Ricky Marshall of World Travel Toucan shares his tips to explore Rome for free including the best cheap things to do in Rome for budget travelers.
The great thing about Rome is that many of the attractions are completely free or are state-run and have a low-cost entrance fee.
It can be a surprisingly affordable place for a capital city and as there are so many free things to do in Rome, you could be busy for a week and still not see everything.
Rome for Free
Cheap and Free Things to do in Rome
Are you exploring Rome on a budget or want to keep your euros for fine Italian food? We’ve put together a list of 20 free and cheap things to do in Rome to help save you money!
1. Wander the Streets of the Trastevere
The Trastevere is a quaint and ‘traditional’ district of Rome to the west, just over the bridge from the city center.
It’s a place where you can wander the narrow streets, listen to live performers and generally take in the vibrant yet tranquil atmosphere of this unique part of the city.
Relax in a corner café, get lost amongst the streets and coloured buildings or arrive on an evening for a lively nightlife scene. Trastevere is an attraction in itself and won’t cost you a penny!
2. Bike through Appia Antica Regional Park
Often overlooked and unknown to many, Appia Antica Regional Park is an ancient collection of cobblestone streets, monuments and a sprawling nature park, only a 20-minute drive south of the city centre.
Rent a bike for only €3 per hour and spend your afternoon touring the key attractions, stopping off for a picnic along the way. You’ll pass one of the most famous and oldest roads in the world, Appia Antica Way, which was built in 312 B.C, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.
3. First Sunday of the month and explore the top sites for free!
The state government has an initiative in which all of the state-run sights in Rome are completely free on the first Sunday of the month! Time your trip right and you could save over a hundred euros during your visit.
It includes top sights such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, Castel Sant’Angelo, Borghese Gallery and many more galleries, museums and outdoor monument complexes.
4. Visit the Vatican on the last Sunday of the month
Contrary to the state-run attractions that are free on the first day, visit the Vatican on the last day in the month for completely free entry before 13:30!
You’ll have free-roam access to the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica and can save almost €30 per person. Arrive early though; it’s a popular day to visit!
The Vatican is a must-see location that’s home of the Pope and an ancient collection of art, architecture, monuments and gifts to the Catholic church from population of the past centuries.
5. St Peter’s Basilica
Venture into the most prominent Catholic church in the world
Many people don’t realize that entry to St Peter’s Basicila is free if you’re not doing a guided tour. It is in fact the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel that you have to pay for.
Simply queue up near St Peter’s Square to gain entry, although arrive early as queues can get long fast! Once inside, you’ll encounter a beautiful 15th-century church with ornate gold furnishings, renaissance paintings and beautiful decoration throughout.
Walk underneath the basilica dome and look up for the best view! For a relatively small fee of €7, you can also climb to the top of the dome to find some of the best views of Rome and St Peter’s Square.
6. Explore Villa Borghese Park
With the famous Villa Borghese gallery at its center, this park is a much-needed escape from the busy streets and tourist sites of the city center.
It’s only a short walk from the Spanish Steps and provides some of the best panoramic views you’ll encounter!
Go for a stroll amongst the gardens, rent a bike and tour the whole perimeter or sit back on a park bench by the lake and enjoy the fresh air with a view.
7. Join a free walking tour
Being such a historic location, you’ll probably wander up famous streets and iconic sites that you have no idea about. A free walking tour is a great way to get a detailed background on the history of the city from a knowledgeable local.
Tours are available for many of the free city center sights.
8. Climb the Spanish Steps
Sitting beneath Trinità dei Monti church and in front of Piazza di Spagna sits one of the most talked about sights in Rome.
The ‘butterfly shaped’ 18th century Spanish Steps are a congregation point for local employees on their lunch break and tourists taking in the breath-taking square scenery.
Snap pictures from behind the fountain and then climb to the top of the steps and turn around for an excellent view of St Peter’s Basilica dome in the distance.
9. Eat in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto of Rome sits to the west of the city center and is a great place to base yourself.
Established in the 1500s, this trendy yet historic area of the city has a distinctly different feel to the rest of Rome. Walking through the streets you can envision what the area was like hundreds of years ago, and today it’s an eclectic melting pot of artists, tourists, and locals that have lived there for decades.
Wander around an art studio, sample the delicious sweet treats from a Jewish bakery or shop at a vintage market.
10. Get Lost in the City Center backstreets
Part of the fun in visiting Rome is simply wandering around and marveling at impressive buildings, colorful alleyways, and monuments on every corner.
Put away your map, take out your camera and get lost exploring on-foot. You never know what you’ll bump into! It can be a therapeutic activity and a great way of seeing places off the main tourist trail.
11. Janiculum Terrace for the Best Views of the City
Fancy escaping the busy tourist center in favor of peaceful parks and stunning cityscapes?
Cross the river to the west and hike up to the top of Janiculum Terrace.
Parco del Gianicolo is a nice place to relax on a park bench with a picnic, before ascending to the terrace and taking pictures of the Rome skyline.
12. Visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Even though our list is called ‘Free and Cheap’ things to do in Rome, we thought the €12 entry fee for the ‘do not miss’ attractions in the city was an extremely good value for what you’ll see.
The attraction combination ticket permits you entry to the inside of the Colosseum, ancient ruins sites of the Roman Forum and the majestic gardens and remnants of the Roman Emperor’s palace at Palatine Hill.
