By far the most popular city in all of Italy, Rome offers visitors an endless amount of things to do. But what are the most notable landmarks and best things to do in the eternal city. Here are 20 places you need to see in Rome in 2021.
Rich with history and full of notable landmarks and architecture everywhere you look, Rome has it all. But that comes at a price; with how much there is to do, how do you know what you need to check out and what you can skip during your trip? But don’t fret, we’ve combed through all the major activities you can do in Rome and have come up with a list of everything you need to make sure you knock out while you’re there.
Without any more delay, let’s take a look at the 20 best things to do in Rome, Italy in 2021 so that you won’t miss out on anything during your visit.
Any trip to Rome, especially if it’s your first trip to the majestic city, requires a Colosseum visit. The Colosseum is not only the most famous landmark in Rome, nor is it only one of the most famous landmarks in Italy — it’s arguably one of the most famous landmarks in the entire world.
The Colosseum is nearly 2,000 years old and was once the main site of entertainment for all of Rome. Home to many games and sports as well as, of course, the gladiatorial tournaments, the Colosseum is rich with history and has been built on the blood, sweat, and tears of those who’ve performed within its walls.
The Colosseum is worth waiting in lines and joining the seemingly endless crowds that congregate around the structure. With how stunning its beauty is and how much history lies within the structure, it is something that you absolutely cannot skip out on while you’re visiting Rome.
St. Peter’s Basilica
While the Colosseum is one of the most famous buildings of any kind in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is right up there with it, especially when it comes to cathedrals and other religious buildings. While many other major Italian cities (Milan, Venice, etc.) also have famous cathedrals as one of their mainstay attractions, none of them compare to St. Peter’s Basilica in terms of popularity.
Soaring above St. Peter’s Square — more on that shortly — St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most admired architectural feats in all of Italy. The exterior, the interior, everything. It’s truly something to marvel at and is a building that you don’t want to miss while you’re in Rome.
Tour the Vatican
The Vatican offers some of the most iconic sites and landmarks in all of Rome and is something you will want to check out while you’re visiting. When touring St. Peter’s Basilica, you’ll already be in the Vatican, so you might as well spend the rest of the day there. You’ll also see the rest of St. Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, and more.
Although you can tour the Vatican on your own and explore much of the area at your own pace, it’s highly recommended that you opt for a guided tour. These tours will give you a much more in-depth look into the history of the Vatican as well as get you further into the city than you can on your own. No matter how you experience it, exploring the Vatican will be like nothing you’ve ever done before.
Another of the most popular and most well-known attractions in Italy that also resides in Rome is the Pantheon. This incredible structure was built nearly 2,000 years ago in around 120 AD. And although it was built with ancient technology, it is famous for having perfect proportions and symmetry — something that is still difficult to accomplish in today’s world.
The amazing building showcases typical ancient Roman architecture with massive stone columns and huge openings, so it’s a sight that you have to see. The area around the Pantheon is also dotted with plenty of cafes and gelato shops, so feel free to relax and take it all in. Spend the morning sipping on delicious Italian coffee and watching the hustle and bustle of Rome pass you by, or relax after a day of sightseeing while you eat some authentic Italian gelato. No matter what you do, being in the presence of such a powerful building will add an unmistakable ambiance to the day.
One of the most famous fountains anywhere in the world is the Trevi Fountain in Rome. This incredible fountain was initially built in the 18th century before being fully restored just a few short years ago in 2015. It features the Roman god of the sea, Oceanis towering above his Tritons looking over the water and the pedestrians below.
The Trevi Fountain is rich in folklore about throwing coins into the fountain and ensures those who do will find love — with an attractive Roman no less! Even if you don’t plan on tossing any coins into the fountain to find love while you’re in Rome, just seeing the details of the sculptures is a sight to see.
St. Peter’s Square
As alluded to earlier, St. Peter’s Square sits at the foot of St. Peter’s Basilica and within the limits of the separate state of the Vatican. Although not technically a square, Saint Peter’s Square is known worldwide for its religious importance as well as the architectural beauty of itself. Although St. Peter’s Basilica is the square’s main focus, there are many other incredible sights to keep your eyes peeled for.
