The list of what to see in Rome is immense. Packed with tourist attractions and world famous sites, it can be hard to find all the best places to see in Rome when you’re on a tight schedule. From world renowned and bustling tourist hubs like the Colosseum, to the relatively obscure Villa dei Quintili and far more beyond, Rome simply has so much to see!
So if you’re planning to visit the Eternal City and want to make the most of your trip, then our selection of Rome’s top tourist attractions could be just the thing for you. We’ve put together an expert guide highlighting what to see in Rome, with our top ten places to visit as well as throwing in a few additional sites that didn’t quite make the cut but shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
And if that’s not enough, you can also explore our full list of sites in Rome to your heart’s content.
Let’s be honest, when you were thinking of what to see in Rome, Ostia Antica probably wasn’t the first site you came across. Yet this underrated gem is one of Rome’s best tourist attractions. Ostia contains the amazingly well preserved remains of Rome’s ancient port – it’s quiet, fascinating and just brilliant to explore.
Now the Colosseum, that crops up on every list of sites to see in Rome there ever was. And with good reason. Once the largest amphitheatre of the Empire, where gladiators, criminals and lions alike fought for their lives, the Colosseum is an absolute must for any tour of Rome, despite crowds and cheap costumes...
Of all the places to visit in Rome, Villa dei Quintili is one of the most forgotten. Yet this ancient villa, once home to Emperor Commodus (the baddie in Gladiator), is captivating. It remains in good nick all-in-all, and you can even see Commodus’ private gladiatorial training arena (not that it did him much good in the film…)
Ever heard of Mithras? If things had gone differently you might be worshipping the guy. A popular Roman deity, there were Mithraeum across the Empire. One example is under the beautiful San Clemente. There’s loads to see in the depths of this church – so when considering what to see in Rome, definitely check this out.
Let’s face it, the Palatine Hill was the Primrose Hill of its day – where all those who wanted to see and be seen had a pad. Today it’s among the most visited of Rome’s tourist attractions and houses some of the city’s most impressive ancient sites. Don’t miss the small museum and the houses of Augustus and Livia.
One of the most famous places to visit in Rome, the Forum was the centre of Roman life. Today it lacks its former grandeur and needs a bit of imagination to really get the idea – until the oft-touted Roman theme park is built of course – but it does have loads to see. There are free tours you can join and these are worthwhile.
You can’t come to Rome without visiting the Vatican Museums which are rightfully placed among the top sights in Rome. From frescoes by Raphael and the sarcophagus of the Junius Bassus to the famed Sistine Chapel, they house a comprehensive collection of artwork and historical pieces from throughout history.
Eerie, creepy yet fascinating at the same time, Rome plays host to a number of tucked-away Christian catacombs. The largest crypt belongs to that of San Callisto, which holds half a million bodies and offers tourist a glimpse of the macabre. When considering what to see in Rome, this is certainly one for your left-field list.
If all roads lead to Rome then this was the ancient world’s biggest superhighway and is a key entry on any list of what to see in Rome. Not only was it Rome’s most prominent artery, it was also the burial place of choice for many of Rome’s citizens and today you can see a host of tombs and public buildings.
The private residence of one of Rome’s most famous Emperors, it turns out he liked building villas as well as walls. Nowadays the remains of Hadrian’s Villa are a bit of a trek and may not often feature among the top places to visit in Rome. But if you put in the effort, you won’t be disappointed.
Originally the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant Angelo looms large over the Tiber making it one of the most striking sites to see in Rome. Today, it is home to a museum as well as the remains of the Emperor's Mausoleum, medieval prison cells and the papal apartments.
The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.
While loads of people walk past this as they wander around the Forum, few tourists take the time to consider the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II when deciding what to see in Rome. This huge monument in fact celebrates the first king to rule a unified Italy and is pretty darn impressive.
Alright, if the sun is shining you might not want to be inside, that’s fair enough. But at the first sign of the merest hint of a drop of rain, head for the Musei Capitolini, one of the top sights in Rome. Located near the Forum, it contains a huge wealth of artefacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance worlds.
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in the world. Though definitely one for your list of places to visit in Rome, the truth is that it doesn’t really take all that long and you have to remind yourself that you’re looking at a 2,000 year-old building to really understand the magnificence of what you’re viewing.
The Pyramid of Cestius is cool. A mini pyramid just sitting in Italy’s capital, where it really has no right to be. You have to give it to Gaius Cestius, who wasn’t one of Rome’s leading lights by any stretch, yet he will be remembered. Doesn’t take long to see but a great site and among the lesser known places to visit in Rome.
Built by Michelangelo from the surviving structure of the ancient Baths of Diocletian this site has all the ingredients you need for a great place to visit. The sheer scale of this 16th century church gives a good indication of the size of the original baths. One of the more interesting yet underrated tourist attractions in Rome.
There aren’t many people who come to Rome without visiting St Peter’s Basilica – it is one of the first things people tell you if you ask them what to see in Rome. The church itself is magnificent and inside you can view a wealth of historical art as well as the tombs of many Popes.
Some of the earliest of the Christian catacombs in Rome, the Saint Sebastian Catacombs are another great example of this type of early burial site. Creepy but fun, it's certainly worth a look if you haven't seen any other catacombs on your trip to Rome.
A relative newcomer to the list of sites to see in Rome, the Ara Pacis Museum displays the Emperor Augustus’s Altar of Peace. Constructed in 9BC it signified the peace which Augustus had brought to the Empire. It’s an amazing site which is extremely well preserved and thoroughly enthralling.
Everyone goes to the Spanish Steps – walk up them, walk down them, sit on them, take a picture or two and generally just soak up the atmosphere. A focal point for Rome’s tourists, they are a staple of any list of things to see in Rome. They don’t do much though – they just sit there being sat on.