Table of Contents
- 1. The Vatican
- 2. The Colosseum
- 3. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
- 4. The Pantheon
- 5. Villa Borghese
- 6. The Spanish Steps
- 7. Fontana Di Trevi
- 8. Piazza Navona
- 9. Castel Sant’Angelo
- 10. Trastevere – the Best Neighborhood in Rome
- Where to Stay in Rome
- 3-Day Rome Itinerary
1. The Vatican
Typical visit time: 3-4 hours
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way 🙂 The Vatican is pretty amazing and it’s impossible that you miss it when you’re looking for places to visit in Rome in 3 days! The Vatican museums are the most visited museums in the world – 5 million people see them every year, and during peak season, as many as 20,000 people come here per day! Incredible, isn’t it?
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican museums are what you should start your visit with (you can’t really go back if you decide to visit Saint Peter’s first), and as a whole – your city sightseeing in Rome! You can freely take photos, but shut off your flash and don’t use a tripod. Once you enter, find the spiral staircase and take a snap 🙂 Just like this staircase, most guided tours skip the pinacoteca (gallery), where you can see one painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. You will also pass by the hall of maps and then head to the delightful garden, right before you head in for the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel
Well, let’s admit it – THAT’S the main reason you’re visiting the Vatican, right? 🙂 This is absolutely the must-see place to visit in Rome in 3 days <3 You can’t take photos there, though, mostly because it’s a holy place. You must also be silent during your visit.
Just before you enter, there are a few large signs explaining a bit more about the paintings, so stop by and read a bit, if you haven’t book a guided tour. One of the most curious things I enjoyed was that Michelangelo painted himself within it – in the Last Judgement on one of the walls. If you look closely, you will see Saint Bartholomew holding the flayed skin of a man. This was Michelangelo’s way of expressing that he believed he was paid so little, he was “skinned alive”.
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter’s basilica is actually not classified as a cathedral (but it’s a basilica), since it doesn’t have a bishop. As the largest church building in the world (the inside is 15,160 square meters!), there is truly a reason it’s so popular. It’s quite spectacular not just from the outside, but from the inside too. Walk around and enjoy the beauty and lavishness of this place.
The Pietà is located within Saint Peter’s Basilica – when you enter, it’s to your right. It’s the only sculpture Michelangelo has ever signed! You will be absolutely fascinated by its details, and don’t be surprised if you see crowds right in front of it.
Saint Peter’s Dome – The View from Above (and snacks!)
By the time we got to Saint Peter’s Dome, we were famished. Even though we had early breakfast around 7:30 am, it was now after 11 am, so we definitely needed a bite. Despite this, we still found the line to climb the Dome (facing the church from the outside, it’s on the right) and decided to climb it – best decision ever! On your way back from the dome, on the terrace, there is a small shop with snacks, a toilet and refreshments.
There are two types of tickets to the dome – one with an elevator up to some point (you will skip 231 stairs) and it costs 10 EUR (you will still have 320 if you want to get to the very top). The other ticket costs 8 EUR and it doesn’t include the elevator. If you’re not too tired, you can save the 2 EUR – the first 231 stairs are along wide and airy corridors, unlike the last ones. But to be honest, this climb was still not as bad as the Bell Tower in Florence 🙂 Beware if you’re claustrophobic – then I’d recommend only going to the middle part of the climb on this city sightseeing in Rome.
The Vatican Square
Once you go to Vatican Square – you can’t go back to any of the other attractions, so be careful and make sure that’s the last of your visit to the Vatican. This will end your visit to the most important place to visit in Rome in 3 days, so hang around, take photos of Saint Peter’s and the square itself <3
When can I see the Pope in the Vatican?
You can’t go to Rome and not see the Pope, right? 🙂 Well, we totally missed him – he was at our home country while we were in Rome 🙁 If you do want to see him, though, make sure you are at the square on a Wednesday around 10 am (the papal audience takes place every Wednesday when the Pope is in Rome)! The square will surely be full, though, so be careful and keep your valuables close.
Tips for visiting the Vatican:
- Dress well – if you decide to visit the Vatican when it’s pretty hot outside, don’t forget to dress appropriately in order to be let in – a t-shirt and jeans (or long shorts), as well as a scarf just in case
- Don’t bring a large backpack (small ones are fine), as you will be asked to leave it behind in a locker
- You can visit the Vatican via a guided tour (we booked this one and it was great), as we did – you will most likely have to wait in line less than 30 minutes and you will hear curious stories about the museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica
- You can also visit the Vatican on your own – the one thing I’m sad I missed is the Bramante Staircase (just take a look at Google images!) – it’s not available on the guided tour and you can’t go back to see it afterwards 🙁 However, bear in mind that even with prebooked tickets for the entrance, you might have to wait over an hour or two in order to get in.
- There is also a middle ground – you can book a ticket with an audio guide! We were seriously considering this one, might have been a great option 🙂
- Since most people try to beat the crowds – the afternoons are actually your best bet for less waiting time
- The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays (apart from the last Sunday on the month when they are free, but the crowds are even more insane)
- Bring a bottle of water and small snacks – it’s a pretty long visit!