Whether it’s the vast number of huge stone pillars all around, or the seemingly endless statues of famous religious figures and crosses circling the square, or just the sheer size and beauty of everything around you — St. Peter’s Square is something you don’t want to miss. Every time you go back, you’ll see even more than you ever saw before.
Another one of the buildings that you will hit along the way of your Vatican tour suggested above is the famous Sistine Chapel. Perhaps most famous for its stunning ceiling artwork painted by none other than Michelangelo (as he lay on his back high above the ground), the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world, right up there with its neighbor St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Sistine Chapel is also the home for Michelangelo’s famous Last Judgement masterpiece behind the altar, which in itself is worth the visit. The sheer amount of detail that went into these pieces of art could easily take hours to truly appreciate. So don’t rush your Vatican tour and skim through the Sistine Chapel, as it’s truly breathtaking to look at.
The Galleria Borghese is renowned as one of the best art galleries in the city. And when that city is Rome, that’s truly saying something! This gallery is part of the Borghese Villa — which you’ll hear more about later — so the building itself is a beautiful example of Italian architecture before you even enter in and see the wonderful artwork.
Inside the Galleria Borghese, you will find work by some of the most famous artists in history amid the two-story museum. Caravaggio and Bernini, and their artwork and sculptures, respectively, reside in this gallery, to name a couple of examples. Not only is the art inside the gallery impressive, but the interior itself is just as incredible. Each room is decorated lavishly with regal coloring and gold-leaf everywhere you look.
Looming over the Roman Forum, which you’ll hear about next, is the ancient Palatine Hill. As the story goes, Romulus and Remus were found on Palatine Hill and then went on to build the city of Rome that we all know and love today. This should give you an idea of just how old Palatine Hill is and its importance within the Roman culture.
With a height of over 130 feet above the Roman Forum, being atop Palatine Hill affords visitors unobstructed views of the eternal city. It’s the most central hill in the region, meaning that you can see all of Rome as you look around. It is one of the most stunning panoramic views you will see anywhere in the world, much less just in Rome.
As mentioned before, the Roman Forum sits near Palatine Hill’s base and is one of the oldest and most incredible ruins you’ll find anywhere in Europe. It’s the daunting size of stone pillars and massive openings that just scream importance, and when combined with its name, it is easy to feel its political relevance during the heyday of the Roman Empire.
Although the Forum is mostly in ruins, more than enough of this enormous series of structures still remains. Sitting next to the Colosseum and in the vicinity of the aforementioned Palatine Hill, taking this whole area in is one of the most amazing things you will experience during your visit to Rome. It’s truly astounding. If you decide to visit the Pantheon on the same day to stop by the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, you’ll leave yourself breathless at the end of the day due to all the awe-inspiring sights you saw that day.
Ponte Sant Angelo
Located in the foreground of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Ponte Sant Angelo (the Bridge of Saint Angelo) connects the main city area to the stunning Castle of Saint Angelo. This bridge is one of Rome’s most famous bridges and offers some of the prettiest views of the area in terms of architectural beauty.
Another of the structures in Rome that is built with perfect symmetry, the Ponte Sant Angelo, is composed of huge archways and massive marble-covered columns. Atop the bridge sits statues of angels overlooking the passersby below on the bridge and waterway underneath, the famous Tiber River.
Another one of the famous public squares that are scattered throughout Rome is the Piazza Navona. This square, though maybe not as well-known nor the home to quite as many landmarks as St. Peter’s Square, is a popular social hub dating back to the 1400s. At the center of Piazza Navona sits another famous Roman fountain, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi — which also made this list towards the end!
While spending time in the Piazza Navona in the present, you’ll be surrounded by cafes and shops that offer visitors the unique ability to drink authentic Italian coffee while catching some of the many talented street performers working on their craft. You’ll also have access to a few fantastic sculptures dotted around the square.
The Spanish Steps, which are approximately 300 years old, were designed to connect two famous Roman squares, the Piazza Trinità dei Monti and the Piazza di Spagna. These overly wide stone steps are a marvel to look at on their own and bring you face to face with a few more unforgettable experiences.
At different ends or edges of the Spanish Steps, you’ll find beautiful churches and crosses as well as shops and restaurants. So whether you’re wanting to spend more time looking at amazing architecture and design, or you just want to relax at the bottom of the steps with a nice cup of authentic Italian coffee, the Spanish Steps are something you don’t want to miss.
