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2 days in Rome – Best things to do

Discover the best of Rome in just two days with our comprehensive guide. Explore top attractions, hidden gems, and local dining spots to make the most of your short trip. Ideal for first-time visitors!
2 days in Rome

Are two days enough to truly experience Rome? Honestly, no. However, if you plan strategically, you can certainly explore the most iconic sights and leave with a sense of pride in having “done” Rome.

So, what would one consider the “must-see” attractions in Rome? Everywhere you turn in the city, you’re virtually tripping over history—each corner tells a tale.

Despite the challenge, I’ve pinpointed the essential spots you need to visit on a whirlwind trip to Rome. I’ve even lined them up in a practical order and scouted the best tours for each. Below, you’ll find a two-day itinerary that will help you make the most of your brief encounter with the Eternal City.

Tips for Planning Your Two-Day Trip to Rome

Where to Stay in Rome

Given your short stay, aim to book a hotel in the heart of the city. Staying in Centro Storico, near the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona saves precious time traveling to and from major sites.

Top hotel picks in Centro Storico:

Book Tours and Tickets in Advance

With only a limited time to explore, every minute counts. Avoid the stress and time loss of ticket lines by booking ahead. Check out platforms like Get Your Guide or Tiqets for quick access to tickets for all major attractions.

Recommended tours in Rome:

Powered by GetYourGuide

👉 Tip: Consider the Roma Pass for excellent value. For just 33€, it offers 48-hour access, including free entry to your choice of 1-2 major attractions, public transport, and additional discounts.

1st Day in Rome

1. Fontana di Trevi

Suggested start time: 9:30 am

Fontana di Trevi

We’ll kick off our first day in Rome at the Fontana di Trevi. I’ve scheduled it first thing in the morning for a reason—it’s one of the few times you can enjoy this marvel with fewer crowds, giving you a chance to truly appreciate and photograph it in relative peace.

This iconic fountain, completed in 1762 in a stunning Baroque style, is not just a feast for the eyes; it’s a pivotal experience in the Eternal City. Laden with coins tossed by visitors, each coin is a promise for a return to Rome, according to legend. Interestingly, these coins are collected and donated to charity, adding a layer of goodwill to your visit.

2. Piazza di Spagna and Scalinata

9 minutes walk from Fontana di Trevi

Piazza di Spagna
Piazza di Spagna and Scalinata

Piazza di Spagna is the square where the famed Scalinata (Spanish Steps) begin, one of Rome’s most snapped spots. At the heart of the square, you’ll find the Fontana della Barcaccia, a fountain commemorating the great flood of the Tiber River in 1598.

Climbing the 174 steps will lead you to the Trinita dei Monti church, offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and a glimpse down Via dei Condotti, Rome’s renowned fashion street.

If we were reminiscing about times before 2019, I’d suggest grabbing a coffee to enjoy as you sit on the steps. However, sitting here is now prohibited, and doing so might even set you back by a fine of 400€.

3. Villa Borghese and Borghese Gallery

12 minutes walk from Piazza di Spagna

Borghese Gallery
Borghese Gallery

Villa Borghese is truly one of Rome’s green gems. Nestled in the northeast part of the city center, this expansive park is a lush oasis featuring trees, grassy areas, and a charming lake. You can rent a boat for a delightful row across the water—a hit especially if you’re traveling with kids, who will absolutely adore the adventure.

Inside Villa Borghese, you’ll find the Borghese Gallery, housed in a magnificent building. It hosts an impressive collection of artwork by famed artists, including sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics.

To fully enjoy these masterpieces, make sure to book your tickets in advance. Expect to spend at least two hours exploring the gallery, time well-spent immersed in art and history. Pick up a ticket for Borghese Gallery.

4. Piazza Navona

20 minutes walk from Villa Borghese

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona stands as one of the most central and stunning squares in Rome, almost like a canvas of art come to life. Adorned with various monuments and fountains, it naturally draws large crowds. Capturing a photo without people can be tricky unless you visit early in the morning.

The crown jewel of Piazza Navona is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), designed by Bernini in 1651. Dominating its center is the Obelisk of Domitian, relocated here from the Circus of Maxentius.

While the area around Piazza Navona is lined with numerous cafes and restaurants, they tend to cater heavily to tourists, so you might want to explore further afield for more authentic dining options.

5. Pantheon

5 minutes walk from Piazza Navona

Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon, built between 126 and 128 AD, is remarkably one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Rome. Originally constructed for the gods of pagan Rome, it was later converted into a Christian church.

The interior is truly breathtaking, especially the dome, which bathes the space in natural light. Notably, it serves as the final resting place for such luminaries as the artist Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II.

Admission to the Pantheon is 5€, but for an extra 2-3€, you can skip the line. This small upgrade can save you time and enhance your visit. Pick up a ticket here.

