9 Of The Best Free Things To Do In Rome That You Can’t Miss
Rome, known as the eternal city, is one of the most visited places on earth. Not only is it Italy’s capital but it’s a sprawling, sophisticated city that has almost 3,000 years of history, architecture, and culture. There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Rome let alone free things to do in Rome.
The city itself evokes such a deep sense of power, stature, and beauty. It’s nearly impossible to not be enthralled by it.
Famous landmarks like the Forum and the Colosseum are a sign of the power left behind from the former Roman Empire who founded the city around 753BC. Today, these landmarks still give us a sense of awe and wonder and their sheer beauty and scale continue to be marvels of even our modern world. To top it off almost smack-dab in the middle of Rome is the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
Vatican City is home to St.Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums – which houses some of the most famous masterpieces in existence, pieces like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s The School of Athens. These are all some of the places that are on our list of the best free things to do in Rome! Which only make the city even better in our opinion.
So why is Rome labelled as the Eternal City? Well, ancient Romans had a belief that no matter what occurred in the world or how many empires would rise and fall, Rome would go on to live forever. They were right. Rome continues to remain one of the most vibrant cities in the world and is a leading tourist destination in Europe (being the 3rd most visited).
My first visit to Rome was in high school and I can honestly say I knew nothing about the city, it was the first time I had ever left the country or flown on a plane. Even though I grew up in Canada only about four hours from the United States border, Europe was my first experience abroad. So maybe that’s why I love Rome so much, or perhaps it is just because the city itself is absolutely incredible. I wasn’t 100% sure until I visited Rome for the second time about five years later, the moment I stepped foot in the city I fell in love all over again.
I only had 24 hours and was determined to do absolutely everything I could, although I was on a pretty strict budget and time restriction so it was difficult to really see it all. But thankfully with all the free things to do in Rome being some of the largest major Rome tourist attractions, I managed to see it all! 40,000 steps later and I successfully saw Rome in all its glory for the second time.
Would I go back again? 100% yes. I would never hesitate on taking a trip to the Eternal City.
The first time I visited I didn’t have to worry about planning everything and stressing out about it, but the second time it was all up to me. Now I love planning trips and researching all the great places you have to visit, but when you’ve already been there it is a bit more challenging because you don’t necessarily want to repeat a lot of stuff. I found Rome was a lot different, I wanted to see it all again.
So I sat down and wrote a list of everything I wanted to see and drew a little map on how to get there, little did I know my feet knew the way and I didn’t have to use my map once. Somehow after five years, I remembered how to meander through the streets of Rome to find some of the best free things to do in Rome that are also some of the best places to visit in Rome.
Now there are a lot of things to do in Rome that aren’t free, but most of them do come with a small fee or are free at certain times of the years or days of the month. So it’s really important you do your research on when you will be there and if your vacation aligns with some of those times. We will get more into those details below in our post about the 9 best free things to do in Rome!
1) The Colosseum
The first place that should be on any list of free things to do in Rome or places to visit in Rome should be the Colosseum. Built between 72AD and 80AD the Colosseum could hold up to 80,000 spectators (with an average of 65,000), it’s also the largest amphitheatre ever built by the Roman Empire. With over 80 arched entrances, it has survived earthquakes and fires, has housed gladiator fights, bullfights and was once sanctioned as a sacred site by Pope Benedict XIV.
The Colosseum is arguably the number one place people think about when they talk about Rome tourist attractions, and it’s completely free to walk around and discover the exterior of this ancient structure. If you want to visit the interior and discover the history written on its walls you will have to pay a small fee, but we will get more into that below.
Just outside of the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, this monument is over 20m high and features three main arches, with the middle being the tallest. Used by emperor’s when returning to the city after a triumph, it was built around 315AD in honour of one of Constantine’s victories. The arch is technically separate from the Colosseum and could have its own spot on our list of free things to do in Rome, but since they come hand in hand we will place it under the Colosseum’s spot.
Exploring the interior of the Colosseum is well worth your time. It’s history, design, myths and stories make it a truly incredible experience.
