When in Europe, there are some cities that you just need to visit because they’ve played such a huge role in shaping the continent throughout the ages. The city of Rome is one of those. Few historic tourist destinations can compete with the likes of Italy’s capital city, often called the “Eternal City”. Once the home to a massive empire, there’s still so much that remains there from those days.
But Rome has even more to it than just ancient landmarks. A trip here takes you through the history, culture, religion, and beauty of the city and everyone will leave with their own favorite thing about the city. So, to see what you can look forward to on a visit there, this Rome itinerary will take you through all that you can hope to see by exploring Rome in 3 days.
Best Time to Visit Rome
With such great history, it’s little surprise that Rome has always been a popular tourist destination. As with any place that sees a lot of tourists, deciding the best time to visit Rome can be a challenge, since you want to balance pleasant weather with avoiding the biggest crowds. And given Rome’s popularity, those crowds can be pretty intense.
Rome is undeniably at its craziest during the summer months of July and August when you hot weather is combined with peak tourist numbers. Instead, visit in mid-to-late spring and you’ll still have great walking around weather but the crowds and lines will be a bit more manageable. Be sure to think twice before visiting Rome during Easter, a Christian holiday during which the city is exceptionally busy.
Shoulder season in general is also a pretty good idea, with September and October often offering cheaper room rates due to the weather being a bit rainier.
Actually, Rome is a pretty good place to visit in winter too, since the city doesn’t get downright freezing and there are far fewer tourists around. Plus, somewhere like Rome, attractions are still open, even in the off-season.
How to Get Around Rome
Without looking at a map, I’m sure many people would be surprised to learn just how large and sprawling the city of Rome is. Even just focusing on Rome’s ancient city center, you can walk for miles to get between two major attractions. If you choose to walk everywhere, you might find that you spend a lot of your long weekend in Rome doing just that. Don’t get me wrong, walking is a great way to see a city but it never hurts to get a little help.
That help comes in the form of Rome’s public transportation network, which can not only help you get from one attraction to the next, but can also bring you into the city center if you’re staying further afield. The city’s public transport is made up of a metro, buses, and trams which together should allow you to get anywhere you need.
The metro centers around the Roma Termini train station, with two lines, as well as an express train connection out to Fiumicino Airport (FCO). There is also a shuttle bus that goes to and from the city center to the airport. You can buy a ticket for the airport shuttle here.
Tickets work on buses, trams, and metro trains, with the cheapest fare being a €1.50 ticket which is good for one metro ride up to 75 minutes. There are also one day, three day, and week long tickets available, all purchased at metro stations and kiosks around the city.
Recommendation: See the sights of Rome at your own pace on board an open-top hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus. Access 2 loops in the historic city center to visit sites such as the Spanish Steps, the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum. You can buy your hop-on, hop-off bus ticket here.
Accommodation in Rome
With such a big city and so many attractions spread out everywhere, working out where to stay in Rome can be quite difficult. Naturally, as a major tourist destination Rome has thousands of different accommodation options available which cover all budgets and travel styles. If you want the best rates and choices, it’s always best to organize it in advance or your decision might be made for you based on what’s left.
As for the best places to stay in Rome, the right location can make all the difference. Even with the city’s public transportation network, you don’t want to spend all your time on buses and the metro, so staying somewhere central helps. Aside from staying right in the city center near the Pantheon or Colosseum, the far side of the Tiber River is also a great spot. Trastevere is a cool neighborhood full of restaurants and nightlife, while areas over near Aurelio and Prati can be great value for money.
In a city with a great selection of luxury hotels to choose from, your time in Rome is bound to be special with a stay at the Roma Luxus Hotel. This five star hotel behind Trajan’s Market is ideally located for sightseeing. It has stylish rooms and a great buffet breakfast to get you ready for the day.
For a comfortable yet affordable home away from home check out the My Bed Vatican Museum guesthouse. Right outside Vatican City, this guest house combines a great location with clean rooms and welcoming owners.
When it comes to backpacker and budget accommodation, Rome’s got you covered. If you’re after a great hostel then the Beehive is sure to please with its welcoming, laid-back atmosphere, and stylish design. Be sure to also take a look at our guide for more hostel suggestions in Rome.
