Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations for a reason. It is one of the most amazing cities in the world, and no matter how many times you visit, you’ll never run out of things to do. Best of all, since there is so much to do in this city, there is also a surprising number of free things you can do in Rome! 

So, if you’re on a budget or want to save some money on attractions, don’t worry; you can have just as amazing of a time in Rome as you would if you were to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on attractions!

Psst! Take a look at my ultimate Rome travel guide if you are planning a trip to the Eternal City.

I’ve spent over a year in Rome. 98% of this time, I was a poor au pair who was earning just 60 euros a week. So, it goes without saying that I’ve become pretty familiar with the free (but still amazing) things to do in the city.

So, without further ado, here are 30 completely free things to do in Rome.

1. See the Trevi Fountain

italy rome trevi fountain

One of the top free activities to take advantage of when visiting Rome is seeing the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is an absolutely stunning Baroque fountain located in the middle of Rome. This famous fountain has been the backdrop of so many movies, and seeing it in person will absolutely take your breath away – not only because of its beauty but also because of the sheer crowds that gather around it.

However, worry not; you’ll still be able to get an iconic picture of the Trevi Fountain without many people (if any) in the background with some patience and careful cropping.

Note: If you decide to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, this activity will cost you 1 to 2 euros.

2. Visit St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peters - Rome travel

Did you know that it’s completely free to visit St. Peter’s Basilica? Head over to the Vatican and line up to enter this absolute icon of a church! Rome is home to some of the most beautiful churches, and St. Peter’s is definitely at the top of the list for many. Plus, almost as soon as you enter, you’re greeted with Michelangelo’s Pietà, a famous marble sculpture depicting Mary and Jesus.

Since this basilica is one of the top sights to see in Rome, expect long queues to enter. But it’s worth it, I promise!

While the church itself is free to enter, note that if you want to climb up to the dome for a view of the Eternal City, you will need to pay a fee. If you want to do a budget trip of Rome, however, skip the dome, since there are plenty of other free spots to get a good panoramic view of Rome.

3. See Free Caravaggio Paintings

free things to do in rome caravaggio

Caravaggio was a famous Italian painter known for his realism and intense contrasts between light and dark. You may be familiar with some of his works if you were to come across them! And seeing these paintings in person really help you appreciate his art in detail. Unlike many of the other famous Italian works of art, many of the popular Caravaggio paintings are actually free to see in person. The trick is knowing where to go.

The free Caravaggio paintings are mainly located in two churches: Santa Maria del Popolo and Church of San Luigi dei Francesi.

In Santa Maria del Popolo, you can see his Conversion on the Way to Damascus and Crucifixion of Saint Peter. And in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, you can see The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew.

Budget tip: While these paintings are free to marvel at, you may need to pay a euro or two to turn the light on in the chapel to see the paintings. But if you don’t want to, no worries—another tourist will inevitably donate a coin to turn the light on if you are patient! I’ve personally seen these paintings over 10 times and have never paid a dime.

4. Enjoy Domenica Al Museo

Pantheon - rome travel

If you happen to be in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, you’re in luck! The first Sunday of every month is the Domenica Al Museo, a free museum day. While not all Roman museums are free, many of the important museums are. Here are some of the most popular Roman museums you can enter for free:

  • The Colosseum and Roman Forum
  • Borghese Gallery
  • Pantheon
  • Caracalla Baths
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • National Etruscan Museum
  • Palazzo Barberini
  • Galleria Spada
  • Capitoline Museums
  • Ara Pacis Museum
  • And many more!

On the flip side, you can enter the Vatican Museums for free on the last Sunday of every month.

5. Climb Up Gianicolo

gianicolo - rome travel guide

Here is one of the main reasons you don’t need to climb St. Peter’s dome for a view of the city. Gianicolo is one of the seven hills of Rome where you can get a gorgeous view of the entire city. The climb up is not too difficult; it takes just 20 minutes to get to the top, and it is a slight incline the whole way. Even if you do get a bit winded by the time you reach the top, the view is totally worth it.

