Rome / Attractions Rome

Sights & Attractions Rome

Top 10 sights, attractions & highlights in Rome

Rome attractions

The top 20 of things to see in Rome and an overview of all must-see museums, attractions and Roman buildings. What are some of the highlights and best attractions to see in Rome?

Rome Attractions Top 20

Rome is a city full of museums, squares, Roman buildings and other highlights. Rome has more to offer than just the main attractions like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. During your visit to this city, these are the top 20 of the most famous and most popular attractions in Rome. Click one of the must-see highlights for more information on this unique monument, museum or attraction:

Colosseum

1. Colosseum

The number 1 attraction of Rome is the Colosseum; the large amphitheatre that housed 65,000 spectators in Roman days. Gladiators battled each other as well as wild animals in the Colosseum's arena. In the giant ‘ruins’ of the Colosseum, you can visit the stands, the arena and the underground spaces of the largest Roman amphitheatre. Because of the huge number of visitors, it is highly recommended to book tickets to the Colosseum in advance, which is considered one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

Trevi Fountain

2. Trevi Fountain

The most famous fountain in Rome and perhaps even the world must be the ‘Fontana di Trevi’, or Trevi Fountain. This baroque fountain, located on the Piazza di Trevi, was built in the 18th century. It displays the god of the sea, Neptune on his chariot. No visit to Rome is complete without tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, as this means the person throwing the coin will ‘one day return to Rome’.

Pantheon Rome

3. Pantheon

One of the best maintained buildings from Roman times is the Pantheon. What function the building had in those days is still not clear, but the Pantheon was given to the pope by emperor Hadrian in 608. The current church has several unique funerary monuments (painter Raphael and a few Italian kings), as well as a remarkably large and open dome (oculus). During your city break in Rome, you can visit the Pantheon for free.

St. Peter’s Basilica

4. St. Peter’s Basilica

The St. Peter’s Basilica, or ‘Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano’ is the spiritual centre of the Catholic Church and residence of the pope. The enormous basilica, located in the independent state of Vatican City and next to St Peter's Square, was built on what is believed to be the grave of Peter. St. Peter’s Basilica contains masterpieces such as Bernini's baldachin and ‘La Pieta’ by Michelangelo, but you can also visit the crypts with 148 papal tombs. Plan your visit to St Peter's well ahead, or you will likely be standing in line for a long time.

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

5. Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

Over the centuries, the popes amassed an enormous art collection varying from Roman objects and religious relics to countless paintings. In the Vatican Museums you can visit 54 richly decorated rooms and view these art treasures of the Catholic church. The highlight for many visitors is likely to be the famous Sistine Chapel. The chapel with lovely frescos by Michelangelo that is mostly known as the site of conclave when a new pope is elected. Because it gets so many visitors, this attraction has by far the longest lines. Reserving skip-the-line tickets is a must if you do not wish to wait in the hot sun for over two hours.

Forum Romanum highlights

6. Forum Romanum & Palatine

The Forum Romanum was the centre of the ancient Roman Empire. During your visit to the Forum Romanum, you will walk past Roman excavations and the archaeological park full of old temples, arches, market halls and other important buildings built there by different emperors. Next to the forum lies Palatine Hill, where you will find excavations of imperial residences.

Piazza Navona Rome

7. Piazza Navona

One of the most remarkable squares in Rome is the Piazza Navona. The square therefore owes its elongated shape to its original purpose as a Roman athletics stadium. Interesting sights on the square include a number of fountains, such as the ‘La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi’ by Bernini, an interesting obelisk, and you can visit the excavations of the old stadium of Domitianus. In addition, Piazza Navona is a lively square with many street performers, cafés and terraces.

spanish steps

8. Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)

At the foot of the French church ‘Trinita dei Monti’ lie the 135 steps of the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps decent to the Piazza di Spagna, where you will find a distinctive fountain by Pietro Bernini. The 18th-century Spanish Steps have grown into a tourist hotspot, and the top of the stairs offers a gorgeous view of Rome.