Villa Borghese Gardens
After you finish up in the Galleria Borghese as suggested above, venture outside into the grounds of the Borghese Villa complex and feast your eyes on the Villa Borghese Gardens. These incredible gardens actually make up the third-largest public park in all of Rome and provide endless views of greeneries and plants that you won’t find elsewhere in Rome.
If you’re a fan of the Bernini sculptures that you saw inside the gallery, you’ll be excited when you explore the Gardens and see more of them scattered throughout the complex. Go for a peaceful walk along one of the many footpaths and take in the beauty all around you. The Villa Borghese Gardens are a must-do for anyone wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of Rome.
If you’re visiting Rome and you’re up for a hike with a priceless view, then Venture out of the city towards Trastevere, and you’ll find Gianicolo Hill. This hill is the perfect start or end to any day in Rome as it affords you one of the most breathtaking views of the Roman sunrise or sunset that you’ll find anywhere in the city.
If you brave the hike and make it to the top, no matter what time of day you go, you’ll be rewarded with views of Rome like no other. From the top of Gianicolo Hill, you can see a few of the other landmarks on this list, including St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, and more. These views are an unforgettable experience that will cap off the perfect Roman vacation.
Arch of Constantine
Another one of Rome’s most famous landmarks is the Arch of Constantine, named after Emperor Constantine. Located right next to the Colosseum, you can easily add this landmark into your sightseeing day before you head over to check out the Roman Forum.
This amazing feat of engineering and architecture stands just about 70 feet high and features three massive open-air archways detailed in intricate artwork and carvings that make this structure truly a treat to look at. Combine all this with the fact that it’s 1,700 years old and has countless details everywhere you look, and the Arch of Constantine is something that you don’t want to miss.
Villa Doria Pamphili
As you read about earlier, the Villa Borghese Gardens is the third-largest public park in Rome. Well, now we’ve gotten to the largest public park in the city — Villa Doria Pamphili. The gorgeous park offers visitors effortless views of the villa from which its name is derived as well as all the amenities that you’re looking for in a picturesque Roman park.
The Villa Doria Pamphili contains everything you could ever want in a park, including wooded areas, wildflowers, perfectly-maintained grassy areas, walking and cycling paths, and more. The park is absolutely massive, and you could easily spend an entire day exploring different areas of it without even seeing everything that there is to see. The Villa Doria Pamphilj is the perfect way to escape the crowded streets and attractions of Rome and just enjoy some time to yourself or with your fellow travelers.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Located in the center of the aforementioned Piazza Navona, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is one of Rome’s most famous and beautiful fountains behind the Trevi Fountain. Rather than a tribute to Oceanis like the Trevi, this fountain instead honors the four river gods of Roman mythology who each represent a major river — The Ganges, The Danube, The Nile, and the Rio de la Plata.
This incredible stone fountain was built for Pope Innocent X over 350 years ago and has lasted as the centerpiece of the popular square ever since. Visitors from all over the world make their wishes and throw coins into the fountain in hopes of their wishes coming true. As a bonus to any of the Bernini fans from the Borghese Villa attractions, he was also the designer of this amazing fountain!
Strangely enough, one of the most architecturally-intriguing churches built in Rome in the modern-day was actually designed by an American architect, not an Italian one like mostly everything else seen here. Architect Richard Meier designed the Jubilee Church, commonly referred to in Rome as Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso.
The Jubilee Church’s interesting architecture includes huge, white, sail-like structures that reach into the sky and immediately draw in your eyes. The church is different from anything else that you’ll see during your visit to Rome, so it’s well worth the time and effort to see it to get a glimpse at something truly unique in such a traditional city.
Baths of Caracalla
Public bathing complexes were the norm back in the days of the Roman Empire, and the Baths of Caracalla were one of the biggest such complexes around. The intricate details and sheer size of everything that makes up the Baths of Caracalla make it a landmark that you will want to see, even if it was likely one that you didn’t know about to start.
Today, the ruins of these baths can be explored by visitors and are also used as a place for operas as well as music and lighting shows. The baths are something that you don’t want to miss, and the ruins will take you back to the day when these bathing complexes were normal for those of high enough order to use them. This is a unique and intriguing structure that you don’t want to skip on your trip.