Rome is one of the most visited cities in Europe, and the grounds are well known. From the iconic Coliseum to the Vatican attractions - Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, via the Vatican Museums - the truth is there's plenty to see in Rome - both tourist attractions as well as museums and historical monuments.
Given the popularity of Rome as a travel destination, the large queues that visit the main attractions of Rome (including the Vatican) can be a problem. Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate this inconvenience.
Get to know the best attractions of Rome and learn how to visit the most emblematic museums and monuments no rows.
This text is part of a series produced with the support of GetYourGuide, with the aim of recommending the main tourist attractions in ten destinations around the world. In many of these museums, palaces, cathedrals and other monuments, the visit can benefit from the advance purchase of tickets.
What to see in Rome
#1 Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museums is the common denomination of a group of small museum spaces that shelter the valuable collections of art and antiques collected by the various Roman pontiffs over the centuries. Although created in different times and being in fact autonomous museums, for the visitor it is as if it were a single museum with several sections or interconnected galleries. Most of the collections are housed in the Palace of the Vatican Museums and the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
As for the Sistine Chapel, perhaps the most emblematic of Rome's attractions (and the Vatican City-State), it is a chapel famous for its architecture, inspired by the Temple of Solomon of the Old Testament, and frescoes painted by artists of world renowned as Michelangelo or Sandro Botticelli. It is in the so-called Apostolic Palace, the Pope's official residence in the Vatican.
Tips for visiting the Sistine Chapel
- Dress appropriately. Being a holy place for Catholics, avoid shorts, miniskirts and large necklines. Even in summer.
- You can take photos in the Vatican Museums, but do not photograph the Sistine Chapel. It is forbidden, even without flash. Avoid the embarrassment of being called by the security and forced to delete the photos on the spot.
- Stay in silence inside the Sistine Chapel. Even if there are noisy groups, do not contribute to this phenomenon. For the sake of respect.
- For more complete information, rent an audio guide on the spot.
To visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel spending less time in the queues, Just buy the ticket in advance. It currently costs 28 €, and allows you to access the museums by a "fast entrance" for visitors with early admission, and visit the Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo. Note that although St. Peter's Basilica has free entrance, access is not guaranteed (depends on the control of visitors made by the authorities).
#2 St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is one of the four patriarchal basilicas of Rome, and is regarded as the most important Catholic religious building in the world. Due to its size and its privileged location in the Vatican, most papal ceremonies are held there.
The Basilica of St. Peter also includes the list of World Heritage Site in Italy and is surely one of the must-see attractions in Rome. For all this, it is one of the most visited Christian sites in the world, so it might be a good idea to buy the ticket before you travel.
Tips for visiting St. Peter's Basilica
- Dress appropriately. No entrance with legs and shoulders on display (valid for men and women)
- Do not carry sharp objects such as pocket knives.
- If you want to visit the less crowded St. Peter's Basilica, arrive before 8: 00 in the morning.
#3 Rome Coliseum
Another of Rome's main attractions, the Colosseum does not leave anyone indifferent. Built in the second half of the 1st century, the Colosseum in Rome is an oval amphitheater used for gladiatorial combat and public spectacle. It is estimated that it housed between 50 and 80 thousand spectators, being in all certainty one of the most emblematic buildings of all the Roman Empire. Absolutely a must see!
To visit the Colosseum in Rome with priority access, Just buy the ticket in advance. The ticket currently costs 39 € and includes the accompaniment of a specialized professional guide, in addition to the no-queue access to Monte Palatino and the Roman Forum. Worth it!
For a more exclusive experience, consider visiting the Colosseum in Rome at GetYourGuide Originals Tour. Originals are towers led by selected local guides, who allow changes in schedules if plans change and the money back if not completely satisfied.
#4 Borghese Gallery
Being one of the main attractions of Rome in what concerns museums, it is worth considering a strategy that allows to reduce the time lost in the queues of access to the Borghese Gallery.
The museum is within Villa Borghese, one of the main green areas of central Rome; and for that alone would be worth the visit. But the building itself - an old mansion owned by the powerful Borghese family - is equally impressive. No less relevant, the collection of art on display comprises sculptures and paintings by names such as Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello.
