What to See in Rome: 10 Essential Places to Visit
Did you know there are over 500,000 different European routes that end in Rome?
This gives a new meaning to the old expression, “All roads lead to Rome.” (Although it was also true in ancient times, as the Romans built over 50,000 miles of roads!)
Is your road leading you to Rome? If so, you’re in for a breathtaking journey through Italy’s “Eternal City.”
With so many great things to see in Rome, how can you possibly narrow down your list?
In this post, we’ll reveal exactly what to see in Rome on your upcoming vacation. Read on to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
1. The Colosseum
It’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It was (and still is) the largest amphitheater ever built, with a capacity of 87,000 spectators.
It was home to gladiator tournaments, executions, and animal hunts. At times, it was even filled with water so real ships could reenact naval battles.
What is it? It’s the Colosseum, the iconic image of Imperial Rome and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you only have time to see one thing in Rome, this is it.
2. The Roman Forum
Also called the Imperial Forum or Foro Romano, this is what’s left of the glory that was Rome.
Just steps from the Colosseum, you’ll find this sprawling complex of ruins from Rome’s Imperial heyday. Wind through a labyrinth of monuments, temples, and government buildings to get a feel for Roman life 2,000 years ago.
Among the highlights of the Forum are the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Saturn, and the House of the Vestal Virgins. Look for an entrance ticket that combines the Colosseum and the Forum in one visit.
3. The Vatican Museums
You learned about the Sistine Chapel in art history class. Now it’s time to see it in person.
The Sistine Chapel is just one (albeit very impressive) part of one of the world’s largest art museums. Nine miles of corridors connect over 1,400 rooms that house millions of artifacts from around the world.
And yes, at the end of all those corridors is Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel. Begun in 1508, it showcases an array of Biblical scenes 68 feet above the marble floors.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica & Square
Even if you’re not religious, you simply must tour the Vatican while in Rome.
(Fun fact: You’re actually in another country!)
Once you’ve seen the museums, head outside for a stroll around St. Peter’s Square. It’s not just big—it’s the biggest square in the world, capable of holding 300,000 people.
Continue your Vatican tour by stepping inside (you guessed it) the largest church in the world. For an unbeatable view, climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica and marvel at bustling Rome below.
5. Trevi Fountain
It’s been glamorized in movies like La Dolce Vita, Three Coins in a Fountain, and Roman Holiday.
It’s time for a Roman holiday tradition of your own with a visit to Rome’s largest Baroque fountain. Trevi Fountain dates back to ancient Roman times, where it was built at the junction of an aqueduct and three roads (“tre vie“).
Its modern appearance dates back to 1730 and Roman architect Nicola Salvi. People have been flocking here to see the beautiful statues (and toss in a coin) ever since.
6. Piazza Navona
Speaking of Baroque statues and fountains, make your way over to Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most popular squares.
Three beautiful Bernini fountains and a tall obelisk greet you as you step into the square. They’re especially a sight to see at night when the waters and statues are illuminated.
In the meantime, this is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine or a cappuccino (or both) while people-watching.
7. The Spanish Steps
The Piazza de Spagna and the Spanish Steps are also unmissable icons of Rome.
The boat fountain at the center dates back to 1627, while the steps were built in the early 1700s. Climb the 135 steps for a rewarding view from in front of the Church of Trinità dei Monti.
Afterward, grab a gelato and relax in the piazza as the locals do. When in Rome…
8. The Pantheon
Dating back to 126AD, it’s worth adding a visit to the Pantheon to your Rome itinerary.
Best known for its stunning oculus in the roof, the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings from ancient Rome. The oculus is almost 30 feet wide and allows natural sunlight (and rain) to pour through the roof.
Fun fact: Although the Pantheon is tiny compared to St. Peter’s Basilica, it actually has a larger dome!
9. The Catacombs
If you have the nerve, sign up for a tour of Rome’s ancient catacombs.
This maze of underground passageways was used as burial chambers between the 2nd and 5th centuries AD. Thousands of Jews, early Christians, and others were laid to rest deep beneath the city streets.
Although there are over 60 catacombs beneath Rome, only five are open to the public. Be sure to tour at least one of them while you’re there!
10. The Appian Way
If you’ve got time to venture outside of Rome, you’ll enjoy hiking along the Appian Way.
Remember those thousands of miles of roads we talked about at the beginning? You can still see the original stones laid over 2,000 years ago on portions of this ancient roadway.
Pack a good pair of walking shoes and a picnic lunch, and you’ll soon be walking the same path as countless Romans in the past.
What to See in Rome: Now You Know
The top sights in Rome have one thing in common—they’re all unforgettable.
From the soaring walls of the Colosseum to the ancient stones of the Appian Way, Rome is sure to dazzle you with its rich history.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to pack your bags because your road is about to lead to Rome!
Now that you know what to see in Rome, what’s next? Check out our other travel posts for more inspiration.