16 Things to Do in Rome as a Frugal Traveler

Steve Cummings

Rome, Italy

For centuries, the Italian capital city was considered the Western world's center and is home to the Catholic Church and the birthplace of Caesar. Whether you are interested in mouthwatering Italian cuisine or learning more about the history of this impressive place, there are plenty of things to see and do in Rome.

We understand that only some have a lot of money after booking flights and accommodation, so we are here to help. In this article, we will look at 16 amazing things to do in Rome if you are traveling there on a tight budget.

1. Free Walking Tours

You don't have to break the bank to see the best of Rome, as one of the best free things to do in Rome is take a free walking tour. Two great options are the New Rome Free Tours and the Rome's Ultimate Free Walking Tour. These tours cover all the city's main highlights and are an excellent way to experience the greatness of Rome on a tight budget.

2. The Pantheon

The Pantheon
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The Pantheon is one of those must-do things in Rome, regardless of your interests. It is a little bit of history. By little bit, of course, we mean vast and intimidating. It doesn't look much different from how it did around 2,000 years ago before it was transformed into a church. After all, it was initially a sacred Roman temple. 

Hadrian built the Pantheon in place of the earlier incarnation designed and constructed by Agrippa, and since 125 CE, it has been a church. The moment you step through those heavy-duty bronze doors and walk across the marble floors, you can look up at the world's most enormous, unreinforced dome.

3. Catacombs

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One of the top things to see in Rome if you are a fan of curiosities from the past is the different sets of catacombs found in the city. There are three main sets: the Catacombs of San Callisto, the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, and the Catacombs of Praetextatus. These are underground crypts that have frescoes and sculptures. The most popular is undoubtedly San Callisto, which has an extensive gallery labyrinth that stretches about 12 miles and is 20 meters deep.

4. Appia Antica Regional Park

Appia Antica Regional Park
Credit: Depositphotos

You may think there is way too much for adults to do in Rome, but there is Appia Antica Regional Park if you are stuck for things to do in Rome with kids for free. This is not the most popular place and is often overlooked, but it is worth spending some time there, especially as it's only 20 minutes south of the center of Rome. When you arrive, you will find a beautiful collection of ancient cobblestone streets, interesting monuments, and a spectacular nature park.

For a nice and pretty place to get away from it all, Appia Antica Regional Park is perfect.

5. La Settimana dei Beni Culturali

If you are looking for popular things to do in Rome, then look no further than the La Settimana dei Beni Culturali, a 10-day cultural heritage celebration and festival that offers the chance to explore all the governmentally operated and owned archeological sites, museums, and other landmarks for free. 

However, be warned: it is very trendy. Most sites get extremely busy, so it's best to set out early to avoid disappointment or not having much space to move around and breathe!

6. See a Concert, Opera, or Show

The capital city is a city that doesn't sleep, so there are plenty of things to do in Rome at night. There are many beautiful auditorium complexes throughout the city. Still, beyond these, the city has an incredible array of concerts and operas featuring some of the most renowned and vital international acting talent and musicians. 

The Olympian Stadium is perfect for summer concerts, while the Auditorium in Parco Della Musica and Viale Pietro de Coubertin hold events yearly.

7. Park of the Aqueducts

Park of the Aqueducts
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When traveling as a couple and looking for something a bit different and romantic things to do in Rome, the Park of the Aqueducts is a must-visit. An essential part of the Roman Appian Way, it features some centuries-old aqueducts. 

These aqueducts once carried millions of tons of water directly from the mountains into the city. While the park is a little outside the city's center, going with a lovely packed picnic and a bottle of wine is a beautiful treat. The ancient monuments provide shaded areas from the sun during the afternoon.

8. Explore Pigneto and Quadraro to Find Quirky Graffiti

If you are looking for more crazy things to do in Rome, aside from all the usual haunts and activities that tourists like in the Italian capital, you may want to hunt for some exceptional street art. Pigneto and Quadraro are the best places to check these out. Once an unattractive industrial zone, Pigneto has become a hip hangout for the trendiest people.

Renowned graffiti artists, including Hogre, Hopnn, and Alt Novesette, have decorated the area. Many renovated old warehouses have been converted into trendy cafes and bars. They are great for stopping in for a bite, a quick drink in the evening, or a delicious meal during the day.

Quandraro has a checkered past, and the graffiti reflects that, with many pieces symbolizing peace, freedom, and politics. Back in 1944, during WWII, the area was raided by Nazis. More than 1000 people were captured and then sent to German and Polish concentration camps.

9. Quartiere Coppedè

Quartiere Coppede
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While we are speaking about getting off-the-beaten-path, there are many great non-touristy things to do in Rome. One in particular that stands out is Quartiere Coppede. This charming but very obscure neighborhood was part of the concept by the famed architect Gino Coppede during the earlier part of the last century. To find it, you need to look behind the central point of Quartiere Trieste.

