Free things to do in Rome

Must-see free Rome sights

Rome is the most fascinating city in Italy, which makes it arguably the most fascinating city in the world: you could spend a month here and still only scratch the surface. If you’re looking to explore this incredible city, take a look at our selection of Rome breaks.

1. Enter the incredible ancient Roman structure of the Pantheon
2. Explore the vibrant and energetic market of Campo de’ Fiori
3. Take some snaps at the Spanish Steps
4. Explore the attractive neighbourhood of Monti
5. Discover the fantastic Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere
6. Make the most of the other museums on a Sunday
7. Take a stroll through some gorgeous gardens

There is no place like Rome. From fantastic attractions such as entering the Pantheon to wandering the impressive neighbourhood of Monti, you will have endless options of what to do in Rome for free.

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1. Enter the incredible ancient Roman structure of the Pantheon

The main focus of picturesque Piazza della Rotonda is the Pantheon, easily the most complete ancient Roman structure in the city and, along with the Colosseum, visually the most impressive. Though originally a temple that formed part of Marcus Agrippa’s redesign of the Campus Martius in around 27 BC, it’s since been proved that the building was entirely rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian and finished around the year 125 AD. It’s a formidable architectural achievement even now: the diameter is precisely equal to its height (43.3m), and the oculus (the hole in the centre of the dome) - from which shafts of sunlight descend to illuminate the musty interior - is a full 8.7m across. Most impressively, there are no visible arches or vaults to hold the whole thing up; instead they’re sunk into the concrete of the walls of the building. In its heydey it would have been richly decorated, the coffered ceiling heavily stuccoed and the niches filled with the statues of gods, but now, apart from its sheer size, the main things of interest are the tombs of two Italian kings and the tomb of Raphael. This is by far one of the best free things to do in Rome.

Best for: Discovering Roman history.

While you’re there: Who could forget the Colosseum? It’s a must for any visit to Rome.

2. Explore the vibrant and energetic market of Campo de’ Fiori

Campo de’ Fiori is in many ways Rome’s most appealing square, home to a lively fruit and vegetable market (Mon-Sat 7am-2pm), and flanked by restaurants and cafés. No one really knows how the square came by its name, which means “field of flowers”, but one theory holds that it was derived from the Roman Campus Martius, which used to cover most of this part of town. Another claims it is named after Flora, the mistress of Pompey, whose theatre used to stand on what is now the square’s northeast corner - a huge complex by all accounts, and the supposed location of Julius Caesar’s assassination.

Best for: Exploring a market.

While you’re there: There are plenty of other markets to discover too, such as the Testaccio Market which sells everything from food to handbags!

3. Take some snaps at the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna) sweep down in a cascade of balustrades and balconies to Piazza di Spagna. In the nineteenth century they were the hangout of young hopefuls waiting to be chosen as artists’ models, and nowadays the scene is not much changed, with the steps providing the venue for international posing and flirting late into the summer nights. The only Spanish thing about them, incidentally, is the fact that they lead down to the Spanish Embassy, which also gave the piazza its name.

Best for: Snapping photos.

While you’re there: Wander around the art stalls at the top and bottom of the stairs. Many artists sell their paintings here.

4. Explore the attractive neighbourhood of Monti

Between Via Cavour and Via Nazionale, and up as far as the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, is the small area that has come to be known as Monti. Once the ancient city’s slum district, it’s now an atmospheric, vibrant quarter focusing on lively Piazza Madonna dei Monti; Via dei Serpenti and Via del Boschetto lead north from the square, both crammed with appealing bars and restaurants. Exploring Monti is one of the most interesting free things to do in Rome.

Best for: Enjoying a lively quarter in Rome.

While you’re there: Enjoy a scoop (or two) of gelato from Fata Morgana. They have some interesting flavours such as Gorgonzola!

5. Discover the fantastic Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere

Trastevere at its most disreputable but also most characteristic can be witnessed on Sunday, when the Porta Portese flea market stretches down from the Porta Portese gate down Via Portuense to Trastevere train station in a congested medley of antiques, old motor spares, cheap clothing, household goods, bric-a-brac, antiques and assorted junk. It starts around 7am, and you should come early if you want to buy, or even move - most of the bargains have gone by 10am, by which time the crush of people can be intense. It’s pretty much all over by lunchtime. 

Best for: Buying some unique antiques.

While you’re there: The Rome Museum is in the area too and displays plenty of Roman art.

6. Make the most of the other museums on a Sunday

In Rome, the first Sunday of the month should be renamed Funday, with loads of free things to do. You can see the Colosseum, Forum, Villa Borghese and the Castel Sant’Angelo among others, all without paying.

So bear that in mind when you’re booking a city break to Rome.

Best for: Some museums offer free entry, you just have to book in advance.

While you’re there: The Vatican museums on the last Sunday of every month.

7. Take a stroll through some gorgeous gardens

More than half of Rome is made up of parks, gardens and open spaces - so there’s loads of opportunities to take a break and chill out on the grass or on a bench.

Villa Borghese: While you need to book in advance for the villa and art gallery, the grounds are free and well worth seeing. The main entrance is near the Spanish Steps, and you can get great views of the city. 

Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden):  Another cool view of Rome can be found in this park - one for the panoramic photograph setting on your phone. You’re also close to the famous spot, where you can see St Peter’s through the keyhole. 

Parco degli Acquedotti: If you imagined a Roman park in your head before visiting - this would probably be what was in your mind’s eye. Found near the famous Appian Way, it’s like straight out of a film with its pines lining up alongside the aqueducts.

Best for: Enjoy Rome outdoors and beautiful views.

While you’re there: Stop to quench your thirst at one of Rome’s many “nasoni” (drinking fountains).There are over 2000 dotted around the city.

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