Galleria Borghese

9. Galleria & Villa Borghese

The name ‘Villa Borghese’ refers to the largest and most beautiful park in Rome. At one time, this estate belonged to the very wealthy cardinal Scipione Borghese, and was built around the villa of the same name. Since 1903, it has been in the possession of the municipality of Rome and serves as a public park. The ‘Galleria Borghese’ can also be found in the park, a museum displaying the large private art collection of Borghese. The gallery contains sculptures and paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Rubens, Bernini and Leonardo da Vinci.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore Rome

10. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four papal churches and the largest Marian church in Rome. The church on the Esquiline hill is from the 5th century and still contains many authentic mosaics. It also has a distinctive golden ceiling. It is said that there are even pieces of wood from the crib of Jesus under the altar.

Trastevere highlights

11. Trastevere

On the opposite bank of the river Tiber lies the old working-class neighbourhood of Rome. Trastevere is a typical Italian neighbourhood where you can get lost in a maze of narrow streets, see old medieval houses, and go for a lively night out in the area's many restaurants and bars.

Castel Sant'Angelo

12. Castel Sant’Angelo

Originally, the 2nd-century Castel Sant’Angelo, or Castle of the Holy Angel, was a mausoleum for emperor Hadrian. After archangel Michael appeared here in 590 and ended a plague, pope Pius II had a large bronze statue of the angels placed on top of the castle. The Castle of the Holy Angel was part of Rome's defences and offered a place where popes could shelter, as the Vatican was connected to it by a tunnel.

Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II

13. Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II

One of the most remarkable buildings in Rome, the monument of the first Italian king Vittorio Emanuelle II, is located next to the Piazza Venezia square. The building is also called the ‘Altara della Patria’ – the altar of the fatherland – and commemorates the unification of Italy. Romans also use nicknames for it such as ‘typewriter’ and ‘wedding cake’. The colossal white building also contains a museum and the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is guarded by two soldiers.

Basilica San Giovanni in Laterno

14. Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterno

The remarkable thing about the archbasilica of St John Lateran is that the ‘San Giovanni in Laterno’ technically has the status of most important church of Rome. It is one of the four papal basilicas and the cathedral of the Rome diocese. The baroque-looking church has been modified many times over the century, including the addition of the distinctive façade with statues by Alessandro Galilei..

Piazza del Popolo sights

15. Piazza del Popolo

The Piazza del Popolo is a large neo-classical square from the 19th century, originally intended to welcome visitors who entered the city from the north. Noteworthy sights on the square are the two identical churches built across from each other, the city gate ‘Porta del Popolo’, an enormous Egyptian obelisk and the steps that let you climb Pincio Hill for a wonderful view.

Baths of Caracalla

16. Terme di Caracalla

The ‘Terme di Caracalla’ are the ruins of the immense bathhouse (baths) from the 3rd century CE. At one time, it was the largest bath complex of Rome with a capacity of 2,500 visitors. Unfortunately, earthquakes and plundering of building materials have left their marks. However, the archaeological digs give a good impression of how truly huge the baths of emperor Caracalla were in those days.

Appian Way

17. Via Appia

Via Appia (or Appian Way) is one of the oldest roads into Rome from Roman times. The road with its large cables and lined with many cypresses was originally intended for trade and moving military troops more quickly. The road was located just outside the city walls, which meant there were many catacombs and funerary monuments on the side of it. The best way to visit the Via Appia and its sights is on a bicycle.

Basilica San Clemente al Laterno

18. Basilica di San Clemente al Laterno

The basilica, dedicated to pope Clement I, is not one of the most impressive churches of Rome at a first glance of its interior. What makes this Basilica of San Clemente special is that multiple church buildings were built on top of each other over the centuries. During your visit, you will have the opportunity to get to know the history of the church through excavations of a 4th-century church, a secret church from the 1st century and Roman foundations.

Ostia Antica

19. Ostia Antica

If you want a break from the bustle of the city of Rome, a great day trip is to visit the archaeological digs of the old Roman harbour town of ‘Ostia Antica’. This archaeological park is located 30 kilometres west of Rome, has a good connection by train and you can take your time wandering the 100 hectares of Roman excavations and sights in Rome's old harbour.

churches of Rome

20. Churches, churches and more churches

Rome counts as much as 900 churches. Be sure to spontaneously step into a church during your city break in Rome; even the least famous churches are often beautiful. This article gives you more details about 15 of Rome's most special churches.

Rome sights and highlights Rome