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10 Rome's best monuments

Rome is a treasure! If you are planning a trip to the Italian capital, take note of the main monuments to see during your visit.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

10 min read

10 Rome's best monuments

Visiting the Spanish Steps in Rome | ©Natasa Dav

Rome is a monumental city full of history where strolling through its streets you feel as if you were in an open air museum. Everywhere you turn you can find something amazing to see and marvel at.

If this is the first time you travel to the "Eternal City", in this post we review the 10 best monuments in Rome so you know the most essential that can not miss on your route of what to see and do in Rome. Let's start!

1. The Roman Colosseum

Side view of the Roman Colosseum| ©Den Harrson
Side view of the Roman Colosseum| ©Den Harrson

The Colosseum is the most important monument in Rome and a symbol for the city. With about two millennia of antiquity (which is soon said), it is the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire, as it had a capacity for 50,000 spectators and no other building exceeded that figure until the twentieth century.

Its construction began in 72 A.D. in the time of Emperor Vespasian and for more than five centuries it hosted the most diverse spectacles enjoyed by the people of that time: naval battles, gladiatorial combats, fights of wild beasts or public executions of prisoners, among others.

The last games held in the Colosseum took place in the 6th century A.D. and despite suffering several fires, earthquakes and plundering during the Middle Ages, this iconic monument continues to preside over the imposing landscape of Rome.

If on the outside its architecture is impressive, inside the Colosseum will not leave you indifferent. There is no doubt that it is one of the best monuments in Rome and to visit it without having to queue forever at the entrance, I recommend you to read the post about tickets to the Colosseum in Rome.

Buy tickets for the Colosseum in Rome

2. St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica of the Vatican| ©Carlos Graterol
St. Peter's Basilica of the Vatican| ©Carlos Graterol

St. Peter's Basilica is the largest Christian temple in the world and an important spiritual symbol for Catholics, as it was erected over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle (the first Pope in history) who was martyred in Rome and whose remains now rest inside.

In the 16th century Pope Julius II ordered it to be built over a previous temple that Emperor Constantine ordered to be erected in the 4th century A.D. and which remained standing for more than a thousand years. In addition to being a religious icon, St. Peter's Basilica is also a masterpiece of the arts.

Great artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo, Giacomo Della Porta, Donato d'Angelo Bramante or Carlo Maderno participated in the project and the works lasted for almost 2 centuries.

There is a lot to see inside! To know it in depth and get the most out of the experience, in the post Visit St. Peter's Basilica you will find everything you need to know about this monument.

Oh, and don't forget to climb the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica, because from up there you will have one of the best views of Rome.

  • Address: Piazza San Pietro, 00120. Vatican City.
  • How to get there: By subway, line A, Ottaviano station.

Buy tickets for St. Peter's Basilica with dome climb

3. Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel| ©Dennis Jarvis
Sistine Chapel| ©Dennis Jarvis

The Sistine Chap el is one of Rome's greatest Renaissance jewels and Michelangelo's masterpiece despite his inexperience in painting, as he claimed to be a sculptor and not a painter.

The commission from Julius II was a challenge for the artist, who dedicated ten years of his life to decorate the vault and the back wall above the high altar, and the result is a marvel. However, other artists who also worked in this space were Botticelli, Perugino and Luca.

It is undeniable that this is one of the essential places to see in Rome during a trip! You will find the Sistine Chapel near St. Peter's Basilica, within the tour of the Vatican Museums.

It is one of the chapels of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, where the official residence of the Holy Father is located, and it is known not only for its spectacular decoration but also for being the place where the Popes are chosen.

In order to enter the Sistine Chapel it is necessary to buy a ticket or take a guided tour of this museum. In the post about tickets for the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

  • Address: Viale Vaticano, 51.
  • How to get there: By subway, line A, station Cipro-Musei Vaticani.

Buy tickets for the Sistine Chapel

4. Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain| ©Michele Bitetto
Trevi Fountain| ©Michele Bitetto

The Trevi Fountain is one of the best monuments in Rome and, therefore, one of the most visited places in the city. The reason is simple: it is the most beautiful fountain in the world.

