Rome is an amazing city to experience and explore. But entrance fees quickly add up, burning a hole in your travel budget the size of the Colosseum. Luckily for you, there are plenty of things to do in Rome for free and amazing free attractions. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling on the strictest of budgets or wish to balance out your Rome spending a bit. I gathered the 9 best free things to do in Rome to make things more affordable for you.
9 Awesome FREE Things To Do In Rome
My Personal Favorites: 9 Best Free Things to do in Rome
These are my personal recommendations for the best free things to experience in Rome. They can easily be added to your Rome itinerary. Continue reading below for a more detailed explanation about these budget-friendly and free attractions in Rome or click the link to jump straight to the subject of your interest.
- Spanish Steps
- Trevi Fountain
- Piazza Navona
- Campo de’ Fiori
- Tiber Island
- View of the Roman Forum
- Best view of St. Peter’s Basilica
- Saint Peter’s Square
Who could have thought that a few steps, connecting the Spanish Square (PIazza di Spagna) with the square and church at the top (Trinita dei Monti Church) could become such a major tourist attraction in Rome?
But what is not to love? Decorated by hundreds of flower pots with colorful azaleas in spring, the monumental 174 steps of the stairway give striking views on the rooftops of Rome. Because I’m lazy, my recommendation would be to start at the top. Then take in the views of Rome as you slowly descend down to Piazza di Spagna. Although it is tempting to rest midway and have a snack or lunch and indulge in the art of people watching, this is actually not allowed. Since August 2019, police actually starts to enforce this rule and you can get a fine up to €450. So, don’t sit down on this monument but enjoy it, standing up.
Free things to do at the Spanish Steps in Rome
Instead, just slowly move down (or up) the stairway, take in the views, make a dozen selfies and admire the fountain (by Bernini the elder) at the bottom of the staircase. This is one of the top free things to do in Rome because it is easily accessible, quick and (duh) all for free!
On the left side of the Spanish Steps, at Piazza di Spagna level, you’ll find the Metro entrance for Metro stop Spagna. Around the Spanish Steps, you’ll find many ice cream parlors. The gelato is not for free but eating it with the magnificent view of the Spanish Steps doesn’t cost a penny more!
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s iconic symbols, just like the Colosseum. This might be the most famous fountain in the world as it was featured in many movies that set their scene in Rome. Originally located at the spot where 3 roads (tre vie- hence the name) came together and meant the end of an aqueduct that provided ancient Romans with water.
Thanks to numerous renovations in the 1980s and 90s and most recently 2015, you can hardly tell the fountain was originally built between 1732 and 1762. Nicola Salvi won a designer competition although he didn’t have the winning design. The original winner Alessandro Galilei was from Florence and that did not sit well with the proud Romans, so Roman citizen Salvi got the job.
Free things to do at the Trevi Fountain Rome
The Trevi Fountain is an exhilarating spectacle of rushing water, modern led light at night and the exciting shrieks of young children running around. Add in the never-ending cacophony of tourists admiring this Baroque piece of art and you have the perfect recipe for one of the best free attractions in Rome!
Stand with your back against the fountain and throw a coin with your right hand, over your left shoulder. This will guarantee you, you will return to Rome (so legend has it). Of course, in these modern times, just make the mandatory selfie while doing so, otherwise, the Roman gods will not believe you.
If you’re wondering how much money is purposely thrown into the Trevi Fountain? Roughly 3.000 to 4.000€. A day! The money is collected each day and given to the church to help the people in need. Be aware, ‘gathering’ coins from the fountain yourself is not allowed. Recent events have opened discussion if the money should not be used otherwise. For example to help the average Roman people and fix the bad condition of the Roman roads.
Another thing you could (try) to do is photograph the fountain. I applaud you if you succeed because the 26.3 meters (86 ft) high and 49.15 meters (161.3 ft) wide Trevi Fountain is impossible to capture with a normal camera.
The Hotel Fontana directly opposite the Trevi Fountain has a breakfast room at the top floor with views of the fountain. Or opt to book one of their hotel rooms with Trevi Fountain View. Click here to find out availability and prices.
Things to do in Rome for free: Piazza Navona
This lovely square in Rome is one of the real free treats the city has to offer. Built on an ancient race track, the square outlines the shape of an oval. The Piazza Navona is a public place in Rome and can be visited, free of charge, 24 hours a day. That is why it must be on the top of your list with free things to do in Rome.
The square is an example of the Baroque art stream in Rome of the 15th century. Main features of this period can be found in the central church, the Sant’Agnese in Agone by Borromini. Another great example of Baroque art is the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana
On the north and south end of Piazza Navona, you’ll find 2 more fountains. One by Bernini with 4 Tritons and a Moor wrestling a dolphin. Hence the name Fontana del Moro. The other one is by the hand of Della Porta, showcasing a statue of Neptune.