6. Go See St. Peter’s Basilica From a Keyhole

rome keyhole, giardino degli aranci rome travel guide

Head over to Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta to find a secret keyhole. You might need to wait a moment to get a turn to look inside the keyhole, but once you do, you see the most stunning view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, perfectly placed in between a grove of trees.

7. Hang Out at Giardino Degli Aranci

free things to do in rome orange aranci

After looking through the keyhole, walk a few hundred meters to hang out at Giardino Degli Aranci (Orange Garden). This garden is also located on a hill in Rome and boasts yet another great viewpoint of the city. As you might be able to guess from the name of the garden, this small park has tons of orange trees. You’ll be able to smell those aromatic oranges during the spring and summer.

8. Walk Through the Jewish Ghetto

free things to do in rome ghetto

The old Jewish Ghetto is one of the prettiest areas of Rome. Walk around the Ghetto, getting to know the various sites. The synagogue and Isola Tiberina (the small island on the Tiber River) are not to be missed!

Keep an eye peeled on the floor for brass-plated tiles on the cobblestones. These cobblestones state the name of a Holocaust victim as well as the details of their death. It is certainly a humbling experience to see just how many of these tiles there, as they mark where the victims worked or lived.

9. Check Out Piazza Navona

italy rome navona free things to do

Piazza Navona is an iconic Roman square that is always at the top of any list of things to do in Rome. This gorgeous square features three amazing fountains and colorful buildings framing the entire piazza. At this piazza, you’ll also see the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which is worth visiting (and free as well!).

10. Go to the Market on Campo De’ Fiori

Campo de Fiori - Rome

Near Piazza Navona, you’ll see Campo De’ Fiori, another famous square of Rome. However, this square is not famous for its beauty. Rather, it’s famous for the outdoor market. This is a great place to look around at the colorful local produce, get samples of yummy dips, and check out some souvenirs.

11. Take Pictures at the Spanish Steps

free things to do in rome spanish steps

Another free thing to do in Rome is visit the Spanish Steps, which are iconic stairs in the middle of Rome. They make for a great photo op and are fun to climb up and down. While they may not be as old as the Colosseum, they are still one of the main tourist attractions. When you climb up the steps, you can head up to Piazza Trinità dei Monti, which is one of my favorite spots in the city center of Rome, for a gorgeous sunset.

Another free activity at the Piazza di Spagna is drinking water from the Barcaccia fountain. Just grab an empty water bottle and fill it up with water—it’s super fresh, tasty, and safe.

12. Check Out Rome’s Pyramid

free things to do in rome pyramid

Did you know Rome has a pyramid? The Pyramid of Cestius is made in the ancient Egyptian style. You’ll need to venture a bit further out for this, but it’s well worth seeing if you’d like to see something different. This pyramid was built as a tomb in 18 to 12 BC (yes – this makes it older than the Colosseum!) for Gaius Cestius. It costs nothing to admire the structure from the outside, but if you’d like a tour, you will need to pay a few euros.

13. Drink Water From a Nasone

rome nasoni

One of my favorite things about Rome is that there is free, flowing water all over the city. These fountains from which you drink water are called “nasoni.” These nasoni have constant flowing water that is very safe to drink and incredibly tasty to boot. This water is a godsend, especially during the heat of the day when you’ll undoubtedly be walking 20,000 to 30,000 steps a day trying to see everything in the city.

With these fountains, you can either fill up your water bottles or drink from them like a water fountain by placing your fingers underneath the spout so that the water squirts out the little hole at the top.

14. Walk Around Villa Borghese

villa borghese rome guide rome guide free things to do in

Want to see more of Rome than the buildings and monuments? Then, head over to Villa Borghese, a huge park in the middle of Rome. This is one of my favorite places to cool down after walking around surrounded by stone. Plus, it makes for some great people-watching and is the best place for a picnic. Just grab some bread, meat, and cheese from any of the local supermarkets for a budget-friendly meal!

