In this post, we’re going to share with you our idea of how to spend the perfect 2 days in Rome, which we think is about enough time to see many of Rome’s highlights. There is a lot to see in Rome, so you’ll likely want to return (throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to be sure of that!), but as an introduction to the city, this itinerary will definitely get you started.
Rome is one of our favourite destinations, it’s a city we’ve visited multiple times and one we’re always happy to return to. We just love exploring all the ancient ruins, wandering down cobbled alleyways, eating delicious Italian food and trying all the different flavours of gelato!
Our suggested Rome itinerary is designed more around the first time visitor looking to see many of the more famous sights, but will also work for a return visitor looking for inspiration. As well as the itinerary, we’ll also be sharing with you our tips for getting around Rome, advice on where to stay, how to save money, and more!
Let’s get started.
2 Days in Rome
Rome: Day 1
Our first day in Rome has you exploring some of Rome’s most famous sights, from stunning 2,000 year old arena to Renaissance artwork.
First on the list for your 2 days in Rome is a visit to the mighty Coliseum. For over two thousand years this has been a landmark location in Rome, and it was once home to the infamous gladiatorial battles that were watched by tens of thousand of Roman citizens, not to mention Roman Emperors.
To be able to visit a place where historical figures like Caesar would have sat to be entertained (by remarkably gruesome spectacles) is quite incredible, and you can almost feel the weight of history carrying through the stones here.
Of course, the years have taken their toll, and the Coliseum is not quite the same place it was in its heyday, but it’s a remarkable testament to Roman engineering that so much survives to this day. You’ll likely want to spend at least forty five minutes to an hour here to soak it all in – and maybe longer!
We’ve put the Coliseum first on the list for our first day in Rome for a reason – it gets very busy, particularly in the summer months. This is a common theme shared across many of Rome’s top attractions, and we definitely suggest you look into ways to minimise your time queuing.
The first option to avoid the queues is to buy a ticket directly from the official Coliseum ticket office website, which gives you the option to specify an entry date and time for your visit.
Another good option would be to take a tour (we recommend Walks of Italy, who have a number of Coliseum tours). Finally, you might consider investing in a Rome city pass that comes with fast-track entry to this and other attractions in Rome, such as the Rome and Vatican Pass. We’ll cover more of these options towards the end of the post.
2. Roman Forum
Right next to the Coliseum, and included on the majority of Coliseum tickets and tours, is the Roman Forum. Since its right next to the Coliseum, and your ticket likely already includes it, we think it makes sense for this to be your next stop in Rome.
For centuries, the Roman Forum was the heart of the Roman Empire. The square plaza, surrounded by the government buildings of the empire, was where everything from the political to the religious life of the city took place.
Today you can visit the Roman Forum, which is a large open area dotted with excavations, ruins and various notable sights. Again, you can take a guided tour, or you can see yourself around, although we’d definitely suggest taking some sort of tour to get the most out of your visit and help you to understand exactly what you are seeing. See more about our suggested tours at the end of the post.
3. Circo Maximus
The Circo Maximus (or Circo Massimo in Italian), was Rome’s largest public games venue, which played host to numerous events. Perhaps most famously of these were the chariot races, a high-energy sport that became the focus of the Circus.
Other sports and celebrations were of course held at the Circus, including religious celebrations and staged animal hunts, and it was also used as a sort of local market area when not otherwise in active use.
Today, the Circus is an open public park which you can visit for free, and it’s only a short distance to the south of the Roman Forum, so we think is worth your time to visit.
4. Capitoline Museums
Rome has so many incredible museums that it is hard to pick just one or two to visit over two days in Rome. However, we can very much recommend the Capitoline museums, which are right next to the Roman Forum, and in fact offer a unique view of the Forum.
But you’re not coming here just for the view. The Capitoline Museums (which are actually just one museum housed in a number of buildings), are home to a number of treasures, including medieval and Renaissance art. They’re also well established, being the world’s oldest national museum, and in their present guise are set out to a design by Michelangelo.
The museum on Capitoline Hill consists of three main buildings that house different collections, with a primary focus on sculpture, although there are of course other items in the collection including jewellery and other art pieces. One of the most famous pieces, and one that you must see on your visit, is the scultpture of the “She-Wolf” feeding Romulus and Remus, one of the most well known symbols of Rome.