Like we mentioned above there is a fee for entering the interior of the Colosseum, for €18 ($21USD) you can enter and explore the grounds on your own accord. But honestly, if you want to make the most of it and see even more you should book a tour, they are worth the added cost! I have even had people tell me they regretted not booking a guided tour through the Colosseum.
These more in-depth visits can take you through the ‘Gladiator’s Gate’ which is the original entrance that real gladiators once used! You will also be able to explore the tunnels where they prepared for their battles and were the lions, tigers and other animals were caged. On top of that, you will see other normally off-bound areas like the Arena floor and the highest existing level of the Colosseum, the third tier.
Throughout these tours, your guide will explain things to do and show you exactly why the Colosseum is one of the best places to visit in Rome and one of the most popular Rome tourist attractions. Costs for tours vary depending on where you want access to, most tours cost between €29 ($35USD) and €70 ($59USD). Tours and just tickets to enter the Colosseum also give you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, tours typically include a guided tour of these two places as well.
Tips for visiting the Colosseum:
- Book your tickets in advance, only a certain amount of people are allowed in the Colosseum at one time. It is best to book in advance, arrive early and pay to ‘skip the line’ if possible. Most tours offer ‘skip the line’ access.
- Tickets to the Colosseum include access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well. So don’t buy tickets for all three destinations, there’s no need.
- The Colosseum offers free entry on the first Sunday of the month. But expect REALLY long queues, and there are no reservations.
- There are people dressed up as gladiators outside of the Colosseum if you want to take photos with them, these are not free! So beware.
2) Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Of all the free things to do in Rome, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are some of the most interesting because you get to truly walk where Ancient Romans did and step back in time. You get a small taste of what it could have been like to have lived in Rome during those times, which is the ultimate experience for any traveller.
The Forum can be viewed for free from above, which will get you an idea of the sheer scale of the area and you’ll be able to see some of the old pieces that made the forum so grand. But if you purchased a ticket for the Colosseum you’ll get to walk through the Forum itself and get closer to these ancient pieces. While walking through it may not be one of the free things to do in Rome, the tickets are not overly expensive and include access to other areas so it’s well worth it.
On my second visit, I chose not to purchase a ticket to enter places like the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum and I didn’t feel like I was missing out by any means. So if you chose not to pay for entry don’t worry, you’ll see get to see and experience these incredible Rome tourist attractions!
After it was first developed in the 7th century BC the Forum quickly became a social and political hub for the Roman Empire.
When the Roman Empire fell, the Forum was slowly covered with earth and buried and became a pasture for cattle. It was uncovered and excavated around 1898 and was reconstructed in 1937. The Forum is home to many iconic and historically important artefacts – one of which is the Lapis Niger, a large piece of black marble that apparently covers the tomb of Romulus, the founder of Rome.
It is also home to the Arch of Septimius Severus. This arch was built in dedication to Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons for their victory over the Parthian Empire. Triumphantly standing on the NW end of the Forum, the arch is built from white marble in 203AD.
Inside the Forum are also a plethora of ruins with carvings and temples of vast importance to the Ancient Romans.
The Temple of Antonius & Faustina, the Tempio della Concordia, the Tempio di Vespasiano and the Portico degli Dei Consenti – are just a few of the temples and important locations you’ll find within the Forum. Arguably, one of the most interesting places is the Temple of Divus Iulius – where Julius Caesar is said to be buried. To this day people continue to place flowers on the remains of the altar of Julius Caesar.
Don’t forget to visit the Arch of Titus which is located just to the SE of the Forum. This arch dates back to 82AD and features spectacular carvings and was also an inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Palatine Hill is one of those places to visit in Rome that people seem to forget about, but you shouldn’t! It tends to get overshadowed by the Colosseum and the Forum, but the hill towers over the Forum and can be seen from a distance as one of the free things to do in Rome. But again, you’ll want to pay for access (part of the ticket for the Colosseum and Forum anyways) because Palatine Hill is an extremely important area for Rome.