There is a collection of mixed architectural styles here, and you will find everything from baroque structures to stunning art nouveau. Many buildings feature stunning frescoes and murals.

10. The Colosseum

Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Ancient Roman Colosseum is one of main tourist attractions in Europe. People visit famous Colosseum in Roma city center. Scenic nice view, photo of Colosseum ruins in summer
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Among the many top things to see and do in Rome, one that you need to make sure you visit and splash out for is the Colosseum. It is a spine-tingling sight, electrifying even. The Colosseum is the most intriguing of the ancient monuments in Rome. This was the place where gladiators would fight in fierce and violent combat and where the city's condemned prisoners would fight against wild beasts for the bloodthirsty, rowdy, and clamoring crowds that gathered.

It is two thousand years old. It was a 50,000-seat stadium and remains one of the top attractions in Rome and Italy. See for yourself why over 7 million people visit it every year. There is none of the crowds that were there before, baying for blood, but you can soak up the atmosphere and let your imagination run wild.

11. Get Lost

One of the best things to do in Rome is to get lost. Rome is perfect for walking and going where your mood takes you. Although the tours you see in little cars look attractive and make for good social media posts, you can easily miss all the unique little things that make Rome a spectacular place to visit. You won't hear the music that plays loudly on Ponte Sisto, the silence Cats of the Pyramid cemetery, or the sighs that greet the Giardini degli Aranci's stunning view of the city. And you’ll miss the scent of the thousand different roses in the garden opposite Circo Massimo.

Therefore, spend a little on a good pair of high-quality walking shoes, invest in an ATAC travel card for longer journeys, and get out there and explore.

12. The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel
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Along with the glorious and imposing Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel is one of the top things to see in Rome. It does indeed cost quite a bit while other museums, galleries, and churches display stunning architecture and art at smaller prices.  But this is Rome, and when in Rome… as the saying goes. Aside from Michaelangelo's perfect ceiling painting, this is a glorious place to stand, sit, enjoy silence, and reflect.

There is nothing you could want to do that is better than a trip to the Sistine Chapel. You don’t need to be an art lover or a person of faith. This is one place not to be missed.

13. Eat Food from Local Roman Markets

Another of the top things to do in Rome is try the food sold in the local markets. We're sure you have your eyes set on cafes and restaurants for some tasty grub, but remember where you are – Italy – home to some of the world's most delicious produce and exquisite dishes. Instead of attending eateries, you need to drop by Mercato Testaccio and try the cheeses, cured meats, and wild array of vegetables from small independent producers who have been selling their wares there for many generations.

Alternatively, head to the majestic Mercato Trionfale in Prati for luxe delicacies such as truffles.

14. Visit Villa Borghese Park

Villa Borghese Park
Credit: Depositphotos

The Villa Borghese Park is a hugely popular draw for its gallery that sits in the center, but it is also a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Roman center. This park is only a short stroll from the iconic Spanish Steps and offers some of the city's best views anywhere, making it one of the fun things to do in Rome.

Take the time to stroll around the gardens, rent a bike, and tour the city's perimeter, or just sit back and enjoy the views and atmosphere of the lake while taking in the fresh air from a comfortable bench. It is a pretty romantic setting for couples and a great place to let the kids run loose and free away from the busy streets of the city’s center.

15. Janiculum Terrace

For one of the best things to see in Rome, you should go to the quiet and serene Janiculum Terrace. Here, you can find beautiful and quaint parks and impressive cityscapes. Get across the river heading west and take a short but worthwhile hike to the top. Parco del Gianicolo is a lovely spot to sit on a bench with a quick bite to eat before taking pictures from the top of the terrace, drinking in the iconic Roman skyline.

It may not be first on your list, but you will not be disappointed by stopping at Janiculum Terrace.

16. Santa Maria Del Popolo Church

Don’t head to the Vatican unless you are interested in standing in line for ages. Instead, you can visit just about any church on any corner of Rome and find some beautiful décor with stunning artwork and architecture. Santa Maria Del Popolo Church is one of the best things to see in Rome if this interests you. A pretty and  firm favorite as an alternative to the Vatican, this very unassuming and small building has been designed with a truly stunning interior of gold furnishings, intricate paintings, and ornately decorated chapels.

Because more people head to the Vatican, you will likely have more space and time to enjoy the architecture and artwork in peace and serenity.

Final Thoughts

Rome, the capital of Italy and home to the Catholic Church's Vatican and some of the most magnificent relics of the Roman Empire, is a great place to visit, whatever your budget. We hope we have given you some great ideas for cheap things to see and do in Rome if your budget is a bit restricted.

We recommend saving some money for some of the must see things in Rome because they are famous for a reason. But you don't need to go to all of them to have a quintessentially Roman experience. Whether you follow all of our recommendations or just a few of them and then find your own, we are sure you will enjoy your trip to Rome. If you see something worth mentioning that we have missed, let us know in the comments section below.

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