You’ll spend at least 3 hours here exploring one of our favorite locations in Rome.
13. Best Pizza in the City at Pizza E Mozzarella
Visiting Rome doesn’t have to be all about the sights! The food on offer is some of the best Italy has to offer and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
You’ll find cheap pizza-by-the-slice takeaway counters and delis on every street and they’re the lunch place of choice for the locals.
Our favorite of those is Pizza E Mozzarella, an unassuming hole-in-the-wall pizza joint where you pick a slice for only a few euros and accompany it with a freshly baked Cannoli. Stop by on your way to the Pantheon.
14. Tour the 2000-year-old Pantheon
The Pantheon should be on the top of your list of things to see and many people find it even more impressive than the Colosseum! This grand façade of a building was built as a temple in 125 AD and stands today as one of Rome’s most in-tact ancient sites.
Take pictures outside and enter for free, where you’ll discover a spectacular interior with a huge 27m diameter dome ceiling.
15. Marvel at Santa Maria del Popolo Church
You don’t have to tour the Vatican to experience impressive renaissance architecture and art; there’s a church on almost every corner in Rome and each of them is decorated beautifully.
They’re completely free to enter and walk around when a service isn’t taking place.
One of the prettiest churches to see and a firm rival to the décor of the Vatican is Santa Maria del Popolo, a small and unassuming building with a majestic interior of decorated chapels, ornate paintings, and gold furnishings.
You’ll likely encounter much fewer crowds that the Vatican too so can appreciate the works of art in peace and quiet.
16. Castel Sant’Angelo and Walk Across St Angelo bridge
Castel Sant-Angelo is a 135 AD castle to visit on your way to or from Vatican City.
This old Roman fortress sits at the base of St Angelo Bridge just above the river, promising a brilliant photo opportunity whilst walking across the bridge from the city center.
Whilst the highlight of the attraction is the grand exterior, you can also choose to venture inside.
For an entrance fee of only €5 if arriving between 9 am and 11 am, you can tour the castle rooms, see the old weaponry and climb to the wall barracks for a nice view of the river.
Arrive after 11 am and you’ll pay the full price of €14.
17. Go Shopping at Testaccio Market
City markets are always a treat to visit, especially when they contain food! Mercado Testaccio has over 100 fresh food and gift stalls that offer fine ingredients for great prices.
Pick up some supplies to make food back at your apartment, sample cheap snacks on the go or simply wander around and take in the atmosphere. It’s colorful, bustling and has a very ‘local’ vibe.
18. Take a break in a beautiful Piazza
Rome’s main squares are plentiful and each of them has its own distinct appearance.
They’ve been congregation points of the local people for centuries, and today they’re an eclectic mix of Romans and tourists from across the globe.
Explore the wonderful architecture of the main Piazza’s and take the opportunity to people watch in a corner café. It’s a welcome rest-break after walking around all day.
Here are some of the main Roman Piazza’s to check out. You’ll stumble upon many of them whilst visiting some of the key sights.
- Piazza Navona
- Piazza Santa Maria
- Piazza Campo De' Fiori
- Piazza Del Popolo
- Piazza Di Venezia
- Piazza Di Spagna
19. Unique Views From Aventine Hill and Orange Garden
It may be a relaxing place to unwind just outside of the city centre, but the key attraction to Aventine Hill is the magnificent views of Rome and the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
Take a photo of St Peter’s Basilica dome through the famous ‘keyhole’ photo spot or go for a romantic stroll in the orange garden. It’s a beautiful place to visit on a morning as the sun comes up, or at sunset.
20. Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain
One of the greatest sights in Rome is in fact free. The craftsmanship and Baroque design of the Trevi Fountain make it one of the most famous recognized on Earth.
Marvel at the sculptured backdrop and turquoise water of the monument at both night-time and daytime for completely different perspectives. It can get very crowded so arrive early in the morning for a better experience.
Top Rome money saving tips:
- Many of the main attractions have entry-only tickets where you tour the attraction by yourself, alongside guided tour options. Pay for entry only to save a considerable amount of cash.
- Save money on bottled water by taking your own bottle and re-filling at water fountains scattered throughout the city. Rome was one of the early adopters of water aquifers and it’s completely safe (and free!) to drink.
- Eat outside of the main tourist areas such as the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps areas. Restaurants are overpriced and generally aren’t as good as ‘off the beaten track’ local restaurants. The Termini train station area is excellent for cheap eats.
- Take advantage of public transport. Taxi’s are expensive, whilst a metro or bus costs only €1.50 per journey.
- Consider buying a ‘Roma City Pass’ if you plan on seeing and doing lots in a few days. It includes unlimited public transport, free entry to some of the key attractions and discounts on other attractions.
- Consider staying in a central Airbnb apartment. They’re often cheaper than hotels, more spacious and you can cook some of your own meals to save money.
- If you want to visit all the sigts consider getting yourself an Omnia Multi Pass/Roma Card. It gets you into all sorts of attractions for a fraction of the cost.
We hope we’ve inspired you to explore some of the best attractions in Rome whilst spending very little!
The city is covered in impressive buildings on every corner, scenic viewpoints and historic streets that you can wander down with paying a penny.
Use our free and cheap things to do in Rome list to supplement the top paid-for attractions and enjoy a budget-friendly trip.
World Travel Toucan is a couple that loves to travel but they also have full-time jobs. They’re travelling the world, one holiday at a time, sharing experiences and advice so you can do the same!