Entry to the Capitoline Museums is ticketed, with discounts available for Roma pass holders.
5. Trevi Fountain
We’re going to finish off the first of our two days in Rome with a couple of Rome classics. The first of these is the Trevi Fountain, a massive Baroque installation that is arguably the most famous fountain in the world.
Dating from the middle of the 18th century, this huge fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi, and is a must-see for visitors to Rome. It’s good to visit at both day or night, but do be aware that it’s likely going to be crowded here at pretty much any time of day!
It’s considered good luck to throw a coin into the fountain – and if you do so it’s said that you are guaranteed to return to Rom. As a result, over 3,000 euros worth of coins are thrown into the fountain every day! This works out well for the needy of Rome, as the funds are used to help provide them with food.
6. The Pantheon
Just a short walk from the Trevi Fountain is another highlight of any visit to Rome – the magnificent Pantheon. Nearly two thousand years old, this is an incredible example of Roman engineering, and is guaranteed to take your breath away.
Originally built as a temple, and then turned into a church, the building was completed under the rule of the Emperor Hadrian. It’s a huge circular design, with the main area of the church sitting underneath a huge concrete dome, in the centre of which is a huge opening.
Despite being nearly two thousand years old, this is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Clearly those Romans built things to last!
The church is free to enter, and as well as its mind-boggling construction, is also noted for being the last resting place of a number of historical figures, including the Renaissance painter Raphael.
Well, that wraps up our first day of our two day Rome itinerary! Now it’s time to head to dinner, and you’ll find no shortage of options all around Rome.
The choice can be a little overwhelming, so we’d advise reading up in advance and getting some ideas for where you might want to eat so as to get a good option. One place to start reading is Culture Trip, perhaps with this guide to the best pizza and pasta in Rome.
Rome: Day 2
8. Vatican City
For your second day in Rome, we’re going to start by visiting the city inside the city – the Vatican City in fact. Whilst this in wholly surrounded by Rome, it is its own state – the world’s smallest!
The Vatican City is home to a number of attractions, with the most popular being the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
These attractions are well worth spending your morning exploring, and in fact you could spend the greater part of a day exploring here – the Vatican Museums alone are home to miles of exhibits!
If possible though, we’d advise limiting your time here to half a day, giving you time to see a few more attractions. Half a day will give you time to see the highlights of the Vatican Museums, gaze at the incredible Sistine Chapel, and explore St. Peter’s Basilica – including taking the walk to the top of the dome, for spectacular views.
We’d highly recommend getting here early, and using one of our suggestions for saving time getting in – the queues for the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica are legendary!
We have a number of recommended options for speeding up your access to the Vatican City attractions.
The first option is to book your tickets online directly from the Vatican, which will give you skip the line access to the Vatican Museums. This will let you skip the main line for the Vatican Museum, which also includes the Sistine Chapel – but not St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you also want skip the line access for St. Peter’s Basilica (the line gets super long!), you might want to invest in a Rome and Vatican Pass, which will give you skip the line access to both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. At busier times of year we think this make the pass worth the price alone.
This option will let you explore at your leisure, and is a great way to skip the queues. Whilst this pass is only available in a three day version, we think it can still be worth it for a two day visit, you just have to make your own decision as to whether the convenience is worth it for your visit (it also includes free and discounted entry to a number of other attractions, including many of the options in this itinerary).
Another option is to book a dedicated skip the line ticket for St. Peters Basilica, which will also come with an audioguide to help you understand what you are seeing.
Finally, our last suggestion for skip the line access to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica is to take a dedicated early bird tour with one of our preferred walking tour companies.
We took a Walks of Italy tour that featured exclusive early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, which was a fantastic experience. Group tours can also use a shortcut that gets them directly from the Vatican Museums into St. Peter’s Basilica, so you get that in the tour as well.
A guide can really help you understand more what you are seeing, so this is a good option if you prefer a guided experience. Walks of Italy also offer an after hours tour of the Vatican Museums on some days, if you feel like really maximising your time in the city.
9. Castel Sant’Angelo
After the Vatican, you’re going to head to the Castel Sant’Angelo, which is one of my favourite buildings in Rome. This impressive construction has been sitting on the banks of the Tiber river for almost two thousand years, and is well worth a visit.
