What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome

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.

What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome: Editor's Picks

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1. Ostia Antica

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.

Ostia Antica is an extraordinary Roman site that contains the ruins of the ancient port town that served as the gateway to Rome. Just half an hour from central Rome by train, Ostia Antica has all the inspiration of Pompeii without the throngs of tourists. In fact, if you want to... Read More

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2. The Colosseum

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...

The Colosseum is a site like no other. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, nothing represents the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire like this stunning piece of ancient architecture. The Colosseum, or ‘Colosseo’ in Italian, was once the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. It was built in... Read More

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3. Villa dei Quintili

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…)

Villa dei Quintili, translated as the Villa of the Quintili, was one of the most lavish homes along the famous road that leads to Rome, the Via Appia. In 151 AD, the main part of the Villa dei Quintili was owned by the senior officials, the Quintili brothers. Consuls under the... Read More

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4. San Clemente

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.

San Clemente is a beautifully frescoed twelfth century historic basilica in Rome. However, whilst interesting in its own right, it is what lies underneath San Clemente which is a highlight to historians. In the mid-nineteenth century, when San Clemente was excavated, it was discovered to have been built over both a... Read More

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5. Palatine Hill

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.

The Palatine Hill (Palatino) is considered to be the place where Rome was born. One of Rome’s seven hills, the Palatine Hill is closely linked with the city’s history and houses some of its most ancient and important sites. Legend says that the twins Romulus and Remus were taken to... Read More

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6. Roman Forum

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.

The Roman Forum, or Forum Romanum, was the very centre of ancient Rome. Throughout the lifespan of Roman civilisation the Forum served as the focus of political, civic and religious life. From magnificent temples and triumphal arches to the very seat of power in the Senate house, the Roman Forum was... Read More

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7. Vatican Museums

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.

The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) house some of the most impressive and important historical artefacts and works of art in the world. Originally the site of the Vatican Museums was used for papal palaces, but they are now a series of galleries in Vatican City. From the exemplary collection of classical... Read More

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8. Catacombs of San Callisto

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.

The Catacombs of San Callisto are just one of the many catacombs of Rome, five of which are regularly open to the public. These Catacombs were used by Christians as subterranean burial places. Built in around 150 AD, the Catacombs of San Callisto span five floors and hold over half... Read More

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9. Via Appia Antica

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.

Via Appia Antica, also known as the Appian Way, is one of the oldest and most important roads leading to Rome. Built in 312 BC, it was slowly extended and, by 191 BC, it reached the port of Brindisi, over 550km southeast of the city (along the “heel” of Italy).... Read More

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10. Hadrian’s Villa

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.

Hadrian’s Villa, or Villa Adriana, is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Hadrian’s Villa covers almost 250 acres and consists of over... Read More

What to see in Rome - Top 10 Places to visit in Rome: Site Index

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Castel Sant Angelo

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.

Castel Sant Angelo in Rome was originally constructed as the magnificent Mausoleum of Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome from 117AD to 138AD. It is unclearly as to exactly when Castel Sant Angelo was built, but most sources date it to between 123 and 139 AD. A fortress-like structure, successive Roman... Read More

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Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

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.

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. This relatively new ancient site opened to the public in 2010 and is located close to Rome’s... Read More

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Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

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.

The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II) is a vast tribute to the Italian king known as the “Father of the Fatherland”. Victor Emmanuel II reigned from 1861 to 1878. He was the leading force behind the unification of Italy and served as its first king... Read More

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Musei Capitolini

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.

Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) stand on the ancient Capitoline Hill in the centre of Rome and host a huge wealth of artifacts and exhibits from the ancient, medieval and renaissance periods. Among Musei Capitolini’s many wonders are collections of classical sculptures and statues, exhibits on ancient mythology, medieval and renaissance artworks... Read More

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Pantheon

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 Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world. Originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 25BC, the Pantheon served as a temple to the many gods of Rome. The original Pantheon was destroyed by the great fire of 80AD and the structure which... Read More

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Pyramid of Cestius

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.

The Pyramid of Cestius is the tomb of affluent magistrate, Caius Cestius which was built between 18 and 12 BC. Constructed of white marble and brick, this ostentatious 35-metre high tomb was likely built in this style due to the popularity of all things Egyptian which swept Rome after Egypt was... Read More

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Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

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.

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) is a large and impressive 16th century church constructed within the remains of the Baths of Diocletian and masterminded by renowned renaissance artist Michelangelo. Though centuries had passed since the fall of the... Read More

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St Peter’s Basilica

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.

St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is one of the most important Christian sites in the world and is a church (rather than a cathedral) with a long and illustrious history. Also known as the 'Papal Basilica of Saint Peter' and in Italian as 'Basilica Papale di San Pietro in... Read More

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St Sebastian Catacombs

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.

The St Sebastian Catacombs (Catacombe di San Sebastiano) are fourth century AD underground Christian burial tombs. They are some of the earliest of their kind in Rome. The many catacombs of Rome are the remnants of early Christianity, a reminder of a time when persecuted Christians would bury their dead in... Read More

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The Ara Pacis Museum

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.

The Ara Pacis Museum (Museo dell Ara Pacis) in Rome houses the Altar of Peace, which was built under instructions from the Emperor Augustus and sanctioned by the Senate. Augustus decided to build the Ara Pacis to celebrate his military campaigns which resulted in the outbreak of peace in the... Read More

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The Spanish Steps

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.

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. A grand staircase with 138 steps leading down to the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps were designed in the 1720s by Francesco de Sanctis, an Italian architect, and completed in 1726. They were called... Read More

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The Trevi Fountain

The largest and most iconic fountain in the city, the Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s top tourist attractions. Resplendent with murals of fables and myths, the fountain attracts thousands of tourists, all keen to throw their coins into its waters…

The Trevi Fountain (Fountain di Trevi) is an iconic eighteenth century monument in Rome. It was designed by Nicola Salvi, but following his death in 1751 it was continued by Giuseppe Pannini and completed in 1762. A stunning depiction of several ancient deities and resplendent with frescos of legends and myths,... Read More