Palatine Hill was once the home of Emperors and aristocrats of ancient Rome, it was the site of many temples, and is said to be the birthplace of Rome itself by Romulus. The legend of Romulus and Remus is the tale of events that led up to the founding of Rome by Romulus (hence where the name Rome came from) after a tumulous relationship with his twin brother, Remus. Both wished to found a city but couldn’t decide on which location to build it upon, Remus chose to build his on Aventine Hill while Romulus chose Palatine Hill.
Romulus went on to build a wall around his hill and Remus mocked him and jumped over the wall. Eventually, Remus died (there is a debate about whether he died by being murdered or from jumping over the wall) and Romulus mourned his brother and bestowed on him a full funeral with honours. Remus’ death and the official founding of Rome on Palatine Hill were dated to be April 21st, 753 BCE.
On the hill, you will also find the ruins of Flavian Palace and the House of Augustus along with the Stadium of Domitian and the Hut of Romulus. Furthermore, Palatine Hill is unique due to it being more of a green haven, where flowers grow between the ruins and small animals can be seen prancing around. This hill remained a sort-of neighbourhood as many Emporers and wealthy Romans lived in luxurious villas with private botanical gardens for years.
Tip for visiting the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
- While walking through the Forum, look closely at the tops of some of the columns (particularly on the Temple of Antonius & Faustina). You’ll see what looks like a circular cut-out around the columns. These are traces of the ropes that were used during one of the many attempts to pull down the columns to be re-used. Obviously, these attempts failed and became a sign of the incredible engineering of the ancient Romans.
- Start by visiting Palatine Hill, then the Roman Forum, lastly the Colosseum (if you choose not to do a tour, most tours will go the opposite way). Palatine Hill gives you a great view from above of the Forum and the Forum exit is on the Colosseum side, which is an exit only. Viewing the sites this way is a smoother transition if you plan on these places being part of the free things to do in Rome on your itinerary.
- Purchase tickets at the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill, the ticket lines tend to be much shorter than at the Colosseum. However, if you buy your ticket online you cannot get an audio guide from the Palatine Hill entrance. You will have to get them at the Roman Forum entrance.
- Give yourself a full day to visit all three locations and get there early, or separate them into two mornings to avoid crowds. Tickets typically are valid for two days, tours are not.
3) Trevi Fountain
One o the most stunning places on our list of the top free things to do in Rome has to be the ever-so-famous Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks and can be dated back to 1732 when construction began. It was later completed in 1762 and has since remained an integral part of Roman architecture and culture.
Did you know? Each year, over 3,000 coins are thrown into the Trevi Fountain, which usually amounts to almost 1.4 million euros. All of which is donated to charity.
Why and how do visitors throw coins in the fountain? Traditional legend states; if a visitor throws a coin over their right shoulder into the fountain, they are ensured to return to Rome one day. It is illegal to remove these coins from the fountain, although there are apparently a lot of attempts to do so anyway.
Because it is one of the most popular free things to do in Rome, crowds tend to collect at the base of the fountain and on the staircase just opposite the sculpture. If you want to avoid crowds and visit one of the best places to visit in Rome, go early in the morning or later in the evening. There are lights installed in the sculpture so even if you go late at night the entire fountain will be beautifully lit up and you may just have it all to yourself!
Tip for visiting the Trevi Fountain:
- The earlier in the day you go the better – there will be way fewer crowds. Same with the later you go in the day. The fountain does have LED’s installed so at night it is lit beautifully.
- Due to the crowds, there can be a lot of pick-pocketers. So it’s important to protect your gear and valuables.
- When asking someone to take a photo of you try to find another tourist, there are people who will offer but will end up trying to sell you the picture instead.
- Summer months are busier tourist months and since this is one of the major Rome tourist attractions try and avoid visiting during these times.
4) The Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved of all the Ancient Roman buildings we get the pleasure of seeing today. It was a temple long ago and now acts as a church. Not only is it one of the coolest free things to do in Rome, but there’s a great gelato shop right next door, so it’s a true win-win.
