Budget Friendly (or Even Cheap) Things to Do in Rome
While it’s not the most budget friendly of cities in Italy there are plenty of cheap, and even free, things to do in Rome.
Rome, Italy’s ancient capital, has never ceased to capture the hearts and imaginations of inhabitants and visitors alike.
Rome is known as one of the world’s most romantic and jaw droppingly gorgeous cities. It manages to retain a proud sense of historical entitlement while at the same time being at the forefront of the modern world. Birthplace of some of the world’s greatest thinkers and creators, home to the Catholic Church and some of the best cuisine in the world – Rome is definitely a city you need to visit at least once in your life.
One thing Rome is NOT known for is being a budget travel destination. It’s no surprise that visiting the Italian capital can do some serious damage to your bank account. The temptation for world class gelato and coffee can be hard to resist, we know. If you’re worried about blowing half your travel budget on a romantic weekend in Rome then don’t stress – we’ve got you sorted with this list of the top 10 cheap and free things to do in Rome.
All of these activities are under 10 Euro, and half of them are free! Whether you’re a history buff, art fanatic or nature lover, Rome is full of special places and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered by those of us with tight budgets.
Also, if you’re looking for budget accommodations in Rome look no further than our guide to the Best Budget Hostels in Rome!
Top 10 Cheap and Free Things to Do in Rome
Take Advantage of Free Admission Days Every Month
If you’re a serious budget traveller and you time your visit to Rome well, then you can take advantage of the free admission days that occur every month.
On the first Sunday of each month, admission to over 25 museums, galleries, archeological sites, parks and gardens is free to all visitors, regardless of your age or nationality! Some places that offer free admission are the Colosseum, Roman Forum/Palatine, The Museum of Modern Art, Borghese Gallery, Roman National Museum, Caracalla Thermal Baths and so many more.
If the Vatican is on your Rome bucket list but you’ve done your research and felt your stomach take a turn when you saw the price – don’t worry! Instead of being free on the first Sunday of the month, the Vatican is free on the LAST Sunday of every month. However, the crowds at the Vatican are crazy enough on any normal day of the week, so you can just imagine that chaos that ensues when thousands of people are adamant to save themselves the cost of a ticket. If you’re prepared to spend a few hours queuing in St Peter’s Square, then go ahead – take advantage of this free admission day!
The “free admission day” initiative is great in theory, but it does mean that queues become incredibly long and you can end up spending over 2 hours waiting to get through the entrance! If you’re lucky enough to be a European citizen under the age of 25 then most institutions in Rome offer discounted entry that often shaves off up to half the price of your ticket, which is definitely something to be aware of.
If you decide to visit one of Rome’s great museums or historical sites on a free admission day, it is advisable to be well prepared and arrive in plenty of time to avoid the tourist masses.
Cheap Things to Do in Rome – Get Lost in the Cobbled Streets of Trastevere
Walking around the ancient streets of Rome is as fascinating as it is free.
Trastevere is a medieval area of Rome situated on the West bank of the Tiber. It’s bohemian atmosphere, contemporary artistic scene, artisan shops and lively nightlife make it the perfect place to take a stroll in the evening as the sun begins to set and people start to spill out onto the streets. If you’re on a budget then Trastevere is the perfect place to begin absorbing the relaxed Italian culture while not spending a penny (not that many, at least).
Trastevere’s cobbled streets are lined by the crumbling facades of classic Italian terracotta buildings, with walls covered in faded religious paintings dating back centuries. Trastevere combines historical Italy with a thriving youthful vibe, aestheticised by the graffiti and posters that point towards the contemporary art and music scene.
One of Rome’s most romantic areas, Trastevere is filled with craft beer bars and trattorias serving delicious Italian cuisine. Take a seat on one of the outdoor tables that line the streets, and enjoy a candlelit dinner, or sip an afternoon aperitivo in traditional Italian style. Although, much like most of Rome, some of these establishments have their prices hiked up for tourists it is possible to find a delicious pizza or parmigiana for under €10.00 if you look in the right places.
If you want to discover some more of Rome’s history, Trastevere is home to some of Rome’s most magnificent churches, The Church of Santa Maria is the most obvious choice for art and architecture lovers who find themselves in Trastevere. This impressive basilica is covered with glittering golden mosaics that glisten beautifully in the evening sunlight.
