Rome is home to some of the most famous historic sites on earth, including the 2,000-year-old Colosseum and the Vatican City. With so much to see and do, planning a trip can feel a little overwhelming - but with good preparation, you'll be able to take in the highlights at your own pace and without standing around in queues all day. That's why we've put together a practical guide to seeing the big-name attractions in Rome. Even if you already know what you want to see, here's how to see it.

The Colosseum

Dating back to 80 CE, the Colosseum was where gladiators used to fight for their lives and the favour of the 50,000 people in the stands. At 2,000 years old, the largest amphitheatre ever built is a fascinating place to explore, particularly with a guide who can bring its history to life. There are audio guides available, too. As you might expect for such an iconic destination, the Colosseum gets very busy, so make sure you book tickets before your visit. And if you want to see the underground tunnels where the gladiators would wait, you have to book in advance and go with a guide; the same applies to the top tiers of the amphitheatre.

Book it: Beat the crowds by booking ahead to skip the line at the Colosseum and the Forum and get special access to the gladiator's gate and the arena floor.

The Roman Forum

Next to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is an archaeological site that was once the centre of the Roman Empire. It's thought to have been constructed around 500 BCE and there are several key sights: the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Saturn, to name a few. The latter is the oldest surviving part of the complex. Join a tour or grab an audio guide to learn more about the ruins, as there isn't much available information otherwise. Colosseum tickets include access to the Forum and neighbouring site Palatine Hill, so make sure you combine these sites. If you prefer to take your time in each place, tickets are valid for two days.

The Pantheon

Not too far from the Colosseum and the Forum is another of Rome's great ancient relics: the Pantheon. Built between 118 and 128 CE, the Pantheon was a temple unusually dedicated to all the Roman gods. Since the 7th century it has been used a church and it's because of this continued use that the Pantheon is in such good condition - in fact, it's the most well-preserved ancient building in the city. It's arguably one of the finest works of architecture in the world and it still lays claim to the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. It's impressive from the outside, but the interior is where you'll see the real craftsmanship - make sure you take your time inside.

Piazza di Spagna

Leading up from the Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Square) are the famous 18th-century Italian-designed Spanish Steps. At the top is Trinità dei Monti church, which houses beautiful frescos. From here, you can see the square from above, including the boat-shaped Barcaccia Fountain.

The square is perfect for people-watching and recharging your batteries over a gelato or coffee. It's also close to the main high street of Rome, Via del Corso, and connected to Via dei Condotti, where you'll find luxury flagship stores such as Gucci and Prada. Nearby is the dramatic Trevi Fountain - according to legend, if you toss in your spare change with your right hand and over your left shoulder, you'll ensure a return to Rome. The money is donated to charitable initiatives, such as food banks.

Book it: Combine the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain with the Pantheon on a guided tour.

The Vatican and Museums

Schedule at least half a day to see the Vatican, home of the Pope, and its surroundings. Visit St Peter's Square, which is where the Pope makes his public appearances. St Peter's Basilica is here, too - a grand Italian Renaissance church. The Vatican Museums hold some of the most famous artworks on the planet, including Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco, which took him four and half years to single-handedly paint. There is a lot more to see here and if you're into art, you'll need a full day. If you just want a look at the Sistine Chapel and otherwise pass through, a leisurely half-day will do. Always pre-book (the maximum is 60 days in advance) and aim for midweek or the special Friday evening option (7pm-11pm, April to October) to beat the crowds.

Book it: Skip the queue with a private Vatican tour.


Rome isn't all ancient ruins and fine art, of course. Testaccio is best known for its market, Mercato Testaccio, which moved to new premises in 2012. As well as clothes and fruit and veg sections, there's also a food market that makes for a great lunch spot. Try the ever-popular Roman sandwiches at Mordi e Vai or a pizza from CasaManco. Make sure you either hang around or come back in the evening, as this is one of the best neighbourhoods for nightlife, whether you're looking for a civilised glass of chianti or a party that runs 'til dawn.