Dating back to 113AD, somewhere around 6 million people visit this site each year! It features a large circular domed ceiling with an opening in the top giving you a view of the sky and providing natural light. They say the dome remains one of the world’s largest unreinforced concrete domes in the world, almost two thousand years after it was built.
The Pantheon has been destroyed twice by fire, once in 80AD and another in 110AD after it was rebuilt. Then in 202AD, the building was repaired by Septimius Severus and one of his sons. It became a church around 609 and is arguably one of the reasons that this building has been so well maintained and cared for.
It’s the site of many important burials including famous painter Raphael (School of Athens) and Annibale Carracci (Assumption of the Virgin Mary), as well as two Italian kings. There are a total of seven people buried in the Pantheon.
Tips for visiting the Pantheon:
- Cremeria Monteforte. The best gelato shop I think I have ever found. Locals swear by it and it is right beside the Pantheon! When you exit the Pantheon head to your left and circle round the building. You’ll see it on your right side. Literally opposite of the Pantheon’s left side.
- There is absolutely no fee to visit! But it is a busy place, so be warned and protect your valuables.
- It is very easy to walk from the Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon and vice versa. It should take you all of ten minutes! When exiting the Pantheon go to the right and walk down Via del Seminario to Via del Corso. Turn left on Via del Corso until you reach Via di Pierta and then take a right. Follow that straight until you find the fountain!
5) Vatican Museums
Are you wondering why the Vatican Museums is on a list of free things to do in Rome when it isn’t necessarily free? Well, you would be wrong to assume it wasn’t one of the free things to do in Rome! We have to warn you though, in order to get it free you need to line up EARLY and expect to be in a VERY LONG queue.
There are actually quite a few free things to do in Rome that are HUGE tourist attractions but offer free days throughout the month, the Vatican Museums being one of them. Even last Sunday of the month (subject to museum openings/closings) and on World Tourism Day (September 27th) the museums offer free entry. So if you do want to plan a visit to Rome and see the Vatican Museums on a budget plan your trip around some of these dates.
If you aren’t in Rome during one of those times then perhaps this won’t be one of the free things to do in Rome that fit in, but don’t worry because tickets to visit the Museum are fairly inexpensive and only cost €17 ($19USD) if you buy them in person, if you pre-purchase online to avoid lines you will need to pay a €4 ($5USD) processing fee. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour (typically costs about €61 ($71USD) when not on sale, currently it is on sale but we can’t guarantee that won’t change by the time you read this that gives you more insight into the museums and takes you to another spot on our list of free things to do in Rome, The Vatican (the Vatican is free to enter though but we will address that more below).
There is a total of 70,000 works in the museum, 20,000 of which are displayed in 54 galleries.
The Sistine Chapel is the most notable, it was established in 1506 and receives over 6 million visitors a year. There are works from artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio, and the ever-so-famous Michelangelo.
The first time I visited Rome I was actually unable to see the Museum which was a huge disappointment. But on my second visit I got extremely lucky and just happened to be visiting during one of the free days. I was beyon excited because visiting he Vatican Museums and seeing some of my favourite art works up close and personal was a huge tick of my bucket list.
Knowing it was going to be free I got up sort of early with a friend who was on my Contiki Trail to Rome tour (highly recommend it) and we headed to the museum, only to find a MASSIVE line-up that wrapped around the building. We arrived at 8am (which in retrospect is kind of late) and waited about an hour and a half to get into the museum. But no matter how long the wait was, we managed to visit one of the best museums in the world, completely free!
We toured through the museums and saw some of the greatest works of all-time, including the Sistine Chapel, all part of the many free things to do in Rome we had the pleasure of experiencing. I don’t consider myself a religious person, even though I did grow up in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic school, so I wasn’t expecting to feel overwhelmed by some of the very religious artworks.
But regardless of my beliefs, my eyes welled up with tears of joy, excitement, and awe when I looked upon the roof of the Sistine Chapel. It was overwhelming in the most unexpected way.
After stepping out of the busy chapel, we headed to St.Peter’s square for one last look of the Vatican. Only to find the Pope speaking to the square. THE POPE. Never in my wildest dreams had I imaged I would be seeing the Pope with my own eyes in a square in Italy filled with thousands of people.