To visit the Borghese Gallery without losing so much time in the queues, Just buy the ticket in advance. Note that there may of course be queue in the reserved access entry, but it will be much shorter than the general access queue. The ticket includes specialized guide accompaniment and the visit to the gallery gardens.
#5 Pantheon of Rome
Probably the best preserved monument of ancient Rome, the Pantheon of Rome (or Pantheon of Agrippa) is another must-see attraction in the city of Rome. Beyond historical relevance, it is the architecture of its enormous dome that most impresses. Note that among the main monuments of Rome, the Pantheon is one of the few that you can visit for free (but in this case you will not be entitled to the audio guide). Enjoy!
#6 Monte Palatino and Roman Forum
Walls-socks with the Colosseum of Rome, Palatine is one of the oldest regions of Rome (probably the origins of the city are right there). Set on one of the central hills of the Italian capital, it is a perfect place for an outdoor walk among ruined gardens and monuments. One of them is the Roman Forum, Rome Imperial's main shopping center. It is, without a doubt, another of the attractions of Rome absolutely not to be missed.
To visit the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum without wasting time in the queues, Just buy the ticket in advance. Includes visit to the Temple of Julius Caesar, Arch of Titus, House of the Vestal Virgins, House of the Senate and Basilica of Maxentius. Note that it may be worth buying the ticket combined with the Colosseum in Rome (see above).
#7 Catacombs of Rome
I like to be surprised on trip, and this often implies visiting less traditional things. Places like the crypts and catacombs of Rome; which, together with the Chapel of Bones, are the strangest and most enigmatic discoveries of the city.
I am not sure that I can claim to be one of the main attractions of Rome, but certainly worth the experience. You may be surprised!
Attractions in Rome: useful tips
For other suggestions, see Luciana Rodrigues's tips on Things to do in Rome.
Rome Pass: is it worth it or not?
Of course, it depends. If you are planning to visit many of Rome's top attractions, it is natural to buy the Roma Pass compense. The pass exists in the versions of 48 and 72 hours; and includes queues for one (48 hour pass) or two (pass 72 hours) attractions of Rome such as the Colosseum or the Borghese Gallery, and discounts at all other museums and archaeological sites visited later. It allows free use of the public transport network. Knowing What to see in Rome, is a matter of doing the math. The cost of the Roma Pass starts at 29 €.
Buy your tickets in advance
Due to the high number of tourists visiting Rome, it can be difficult to get into some of Rome's most popular attractions quickly. I therefore recommend that whenever possible, you should choose tickets to avoid queues - especially in the Vatican.
They are naturally more expensive than normal tickets, but they are worth every extra penny (no one wants to stay for two hours waiting to enter the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica or the Sistine Chapel!). Buy tickets on-line for the main attractions of Rome and the Vatican, before traveling, there are several advantages to buying on the spot. To know:
- In most cases, you can avoid the long lines of museums, monuments and other attractions of Rome;
- The additional cost is ridiculous (no one wants to wait an hour or two to enter a museum!);
- O voucher is sent by e-mail and, in most cases, you do not even need to print (just show in the smartphone).
For me, the only downside of buying tickets to museums and attractions in advance is the loss of some flexibility during your stay in Rome. This is in case the visits to the attractions are scheduled.
Be that as it may, this is the price to pay for the comfort of not having to buy tickets on time; and especially avoid the queues. In these cases (which require scheduling), the ideal is perhaps to mark the visits for the beginning of the day, leaving the rest free to discover the city at your own pace.
All in all, I highly recommend the advance purchase of Rome attractions - especially if you want to visit the Vatican. I do this regularly in my travels!
Although not as connected by air and low cost as Milan, Rome is a European capital and, as such, will not have difficulties in reaching the city. See my tips for finding cheap flights and enjoy.
Where to stay
Being Rome a territorially immense city - and a very expensive destination - I recommend reading the text where to stay in Rome (briefly), where I speak of the best neighborhoods to stay in the Italian capital according to your tastes and the available budget. Alternatively, search all available hotels using the link below.
A World Nomads offers one of the best and most complete travel insurance recommended by National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Other excellent and cheaper option is IATI Seguros, which has no age limit and allows multivariate insurance (including long-term travel) to any destination in the world. It's the insurance I use in my travels.