For more accommodation options in Rome check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Rome Itinerary
Rome is the kind of place where it’s easy to quickly fill a few days with sightseeing. The challenge is more trying to decide how to fit it all in. With 72 hours in Rome, this itinerary will take you right through all of the city’s most famous attractions soyou will look back and know that you’ve seen Rome’s most cherished icons. From the sights of the Vatican City, through neighborhoods like Trevi, Ponte, and Sant’Angelo, you’ll get to see the very best of what Rome has to offer.
However, before we get to our Rome itinerary and the best places to visit in Rome we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $40 a month, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick quote below:
With that important detail sorted, and it is important, let’s get to our Rome travel itinerary shall we? Here’s what to do in Rome in 3 days so that you have an awesome time!
Day 1 in Rome
There’s no point wasting time once you’ve arrived in Rome, so you’ll start your visit seeking out the best things to do in Rome at the heart of the ancient city center.
Via dei Fori Imperiali
It may seem like an unusual place to start your visit to Rome, but it’s a great idea to start with the grand avenue of Via dei Fori Imperiali. Starting from near Piazza Venezia, as you start to make your way down this avenue, you’ll see why. It’s because, on both sides of this long thoroughfare, you’ll spot countless ancient landmarks.
At first you’ll likely spot the Trajan Forum on the left, with column after ancient column standing in front of the crumbled, curving remains of Trajan’s Market. This great big multi-storey ruin of an ancient shopping market gives you an insight into just how developed life was like in ancient Rome. While it’s possible to stay on this one side and follow all the open-air ruins, be sure to cross over the Via dei Fori Imperiali and visit the fascinating archaeological sites on the other side as well and get your first glimpse of the Roman Forum.
Walking down the road, you should be able to start making out the details of Rome’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum. This instantly recognizable ancient amphitheater is always on the bucket-list of first-timers to Rome and not just because it’s iconic; the Colosseum manages to be both breathtakingly massive but also surprisingly well preserved. It’s hard to imagine that it was built almost 2000 years ago.
To visit inside the Colosseum you’ll need a ticket, which unless you like to stand in long lines, is best bought in advance. Once inside you get to enter the amphitheater and walk around the stands to see what it must have been like to be a spectator as gladiators fought to the death below. Special tickets are required to venture down to the Gladiators Gate and tunnels below, as well as the upper tiers of the stands which have city views.
Make sure to take a look at our detailed guide on how to get Colosseum tickets and skip the long lines as well.
Back outside, before heading away from the Colosseum, take a lap around the outside simply to appreciate the sight of it in its entirety and find some different photo angles.
Recommendation: Unless you are well versed in Roman history, we highly recommend you book a guided for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Trust us, visiting ruins is so much better with a knowledgeable guide who can fill you in on important historic events and explain to you what you are looking at.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Right next to the Colosseum, you’ll find the site of the Roman Forum an attraction that will actually show you the scope and scale of the ancient Roman world. Once the scene of public life in ancient Rome, the Forum hosted all sorts of buildings and landmarks, from temples and government buildings, to victory arches.
Following the ancient roads inside the Forum will give you your best chance to imagine what life was like back in ancient Rome. It’s sad to think that this area was slowly covered over during the centuries, only to be excavated again in the 20th century.
Entry to the Forum is included as part of the combined ticket with the Colosseum which also incorporates the Palatine Hill. The Palatine Hill is the sight where, according to legend, Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome. Perhaps not as well known as the Colosseum or Forum, it’s nevertheless an important site and has plenty of ruins and views to see.
After seeing where the gladiators fought, it’s time to move on to the Romans’ love of chariot races. On the far side of the Forum from the Colosseum you’ll find Circus Maximus, the remains of a stadium that hosted chariot races where hundreds of thousands of spectators once looked on. Now a public park, there’s little more to do than walk through it, spy a few stone remnants, and let your imagination run wild.
Heading on past the structures in the Forum Boarium, you’ll soon find yourself up by the Marcello Theater. Whereas the larger Colosseum was used for many events including gladiator fights, this ancient open air theater was more focused on artistic performances with song and dance.
Seeing a theater in Rome is sure to be interesting and yet have you drawing immediate comparisons with the Colosseum. Thankfully, the two are really different sights, mainly because the top part of the Marcello Theater was rebuilt in the Middle Ages in the style of that time. In fact, the upper levels of the theater are actually apartments and people have lived above the ruins for centuries.
Just off to the side of the Marcello Theatre lies another curious Roman ruin, the Porticus Octaviae. This historic structure once covered temples dedicated to Jupiter and Juno, as well as a library. Repurposed the same way many ancient sites were, this structure later became a medieval fish market and was located within the Roman Ghetto, where the city’s Jewish population resided at the time.