Each Sunday the Pope speaks from his window overlooking the square and says the Angelus Prayer. Again, my eyes welled up with tears, the overwhelming energy of thousands of people rejoicing in something together is exceptionally overpowering and overwhelming. It is not a day I am soon to forget.
Tips for visiting the Vatican Museums:
- Give yourself around 2-3 hours to visit the entire museum, it’s much larger than you think and is a very busy place. Especially if you go on a free day.
- You HAVE to cover yourself otherwise they will not let you in. Which means NO bare knees (skirts and shorts should cover your knees, even if they just reach the top the guards may not let you in), NO bare midriffs and NO bare shoulders. Bring pants and a sweater to switch into if need be. You don’t need to dress fancy, just cover up modestly. They are very strict about this rule.
- Due to the large crowds pick-pocketing is common, so watch your belongings closely.
- On the free Sundays the museum closes at 2pm with the last entry at 12:30. So MAKE SURE if you want to go free you line up well before 9am. BE WARNED – free days are ALWAYS the busiest, so if you choose to do this just know that the crowds will be exceptionally large.
6) St. Peters Basilica & St. Peters Square
St. Peters Basilica is essentially the headquarters of the Catholic Church and one of the free things to do in Rome that no one should skip over, even if you aren’t religious. Technically speaking it is not something to do in Rome, rather it is something to do in The Vatican, which is its own country.
Construction started as early as 349AD on the ‘first church,’ however, this fell into ruin. Restoration started in 1509 and went through a plethora of updates throughout the years all the way up until 1626 with the square being completed around 1667.
Lines for getting into the Basilica can be very long due to it being one of the best free things to do in Rome and one of the largest Rome tourist attractions. It is best to line up early or later in the afternoon (it opens at 7am and closes typically around 7pm depending on which season you visit in) to avoid crowds and not wait hours in line trying to get in. The same dress code applies here as with the Vatican Museums, dress modestly and cover your knees, midriff, and shoulders, they do no let you in if you are not covered (we waited in line and almost got rejected) so please make sure you are prepared because they will turn you around after waiting in line.
Within the Basilica itself, you can see famous works like Michelangelo’s Pieta (which is behind bulletproof glass after a visitor in the 70’s attacked it with a hammer) and St. Peters Baldachin which was completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter’s Baldachin is a large sculptured canopy that stands almost 96 feet tall, despite looking smaller under the large dome it sits under. It is believed that this structure stands on top of the burial site of St.Peter himself, the first Pope and one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ. Some bones were later found in a church in Rome that were said to be some of St. Peter’s as well, you can read a little about it here.
If you want one of the best views in Rome, climb to the top of the dome!
Going to the top of the dome is no free, however, it is an optional activity, but a lot of tourists don’t realize you can actually go up to the top of the dome! It costs a mere This is not free, it is a ticketed option but is well worth the visit as not many visitors realize you can go to the top of the massive dome. It costs around €7 ($8USD) if you take the elevator to the top of only €5 ($6USD) to take the 551 steps to the top, honestly the steps are worth the effort though!
You’ll reach the first platform which will give you a view of the main altar from above and you can see some of the mosaics from up close. Continuing up the stairs the doom proceeds through some progressively narrowing and sloping stairs. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with an amazing view of Rome, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Gardens.
Along with a unique view along the way up you’ll be rewarded with a view of the 140 Angelic statues placed along the top of the building and square.
The last thing to see in the Basilica is the Vatican Grottoes. The Grottoes extend beneath the Basilica and contain tombs of numerous popes including John Paul II. You can enter the Grottoes from the Pier of St. Andrew which is near the high altar.
There are said to be around 91 Popes buried here as well as some Queen and Stuarts. It is one of the free things to do in Rome while you are in the Vatican! You must remain completely silent while in the tombs, photos are not allowed either, do the Grottoes last, as you will exit the Basilica at the end.
Once outside, take the time to explore St. Peter’s Square. Take in the beautiful fountains and what the view of the Basilica looks like from below.
