Rome must-see attractions: what are they, are they worth it and how can you visit must see sites in Rome without the crowds. Tops tips by a local.
If you are planning your first trip to Rome, chances are you want to include in your visit Rome must-see sites, the wonders that make the city so famous.
I am a huge advocate of Rome must-see attractions and always plan my Rome itineraries around them.
As much as I encourage people to see the city’s hidden gems, I believe it would be mad to skip the most popular sites in favor of others!
I am from Rome and, in this article, I share what Rome sites to see are, how to get the best tickets to Rome’s main attractions and how to skip the lines in Rome.
What are Rome’s must-see sites?
What sites in Rome are must-see depends largely on your interests.
However, there are a few sites that regularly feature on all guidebooks as the main ones to see and that I believe are the main ones to seek out while in Rome.
|Rome must-see attraction||Ticketed Y/N||Skip the line available Y/M|
|Colosseum + Roman forum||Y||Y|
|St Peter Basilica||No||Only with tour|
Let’s see how to skip the line on each of them.
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Rome must-see: the Colosseum and the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum and the Colosseum are the impressive remains of ancient Rome and worth a visit, or two, or three!
They are stunning, interesting and easy to enjoy not only for history lovers: a walk around ancient Rome is just unforgettable.
- How long to visit: about 3 hours or longer
- Is the Colosseum worth it? Yes! The Forum and Palatine beside it too
- How to get there: metro Colosseo, Tram number 3, any bus serving Piazza Venezia
- Do you need a tour: I do recommend a tour due to the poor info available, especially in the Forum
How to skip the line at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of the most visited attractions in Rome if not the most visited and it has lines to match.
Almost in any season, you are likely to find long queues to get tickets and then to pass security (yes, two different lines) and you can easily find yourself spending hours in the sun waiting.
Skipping the line at the Colosseum is not just worth it but paramount and these are a few ways to do it.
Skip the Colosseum line with a reserved entrance tour
The best way to skip the ticket line at the Colosseum is to buy a reserved entrance ticket from the Colosseum website itself.
Guided tours are organized by a company called Coopculture and they operate on a time slot system.
On the site, you select date and time for our tour, pay, print out the ticket and you are good to go.
On the day of the tour, you show up at the meeting point, pass security and have a guaranteed spot in the Colosseum tour.
This is the cheapest official tour avaiable and while you will still have to pass security like everyone else, usually guarantees speedy entry (5 mins top), since the number of bookings for each time slot is limited.
Tours of this type happen in English, Italian and Spanish and the website to book them this one.
These tickets include entry to the Roman forum which you can visit on the same day as your tour or the day after in your own time.
Get a Colosseum skip-the-line tour with a tour guide
Another way to skip the Colosseum line is to buy a skip the line tour from one of the many companies offering them.
This solution is usually more expensive than the one above but comes with advantages: the first is that usually, the guided tour includes the forum (not all), which in the previous solution you visit on your own.
The second advantage is that many of these groups are smaller in size, so you get more attention from the guide and more options to ask questions.
Last but not least they usually are available last-minute, while the Coopculture tickets must be booked weeks if not months in advance.
Please note that like for all tours, skip the line tickets holders need to pass security and therefore queue for that. However, the reserved entrance tickets usually have much smaller lines so are anyway worth it.
Get Colosseum tickets at the Forum ticket booth
The third way to skip the Colosseum line is not really a skip the line solution but can still come in handy if you are planning on visiting the Colosseum without a guide.
You can buy a standard, non-guided tours of the Colosseum tickets at several ticket offices and usually the one at the forum has the shortest lines.
Shortest doesn’t mean non-existent and you will still find yourself inline here but you may get away whit a 10-minute wait rather than a 3 hour one if you come here first thing in the morning.
This is not my recommended way to visit the Colosseum but can be a good one if you are not interested in a guided tour.
