Rome is one of those great European capital cities where it takes several visits just to see the main sights. There are just so many attractions to see, food to eat, and activities to partake. If you’re planning your first trip, here is the bucket list of top 10 things to do in Rome. Something to keep in mind though is that you’ll likely not get through all of these unless you’re staying in the Eternal City for at least five days. The numbering also does not represent a ranking so feel free to reorder them to cater to your preference.
Top 10 Things to Do in Rome
1. Eat gelato
This is a no brainer! Even though eating gelato is not unique to Rome and therefore not a true a Roman experience per se, it still deserves a spot on this list. Romans love their gelato and since you’re in the Italian capital, do as the saying goes: “when in Rome…”
2. Drink a cup of espresso
Romans and Italians in general don’t drink coffee. They drink espresso. Order a cup at a café, drop in a sugar cube or two, stir, and then drink. If you’re the type of person who’s not used to the strong coffee taste, feel free to take smaller sips (a few usually does it.) It’s satisfyingly good and you’ll feel the caffeine jolt immediately.
3. Visit the Vatican and see the Pope
The smallest recognized country in the world sits on the northwest section of Ancient Rome. The Vatican is the home of His Holiness, the Pope, the Vatican Museums and Garden, and St. Peter’s Basilica. You’ll easily spend a whole day just exploring these two sites especially during peak tourist season. If you plan well ahead, you can arrange to get tickets to see the Pope during his Wednesday blessing.
4. Visit the Pantheon
If ever you wanted to examine the brilliance of Roman engineering, have a look at the Pantheon. It’ll make you wonder how the workers managed to build this massive structure in just three years and how the architects designed a dome so symmetrical and without visible support. It’s also the oldest ancient Roman structure in the city and my favorite on this list.
5. Visit the Colosseum
This is Rome’s most iconic structure and deserves to be on this list. It remains today, the largest amphitheater built and like the Pantheon, an engineering marvel. The Colosseum’s architecture is also legendary, with many of today’s sports and entertainment arena following the structure’s design. When you go, try to do so late in the afternoon to avoid all the group tours and the majority of the queue.
6. Visit the Roman Forum
What would have Rome looked like in its heyday? A visit to the Roman Forum will give you a general idea. Simply referred to as The Forum, it was Rome’s city center and a place where important structures were built. Ruins of temples, the senate house, and arches where Roman emperors once passed under during their Triumphs still remain.
7. Eat pasta amatriciana
You’ll likely going to be eating plenty of pasta while in Rome and with plenty of types and sauces to choose from, it can be daunting. Fortunately, anything you choose will like be a fit for your taste buds but if you want to try something local and affiliated with Rome, order pasta amatriciana. This tomato-based sauce is local to the region of Lazio (where Rome belongs) and is made with guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato.
8. Take a paseo at Via del Corso
Romans love to walk, particularly at night. It’s their way of socializing after a long day at work or simply to get a breath of fresh air after being indoors during a particularly hot summer day. In Rome, the best place to take a paseo, or an evening stroll, is the wide pedestrian only street of Via del Corso. The street is lined with shops and restaurants and several notable churches.
9. People watch from the Spanish Steps
Another one of the top 10 things to do in Rome is to people watch from the Spanish Steps. This picturesque location overlooks some of Rome’s most famous streets like Via Condotti, Rome’s premiere luxury shopping street and Via Frattina, which houses boutique stores and accommodations in Rome.
10. Drink water from a fountain
It might seem like a discouraging thought after seeing parts of the Tiber but Rome’s tap water is highly potable including those that come from fountain faucets so don’t be afraid to fill your empty water bottle with it. The water that comes through these faucets come from outside the city. It tastes fresh and comes cold too.