Free things to do in Rome you’ll love + how to see them

by marta

(Fifty) 50 free things to do in Rome: a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Rome for free!

I love many things about Rome, but maybe my favorite is that my beautiful city is generous with its beauty.

So generous, in fact, that many of the best things to do in Rome are free!

This is excellent for anyone visiting Rome on a budget and even better news for those who don’t love travel planning.

In Rome, you don’t need to have a packed schedule of activities:in the center, you can just take a stroll and bump into art and beauty!

This is my list of the best things to do in Rome without spending money.

Good to know! Many Rome attractions and museums offer free admission on the 1st Sunday of the month. In this post, I have only listed those that are free at all times.

Piazza Navona Rome with greenery in the foreground

2023 news: The Pantheon is now a ticketed attraction

The Pantheon is one of the most famous Rome attractions and until July 2023 it was free to visit. This is not the case anymore.

Please find here >>> our updated guide to visiting the Pantheon here.

The facade of Rome pantheon with fountain in the foreground
The outside of Rome Pantheon

Top 9 free things to do in Rome

1. Marvel at Piazza Navona

World famous Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful free attractions.

Here, you can marvel at the beauty of its fountains, admire Santa Agnese in Agone (church) and just soak in the peculiar atmopshere of this Roman circus, turned market, turn monumental square.

Piazza Navona is where you find the famous Fountain of the Four Rivers and, you have watched movies set in Rome, you will also recognize some spots made famous by Hollywood stars!

You can read my guide to Piazza Navona here.

2. Visit St Peter Basilica and Piazza San Pietro

Few places are more impressive in Rome than the incredible St Peter’s basilica and the square it overlooks: Piazza San Pietro at the Vatican

The piazza and the main floor of the Basilica are both free for visitors, while other areas of the basilica such as the dome (and the Vatican museums nearby) charge an entrance fee.

I recommend you see our guide about ‘other things to do in the Vatican besides the Vatican Museums‘ to have an overview of what to see in the area.

3. Admire the architectural marvel of Piazza del Campidoglio

The Campidoglio is one of the 7 hills Rome and now hosts one of the city’s most beautiful squares.

Designed by Michelangelo, the square is sheltered from cars thanks to its hilltop position and it is a public space, free to access at all times.

Piazza del Campidoglio with statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center
Piazza del Campidoglio is beautiful and car free

Read here >>> our guide to Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill)

4. Catch a view

Rome is built on seven hills and these tall viewpoints mean one thing: stunning views!

You can find here >>> out selection of the best viewpoints over Rome.

5. Take a stunning photo of the outside of the Colosseum

I always recommend you visit the Colosseum inside but unless you are in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, that will come at a price.

What is free, however, is the stunning view over it from the hill just in front: the Oppian Hill.

This small hill is the ideal photo spot, especially if you go inside the park.

6. See Caravaggio in San Luigi dei Francesi

The cheapest way to enjoy the art of Caravaggio in Rome is to visit one of the churches that host his creations.

The most impressive is probably San Luigi dei Francesi: head to the last chapel on the left and admire the Cycle of St Matthew for free.

Find here >>> our guide to seeing Caravaggio in Rome

Detail of Caravaggio painting in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

7. See the ancient mosaics of Santa Prassede

Rome has too many stunning churches to play favorites but I do have a soft spot for ancient Santa Prassede, in Monti, and its mosaics.

Seek out Cappella di San Zenone (San Zenone’s chapel) on your left when entering for the most impressive ones. They are very ancient and a type of Byzantine-style mosaics almost unique in the city.

8. See the Trevi fountain at night

The Trevi fountain is one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Rome and if you don’t throw a coin in, it is completely free for you to enjoy!

It is one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome and a photographers’ dream, especially towards sunset.

9. Catch a view over Rome from Trinita’ de’ Monti

The Spanish steps on Piazza di Spagna are gorgeous from all angles but in my opinion, nothing beats the view from the square floor up to the double towered church.

