One of the most romantic cities in the world, people flock here from all over the world for the chance to walk along Rome’s ancient streets, indulge in enticing Roman cuisine, and gaze at famous landmarks that have appeared in countless movies and TV shows over the years.
With iconic centuries-old attractions you’ve certainly heard of – such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon – Rome has a fascinating past that goes back centuries and is sure to captivate anyone with the slightest interest in history. But it’s not all about the past. There are plenty of modern Rome activities to get involved in if you prefer things to be a little more up-to-date.
From tempting gelato stands with so many flavors you’ll struggle to choose and cool rooftop bars with remarkable views to poignant art galleries home to immigrant squatters and beautifully maintained gardens for when you need a break from the city, there are so many cool and unique things to do in Rome, whatever you’re into!
With so many exciting things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To make your vacation planning easier, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Rome. Add your favorites onto your Rome bucket list, and get ready for one of the most incredible trips of your life!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Rome, Italy
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15 cool and unique things to do in Rome
1. Explore Rome by Segway
Rome can be a tricky city to figure out. Its sprawling size and seemingly never-ending passageways are often difficult to wrap your head around. Prevent yourself from getting lost on day one by exploring Rome on a fun city Segway tour.
As an added bonus, you’ll also be able to discover the city in a fraction of the time it would have taken you to do so on foot. These tours are suitable for all ages, and you don’t need any prior experience to join. You’ll learn how to become a total Segway master in just 15 minutes!
Most tour companies have several different routes to choose from, but almost all have a general Rome sightseeing tour, which takes you past the biggest and best things to see in the city. If you’ve visited before and are looking for something a bit more unusual, try the Segway Grand City Tour at Night and experience Rome after dark.
2. Step Back in Time at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of those places that needs to be seen to be believed. A giant stone structure that towers above the city’s streets and dates back almost 2,000 years, you could easily spend an entire day discovering all the hidden nooks and crannies of this emblematic landmark. But if you’re short on time, you can see everything there is to see in 2 or 3 hours.
How much of the Colosseum you get to see depends on which ticket you buy. With a general ticket, you can explore the second and first floors. Spend a little extra on a guided tour, and you’ll also get to discover the underground level where fighters would enter the battle, the arena floor where the battles took place, and the top tiers where people would spectate.
If you bring your imagination with you and read the information provided, it’s pretty easy to imagine what it was like in Ancient Rome when horrendous fights took place between gladiators, Christians, and animals.
3. Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most popular Rome attractions there is. Tucked away in one of the city’s side streets, the fountain is incredibly detailed and stunning to look at. At 65 feet wide and 85 feet tall, it’s the largest fountain in Rome and was built in 19 BC, when it marked the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct.
There are around one million euros worth of coins tossed into the Trevi Fountain each year by people making wishes. Since 2007, the local government has collected the coins each year and donated them to charities.
By joining in and tossing your own coin into the Trevi Fountain, you’re taking part in a tradition along with millions of other people from all over the world while supporting a good cause at the same time.
According to the 1954 movie Three Coins in the Fountain, your donation might even change your luck. The legend claims if you throw one coin in, you’ll return to Rome, two coins and you’ll fall in love with an attractive Italian, three coins and you’ll marry the person you met!
4. Visit the Oldest Gelateria in the World
Gelato is an Italian specialty, and where better to try it than the oldest gelateria in the world? Palazzo del Freddo di Giovanni Fassi has been scooping up its amazing gelato since 1880 and serves up an astounding 2,200 pounds of the stuff every single day.
You won’t find any unusual flavors here, but there’s a great selection of classic gelatos, including chocolate, pistachio, chestnut, hazelnut, and strawberry. They also have vegan-friendly options, which taste every bit as delicious as their counterparts and are priced the same.
You’d expect the oldest gelato shop in the world to be expensive, but it’s surprisingly cheap! The staff will even ask if you want a dollop of whipped cream added on top for no extra charge. When sightseeing in the sun gets to be a little too much for you, a stop at this age-old gelateria is one of the best things to do in Rome!
5. Admire the Dome Inside the Pantheon
Not to be confused with the Parthenon in Athens, the Pantheon in Rome is unique for many reasons. It’s the best-preserved temple in Rome, has the largest brick dome in history, and is the most copied of all the ancient works. It’s so spectacular Michelangelo declared it the work of angels, not men.
