Things to do in Rome: Attractions and places to visit

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Rome is not called the “Eternal City” for nothing. Modern buildings stand side by side with Roman temples and ancient ruins. The city can look back on three millennia of history. The capital of Italy is located in the Lazio region on the Tiber River, which winds its way through the city centre.

Rome is alive and versatile. Romans roar with temperament honking their horns on their Vespas through the narrow alleys of the old town. In the evening, romantic candlelit restaurants tempt you with pizza and pasta. Hardly any other city has so many attractions to offer in such a small space as Rome. Many are within walking distance.

Below we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Rome.

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1. Colosseum Rome

It is the landmark of Rome and the most popular sight of the city – the Colosseum. The ancient amphitheatre was built during the reign of Emperor Vespasian in 72-80 AD. Here were held games for the edification of the people. The already technically very sophisticated arena could be provided with various stage sets and even flooded. Animals had to fight against animals, humans against humans or animals.

In addition to the bloody games, acrobats, musicians and normal artists also performed. Later, the Colosseum was left to decay. Natural disasters damaged the building heavily and for a time the Colosseum was even used as a quarry. To this day, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world ever built and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

2. Roman Forum

The Forum Romanum was the centre of ancient Rome. Nestled between Palatine and Capitol, not far from the Colosseum, the Forum lies in the heart of the city. Public and political life took place here. Temples and lively markets were the meeting places for the Romans.

War and peace were decided in the Senate and from here the conquests of the Roman Empire began. Today the Curia is only one of the surviving witnesses of the time. The remarkable ruins of temples and churches allow the visitor to immerse himself deeply in history. The Roman Forum also houses the place where Julius Cesar was murdered.

3. St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are the heart of the Vatican and are among the most impressive sights in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica with its 5 naves is the largest church in the world and accommodates 60,000 believers. The predecessor church of the basilica was built above the tomb of St. Peter. In 1506 the construction of today’s St. Peter’s Basilica began. Michelangelo and Bernini had a great influence on the appearance of the ensemble as artists. While Michelangelo laid the foundations for the impressive dome, Bernini has set himself a monument with St. Peter’s Square.

The 320 m deep square, which is ellypse-shaped around the Egyptian obelisk, is framed by two arcades with four rows of columns. If you place yourself in the focal points of the ellypse, marked by two marble slabs, the four rows of columns merge optically into one. This is the genius of Bernini. A unique experience is the ascent to the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral. From the top you have a unique view over St. Peter’s Square and the whole of Rome.

4. Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

For centuries, the popes have collected treasures that are now kept in the Vatican Museums. They were founded between 1471 and 1484 at the request of Pope Sixtus IV and are among the most important museums in the world. Here you will find works of art from all ages, old masters and unique sculptures.

A work of art are also many rooms themselves, which are decorated with impressive frescoes and ceiling paintings. One day alone is hardly enough to look at everything exhibited here. The highlight of every visit is the Sistine Chapel. Under the famous ceiling painting by Michelangelo, history is written in every papal election.

5. Engelsburg Rome

Between 135 and 139 Emperor Hadrian built the Engelsburg as his mausoleum. Other regents found their final resting place here. Later it became the property of the Vatican and served as an escape route for the popes. An underground passage connects the Angel Castle with the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City State. This enabled the popes to flee unnoticed in danger.

The name Engelsburg goes back to a legend. While the plague raged in the city, Pope Gregory I the Archangel Michael appeared over the castle and announced the end of the plague. The stature of the archangel sits enthroned above the angel’s castle as a memory. From up there you have a wonderful view of the eternal city.

6. Spanish staircase in Rome

Financed by the French and called the Spanish Staircase, one of the most beautiful architectural features adorns the Italian capital. 135 steps lead from Spanish Square up to the French Basilica of Santa TrinitĂ  dei Monti. Locals and tourists alike are attracted and stroll down the stairs or take a break on their flat steps. In the evening the Spanish Staircase becomes a romantic meeting point.

Street musicians, rose sellers and the illuminated Baracaccia fountain at their feet make the ambience perfect. The building itself was preceded by a long dispute between France and the Holy See. Finally, the plans of the French favourite Francesco de Sanctis were accepted and the staircase was built in the Italian Baroque style.

7. Trevi Fountain

The idea of a further highlight of Rome arose in an architectural competition announced by Pope Clemens XII. Nicola Salvi won with his fountain design, which focused on the theme of water. Today the Trevi Fountain is one of the most visited sights in Rome and is the central point of contact. For legend has it that anyone who tosses a coin over his shoulder into the fountain will return to Rome.

The 50 meter long pool and the baroque wall with the sea god Neptune dominate the small square of the same name. The Tervi Fountain is the largest fountain in the city. The innumerable coins that accumulate in the well bring in each year a good sum for charitable purposes and perhaps also the one or other wish fulfills itself.

8. Pantheon Rome

The Pantheon is one of the oldest ancient buildings in Rome and served as a temple for all Roman gods. It was built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. After it was destroyed by lightning, Emperor Hadrian erected the building in its present form in 119 AD. The Pantheon is a mystical and impressive place.

The mighty dome spans the interior and served as a model for the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral. Through an opening, a ray of sunlight falls into the interior, which for a long time served as a burial place for famous personalities. The tombs of King Vittorio Emanuele II and the painter Raphael can be found here.

9. trastevere

Somewhat off the beaten track, on the western side of the Tiber, lies the small district of Trastevere. Trastevere is like a village in the big city. Narrow alleys with cosy trattorias and small shops invite you to stroll and relax. There are no museums or big sights here, but there is a real Italian flair and a relaxed atmosphere.

In the evening the quarter attracts with its lively nightlife and inviting little bars. Two main roads run through Trastevere, but it is worth exploring the small alleys to the right and to the left to get a glimpse of authentic Rome.

10. La Bocca de la veritĂ 

“The Mouth of Truth” is a curiosity of the city. This is a 19 cm thick round relief of marble with a diameter of 1.75 m. The relief shows a face with eyes, nose and open mouth. His age is 2000 years. It hangs at the entrance of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin. His origins could never be fully clarified.

One assumption is that this is a kind of ancient canal or well cover of the Cloaca Maxima. An old legend says that if you hold your hand in the mouth of the relief and lie, it will be bitten off. A famous film scene with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck from the film “A Heart and a Crown” made the Bocca della veritĂ  famous and a popular sight.

More things to do and activities for your Rome holiday

Best time to visit Rome

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of Rome:

May, June, July, August, September, and October

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for Rome.

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