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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

Top 15 Things to Do in Rome for First-Time Visitors

Updated: May 20

Welcome to the Eternal City, where culture and history are intertwined in everyday life, and food and architecture are world-renowned. Rome is well-loved by visitors all across the globe.

It truly has something to offer every kind of traveler. From incredible cuisines for foodies, famous and ancient monuments for history buffs, and beauty on every street for the wanderlust chasers.

Things to Do in Rome - Alpacka My Bags

Besides devouring as many carbs as possible, Rome has a lot to offer. You can’t miss the iconic Colosseum or Trevi Fountain. It is necessary to stroll down at least one side street for a truly authentic Roman vibe. And you will find beauty in the smallest details if you’re on the lookout.

Even if you’re traveling on a budget, there are some free things to do in Rome as well. In fact, everyone should check these out because they’re free and in Rome! So how do you make the most of your time in the city?

Check out the best things to do in Rome below and experience the best of this beloved city yourself. I’ve even included some free things to do in Rome if you’re visiting on a budget!

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Top Things to Do in Rome

1. The Colosseum

Step back in time and witness the arena that held an insane amount of gladiator fights, naval battles, and man-to-animal fights. Hundreds of thousands of people died fighting in this arena for it to then be abandoned for quite some time.

Wander through the ancient ruins of one of the new seven wonders of the world and learn all about its history in the museum portion upstairs. You can view the outside of the Colosseum for free, but I highly recommend purchasing tickets to admire the inside.

Things to Do in Rome - The Colosseum
Inside the Colosseum

2. Trevi Fountain

Rome is home to a very large number of fountains. In fact, you probably won’t go more than a few blocks without seeing another fountain. But the most famous one by far is the Trevi Fountain.

Admire the grandiose size and details of the Trevi. Neptune, the god of the sea, stands in the middle of this masterpiece. Did you know it’s a symbol of good luck to toss a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi? Check out more facts about Rome here.

Free Things to do in Rome - The Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

3. Spanish Steps

A massive outdoor staircase that leads to the Trinità dei Monti church, welcomes you to the Spanish steps. Built in the 18th century, these ancient steps are a popular place to visit in Rome. Climb the steps and enter the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.

Make sure you wear appropriate clothing, as you generally aren’t allowed in churches in Rome if your shoulders or knees are showing. Do not eat, drink, or sit on the steps, as these are not allowed.

4. Pantheon

An incredible architectural feat, the Pantheon is a must-visit for everyone. With a huge, dome-shaped ceiling, the Pantheon was a huge accomplishment when completed. You can find tombs inside as well, such as the tomb of Raphael, the famous artist.

The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Rome. There are shops and dining around it to explore too. It can get very busy, so be prepared to wait in line. Or visit early in the morning and admire it from the outside without the crowds.

Pantheon - Things to do in Rome
Front of the Pantheon

5. Vatican City

While technically not a part of Rome, the Vatican City, is a city-state located within the area of Rome. This is where the Pope lives, and it’s also where you will find the Sistine Chapel, known for Michelangelo’s ceiling murals.

You can also stroll around the Piazza and admire the beauty of the Gardens of Vatican City. There are museums here as well.

6. Roman Forum

If you’re visiting the Colosseum, you must also head to the Roman Forum. You can easily buy combo tickets that allow you entry to both famous sights. While in the Roman Forum, you can walk along one of the busiest places in ancient times.

There are ruins of government buildings here, and it is believed to have been a bustling marketplace where Romans would gather, shop, eat, and meet for official government and public gatherings.

Roman Forum Palatine Hill - Things to do in Rome
Roman Forum | Palatine Hill

7. Piazza Navona & Fontana del Nettuno

The piazzas in Rome are fun to walk around and get an authentic feel for the city. One of the best piazzas to visit is Piazza Navona. Here you will find the Fontana del Nettuno and Fontana del Moro, two magnificent fountains with detailed statues.

You will also find many restaurants here, but be careful as they often upcharge tourists in the more touristy areas. Just pay attention to menu prices.

Piazza Navona - Free Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

8. The Banks of River Tiber

Go for a peaceful walk along the River Tiber and soak in the various views of Rome around you. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can also bike along the river.

We went to Ponte Umberto I, very close to Piazza Navona, to admire the River Tiber and the view of St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.

9. St. Peter’s Basilica

You can’t visit Rome without going to Vatican City, and you can’t visit Vatican City without going to St. Peter’s Basilica. Step inside and marvel at the breathtaking murals and artistic details throughout the entire church.

It is unbelievable to witness the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in person, no matter your religion.

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

10. Climb up the Cupola

You can also add on to your visit to St. Peter’s and climb the dome, or the cupola. This is a fun experience that offers incredible views of the city below. You must purchase tickets or a tour for the cupola, but it is so worth it in my opinion.

11. Eat Tons of Carbs and Dairy

You can’t visit Rome without eating way more than you thought was possible. If you’re a pasta or pizza fan, you have to try as many dishes as you can in Rome. It is seriously all so delicious. I recommend Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara, and Quattro Formaggi pizza.

Another must is the cheese! Try the freshest mozzarella and burrata you’ll ever find in Rome. Head to Obica Mozzarella Bar - Parlamento for a fresh and delicious meal.

12. Enjoy at Least Two Gelatos Daily

Where are my fellow sweet-tooths at? Gelato is the perfect thing for you. With so many flavors to try, gelato is so much better than ice cream, which I did not think was possible, and it’s generally pretty cheap.