Don’t let its unassuming façade fool you. Step inside the huge building, gaze upward, and let yourself be amazed. The huge empty space is designed to make you feel overwhelmed and tiny – an imitation of how the original architects expected someone would feel when standing before the gods.
The dome symbolizes the vault of heaven and is perfectly round, giving all the gods the same level of importance. There’s so much detail here that you could easily find yourself walking around again and again, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
Although no one knows what the Pantheon was originally used for, today, it’s used as a church. Masses take place on weekends when visitors aren’t allowed inside, so it’s best to play it safe and plan your visit for a weekday.
6. Have the Perfect Summer Evening During Lungo il Tevere
If you’re visiting the city in June through September, then you’ve got to check out Lungo il Tevere. One of the coolest things to do in Rome in the summer, this annual festival is when the city truly comes alive with tons of temporary fun activities you don’t get to experience at any other time of year.
From magical outdoor cinemas on Tiber Island and live musical performances along the Tiber River to pop-up beer stalls selling the most amazing craft beers and incredible outdoor theaters where operas and ballets are performed, there’s something for everyone at this festival.
With a range of things for kids to get involved with, the whole family is welcome at Lungo il Tevere. Alongside the river, you’ll find classic arcade games, including hockey tables, foosball tables, nerf-shooting ranges, and even virtual world capsules. Stroll along the riverbank, and you’ll find cute pop-up markets with stalls selling gorgeous handcrafted jewelry and restaurants serving up classic Italian dishes.
7. Peek Through the Aventine Keyhole
If you’re looking for more obscure things to do in Rome, you don’t want to miss the chance to take a look through the mysterious Aventine Keyhole. Climb to the top of Aventine Hill, wander over to the Santa Maria del Priorato Church, kneel down, and press your eye up against the keyhole.
The tiny yet remarkable view you’ll be rewarded with is two nation-states and one country, with the instantly recognizable dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the center. The gardens that you can see are part of the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a piece of land that has seen many occupants over the centuries.
It’s not clear whether the keyhole was carefully aligned to show visitors this clandestine view on purpose, but that’s part of what makes this secret attraction so special. You can’t actually go through the door – it’s permanently locked. You can walk among the beautiful gardens you see through the keyhole, but only if you make a prior appointment.
8. Get Lost in the Villa Borghese Gardens
Rome is a wonderful place to take a stroll and one of the best spots to wander around is the Villa Borghese gardens. The most popular park in the city, this peaceful green space is on Pincian Hill, just a short walk away from the buzzing Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo.
Designed in 1606 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who wanted to transform his old vineyard into the largest gardens in Rome, the Villa Borghese gardens are absolutely teeming with things to see and do. From walking trails, running routes, tranquil lakes, and grassy patches to art galleries, museums, a zoo, and cafes, this one-of-a-kind garden is surprisingly huge and makes for a great day out away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It truly doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Villa Borghese gardens – they look beautiful in every season. From delicate blossoms in the spring and picnicking families in the summer to gorgeous golden shades in the fall and countless snowman-building opportunities in the winter, it’s always a good time to visit.
9. Sip Prosecco and Enjoy the View
When you need a break from sightseeing, one of the most fun things to do in Rome is rise up from the city’s streets and admire the view from above. With a glass of local prosecco, of course!
There are tons of rooftop bars spread throughout the city, but our favorite is Mataer Terrae. Set atop the luxury Hotel Raphael, this intimate bar treats you to unbeatable views of the iconic rooftops speckled throughout Rome’s historical center. Drinks are crazy expensive, but you do get complimentary mini sandwiches to nibble while you sip.
Jacopa is a fantastic choice for something a bit more affordable. A contemporary bijoux space that overlooks the sleepy side of Trastevere and the Aventine Hill, Jacopa is a more casual place where groups of friends often meet. It’s not as romantic as Mataer Terrae, but it still provides you with fantastic views and won’t give you a heart attack when the bill arrives!
10. Freak Yourself Out at the Capuchin Crypt
Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, the Capuchin Crypt is one of the must-do things in Rome if you love the creepier, spookier side of sightseeing. Hidden away under the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, this obscure attraction guards the skeletal remains of 3,700 Capuchin friars buried by their order hundreds of years ago.
The place is almost too bizarre to describe, with almost everything made out of human bones –chairs, lampshades, arches, ceiling decorations, tools, beds… you name it. Practically every part of this crypt is covered in bones and skulls.
You can even see mummified monks dressed in friar’s robes and hung from the ceiling. The crypt is surprisingly small, but for such a minimal entrance fee, it’s more than worth it.