Rome must-see: Campidoglio Hill
Almost all visitors to Rome mention Piazza del Campidoglio as a highlight of their time in Rome and I do agree this is a must-see site to add to your Rome bucket list.
- Is the Campidoglio worth it? Yes!
- How long to visit: you can see the square and catch the view in a matter of minutes
- How to get there: Any bus stopping in Piazza Venezia
Rome must-see attractions: the Vatican
The other unmissable, must-see attractions in Rome or shall I say within Rome is Vatican City.
The Vatican comprises of several attractions, all in a limited area, that of Vatican City. They are St Peter Square and Basilica, the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel and Castel SantAngelo.
- Are the Vatican and Sistine Chapel worth seeing? Yes
- How long to visit: at least half a day if visiting the museums and the chapel. Less if only visiting the basilica and square
- How to get there: Metro stop Ottaviano or Cipro; Buses 49, 63, 490, 492. Any bus serving Corso Vittorio Emanuele II will bring you walking distance from the Vatican.
- Should I get skip the line tickets: absolutely yes, see below how
How to skip the line at the Vatican
The Vatican get crazy long lines, probably the longest I have seen in Rome.
The last time we visited, at opening, the line was several blocks long and was just going nowhere fast: if you want to visit the Vatican, skip the line tickets are a must.
There are several ways to get Vatican skip the line tickets.
Skip the Vatican Museums line with early reserved entrance tours
If budget allows, a fantastic way to see the Vatican avoiding the lines and the queue is to get a reserved entrance early morning tickets.
The long line at the Vatican is a problem but only the tip of the iceberg.
The people waiting outside turn into a thick, impassable crowd once inside and enjoying the museum let alone seeing anything it is quite and undertaking.
Getting an early morning entrance ticket solves several problems: you get in pretty much straight away, have guide for yourself and just a handful of more people and see the museums in all their empty splendor.
If you can spare the cash, this is the best way to visit the Vatican museums without a crowd.
Get skip the line Vatican Museum reserved entrance tickets
The second way is to book traditional skip the line tickets either from the museums themselves or from a reputable tour provider.
In this case, you have to book the tickets for reserved entrance, queue for security and then at ticket stall to exchange your voucher for the actual ticket.
Overall this operation can take a while but it usually immensely better than arriving unprepared.
Top tip: if you are visiting Rome in spring and summer, you may be in luck and be in town for the Vatican evening opening happening on Fridays. Usually, these openings see a fraction of the visitors and are a fantastic way to enjoy the Vatican with fewer crowds!
How to skip the line at St Peter’s basilica
St Peter’s basilica is beside the Vatican museums but is a separate ‘attraction’ with a different queue and different access rules.
The basilica is a working church and, as such, it is free to visit: the Vatican does not sell tickets to visit the basilica and therefore no skip the line option as such is available.
However, this does not mean that there is no way of getting in a little faster. If you want to skip the line to visit St Peter’s basilica there are a couple of ways.
Visit the basilica after a guided tour of the Vatican museums
Official guides of the museums grant you access to the basilica from inside, meaning you can see it avoiding the main entrance where the line forms.
This is a great way yo visit the basilica and to make the most of your skip the line Vatican ticket
Get a basilica tour
The other way is to book a self-guided tour of the basilica itself with audio guide.
With this, you will still have to queue for security but you will be able to access ahead of the line.
Please remember that to visit the Basilica and the Vatican you need suitable attire. Learn more here
Rome must-see attraction: the Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of Romes’ most famous attractions and an absolutely Rome must-see site.
For many, it is the highlight of the trip and all it takes is a look at its facade to see why.
the Pantehinis unique, beautiful and oh so charming!
- Is the Rome Pantheon worth seeing? Yes, especially the outside. I do not believe the inside is worth a long line
- How long to visit: about 15 minutes (inside).
- How to get there: this is a car-free area, the closest bus stops are Via del Corso, Piazza Venezia, Largo Argentina
How to skip the line at the Pantheon
I should apologize for the title of this paragraph because as such, there is no way to skip the line at the pantheon.