Altare della Patria
Almost back to where you started the day, find your way across to the great wide Piazza Venezia. Surrounded on all sides by grand historic buildings including a few palaces, none are quite as immediately eye-catching as the Altare della Patria. Also known as the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, this huge building was a monument to the first king of Italy once it was unified, and it makes quite a statement.
A symbol of the Italian nation, the Altare della Patria serves many purposes. It houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to those who died serving in WWI. It also holds the Museum of Italian Unification. What’s more, up by the giant chariot statues on the roof you’ll find a panoramic terrace, which is accessible by elevator, and affords great views over Rome that stretch all the way to the Colosseum.
Campidoglio and Terrazza Caffarelli
When it comes to watching the sun set over the rooftops of Rome, one of the nicer places is the Terrazza Caffarelli. Behind the Altare della Patria you’ll find the hilltop square of Campidoglio. The square is surrounded by beautiful Renaissance buildings and a grand staircase. Make sure to note the Capitoline Museums, somewhere else you’ll visit during your trip to Rome.
From Campidoglio head to the southernmost path and it will take you first to a great view point over the Roman Forum and then loop around to the Terrazza Caffarelli. From this quiet spot, you get a great view over the rooftops as the buildings change color in the late afternoon light. This is a great place to reflect upon everything you’ve seen on your first day in Rome.
Day 2 in Rome
On your second day in Rome, you’ll first spend time taking in all of the sights found within Vatican city. Afterwards, it’s back to the city center to visit all the great Roman landmarks that weren’t included in your first day exploring the best of Rome. Don’t worry if it gets dark because these spots are all equally as magical at night!
The city of Rome has many interesting facts about it, but surely one of the most fascinating is that it is home to both a world religion and an entire other country! We are of course talking about Vatican City, an independent sovereign state which is home to the Catholic church and the pope. As if that wasn’t enough to make you want to visit whether due to faith, novelty or basic curiosity, the Vatican City is also home to some astounding attractions.
A visit here starts in St Peter’s Square, a huge plaza surrounded by columns that sits below St Peter’s Basilica. Besides admiring the square, this is where you will need to line up to visit the two other major attractions in Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. The basilica has a beautifully ornate church interior and is free to visit, while the Vatican Museums are an endless art collection that will eventually take you to the world famous Sistine Chapel, and the ceiling that Michelangelo painted.
For those planning on visiting both, make sure to visit the Vatican Museums first as it’s possible to then go across to the basilica without waiting in line again. Depending on how much of the Vatican you choose to see, and the lines, you could be there all morning or even through much of the day. Take that timing into account when deciding how much more of the below things you want to see on your second day in Rome. It also helps to book your tickets in advance so that you can skip the long line and get right into sightseeing.
Recommendation: Again, we recommend you book a guided tour for this part of the Rome itinerary. The tour is 3 hours long and will take you to some of the major attractions, as well as to some lesser-known spots that other tourists often miss. You will receive a broad base for understanding the remarkable history, architecture and politics of the Vatican.
As one of the more striking landmarks along the banks of the Tiber River, the Castel Sant’Angelo isn’t quite what you’d expect at first glance. Walking across the bridge lined with angelic statues, the building looks like a fortified Renaissance castle of sorts. That it first started out as a mausoleum will likely be a surprise, as will the fact that it was a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian back in 139 AD.
Beyond appreciating the view of the castle from the bridge, you can also visit its interior, and see rooms that popes have stayed in while using the castle as a refuge. There’s also a rooftop panoramic terrace which, depending on how you’re going on time, might just be best to see from the outside.
Across town, it’s time to explore the neighborhood of Trevi, starting with a popular little spot, Rome’s Spanish Steps. This elegant staircase leads from the Trinità dei Monti church down to a fountain in the Spanish Square below. With the graceful design of the staircase along with the surrounding architecture, it’s a little bit of all the ancient monuments found around the city. Because of how scenic this spot is, it’s become quite a lively meeting place for locals, as well as a common tourist spot for those who saw it in the film Roman Holiday featuring Audrey Hepburn.
Making your way deeper into the city center, you’ll come across the Trevi Fountain, another classic Roman sight. Chances are, no matter when you choose to visit this fountain, day or night, it’s going to be packed with visitors admiring its grandiose design and throwing coins in.
