ROME IN 3 DAYS: tips on what to see and enjoy in Rome!

Rome in 3 days / Rome for 3 days

Planning to visit Rome in 3 days? Check out our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in Rome.

Updated 6. 9. 2022

Is it possible to reach Rome in 3 days?

Yes, you can get around the historic centre in one day. It’s not big, but you have to take into account that you won’t see inside the monuments. If you want to visit the Vatican, the Colosseum and other TOP places in Rome, you have to make up at least 3 days. You won’t get to see everything, but you will see a lot. Plus, I personally usually lose a bit of my drive to explore more and more sights after more than 3 days, so visiting Rome for 3 days seems like a good compromise to me.

Rome is one of those cities where you can go more than once and still have plenty to discover. Flights there are literally a steal, so you can enjoy the Eternal City more often. It’s worth it.

Map of what to see in Rome in 3 days

What to see and do in Rome in 3 days?

Rome in 3 days: ANCIENT ROME

The first day will be devoted mainly to ancient Rome. It’s the oldest part of the city where it all began. And that’s why we’re going to symbolically start here.

Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia is in the heart of Rome. The traffic gets pretty thick here, so you better look around three times before you cross. Italians on the road…it’s worth it. In other states, they would be out of a driver’s license in no time ?.

Piazza Venezia Rome / Rome in 3 days
Piazza Venezia with Complesso Vittoriano

In the square you will find the Palazzo Venezia, which is now an art museum. In the past, however, it was the residence of Mussolini, who declared war on the balcony here in 1940.

The square is dominated by the imposing Complessso Vittoriano, built in the late 1890s as a tribute to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. The Romans infamously nicknamed it the Whipped Cream Cake or the Typewriter. And although it has nothing to do with ancient Rome, it is definitely worth seeing. The building is also famous for containing the tomb of an unknown soldier. It is currently guarded by two soldiers, thus guarding two eternal flames.

Piazza Venezia Rome / Rome in 3 days

Piazza Campidoglio

Continue past the monument on your left until you see the gently ascending steps to Campidoglio Square. In the small, perfectly oval square you will find the town hall and the Capitol Museums , where you’ll be treated to a collection of statues, paintings and other objects closely linked to the history of Rome. The ticket will cost you 11,50 € and you should set aside 1-2 hours. Along with the Vatican Museums and the Borghese Gallery, the Capitoline Museums are another must-visit for all art and history lovers.

Campidoglio Square
Campidoglio Square is a bit hidden, but worth a detour.

The square sits on the Capitoline Hill, giving you the best views of ancient Rome – especially of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum in the distance. The ancient Romans had their temple in the Piazza, later Michelangelo redesigned the square into its present form. In the middle of the square stands an equestrian statue by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Copy. The original can be found in the Capitoline Museums. If you visit here on a Saturday, you might be lucky enough to see the newlyweds.

Campidoglio Square

If you’d like to visit the beautiful basilica, before turning towards Campidoglio Square, you’ll see steep steps on your left, at the top of which stands the unassuming Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. It is one of the hidden gems in Rome. From the outside, the basilica may be inconspicuous, but don’t be fooled, because inside it is beautifully decorated.

Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli Rome in 3 days

Via dei Fori Imperiali

From Piazza Campidoglio, continue along one of the most famous streets, Via dei Fori Imperiali – you can walk through the square between the buildings on your left, from where you’ll come above the Forum Romanum. Continue a few hundred metres and you will reach the aforementioned Via dei Fori Imperiali. On the left side you can enjoy the imperial fora. These were set up by the emperors to conduct their affairs of state here. Here you will find the Trajan, Augustus and Nerva forums. On the right is Caesar’s Forum and just behind it the Roman Forum Romanum, where religious and public life took place in ancient Rome.

Via dei Fori Imperiali Rome / Rome in 3 days
Via dei Fori Imperiali

And we come to the Colosseum.

Colosseum

We all want to see the Colosseum. On our first visit to Rome, we ran here as soon as we arrived with our backpacks still on our backs. And it took our breath away. It really is an experience.

Rome in 3 days / Colosseum in Rome

To be honest, the garbage around and the many street vendors with selfie sticks took our breath away. You don’t see that in pictures of the Coliseum anymore. The good news is that they are mostly staying at the Colosseum and other parts of historic Rome are already tidier.