Free things to do at Piazza Navona Rome
But what is so special about the Piazza Navona? Besides her historical shape, balanced and dramatic fountains and Baroque centerpiece, the Piazza Navona is mainly fun for a taste of (touristic) Rome. At the Piazza Navona, you’ll find artist selling their paintings and images of Rome. Although not all art is very authentic, some hidden gems make for a great souvenir of Rome.
Piazza Navona outer ring is lined with bars, cafes,
Campo de’ Fiori
When you think of Piazza Navona as a bright, somewhat posh and accessible square, then Campo de’Fiori is her gritty, seedy, down to earth neighbor. Located close to the Piazza Navona, the Campo de’ Fiori is a square for the locals, although tourists flock to it for the ‘real Roman’ experience.
Each day, you’ll find a market for food and produce at the Campo de’Fiori. But it seems the favorite thing for locals to shop for is the latest gossip. The rectangular square was once a bare patch of land with wildflowers growing freely (field of flowers), now the gossip grows abundantly.
Free things to do at Campo de’ Fiori
Most exciting moment to visit is when the market vendors pack up their produce for the day, and the summer heat resides herself in the narrow alleys around the square. Try to find a spot at a local bar or tavern and sip on your
Again, the market is a great place to shop for delicious souvenirs or foodie finds. But make sure to check out the statues and buildings at the square. Try your luck drinking from one of many Roman water fountains and take in the buzzin’ hum of locals chatting each other up. If you like off the beaten track destinations, then the Campo de’Fiori is one of the best free attractions in Rome.
The Pantheon must be one of my favorite places in Rome to visit. Once an ancient Roman temple, then the oldest church and currently a mausoleum, the Pantheon is many things in one. Although it is a major tourist attraction, you can visit it without paying an entrance fee, making it by far the most popular free thing to do in Rome!
The Pantheon started out as an ancient temple for All Gods. In its current form, it was built around 126 ACE on the site of the first temple (27 BCE till 14 ACE) leaving the inscription on the facade. This caused many misunderstanding by later scholars. The building
Free things to do at the Pantheon, Rome
Even today, this remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, measuring 43 meters (142 ft.) in perfect circular form. I guarantee you’ll get neck cramps from looking up to the oculus and trying to take in the scale and magnitude of the building.
Take a look around and spot the tombs of the famous painter Raphael and King Victor Emmanuel. The square in front of the Pantheon is worth a 2nd look too. Most times, it is filled with tourists and street sellers. But when you take a few steps back, you can see the obelisk in front of the Pantheon. Seen from the side, you notice her odd structure with the temple-like entrance and the weird round shape behind it.
Often overlooked or simply passed by, the Tiber Island in Rome is actually quite a unique and remarkable place to visit. Obviously, it is an island in the River Tiber. It is connected by 2 bridges on either side and therefor really accessible, you can walk in and out freely.
It was on Tiber Island that the Temple of Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine, was erected in the 3rd century. Legend says, after a great plague outbreak, a ship was sent to obtain a statue. The snake that curled itself around the mast, disembarked the boat at Tiber Island, indicated the temple should be built here. Do you recognize the symbol of the curled up snake around a pole?
I rather like to think, pragmatic as I am, the Tiber Island was chosen for the hospital and temple of Asclepius because it was separated from the city, forming a natural barrier for an outbreak of disease or illnesses. What do you think?
Free things to do on Tiber Island
In 1584 a hospital was built on Tiber Island. So the island has always been connected with medicine and healing. What I liked about Tiber Island is its remote feel. Once you cross the bridges, you’ll not find hordes of tourists blocking the streets. No selfie-stick vendors or souvenir stalls. Instead, you’ll find quiet little streets covered in the dark gritty sauce that is Rome. I had a wonderful pasta meal at a little trattoria here once, only two small tables with checkered tablecloths outside and delicious pasta.
The best view of the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was once the main center of power in ancient Rome. It was here that laws were made, senators killed and statues erected. Nowadays, you’ll find a vast array of ruins dating from the 8th century BCE till 312 ACE.
It can be hard to get a good overview of what the Roman Forum really is. When you’re smack bang in the middle of it, it is hard to see the layout of the ancient ruins. Luckily, there is a great viewpoint of the Roman Forum. And you don’t need to pay for it to see it.
Free access to the best views of the Roman Forum from the backside of the Campidoglio
The Campidoglio is the Italian name for the Capitolium or Capitoline Hill. The hill itself is amazing, with palaces and palazzo’s from the Renaissance. And the design of the square on the hill is by the hand of no other than Michelangelo.
Here, you’ll also find the Capitoline Museums, but on the left of the main building, you’ll find a small paved street with cobblestones. This leads to a viewing area where you have amazing views of the Roman Forum.
Continue a bit further down on the Via del Campidoglio and you’ll experience one of the best free things to see in Rome: The Forum Romanum!
Enjoy the best view of St. Peter’s Basilica
The best view of the St. Peter’s Basilica is nowhere near the Vatican. Ok, it does take some effort to get to it, but it is one of the city’s most famous secrets and one of the most amazing free things to see in Rome.