15. Walk Around Trastevere

trastevere - rome travel guide

Trastevere is one of the most picturesque areas of Rome. I could walk around this part of town for hours, just taking in the views and walking past the cute bars, shops, and restaurants. The evening is lively in Trastevere, with many bars and restaurants overflowing with patrons. Simply sit down at one of the steps at Piazza Trilussa or the Piazza di Santa Maria and enjoy the vibes and aura of the city. You’ll likely also be treated to a few free shows by street performers!

16. Visit Where Julius Caesar Was Killed

largo di torre argentina - rome travel guide free things to do

The historical site where Julius Caesar was murdered is located in Largo di Torre Argentina. While it does cost a few bucks to enter and see the archaeological area up close, you can still admire its historical significance from above. While you are marveling at this murder site, you can also pet some cats for free, as there are free, roaming cats that live in the area.

17. Marvel at the Colosseum

Colosseum - rome travel free things to do

The Colosseum might not be free to enter, but in my opinion, you can marvel at it just as well without actually entering the ancient amphitheater. I recommend walking around and admiring the building from all sides. But if you actually want to get a photo with it, head over to the Colosseum metro station and turn left from the entrance so that the Colosseum is to the right. Then, you’ll find some steps leading up, where you’ll find the best photo spot where you can get that photo with the Colosseum.

18. Appreciate the Roman Forum

Roman Forum - rome travel guide

You can see several parts of the Roman Forum without actually entering. You could easily stare in awe at ancient Rome for hours without getting bored, as you’ll always discover something new about the Forum as you admire it from above. Plus, these make for some stunning photo ops.

Here are some of my favorite spots for looking at the Roman Forum without paying to enter:

  • Via dei Fori Imperiali
  • Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
  • Campidoglio
  • Via di S. Pietro in Carcere

19. Look at the Hieroglyphs in Piazza Del Popolo

free things to do in rome popolo

Piazza Del Popolo may not be the most popular square to visit in the historic center of Rome, but it boasts one huge and magnificent Egyptian obelisk of Sety I. You can get up close and personal with the obelisk to admire the details of the hieroglyphs written into the stone. From Piazza Del Popolo, you can also head up to Pincio for a great free view of the city. Plus, this is the entry into Villa Borghese, another free thing to do in Rome!

20. Take Pictures at Quartiere Coppede

free things to do in rome coppede

The most picturesque area of Rome is, without a doubt, Quartiere Coppede. This is a small area just east of Villa Borghese that looks completely different from the rest of Rome. To visit this area, head over to Piazza Mincio and marvel at the incredible architecture. The architecture features mythological symbols in a gorgeous blend of Medieval, Ancient Greek Baroque, and Art Nouveau styles. The piazza looks like it jumped straight out of a fairytale! And since it’s a bit further out from the tourist center, you can enjoy the entire piazza in peace.

21. Go to Santa Maria Maggiore

santa maria maggiore - rome travel guide free things to do

There are many churches to visit in Rome, and it’s hard to pinpoint which ones you should see, but Santa Maria Maggiore is one you’ll find on pretty much any list of things to do in Rome. Built-in 432, this is the largest church dedicated to Mary in Rome. While you may have to queue a bit to enter, once you’re inside, you’ll marvel at the marble columns, golden ceiling, and mosaics.

22. See Byzantine Mosaics at Basilica Santa Prassede

free things to do in rome prassede

Just a couple blocks away from Santa Maria Maggiore, you’ll find a lesser-known church called Santa Prassede. This 9th-century church features the most stunning Medieval mosaics as well as the Chapel of the Flagellation, which features a part of the column on which supposedly the flagellation of Jesus took place.

