3 Days in Rome: What to See and Do

Introduction and Recommended Hotels

Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

Rome is a popular travel destination in Italy full of attractions. Today’s Roma is a vibrant and lively city with reminders of its past everywhere. You’ll encounter ancient Roman sites, medieval and Renaissance buildings and fountains, great museums, and beautiful squares. The city is a living museum of history from Roman times to present. It also boasts many fine restaurants, cafes, and good nightlife too.

Prior to the first full day, you will check into your hotel. Take some time to wander around the neighborhood near your hotel. Although Rome is a huge city, its historic center is small, making it easy to walk. If you want to see more of the city, take public bus number 110 (from the train station or ask your hotel for the closest stop). Riding on this bus is an inexpensive way to get a good overview of Rome.

For a more in-depth and personalized introduction to the city, book a walking tour through Viator. You’ll see top sights such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, Spanish Steps, Trinita dei Monti church, Trevi Fountain and more.

Here are 4 recommended hotels, with additional guest reviews and prices from TripAdvisor:

  • Daphne Inn: Small, personal bed and breakfast with 2 central locations, especially good for first-time visitors. They even give you a cell phone so you can call them if you have questions or need help.
  • Hotel des Artistes: convenient central hotel and dorm rooms near the train station.
  • Hotel Residenza in Farnese: Quiet, small 4-star hotel in a former monastery in a great location off Piazza Farnese near Campo dei Fiori.
  • Palazzo al Velabro: short-term apartments, great for families.

Check out where to stay in Rome for other top-rated budget, luxury, and historic hotels and more suggestions, or check out TripAdvisor’s Best Rome Hotel Deals.

Tip: If you like using physical maps, buy the Rome Transportation Map at a newsstand or tourist shop. It’s a good map and if you want to take a bus or the metro, it will be very useful. You might also want to buy a Rome Pass or Discount Card to use on transportation and admissions.

02 of 05

Day 1: The Glories of Ancient Rome, Trevi Fountain, and Dinner near the Pantheon

Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

On your first full day in Rome, visit Ancient Rome‘s best monuments and ruins.

Palatine Hill and Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum, Ancient Rome’s huge amphitheater, was built in between 70 and 82 AD as a venue for gladiatorial and wild animal fights. Today it’s one of the best and most popular monuments of Ancient Rome. Check out ways to avoid the long ticket line and Rome Passes and Cards for discounts on admissions.

Nearby you can visit the excavations and museum on the Palatine Hill, home to Roman emperors and aristocrats, also included with the Colosseum ticket.

Tip: On Sunday, the Via dei Fori Imperiali leading to the Colosseum is closed to traffic, making a nice place to walk.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum, a huge complex of ruined temples, basilicas, and arches, was the ceremonial, legal, social, and business center of ancient Rome. Give yourself at least two hours to wander around. 

Trevi Fountain and Gelato Break

Now you’ll try what many consider the best gelato in Rome at San Crispino on Via Panetteria near the Trevi Fountain. Then see the magnificent Trevi fountain, completed in 1762. Toss a coin in the fountain to ensure your return to Rome.

Pantheon and Dinner

The Pantheon, the best-preserved building of ancient Rome, has a spectacular dome and free admission, closes at 7 pm. For dinner try Armando al Pantheon, in a street to the right of the Pantheon as you’re facing it. (Salita de’ Crescenzi, 31, closed Saturday evening and Sunday and part of August). After dinner, splurge on a drink outside in the Pantheon’s lively Piazza di Rotonda.

Tip: Bars and cafes charge more to sit outside but it’s worth it if you stay awhile and enjoy the ambiance.

03 of 05

Day 2: Capotiline Hill Museums, Rome Neighborhoods, and Traditional Cuisine

Stella Levantesi / TripSavvy 

Today you visit a few of Rome’s neighborhoods and museums and sample the traditional Roman cuisine.

Campo dei Fiori, Trastevere, and Jewish Ghetto

Campo dei Fiori is alive in the mornings with a market and flower vendors so it makes an interesting start to your day. From there wander along the Tiber River to Ponte Sisto, cross the Tiber to the Trastevere neighborhood and visit the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome’s first Christian church. Cross back to the other side and continue to the Jewish Ghetto. There are several places to sample Rome’s interesting Jewish cuisine in the Ghetto.

Tip: If you’re up early and want good photos of Piazza Navona, start the itinerary there, before the tourists arrive. Then continue to Campo dei Fiori.

