20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Rome
Located in the central part of the country, Rome is the capital city and one of the most ancient cities in Europe. Today, the Roman city center is largely unchanged since the Empire, and now serves as a vast metropolitan area where over a million people live. Most tourist attractions are in the city center, but the surrounding area has many smaller towns, such as Ostia and Tivoli, which are still full of charm.
The best places to visit in Rome are generally clustered in the historic center, in particular, the ancient and medieval city center around St. Peter's Basilica, Piazza Venezia, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Colosseum.
We list all the places worth visiting in Rome below.
You'll also find a short list of other top attractions in Rome, such as things to do in Rome, restaurants, and hotels.
And if you're planning a Rome vacation for next year, why not use our Rome travel guide to make booking your hotels easier.
The most famous fountains in the world are those in Rome, where they are actually named after the Roman emperor who had them built, not the traditional story that they are called Trevi after a popular street in Rome. All that you need to know is that they are considered to be lucky for couples on their wedding day, especially when one is standing in the water and one is out! Most of the fountains are dotted around the Piazza di Trevi, which contains an assortment of the world's great museums. On Sundays, visit during the lively Mercato Trevi (Trevi Market) and enjoy the fresh fruit, veg, and sweets. There are a few restaurants set around the piazza itself, but if you'd like to eat more traditionally, or if you are hungry after exploring the surrounding sights, then head for one of the eateries serving up typical Roman food on the Via del Governo Vecchio or Via della Croce del Cavaliere. Or if you want to stay in the piazza itself, there are a few cheap accommodation options. It's also worth finding a souvenir shop in Rome that will bring the piazza to life by selling food, flowers, and other gifts, plus a few decorative items from the fountain itself.
Located at the intersection of the Palatine Hill and the Foro Romanum (Roman Forum), Pantheon is one of Rome's ancient wonders. Built by the Emperor Hadrian, it is the world's best preserved Roman temple, and it is one of the most visited monuments in the city. Its claim to fame is its dazzling circular interior, made entirely of marble. The inspiration for this structure was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The interior of the Pantheon is painted with frescos by Andrea Pisano, one of whose finest works is The Last Judgement. Rome's Colosseum and Forum are also an essential visit. Both are in the form of giant amphitheatres, the Colosseum for gladiator contests, and the Roman Forum for the historical site of ancient Rome.
In central Rome lies one of the world's best-known squares, Piazza Navona. Home to the ancient Pantheon, which was built by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century and rebuilt after an earthquake nearly 2000 years ago, the square is adorned with dozens of baroque palaces, churches, and monuments. In all, it's quite a site to see. The square is home to the Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, which was built for the 16th century and named after a convent that no longer exists. It's on this square that many important events in the history of the city took place, including the execution of Maximilian and his two sons. Nearby are the 17th century Palazzo Cambiaghi, the 16th century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, and the 13th century Loggia del Capitano. In the center of the piazza, the baroque fountain by Bernini marks the spot where the Roman writer Virgil died, and two statues flanking the fountain, by Bernini's brother Giacomo, depict two of the Roman poet's lesser-known works, "In funeram...Horace" and "Eheu! fugaces, timent Posthumus amores".
The world-famous Spanish Steps, the first of which were built in 1723, are Rome's most recognizable and photographed monument. The steps are located at the foot of the Spanish embassy in the prestigious Ripetta, an historic district of Rome dating back to the Middle Ages and adjacent to the fountains of Piazza di Spagna. The beautiful baroque piazza was designed in 1631 as a way of connecting the Spanish embassy with the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, with the piazza immediately adjacent to the French Embassy, a reminder of the Roman city's long history as the capital of both republics and emperors. The piazza also contains the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, a fountain designed in 1822 by Giuseppe Valadier. Its four faces represent the four continents of Rome's territories and the sea beneath. Not far from the Spanish Steps is the elegant Via Veneto, Rome's longest and most famous street.
One of the most famous structures in the city of Rome, Castel Sant'Angelo was built on the site of Hadrian's Temple of Minerva, destroyed by the Barbarian King Alaric in AD 410. The structure, an imposing tower on an immense round base, became the military residence of the Emperor who later converted it into a mausoleum. It is now a museum with extensive displays on the military history of the Imperial City. The site also includes the Colonna di San Lorenzo, a set of four Roman columns which date to the first century BC and are the most important surviving works of the Antique Forum.
Santa Maria Maggiore
In Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, about a mile east of Piazza Navona, is a tiny marble chapel in which the Virgin Mary appears to a young girl, Padre Pio (1887-1968), who died aged 17. Though only six when she died, she showed a knowledge of her vision that had obviously been acquired in her lifetime and is credited by many with having cured the young woman, also a member of the De La Salle Institute, of a terrible illness. A rich collection of objects associated with the apparition is on display, along with the bare wooden structure of the original shrine. The chapel, little more than an octagonal room, is not open to the public, but a passage through the cloister of the church leads to a spot directly over the statue.