Something special: if you walk from the Pincio Terrace to the Spanish Steps, the views over the city are stunning!

Spanish Steps Rome and Trinita’ dei Monti

More things to do in Rome for free

11. See the ecstasy of St Theresa’s in Santa Maria della Vittoria

If you like sculpture, you cannot miss the Bernini‘s masterpiece that is the ‘Estasi di Santa Teresa’ (in English: Saint Teresa in Ecstasy).

You find it in the lateral chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome city center and it is free to visit – a small donation at the door is however encouraged.

12. See Michelangelo’s Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli

A small, unassuming church from the outside, St Pietro in Vicoli (St Peter in chains) hides a secret: inside it has a wonderful Moses by Michelangelo!

The Moses is near the altar, on the right side, and probably the reason why many come to the church albeit not the only one!

The church also has wonderful details and the chains of St Peter, in a glass case just below the main altar. You can find my guide with practical info to visit San Pietro in Vincoli here.

13. Catch a view over Rome from Gianicolo

Want to catch a beautiful view over Rome?

Then head to the Gianicolo Hill: it overlooks Trastevere and the Vatican and offers one of the largest view over sprawling Rome below.

14. Take a sunset stroll in Rome ghetto

Rome’s ghetto is beautiful, charming and full of history. Come at sunset for the most atmospheric feel.

Find here >>> my visitors’ guide to Rome’s Ghetto

15. Visit the charming protestant cemetery

Over the course of the centuries, Rome has attracted many poets, artists and thinkers and some of them now rest in the beautiful ‘protestant cemetery‘, a quiet, romantic and unexpected corner of Rome.

The Rome pyramid from the inside of the ‘Protestant cemetery’

16. Enter a fairy tale in Piazza Mincio

If you are looking for something very different, check our small Piazza Mincio and the Coppede’ district – you will enter a fairy tale land that you won’t believe is Rome!

17. Enjoy street art in Ostiense

Not many realize Rome has some interesting street art however, it does! The best places to see it are the area of Ostiense and Tor Marancia

18. Take a stroll in charming Trastevere

Trastevere is a beautiful area of Rome known for excellent food, charming corners and a local feel.

Tourism discovered it a long time ago but tends to stick to a couple of locations. take a stroll here and head towards Santa Cecilia: this is one of the most charming free experiences you can have in Rome!

Find here >>> my recommended Trastevere itinerary

19. The a break from traffic in Villa Borghese

Rome has many beautiful parks but few compare with Villa Borghese, a public green space right in the center of the city.

Come here for a walk, admire the outside of Galleria Borghese (the Borghese Gallery, inside the park) or catch a view from the Pincio Terrace for a free yet fantastic afternoon in Rome.

20. Stroll ancient Appia Antica

Appia Antica (Ancient Via Appia) is a road dating back to Roman times and it is stunning.

Leafy and charming, this is a wonderful spot for a walk that mixes country charm and archaeological sites: the beautiful Villa Di Massenzio is here and is free to visit

21. Admire the art in Via Margutta

Via Margutta is famous for its art galleries but you don’t need to buy anything to enjoy its vibe.

In the good season, all the the gallery owners sit outside along this small road and have a chat with each other and passers by, giving the place a wonderful ‘old Italy’ feel.

22. Go window shopping in Via Condotti

If you want to fill your eye with designer clothes, there is no better place than Via Condotti, Rome’s most famous designer shopping street.

23. Climb to the second terrace of the Vittoriano

The Vittoriano, the large white building overlooking Piazza Venezia, is impressive from the Piazza but even more from close up.

Head to is second terrace (free) for beautiful views over its colonnade and the Roman Forum and the Colosseum below.

View of the Roman forum from capitoline hill
View over the Roman forum and the Colosseum

24. Learn about modern roman architecture in EUR

Ancient Rome usually steals the show but Rome has very interesting modern architecture worth seeking out.

The district of EUR is maybe the most distinctive: have a stroll here and seek out especially the ‘Palazzo della civilta’ e del lavoro’ aka the ‘Square colosseum’ – it is truly peculiar!