Buying Tickets for the Colosseum in Rome

Buying Tickets for the Colosseum in Rome

The Roman Coliseum during a warm spring sunset
Doug Ogden/Design Pics/Getty Images

The Colosseum (Colosseo) remains the largest amphitheater ever built and is one of the most recognizable and iconic symbols of Rome. The 5-story, elliptical structure measures 617-feet long, 512-feet wide, and 187-feet high and is made of travertine and brick. In its heyday, it held crowds of more than 65,000 blood-lusting spectators. Considered an architectural wonder of the ancient world, it’s not surprising that the Colosseum tops the list of must-see attractions of Ancient Rome.

But when it comes to buying tickets to Rome’s most popular attraction, lines can be quite long—especially in peak tourist season. If you don’t want to spend your vacation waiting in a queue, here are some helpful tips for avoiding long lines at the Roman Colosseum’s tickets office.

Buy Combination Tickets in Advance

We recommend buying a combination ticket at either the nearby entrance to the Palatine Hill – the ticket window rarely has a line – or from the official website. The combination ticket includes admission to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill and Museum. Another advantage to buying this combo ticket is that it’s good for 2 days, so there’s no need to rush to see all three sites in one day. This is the simplest ticket option available – you can’t get a ticket just for the Colosseum.

If you purchase your ticket online or at a non-Colosseum ticket window, you don’t have to wait in the long ticket line at the amphitheater. But you’ll still need to go through the security line (there’s no way around this), which can move quite slowly.

Skip the Line

Want to skip the line? Sign up to take a guided tour! A number of tour companies offer to skip the line tours with a guide, where each member of the tour is given a headset and listens to the guide’s narration. Some tours include the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, or the underground chambers of the Colosseum normally closed to the public.

With any guided tour, the more money you’re willing to spend, the more exclusivity you get. We’ve taken some guided tours where the tour group was quite large and we felt herded around, and other (more expensive) tours with smaller groups that were more interesting and educational.

As with pre-purchased tickets, you’ll still have to go through security to enter, though your guide might be able to get your group through more quickly.

Take an Audio Tour

Another way to avoid the ticket line is to go the Guided Audio Tour window and purchase an audio tour. You’ll need to bring an original ID that will be held as a deposit until you return the device at the end. The self-guided tour lasts 1 hour and 10 minutes and is available in several languages. The audioguide costs €5.50, plus the cost of admission to the Colosseum.

Purchase Tourist Passes & Discount Cards

If you’re planning to visit some of the other sites of Ancient Rome, you might want to buy a pass or discount card, such as the Roma Pass or the Vatican & Rome Card. Not only do they all save you time, but they are also a cost-effective solution, especially if you plan to visit several more Roman attractions. Note: You’ll need to plan ahead because passes and cards must be purchased before you get to the Colosseum.

  • 48-Hour Roma Pass. This 2-day pass features free entry into the 1st museum or archaeological site (we recommend making the Colosseum your first stop), unlimited and free access to Rome public transport, reduced rates for all other sights thereafter (during the 48 hours), and discounts to events, exhibitions, and tourist services. Price: €28. A 72-hour pass (€38.50) adds free entry to the first 2 sights.
  • Vatican & Rome Card. This combined card includes the Roma Pass and all its benefits, plus 3 days of free entry to the Vatican City sights and attractions, including the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica. It also comes with a free Rome bus tour and fast-track or priority entrance. Price: €113 adults. €80 children.
Taylor McIntyre / © TripSavvy

Colosseum Location, Tickets, and Hours

Location: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma

Hours: Daily 8:30 am to 1 hour before sunset. Closed January 1, May 1, and December 25. Ticket office closes 1 hour before the site closes.

How to Get There: Metro Line B – Colosseo stop – or take bus 75, 81, 673, 175, or 204, or Tram 3.

Admission: Ticket price is €12. Audio tours cost €17.50 (includes audioguide rental and entrance fee). There is a €2 service charge for tickets purchased online. Note that these prices were current in October 2018.

Free admission: Children under 18 years of age are free, as is anyone visiting on the 1st Sunday of each month (although entrance on these Sundays can’t be reserved, so prepare for crowds and long lines). Persons with disabilities and one companion are free with valid medical documentation, but no reservations are required.

Reduced price tickets: European Union citizens, youth between the ages of 18 and 25, and school groups are eligible for a discounted admission of €7.50.

Visiting Tip: The above tips can reduce or eliminate wait times, however, because the Colosseum is a protected and sensitive structure, it’s subject to security checks at the entrance. Be advised that waiting in line at the metal detector might be necessary for safety reasons. Note: Backpacks, big purses, and luggage are not permitted inside the Colosseum.