Visiting Rome is never a bad idea. Known as the Eternal City, Rome has been a center of world power since the glory days of the Roman Empire. Remaining important throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance as the home of the Catholic Church, the city became the capital of a unified Italy in the 20th century. This long and turbulent history has left the city with an incredible wealth of fascinating architecture and historic monuments like the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps.
Plus, visiting Rome means you can visit two different countries simply by crossing the Tiber river. Vatican City, the smallest sovereign country in the world, is completely surrounded by Rome. And although it's small, the incredible art collection at the Vatican museums and the otherworldly architecture of St. Peter's Basilica make this tiny country well worth visiting.
If you only have 3 days in Rome, you're going to have to move fast in order to see everything there is to see. Seeing Rome in 3 days lets you take in everything from the ancient ruins of the Roman Empire to the vibrant cultural life of the modern Italian capital, and there's so much to see it will make your head spin.
To make things easier, drop off your unneeded bags at a Rome luggage storage. Traveling light lets you journey through the centuries and experience everything there is to see when you visit Rome.
If you only have 3 days in Rome, you may have to divide your time between different aspects of the city. The remnants of ancient Rome are some of the most iconic locations in the city, and you can't visit Rome without seeing them.
Therefore, on day one, start your trip off by visiting the Coliseum. This incredible amphitheater is a symbol of the city throughout the world and dates back to 80 AD. It's one of the largest amphitheaters ever built and could once seat up to 50,000 people.
Afterward, go see the Roman Forum. This was the center of public life in ancient Rome, and you can still see the ruins of some of the most important buildings in the city, including the Senate House and the Temple of Saturn.
Wander through the ruins and try to imagine what life was like in this once-great empire. For centuries during the height of Roman power, this area was where the fate of the world was decided, and seeing the dusty ruins now is guaranteed to make you think about the fickle nature of history. You can buy a single ticket for the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, and they are right next to each other, making for a fascinating morning.
You'll find plenty of restaurants around the Coliseum, though most cater to the tourist trade. If you want a more authentically Roman experience, walk north to the Jewish ghetto. This was once a neighborhood that Jews were forced to live in by Papal decree, and it's still home to a vibrant Jewish community today.
The area around the ghetto is full of great restaurants serving traditional Roman-Jewish cuisine like deep-fried artichokes (a local favorite) called carciofi alla giudia.
In the afternoon, walk over to the Pantheon. This is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world, and it's still in use today as a Catholic church. The Pantheon was built as a temple to all the gods of Rome, and you can see this in the impressive domed ceiling.
The Pantheon is free to enter, and inside you'll find the tombs of some of Italy's most famous artists, including Raphael.
After visiting the Pantheon, take a walk through the nearby Piazza Navona. This is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome, and it's home to Bernini's famous Fountain of the Four Rivers.
The fountain is an impressive Baroque work of art, and the square itself is a great place to people watch. You'll find plenty of cafes and gelato shops around the square where you can relax and take in the sights.
On your first night in Rome, get a taste of the city's vibrant nightlife. Start off with a drink at one of the many bars in the Trastevere neighborhood. This is one of Rome's most lively and atmospheric neighborhoods, and it's a great place to get a feel for the city's nightlife.
Afterward, head over to the Campo de' Fiori market. This market is only open during the day, but at night it transforms into one of Rome's most popular nightlife spots.
The market square is filled with bars and clubs, and it's a great place to drink and dance the night away.
There's much more to ancient Rome than the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, and if you want to learn more about this famous Empire, there are plenty more locations worth visiting like the Baths of Caracalla and the Via Appian. But with only 3 days in Rome on your hands, you can't spend forever among Roman ruins. There's much more to Rome's history than just that.
Instead, grab a cornetto or croissant in a local café and get ready to explore the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque monuments of the Centro Storico, Rome's historic city center. You'll need your energy to see everything the city offers.
Start off in Piazza Venezia, where you can explore the towering Altare della Patria and get one of the best views in Rome from the top. Then, head north to central Rome. Toss a coin into the Trevi fountain and take some time to people watch on the iconic Spanish Steps.
After that, you'll no doubt be in need of refreshment, so you can drop into Babington's Tea Room for a traditional English afternoon tea the way romantic poets like Keats and Shelley used to do, or get an espresso at one of the many cafes dotting the city.
Next, it's time to explore Rome's medieval heart. The best way to do this is by getting lost in the winding streets of the Campo de' Fiori neighborhood. This atmospheric neighborhood is full of narrow alleyways and picturesque piazzas, and it's a great place to explore on foot.