Another spectacular church that should be on your Trastevere to-do list is the Santa Cecilia Church which houses stunning frescoes by Pietro Cavallini. Wander slowly through Trastevere and discover the real Roman way of life.
Explore the Grandeur and Natural Beauty of Villa Borghese
In the hot, stuffy summer days Villa Borghese a great place to take a stroll and find refuge from the blistering sun under the shade of the trees. The gardens in Villa Borghese are free to enter, and the park is so huge that you can easily spend a few hours discovering all the hidden gardens and spaces, and the spectacular statues and fountains that pop up between the trees.
Beginning from above Piazza del Popolo and stretching 226 acres to Via Veneto, Villa Borghese provides an escape from the bustling urban sprawl of the city. Rome’s infamous Borghese family agreed to have the park named after them on the condition that it was the single most luxurious location in Rome – and it certainly was! Villa Borghese houses museums, an artificial lake, an ice rink in the winter and numerous secret gardens waiting to be stumbled upon by ambling visitors.
If you want to save some money and enjoy the great outdoors that Rome has to offer – Villa Borghese is a great place to spend the day. Take a picnic, hire a bicycle or relax on the grass with a book and find some peace and quiet away from the chaos of Italian city life. It’s definitely one of the top free things to do in Rome!
Cheap Things to Do in Rome – Marvel at the Remains of Trajan’s Market
Rome’s ancient “shopping centre”, Trajan’s Market is a large historical complex of shops, offices and warehouses where the Romans used to gather to conduct their business affairs and purchase and exchange goods. The remarkable semi-circular structure of the remains is situated on Via dei Fori Imperiali, and provides a fascinating insight into daily life in Ancient Rome.
Trajan’s Market was built between 100 and 110 AD. Designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, and remains exceptionally well-preserved to this day.
Explore the upper levels which acted as office spaces to conduct business and affairs, and then make your way to the lower levels to get a feel for the spaces in which Ancient Romans peddled their goods and services from their shops called “tabernae”. The ancient hall is a grand architectural feat, where concerts and speeches potentially took place back in the day.
Take in the View of Rome from Gianicolo Hill
Rome is known as the city built on 7 hills. If you want to take in a panoramic view of the city then you have lots of choices. Although it isn’t technically one of the “seven hills” of Rome, Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill definitely provides one of the most expansive and diverse views of the Eternal City.
Located just beyond the Trastevere neighborhood, Gianicolo Hill is easily reachable on foot, either walking up the relatively steep steps or via the winding road that’s slightly easier on the thighs.
Once you reach the top of the hill you’ll be delighted by stunning views which showcase the grandeur and architectural diversity of Rome. From the piazzale at the top, you can spot St Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, Il Vittoriano and many more of the city’s landmarks. Time it well, and watch as the ancient city begins to burn in the soft orange glow of the sunset, then head back down the hill for a drink or dinner in Trastevere.
If you’re up for walking and fancy looking down at the city from a different angle, try the view from Capitoline Hill where you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the Forum and Colosseum, or the Westward view from Pincio in Villa Borghese.
This view is one of the best in the city, and it’s probably our top pick of all the free things to do in Rome.
See a Caravaggio Painting For Free in One of Rome’s Churches
There’s something extremely powerful and compelling about seeing a work of art in the place it was originally intended to be seen. Lucky for those travelling on a budget, it’s possible to avoid paying gallery entrance fees and see some of the world’s most iconic art for free in the centre of Rome.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Italy between 1592 and 1610. His work spans the movements of Renaissance and Baroque, and he’s one of the most iconic Italian painters of all time. Caravaggio’s work reveals essential truths about the human condition, emotion and physical existence and his work is stylistically recognizable by his dramatic use of chiaroscuro (treatment of light and shade). Caravaggio spent some of his life in Rome, where he was commissioned to paint altarpiece works for various churches dotted around the city.
Admission to the churches around Rome is free, so if you do your research you can see some of the world’s great masterpieces outside of the museum context. In the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, located in the centre of the city, you can find Caravaggio’s works The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, and St. Matthew and the Angel hanging next to each other. You can also see Caravaggio’s works for free in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo, and his captivating Madonna di Loreto can be found inside the Church Sant’Agostino near the Piazza Navono.
