So you’ve picked Rome for a city break – one of the most cultural cities on earth, packed full of famous buildings, attractions and monuments to visit. It will be hard to see everything in a 3-day trip, so we’ve designed a Rome 3 day itinerary around the must-see attractions for your first visit and a sample of all the amazing food, history and sites that the city has to offer.
Ancient history, hearty Italian food and plenty of culture
Day 1 – Morning:
- Colosseum: In our opinion, the towering Colosseum should be your first port of call on your Rome 3 day itinerary. It’s an engineering wonder of the ancient Roman world, which once hosted great events for the Roman Empire, including gladiator battles and chariot racing. We highly recommend joining a tour group to gain an insight into the history of this must-see attraction.
- Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – If you’re visiting both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, buy a combination ticket for access to both attractions for a cheaper price. The Roman Forum is ideal to visit right after the Colosseum, where you can wander past the giant stone buildings and monuments and step back into ancient Roman history. This very large and popular area can be difficult to navigate if you haven’t done your research so we recommend taking a group tour guide. Palatine Hill should be the final historic attraction on your morning agenda before heading for lunch. This cultural heart of Rome has a number of monuments, temples and ruins to explore.
- Pantheon – The first stop in your afternoon of sightseeing should be the towering Pantheon building. Both impressive from the outside and inside, this free to enter building is over 2000 years old and will take you back in time as you wonder the ancient stone hallways. There’s no need to pay for a guided tour for this one; enter for free and grab a headset for an interesting background audio to listen to as you walk.
- Trevi fountain – The Trevi Fountain is a masterpiece of stone craftsmanship where tourists flock to take pictures. Visit during the afternoon to capture it in the light and return again late at night when it’s quieter to enjoy to more peaceful experience of the fountain. It’s a lot bigger than you’d expect!
- Ice cream – Take the second half of your afternoon to relax and wind down after a day of busy sightseeing. Stop by a café for some homemade gelato or fresh cannoli’s. Italian desserts are to die for!
- Spanish Steps at night – End your first day with a quiet stroll down the Spanish steps, a nice stopping point for pictures before you go to dinner. This famous location isn’t as crowded on an evening and is another ‘must see’.
Day 2 – Morning:
- Vatican – whether you’re religious or non-religious, Vatican City is an impressive and awe-inspiring place to visit when in Rome. Although it is classified as a country (remember your passport for entry), it’s actually located slightly west of Rome city centre and easy to get to via taxi or walking. You’ll find the Vatican Museums to be one of the most popular attractions in the city and they can be crowded and expensive to enter, however we’d recommend paying the price for the guided tour for the full Vatican experience and knowledge behind the buildings. Don’t forget to check out the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling painting by Michelangelo and to book your tickets well in advance.
- Churches – St Peter’s Basilica – Church of St Louis of the French – Rome (and Italy in general) are full of amazing Christian churches due to the Roman Catholic foundations of the country. Rome has a beautiful selection of churches to explore, but due to time constraints, we’d recommend adding St Peter’s Basilica and the Church of St Louis of the French to the top of your list. St Peter’s Basilica is located in Vatican City so stay in the area for lunch and be sure to pre-book your tickets to skip the long queues. Return to the city for the second half of the afternoon and stop by the Church of St Louis of the French to complete your day of religious site visits.
- Food tour/cooking class – There’s a good chance that you’ve heard about the amazing food on offer in Rome (who doesn’t love Italian?) so what better way to explore homegrown Italian cuisine than a tour of the best eateries on offer in the city or cooking a meal yourself in a traditional cooking class? Whatever you choose, we’re sure you’ll get a good taste of the local flavours in a fun evening tour/class. For a food tour, we recommend Eating Italy, whilst Ristomama is our favourite cooking class.
- Nightlife of Trastevere – Trastevere comes alive at night and is full of bars and restaurants – it’s actually our favourite neighbourhood in Rome. Start your night in a quaint Italian restaurant off-the-beaten-track. We recommend Tonnarello. Continue your evening in a variety of buzzing bars for both tourists and locals. This increasingly popular area is the place to be for nightlife full of character, whether you like late night partying or casual cocktails by the river.