The Colosseum is a symbol of Rome with almost 2000 years of history. More than 6 million people visit it every year. It is also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. The Colosseum can hold up to 80,000 spectators. For more than 500 years, it was the centre of entertainment for the Roman people – it hosted exotic animal exhibitions, prisoner executions, and gladiator fights.

You might be surprised how much of the Coliseum is missing. Part of this is due to disuse and earthquakes, but also the local marble was used to make other things. For example, to build the Vatican.

view of the Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum
view of the Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum

Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill

Directly opposite the Colosseum you will find the Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill. Admission is included with the Colosseum and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. You’ll learn a lot more about ancient Rome. Both places have a common entrance, so make sure you visit everything you want then. You won’t be able to go back.

Monuments of Ancient Rome - Forum Romanum
Forum Romanum
Monuments of Ancient Rome - Palatine Hill
view of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill
Tour of the Colosseum, Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill

You must book your ticket in advance for the Colosseum. The ticket is a combination ticket and includes the adjacent Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill. They form one archaeological park. It’s a short climb up Palatine Hill, but you’ll get a great view of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and other parts of Rome.

Tip: Skip the queue and book ticket to the Colosseum with the Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill online with free cancellation 24 hours in advance. There are also guided tours , with which you will learn a lot of interesting and fun facts.

View from Palatine Hill

The tour of all three parts will take about 2-3 hours. If you haven’t visited the Capitol Museums, it will probably be around lunchtime. It’s the same with restaurants in Rome as it is elsewhere in the world for the main attractions. The ones closest and most in plain sight tend to be the most touristy. With exorbitant prices and often a menu that doesn’t match the local cuisine. Try turning the corner a little more to see where the locals eat. You’ll get a better taste.

After the meal, you have plenty of time to visit other places around the Colosseum. For myself, I can recommend the Baths of Caracalla (first 2 photos below), built by Marcus Aurelius between 212-216 and one of the largest and most interesting thermal complexes in antiquity. Or Trajan’s Market (3rd photo), the first Roman shopping centre, which had 6 floors with up to 150 different shops and apartments. Then there’s the Capitoline Museums, one of the best art museums.

Trajan's Market is just a short walk from the Colosseum / Rome in 3 days
Trajan’s Market is just a short walk from the Colosseum
Caracalla Baths Monuments of Ancient Rome
Caracalla Baths

Or you can hike up the Aventine Hill, one of the 7 Roman hills, located behind the Colosseum towards the Circus Maximus. Aventino has a beautiful view of Rome and there are lovely gardens with orange trees in the Giardino degli Aranci. For more about Aventine, see the separate article on what to see in Rome.

Rome in 3 days: VATICAN CITY

The next day will be dedicated to the Vatican. There is so much to see in the Vatican that you would have to spend much more time in Rome. If you plan Rome for 3 days, you can at least catch the basics at the Vatican – St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Don’t schedule the Vatican for Sunday because you won’t see anything. It’s only open on one Sunday, and that’s the last Sunday of the month in the morning.

St. Peter’s Basilica

You can get to the Vatican for free. The same goes for St. Peter’s Basilica. It opens at 7am and that’s exactly the time to head here. There’s a security check before you enter, and just a few hours later, you could be in for quite a dent, given the number of visitors. Plus, without the crowds, you’ll enjoy Rome’s largest church more. The basilica can be reached from St Peter’s Square, where the metro stops at Ottaviano station (it’s a 15-minute walk). If you were going to visit the Vatican Museums first, get off at Ottaviano or Cipro station – the entrance for the Vatican Museums is different, not via St Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s Basilica is an important pilgrimage site and one of the holiest and largest churches of the Catholic Church, designed by D. Bramante, Michelangelo, C. Maderno and Gl. Bernini. It is the place where the Pope presides over many liturgies throughout the year. Interestingly, St. Peter’s Basilica was built on top of an older basilica in 1506-1628. Until then, the Lateran Basilica was the largest.

Basilica of St. Petra Vatican
Basilica of St. Petra Vatican

The Basilica itself is free, but you pay for the dome, which offers a spectacular view of St Peter’s Square and the whole of Rome. It’s definitely worth climbing all 551 steps (sometimes in quite cramped spaces) and the €8 fee. The other option is to take the elevator up part of the stairs and then walk more than half of them (€10).