Alternatively, you can take a tour with a guide through the Basilica, the Dome and the Grottos for about €45 ($52USD). You can also buy packages where skip-the-line entrance and a guided tour to the Basilica are included (not the dome) like the one we posted above on the Vatican Museums point on our list.
Tips for visiting St. Peters Basilica:
- Dress modestly, cover shoulders, knees, and midriff completely. They are VERY strict about this. You don’t know if you are dress acceptably until you reach the door after waiting in line. So don’t risk it.
- Visit the Vatican Museums first, they tend to be busier than the Basilica.
- Having a Guidebook isn’t a bad idea if you want to really learn about everything in the Basilica but don’t want to pay for a guided tour. Alternatively, take a photo of the map just outside of the Basilica doors, so you know where you’re going.
- Explore the interior of the Basilica first, then the dome, and finish off with the Grottoes for a smoother visit.
7) Piazza Navona
Of all the free things to do in Rome, this is a great place to slow it down, sit back and take in a piece of the everyday life of the Roman people. The Piazza Navona is hustling and bustling area that is riddled with tourists, artists, street performers, priests, shops, restaurants, and classic Roman architecture and fountains – the Piazza Navona screams Rome.
It has had a reputation as one of the most vibrant outdoor hubs in Rome and really holds up to that name. The second time I visited Rome I stumbled upon it by accident, as I was debating if I even knew where I was going, turning down randomly streets ignoring that map I had made for myself. But somehow I managed to find my way and ran into this beautiful area, one of my favourite places to visit in Rome.
The Piazza Navona was built on the ancient site of the Stadium of Domitian and is an open space that follows the form of the stadium. When the stadium was built it was a place where Romans would go to watch games and competitions. Over time the area changed and the open space has hosted many theatrical events and short-lived activities and festivals.
There are multiple fountains and sculptures in the plaza, some by the famous baroque artist himself (my favourite artist), Bernini. In the centre is the famous Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, which Bernini created in 1651.
Within the Piazza Navona is also Sant’Agnese in Agone, a17th-century Baroque style church which faces directly into the Piazza and is where Saint Agnes was apparently martyred in the ancient Stadium of Domitian. Inside the church, you can see the fresco the Assumption of Mary and the skull of Saint Agnes.
Piazza Navona is a colourful hub that is bustling with life and culture so grab a coffee at one of the many restaurants and just slow it down. Take in the hustle and bustle of life in Rome as one of the many free things in Rome you absolutely must-do.
Tips for visiting the Piazza Navona:
- Resturants can be expensive in the Piazza. So be prepared to spend a little extra if you choose to eat or grab a coffee here
- The Piazza Navona is located not far from the Pantheon. So it would make sense to go from the Piazza Navona, to the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain. They’re all within walking distance.
8) Altare Della Patria
The Altare Della Patria is a pretty difficult thing to miss when wandering around finding all the free things to do in Rome you can’t miss, mainly because it of it’s sheer size and stature. Plans began for the building in 1885 and construction started in 1911 and was completed in 1925. The building itself screams Rome, with giant columns, fountains and a large equestrian sculpture and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on a chariot with four horses.
It was built to honour the first king of a unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II and is located in Piazza Venezia.
The equestrian statue at the top of the building is a statue of Victor Emmanual, also known as the father of the Nation. It weighs a whopping fifty tons and is over twelve meters long! Its pedestal is decorated with depictions of Italian cities and at the foot of the statue is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Tomb of the Unkown Soldier is said to be a place where an eternal flame shines, this spot is always guarded by two soldiers.
Most tourists tend to just admire the sheer scale and beauty of the exterior of the building, but inside there is a museum dedicated to Italian unification. There is even access to the top of the building where you can get an insane view of the city from the same level as the chariots, you’ll even get a great view of the Colosseum which is just around the corner from the Altare Della Patria.
Entrance to the roof of the building is not one of the free things to do in Rome unfortunately, it will cost you about €7 ($8USD) to gain access to the roof. The museum isn’t half as exciting as the view from the top, so don’t feel compelled to spend a ton of time in the museum.
