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Best things to do in Rome

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Italy  /  Lazio  /  Rome
When in Rome, do as the Romans do--throw a coin into Trevi Fountain, have a cappuccino at an alfresco restaurant at Piazza Navona, or let loose on a shopping spree at Via Condotti. For an encompassing view of the Eternal City--its major landmarks and quaint side streets--climb the hill of Passeggiata di Gianicolo. If you want to capture the city's most iconic sites--like Colosseum or Basilica di San Pietro--on camera, make sure your list of things to do in Rome includes a photography tour with a professional photo guide.

Rome is best known for its Ruins, Fountains, and Nightlife.

Top 15 things to do in Rome

1. Colosseum

Considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering, Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world. This world-famous Roman landmark is one of the city's most visited attractions, so expect a long line and an even longer wait. Skip the long line for the general entry by joining a guided tour of the site or by booking your tickets online. Built of concrete and stone, the elliptical amphitheater was originally capable of seating some 50,000 spectators who came to watch animal fights and gladiatorial combats. Emperor Vespasian began the amphitheater project in 70 CE. It was completed during the reign of Titus about ten years later, measuring 48 m (157 ft) high, 188 m (617 ft) long, and 156 m (511 ft) wide.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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2. Pantheon

Nearly 2,000 years old, Pantheon is the only building from the Greco-Roman world that has remained substantially intact and in continuous use throughout its long history. A marvel of ancient architecture, it still boasts the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. Originally designed to be a temple to all the gods of the ancient Rome, the site has been used as a Roman Catholic church, dedicated to St. Mary, since the seventh century. The building features large, granite Corinthian columns. Don't skip this site if it's raining; seeing and hearing the rain pouring into this ancient building through the hole in the ceiling is a special experience.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Vatican Museums, Vatican City

The easiest way to experience Vatican Museums, featuring an outstanding collection of fine art, is by joining a guided tour. These museums display works from an immense collection that the Roman Catholic church built up over several centuries. You can see some of the most renowned Classical sculptures in the world, as well as numerous Renaissance art masterpieces. Founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II, the museums contain 54 galleries. The last stop and a highlight of every tour is the Sistine Chapel, featuring the world-famous ceiling decorated by Michelangelo. You are not required to join a tour, but the collection is spread over an area of nearly 15 km (9 mi), so it's highly recommended. Look online beforehand to choose from many different tour options.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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4. Trevi Fountain

Throw a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain, the legend claims, and you are sure to eventually return to the city. Undoubtedly one of the most photographed sites in the city, the fountain was designed by architect Nicola Salvi and built in 1762. Standing at 26 m (86 ft) high and 49 m (161 ft) wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. Fans of Italian cinema easily recognize this site, which has appeared in numerous notable films, including director Federico Fellini's famed "La Dolce Vita."
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peter's Basilica is not only among the most renowned works of Renaissance architecture, but it is also one of the largest churches in the world. Built over a period of about 120 years, this imposing structure was designed by several prominent Renaissance architects, including Michelangelo and Bernini. Tradition and strong historical evince hold that the tomb of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s twelve apostles, is located directly below the altar of the church. Because of its location in the Vatican, the Pope presides at a number of services held here throughout the year, frequently drawing audiences of up to 80,000 people. Take the elevator up to the roof and then climb the 323 steps to the top of the dome, which offers sweeping views of the surrounding area. A strict dress code forbids shorts, bare shoulders, or miniskirts inside the site.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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6. Piazza Navona

Noisy and vibrant, Piazza Navona is the hub of artistic and commercial activity in this part of the city. Known for its Baroque architecture, alfresco restaurants, ornate fountains, and street artists, the square attracts visitors from around the world. The centerpiece is an elaborate fountain--representing the rivers Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Plate-- created by Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. A massive, ancient obelisk tops the fountain. Artists Giacomo della Porta and Antonio della Bitta sculpted the two smaller fountains here. The plaza was built in the first century on the site of a former arena where ancient Romans came to watch various competitions.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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7. Galleria Borghese

Galleria Borghese is housed in a villa once used for elegant private parties. The art gallery contains a substantial part of a collection of paintings and sculptures amassed by Scipione Borghese, a 17th-century cardinal and art patron. Borghese was an early benefactor of artists Caravaggio and Bernini. You can explore 20 rooms across two floors. The main floor is mostly devoted to the period between the first and the third centuries, featuring mosaics of gladiators and several sculptures. In other sections of the gallery, you can see works by such artists as Canova, Raphael, Correggio, Titian, Rubens, and Veronese. An advance ticket, which you can book on the gallery's website, is required.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Palatine Hill