The church is free to visit and the line is just something you have to endure if you want to get in.
However, if you see a ridiculous line outside of the Pantheon, wait before despairing: the Pantheon is in the very center of Rome and you are likely to pass in front of it many times in the space of the same days or a few days in the city.
This means that you are likely to find a time when the line is smaller: usually before 9 in the morning and late in the evening the crowds thin out.
If you can, head here right after an early breakfast at opening time and you are almost guaranteed to have the pantheon all for yourself.
Rome must-see places: the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is one of the must-see places in Rome for first-time visitors but one to tackle carefully.
While really beautiful, it is also super crowded and it can easily leave you underwhelmed – or overwhelmed for the wrong reasons!
- Is the Trevi Fountain worth seeing? only if without crowds
- How long to visit? A few minutes
- How to get there: buses 151, 71, 81, 83, 85, 160, 313, Metro Barberini, then walk (the area is car-free)
How to avoid the crowds at the Trevi fountain
The Trevi fountain is both majestic and infuriating, probably my least favorite must-see site in the whole of the city.
While beautiful, the fountain is assaulted by crowds to such as extent when you get to its square you can hardly see it – quite a thing considering how massive it is!
The Trevi fountain is a free attraction in the center of Rome and, as such, you cannot buy tickets for it nor skip the line.
The best way to see Fontana di Trevi without the crowds is to come very early in the morning or late in the evening: if you get a hotel in the area (I like Palazzo Scandenberg), this is easy and one of the most beautiful ways to have a somewhat personal experience of this most photographed of places.
Rome top attractions: the Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) are, like the Trevi Foutain, a free Rome attraction and one of the city’s main landmarks.
- Are the Spanish Steps worth seeing? Yes
- How long to visit: a few minutes, but take the time to enjoy the view
- How to get there: Metro Spagna, all buses serving Via del Corso or Via del Tritone
How to avoid the crowds on the Spanish steps
Like Trevi there is no skip the line option for the Spanish steps since they are a feature of the city and as such free.
Like the fountain however they see more and less crowded times: my favorite time to visit the Spanish steps if the very early morning (before 9) and the late evening, when the city lights spark on the steps and in the city below them.
Rome famous sites: The Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery is a must-see for art lovers.
The gallery is small but full of world-renowned art masterpieces and a delight to visit.
- Is the Borghese Gallery worth visiting? Yes, especially if you love sculpture
- How long to visit: 2 hours
- How to get there: it is inside Villa Borghese (park) which has several entrances. Tram 2, 3 19, Buses 52, 53, 63, 86, 92, 116, 217, 360, 491, 630, 910, 926 and 88, 95, 490, 495 (these last four go inside the park)
How to skip the line at the Borghese Gallery
The gallery required advanced booking and this means you do not need to shell out on skip the line ticket as only tickets holders are allowed in.
You can get tickets online from the gallery website and all you need to do is show up about 30 minutes before the visit to leave your bags and you are good to go.
I close this list with a place that is not just a Rome must-see place but also one of the most beautiful squares you are likely to ever see: Piazza Navona!
Closed to traffic, Piazza Navona was originally built as the stadium of Emperor Domitian and, over the course of the centuries, acquired word of art by the masters of Rome’s architecture, Bernini and Borromini.
- Is PiazzaNavona worth seeing? 100% yes!
- How long to visit: a matter of minutes but take your time
- How to get to Piazza Navona: any bus serving Corso Vittorio Emanuele, including 30, 60, 62, 81, 87.
How to see Piazza Navona without the crowds
Early morning, before 10 am, usually allows you to visit Piazza Navona almost on your own!
As you can see, some lines in Rome are unavoidable but there are ways to skip the line at Rome must-see sites!
I hope you found this post useful and it helped planning you rip to the eternal city. Safe travels! Article updated Jan. 2020