Its history dates back to the time of Emperor Augustus, when this fountain was the final section of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built in the first century B.C. However, the current one dates from the seventeenth century and was commissioned by Pope Clement XII to the architect Nicola Salvi, who surprised everyone with this allegory of the ocean presided over by the god Neptune.

And it is something that happens for generations because when you contemplate the Trevi Fountain from the front you will be impressed by the contrast between the small size of the square in which it is located and the monumentality of the fountain itself.

If you want to see it in all its splendor and avoid the crowds, I recommend approaching it at another time than at noon or at the end of the day because you will most likely encounter a crowd of tourists.

  • Address: Piazza di Trevi. 00187, Rome.
  • How to get there: By subway, line A, Barberini station.

Isabel's Traveler Tip

When you visit the Trevi Fountain, don't forget to follow the tradition of throwing a coin in the water so that fortune will bring you back to Rome.

5. The Pantheon of Agrippa

The famous Pantheon in Rome| ©Ana Rey
The famous Pantheon in Rome| ©Ana Rey

The Pantheon of Agrippa is one of the best monuments in Rome that you can visit, being the best preserved building of Ancient Rome. This was possible because at the beginning of the 7th century Pope Boniface IV transformed it into a church dedicated to the Christians martyred in the persecutions.

This building dates back to the 2nd century A.D. and is one of the masterpieces of Roman architecture. The highlight of the Pantheon of Agrippa is the precision and harmony of its construction as well as the central oculus of the dome through which sunlight penetrates giving the temple a unique atmosphere.

This monument is well worth a visit at any time of the year but I recommend you visit it especially on June 21 (during the summer solstice) to see the sunlight pass through the oculus perpendicularly or on Pentecost Sunday when after the 10:30 AM mass a shower of red petals is thrown through the oculus in memory of the descent on the apostles of the Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful spectacle!

Besides being a church, the Pantheon of Agrippa is also a royal pantheon since there are the tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Margaret of Savoy and even that of the Renaissance painter Raphael.

  • Address: Piazza della Rotonda.
  • How to get there: By subway, line A, Barberini station.

6. The Basilica of St. John Lateran

Basilica of St. John in Rome at Night| ©Mark CjC
Basilica of St. John in Rome at Night| ©Mark CjC

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is another of the best monuments in Rome to visit as it is a very special temple. Did you know that it was the first church to be built in the city back in the 4th century A.D.?

Of the four major basilicas that exist in the "Eternal City", St. John Lateran is the most important of them all. Not only because of its historical background as the cathedral of Rome and the place where until not so long ago all the Popes were proclaimed, but also because of the beauty of the interior of the basilica - everything in it is lavishly decorated, from the ceiling to the floor!

I recommend you to visit it during your trip to the city if you are interested in history, architecture and religious art. Its size will amaze you as well as the elegance of its chapels, the cosmatesque cloister or the altar located under a gothic canopy. In addition, you will see amazing sites such as the Sanctuary of the Holy Staircase, the Sancta Sanctorum Chapel** or the Lateran Palace that have a very interesting history within Christianity.

  • Address: Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4.
  • How to get there: By subway, line A, station San Giovanni.

7. The Roman Forum

View of the Colosseum and the Forum from the Campidoglio.| ©Unsplash
View of the Colosseum and the Forum from the Campidoglio.| ©Unsplash

Next to the Colosseum you will find the Roman Forum, another example of the best monuments of Rome that will complete your vision of Ancient Rome along with other tourist attractions of the time such as the Pantheon of Agrippa, the Baths of Caracalla or the Flavian Amphitheater itself.

The Roman Forum represented the epicenter of public life during the Republic and the Empire. It is one of the most interesting places in the city because it is full of temples, palaces, arches and other buildings that are generally in a good state of preservation. In fact, walking along the Via Sacra, you can imagine what Rome was like during its heyday more than 2,000 years ago. It's amazing! There is so much to explore here that you could spend several hours without getting bored.