6. Piazza Venezia - Altare della Patria

10 minutes walk from Panteon

Piazza Venezia
National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Altare della Patria)

Piazza Venezia sits at a strategic crossroads in Rome, where five major streets converge beneath the Capitoline Hill. Here, you’ll find the striking National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, also known as the Altare della Patria. Inaugurated in 1911, this grand edifice is a tribute to Victor Emmanuel II and stands as one of the most remarkable buildings in Rome.

For a truly unforgettable view of the city, head up to the terrace of the Altare della Patria. You can reach this panoramic spot via a modern glass elevator, enhancing the experience as you ascend. It’s a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance to avoid the wait and ensure a seamless visit.

7. Night-time walking tour

Rome at night

If you’re looking to make the most of your evenings in Rome beyond just dinner and drinks, consider embarking on a night-time walking tour through the city’s mysterious and shadowy alleys.

With an experienced guide to lead the way, you’ll hear chilling tales of ghosts and historical executions that bring the darker side of Rome to life. To secure your spot on this unique adventure, be sure to book in advance.

2nd Day in Rome

1. Colosseum

Suggested start time: 9:00 am

Colloseum

The Colosseum is undeniably Rome’s defining landmark, instantly recognizable even to those who’ve never set foot in the city. Built between 72 and 80 AD, this amphitheater was the largest in the Roman world, seating up to 50,000 spectators.

From gladiator battles to Roman games, it witnessed the deaths of half a million people and a million animals, making it not just a monumental site but also a place of profound historical significance.

Make sure to secure your Colosseum tickets in advance; the ticket line can be dauntingly long otherwise. And I personally recommend taking a guided tour. 

Note: Aim to arrive by 9:30 AM, or 10:00 at the latest, to beat the major crowds.

2. Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Roman Forum

Right next to the iconic Colosseum, you’ll find the Roman Forum, a fascinating sprawl of ancient ruins that only came to light after extensive excavations started in 1898.

Adjacent to this is the Palatine Hill, reputed to be the birthplace of Rome itself. Typically, a single ticket covers entry to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, and I highly recommend opting for this combo if you plan to explore these sites together.

Even better, consider booking a guided tour. A knowledgeable guide can truly bring these ancient places to life, transporting you back in time to when these sites were the pulsating heart of Ancient Rome.

Pick up a ticket or book a guided tour to Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

3. Vatican City

35 minutes walk from Roman Forum or 20 minutes by 46 tram

Vatican City
Vatican City

Vatican City, a sovereign state within the heart of Rome, serves as the epicenter of the Roman Catholic Church. To fully explore its grandeur, you’ll need to dedicate a good portion of your day here. Key attractions include St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. Let’s dive into each one.

St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Square is where faithful gather to receive blessings from the Pope standing at St. Peter’s Basilica. This architectural masterpiece is surrounded by a semicircular colonnade adorned with 145 statues of saints and features 280 columns.

St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, can hold 60,000 people. It took about 120 years to complete and is just as stunning inside as it is outside. The basilica houses magnificent artworks including Michelangelo’s Pieta. You can climb up to the dome by 323 steps or take the elevator for a spectacular view of Rome.

You can also attend a mass at the basilica, offered multiple times throughout the day.

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a must-visit. Home to an impressive array of artifacts that trace the history and the influence of the Church, these museums draw over four million visitors a year. Your tour will pass through the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

Speaking of the Sistine Chapel, it was restored in 1480 and is renowned for Michelangelo’s breathtaking frescoes. This chapel not only serves as a religious and administrative hub but also as a masterpiece of Renaissance art.

A pro tip: Pre-book your tickets to avoid the long queues. Consider a guided tour to enrich your experience and save time that you might spend figuring things out on your own.

Tickets and guided tours for Vatican:

4. Castel Sant'Angelo

15 minutes walk from Vatican City

Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel and Ponte Sant'Angelo

After exploring the Vatican, a leisurely stroll to the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II is a wonderful way to transition to your next Roman adventure. This stunning three-arched bridge is adorned with majestic sculptures of winged figures, creating a picturesque scene.

Continue your walk to the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a bridge that leads directly to the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo. Both the bridge and the castle are especially breathtaking at sunset. 

If you find yourself with some extra time, consider purchasing a ticket to explore the interior of Castel Sant’Angelo. It’s well worth a visit to discover the layers of history within its walls.

5. Trastevere

30 minutes walk from Castel Sant’Angelo

Trastevere

There’s no better way to cap off your trip to Rome than by spending an evening in Trastevere. This neighborhood is truly one of Rome’s most enchanting areas, brimming with an array of fantastic dining options. It’s the perfect spot to indulge in authentic Italian food.

Consider booking a food tour of the area to fully experience the culinary delights Trastevere has to offer. This is a delightful way to discover hidden gems and taste local dishes that might otherwise go undiscovered!

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