An elegant and expressive fountain, it came to be in its current form in 1762, although it has been the site of a spring since Roman times. As for the legend around throwing a coin in, it’s said that if you throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder you will return to the city of Rome one day.
Wandering further through the maze of streets in the middle of Rome, it’s time for another iconic treasure, the Pantheon. Though today the Pantheon is a church, it was once a Roman temple dedicated to the Roman gods which was finished in about 125 A.D. Because this building has always been used as a house of worship, it’s one of Rome’s best preserved ancient landmarks.
While the front facade with the large portico and columns is mighty impressive, the real treat is that you’re freely allowed to visit inside. It’s here that you get to see the incredible giant dome ceiling with the single hole in the center which allows you to see through to the sky above. Even today, the ceiling is the largest unsupported dome in the world. If you can, I recommend coming back in the evening to see it all illuminated against the night sky.
A short walk from the Pantheon brings you to the last stop of the day at the Piazza Navona. This elongated square owes its shape to the ancient stadium that once stood there, but is now better known for the three elegant fountains found there and the bars, restaurants, and cafes which surround them.
Incredibly, for two hundred years from the 17th to 19th century, this large square was completely flooded every weekend in August as part of a festive celebration. Impossible to imagine nowadays, much less alone back then.
Day 3 in Rome
Up until this point, we’ve mostly explored the very central parts of the city along one side of the Tiber River. Today’s plan balances that out by heading along and across the mighty river.
Returning to Campidoglio, it’s time for more culture and art at the Capitoline Museums which is housed inside adjoining palaces. It is said that the Capitoline Museums was the first public museum in the world. Despite its name, this is in fact only one museum, although it has exhibits that vary from archaeology to works of art from the likes of Caravaggio and Rubens. Again, this is another place that can have quite a line so it pays to book in advance.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Everyone knows the name Julius Caesar and about his fateful death. Well now you can visit the place where it happened. A few blocks from Campidoglio, the Largo di Torre Argentina is a sunken square of open air ruins surrounded by seemingly normal city. This is where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in 44 B.C. Walking around the edge of this archaeological site, you can see what remains of buildings that survived the last two thousand years. It also makes it really obvious just how much Rome has been built up over the millenia with the ruins well below street level.
For as long as Rome has been an important world city, the Tiber River has been vital to the survival of the city. Weaving its way through Rome, the Tiber River can actually be quite scenic, especially as you reach the historic Tiber Island. The only island along the stretch of the river which flows through the city, Tiber Island is not only historic, but also a lovely little place to relax for a bit.
In ancient times the island was home to a temple for the Roman god of healing, but you’ll now find the medieval Fate Bene Fratelli Hospital. To get to the island, you need first to cross the ancient stone bridge Ponte Fabricio, amazingly still standing thousands of years after it was built. Along with several churches, make sure to visit the southern tip to see more remains of ancient bridges.
Piazza del Popolo
There is one last big square in Rome to visit, and it is the Piazza del Popolo at the northern end of the city center. Once the main city entrance for the ancient Romans, the square is a popular place to meet up and has a number of interesting landmarks in and around it.
For starters, there’s the ancient Egyptian obelisk standing proudly in the center. Then there’s the multiple churches found around it, particularly the Santa Maria del Popolo which houses two pieces by Caravaggio. Last but not least, is the Terrazza del Pincio, a collection of terraces that offer increasingly better views of the square below.
Continuing your way up the Terrazza del Pincio you’ll eventually find yourself within the sprawling park of Villa Borghese. Built on the hilltop around the Borghese family villa, the gardens were created in the English style during the 17th century. Today you can stroll this huge green space, admiring the beautiful gardens and sights such as the small lake and its recreation of the Temple of Aesculapius.
Off in the eastern corner of the park you’ll find the actual Borghese family villa which is now home to the Borghese Gallery. Inside the gallery today are twenty rooms exhibiting works of art from the Borghese family collection, including paintings and sculptures from names like Caravaggio and Bernini along with ancient mosaics. Finally, there’s the villa itself to admire, with frescos adorning the walls and ceilings of many rooms.
It should be perfectly clear now just how much you can see and do with 3 days in Rome. There’s a reason that this has long been one of Europe’s most popular and cherished tourist destinations and hopefully this guide will show you much of what has held the attention of so many people over the years.
If you have more than 3 days in Rome, consider doing a day trip. Rome has many day trips to choose from, with Tivoli and Orvieto being the most popular.