View from St. Peter’s Basilica

From the Basilica, you continue to the Vatican Museums, which open at 9am. It’s a quarter of an hour from the Basilica. Tickets can be booked online. Or look for the Rome&Vatican Pass, which includes admission to the Vatican Museums.

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Vatican Museums are one of the largest museums in the world with over 20,000 works on display. And that’s just a fraction, as most of the art and works are not on display. The Vatican Museums are 6. the 6th most visited art museum in the world. You will be amazed by the Roman sculptures and masterpieces of Renaissance art. As you walk through the Vatican Museums, you will reach the Sistine Chapel with its frescoes and ceiling by Michelangelo. At the very end, you will be treated to a spiral staircase inspired by Bramante’s staircase.

what to do in rome
Gallery of maps in the Vatican Museums
Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel
Rome in 3 days / spiral staircase at the end of the Vatican Museums
Spiral staircase at the end of the Vatican Museums

And half the day is over. The collection in the Vatican Museums is so vast that you can easily spend 2-3 hours here.

Tip: Skip the queue and book Tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel online. A great experience is a tour of the Vatican at night.

Angel Castle and Angel Bridge

A short distance from the Vatican, on the right bank of the Tiber River, you will find the Castelo Sant’Agelo, known as Hadrian’s Tomb. Hadrian was a Roman emperor who had the fortress built as a mausoleum for himself and his family. You can climb up to the roof for an amazing view.

The best museums in Rome / Castle of the Angels
Angel Castle and Angel Bridge over the Tiber River

From the Castle of the Angels, continue along the Bridge of Angels (Ponte Sant’Angelo), built by the ancient Romans, but angels have been here since the 1600s. And it is the angels who represent the Stations of the Cross and the 12 stops on the way to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Tip: Tickets to the Angel Castle can be booked in advance.

TIP: Would you like to save money on entrance fees and transport around Rome? Or do you want to simplify things and use one card for everything? Take a look at my comparison of the Roma Pass and Rome&Vatican Pass which get you free or reduced admission to more than 45 monuments, unlimited public transport, a sightseeing bus ride and other bonuses.

Piazza Navona

From the bridge, take Via Dei Coronari, one of the most picturesque streets in Rome. We went here for dinner at the Quelli de’ Coronari restaurant. A small, rustic restaurant where we were with only Italians. The street leads you to Piazza Navona with Bernini’s Neptune Fountain of the Four Rivers. On the fountain you will notice 4 river gods, which symbolize the largest rivers of the 4 main continents. Bernini’s most famous fountain is the Trevi Fountain, but the square is tiny and literally packed.

Piazza Navona, on the other hand, is a beautiful square where you can soak up the atmosphere in a much more relaxed way. As well as the fountains, the square is also dominated by the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which you can peek into for free (it’s open until 19:00 except Mondays). On the south side of the square sits one section of the Roman Museum, which covers the history of Rome from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Rome from the 19th century to the 19th century.

Rome in 3 days: FONTANA DI TREVI – BORGHESE GALLERY – PANTHEON

It’s our last day here. And again, I recommend you get used to it. Rome is such a popular city that it’s hard to visit some of the sights without the crowds breathing down your neck. An example is the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain

And that’s why we’re gonna head out here first thing in the morning. This is the only “normal” time when you won’t see crowds of tourists. We were at the fountain late in the evening in November and it was literally packed. We were here early in the morning and had her almost to ourselves.

What’s the reason it’s usually so crowded? The square is tiny. Most of it is taken up by the fountain itself. That gives it an even greater sense of monumentality. You feel like you’re standing on a theatre stage, watching an amazing performance.

The Trevi Fountain symbolises the abundance and health that water brings. The background of the statue is the Palazzo Poli, which today houses the National Institute of Graphic Arts.

Tradition says that if you throw a coin there (from your right hand over your left shoulder), you will return to Rome one day. If you throw 2 coins there, you will meet love and 3 coins will bring marriage.

He is said to throw €3,000 a day into the fountain. Up to €1.4 million a year. The money is collected 3 times a week when the fountain is closed to the public – MON, WED, FR between 8am and 9am. Everything then goes to a local charity to help the homeless and needy. So even if you don’t return to Rome, at least you’ve done a good deed.

At the Trevi Fountain , go for a delicious gelato :).