As you wander through the streets, keep your eyes peeled for the many medieval churches and palaces dotting the neighborhood. Some of the highlights include the Palazzo Farnese, which now houses the French Embassy, and the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli, one of Rome's most ancient churches.
Just about everywhere you look in Rome, there's some impressive historic monument or beautiful artwork. Art fans should make a point of visiting the Church of San Luigi di Francesi to see a masterpiece by Baroque artist Caravaggio, then head a short distance north to Piazza del Popolo to see more work by the same artist in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo.
This massive piazza also makes a great place to take a break and soak up the lively atmosphere of Rome in the historic center. There are tons of restaurants around here where you can get a good meal, but also plenty of tourist traps too. A good strategy is to head north from Piazza del Popolo through the Porta Flaminia. This will take you to an area many tourists never reach, and you have a better chance of finding unique restaurants here. Try Finger's right by Flaminio Metro station for some more authentic cuisine than you'll find in the Centro Storico.
End your day with a walk along the Lungotevere, Rome's riverfront promenade. This is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city center and relax for a while.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the Lungotevere, so you can stop for a drink or bite to eat while you enjoy the views.
It might seem strange that with only 3 days in Rome, you'll spend one of them technically outside the city and in another country entirely. But you can't visit Rome without visiting Vatican City, which holds some of the best attractions in Rome, including one of the best museums in the city and in the world, the incredible Vatican Museums.
The collection here is truly incredible, with exhibits displaying art and artifacts from just about every period of human history. The picture gallery contains priceless works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and other teenage mutant ninja turtles - sorry, famous artists. There is also a huge collection of sculptures, modern art, and fascinating artifacts to explore.
The Vatican museums are also home to one of the world's most famous places, the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo's masterpiece is always crowded no matter when you choose to visit, but it's still worth going to see one of the wonders of Western civilization.
Spend the morning exploring the museums, then take a break for lunch in one of the many excellent restaurants near the Vatican. For something truly special, try to get a reservation at La Terrazza dei Papi inside the Hotel Columbus. This restaurant has an incredible view over Rome, and the food is almost as good as the view.
You'll need to spend at least the entire morning in the Vatican Museums to see everything they have to offer. But once you've done that, there's much more to this tiny country. Take in the unique atmosphere and monumental architecture of St. Peter's Square, then get in line to enter St Peter's Basilica, the most important church in the Catholic world. Filled to the brim with priceless works of art, this church is a truly stunning place to visit, and you don't have to be a believer to understand how jaw-dropping it is. St Peter's Basilica is free to enter, but you will have to pass a security checkpoint and adhere to a dress code that forbids exposed shoulders and shorts or skirts above the knee. You can explore this magnificent church on a guided tour or simply wander for yourself and see what it has to offer. You can even climb to the top of the dome and see an unrivaled view of the Eternal City from one of its most iconic buildings.
After seeing St. Peter's Basilica, take a short walk back toward the Tiber River to see the Castel Sant'Angelo. This imposing fortress was once used as a tomb for Roman emperors and later as a papal residence. It's now a museum, and you can explore the castle's incredible history with a guided tour.
After all that walking around, you're going to need some dinner. And what better place to eat in Rome than Trastevere, the city's most atmospheric and picturesque neighborhood. This is the perfect place to try some traditional Roman cuisine like carbonara or amatriciana. There are too many excellent restaurants to list here, but a few standouts include Da Enzo, Checco er Carrettiere, and La Gensola.
Trastevere is also a great place to enjoy a leisurely evening stroll and take in the lively atmosphere of this charming neighborhood. In fact, a walk in the cool of the evening is one of the best things to do at night in Rome.
This Rome itinerary, as packed as it is, barely scratches the surface of everything you can do over 3 days in Rome. From the artistic treasures of Vatican City to the atmospheric ruins of the Roman Forum to the gorgeous architecture of the Trevi Fountain and the anarchic street life of Piazza Navona, there's so much to see in the Italian capital that a lifetime wouldn't be enough.
Rome isn't called the Eternal City for nothing. Combining the ruins of Ancient Rome with the splendor of Vatican City means you can easily fill 3 days in Rome with an incredible tour through the history of Western civilization. But as rich as Roman history is, don't forget to take some time to relax and enjoy the unique atmosphere. This may be the heart of the ancient Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, and the modern nation of Italy, but it's also one of the best cities in the world to enjoy a delicious meal or cocktail and experience the buzz of life going on around you. With this 3 days in Rome itinerary, you'll be able to see some of the most important sites in the city. But it's the unique atmosphere that you'll remember long after you've left.