Best Free Attractions and Experiences to do in Rome
Rome is a city filled to the brim with historical sights, cultural events and impressive exhibitions. What makes the Eternal City even more remarkable is that you can experience so much of its great beauty without breaking the bank.
Admiring Caravaggio’s masterpieces
Caravaggio, one of Italy’s greatest painters, lived and worked in Rome in the late 16th and early 17th century. He became widely known for his exceptional use of light, and unsettling realism, and also gained a notorious reputation for his tumultuous private life. So tumultuous in fact, that he’s said to have fled Rome after killing a man during a brawl!
Today one can admire many of his masterpieces in churches, with free admission, all across Rome.
One of the must-see churches is the church of San Luigi dei Francesi near Piazza Navona, featuring his famous frescoes of St. Matthew: The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew and St. Matthew and the Angel.
Not far from this church, is the church of Sant’Agostino, where you can find his Madonna del Loreto.
His Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the Conversion of St Paul you’ll find inside the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the square of the same name.
Taking a peek through the Knights of Malta keyhole
Perched on top of the lesser known, but no less impressive, Aventine hill is the keyhole of the Knights of Malta. It’s one of the city’s most enchanting off-the-beaten track sights and can be visited any time of the day, for free. The reason for trudging up a hill and peering though a keyhole might seem obscure to some, but once you’ve glimpsed the view, it makes complete sense. The keyhole is perfectly aligned with trimmed hedges, which then leads the eye to the perfectly framed St. Peter’s Dome.
Free entrance to many state-owned heritage places in Rome every first Sunday of the month
Running since July 2014, Domenica al museo, or Sunday at the museum, offers free admission every first Sunday of the month (from October to March) to anyone wanting to visit any state-owned museums, galleries, archaeological sites, monumental parks or gardens, in Rome.
These places include, but aren’t limited to, the Roman Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon, Borghese Gallery (booking required) and Caracalla’s baths. It can get incredibly busy on these first Sundays, so head out early to avoid the crowds, and check if the sights you would like to visit have an online reservation system or if it’s ‘first come, first serve’.
For more information, and a full list of which places you can visit for free, head over to the Beni culturali website.
Enjoy an afternoon of classical music every Sunday at one of the largest palaces in the world.
The Palazzo del Quirinale, or Quirinal Palace, hosts a free classical music concert in its Paolina chapel every Sunday at 12 p.m. Booking is mandatory. You can either book online, or phone their call centre. The only cost is the €1,5 charged for making the reservation, which also covers entry into the palace.
For more information you can visit the Quirinal Palace website.
Go on a free, guided walking tour of Rome
Without a guide we can sometimes miss a lot of the stories behind the places we visit, but paying for one isn’t always possible, especially if you’re traveling on a tight budget. Luckily there are a few tour companies, like Rome Free Walking Tour, Guru Walk and Free Tour Rome that offers free Rome walking tours.
Some companies ask only that you tip your guide, and others ask that you make a reservation online. For more information head over to their websites:
Visit St. Peters Basilica
Visiting the largest church in Christendom is a must-see for anyone visiting Rome. Entering the impressive basilica is free, but the lines to get into St. Peter’s can sometimes be just as impressive as the basilica itself, so make sure you get there early.
The Basilica is open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., April to September, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., October to March. Also make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. Men and women’s shoulders and knees should be covered; otherwise you’ll be turned away at the door, no matter how long you’ve been waiting.
Although visiting the basilica is free, the dome and treasury museum have entrance fees. Dome: €6, or €8 with lift. Treasury museum: €6.
Visiting the Italian Senate on the first Saturday of the month
The Italian Senate has been housed in the imposing, and tightly guarded, palace called Palazzo Madama, since 1871.
The building, which is located within walking distance of Piazza Navona, is usually closed to the public. However, the Senate opens the palace up to the public on the first Saturday of every month, except in August, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Senate staff members give visitors a free, guided tour of the grounds, which includes the main halls, most significant rooms and other points of interest at the palace.
The guided tours are free, but visitors must pick up a pass from the palazzo’s entrance at Piazza Madama on the day it’s open to the public. Booking in advance isn’t possible.
Visit the Italian Senate’s website for more information about the free guided tours.
Visiting the Pantheon – the temple of all the gods
Visiting the Pantheon, the most imitated building in the world, is a must for anyone traveling to Rome. Surprisingly enough, entry to one of the greatest architectural wonders of Ancient Rome is free (and the overwhelming feeling you’ll get from it everlasting)! The Pantheon is widely praised for its architectural features and the concept of space, topped by the Oculus – the only source of light at the top of the dome.
The Pantheon is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6:30pm; on Sundays and public holidays from 9am till 1pm; and closed on January 1, May 1, August 15, December 16, and December 25. Make sure to wear appropriate clothing – your knees and shoulders must be covered.Read more about Rome’s Pantheon
Throw in a coin at the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the most famous fountain in the world, attracting over 10 million tourists per year. This extraordinary baroque fountain is an ensemble of mythical figures and wild horses occupying the entire side of the 17th century Palazzo Poli. When visiting the Fontana di Trevi, it’s tradition to toss a coin over your shoulders, ensuring your return to the Eternal City.
Fontana di Trevi is always open and you can visit it any hour of the day. Finding yourself in the piazza while facing the most beautiful fountain in the world will be one of the highlights of your trip to Rome.
Enjoying a picnic or a bike ride along the Parco degli Acquedotti and Ancient Appian Way
Just outside the city center is one of Rome’s most famous parks – the Parco degli Acquedotti. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city you’ll find a park with pathways filled with streams, pine trees, and ancient aqueducts. The park is a great historical site and an excellent location for running and cycling. Plus, entry is free! And just a short bike ride from the park you’ll find the Ancient Appian Way – one of the most famous ancient roman roads. Along Via Appia Antica you’ll encounter numerous monuments, milestones, basilicas and tombs. During ancient Roman times, the road was essential in transporting troops down Brindisi’s port in southeast Italy.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset, where the sun rays lay over the massive aqueducts, framed by pine trees. If instead of visiting the Ancient Appian Way and Parco degli Acquedotti on your own you’d rather visit them with a group, we recommend you reserve a guided bike ride tour here.
Get a stunning panoramic view from the Pincio terrace
Rome is well-known for its remarkable history and architecture. And the Pincio Terrace in Villa Borghese is the perfect spot to view Rome from the top. From the terrace you can admire the view of beautiful Piazza del Popolo, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and much more. The Pincio terrace sits right above Piazza del Popolo, at the end of Via del Corso, and is open to the visitors every day, at all times. The best time to come is at sunset.
Exploring the architectural and artistic masterpieces of the hundreds of churches in Rome
Visiting the many churches in Rome is a must for anyone. Did you know that Rome is home to more than 900 churches (including some of the oldest in the world)?. So there’s no doubt the Eternal City is the most interesting place on Earth when it comes to visiting basilicas, cathedrals and churches. But it’s not just the religious aspect that draws millions of people to visit churches in Rome – each one is unique and boasts architectural or artistic masterpieces, some are even the burial site of some true greats. Among the most beautiful churches to visit there’s the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere – the oldest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary – featuring six golden mosaics by Pietro Cavallini; the glorious church of Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Campo Marzio with frescoes by Andrea Pozzo; and the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) home to the relic of Saint Peter’s chains when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and Michelangelo’s Moses.