Who said that traveling to Rome is expensive? Not only you can find budget hotels and even extra cheap accommodation, but also very affordable and delicious restaurants and a huge variety of free things to do in Rome that can keep anyone busy and ensure travelers of any age and preference a fantastic holiday.
Whether you are traveling on a shoestring and want to save in anything you can or are on a budget and prefer to spend your cash carefully, in Rome, there are plenty of things to visit that are completely free and others that are quite cheap. We have written this extensive guide to show all the things you can do in Rome for free and how easy it is to save plenty of cash in Rome without sacrificing your experience in any way. Discover the city’s art and history, enjoy fantastic food, and have an exciting trip without getting back home broke!
Free Things to Do in Rome (+ Some Cheap!)
See the Free Ancient Rome Ruins
Obviously, visiting the Colosseum and the Roman Forum requires a ticket, but especially if you have only one day in Rome, walking around the city’s main archaeological park is one of the best things you can do in Rome for free. From outside, you can walk around the Colosseum, see the majestic Arch of Constantine, and take a very little peek at the ruins inside the Roman Forum. However, the long road that connects Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum is Via dei Fori Imperiali, a long display of Roman emperors’ fora and ancient temples, and obviously, walking all the way is free of charge.
A short walk away, while it’s not free to visit the Baths of Caracalla, it’s free to see the Circus Maximus, the largest stadium of ancient Rome where now the local administration organizes events such as free concerts and celebrations for occasions like the New Year and Rome’s birthday on April 21st.
Visit Piazza Navona
Arguably one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, Piazza Navona takes its elliptical shape from the 1st-century stadium underneath built by emperor Domitian. If you want to see Rome for free, this is a must and a perfect starting point where you can naturally combine imperial history and Baroque art.
Roam from Bernini’s famous Four Rivers Fountain in the middle of Piazza Navona to Borromini’s Sant’Angese in Agone church, don’t forget to stop at the other two smaller fountains on the northern and southern edges and enjoy a delicious gelato from GROM.
Duck into the Pantheon
The famed Pantheon was founded as a majestic temple devoted to all gods, it became world-known for its outstanding architecture, and it bears the ancient world’s largest concrete dome and still now the world’s largest unsupported one. The light is brought in by the hole (oculus) in its cupola (dome) that was made as a direct connection with the gods.
Today, the Pantheon is a Catholic church and hosts the tombs of some members of the Italian former royal family and that of the famous Renaissance painter Raphael. Even though there were rumors and suggestions to make it a paid landmark, the Pantheon is still a free place to visit in Rome.
If you didn’t manage to try GROM in Piazza Navona but now you could do with some sweetness, right behind the Pantheon, in Piazza Sant’Eustachio, is another one of the best gelato in Rome, Gunther Gelato Italiano.
Make sure you don’t miss our selection of the most important and famous Roman buildings.
Admire St. Peter’s Square and Basilica
Both Saint Peter’s Basilica and the amazing square are free to walk in and admire. Take in the amazing artwork the giant Renaissance church is packed with artwork as well as its historical features including the large Baroque canopy by Bernini known as Saint Peter’s Baldachin and the red porphyry stone where Charlemagne was crowned.
One of the most famous and beautiful churches in Rome, the entrance is free of charge, but the number of masterpieces you can view here, such as Michelangelo’s La Pietà and Canova‘s Monument to Clement XIII, easily makes it a rich museum to visit.
Go to Church
Apart from the most popular sacred landmarks such as Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon, entering any church is free in Rome, and even the smallest one is a treasure trove of artwork. You can find the masterpiece of a famous artist in a side chapel, an important historical relic in the undergrounds, a stunning fresco decorating a ceiling, all of it showing how many free things you can do in Rome.
Some of the Catholic worship places you shouldn’t miss if you want to roam the beauty of Rome for free are actually lesser-known churches such as San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica, Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi where you can even see three Caravaggio paintings, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Pudenziana, and Santa Prassede for their beautiful mosaics, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Basilica and nearby Santa Maria in Trastevere, as well as Santa Croce in Gerusalemme preserving the relics of the Holy Cross.
Climb the Spanish Steps
While it’s not possible anymore to sit and eat on this monumental staircase, you can enjoy the Spanish Steps by climbing them from Piazza di Spagna to the fascinating Trinità dei Monti church and turning from time to time if you are posing for a stylish picture.
Again, this is one of the major landmarks in Rome that is free to visit and enjoy. All around there are also other things to do that are paid, for example, a tour of Trinità dei Monti cloister, the entrance to the Keats-Shelley memorial house, and an English tea experience at Babington’s. You can also walk the catwalk and take a peek at the luxury clothing brands of Via dei Condotti such as Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana.
Cross Galleria Sciarra
Just off Via del Corso is a jewel of the Italian Liberty style that is a really cool free place to visit in Rome. It’s a private passageway that stays open to allow passers-by to go from Via Minghetti to Piazza dell’Oratorio. There are a few ways to get from the Trevi Fountain to Via del Corso, but I really suggest you pick this option so you don’t miss this stunning frescoed gallery painted by Giuseppe Cellini in a time when Roman notable families were rushing in sprucing up their mansions in the wake of the newly unified Italy.