Civilization was managed for centuries from Palatine Hill, the commercial, religious, and political center of ancient Rome. The city on top of this hill looks down upon the age-old forum from a height of about 40 m (131 ft). Once an inhospitable marshland, the area was gradually drained and then turned into a hub of the city's political and economic activities. You may want to visit more than once to see everything, so remember that your ticket is good for two days. You can access these sites only by foot over a bumpy path with stones from the ancient Roman period. You may want to rent an audio guide at a nearby booth.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Roman Forum

Dating to the 7th century BC when it originally developed as a marketplace, Roman Forum today presents a remarkably well-preserved picture of what became the social, political, and commercial heart of the Roman Empire. Set off along one of the paths to encounter remnants of temples, basilicas, and government buildings. Crane your neck to take in the eight soaring columns of the Temple of Saturn, marvel at the magnificent white marble Arch of Septimius Severus--a victory arch standing 23 m (75.5 ft) high, 25 m (82 ft) wide, and 11.85 m (38.9) deep--and amble past the Curia Julia to witness where the Roman Senate conducted affairs of the state. To see as much of the expansive collection of ancient artifacts and to put them in rich context, consider hiring a guide or joining a tour of the site.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Trastevere

The historic Trastevere neighborhood is known for its narrow, cobblestone alleyways and medieval structures. Enjoy a small-town feel in this area south of Vatican city along the banks of the Tiber river. Wander the streets to see the eclectic mix of old shops and trendy cafes. Head to the Piazza Santa Maria to admire the architecture of the basilica. The neighborhood has a vibrant nightlife that contrasts with the more laid-back daytime.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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11. Spanish Steps

Climb Spanish Steps, the widest staircase in Europe and one of the most majestic urban monuments of the Baroque style. The 136 steps once linked the Spanish Embassy to a Franciscan church that was officially under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France. An iconic fountain created by artist Gianlorenzo Bernini and his father stands at the foot of the staircase. Designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi, the staircase and the piazza were built between 1723 and 1725.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Catacombs of Saint Callixtus

Delve into the nearly 20 km (12 mi) of tunnels and graves at Catacombs of Saint Callixtus on the Appian Way, one of the most notable burial sites of ancient Rome. Discover the legacies of early Christianity as you visit some of the earliest popes' ornate tombs and crypts. The tombs of ancient families here often feature frescoes and mosaic artwork. Tour the outdoor section of the complex to see several small basilicas. To ensure a spot in a guided tour, book ahead.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Food Tours

Take a big bite out of the Eternal City on a guided food tour of Rome's historic districts--you can walk, cycle, or ride the iconic Vespa. You'll see the city through the eyes of a local following your chatty guide to gourmet markets and delis stocked with traditional Italian favorites. The experience includes sampling a range of yummy treats, including cured meats, cheeses, pasta, gelato, and classic Italian pizzas. With more than a few hours to spare, you can opt for a half- or full-day trip to the countryside, where you can go truffle hunting or visit medieval towns. The duration of these food tours spans from 60 minutes to 13 hours.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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14. Santa Maria in Trastevere

Discover more than 17 centuries of Roman at Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the city's oldest churches. Dating back to the fourth century, the house of worship is in the trendy Trastevere central neighborhood. Stand out front to see the 12th- and 13th-century mosaics on the facade. Head inside to admire the 22 granite columns taken from ancient city ruins or impressive Baroque decor.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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15. Musei Capitolini

Musei Capitolini, situated in a piazza designed by Michelangelo in 1536, helps visitors to appreciate the many layers of the city’s cultural heritage. This site is actually a group of art and archaeological museums, housed inside palaces recognized as some of the city’s finest examples of medieval architecture. The history of the museums can be traced to the 15th century, when Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of ancient bronze sculptures to the people of Rome and installed them here. Since then, the museums’ collection has grown to include a large number of ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian statues, as well as inscriptions, jewels, medals, mosaics, and coins. The museums’ extensive compendium of art includes a huge number of medieval and Renaissance works, including masterpieces by Bernini and Caravaggio, among many others. There’s so much to see here, one visit may not be enough. The ticket office is situated in the piazza, but you can also book your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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