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.
Travel is, without a doubt, an expensive hobby, but some destinations are very easily enjoyed even on a tight budget. One of them? Rome.
While the Eternal city is sure to tempt you with glittering shops, museums and restaurants, there are many things that she is happy to share with you for free. Here is a list of 15 of my favourite things to see in Rome for free.
15+ amazing free things to see in Rome
Rome world famous piazzas
Rome if 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 centre).
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.
You can make them your destination or you can just let them take your breath away when they suddenly open up at the end of a narrow cobbled road: if you stroll around the historical centre, you won’t miss them.
Rome’s many churches
Rome has a staggering amount of churches and many of them are home to spectacular masterpieces (many Caravaggio are in churches), making them a very valid alternative to a museum.
Particularly impressive are, I believe: Santa Maria della Pieta’ (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, just to name a few.
Church hopping is the best thing to do in Rome for free if you are an art lover.
You might be surprised to know that one of Rome’s most famous attractions is totally free! Stroll there, walk in and look up at, literally, the sky above you.
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.
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.
Make sure you go early or stick with just the outside should it take more than few minuted to get in.
The famous Trevi fountain
Another majour Roman attraction, the Trevi fountain is free. Tradition says you should throw a coin in it to make sure you come back to Rome – if you don’t want to or decide to push your luck, you can save that!
Fontana di Trevi
The Spanish steps
If you can take the crowds, the Spanish steps are right in the centre 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.
The Campidoglio is one of the ancient 7 hills Rome was built on and is free to visit. Here you can marvel at Michelangelo’ 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.
Climbing the Campidoglio is one of the best things to do in Rome for free if you want to get a glimpse of both ancient Rome and Rome’s renaissance splendour at the same time.
The view from Aventino
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 though the keyhole: yes, i am being serious!). This is one of my favourite things to do in Rome for free, especially in spring, when the light is bright and crisp.
L’Aventino is also 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, on the Campidoglio Hill, the view from Gianicolo, which is the high hill on the back of the Vatican and the one from the terrace of Il Pincio, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo.
Rome’s aristocracy’s villas now turned 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 property of the city’s most important families and still now retain their name as well as some of their original grandeur.
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 is not free, but you can access the main piazza and 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. See also: what to pack for Rome here
Viia 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 Cosseum 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 for the best views. Even better: do if with gelato in hand, there are several shops in the area and the take out prices are reasonable
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 recommended.
Off the beaten track neighbourhoods
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.
Rome free museums
Museums 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.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to markets and bric-a-brac. A very well-known one is mercato di Porta Portese and one of the trendiest right now is Mercato Monti, but many many neighbourhoods 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.
The de-consecrated church at Caracalla
The deconsacrated Church at Caracalla is an interesting and beautiful spot in Rome. It is where civil marriage ceremonies take place and it is a great location for both architecture and people watching. It is close to Circo Massimo and therefore an easy free thing to add to your Rome itinerary if you happen to be in the area.
I hope you enjoyed my selection of things to do in Rome for free. Safe travels!