Take a Stroll in the Park
Combine a relaxing walk in nature with historical exploration and you will engage in one of the favorite free activities in Rome, a stroll in one of the noble villas that were turned into urban parks. While the most famous is central Villa Borghese, other parks locals love are Villa Pamphilj, Villa Ada, the former residence of the Savoy Royal Family, and the smaller but no less worth a visit Villa Torlonia, where Mussolini lived in the years of his rule and WWII.
Rome’s parks offer a wide range of things to see and do, some free, such as jogging, picnicking,kids’ playgrounds, and discovering the several statues and fountains and others paid for including museums, notable palaces, nice bistros, and affordable activities including rowing a boat in the lake of Villa Borghese.
Stare at the Trevi Fountain
One of the most photographed landmarks, the Trevi Fountain is an evergreen masterpiece of the Italian Baroque that is free to see in Rome. This monumental fountain is a mesmerizing ensemble of sculptures, symbols, and stories, and is hardly left out of any classic Rome tours, especially if it’s your first time in Rome.
If you are willing to do some spending in the area, you can study the fountain deeper and from beneath by exploring the aqueduct that has been supplying its water for centuries, Aqua Virgo. There are a few sites you can visit to see the ruins of this ancient piping system, and while two are paid for, the one located in the undergrounds of La Rinascente shopping mall in Via del Tritone is free of charge. However, if you don’t mind adding 4€ to your travel budget, you can descend to one of Rome’s wonderful archaeological sites, Vicus Caprarius, just behind Fontana di Trevi, and see the aqueduct’s cistern as well as remains of the ancient neighborhood dating back as long as Nero’s period.
Discover Rome’s Street Art
The local municipality has turned many Rome neighborhoods into open-air museums through a display of colorful murals by both Italian and international street artists. Urban art and street photography go hand in hand in these newly gentrified neighborhoods that never gave up on their working-class vibe, making it their trendy, signature feature instead.
Take a free tour to see the famous Ostiense street art, or take in the colors of the Quadraro urban art M.U.R.o. project, or stray further away from Rome’s city center and visit Tor Marancia. These are the neighborhoods fully handed to street artists, but all over Rome, there is always the chance to encounter colorful murals, such as those in Testaccio, Trastevere, Monteverde, San Paolo, and Garbatella.
See the Monsters of Quartiere Coppedè
One of my favorite hidden gems in Rome is free and is known as Quartiere Coppedè, in the elegant Trieste/Nomentano neighborhood. Step over Piazza Mincio and immediately you will feel in another world. Carvings, sculptures, and images of mythological figures, welcome the curious, in-the-know traveler on the lookout for unexpected views of the eternal city in a neighborhood that has been the setting for several horror movies.
Designed by architect Gino Coppedè at the beginning of the 20th century, the buildings show a mix of Gothic style, Greek and Roman mythology, and fairies. Among the features to spot are the large wrought-iron chandelier that marks the entrance to the quarter, the Fountain of the Frogs, and the Villino delle Fate (Fairies’ Cottage).
Take a Walk
Whether you are spending a day in the Centro Storico, exploring quaint historical neighborhoods like Trastevere, or visiting less central districts such as Ostiense and Garbatella, taking long walks really is one of the best ways to see Rome for free. This is how you can discover its hidden gems and the quaint corners out of the touristy route, and find the countless art masterpieces and historical relics that are in the open, outside the museums, and totally free to admire.
Need ideas? The beautiful statues decorating Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge facing the Hadrian Mausoleum, the thousands of fountains scattered around the city and the parks, Rome’s squares and roads always framed by and lined up with historical buildings and churches, just to name a few. Or why not enjoy some artsy street like Via Margutta off Via del Corso, where Picasso worked at a local art gallery, movie director Federico Fellini lived, and now is Margutta RistorArte, one of Rome’s top vegetarian restaurants.
Make sure you read our article on the most beautiful and famous fountains in Rome.
Explore the Jewish Quarter
Bearing life of its own, wandering the streets of the Jewish Ghetto is one fascinating experience you can have if you are looking for free things to do in Rome. Right off the popular hub of Largo Argentina, Rome’s Jewish Quarter is a tangle of little alleys and main streets where local shops and restaurants give its typical traditional vibe. Alongside the archaeological site of Portico d’Ottavia, the Fountain of the Turtles in Piazza Mattei, the Jewish Museum, and the Great Synagogue, this is a fantastic neighborhood for your lunch or dinner, if you feel like grabbing a table and relaxing while munching on traditional kosher food.
Visit a Local Market
It might not be free to do your shopping, but it’s definitely free to walk around the stalls of a market, whether it sells clothes, antiques or it’s one of the many Rome’s food markets. You don’t have to buy anything, but looking around will give you a precious insight into Roman and Italian society, it will show some traditional foods and ingredients, handicrafts, and handmade clothing.
If you are into affordable clothes, head to Via Sannio (open every morning) in the San Giovanni neighborhood, while if you want to shop for groceries and culinary delicacies, my choice would go to the fantastic Campagna Amica market organized every weekend near the Circus Maximus that sells all types of high-quality local foods and produce.