- Don’t plan another big visit in the same day (like to Colosseum) – you’ll be pretty exhausted! You should choose something else on this list of places to visit in Rome in 3 days.
2. The Colosseum
Typical visit time: 1.5-2 hours
The Colosseum was definitely my favorite place to visit in Rome in 3 days… but mostly – from the outside. Even though the inside was a bit disappointing for us, we had dinner at restaurants overlooking this spectacular building two nights in a row! <3
How to visit the Colosseum
- Via a guided tour – this is the option we chose, actually! It was pretty interesting to hear curiosities about the Colosseum, and we saved so much time waiting in line by picking the tour that combined the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. This is also the option I would recommend if you want to take time and explore everything well – you won’t regret it!
- Via a special tour – City sightseeing in Rome can be really exciting – there are some tours that can get you onto the floor of the arena, just like a gladiator would! You would also be able to see the underground rooms and walk around. The only thing that stopped us from booking this special tour was the price, we really wanted to save up for gelato 😀
- With an audio guide – If you’re bent on seeing this place to visit in Rome for 3 days properly but you’d like to save time, then this is your best bet – you would still get the most of it by listening to the stories behind the Colosseum, but you would move at your own pace. You can book this tour of the Colosseum with an audio guide!
- With fast track tickets – fast track tickets will undoubtedly save you the most time! But bear in mid that this might be the most disappointing option – as I said before, the inside is not nearly as impressive as the outside. However, these tickets include Palatine Hill where you’ll be truly mesmerized with the views! <3
- With Roma Pass – We were seriously considering getting Roma Pass while exploring places to visit in Rome in 3 days. However, just before we got it (we wanted to primarily use it for free fast track entrance to the Colosseum), we found out that you must book a time slot even with Roma Pass and the first one available was 3 days from then, which didn’t fit at all in our schedule for city sightseeing in Rome. So have that in mind, it’s important!
If you’d like even more tips on visiting this must-see place in Rome, check out more information on the Colosseum in Rome here
3. Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Typical visit time – 1-1.5 hours
Palatine Hill & Roman Forum – Entrance
If you already have a ticket to the Colosseum, the entrance to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum will be included in the price! There is a special SUPER ticket that you can buy and explore even more of the hill, but I wouldn’t recommend this option if you are looking for places to visit in Rome for just 3 days.
What to See on Palatine Hill
Do you know where the word “palace” comes from?? Well, it comes from this place – “Palatine” hill! 🙂 Even though the palace itself has not been preserved, you can still see its base and a few walls and marvel in how enormous it was. This hill is actually one of the original 7 hills in Rome and Augustus declared it as a birthplace of Rome, having found artifacts from the iron age.
A few of the important things to see on Palatine hill are (the last one is my favorite!):
- Domitian’s hippodrome & gardens
- Domitian’s fountain
- The Nyphaeum from the Domus Flavia
- The Labyrinth fountain
- The panoramic view of Ancient Rome
The Roman Forum
When you’re on a hunt for city sightseeing in Rome, the Roman Forum is an absolute must <3 That awesome view you saw from Palatine hill? Get down and walk right where the ancient Romans used to walk!
The Roman Forum was the true heart of Rome – not just a marketplace, but the center of politics and social activities. You will see many temples and shrines, some of which date all the way back to the 6th century BC!
4. The Pantheon
Typical visit time: 30-60 minutes
Entrance fee: Free
Even Michelangelo marveled in the beauty of the Pantheon and knew it was one of the most beautiful buildings in the world! This is truly one of the most amazing places to visit in Rome in 3 days – it’s the world’s largest unreinforced dome! As one of the most preserved buildings from Ancient Rome, the Pantheon will quickly become one of your favorite things during your city sightseeing in Rome.
Curious facts about the Pantheon
- The only light inside the Pantheon comes from the 9-meter hole on top of the dome. You might wonder – doesn’t it get wet when it rains?? Well, yep, it does! But the Romans that built it took care of this and built a systems of canal, so all rainwater is drained!
- “Pantheon” comes from Greek and means “all that you believe in” – as you might guess, the Pantheon was used as a main temple in Ancient times. Even today the Pantheon is sometimes used as a church – you can even get married there!
- “M. AGRIPPA. L. F. COSTERTIUM. FECIT” – this is the sign on the Pantheon’s facade. It actually means – “Built by Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time.”
5. Villa Borghese
Typical visit time: 2-3 hours
Entrance fee: 15 EUR
Tips on Visiting Galleria Borghese
- This is one of the places to visit in Rome in 3 days that you must absolutely book in advance! If you’re visiting close to high season, the next available time slot will be in about 2 weeks, and in high season – probably a month.
- If you have Roma Pass – you still need to book a time slot – you can only do so by e-mail – send it to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- It’s not crowded at all – there are only a few time slots a day (it’s also closed on Mondays) and very few people are let in.
- Galleria Borghese holds one of the most famous art collections in the world – sculpture and paintings by Bernini, Titan, Raphael, Rubens and more – don’t miss this on your city sightseeing in Rome!