Spanish Steps

From the Trevi Fountain, continue to the Spanish Steps, which are about a 10-minute walk through the winding Roman streets, where you’ll get lost in no time. But you’ll get lost beautifully. You will discover unknown places, corners, squares, churches and encounter the real life of the Romans in the morning.

The Spanish Steps are one of the most famous stairs. And the widest staircase in Europe. For the first time, they didn’t leave such a strong impression on us, which was probably due to the vendors running up the stairs. The second time, however, we soaked up the atmosphere much better.

The Spanish Steps have an irregular butterfly shape and date from the 18th century. century. Looking for some deeper symbolism like the Trevi Fountain? Then you’re probably going to be disappointed. The Spanish Steps were built for one purpose – to connect the local church with the square below. They take their name from the Spanish Embassy, which was based here from the 16th century. century.

You can admire the Baroque Barcaccia fountain just below the stairs.

The Spanish Steps used to be littered with people literally like grapes. Sometimes you had trouble getting through. Kind of like the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris. The city responded by banning sitting, drinking and eating to preserve the monument. Many people believe the Spanish Steps are now closed. But they’re not. Be sure to come here.

Climb the stairs towards the church. And enjoy the view of Rome. From here, take a left. Continue to Borghese Park. It’s called the Green Lungs of Rome. After a few hundred metres, the path forks and you turn right onto Pincio Hill (this is where the terrace with the view is on your left).

Pincio Lookout and Borghese Gallery

On the hill, Rome spreads out beautifully. You can see the Roman rooftops with the dominant dome of St Peter’s Basilica. The climb is definitely not difficult and the view is worth it. You’ll reach the Pincio balcony, where you’ll get the best view of the Piazza del Popolo.

Behind you is the sprawling Villa Borghese. It is one of the most beautiful parks where Romans go to have fun, relax or just walk around. You’ll find carousels, bike hire, cafes and the Borghese Gallery. It houses one of the world’s finest collections of art in sculpture, painting and architecture. They only let a limited number of tourists in, so it’s not crowded. Unlike the Vatican Museums, which receive 30,000 visitors a day.

Borghese Gallery / things to do in Rome

And what does the Borghese Gallery have to offer? With its floor mosaics depicting gladiators, ancient sculptures, Egyptian art, Renaissance paintings by Raphael and Titian or some of Bernini’s most famous sculptures. You have to book tickets in advance, but it’s worth it.

Piazza del Popolo

From the gallery, you can return to Piazza del Popolo via the park or take the public transport and head towards the Pantheon. For those who can walk across the Piazza del Popolo, we’ll talk a bit about the square. The Piazza del Popolo is a large square where you definitely won’t get the cramped feeling of the Trevi Fountain Square.

Piazza del Popolo / Rome in 3 days

An Egyptian obelisk with original hieroglyphs stands out in the middle of the square. One of the oldest and largest in Rome. Now you may be wondering how it got here. The first Roman emperor, Augustus, brought it here from Egypt as a war trophy. For centuries it stood on the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome, and it wasn’t until the late 1500s that the obelisk was moved to the Piazza del Popolo.

From the square, you can continue along one of Rome’s busiest streets, Via del Corso. From there, turn right and after about 20 minutes from Piazza del Popolo, you’ll be at the Pantheon.

Pantheon

A breathtaking sight that will blow your mind every time you see it. The Pantheon is a church and mausoleum that in its early days was used to worship the planetary gods. It is famous for its dome, which is the largest dome of unreinforced concrete in the world. You just stand there and don’t understand how they did it. But they did it brilliantly – as the layers of concrete blocks rose higher and higher, they used lighter and lighter material. So the bricks at the very top are made of extra-light pumice. At the top of the dome is a 9 metre diameter opening, which is the only way to get daylight into the church apart from the door.

Pantheon Rome / Rome in 3 days
Pantheon in Rome

Campo dei Fiori

From the Pantheon we continue to Largo Argentina. That’s where Caesar was stabbed to death in 45 BC. Today, in addition to the ruins, you might be interested in the many cats that live here among the Roman remains. They are cared for by a local organisation.

Largo Argentina Rome in 3 days

Largo Argentina is just a short stop on the way to Campo dei Fiori. A beautiful square from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, formerly used as a market and for executions. The executions have been abolished, but the famous market remains. It’s even the only outdoor indoor market in Rome. You can buy fresh food here, including local olive oil and cheese. They also have souvenirs, but expect a surcharge.