The biggest and most impressive of all the world's Ancient Roman buildings, the Colosseum can be seen from far and wide and is an absolute must-see when visiting the Eternal City. The site covers over a third of the ancient city of Rome, while its two main attractions are the arena and its imposing outer walls that encircle the arena, providing a remarkable view of the city. Inside, various structures and buildings in the venue provide interesting information on the arena's history. Also of interest is the four-story building built in the 2nd century to seat up to 40,000 spectators, as well as a reconstruction of the Roman Imperial Box. Most visitors to Rome, both local and international, spend most of their time in the center of the city or in the area of the famous Trevi Fountain, which itself is a must-see. However, if you happen to have the opportunity to make a visit to the Colosseum in the Eternal City, there is no better place to spend some time.
Basilica di San Marco
Basilica di San Marco in Rome was designed by Nicola Sala (circa 1330-1400), a sculptor and architect who took the lofty vision of the Roman Pope Gregory XI, on a visit to Venice in 1372, and combined it with the many talents of Bramante, the architect of St. Peter's in Rome. The exterior of San Marco's basilica is simple but for its dome, some 45 meters high, and it's beauty is the spectacular result of the use of every precious material. The interior is divided into two main levels: the outer (arcaded) area and the inner nave. The marble floor of the nave is divided by a long marble railing that leads the pilgrim into the basilica. The outer area, whose floor is covered by 300 Corinthian and Ionic columns, was designed to be the place of relaxation for the faithful after they had finished their pilgrimage.
The most famous avenue in Rome, the Via Veneto is one of the city's two main north-south thoroughfares. Its winding, tree-lined lanes lead past the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, and the famous Fontana di Trevi, where Tiberius Caesar is said to have bathed and is depicted by sculptor Antonio Raggi. The fountains are especially spectacular at night and it is often the venue for major events, such as the annual Gay Pride festival in August.
The Romans conquered all of present-day Italy in a flurry of action in the early 2nd century BC, but left Italy's Eternal City as a messy and dirty mess. The Imperial family was based here during the height of the Empire, and so it's perhaps not surprising that the Palatine Hill in Rome is among the largest and best-preserved areas of public gardens in the world. First settled around 7,000 years ago, the hill has seen many famous people over the centuries, including Augustus, Nero and Saint Peter. Ancient Romans were flummoxed by the presence of caves and spaces that still had the marks of primitive life on the ground today, and so they built their most opulent villas on the hill. The Villa dei Quintili, which dates to around 45 BC, was constructed by the Roman nobleman Quintilius Varus, who turned the interior into a complex of delicate pools and grottoes. Founded in the 9th century by Charlemagne's father Pepin, the Basilica di San Petronio (St Peter's Basilica) is the largest church in the world. Converted in the 11th century to be used as a mausoleum by Pope Honorius III, the edifice was rebuilt to its current neoclassical form in the 18th century.
Campo de' Fiori
The Italian capital is awash with restaurant choices, but this most famous and oldest of Rome's eating areas is a must for its historic streetscape, ranging from beautiful Renaissance palazzi to narrow, cramped, 14th-century alleyways. Its main streets, Via dei Coronari and Via Giulia, are an eclectic mix of trendy restaurants and cafe bars, often featuring live music at weekends. In addition to these, you'll find a number of neighborhood bars with character, plus a couple of excellent cocktail bars. This area of Rome, just southwest of the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, has plenty of affordable, cosmopolitan bars. You'll find everything from expensive, new-wave Italian cafes to casual Italian bars serving casual Italian fare.
The Galleria Borghese in Rome is the home of one of the most famous paintings in the world - Pablo Picasso's Guernica. With a collection of more than 2,000 paintings, sculptures and antiquities from ancient to modern times, the Galleria Borghese was completed in 1954 and is housed in a 19th century palace in the heart of Rome. Surprisingly, this grand collection is not entirely devoted to European artists and the excellent Renaissance, Baroque, and neoclassic art here includes masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Velázquez, and Rembrandt. As one of Europe's most important art galleries, the Galleria Borghese also has a small contemporary art collection and exhibitions.
Piazza del Popolo
Rome's most central square, the Piazza del Popolo, takes its name from Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503), who dedicated the square to Venus and Rome. Besides this pompous tribute, the piazza contains a number of statues, and is worth a visit as it contains Piazza Navona, where you can visit the famous La Banchina, a colorful fountain that dates back to the 16th century. The streets surrounding the square were built in the middle of the 18th century as part of the city's monumental project to rebuild the city after it had been sacked during the plague of 1527. The piazza today is one of Rome's main meeting points, with wide boulevards and a market that makes for interesting shopping. Among the main tourist sights here are the towering obelisk in the center and the Capitoline Museums, both of which house important art collections.
