If you’ve only got one free day to explore, we’ve got you covered. This self-guided walking tour of Rome will help you hit all the main monuments and areas in just a few hours.
Rome is a city with thousands of years of history, all layered together and visible in its stunning monuments, buildings and neighborhoods. The historic center in particular is full of things to do and see, and luckily they’re all within walking distance of one another.
Of course, we think this city merits at least a few days of exploring. But in case you’re short on time, we’ve rounded up the top spots you simply can’t miss.
On this self-guided walking tour of Rome, we’re taking you from the Colosseum to the Vatican, with many stops in between. But feel free to spend as much time as you’d like at each place, and adapt it to fit with any other tours you might have scheduled!
8 Essential Stops on a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Rome
1. Colosseum and Roman Forum
Let’s start our day with one of Rome’s oldest monuments, the Colosseum. Even if you don’t have time to go inside, the park around the monument gives you a good look at the exterior. If you walk down the road a bit, you’ll be able to look down into the Roman Forum at the ruins as well.
2. Piazza Venezia
Your next stop is the central hub of Rome, Piazza Venezia, where you’ll find the Vittorio Emanuele II monument—or as the Romans affectionately call it, “the wedding cake.” This multi-level, white marble monument was built to commemorate the unification of Italy under the reign of its first king, Vittorio Emanuele II.
3. Trevi Fountain
Not far from Piazza Venezia is one of the most popular sites in Rome, the Fontana di Trevi. Wandering along a small side street, you’ll hear the fountain before you see it. This stunning masterpiece is a must-see for any first-time visitors to Rome. Due to the popular tradition of throwing coins in the fountain, it earns about €3,000 a day to be given to the charity Caritas.
Local’s tip: It’s best to visit as early (or late) as possible in the day to avoid the crowds. Think 5 or 6 a.m.!
4. Spanish Steps
From the Trevi Fountain, you’ll make your way to the Spanish Steps next (detour to Piazza Barberini if you’d like to see another of Bernini’s fountains along the way, the Fontana del Tritone).
Because recent restrictions prohibit any sitting or eating on the steps themselves, hold off until our next stop. In the meantime, you can take photos, grab a drink at the rooftop terrace above the steps, or do some shopping at the designer stores in the square.
This iconic building is next on your self-guided walking tour of Rome. And of course, we have plenty of recommendations for where to eat near the Pantheon! Once you’ve finished that cone of gelato, head inside the temple (no ticket needed) to check out Raphael’s tomb. Look up to admire the only source of light, a 7.8-meter oculus in the center of the dome.
Insider’s tip: If you visit on a rainy day, you can see the raindrops falling inside!
6. Piazza Navona
A short walk from the Pantheon will bring you to Piazza Navona. Just like the Circus Maximus, this square was originally used for chariot racing and other events in Ancient Roman times, before being built over in later eras. In the center is yet another of Bernini’s fountains, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, which has inspired people with its beauty for centuries.
Remember, it’s best to skip dining at any restaurants in this area (most of which will be overpriced). But if you do want to sit and enjoy the view, grab a cappuccino or glass of wine at one of the many bars nearby.
7. St. Peter’s and the Vatican
Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, the Vatican can easily take up an entire morning or afternoon. Be prepared for long lines (even if you buy a ticket ahead of time). You’ll want to dedicate at least a couple of hours if you do decide to venture into the museums or the basilica. From the outside, however, you can see the entire square of St. Peter’s and enjoy the exterior architecture and sculptures.
After a long day spent exploring the center of Rome and its historic treasures, heading to the Trastevere neighborhood for dinner, a drink and maybe a gelato is the perfect way to end the evening. Join us on a Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting Experience, or continue the DIY spirit of the day and choose from among Trastevere’s best restaurants.
Either way, you’ll end your tour of Rome in one of its most beautiful areas, where you’ll get to see a different side of this vibrant city.