Rome is my favorite city in the world.
I swear, I could visit this place a million times, and it would still amaze me. This history is obviously incredible. The food is amazing. And, the city has an energy that I just feed off of each time I’m there.
Honestly, I can’t get enough of it.
Rome can be fairly expensive, and it’s easy to go over budget while you’re there if you aren’t careful. The Roma Pass is a good way to save money and time on sightseeing, but it definitely doesn’t cover everything. So, how do you save money when you’re not using the pass to explore the inside of the Colosseum?
Thankfully, there are plenty of free things to do in Rome that will help you pass the time and protect your budget. In fact, you could give yourself a pretty decent tour of the Eternal City just by doing the free stuff alone.
So, if you’re looking to save a few bucks, here are some of my favorite free things to do while in Rome.
Stroll from Piazza Navona to the Spanish Steps
When considering free stuff to do in Rome, add this to the top of your list. If you don’t stop for a break, this walk takes approximately 25 minutes (one way) and will bring you past some of the most iconic sites Rome has to offer, including:
- Piazza Navona
- Trevi Fountain
- Spanish Steps
Here’s the best part: You don’t just get to walk by all of these famous sites; they’re free to enjoy as well!
Start your walk in Piazza Navona where you can enjoy the famous “Fountain of the Four Rivers” statue. Exit the piazza on the eastern side, follow the brown signs, and walk a few blocks over to check out the Pantheon. Entry to the Pantheon is free. So, if the lines are short, you might want to head into the structure while you’re there. It will add a little time to your walk, but most people can be in and out within 20 minutes.
After you get a good look at the Pantheon, keep following the brown signs and heading east until you reach Trevi Fountain. Be sure to toss a coin into the fountain while you’re there. According to legend, this means you’re sure to make a return trip to Rome in the future. It must work because I keep coming back!
The last leg of the stroll has you exiting the Trevi Fountain area and heading to the Spanish Steps. Again, follow the brown signs toward the steps, and you’ll be there in about 10 minutes. Once you make it, have a seat, grab some gelato (that’s not free 😀 ), and soak up the Roman atmosphere!
I’d recommend doing this walk at least twice – once during the day and once at night. That way, you can see each spot as it was meant to be seen in the daylight AND when it is beautifully lit up at night.
Check Out a Market
No matter which European city I visit, I always love to check out the open-air markets. In my opinion, Rome has some of the best.
If you only get the chance to visit one, I’d recommend heading to Campo de Fiori. Located a few blocks south of Piazza Navona, this public square plays host to an amazing vegetable and fish market every day of the week. The square is also lined with plenty of restaurants, so you definitely won’t go hungry on a trip here.
Walk from the “Wedding Cake” to the Colosseum
You can’t come to Rome without visiting its most famous site, the Colosseum. While I highly recommend spending time inside both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill, it’s also amazing just to walk by them.
Start your walk at the Victor Emmanuel II Monument. (You can’t miss it. It’s the giant white building that looks like a wedding cake.) From there, cross the street to check out Trajan’s Column. Then, start heading southeast down the Via dei Fori Imperiali toward the Colosseum. (You can’t miss that either. It’s the giant ancient stadium at the far end of the road 😉 )
As you walk toward the Colosseum, have your camera ready because you’ll definitely want to snap some photos along the way. On the left (north) side of the road, you’ll see Trajan’s Market. From the right (south) side of the street, you’ll get a great view of the Roman Forum. Keep on walking toward the Colosseum, and you’ll be there in 10 to 15 minutes.
FYI, the Roman Forum is one of my favorite places to visit in Rome. When you’re looking from the outside, Palatine Hill is the huge hill towering over the Forum. Be sure to grab some photos from up there if you end up going inside.
Again, I’d recommend taking this walk both during the day and at night when everything is lit up!
Visit St. Peter’s Square
OK, St. Peter’s Square isn’t in Rome exactly. It’s in Vatican City, which is actually its own country located within the city of Rome. Still, this is one free thing to do that you can’t miss.
Even if you’re not Catholic, St. Peter’s Basilica is extremely impressive. It’s the most famous church in the world, and it’s absolutely massive. Just admiring the church and the incredible statues from the outside may be enough for some.
Going inside St. Peter’s Basilica is also free, but it can sometimes take hours to get in without skip-the-line tickets. You can purchase these separately, or they are included with a Vatican & Rome Pass.
Again, this is a great thing to do both during the day and night.
Wander into a Small Church
Speaking of churches, Rome has a bazillion of them. Unlike the churches you’re probably used to back home, though, most of these churches are absolutely stunning. In fact, many of them house artistic masterpieces that will take your breath away.
Although some of the churches may ask for a small donation to enter, many of them are free. While I wouldn’t go out of the way to do this, if you find yourself in Piazza del Popolo (a popular meeting spot for day trips outside the city), there are two small but interesting churches right next to each other at the south end of the piazza.
There are churches like these around practically every corner in Rome, and almost all of them are beautiful. So, walk in a few and enjoy.
Walk Through Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto
If you get the chance, take a few minutes to wander through the relatively small Jewish Ghetto. The architecture is really neat and you can make a stop by the city’s Jewish museum or the Great Synagogue if you wish. You’ll also have a chance to spot some ancient ruins as you walk.
When you’re done, cross the Tiber River and head into Trastevere. This is a fairly hip area where real Romans actually live. There is plenty to do and see, including the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere (built around 1140 A.D.) and – of course – plenty of delicious restaurants and bars to enjoy.
Related: Visiting Rome and Capri on a Budget
Grab Some Water
While in Rome, you’re bound to notice the fountains everywhere. You’ll see water coming from sculptures in the walls, from spigots that look like a wolf’s or a lion’s head, and more. Bring a water bottle from home or your hotel because this water is safe to drink…and it’s free!
Yep, these are actually drinking fountains. Tourists and Romans alike love these watering holes because they are both safe to drink from and they’re free. The water is also cold.
So, instead of overpaying for bottled water on the street, bring a bottle with you and grab a drink from one of these fountains for free instead.
As you can tell, I just can’t get enough of the Eternal City. I’d come back here every year if I could, and – lately – I practically do.
Like any large city, if you’re not careful, this place can get expensive quickly. But, with so many free things to do in Rome, savvy travelers can soak up the city without busting their budget.
Thanks so much for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!
What are your favorite free things to do in Rome? Let us know in the comments!