Survey the Hustle and Bustle of the City from the Top of Altare della Patria
The Altare della Patria, also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, is a monument built in 1885 to honor Vittorio Emanuele, who was the first king of a unified Italy. Whether you love it or hate it (like many Romans), there’s no denying the sheer impressiveness of this vast marble edifice which makes a striking interruption to Rome’s soft and romantic skyline.
You can take the elevator to the top for €7.00, where you’ll be treated to spectacular 360 degree views of Rome. You can watch the miniature people wandering back and forth in Piazza Venezia and get a grasp of where some of Rome’s most famous landmarks are located.
Free Things to do in Rome – Visit the Pantheon
One of Rome’s most iconic tourist attractions is free to enter! Located in the Piazza della Rotunda in the centre of Rome, the Pantheon is one of the most magnificent and well preserved buildings of ancient Rome.
The Pantheon is a Roman temple dedicated to the Pagan gods of Pagan Rome and was built between 118 AD and 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It’s fascinating architectural design and beautifully decorated interior make it an essential place to visit on your trip to Rome – free entrance is just an added bonus!
The morning is the best time to visit the Pantheon in its least congested state. As the day progresses, the grand temple fills with queueing tourists brandishing selfie sticks and milling around, making it difficult to truly appreciate the Pantheon’s splendor.
If you’re making a visit to the Pantheon, you may as well combine it with a visit to another tourist saturated landmark of Rome: the Trevi Fountain. It’s less than a 10 minute walk away, and you know what they say: two birds with one stone, right?
Things to Do in Rome – Watch the World Go By In One of Rome’s Many Piazzas
Rome is full of piazzas, big open squares for pedestrians, filled with people chatting or enjoying a drink after a long day, as well as street performers showcasing their weird and wonderful talents. And guess what? Hanging out in them and absorbing all the sights, sounds, and smells is totally, you guessed it, FREE.
Piazza Navona is a wonderful spot to relax and people watch as you sip a beer or eat a gelato. The atmosphere here is undeniable, particularly at night when the imposing Baroque architecture is illuminated and the Four Rivers Fountain is lit up.
Campo de’ Fiori is a bustling piazza which is home to a morning market, and at night transforms into a rowdy space where students and tourists merge to socialise, smoke and sip on an aperitivo.
Once the site of public executions, Piazza del Popolo has been transformed into a space of lavish elegance. Lined by churches, the imposing Porta del Popolo, and a stunning fountain leading to the Pincio, Piazza del Popolo is an opportune place to take a breath and watch with intrigue as the world passes by.
Other notable places to sit and take a break, or to marvel at some of Italy’s most impressive architecture, statues and fountains are Piazza Spagna, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere and Piazza San Pietro. Piazzas in Italy are always a meeting point for locals, where you can go to experience true Italian culture and get a taste of the real Italian nightlife.
As far as free things in Rome go you shouldn’t miss out on the Piazza experience.
Things to Do in Rome – Look through The Aventine Keyhole
On the top of Aventine Hill, you’ll find the unusual Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta, which has for centuries been owned by the Knights of Malta, and is now home to the Embassy of the Order of Malta to Italy. It’s one of Rome’s best kept secrets that if you look through the keyhole of the unremarkable gates you’ll be treated to a remarkable view which perfectly frames the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.
The quintessential Italian view reveals an elegant pathway lined with looming trees that leads to a breathtaking, sweeping view of the Eternal City. It’s well worth the trek to get there. It’s possible to reach Aventine hill by car, bus or on foot if you’re up for spot of light hiking. It’s a picture perfect opportunity and it won’t cost you anything!
While you’re there, just next door to the Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta you’ll find the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges) inside Parco Savello. Orange trees fill the park and make for the perfect canopy to rest under the hot sun. Walk to the end of the park and you’ll find an open viewing area offering sweeping views of the city. You’ll definitely have enough skyline photos of Rome to show off to your friends when you’re through with this list!
There you have it folks, ten things to do in Rome for 10 Euro or less. If you think we missed something please let us know in the comments. As always, safe travels and see you on the road!
If you’re looking for budget accommodations in Rome look no further than our guide to the Best Budget Hostels in Rome!
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