Rome must-see attractions: what to see and how to avoid the crowds in Rome

Rome must see sites the Colosseum

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’s 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.

They are:

 Rome must-see attraction Ticketed Y/NSkip the line available Y/M 
Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill Y
Campidoglio HillNN/A
Vatican Museums
St Peter BasilicaNo Only with tour
 PantheonNo  N/A
 Trevi FountainNo N/A
 Spanish Steps No N/A
 Galleria Borghese Y  Y
Piazza NavonaNoN/A

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 & best Colosseum tickets

The Colosseum is one of the most visited attractions in Rome. For the longest time, this meant there were long line in front of it and tour guides were able to charge the earth for you to skip the line.

In the last couple of years, things have changed!

Access to the Colosseum is now by timed entrance.

This means that you can only enter if you have prebooked your ticket and you choose a time for your visit at the time of purchase. This new organization has slashed waiting times at the Colosseum and therefore the price you need to pay to get in.

While many companies still offer ‘skip the line tickets’ all Colosseum tickets are now skip the line! The only waiting you have to do is for security checks, which happen regardless of the ticket you have!

Colosseum top tier rome
The top floor of the Colosseum,visited with reserved entrance ticket

The cheapest way to visit the Colosseum

The cheapest and best tickets for the Colosseum are 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 available 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.

Colosseum Guided tours

There is an infinite offering of guided tours of the Colosseum.

The cheapest guided tours of the Colosseum are by Coopculture, the same company I mentioned before as official Colosseum concession and they are excellent.

These are by far the cheapest guided tours of the Colosseum you can find and their quality is excellent. I am a Roman history graduate and always enjoy them, so you can be sure the quality is pretty high!

The only problem with these tickets is that they see out fast.

If you don’t get them, you can usually find a slot joining a more expensive tour. Despite the price, they can be worth it as usually they also offer a guided tour of the Forum as well as that of the Colosseum.

Because of their good cancellation policies, I usually recommend the tours offered on GetYourGuide

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.

The Capitoline Hill is one of the famous seven hills of Rome and was entirely redesigned by Michelangelo, who turned it into one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.

You can read my full guide to the Capitoline Hill here.

  • 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.

You can find my full guide to visiting the Vatican here.

  • 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.

Check price and book early entrance tickets tour to the Vatican here 

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.

You can buy tickets directly from the Vatican here 

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.

How to skip the line to St Peter basilica
St Peter dome and colonnade

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.

Check price and info on the self guided tour of St Peter basilica here

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 Pantheon is unique, beautiful and oh so charming! It is an ancient Roman temple devoted to Rome Gods and Goddesses and, in the VII century, became a church.

  • Is the Rome Pantheon worth seeing? Yes
  • How long to visit: about 30 minutes.
  • 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.

Rome 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.

Trevi fountain Rome - how to avoid the crowds
Famous Trevi Fountain, Rome. don’t let the photo deceit you into thinking there are no crowds here, it is always packed!

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 Spanish steps, without people

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.

The top floor has priceless paintings by masters such as Botticelli, Raffaello and Caravaggio while the ground floor has stunning sculptures by Bernini and Canova, including the famous taking of Proserpina and the statue of Paolina.

  • 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 5 minutes before the visit to leave your bags and you are good to go.

You can have a  look at guided tours and what they add to the experience here

Rome must-see: Piazza Navona

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 Jul. 2021

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