Cultural Guide to Rome: 15 Things to See and Do in Rome

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Italy must be one of my favorite countries to visit as I always somehow find myself exploring it again and again. Check out my guide to Sicily or continue to read and explore the best sights of Rome with me!

You can explore Rome by bus or you can zip around the city on a vespa. The streets may be chaotic but this could also be the best way to see the city: wind in your hair and not a care in the world. However, top attractions in the city are quite close by so you might find that even walking works best for you.

I went to Rome with my family and my partner and we stayed in Rome for 4 days. That made our days fully packed.

Hint: Begin your mornings in Italian style and drink the world's best espresso before you start exploring.

1. Walk up Spanish steps

Piazza di Spagna is home to the city's fanciest boutiques on Via dei Condotti, Rome's legendary shopping street. The famous Spanish steps open up at the end of the street, leading to the Trinità dei Monti church. From above you can admire the piazza and the gorgeous Bernini's fountain.

Via dei Condotti, Rome, Italy
Fancy boutiques on Via dei Condotti

Spanish Steps are also a great place to sit down, enjoy the sunshine and watch people go by.

Spanish steps, Rome, Italy

2. Visit Vatikan

Vatikan is the world's smallest country and a must visit while in Rome. This is the absolute center of catholicism and a place with a range of great sights to see and explore. Do not miss out on St. Peter's Basicila, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy
St. Peter's Basilica in the back

3. Take a photo in front of Fontana di Trevi

Trevi Fountain is a must for every traveler visiting Rome. It was designed by Nicola Salvi and completed in 1762. This Baroque masterpiece features a marble statue of Neptune in the center.

The Fountain is extra crowded during the day so I suggest you visit early in the morning or late at night, especially if you want to take some great shots in front of the fountain.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Don't forget to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain as the legend says that anyone who throws a coin will return to Rome. Fun fact: the coins are cleared out once a year and given to charity.

4. Colosseum

Colosseum is probably the most internationally recognized symbol of Rome and it has a long history of games, including gladitorial combats and animal fights. Up to 50,000 people could get in the Colosseum to enjoy the games and fights as it was the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

If you haven't yet seen the Russel Crowe movie Gladiator, it is a great introduction to watch before you arrive to Rome. The line at the gate is super long, but you can buy your tickets in advance that lets you skip the lengthy line.

5. Vatikan Museums

I spent the whole day in the area around Vatican, visiting the Vatican Museums, Piazza di San Pietro, and St. Peter's Basilica.

Vatikan Museums are a must-see as they contain Michelangelo's fabulous Sistine Chapel. Admire the frescoes painted in the ceiling and the grandiosity of the chapel. Walk through the Raphael Rooms in this gorgeous 1,400-room palace.

6. Explore Forum Romani

If you are intrigued to see the remains of Ancient Rome, this is where you can do so. Stroll through the ruins to get a true feel of cobblestoned streets and powerful temples. Forum Romani dates back to approximately 500 BC. It was later enlarged by Julius and Augustus Caesar, Domitian, and Trajan.

Forum Romani, Rome, Italy

Forum Romani also makes for impressive travel snaps.

Forum Romani, Rome, Italy

7. Eat Pizza

Eating Pizza while traveling in Italy is a must. For every pizza lover out there, I can assure you that.

Other typical Italian dishes include spaghetti alla carbonara, tonnarelli cacio e pepe and fried artichokes for appetizer.

8. See Pantheon

Pantheon is an architectual marvel in the center of the city. It is a burial place of Rome's kings and other important figures, such as Raphael. The name Pantheon, however, refers to a temple for all the gods and it used to be the world's largest dome until the modern era. In the past, Pantheon has been called the world's only achitecturally perfect building and is still the best-preserved monument of Imperial Rome.

Pantheon, Rome, Italy

The entrance is free of charge, but you will need to dress respectfully to be allowed to enter.

9. St. Peter's Basilica

Even though St. Peter's Basilica is a pilgrimage site for Catholics, non-believers can appreciate the amazing architecture of the church. Many masters, including Raphael, Bernini, Bramante and Michelangelo contributed to the beauty of St. Peter's Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy

Basilica dates back to 349 A.D. when a basilica has been built over the tomb of St. Peter who was the first pope. Today St. Peter's Basilica is the world's largest church and has been designed and built in 1626.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy

When you finally get to the front of the line and have the opportunity to walk through the majestic church, don't miss out on Bernini's masterful altarpiece and Michelangelo's Pietà, the famous sculpture of Mary and an absolute masterpiece of renaissance art.

St. Peter's Basilica interior, Rome, Italy

10. Climb the stairs to the Dome

Michelangelo designed the magnificent dome, 136 meters high and one of the largest domes in the world. It was a model for numerous other domes, including the United States Capitol Building.

You have to climb 491 stairs to get to the top and see the remarkable view of Rome. However, these are the stairs worth climbing.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome, Rome, Italy
St. Peter's Basilica Dome, Rome, Italy

11. Visit Catacombe di San Callisto

These are the busiest and the largest of Rome's catacombs and definitely worth a visit. As they were founded at the end of the 2nd century they becaume the official cemetery of the newly established Roman Church. While the Christians were persecuted they were also used as secret places of worship. Today they are a resting place of about 500,000 people including some Popes and many early martyrs.

Take a tour in English to walk through the tombs. The tour lasts around 45 minutes and gives you a good impression of the seemingly endless corridors stretching underground. Don't miss out on artwork, including frescoes that depict St. Cecilia at prayer and some of the Holy Sacraments.

12. Wander Rome in the evening

Visit Fontana di Trevi at night. There are usually less turists taking photos in front of the fountain in the evening which makes it more peaceful and

Check out the vibrant nightlife in Testaccio where bars and nightclubs stay open until dawn.

13. Walk through Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is one of the most popular public spaces in Rome and it is lined with great restaurants, gelaterias, and souvenir shops. Transport yourself to Baroque Rome with Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the center of the piazza. There are four exquisitely carved figures that represent the world's four great rivers.

Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Find the beautiful and picturesque Via della Pace that stands by the church of Santa Maria della Pace.

Visit Piazza Navona in the evening when the vibe is even more vibrant with elegantly dressed people coming to dine in one of the great restaurants on piazza.

14. Castel Sant'Angelo

St. Angelo Castle was at first a symbol of Rome's imperial power but is today a papal fortress and a powerful guardian of Vatican. It lies on the banks of the river Tiber, close to Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.

It was build in 123 AD as a monumental tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family. In the Middle Ages, the function of the Castel changes as it was transformed into a fortress and used as a common defensive technique as part of the city wallks. Because of its history, Castel Sant'Angelo is one of the most unique buildings in Rome.

In front of Castel St. Angelo is one of the most famous bridges in Rome, Ponte Sant'Angelo. Notice the gorgeous Bernini Angels that accompany you as you walk through the bridge.

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Italy

15. Stroll the streets

While visiting the main attractions in Rome with a map is fun and educative, roaming Rome is the best way to actually see and experience the city. Take the opportunity to wander between sights and learn to love getting lost. Especially if you are not short on time.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as the uneven cobblestones can quickly become tiring.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to Rome as much as I enjoyed writing it and reminiscing over. Keeping my fingers crossed we can visit Rome again as soon as quarantine is over!