Day 3 – Morning:
- Colle del Gianicolo park/viewpoint – Although Rome has a number of quiet, green areas to relax away from the busy city, Colle del Gianicolo has to be our favourite for the excellent panoramic views it provides of the city. Take a long walk west of the old town centre or catch a cab to the top of the hill and spend your morning taking pictures of the stunning scenery. It’s a great way to start the final day of your Rome 3 day itinerary! You’ll find a collection of ruins, old buildings, a canon and plenty of benches to relax on in the park area. Enjoy a morning stroll and burn off some of those Gelato calories!
- Borghese gallery – If you only have time to visit one gallery during your time in Rome, we’d recommend Borghese Art Gallery. It has 20 rooms full of inspiring paintings and sculptures from the Borghese collection and may even interest those who aren’t greatly into art. Browse the gallery for a couple of hours and appreciate the artistic sculptures and paintings. The art gallery itself is set in a beautiful villa, surrounded by pretty gardens, making it a great spot for some photos in the sun. Book the gallery in advance to secure a space – it can get quite busy!
- Spa/Shopping – Being your last day (we’re sure you’re exhausted with sightseeing) we’d recommend taking a few hours to relax in a traditional Roman Spa or bathhouse. Although there are plenty to choose from, we’d recommend Grotta di Sale Salbea, a cool underground spa with stone walls and a relaxing environment, located just outside the city centre. If you’d rather do a spot of last minute gift and personal shopping, Rome is world class, albeit not cheap. Designer outlets and boutique gift shops are a plenty in the city, however the main shopping areas are Via Condotti for designer fashion, Via del Corse and surrounding streets for more. mainstream shopping and the infamous Piazza di Spagna for a mixture of shops and cafes.
- Theatre/Opera – Being your last night, end your holiday in style at a Roman theatre show or Opera. Depending on what day it is, there will be a selection of shows to choose from at the city’s most popular venues. Browse the top-rated theatre’s in Rome here and choose a show which you think you’d like the look of. We recommend checking reviews and pre-booking your seats in advance for the best prices.
We’ve covered a lot of the top attractions and in our opinion, the must-see locations for any first visit to Rome. It’s a place you probably come back to visit time after time as there’s so much to do, particularly if you love Roman history. Feel free to use our Rome 3 day itinerary as a guideline to create your own and substitute our recommendations for your preferences.
Other top attractions to visit if you’re in Rome for longer:
- Castel Romano Designer Outlet (for cheaper designer fashion)
- Campo di Fiori
- Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
- Piazza Navona
- Basilica Papale San Paolo Fuori le Mura
- Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo (art gallery)
- Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica (large park area with ruins)
- Wine tasting tour
Top Tips for visiting Rome
- Rome is action packed full of sights and is very much a sightseeing city on foot. Bring good walking shoes or trainers – your feet will thank you for it
- Rome can be a very busy and bustling city, particularly in the spring and summer months. Book all of your top attraction tickets in advance. Prices are usually cheaper and you’ll save lots of time from queueing
- Awesome food is a huge positive of the city and you’d be disappointed if you didn’t get to explore Italian cuisine to its full potential. As you’re only there a few days, we’d recommend using Tripadvisor to plan your evening meals around where you’ll be visiting and using other traveller’s top recommendations to your advantage
- The best way to get from the airport to the city centre is by train, where you can then catch a quick cab or walk to your hotel with ease once in the centre. Train tickets cost around £9 per person
- Location is everything for accommodation in a city like Rome. You want to be within walking distance of all the sites, which isn’t hard if you pick a central hotel, hostel or apartment. We’d recommend picking location over luxury
Find the rest of our 67 Rome travel tips here. They’re great for first time visitors!
Now that our Rome 3 day itinerary has given you inspiration on what to do during your short city break, explore the best food, day-trips and other parts of Italy with our Italy travel guides here. 3 days in Rome will leave you with mass appreciation for this historic city and we have no doubt it’ll be a holiday highlight!