On Aventine Hill, at the square of the Knights of Malta (Piazza Dei Cavalieri Di
100% free: the best view of St. Peter’s Basilica
On the other side of the gate, are the perfectly manicured gardens of the headquarters of the Knights of Malta. And they have trimmed their hedged in such a way, that your eyes are drawn to the most amazing view of Rome: The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Framed by green hedges, colored by the distinct blur that is Rome in summer’s heat, you’ll see the blue dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as if it is only meters away (instead of the 3,5 km/ 2 miles).
If you’re up on the Aventine Hill anyway, pop in at the Giardino degli Aranci, the Garden of the Oranges with her white crisp paths and abundant orange trees. Once again, you’ll find your eyes drawn to that stunning view of Rome with St. Peter’s Basilica.
A Remarkable fact, the Knights of Malta and their order were recognized as a sovereign state. This means, while you’re standing in Italy, you’re looking through the state of the Knights of Malta to see the Vatican! 3 States at once!
Saint Peter’s Square
Just like Saint Peter’s Basilica tops all other churches, Saint Peter’s Square is the master of all squares in Rome. The wide space, giving extra grandeur to the Basilica in front, is a masterpiece by Bernini. The sculptor, architect and now urban planner, left his mark in several clever findings.
People often rush past the square, to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, but in my opinion, the square is one of the best free things to see in Rome and deserves time to explore too!
Saint Peter’s Square is most impressive seen from the street directly facing the Basilica, but as a visitor to Rome and the Vatican, it is very likely, you’ll arrive via Metro stop Ottaviano. Or you can walk from the Castel Sant’Angelo through the small streets that surround the Vatican. The first thing you’ll see is the massive forest of Doric columns, embracing the visitor with widespread arms.
At the center of the square, you’ll find an ancient Egyptian obelisk, erected 100 years prior (in 1586) to Bernini’s redesign of the square. It measures 25.5 m (84 ft) in height. Taken from Ancient Heliopolis in Egypt (where it stood roughly since 1835 BCE), the obelisk stood in Roman Alexandria until it was moved to Rome in 37 ACE.
Free things to do at Saint Peter’s Square
You can enter the square free of charge so it is a great architectural sight for free. Do follow instructions by Italian police, as they control the square. During several important religious days or when the Pope delivers a sermon to the people, the square might be too crowded to explore.
The things to look out for are the Egyptian obelisk at the center of the square and the sundial stones in the ground. Several white marble disks were added at the position where the shadow of the obelisk’s tip hits the ground at noon, making the obelisk an enormous sundial. 4 Disks were added to show the direction of the different winds.
On the right and left, you’ll find a fountain on each side. Between the obelisk and the fountains, you’ll find white marble disks with a dark center that marks the center of each colonnade. If you stand on them, you’ll face the colonnades directly and only see the first row of columns.
Instead of looking at them, you can also walk through the forest of 248 Doric colonnades, 4 rows thick, 13 meters high as they circumnavigate the square. Check out the 140 (!) statues of saints on top of the colonnades, do you know all of them?
To see Saint Peter’s Square from a different perspective, you can view it from the top of the Basilica. Unfortunately, this is not free (8-10 euro to climb the stairs or use the elevator), but it does give a remarkable view.
Top Free Things To Do In Rome
I hope this list with the 9 free attractions in Rome will help you enjoy Rome and stay on budget. Almost all items are in the public space and can be visited 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Especially useful as most museums, catacombs,
Other Free Things to do in Rome
My above list with free attractions in Rome can be seen without charge on any visit during the year. I did this on purpose because planning a trip to Rome is already hard enough, without juggling specific dates with free admission. However, I always like to be as thorough as possible, so I’ll give you a list with normally paid attractions in Rome, that are free on specific dates or time or events. If you travel to Rome on a budget, see if you can add these to your list of free things to do in Rome.
- Visit the Vatican Museum for free. Usually, the last Sunday of the month has free admission. Check the schedule to be sure (and expect queues!)
- First Sunday of the month. From October till April a lot of the state-owned museums didn’t charge admission on the first Sunday of the month. However, this practice is currently being revised to allow museums to select their own (6-8) free days a year.
- Visit the Colosseum for free. It is possible. First, it used to be the first Sunday of the month, now they determine a few free days a year, check the website to get the latest information.
- An audience with the Pope. Although many people will try to sell you tickets, it is actually free. Request a ticket via fax and attent the sermon for free. Read more here.
- Free walking tours. Just like any other city in Europe, Rome is full of free walking tours. But don’t forget to tip your guide! Read more about the etiquette on free walking tours here.
- Churches are free attractions in Rome. And often they are packed to the brim with museum-worthy art. Check out my post about Caravaggio in Rome here.
- Be young! Did you know that everyone younger than 18 can visit most of Rome’s attractions for free? You have to provide proof in the form of an ID but you get the experience amazing things to do in Rome for free!
What is your favorite free activity in Rome? Where do you like to go and enjoy life in Rome? Please share your experiences in the comment section below, I’d love to read them.
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