How to see Rome in a day

Rome in a Day

‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ they say but armed with this guide you will be able to see the best of it in under 24 hours!  So, what do you do if you don’t have much time, and what are the highlights you should NOT miss? There are countless museums, archaeological sites, piazzas, fountains, and churches but if you are strapped for time then fear not, we’ve got you! Just follow this guide on how to see Rome in a day.

how to see rome in a day

8:30AM Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum

You know the old expression “the early bird catches the worm”, well an early start is one of the secrets of how to see Rome in a day. Fear not though, if you are not a morning person you’re in the right place because Italian coffee is something else!

Expect a warm welcome from one of our team upon your arrival at the Arch of Constantine, the Carpe Diem Rome Colosseum meeting point. After a quick briefing you will be introduced to your Colosseum guide. All you will need to bring is yourselves since the cost of your skip the line tickets are included in the price of our Colosseum tours. See our blog on the best tours and tickets for the Colosseum to decide which one’s are best for you!

How to see Rome in a day 1

The Colosseum was one of Ancient Rome’s stadiums and it was home to bloodthirsty fights between gladiators, animals, and some say even sea battles. With your expert guide, you will explore the fascinating history of the Colosseum and separate legend from myth on this unforgettable and immersive experience

The ticket for the Colosseum also includes the archaeological areas of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum or the Palaces of the Emperors and the Ancient City of Rome. The tour lasts 2.5 hours and covers all 3 of these areas including a short break of 30 minutes inside the Colosseum to take photos or visit the gift shop. For any queries relating to what is permitted inside the Colosseum in preparation for the security check please see our FAQ page.

Small Group Colosseum Tour
Julio in the Colosseum with a small group morning tour

10AM – Palatine Hill & Roman Forum

The Palatine Hill is where Rome was founded over 2700 years ago, and over time it became home to wealthy senators and the Emperors of Rome. Let’s call it the Beverly Hills of Rome! From the top of the hill you have beautiful views over the Roman Forum. The Forum was the political, social, and economic heart of the Roman Empire and no trip to Rome is complete without walking on the original roads between temples, political buildings, and triumphal arches.

The Palatine Hill & Roman Forum tour takes an hour and finishes inside the Roman Forum at around 11 o’clock in the morning. After the tour you’ll have time to ask any questions and say farewell to your guide. By starting your day early at the Colosseum you will have plenty of time to see the rest of the city.

How to see Rome in a day 2
Palatine Hill is one of Rome’s seven hills and overlooks the Roman Forum

11am – A Walk in Rome

Rome is smaller than most people think, which makes it easy to navigate on foot! It also happens to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world so we advise you to skip public transport whenever possible! Although you are on a tight schedule you also want to take the scenic route to the sites, so we have designed a route for you.

Vittoriano / Altar of the Fatherland

Starting at the exit of the Roman Forum, make your way towards the ‘Vittoriano’ or Altar of the Fatherland in Piazza Venezia down the road Via Fori Imperiale – built by Mussolini after the excavation of the forums. This incredible monument defines the city skyline and was built in commemoration of King Victor Emanuel II’s unification of Italy in the late 19th Century.

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Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

Largo di Torre Argentina

Largo di Torre Argentina is a square in modern Rome with an excavated area that was once upon a time the theatre of Pompei. The theatre of Pompey is famous for two things; it is where the gladiators fought in Rome before they built the Colosseum, and it is where Julius Caesar was brutally murdered by his fellow senators.

Largo Di Torre Argentina
Largo Di Torre Argentina


The Pantheon is an incredible building that was constructed by Emperor Hadrian around 125AD and it still holds the record for the largest unsupported dome in the world! What does unsupported mean? No wooden or metal frames inside just pure cast concrete.  There is a 9m metre hole in the ceiling meaning that when it rains, it rains inside the building too! As if the idea of having a hole in a ceiling isn’t mind-bending enough, it is actually proven to make the building stronger…Get your head around that one!

pantheon meaning
Pantheon in Rome

The Trevi Fountain

The perfect day in Rome wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to the most famous fountain in the world for a selfie and a coin toss! Why do people throw coins in the Trevi Fountain? According to a popular legend if you throw a coin in the Trevi then it shall be your destiny to return to Rome, these days it collects a staggering 3000 euros a day!