Tips for visiting the Altare Della Patria
- The Altare is not far from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It’s also within walking distance of the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. You can head from the Trevi Fountain towards the Altare by going towards the Piazza Venezia. Walk along Via di S. Vincenzo away from the fountain and continue straight. Turn right down the Via Quattro Novembre, you will reach the Piazza Venezia with a few blocks.
- Guards may ask you not to sit on the steps of the building so be respectful of this ask.
9) Castel Sant’Angelo & Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge
Located not far from the Vatican, the Castel Sant’Angelo and Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge is a beautiful combination of Roman architecture. Construction began in 135AD and was meant to be a monumental tomb for Emperor Hadrian and his family, however, he died before it’s completion. Emperor Antoninus Pius completed it and his son Caracalla was buried in it.
The Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge was built across the Tiber river as a way to connect land to the building. On the top of the Castel is Hadrian, dressed as a god riding a bronze four-horse chariot. Over time the purpose of the building changed, and in the Middle Ages, it was transformed into a fortress, but it would change a few times after that as well.
Tunnels were built underneath and were connected to the Vatican, this gave Popes a safe escape route in case of danger (named Passetto di Borgo). In fact, these tunnels were used several times throughout history. Eventually, in the 16th century, Bernini changed the whole scene and reinvented the bridge, which was renamed the Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge. He sculpted ten angels for the bridge, each carries a symbol of the passion of Christ.
The bridge was used in Tom Hanks thriller Angels and Demons, among other locations. If you want to know more filming locations check out this article.
The interior of the Castel is not one of the free things to do in Rome if you want to explore the interior of the Castel and honestly, it might not be completely worth a visit unless you have a lot of extra time. Inside is a museum with a collection of paintings, sculptures and military memorabilia along with medieval firearms. The cost is around €15 ($17USD) per person, although exploring the bridge and the outskirts of the Castel is typically one of the more popular activities in Rome.
Tips for visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo & Ponte Sant’Angelo Bridge:
- The bridge and Castel are known as the doorstep of the Vatican, so it is easy to do both within the same day.
- The bridge is only for pedestrians.
- For photos with no tourists in them, go early in the morning or late in the evening.
Other Recommendations & Tips
These 9 free things to do in Rome are just the tip of the iceberg and are just a few of the places to visit in Rome that I enjoyed the most, with that being said there are quite a few other free things to do in Rome. We have listed a few more things below that are worth a mention on our list of free things to do in Rome, but are either smaller places to see or places we have yet to visit (we have labelled which ones we have yet to see ourselves). The ones we haven’t visited do come highly recommended to us though!
- Trajan’s Column
- Campo de’ Fiori
- Spanish Steps (have not visited)
- Bocca della Vertià (have not visited)
- Capitoline Hill (have not visited)
- Hadrian’s Villa (have not visited)
- Baths of Caracalla (have not visited)
Other Tips for visiting Rome:
- There are over 2,500 fountains in Rome and there are hundreds of small fountains and water spouts. There are fountains that look sort of like a nose and provide clean drinking water. So don’t pay for water just bring a water bottle with you and refill it!
- Taking transit in Rome is easy and way more cost effective than taking taxis. Most destinations are also within walking destinations, so wear comfortable shoes!
- There is generally a ‘bread and cover’ charge of 2 Euro per person at restaurants. Before you tip, check your bill for ‘servizio incluso,’ this means a tip was automatically added to the overall bill.
Rome is one of the best places I have had the pleasure of travelling to and finding so many free things to do in Rome that are major Rome tourist attractions is a huge bonus. Rome is a vibrant, bustling, ancient city that lives up to its name as the Eternal City and will most definitely leave a lasting impression on you for years to come. Hopefully, our list of the best 9 free things to do in Rome helps you plan out a great vacation without breaking the bank.
We all know travel can be expensive but it definitely doesn't have to be, there are tons of sites all over the world like in Japan, Canada or New Zealand that are free to visit but yet offer the best experiences. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing some of the best sites in the world while saving a few bucks along the way!