This is a list of twelve free things to do in Rome with [or without] kids.
Rome is such a beautiful city! Rich with history, culture, and damn delicious food, it is a bucket list city for many families. However, because budget is king, the cost of funding an adventure in the city can be daunting. Never fear! Here is a list of 12 absolutely free things to do in Rome!
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Visit the Pantheon
The Pantheon is a old temple that is now a church in the middle of Rome. It’s most famously known for the huge hole in the ceiling [called an oculus] to let light in. It’s full of history and beautiful artifacts sure to delight the family. Admission is absolutely free although you are welcome to leave a donation for the church, if desired. While you’re there, hang out in the Piazza della Rotunda and enjoy the atmosphere [also, free :)].
Browse a local market like Campo de Fieri or Mercato Monti
Rome is home to some of the most bustling and beautiful markets in the world. Partake in a little window shopping and peruse the markets around the city. Campo de Fieri is outdoors and located in another one of Rome’s great piazzas. There you can find food, spices, and even some textiles. Mercato Monti, on the other hand, is indoors and filled with all sorts of goodies. Whichever style market you select, you’re sure to enjoy. Buying something, of course, will cost you at least a few Euros but browsing is free!
Watch for the Pope at St. Peter’s Square and Basilica
This one might be a little bit of a cheat. Located in Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, technically aren’t in Rome. But semantics, right? If visiting the Pantheon, wet your tongue for the rich religious history of the city, there’s no better place to visit than the home of the Catholic church! You might even get a chance to see the Pope! Visiting this beautiful church is completely free but please be mindful that it is an active place of worship and mind the dress code.
There is one catch to this place though. The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica gives you a stunning birds eye view of the city. As of this post it cost less than 10 Euros to climb to the top. Well worth the small spend!
Throw a coin [and fight the crowds] at Trevi Fountain
This historic fountain is a staple in Roman tourism. Everybody [and their momma] wants to see it. And as they should — it’s absolutely stunning. Brace yourself for the crowds that are there at all times of the day and in every season. But it’s worth it! Throw a coin [or two, or three] in the fountain and hope for the best!
Dance in Piazza Navona [or any piazza for that matter]
I let out a dreamy sigh just typing that. Piazza Navona is easily my favorite area of Rome. It’s bright, lively, and often filled with talented street performers. First, take a few pictures at the beautiful fountains. Then, let your inhibitions go and dance like no one’s watching. Sure, there actually will be a ton of people looking but heck, they might even join you. Just do it.
Stick your hand in the mouth of truth [and hope it doesn’t bite!]
The Bocca della Verita (or the mouth of truth) in Piazza Bocca della Verita used to serve as an ancient sewer grate. However, now it is just a fun tourist attraction. As the story goes, you place your hand in the “mouth” of the grate. If you’ve told a lie, it will bite your hand off. Just folklore, of course, but participate at your own risk ;)
Check out the many [many] churches and basilicas
I realize this might sound boring to some of you but the churches in Rome really are a sight to see! They are intricately designed with little ornate details guaranteed to delight. If that flowery sentence still wasn’t enough to convince you, consider it a tour of Christian history. There are more than 200 churches in the city so plenty to chose from.
Chillax on the Spanish Steps
Named for the Spanish embassy next door, these steps are the social hub of Rome. You’re guaranteed to hear at least 4 different languages just by sitting on the steps and listening to those that pass by. Don’t just bum around at the bottom — climb to the top of the staircase for a wonderful view of the surrounding area. While you’re up there, hang out at the piazza at the top [free], visit the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti [free], and make a friend or two [also free]. Just don’t eat on the steps. Since its recent renovation, eating on the steps is prohibited and can result in a fine [definitely not free].
Stick to Sundays
If you are able to control the timing of your visit, aim to visit the museums of the city on a Sunday. On the first Sunday of the month, state museums offer free admission. While this usually doesn’t include any special exhibits, it is still a helluva discount. You can find a list of the state museums here. On the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican museums also offer free admission. That one is definitely worth it! Be warned though: the lines to these museums are super long on these dates so be sure to weigh time vs. cost.
Climb Aventine Hill and peek across the city at the Knights of Malta Keyhole
It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Knights of Malta gate on Aventine Hill but it is a [free] journey worth taking. If you peek through the keyhole to the gate, you are rewarded with a one-of-a-kind view of the dome of St. Peter’s basilica. Walk up the hill from Circus Maximus, take in the scents from the orange garden, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Explore the Villa Borghese Gardens
The Villa Borghese Gardens is the second largest park in Rome but one of the most popular. With its scenic landscape and neat artifacts, it is a universal crowd pleaser. There are plenty of free things to do here depending on your mood: have a picnic, sketch the gardens, or play on the playground. If you’re willing to shell out a few euros, you can also rent a bike or visit the zoo.
Take a free walking tour
Did you know that there is a free walking tour available in most major cities? I love these because they feel like hidden gems in the city. They are led by locals with a plethora of knowledge and are usually a ton of fun! Most [if not all] require a reservation in advance so do your research before you go. There are several options available but the two primary service providers are New Rome Free Tour and Rome Free Walking Tour.
There’s a catch though: even though the tours are free, the tour guides rely on tips. Don’t be a jerk. Please tip them for their hard work. If that’s not in budget, there are plenty of free self-guided audio tours available like these.
Do you have any free must-dos in Rome? Share in the comments below!