Piazza di Spagna
One of the most visited sights in the world, Piazza di Spagna is named after the family name of the King of the Popes, the artist Raphael. Raffaello Sanzio (1483–1520), who was also called Il Sodoma, was born in Urbino, Italy. He is best known for his painting “The School of Athens”, a portrait of humanist intellectuals and philosophers. The centerpiece of this square is the column of Fiesole, a replica of the original, made in 1588 by the great Tiberian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) to commemorate the marriage of the King of Spain and Queen of Portugal. Atop the column, the marble Virgin Mary rests her head on the outstretched hand of the head of the Universe. The legend, which was made for Bernini’s 16th-century predecessor, Antonio Boschi, is inscribed on the pillar in Latin: “The Virgin with the Child in Her Arm was born at Ephesus in Asia by the hands of St. John the Baptist who was its father, and on the other side by the hands of St. Anne who was its mother.” In the 1950s, Gianni Vetri, a tailor's son, opened a bar in the square. His Pasticceria offers delicious macarons and fresh ice cream and is a perfect spot to take a break or grab a post-sightseeing refreshment.
Dotted with traditional brick and plaster buildings and hemmed in on all sides by some of Rome's most famous landmarks, including the Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican and St. Peter's, the Jewish Ghetto (Giudecca) is home to some 8,000 Italian Jews, who make up over 80 percent of the population in a district that is home to many branches of Italian Jewish merchants, banks, and many of the nation's leading attorneys. The most famous sight in the Jewish Ghetto is the church of the Gesù, the largest and most beautiful Roman Catholic church on the entire island. Built in 1741, its interior is plain and unadorned but its splendid architectural elements draw large crowds during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th. There is a famous Jewish Cemetery in the back of the Jewish Ghetto. Renowned for its simplicity, its layout is similar to the mausoleum of an Egyptian pharaoh. At the center is a tall rectangular wall with a pillared, open porch and pyramidal roof. A similar shaped open porch, in which is also a pair of well-carved columns, is also located to the south of the main façade.
This Renaissance villa, with frescoes by Raphael, is one of Rome's lesser-known gems. Originally owned by the Farnesina family, it was bought by Pope Alexander VII and has remained in the hands of the Roman Church for 300 years. This picturesque little residence in the Villa Borghese district dates back to 1520 and was the first house in Rome that Raphael built, in 1511, following his appointment as court architect by Pope Julius II. Although it is known that Raphael's famous and scandalous frescoes are housed in the Vatican, this is the first time that they have been seen outside the museum walls. Part of Villa Farnesina's charm is its distinct neighborhood ambiance. To understand the charm of the area, see Rome by Bus, Walking Tour No. 1.
Villa Borghese and Pincio Hill Gardens
Villa Borghese is an enormous park in northern Rome, covering nearly 13 hectares (33 acres) of wooded gardens, meadows and walking paths. It was first laid out in the 16th century as a private hunting park and garden for a pope, and later became the property of the Dukes of Parma. The Renaissance gardens include stunning water features, such as cascades and grottoes, and are home to a range of fountains, sculptures, and exotic species such as the deer of the Americas. Walk the manicured paths of the Villa Borghese to view some of the antiquities housed at the National Gallery of Rome, which offers an interesting insight into the life of the ancient Romans. Sitting on the crest of Pincio Hill, it's a short drive to the Trevi Fountain, home of the mysterious Roman goddess of spring and springwater, Acqua Vergine. The fountain was built in 1726, and the bell-ringing ceremony here is one of the most famous events in Rome. The very popular Villa Medici, also on Pincio Hill, is the home of the Pitti Palace art gallery and the site of a famous Madonna di Palazzo, with the giant Palazzo Pitti behind it.
Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
The Teatro dell'Opera di Roma is home to one of Italy's most famous opera houses. Opened in 1724, the impressive Neo-classical façade presents a Neoclassical reception hall. The interior of the main auditorium is adorned with lavish embellishments in a Baroque style. Since 1880, the opera house has featured the prestigious Opera House Orchestra, which is an affiliate of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Other cultural sites in the city include the Teatro Carlo Felice, Teatro Torlonia and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, all built in 1887. A visit to the world-famous Trevi Fountain will complete your Rome tour.
Fontana della Barcaccia
In the far south of Rome, a flight of steps leads down to a dramatic rock platform next to the Tiber River in the Ostiense quarter. Here is the Fontana della Barcaccia, built in 1592 by architect Sisto Fiorentino as part of the scenic Acqua Felice, designed by Pope Innocent VIII. Though much altered since, the fountain has retained its Florentine aspect of beautiful carved decoration and grandeur and stands today as one of the major reasons to visit this beautiful corner of Rome. For more information see the "Rome" Travel Guide for details of things to do and visit.
Palazzo Barberini (home to the Museo Nazionale Etrusco-Lincei) is one of Rome's best-preserved Roman palaces. Built by Francesco Borromini between 1644 and 1656, this lovely structure with six main frescoed, symmetrical bays housed a series of pleasure gardens, the Villa Adriana, built by Hadrian as a retreat from the hustle of the capital. Some of the original rooms and frescoes can still be seen today, including a well-known scene of Diana hunting with her dogs in the Palace of the Quirinal. Situated near the Quirinal, Palazzo Barberini was originally constructed for the Barberini family. Emperor Julius II used the palace to entertain the emperor and aristocracy of the day.