25. Visit the peculiar Foro Italico and its fascist sculptures

Another very peculiar place to get acquainted with modern architecture is Foro Italico: built by order of Mussolini, this is where you still find many sports structures and the Olympic stadium.

26. Discover Arco degli Acetari

Hidden yet postcard famous, Arco degli Acetari is a charming courtyard that seems out of a dictionary entry for ‘charming Italy’.

Close to famous Camp de’ Fiori, it is a real hidden gem and a place that will show you a side of Rome you may otherwise miss.

27. Spy St Peter from a keyhole

One of the most beautiful views of St Peters’ dome is free and unexpected.

Go to Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, and peek through the keyhole of the Maltese Institute (it is legal and even encouraged): you won’t believe your eyes!

You can read here >>> how to find the Aventine Keyhole

28. Take in the view from Giardino degli Aranci

Again on the Aventine hill, Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) is a small public garden with a wonderful panoramic view over Rome.

Access is free and if you come just before sunset, you will experience one of the most romantic spots in the city.

29. Admire the palace of emperors from Circo Massimo

The Palaces of the Emperors sit on the Palatine hill and you can catch a wonderful and free view over them from the large esplanade called Circo Massimo, at its footsteps.

Photo collage piazza Mattei and Piazza del Pantheon Rome with overlay text 50 free things to do in Rome

30. Sit with Giordano Bruno for people watching in Campo de’ fiori

Campo de’ fiori is a charming square in Rome city center perfect for people watching.

At its center stands a statue of Giordano Bruno, who died here on the stake for challenging unscientific belief.

You can enjoy the square in one of its many bars of join the many who simply sit at its fee and watch the world go by.

Top tip: While you will not get a free drink in Rome, the square just beside Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza del Biscione, has cafes serving drinks at a fraction of the price than those on the main area!

31. Wonder if you are seeing double in front of Teatro di Marcello

If you stroll downhill from Campidoglio, you may find yourself double checking your google maps directions: surely the Coloseeum should not be there?!

Indeed it shouldn’t and it isn’t: what you have in front of you is a different theater with a startling resemblance to its more famous neighbor.

Its name is Teatro di Marcello (Marcellus’ Theater).

You can find here >>> all you need to know about Marxcellus’ Theater

Marcellus Theater in Rome

32. Catch a free outdoor concert

Rome is generous with free outdoor concerts in the summer season.

These are one of the best things to do in Rome at night in the good season to mingle with locals

33. Enjoy the atmosphere of summer book fairs

When summer arrives in Rome, so do the book fairs.

Many outdoor locations all over the city turn into venues for book festivals, complete with book stalls, cafes and play areas.

34. See the first ‘film’ of history on Trajan’s column

Trajan’s column towers above Piazza Venezia and has something very special: the carvings on it develop like a film, telling the story of the Trajan’s conquests!

This is referred by historians as the first film of history and a close up look will reveal why!

35. Spot the differences between the twin churches of Piazza del Popolo

One of the most distinctive traits of Piazza del Popolo is that is is overlooked by two twin churches. But are they truly identical?

Head inside, for free, to spot the differences: there are more significant than you may think!

Top Tip: while the twin churches are usually what catches the eye on Piazza del Popolo, make sure you don’t miss the 3rd church here, Santa Maria del Popolo with works by Bernini and Caravaggio!

36. Cuddle cats in one of Rome’s cat colonies

If you are in need for a quick feline fix, you can head to one of Rome’s cat colonies.

Stray cats are protected in Rome and there are several areas where they gather and get fed.

My favorite is in the Protestant cemetery although the most famous cat ‘sanctuary’ (truly, an adoption shelter) is in Largo Argentina.

Learn here >>> all you need to know about Rome’s street cats

37. Discover ‘Borgo’

Borgo is the residential area around the Vatican and a lovely place for a stroll.

Start from Castel Sant’Angelo and then allow yourself to get lost in its small streets: you will soon find yourself in front of St Peter!)

