After paying what can be a considerable amount for your airfare to Rome, it’s good to know that not all sights in this fabulous city are going to cost you money. Sure, lots of places in Rome charge admission fees, but there are actually quite a few free sights in Rome as well – many of which are the city’s top attractions anyway. Check out this list of free things to do in Rome!
>> Find out what I think are the big things you should know about Rome before you go
Always Free Rome
These things are always free to get in or view, regardless of the time of year or day of the week.
- Pantheon – Easily my favorite building in Rome, it also happens to be completely free to walk in and out as many times as you like. It’s a great place to hide from the sun or rain as well.
- St. Peter’s Basilica – The Catholic mothership, it can mean standing in a long line and now the metal detectors are a requirement, but this amazing church has no entry fee.
- Spanish Steps – It’s a grand set of stairs, so it’d be hard to charge admission… But still, it is something most visitors to Rome want to see, and it’s free.
- Trevi Fountain – Seeing the famous fountain is completely free, but if you want to participate in the tradition of tossing a coin over your shoulder to ensure your return to Rome that’ll cost you whatever coin you choose.
- Mouth of Truth – We all remember that great scene in “Roman Holiday,” right? Well, try your own luck by sticking your hand in the mouth of truth – La Bocca della Verità – and telling a lie. Just see what happens. (And even if you lose your hand, at least you didn’t have to pay an admission fee, right?)
- Piazza Navona – This oblong piazza is a hub for musical performers in the high season; and although the cafes around the square will over-charge you for just about everything, you can enjoy the sights for free.
- Constantine’s Arch – Near the entrance to the Colosseum, this giant triumphal arch is Rome’s biggest, and built in the 4th century.
- Villa Borghese Gardens – The gardens have free entry and are an ideal spot for a picnic (they’re especially excellent as a place for the kids to run off some of that pent-up energy!). The Galleria Borghese itself charges an admission to get in, but the gardens are open to all.
- The Pyramid – Rome’s only pyramid (yes, there’s a pyramid in Rome) was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius in 12 BC, and it’s right next to the Piramide Rome Metro stop (of course).
- Campo dei Fiori – In the mornings, this lively square is home to a great market. In the evenings, it’s the place to take a passeggiata or pause between night clubs.
- Trastevere – My favorite neighborhood in Rome, the Trastevere is a great place to stroll around and imagine what Rome used to look like. Wandering the cobbled streets is blissfully free.
- Gianicolo Hill – From the Trastevere, head up to Gianicolo Hill (Janiculum in English) for a great view of the city (or hop on bus #15 if you don’t want to hike all the way up). In addition to the views, attractions include a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a cool 17th-century fountain (including pieces of an older version of St. Peter’s Basilica – using old buildings to make new ones was the way they used to “recycle”), a cannon (which is fired daily at noon), and a free puppet show (they accept donations).
- Appian Way – While all roads don’t actually lead to Rome, this one does – and it has since the 3rd century BCE. You can meander down the same cobbles that have borne people for thousands of years, and if you’re not careful you can walk all the way to Puglia. (Okay, not really.) Not in the mood for a stroll? Rent a bike (yes, that would make this not 100% free) and cover the same ground more quickly.
These places sometimes waive their admission fee; it’s great if you can get into these sights without paying, but remember that lots of other people are going to be trying to do the same thing – so they could be very, very crowded.
- Vatican Museums – On the last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museum is free. On those days, the doors open at 08:30 and the last entry is 12:30 (the museums close at 14:30).
- White Night, or La Notte Bianca – For one night in September, all museums in Rome stay open all night long and waive their admission fees. In addition, the streets turn into an all-night party.
These places don’t charge an admission fee, but they do like donations from visitors – and I strongly recommend that if you enjoy the sight, you make a donation. It can be as much or as little as you can afford, so these are definitely cheaper attractions, but because I’m assuming you’re dropping at least a couple of coins in the box they’re not completely free.
- Cappuchin Crypt – My favorite off-beat sight in Rome, the crypt doesn’t charge admission… But I was so enchanted by it, I gave them a hefty donation when I visited!
- Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary – Volunteers at this no-kill cat shelter in central Rome will give tours of the Roman ruins the shelter inhabits for free, but they’re hoping you’ll donate to the cause. It’s a worthy cause, well worth whatever you can spare.
Sadly, the Roman Forum, which used to be completely free, started charging an admission fee in March 2008. So now you’ll have to pay to get in.
My blogging buddy Melanie pointed out another free sight in Rome, so I thought I’d update this post to include it – it’s the Protestant Cemetery near the Pyramid. Thanks, Melanie!
Another blogging buddy Robin has her own list of free and different things to do in Rome, including a couple I’d missed (I’ve since added them!). Thanks, Robin!
>> Be sure to read my list for more information on what to do in Rome (including some free sights and some which require an entry fee), the things I think are the top 10 things to do in Rome, and check out my complete Rome travel guide for even more Rome travel information!
Photo by: Pooyan Jamshidi