This post was originally published in February, 2013 and was updated in November, 2017.
Rome is a big city that can be overwhelming for visitors with so many things to do, see and, most importantly—eat. Many of which can cost you a pretty penny. Often overlooked, some of Rome’s most beautiful attractions can be enjoyed without spending a single centesimi.
Here’s our guide on how to enjoy the best of what The Eternal City has to offer – for free!
Read our previous guide on the best things to do in Rome here!
Follow Tradition for a Little Luck
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous outdoor attractions in Rome, perhaps even the most famous. The incredible Baroque design is a must-see for all visitors to Rome. Take the time to take in this breathtaking fountain, completed in 1762 and known for being thelargest and intricate of baroque fountains. Legend has it that if you toss a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain, you will someday return to Rome.
Just take the metro to the Barberini – Fontana di Trevi stop.
Climb the steps and check out the view
The Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna are a must to experience. Climb the steps and overlook this Piazza like John Keats, the poet, once did. His apartment in this piazza is now a museum. The view from the top overlooks Rome and leads to another piazza on its backside.
Very easy to get to, just off the Spagna metro stop.
If you are there after 7pm look for tour guides with angel wings on their umbrellas. They offer free 30-minute tours for small groups daily (with the exception of Sunday) in the evening. The Pantheon was built in 120 AD and is the oldest domed building in Rome. Be sure to stop here and take in the amazingly sculpted proportions of this temple that honors all gods. If you are a big fan of Raphael, the Pantheon is also the burial place for this famous artist, among others. If you are in Rome when it rains or even snows, be sure to run here, seeing the rain orsnow fall from the centre dome is a breathtaking experience.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Whether you are Catholic or not, this should be a must see on your list. St. Peter’s Basilica is home to works by Michelangelo and the basilica itself is an outstanding work of art that is more than worth visiting. Be sure to examine the incredible bronze canopy that protects the Papal Alter where the Pope himself celebrates mass. The main area is free but there is a charge, 5 euro, to climb the cupola that Michelangelo constructed and 7 euro to take an elevator to the top.
Be prepared for a long line and dress appropriately!
Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of each month
The Vatican Museums can be costly to visit but on the last Sunday of every month they are free! Be aware that you will need to wake up early (arriving around 7am) and be prepared for a long line as many like to take advantage of this day. The museums will be free from 8:30am to 2pm on this day and last entry is at 12:30pm. Once you’ve had your fill of world-class works of art, why not explore the backstreets around the beautiful dome of St Peter’s Basilica on our Vatican Area Tour for Foodies? We’ll take you off the beaten path and introduce you to Instagram-worthy street food, local wines and craft beers, and friendly locals.
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Villa Borghese – Casa Del Cinema
Be sure to check out these vast and beautiful gardens. On a beautiful sunny day, this is the perfect location for a relaxing break from the city and is the perfect picnic setting. Within Villa Borghese is Casa Del Cinema, a perfect place for movie buffs as it plays classic movies for those interested free of charge.
Villa Doria Pamphilj
Another beautiful villa setting built in the mid 17th century. This is the biggest park in Rome and is a great place for families. The park has gardens, fountains, waterfalls and more. The perfect location for a long walk or jog or a Sunday picnic.
Conveniently located alongside Villa Doria Pamphilj is the Gianicolo Hill that has one of the most breathtaking views of Rome. You can also check out the massive monument of Garibaldi here. Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general and politician and has an incredible statue on this Hill to hold his memory. Daily at midday, a cannon fires from here to mark the battle of Rome. You don’t want to miss this.
Piazza Double date – Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori
Piazza Navona was once an arena for sports competitions but is now a piazza holding important architectural pieces (Fountain of Four Rivers and Fontana del Moro) and a place where locals come out to sell their art and perform. Campo de Fiori, another piazza, holds a daily market from morning until about 2pm. In the centre of the piazza stands a monument dedicated to the philosopherGiordano Bruno. Both piazzas are full of roman life and activity anddefinitely worth a visit that won’t cost you! (Read our post on the best markets in Rome!)
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Campo de Fiori:
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Take in the culture of the neighborhood – Testaccio
A less touristy neighborhood, Testaccio is located south of Aventine Hill along the Tiber River. Children love to check out Rome’s very own pyramid, Piramide Cestia, located in the center of Testaccio. At night, this neighborhood is the home of Rome’s club district. And of course, ask many a Roman where they head for great food – you guessed it, Testaccio! Roman cuisine (cucina romana) was born in Testaccio. So where better to eat your way through all that Rome has to offer than the city’s original foodie neighborhood? Join our Taste of Testaccio Food Tour or our Testaccio Supper Stroll to find out where the locals eat!
Take in the culture of the neighborhood – Trastevere
Take a look at the real old Rome. This hip neighborhood is known for its nightlife after sunset and can be quite entertaining to walk through. Filled with narrow cobblestoned streets, restaurants, and affordable shopping, Trastevere is a place worth getting lost in. Trastevere is the most picturesque Roman neighborhood and one you need to visit during your stay so why not get to know the area and it’s fantastic food and drinks on either our Trastevere for Foodies tour or our Twilight Trastevere Food Tour!
Located south of Vatican City.
Basilica di San Clemente
There are many churches in Rome, but it is only San Clemente that is actually a 3-in-1. Levels, getting more ancient as you head south, separate the churches. The lower level being an ancient worship site and the top level housing beautiful mosaics. Located on Via San Giovanni, this isn’t just a beautiful church but a trip through time.
Take a stroll around the Colosseum Foro Romano
Although it will cost you head into these historic sites, it is free to walk right up and around them. Even without heading inside seeing this area lit up at night is incredible!
Lastly, if you happen to be near a bakery at closing time….
There are many family owned and friendly bakeries around Rome. At closing time they mostly throw out what they didn’t sell that day. If you happen to see them doing this feel free to ask them if you could try some, they may surprise you and give you a bag full of goodies.