First Time In Rome: Things To Do

Top Things To Do On Your First Time In Rome

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A list of things to do in Rome if you’re a first time visitor.  A few tips before you read on:

  • Rick Steve Audio Guides are a great way to learn about Rome.  You can download them for a heap of the main attractions in Rome to save you doing a tour.
  • To learn a little about the history of Rome before you go, read our Short History Of Rome.
  • Watch out for scammers.  They are everywhere in Rome, especially around the main attractions (and particularly around the Spanish Steps.)
  • Don’t attempt to go to the Roman forum without either doing a tour or using the Rick Steves Audio Guide of the Forum. You’ll just end up wandering around aimlessly and not learning much at all.

Things to do in Rome…

Visit The Colosseum

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was estimated to hold up to 80,000 spectators.  It was used for gladiatorial contests, as well as other public spectacles and shows.

You can buy tickets at the front of the Colosseum itself, or from Palatine hill or the Roman forum entrance (this can be a good way to skip the line if it’s really busy).  Alternatively, to skip the ticket queues altogether you can buy your tickets online.  There is a small fee if you do this, but the lines can be quite long during peak season, so it’s definitely worth doing.

If you’re organised, download the Rick Steve Audio Guide to the Colosseum and you can have a listen as you walk around to get a bit more info!

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi 1762.  It’s gone on to become one of the most famous fountains in the world. It’s featured quite heavily in pop culture… most famously for Anita Ekberg’s scene in La Dolce Vita.

Legend goes that if you throw a coin into the fountain with your right hand, over your left shoulder while your back is to the fountain, it ensures a return trip to Rome.  Not sure about this as we haven’t been back yet… But we probably will be at some stage!

The Spanish Steps

Another of the must see things in Rome… the steps are generally crowded all day, so get there early if you can.  They were built from 1723-25 by Francesco de Sanctis, but really gained their fame internationally through pop culture, and particularly after being featured in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday.

Also watch out for scammers around here, they can be hanging around the top of the steps, trying to chat to you and trick you out of your money.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum that contains the ruins of many ancient of the ancient Roman buildings.  It’s a great place to explore and learn a lot more about Roman culture.  In Roman times, the forum was the centre of public life.

You can’t really just wander around, as most of the buildings will mean nothing to you.  So your best bet is to either do a tour (you can book one at the entrance) OR, before you go, download Rick Steves Audio Guide of the Forum.  It’s free, and as long as you make your way to the right entrance to start it’s a great guide.

The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basillica

One of the most popular things to do in Rome, and another on the list of ‘must do activities’.  We think the Vatican and St. Peter’s is really worth doing, just to get an idea of the insane wealth of the Catholic Church.  In fact it’ll probably make you a little sick thinking of the amount of money they do have.

There are quite a few things to know here.  Firstly, there is a dress code.  No shorts, miniskirts, or bare shoulders, or you won’t be let in.  Secondly, the queues are absolutely massive.  You can be waiting hours.  If it’s bad, it’s honestly worth doing a paid tour just to skip the queue.  You can suss it out when you get there – there are lots of people offering paid ‘skip the queue’ tours at the entrance.

You can also just visit one or the other – and St. Peter’s is free to enter.  Although again, the queues are huge.  If you do this, and want a bit of info, download the Rick Steves Audio Guide again – it’s a great resource.

If you end up doing both, it’ll take you the best part of a day to get around, so probably don’t plan anything else on the day.

For more info, see this post on the Vatican and St. Peter’s by Rome Toolkit

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is a former roman temple that’s now a church.  It’s believed to have been built by Marcus Agrippa in 25-27CE, although the current version (which is the third version) was built by Hadrian in 118-125 CE.

It’s open most days from 8.30am to 7.30pm, but this changes on Sundays and public holidays.  Entry is free.  For more info, including detailed opening times, see this useful Information About The Pantheon

Piazza Navona

The most famous of the Piazzas in Rome is the Piazza Navona. It was originally built in the first century CE.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was transformed into the beautiful piazza it is today – primarily at the time of Pope Innocent X – as his family palace faced the piazza.  Another ‘must see’ place on your tour of Rome…


To get away from the crowds (not that that’s possible in Rome really, but to head somewhere a little less crowded), head over to Trastevere.  It’s a really cool area full of little alleyways and shops.  It’s a great place to go to see something a bit more than just the main tourist sites.  It’s just over the river from the main sights, and you can easily google map it to get there.


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