Trastevere district

The last stop is Trastevere, reached via the Ponte Sisto bridge. It’s famous for its great food. It’s also one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods where you can just wander and admire the colourful houses around the narrow cobbled streets. This is how most of us imagine Rome. And you’ll see for yourself that some neighborhoods (not in historic Rome) are far from that image.


Note: You must dress appropriately for all church buildings (not just the Vatican) – keep your knees and shoulders covered and remove your head covering.

How to save money on sightseeing and transport in Rome?

It’s very easy to save money in Rome with the Roma Pass. With it, you get free entry to the most famous sights and reduced admission to many other places. The card also includes unlimited travel around Rome and the use of information points with public toilets and the possibility to charge your phone (always handy in cities, what are we talking about).

Roma Pass is available in 3 variants:

  • Roma Pass 48 hours – free entry to the first monument you visit (I recommend choosing the Colosseum first to save the most) and reduced admission to all other monuments you visit within 48 hours. Unlimited travel for 48 hours in Rome on top of that.
  • Roma Pass 72 hours – free entry to the 2 sights you visit first (e.g. Colosseum and Capitoline Museums) and reduced admission to all other sights you visit within 72 hours. Again, this includes unlimited travel for the duration of the card.
  • Roma Pass in combination with the Omnia Card – you get the benefits of the Roma Pass for 72 hours, as well as free admission to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and a 72-hour sightseeing bus ride that takes you around Rome’s biggest attractions (you can get off and back) at any time.

I have written in this article about whether the card will pay off for you and a detailed guide.

Is the Roma Pass worth it?

It was worth it for us, but it depends on what you plan to visit. Here’s a simple example of a Roma Pass for 72 hours (3 days), which works out at €52. With the card you get free entry to 2 selected sights. One of them will definitely be the Colosseum along with the Forum Romanum and the Palatine Hill (€16). From there, it’s just a short walk to the Capitoline Museums (12€).

We have used up 2 free entries and now you have everything at a reduced price. We’ve already saved 30€ on sightseeing and 18€ on public transport for 3 days. We check out the free places like the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon and just wander the streets.

The next day we head towards the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo and the Borghese Gallery, where we pay a reduced entrance fee and save €6.50. From now on, the Roma Pass is starting to pay off and we have only visited 3 paid sights so far. We stroll through the gardens around the Borghese Gallery, enjoy the view of Rome and continue to the Castle of the Angels, where we save another €6 on admission with the card. And the rest of the day we just wander the streets and enjoy a meal in the Trastevere district across the river.

On the last day we head south of the Colosseum to the Baths of Caracalla and the Roman arena Circus Maximus, where we save a total of €7.

Even at a relaxed pace, you can save money with the Roma Pass 72h, so we can definitely recommend it.

I wrote more about the Roma Pass in my previous article.

Rome in 3 days: accommodation

My recommendation is to stay near Termini Station, where you arrive from Fiumincino or Ciampino Airport. There are several nice hotels, many good restaurants nearby, grocery stores (Coop), good metro connections to the whole of Rome and you can walk to the centre in a few minutes.

Cosy and affordable Hotel Impero within walking distance of the centre

Tips for the best accommodation in Rome:

  • Hotel Impero – cheap hotel with excellent breakfast and roof terrace; older facilities but clean and cosy; quiet at night
  • Hotel Borromeo – cosy period rooms with private bathrooms and air conditioning (for 2-4 people); a few minutes from the metro and within walking distance of the historic centre; beautiful roof terrace with seating and sun loungers
  • Hotel California – 2-4 bedded rooms with private bathroom and air conditioning; within walking distance of the main station and the historic centre
  • Hotel Nord Nuova Roma near a busy street but has double windows to avoid most noise; roof terrace for evening sitting; comfortable beds and overall very pleasant rooms
  • The Hive hotel – trendy hotel with modern and clean rooms; rooms and suites for up to 4 people available; spacious roof terrace with seating and restaurant
Modern and spacious rooms at the Hive Hotel

We’re moving more towards the center. If you want to soak up the unmistakable atmosphere of Rome, a stay in the very centre is ideal. My tip is the guesthouse L’antica Locanda Dell’Orso with 2-3 bed rooms near Piazza Navona. Great value for money considering the location in the historic centre.

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