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain in Rome

The Spanish Steps

Just a short walk around the corner you will find the elaborate masterpiece, the Spanish steps. The highly artistic setting of the surrounding area has attracted and inspired artists and the British for centuries. Today it is the luxury shopping centre of Rome, surrounded by high-end designers like Valentino, Bulgari, Chanel, and many more!  Super high-end is via del Babuino where there are no prices in the windows!

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Spanish Steps

1PM Lunch by Vatican City

Just beside the Spanish Steps is the metro stop Spagna on the A-line which will take you towards the Vatican. The metro, or underground, from Spagna to Ottaviano is just 3 stops and a 5-minute ride costing 1.50 Euro per person. It is very simple to use. Look for the direction Battistini and your stop is  Ottaviano.

There are lots of quality restaurants around the Vatican but plenty of tourist traps too! To save you the hassle of working out where to eat we suggest trying out one of our favourite eateries.


Styled as an informal bistro with wood paneling, leather banquettes, and casual table settings. Dishes are modern and creative yet still undeniably Roman in their execution. We recommend the 30 euro set menu.

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Dal Papa / Knick Knack Yoda

The BEST Burger in Rome hands down, and these are Italian style with a great range of gourmet burgers with fresh local ingredients and interesting flavours.  If you are tired of pizza and pasta, then this is definitely the place for you. Tuck into the best home-made burgers in Rome paired with artiginal cask ales.  The place is a relaxed and quirky family business and the young owner has a techno label so you can expect great tunes till late at night too.

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La Soffitta Renovatio

This pizza place is as authentic as it gets, it’s been in the family for over 100 years… and they say that the pizza just gets better with time as generations have perfected the balance of ingredients. Not to mention that everything can be made Gluten Free, but you wouldn’t know it!

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3:30PM The Vatican

The cherry on top of the cake involves crossing the border into the world’s smallest fully independent state – Vatican City.  Don’t worry you won’t need your passport but there is hefty security! The huge walls surround the Vatican Museums with its enormous collection, the Sistine Chapel, and the largest church in the world; St Peter’s Basilica.

After a relaxing lunch and well-deserved rest you can head over to our Vatican Office at Via Germanico16 for 3.15 pm. Present your reservation for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peters Basilica Tour to one of the staff at reception. Using the priority entrance we will skip the long lines and ascend the famous Momo staircase to the Vatican Museums. Please ensure that you adhere to the Vatican’s dress code.

Momo Staircase, Vatican City

Vatican Museums

We’ll begin at the Vatican Museums, which is a bit like a city, within a city, within a city.  It is a huge place that has been extended over the last 900 years with over 1000 rooms covering four millennia.  This means those visiting without guidance often find it a tad confusing and overwhelming.  We have crafted a custom route through the museum that packs in all the best bits without leaving you lost for hours in its labyrinthine corridors.

Vatican Museums
Gallery of Maps

Sistine Chapel

We’ll then head to perhaps the most famous part of the Holy city – the Sistine Chapel. It’s from this fabled building that the mysterious white smoke rises upon the selection of a new pope. And it’s also the home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece ‘The Last Judgement’. Walking through here – in silence, as the laws state – is a truly magical experience.

Michelangelo's Masterpiece the Sistine Chapel

St. Peters Basilica

The final stop is St Peter’s Basilica. Lauded as the pinnacle of Renaissance architecture, this fascinating structure towers above the city and is perhaps the most recognizable dome in Italy. As a separate attraction within the Vatican, it often attracts huge queues – but we will again be using skip-the-line tickets allowing us to enter directly. After an explanation about St. Peters your guide will answer any questions that you may have and leave you to take in the numerous attractions inside.

Detail of St Peters basilica cupola in Vatican from inside
Detail of St Peters basilica cupola in Vatican from inside, Rome, Italy

Travel Planning for Rome

So, there you have it. Now, you know how to see Rome in a day! If you haven’t booked your trip yet then we generally recommend that you aim to spend a little more time here to truly soak up all the flavour, soul, and history of Rome. Want to head south to Pompeii? Check out our perfect day trip from Rome to Pompeii! For any queries regarding your trip to Rome get in touch with us!

Book your tickets for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill & Roman Forum

Book your tickets for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peters Basilica

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