Find here >>> my visitors’ guide to Borgo

38. Meet the Pope

You don’t need to have a strong religious background to feel the power of a meeting with the Pope.

There are several ways to to see the Pope in Rome.

One is participating in the Papal Angelus: on Sunday the Pope prays with the crowds in St Peter square and access is free.

The other way is to participate in the Papal Audience and meet the Pope in person.

The Pope holds a public audience every Wednesday and access to it is ticketed but free.

39. Take stroll in Garbatella

Garbatella is a beautiful and characteristic area of Rome.

Immediately outside the city centre, it is a quaint residential area with small houses, pretty gardens and a wonderful local feel.

You can find here >>> our visitors’ guide to Garbatella

40. Visit wonderful Santa Sabina

On the top of the Aventine hill sits wonderful Santa Sabina. It is the best preserved Paleochristian basilica in Rome and one of the most beautiful churches in the city

41. Visit Chiostro del Bramante and Santa Maria della Pace

You may recognize Santa Maria della Pace from many movies set in Rome. Located in one of Rome’s famous cobbled streets, it has a peculiar rounded facade and a beautiful interior.

Make sure you enter its famous Cloister, Chiostro del Bramante, now hosting a museum and a cafe. Access to the first terrace overlooking the Chiostro is free.

42. Visit Santa Costanza

Off the beaten track, Santa Costanza is a stunning church with a peculiarity: its interior is round!

The e altar sits in the center of the church and it is surrounded by columns caressed by diffused light coming in from the church’s many windows.

43. Marvel at beautiful Quirinale

The Quirinale is one of the original seven hills of Rome and it is now the place from which the Italian President carries out his office.

The Quirinale building overlooks a beautiful square with stunning views over Rome and is a free sight in Rome worth seeking out.

Find here >>> our visitors’ guide to Quirinale Hill

44. Take a stroll in Rione Monti

Monti is one of the oldest and most charming areas in the whole of Rome.

Its meandering streets span between Termini Station and the Colosseum and are a delight of churches, local squares and vintage shops.

You can find here >>> my guide to the best things to see in the Monti neighborhood.

45. See the little borgo of Ostia Antica

On the outskirts of Rome lies Ostia Antica, the port of ancient Rome. Here you now have a beautiful archaeological park (ticketed) but also has gorgeous medieval borgo free to visit.

Ostia antica borgo

46. Explore Villa Torlonia

Outside of the historical center lies a beautiful park, Villa Torlonia.

As well as pleasant green spaces, fake ruins (yes!) and Mussolini’s bunker (ticketed) the park has a lovely small exhibition space hosted in a peculiar building reminiscent of a fairy house -worth seeing

47. Visit museum Carlo Bilotti

Inside Villa Borghese, this free museum hosts beautiful masterpieces from contemporary artists. Among the most famous, works by Giorgio de Chirico, Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Gino Severini and Giacomo Manzù.

48. Catch a view from Villa Doria Pamphili

Villa Doria Pamphili is one of the largest parks in Rome and a favorite spot for local families. To visitors, it offers a wonderful backdrop for a walk and unparalleled views over St Peter’s dome

Villa Doria Pamphili is one of the most beautiful parks in Rome

49. Laugh at the funny story behind the elephant in Piazza della Minerva

Piazza della Minerva, beside the Pantheon, hosts one of the most peculiar monuments in the whole of Rome: the statue of a small elephant.

The statue is cute and the story behind it funny: you can read all about Piazza della Minerva here, where you will also find what else to see there.

50. Seek out the turtles fountain of Piazza Mattei

A lovely small piazza in Rome city center is Piazza Mattei: in its center, it has one of the most beloved Rome’s fountain, la fontana delle tartarughe, decorated with small carved turtles!

You can find here >>> all you need to know about Rome’s fountain of the turtles

I hope you enjoyed these ideas of things you can do in Rome for free and it gave you ideas on how to make the most of your budget friendly trip to Rome. Safe travels!

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