Top Free things to do in Rome
Rome is on everyone’s list of places to see. There are countless things to see and do in the city and a list of ‘must-see’ attractions. The Colosseum and Vatican are the top attractions but there are numerous other museums and galleries filled with artefacts and beautiful art treasures – all these come at a cost. The average cost for entrance to museums in Rome is between €10-15€ with the Vatican and Colosseum exceeding €20.
If you are on a budget, it can be difficult navigating the museums and restaurants, but there are lots of things to do in the City of Rome without paying a penny, so check out our list of free things to do in Rome.
The Pantheon is one of the top attractions in Rome; it is absolutely free! Famed for its immense concrete dome and hole in the centre – you cannot miss a visit to the Pantheon. It is the most complete Roman building still surviving thanks to its conversion to a church early on. The best time to visit is late morning when the sun is streaming into the building.
St Peter’s Basilica
The largest church in Christendom is not officially in Rome, but in Vatican City. To enter the Vatican museums and see the Sistine chapel you must buy a ticket, but the church of St Peter is completely free to enter. As one of the most important churches in Rome, St Peter’s is a huge attraction and so often has a line to enter. You need to wait in line and go through the metal detectors, but there is no cost whatsoever. You can also climb the dome of St Peter’s to enjoy the fantastic views, but there is a cost for this.
Free art in the churches
As the heart of the Catholic church, one advantage in the city of Rome is that the churches are free to enter. Whether you are religious or not, Rome’s churches deserve attention, because many of them have priceless pieces of art by the most famous artists of their day. You can start with the most important churches or papal basilicas – St Giovanni, St Peter’s, St Paul’s outside the walls and Santa Maria Maggiore. After these, there are countless others to check out, particularly if you are on the hunt for Caravaggio, Bernini or Raphael. Although you may have to spend €1 to switch on the spotlights to look at some of these masterpieces.
The Aventine Hill is a wonderful peaceful place you can while away a morning with a number of things to see. Top among these is the not-so-secret – ‘secret keyhole’ on the doors of the Priory of the knights of Malta. Visitors queue to take a peek through the keyhole of the priory which looks through their garden to the Vatican beyond.
Rose garden of Rome
Also, on the Aventine, Rome’s rose garden is a delight to visit with its stunning views of the palatine hill. Open from the end of April until early June when the flowers are in full bloom, visitors can enter to see and smell over 1,200 varieties of Rose, some dating back to ancient times. The garden dates back to the 1930s when it was transformed from a Jewish cemetery, the pathways between the flowerbeds are in the shape of a Menorah, remembering the former site.
The Circus Maximus
Although it looks like just a field today, the Circus Maximus was the largest and oldest stadium of ancient Rome. At its height, over 250,000 spectators of all levels of society watched chariot races in this space. The actual racing track is some 9metres below the ground level today, but the hill on the Aventine side represents where the seating once was. This is a great place to have a picnic. At the weekends, there is a farmer’s market near the rounded end of the circus (via di San Teodoro) where you can buy meats cheese and even home-made wine which you can enjoy at the Circus Maximus.
The Mouth of Truth
Only steps away from the Circus Maximus is the ‘Mouth of Truth’ or Bocca della Verita on the porch of the church La Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Made famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, countless visitors follow in their footsteps to place their hands in the mouth of the huge face, hoping not to have it bitten off! In recent years, the church has requested a nominal contribution of €1 to visit.
Walk the Appian Way
The Appia Antica park is a nature reserve stretching over 13km along the first paved Roman highway. Walking or cycling along the road (you can hire bikes at the park) you will pass ancient funerary monuments and aqueducts. This is a popular pastime for the Romans on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Rome has a number of smaller, slightly quirky museums which are absolutely FREE (see the list below).
All state museums and archaeological sites in Rome are free on the first Sunday of the month. The Vatican Museums open on the last Sunday of the month also without a charge.
Museo delle Mura or the Museum of the Walls is a small archaeological museum in the Aurelian walls at the beginning of the Appian Way. You can walk on top of the walls that protected the city for over 1500 years.
Museo Storico della Liberazione records the Nazi occupation of Rome, the Italian resistance and Jewish persecutions through documents and photographs. The site of the museum was the SS command centre and a prison.
Museo Barracco, or Barracco museum of Antique Sculpture is a private collection of over 400 pieces of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Phoenician art, as well as Greek sculptures of the classical period.
Museo Carlo Bilotti is a modern art gallery set in the orangery in Villa Borghese, you will find works collected by various artists including Giorgio De Chirico, Gino Severini, Andy Warhol and Larry Rivers.
Museo Napoleonico as the name suggests is dedicated to Napoleon and the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.
Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen is dedicated to the work of the Norwegian sculptor and artist Hendrik Christian Andersen who lived in Rome for 50 years. It houses over 200 sculptures in marble and bronze and a collection of his paintings.
Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi is dedicated to the decorative arts, clothing and Italian fashion.