An insider guide to the best things you can do in Rome for free. Discover all the monuments, museums and hidden gems you can see in the Eternal city without breaking the bank. – 2020 update
Travel is, without a doubt, an expensive hobby, but some destinations are very easily enjoyed even on a tight budget. One of them? Rome.
After 30+ years spent in the city as a proud resident, this is my handpicked selection of the best free things to do in Rome
15 amazing free things to see in Rome
Wander Rome world famous piazzas
Rome is famous for its beautiful piazzas and indeed, some of them are truly special.
The most impressive are the large, monumental ones such as Piazza Navona or Piazza del Pantheon, but even the smaller ones hold a special charm (a perfect example of the latter is Piazza Margana, in the city center).
Rome piazzas (or piazze, in Italian) are a feature of the city and they are one of the most simple yet atmospheric places you can enjoy in Rome for free.
They are wonderful any time of the year but exceptionally pleasant in spring: nothing is sweeter than a leisurely stroll in the center of Rome in May, when the perfume of blossoms fills the air!
Visit Rome’s many churches
Rome has a staggering amount of churches and many of them are home to spectacular masterpieces, making them a very valid alternative to a museum.
Particularly impressive are, I believe, Santa Maria della Vittoria (with the Ecstasy of St Teresa, by Bernini), San Pietro in Vincoli (with a Moses by Michelangelo) and San Luigi dei Francesi, with a fantastic Caravaggio.
Church hopping is the best thing to do in Rome for free if you are an art lover!
Explore the Pantheon
You might be surprised to know that one of Rome’s most famous attractions, the Pantheon, has free admission!
Stroll there, walk in and look up at, literally, the sky above you.
It is one of the most beautiful and peculiar corners of all Rome but be warned: it is very popular and in peak season the line to get in insane.
The Pantheon was originally built in the II century A.D as a Roman temple to ‘All Deities’ (Pan= all; Theon+ deity) but during the course of the centuries changes role and is now a Christian church.
The Pantheon is impressive inside and even more on the outside, where large columns frame the entrance to one of the few buildings whose interior is still preserved since Roman time.
Make sure you go early or stick with just the outside should it take more than few minutes to get in.
See the famous Trevi fountain
Another major Roman attraction, the Trevi fountain is free for visitors to see.
Tradition says you should throw a coin in it to make sure you come back to Rome but if you don’t want to or decide to push your luck, you can save even that!
Climb the Spanish steps
If you can take the crowds, the Spanish steps are right in the center of the city and beautiful, especially in spring when dressed in flowers.
The best way to enjoy the steps in all their glory is to go early in the morning or, even better, in the evening during the week.
After the sun goes down, the golden light of the streetlights creates a wonderful, warm atmosphere enveloping this wise and truly impressive staircase.
Go up the Campidoglio hill
Just make sure you do not sit at the cafes nearby: while the view is free, eating and drinking in the area is sure not.
The Campidoglio is one of the ancient 7 hills Rome was built on and is free to visit.
Here you can marvel at Michelangelo’s genius wandering around the monumental piazza he created and you can also treat yourself to a stunning view over ancient Rome.
You can reach the piazza climbing the large and scenic Campidoglio staircase while to catch the view you need to walk to the back of the main building.
Catch a view from Aventino (Aventine hill)
One of the most beautiful spots in Rome, I believe, is one of Rome’s seven hills: Aventino.
Just in front of Circo Massimo, the Aventino hill is a wonderful spot for a stroll.
Climb up to Giardino degli aranci for a beautiful view over the city, pop into the beautiful churches at its top and look at St Peter’s dome from the door of the Istituto dei Cavalieri di Malta (peek through the keyhole: yes, I am being serious!).
Aventino is a wealthy residential part of town, so it is interesting if you want to get lost in the fantasy of what it would be like to have a wonderful house in Rome!
Or from Terrazza Caffarelli, or Gianicolo, or Pincio…
The view from the Aventino is only one of the many amazing ones you can catch over Rome.
Other spots not to miss are Terrazza Caffarelli, il Gianicolo, Il Pincio, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo and the first terrace of il Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia (free, the upper one is ticketed)
Take a break in Rome’s public parks
Rome is full of beautiful parks and Villa Borghese and Villa Doria Pamphili are two of the best.
Stroll under Villa Borghese’s pine trees, explore its little lake and then head towards il Pincio terrace for a view over Piazza del Popolo.
Villa Doria Pamphili is also gorgeous and, from parts of it, you have a pretty incredible view over St Peter’s dome.
Many of the parks in Rome used to be the property of the city’s most important families and still now retain their names as well as some of their original grandeur.
Visit St Peter square and basilica (main floor)
I got you to look at it from all sides, now it is time to visit.
Access to St Peter’s dome and the Vatican museums is not free, but you can access the main piazza and St Peter’s Basilica’s main floor without paying.
If you plan on walking into the church, just make sure you have the required attire: shorts, vests and revealing clothes are not allowed and Vatican security will stop you on your tracks.
Stroll down via dei fori imperiali
If you are on a budget and cannot pay to enter the forum or the Colosseum, just take a stroll on via dei fori imperiali.
This is a large modern road built during the years of Fascism and it connects the Colosseum with Piazza Venezia, crossing the Roman Fora in the process.
The fora are incredible and while I highly recommend visiting them, if you are on a budget, a stroll along this road is a good way to get a sense of them without spending a penny.
Make sure you climb the small hill in front of the Colosseum too for the best views.
Visit the non-catholic cemetery and its romantic art
One of the most peaceful corners of the whole city, this cemetery should be visited for many reasons.
It is beautiful, it is home to the remains of Keats and Shelley and offers incredible views over possibly the most peculiar building in Rome: Cestius’ pyramid.
Access to the cemetery is free but a small donation is welcomed.
Explore off the beaten track neighborhoods
One of the most pleasant free things to do in Rome is to allow yourself to get lost in some of its off the beaten track areas.
Make the most of Rome free museums
Visit museums that free the first Sunday of the month
All state museums are open to visitors for free on the first Sunday of the month: they get crowded but it is a fantastic opportunity especially if travelling as a family as tickets for small groups are sometimes pricey.
Some of the most famous sites in Rome participate in this initiative : on the first Sunday of every month there is free admissions to Roman Forum, the Colosseum and even the Borghese gallery (although for the last two, booking is required)
Get a bargain in Rome Markets
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to markets and bric-a-brac in Rome.
A very well-known and established market is mercato di Porta Portese and one of the trendiest right now is Mercato Monti, but many many neighborhoods have their own.
In the city centre, a famous market is mercato di Campo de’ Fiori – now less authentic than in used to be, it still is a fun place to visit in the morning even if you don’t end up making a purchase.
I hope you enjoyed my selection of things to do in Rome for free. Safe travels!