the intriguing selection of historical maps, which show how people imagined the world to be hundreds of years ago.

The Vatican Museums are also worth seeing simply because they’re so beautiful. The famous spiral staircase and the Raphael Rooms will take your breath away. Don’t forget your camera!

Long corridor inside the Vatican Museums, flanked by classical statues and leading to a beautifully adorned ceiling

The Spanish steps

Walking up the Spanish steps is definitely one of the best things to do in Rome. There are 135 of them, so if you’re visiting in summer, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon — you’re in for quite a workout!

These steep steps connect the Trinità dei Monti church with the Spanish embassy, which explains the name. From the top, you can enjoy a lovely view over nearby piazzas, where decorators adorn the steps with flowers at certain times of the year.

The Spanish Steps in Rome, bustling with tourists, leading up to the Trinità dei Monti church at the top, under a clear blue sky.


Next on our list of things to see in Rome is a neighbourhood rather than a particular monument. All visitors to the Eternal City should wander around Trastevere, with its narrow cobbled streets and fascinating ancient houses. Some buildings here were once part of the city’s Jewish quarter, so look out for historical plaques. It’s worth visiting Trastevere in the evening because, in this maze of cluttered streets, you’ll find dozens of great restaurants and bars. In fact, we might go out on a limb and say it’s one of the best places to dine out in Rome! To kick off a party, head to Piazza de Santa Maria in Trastevere, a favorite evening spot for Rome’s students to hang out and sip drinks. When you’re ready to move on, stay in the neighbourhood or go to nearby San Lorenzo, known for its laid-back, bohemian vibe.

Charming street of in Rome with an orange building adorned by greenery and a small bar

The Roman Forum

Here’s another ancient ruin that you really can’t miss. The Forum was once the hub of city life, where Ancient Romans would gather to buy and sell their daily goods. Here, they’d vote for their leaders, listen to public speeches, watch criminal trials and enjoy the bloody spectacles of gladiatorial matches.

Today, the Forum stands in ruins, but it’s still one of the top places to see in Rome. As you wander through this narrow valley, sandwiched between two of the city’s famous seven hills, the surroundings will transport you back to the days of Julius Caesar. Stroll through the Forum and let your imagination run wild!

Aerial view of the Roman Forum with the Colosseum in the background

Villa Borghese

In our Rome what to see list, there are several stunning villas to explore in Rome. The buildings were once home to the city’s aristocrats but now host spectacular art galleries. We love the Villa Medici and the Villa Farnesina, but the best of all is the Borghese. The surrounding garden is Rome’s green lung and the ideal place to take a stroll and enjoy some fresh air. Then it’s time to wander inside, where some real treats are waiting for you.

We love the Renaissance artwork inside the Borghese Gallery, including works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Bernini and Canova. The sculptures and paintings are truly stunning, but the building’s decor is also spectacular in and of itself. It’s the perfect place to spend a leisurely morning.

Entrance to one of the gardens of Villa Borghese with classical statues and sculpted hedges in a lush garden setting.

Janiculum Hill

The Eternal City sprawls across seven hills, but only one claims a spot on our list of the top places to see in Rome. Janiculum Hill is our top choice for a romantic date. Take a stroll up there in time for the sunset, bringing a bottle of wine and some olives to nibble on. You’ll need to arrive early to secure a good spot, but the reward will be simply the best views of the city skyline.

For popular tourist spots in Rome, Janiculum Hill is definitely worth visiting, day or night, but we like it best in the early evening when the sun is setting. Don’t forget your camera!

From the narrow streets of Testaccio to the faded splendour of the Forum, Rome is a city that will enchant you at every turn. Our group trip to Rome also lets you explore Florence and Tuscany, so you’ll see a bit more of the magic of Italy along the way. We’ll see you there!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team