This is one of the essential visits to do in Rome and since it is such a popular place, I advise you to get tickets in advance to avoid the long lines of tourists that form at the entrances. In the post about tickets to the Roman Forum you can see how to get them so you don't miss anything.

  • Address: Via della Salara Vecchia, 5/6, 00186 Rome.
  • How to get there: By subway, line B, Colosseo station.

Book a guided tour of the Roman Forum

8. Sant'Angelo Castle

Sant'Angelo Castle| ©David Edkins
Sant'Angelo Castle| ©David Edkins

On the right bank of the Tiber River, a short distance from the Vatican, you will find Castel Sant'Angelo. A 2nd century AD fortress that Emperor Hadrian designed as his family mausoleum but ended up becoming a military building and a papal residence used in times of turmoil. It used to be said that until Castel Sant'Angelo was surrendered, no one could claim to be the conqueror of Rome.

Today, this monument houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo with a very interesting collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and period weapons.

I recommend you to buy tickets for the Castel Sant Angelore not only for its historical importance and the value of the museum pieces but also because from the terrace of the fortress you will have one of the most beautiful views of the city with the Tiber River, St. Peter's Basilica and the Bridge of Sant'Angelo (one of the most beautiful bridges in Rome) on the horizon.

  • Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50.
  • How to get there: By bus, lines 23, 34, 49, 49, 64, 87, 280, 492, 926 and 990.

Buy tickets for Castel Sant'Angelo

9. The Catacombs of Rome

Passage Catacombs of San Calixto| ©Steve Collis
Passage Catacombs of San Calixto| ©Steve Collis

In Rome there are more than sixty known catacombs made up of hundreds of kilometers of subway galleries, housing thousands of tombs. In the popular imagination, the catacombs were the hiding place where the first Christians took refuge fleeing the imperial persecutions, but in reality they were cemeteries where Christians buried their dead and only in very exceptional cases served as an occasional refuge to celebrate the Eucharist.

Of all the catacombs in Rome, only a few can be visited, in particular those with a greater historical interest such as those of St. Callixtus, St. Sebastian or Domitilla (on the Appian Way) or those of St. Agnes or St. Priscilla (north of the city).

You can only visit the catacombs of Rome through an organized tour with a guide, as you will make a journey into the depths of the Earth and the tunnels you will go through are somewhat narrow and dark. If you do not suffer from claustrophobia, this is one of the best monuments in Rome that I recommend you to visit.

If exploring the catacombs of the "Eternal City" is one of the activities you definitely want to do during your trip, then I recommend you to read the post about tickets for the Catacombs of Rome to know how to get them, and don't forget the Vatican Catacombs1

  • Address: Various locations
  • How to get there: To get to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus on Via Appia you can take the 118 bus from the Colosseo metro station (line B).

Buy tickets for the Catacombs of Rome

10. The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

Piazza Venezia with the Vittoriano Monument| ©Renata Rodrigues
Piazza Venezia with the Vittoriano Monument| ©Renata Rodrigues

Popularly known as "Vittoriale", the Monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II is a colossal white marble construction erected to honor the nation and the monarch after the reunification of Italy.

Curiously, at first the monument was not liked among the Romans because they considered that its dimensions and style did not fit in with the surroundings of Piazza Venezia. Today, however, it is one of the most popular monuments in Rome among visitors.

Inside is located the Central Museum of the Risorgimento, the Institute for the History of the Italian Risorgimento and the tomb of the unknown soldier where the eternal flame shines in tribute to the fallen for the Fatherland.

However, one of the greatest attractions of this monument for tourists, in addition to its majestic aesthetics, are the panoramic views from the upper terrace (at the height of the chariots) of the Colosseum, the Imperial Forums, the Roman Forum, the Via del Corso or the Trajan Column. You can not stop taking pictures!

  • Address: Piazza Venezia
  • How to get there: By bus, lines 30, 51, 83, 87, 160 and 170.