Villa Borghese Park
If you aren’t able to see Galleria Borghese and you miss the available time slot – you can still stroll around the stunning park – for free! It’s quite large, but so beautiful. Try to find the little lake and for the best experience – rent a small boat <3
6. The Spanish Steps
This is one of the most crowded attractions from all the places to visit in Rome in 3 days! If you really want to see it in all its glory, I highly recommend visiting around sunrise – we did and there were almost no people around – it was absolutely gorgeous <3
If you’re curious how Rome looks at sunrise, click here!
The Spanish steps were originally built as a passage between the church and the Spanish square below. Later, many artists and painters made the steps their primary sport during the day, inspired by the inherent architecture. Even though the artist who created the Spanish steps is not famous, the fountain right in front of them was created by Bernini – it’s called Fontana della Barcaccia (fountain of the old boat).
But why are they called the “Spanish” steps and why is it called the “Spanish” square? Well, easy – the Spanish embassy is right nearby! 🙂 Go and climb the 138 steps of this lovely place to visit in Rome in 3 days, hopefully you’ll be able to miss the crowds and enjoy the view <3
7. Fontana Di Trevi
Just like petting the iron boar in Florence would ensure you going back there, throwing a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder in this fountain would ensure you going back to Rome! There is a catch, though – you have to have your back turned towards the fountain, so good luck! 🙂
This marvel of art was completed in 1762 in order to mark the end of Aqua Virgo, the main aqueduct in Rome. This place to visit in Rome in 3 days is quite spectacular seeing it in person, as you wouldn’t really imagine it to be THAT huge – about 25 meters high and 20 meters wide!
As this is one of the most popular stops of your city sightseeing in Rome, you should also try to beat the crowds and get there very early in the morning! When we visited, there were about 10-15 people at 7:00 am, so still not as empty as one would imagine.
The square of Piazza Navona should certainly be one of your top choices of places to visit in Rome in 3 days, just look at how pretty it is! There are 3 gorgeous fountains that await on the square:
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the four rivers)
- Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor or the Seashell fountain)
- Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)
The locals enjoyed intentionally blocking the drainages of the fountains every summer, even calling it “the lake of Piazza Navona”. Well, at least until the 19th century, that was!
The square is pretty crowded, but you should absolutely visit it in the morning AND in the evening – the fountains’ glow is gorgeous at night.
9. Castel Sant’Angelo
Typical visit time: 2-3 hours
Entrance fee: 10.50 EUR
This stunning castle is very close to the Vatican and even holds a really beautiful panoramic view of it! This is one of the places I would recommend visiting in the evening, since the night lights really pop out and take your breath away <3
You might not have time to go inside the castle if you’re only looking for places to visit in Rome for 3 days, you would be better off spending a whole afternoon at Trastevere (see below). However, if you do decide to see the panoramic views, you should also spend some time exploring the Castle’s 5 floors. You will see Papal resindences, beautifully decorated rooms and even a collection of weapons.
10. Trastevere – the Best Neighborhood in Rome
Trastevere is Rome’s most beautiful neighborhood! I’ll admit that I had never hear of it before I started planning a trip to Rome, but it was really a treat. If you can, spend a full afternoon or even a whole day there. There are many, many hidden gems you can explore around Trastevere, and there are many restaurants and cafes around, so you can definitely plan a lunch or dinner there. Here are two walking routes in Google Maps that you can save and use for a day in Trastevere – one for the morning and one for the afternoon.
Where to Stay in Rome
If you’re visiting Rome on a budget
One of the best areas to stay in Rome on a budget, but still not spend a huge chunk of time travelling, is to stay close to Termini metro station – it’s where the two metro lines in Rome go and there are many, many restaurants, supermarkets and smaller shops nearby! Here are a few suggestions where to stay in Rome near Termini:
- Apartments: Il Pretoriano – 8.8 Booking.com score, 85 EUR per night
- Hotel: Hotel Di Rienzo – 8.1 Booking.com score, 65 EUR per night
If you want to be in the city center
Well, even though the city center is quite large, here are a few recommendations where to stay in Rome that are close to some popular attractions (bear in mind that you need to book these well in advance!):
- Close to the Pantheon: Juno Pantheon – 8.6 Booking.com score, 125 EUR per night
- Close to Di Trevi: Trevi Palace Hotel – 8.9 Booking.com score, 160 EUR per night
- Close to Castel Sant’Angelo: Hotel Sant’Angelo – 8.3 Booking.com score, 112 EUR per night
- Close to the Colosseum: Colosseo Apartments and Rooms – 8.7 Booking.com score, 96 EUR per night
3-Day Rome Itinerary
08:30 – The Vatican
12:30 – Lunch in the area
14:00 – Castel Sant’Angelo
16:00 – Piazza Navona
16:30 – The Pantheon
17:00 – Fontana Di Trevi
08:30 – The Spanish Steps
09:00 – Galleria & Villa Borghese
12:00 – Lunch around the Colosseum
13:30 – The Colosseum, Palatine hill & Roman forum
16:00 – Coffee in the area
09:00 – Trastevere
* Please note some of the links in this article are affiliate links. Booking through them will not cost you extra, but it will help support this blog.