The display isn’t meant to be macabre in the slightest. Instead, it was created to depict the swift passage of precious life and the fragility of our mortality.
11. Be Amazed at the Sistine Chapel
Whether or not you’re into religious buildings, the Sistine Chapel is sure to take your breath away. Like many icons in Rome, the museum doesn’t look like much from the outside. But as soon as you step through the doors, your eyes will be darting all over the place trying to take it all in.
The interior of the Sistine Chapel is covered in stunning frescoes, the most famous of which are the ones that blanket the ceiling and The Last Supper, both painted by Michelangelo. Even though this iconic landmark is one of the most famous in Rome and you’ll almost certainly be surrounded by other people when you visit, one look above and the crowd simply fades away.
The Sistine Chapel is inside Vatican City, and the only way you can access it is to purchase a ticket for the Vatican museums. Alternately, you can sign up for a guided tour, but with all the information available online today, it’s unlikely you’ll learn anything that you couldn’t look up yourself.
12. Dig into Authentic Roman Pizza
The two most famous types of pizza in Italy are Roman and Neapolitan. And they’re both so good it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite!
Unlike Neapolitan pizza, which is protected by UNESCO and must meet several strict regulations, Roman pizza doesn’t have any specific standards to follow and comes in two common varieties. There’s Roman pizza by the slice, which has a thick base (like focaccia) and is sliced into rectangular pieces to eat on the go. Then there’s whole Roman pizza, with a thin base which includes oil, making it crispier than other pizzas.
There are countless places to try Roman pizza, but if you want some guidance, here are some of our favorites. For pizza by the slice, choose Bonci Pizzarium. The wonderfully crunchy and super delicious base is amazing, and the toppings change several times a day.
For something a bit more sophisticated, try La Gatta Mangiona for a whole pizza as part of a sit-down meal. Here you’ll find a huge number of tasty traditional pizzas, ranging from the classic margherita with top-quality tomatoes to Asian-inspired delights topped with lemongrass.
13. Climb to the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica
One of the top things to do in Rome that many people don’t know about is to climb to the highest point of St. Peter’s Basilica. From high up, you’ll get an incredible view of the basilica and St. Peter’s Square. It will give you the chance to snap incredible photos, unlike anything other visitors take.
Climbing to the top doesn’t take a long time and you don’t have to be super fit to do it. But you do need to be comfortable in tight spaces because it can get pretty claustrophobic on the way up.
There are two ways to get to the first level to see the inside of Michelangelo’s dome. You can take the elevator or climb the 231 stairs. From here, you can look down to the ground floor and check out the Jesus and apostles statues outside.
But for the ultimate experience, find the single-file staircase on the first level and follow it up to the very top. There are 320 stairs to climb, and they slowly spiral up, with the roof leaning in toward you.
At the very top, there’s even a rope to hold onto to make sure you don’t fall. Since this is something you’ll only ever do once in your life, it’s totally worth it!
14. Get Tipsy During VinòForum
If you’re a wine lover, try and visit Rome in September for the chance to experience VinòForum. An incredible wine event held each year in the north of the city, VinòForum gives you the unique opportunity to try more than 2,500 different wines produced by over 600 local and international wineries.
Even if you’re not particularly into wine, you’ll still have a fantastic time at VinòForum. There are sommelier presentations to help you discover wines you love if you haven’t found the right one yet, plus appearances by top Rome chefs eager to show off their skills. Exclusive three-course dinners prepared by award-winning local chefs are also served.
There is an entry fee to pay, but it works out to be an amazing value for the money as it includes several wine tastings. Sipping a glass of local wine while wandering around the lush venue with the Mediterranean sun on your back is something you’ll remember for years.
15. Get Your Art Fix at Metropoliz Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere
One of the most fascinating places in Rome, the Metropoliz Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere is nothing like what you expect. Once a salami factory, today, the unassuming building is an illegal museum that’s home to around 200 residents – 80 of which are children.
The museum began when migrants moved into the former abattoir and began decorating the walls with their own artwork. Years later, the current curator came across the creation and began organizing events and performances to raise awareness. Fast forward to the present, and the Metropoliz Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere is one of Rome’s most important contemporary art museums, featuring work from more than 300 artists from all over the world.
The colorful pieces are influenced by the gallery’s previous use and the issues faced by the immigrant artists. The result is a thoughtful, poignant attraction that’s definitely worth a visit.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Rome. What’s your favorite thing to do in Rome?
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