23. Walk Around Circus Maximus

free things to do in rome circus maximus

The Circus Maximus was the chariot-racing area and stadium in ancient Roman times. This entertainment venue was the first and largest stadium during this time. Nowadays, you can still see what remains of Circus Maximus as you walk around the now park, imagining what life might have been like here 2,000 years ago!

24. Visit the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

piazza venezia - rome travel guide free things to do

Did you know the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, also called the Altare Della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), is free to visit? Granted, the museum located in the monument is not (and neither is the ride up to the very top of the building), but you can still admire a big portion of the building.

The best thing about this monument is its location. While the outside and inside of the building are pretty spectacular, if you climb up the steps to the free terrace, you can see some amazing views of Rome, as it perfectly overlooks the Roman Forum on one side and the Rome city center on the other.

25. Walk Down Via Appia Antica

free things to do in rome appia antica

Via Appia Antica is one of the oldest roads of ancient Rome. It’s pretty incredible that you can still walk down this road today. And best of all, as you walk down this completely free road, you’ll come across ancient ruins and other historical landmarks most tourists won’t ever see. It’s a very interesting road to walk down, where you can easily spend hours!

Note that not all the attractions you’ll see on the road are free, but many are!

26. Walk Around Piazza Del Campidoglio

free things to do in rome campidoglio

Piazza Del Campidoglio is one of the prettiest piazzas in Rome. Here, you can enjoy the architecture surrounding the piazza and the gorgeous views of the Roman Forum just underneath it. This area boasts some of the best photo ops of the ancient city, so I highly recommend stopping by and walking around.

27. Walk Along the Tiber River

castel santangelo free things to do

If you have some time on your hands, I highly recommend walking along the Tiber River. As you walk alongside it, you’ll randomly come across some of the best things to see in Rome, including Castel Sant’Angelo, Tiber Island, and some really stunning and historic bridges.

If you happen to be visiting Rome in the middle of summer, you may also come across an event called the Lungo Il Tevere, which generally runs from June to August. During this event, you can head down to the river bank after 7 pm, and you’ll be greeted with bars, restaurants, and artists set up by the river!

28. See Michelangelo’s Moses

free things to do in rome moses

Besides the Pietà, another free Michelangelo sculpture you can see is his Moses. To see this sculpture, head over to San Pietro in Vincoli and enter the church. Here, near the back of the church on the right-hand side, you’ll be greeted by Michelangelo’s larger-than-life Moses with his magnificent beard, two horns, and realistic draping.

29. Look at the Ara Pacis (From the Outside)

free things to do in rome ara pacis

The Ara Pacis is a stunning marble altar built in 9 BC. While you do technically need to pay to admire Ara Pacis up close, the good news is that this altar is held inside a glass-walled museum. So, if you’re not dying to see every detail of the Ara Pacis, you don’t necessarily need to buy a ticket, as you can still admire it from the outside. Plus, the steps right outside the museum are a great place to sit down and have a snack.

30. Look in the Mirror at Select Churches

free things to do in rome mirror

You’ve probably already seen the viral mirror you can see in some churches in Rome. These mirrors are set up so that you can properly see the frescoes on the ceiling without craning your neck. They also make for some great photos! The most famous of these churches is St. Ignatius of Loyola, but due to its popularity, you do need to pay a euro to activate the mirror.

But don’t worry! There are other churches you can go to where you can look inside the mirror for free. Plus, there won’t be a crazy line, either.

Other Roman churches with mirrors are:

  • Chiesa del Gesù
  • Basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle

Roaming Rome on a Budget

Checking Rome off of your bucket list doesn’t have to break the bank. You can still see the most incredible sites while on a budget, as you’ll see something incredible no matter which way you turn your head. From taking pictures with the Colosseum to enjoying life in the many piazzas around Rome, the city has something free to offer everyone.

Looking for some more travel recommendations? Head over to my post on bucket list destinations for couples.

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