You shouldn't pay more than 2 to 3 euros for a scoop or two. Make sure you find a gelateria where they open each individual flavor compartment from the counter. If you can see the gelato on display, it’s probably not very high quality.

Things to do in Rome - Eat Tons of Gelato
Always Room for Gelato

13. Castel Sant’Angelo

Another incredible monument is Castel Sant’Angelo. This iconic cylindrical building was commissioned by an emperor for himself and his family. Buy tickets ahead of time and walk through this ancient monument-turned-museum.

14. Museo Nazionale Romano - Palazzo Altemps

Learn about pieces of rich history at this archaeological museum. You can find classical art here, such as mosaics and sculptures. If you’re a history or art buff, the Museo Nazionale Romano is the place for you!

15. Borghese Gallery and Museum

Here is another great museum to visit while exploring Rome. Enter this villa-turned-museum and admire 15th to 18th-century artworks. Purchase tickets for Borghese Gallery and explore all this museum has to offer.

You can also explore the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese. While in Villa Borghese, make sure you check out Piazza di Siena and Passeggiata del Pincio for wonderful views.

16. Cooking Class or Food Tour

Foodies, experience the culinary excellence of Rome on a guided food tour. Learn about the city's iconic monuments as you savor local dishes. Or try your own hand at making Italian food in a cooking class.

Read the top 5 experiences for foodies in Rome and find a delicious activity to add to your Rome visit.

Free Things to Do in Rome

There are so many sights you can admire for free in Rome. Other than paying for accommodation and food, you can experience Rome on a pretty tight budget. I’ll include the things from above that are free and some other locations you should also visit. Check out free things to do in Rome that will still allow you an authentic experience.

1. Colosseum From the Outside

While you have to purchase tickets to enter the inside of the Colosseum, you can view and admire the outside for free. The tour is fun, but it is still worth seeing even if only from the outside. It’s an incredible ancient monument with so much history behind it.

Admire the Colosseum Outside - Free Things to do in Rome
Outside of the Colosseum

2. View of the River Tiber

A stroll along the River Tiber won’t cost you a penny. Take in scenic views of Rome around you while going on a peaceful walk. If you’re feeling like it, spend a couple of euros on gelato so you can enjoy it while you take in the city views.

3. Piazza Navona

This is another one of the best free things to do in Rome. In Piazza Navona, you can enjoy one of the best piazzas in the city as well as two incredible fountains. Sant’Agnese in Agone is also a beautiful church you will find in this Roman piazza. Can you find Neptune in Piazza Navona?

Piazza Navona - Free Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

4. Pantheon

If you check out only one of the free things to do in Rome, let it be the Pantheon. It is a marvelous, architectural feat. The sun shines through the center of the dome, and you will find famous tombs inside, along with incredible details along the walls and ceiling.

5. St. Peter’s Basilica

Head to Vatican City to check out this magnificent church. It is so massive, it feels surreal to stand inside St. Peter’s Basilica. There are amazing murals to admire, history to learn, and architectural details like no other.

6. Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

Piazza Venezia is located very near the Colosseum. Here you will find the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, a well-known sight to see in Rome honoring the first king of Italy.

It’s a beautiful building with Italian flags proudly flying on both sides. You should check out Fontana del Tirreno as well, located on the right.

Free Things to do in Rome - Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

7. Admire Cathedrals and Churches

While St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most incredible churches in the Rome area, there are so many others to admire. Even if you're not Catholic, these churches hold so much history. There are generally plaques around them or staff inside that offer insight into the individual churches’ history.

Some of my other favorite churches in Rome are Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria.

Admire Cathedrals - Free Things to do in Rome
Admiring a Cathedral

8. Stroll through Piazzas

I mentioned Piazza Navona above as it is one of the more famous piazzas in Rome, but you can find piazzas all over Rome. Some are small, and some are grandiose, but they offer a very local feel and experience when in Rome. Stroll through one and find a place to sit and chat for a while and soak in the everyday happenings of Roman life around you.

9. Villa Borghese

While the Borghese Gallery and Museum require tickets to enter, the gardens surrounding them do not. Stroll through Villa Borghese for a peaceful experience in Rome. There are some must-see spots, like Piazza di Siena and Passeggiata del Pincio.

10. Campidoglio

With views of the Roman Forum and museums all around, Piazza del Campidoglio is another must-see piazza. It’s located just behind the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, so head here to Campidoglio after admiring the monument.

Experiences in Rome

Rome is a well-known travel destination that attracts many visitors from all around the world, and it’s with good reason. There is so much to see, do, eat, and experience in this city, it would be impossible to do it all in one trip. But if it’s your first time visiting, these are definitely the best things to do in Rome.

Walk through the very spot where thousands of gladiators fought in the Colosseum. Marvel at architectural feats like the Pantheon. Eat more carbs and dairy than you ever thought was possible because you have to try everything while in Rome.

Strolling through the streets of Rome - Experiences in Rome
Strolling through the Roman Streets

If this is your first time visiting Rome, welcome to one of the greatest cities in the world. These sights, monuments, and activities mentioned above are the best things to do in Rome for first-time visitors, or for anyone who loves to revisit and experience the best highlights of the city.

Learn about the culture and history of Rome. Truly appreciate the city it is today and how it became a beloved place. Immerse yourself in Roman life and admire famous monuments while in town. Where will you be heading on your first day in Rome? The Colosseum? The Spanish Steps? Don’t forget to admire as many of the best things to do in Rome as you can!

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Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 


I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.


I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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