Best things to do in Rome

8 of the best things to do in Rome (and great hotels to stay near them)

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  • Looking for the best things to do in Rome - and hotels that are close to all the top sights? Plan your mini-break with this handy guide

    Words by Italy expert Sophie Butler

    1. Colosseum and Roman Forum

    Dating from 80 AD, the oval amphitheatre is one of the must-see things to do in Rome for any first-time visitor. Estimated to hold more than 50,000 spectators, the visitor route includes the underfloor passages as well as the well-preserved upper seating.

    It’s a bit harder to make sense of the ruins which surround the adjacent Forum, but the rectangular layout is a wonderfully evocative insight into ancient Roman life.

    Best things to do in Rome

    Rome Colosseum (Alamy)

    Stay at: Nerva Boutique Hotel is not only good value but fabulously located next to the Forum and serves lavish breakfasts.

    A perfect base because: the hotel is named after Emperor Nerva who built the Forum in the first century AD

    From: £80 including breakfast

    Book your break to the Nerva Boutique Hotel with

    2. Trevi Fountain

    Need more time to experience the best things to do in Rome? Throw a coin into this world-famous fountain and it’s said that you’re guaranteed to return to the city. As a result an estimated 3,000 euros are flicked into the clear water every day by throngs of hopeful tourists. Completed in 1732 and made from white, Travertine stone and Carrara marble, it depicts the muscled torso of Oceanus standing on his shell chariot, drawn by rearing winged sea-horses.

    Best things to do in Rome

    Fountain di Trevi (Alamy)

    Stay at: Residenza Torre Colonna which offers stylish, spacious rooms inside a former medieval watchtower, plus a five-person hot tub on its roof terrace.

    A perfect base because: the hotel is just seven minutes’ walk from the fountain

    From: £124 including breakfast

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    3. Spanish Steps

    Expensively restored with a £1.3 million donation from the Bulgari jewellery company, this monumental 18th-century staircase re-opened last year with steps re-levelled and cracks repaired.

    Overlooked by the Trinita dei Monti church and leading down to the Piazza di Spagna, these iconic steps were used as a backdrop for Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s film “Roman Holiday”. Thanks to the renovation, you can Insta those steps to your heart’s content: another of the classic things to do in Rome.

    Best things to do in Rome

    Spanish Steps at night (Alamy)

    Stay at: Hassler Roma, a grand, Belle Époque hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps with a Michelin-starred restaurant and spa.

    A perfect base because: Audrey Hepburn stayed here while shooting the film

    From: £265 including breakfast

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    4. Piazza del Popolo

    For the best taste of Rome’s neoclassical pomp, a spot of people-watching and some elegant strolling, head to this vast, pedestrianised piazza, designed by architect Guiseppe Valadier in the early 1800s.

    The Egyptian obelisk flanked by lion fountains in the centre was bought to Rome from Heliopolis in 10 BC. Don’t miss Via del Corso which runs off the square: shopping here is another of the best things to do in Rome.

    Best things to do in Rome

    Egyptian lion statue in Piazza del Popolo (Alamy)

    Stay at: Hotel de Russie is a long-established, grand hotel with a peaceful restaurant courtyard and knowledgeable concierges.

    A perfect base because: the hotel is housed in a building also designed by Guiseppe Valadier

    From: £332 excluding breakfast

    Book your break to the Hotel de Russie with

    5. Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica

    Always busy, it’s worth booking a timed slot to avoid the long queues which form outside the Vatican for a look at its extraordinary treasure troves of classical statues, frescoes and Egyptian artefacts, and, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings.

    Arrive early, allow plenty of time and cover up as the strict dress code required when visiting the sixteenth-century Basilica of St Peter’s also applies to the museums.

    Best things to do in Rome

    The Sistine Chapel’s famous ceiling (Alamy)

    Stay at: Relais Palazzo Taverna has large rooms, furnished with bold wallpapers and contemporary touches.

    A perfect base because: the hotel is a short dash across the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge to St Peter’s

    From: £79 including breakfast

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    6. Borghese Gallery and Gardens

    Titian, Raphael and Caravaggio are among the many big names represented in the Villa Borghese which was built in Renaissance style to house the art collections of the Borghese family in 1633.

    After touring the gallery, relax in the surrounding gardens to enjoy its romantic temples.

    Best things to do in Rome

    Stay at: The Lord Byron Hotel which has over 30 individually-decorated rooms, a top-notch restaurant and quiet location.

    A perfect base because: the hotel’s Art Deco and Belle Epoque touches make it you feel like you’re staying in the private home of a discerning art collector

    From: £158 including breakfast

    7. Pantheon

    Astonishingly well-preserved, this former Roman temple (now a Catholic church) was built by the Emperor Hadrian and dedicated in around 126 AD which makes it nearly 2,000 years old.

    Circular in shape with a portico of Corinthian columns, give yourself plenty time to appreciate its astonishing sense of space and to absorb its historical atmosphere.

    The Pantheon at night (Alamy)

    The Pantheon at night (Alamy)

    Stay at: Campo de’ Fiori is within an easy walk of the Pantheon with 23 comfortable rooms. There’s no restaurant but plenty on the doorstep.

    A perfect base because: the rooms are so affordable considering its proximity to Rome’s top ancient sights

    From: £78 including breakfast

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    8. Barberini Museum

    One of the best things to do in Rome for two reasons. Not only was this grand palace designed by the acclaimed seventeenth-century architects, Francesco Borromini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but it also houses the city’s National Gallery of Ancient Art.

    The stunning collection includes top works by Raphael, Holbein, Tintoretto, Rubens and Caravaggio.

    Best things to do in Rome

    National Gallery of Ancient Art at Palazzo Barberini (Alamy)

    Where to stay: Eden Hotel has recently opened its doors after a complete refurbishment. Rooms are luxurious and the top-floor bar and restaurant have superb views of city’s skyline.

    A perfect base because: of its proximity to the Barberini

    From: £318 excluding breakfast

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