Originally constructed as a Mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his family, when it was built this was the tallest building in Europe. It is still Hadrian’s tomb, but over time has played many different roles, including that of a fortress and a castle.
Today it’s a museum, and you can visit and marvel once more at the engineering brilliance of the Romans, for whom the term “planned obsolescence” would be anathema. The view from the top is worth the trek up, and you can also see the tomb of Hadrian of course.
There’s a fee to enter the Castel. Holder of the Roma Card (included as part of the Rome and Vatican Pass) get free or discounted entry – more on this at the end of the post.
10. Piazza del Popolo
A short walk across and along the Tiber River will bring you to the Piazza del Popolo. This was once the northern edge of the city of Rome, and was the first part of the city that many travellers would have seen when arriving here – particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The square, whose name means “People’s Square”, is home to one of Rome’s ancient Egyptian Obelisks, as well as the two 17th century churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli. It’s a nice place to get a coffee or a bite to eat, before heading on into the rest of our itinerary.
11. Spanish Steps
From the Piazza del Popolo, three roads span out into the city, and exploring these on foot is always a highlight of our trips to Rome. If you take the left-most road looking south, the Via del Babuino, it will lead you to the Spanish Steps, another iconic attraction of Rome.
These impressive steps, which lead from a fountain at the base up to a church at the top, were opened in 1725, and have long been a popular place for visitors to see. They were made particularly famous in 1953, when the film Roman Holiday (starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck) featured them.
The name, in case you were wondering, is because the Spanish embassay to the Holy See is located on the square at the base of the steps, known as Piazza Spagna, or Spanish Square.
The steps are free to visit, and a photo of you on them (ideally eating gelato), is pretty much a must when visiting Rome!
12. Museums and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
Moving on to a slightly off-beat sight now, but one we think you might appreciate. The Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars, found under the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, is home to a unique display, quite unlike anything else you’ll see in Rome.
In five rooms, the bones of the monks of the Capuchin order are on display, arranged into various forms. It’s definitely unique, and with around 3,700 monks making up the display, is certainly going to remind you of your mortality. Out of respect, photography is not allowed here.
It’s also worth noting that the Catholic church is keen to stress that the display is not meant to be macabre – rather, it is a reminder of our own mortality, and how short our time on earth is. There’s a small fee to visit, which we think is well worth paying.
13. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria
Just around the corner from the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars is the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria. This church, dating from the 17th century, is famed for it’s sculpture by Bernini – the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, which is definitely worth popping in to see.
If you are particularly interested in art, then instead of the previous two attractions, you might want to head instead to the National Gallery of Ancient Art, found in the Palazzo Barberini. This is home to one of Italy’s most important collection of paintings.
14. The Best Gelato in Rome
It’s been a long couple of days in Rome, and somehow we’ve not mentioned one of Rome’s most famous foods – gelato! The Italian version of ice cream is a must when visiting the city, but it’s hugely important that you only eat the good stuff.
Thankfully, we’ve already done the research for you, and put together a guide to the best gelato in Rome. Conveniently, our favourite gelato spot in Rome falls right at the end of our second day – Come il Latte.
The gelato here is deliciously creamy and absolutely fantastic – we can pretty much guarantee it was worth the wait!
2 Days in Rome: Rome Map
To help you visualise our suggested itinerary for 2 days in Rome we’ve added all the sights above to a map. This should also help you plan where you might want to stay. You can also see this on Google Maps here.
When to Visit Rome
We have visited Rome at a number of different times of year, and it is certainly a city that can be visited at any time of year. In summer just be aware that it can get very hot and very busy, as this is the busiest time of year in the city. We’re not saying don’t go – you might just need to plan ahead and make sure you get all the necessary skip the line tickets so you can make the most out of your two days in the city.
If you have flexibility, we think the shoulder seasons can be a really nice time to visit – between April and June, and then late September through to the end of October. The weather at this time won’t be quite so fiercely hot, but you’ll still have plenty of hours of daylight and enough warmth to make it a pleasant experience.
Winter is also a good time to visit. You’ll need to bring warmer clothes of course, but Rome tends to experience fairly mild winters with snow being very rare in the city. It’s also a much quieter time of year to visit.
Where to Stay in Rome
For a two day visit to Rome, we’re going to suggest a hotel (or hostel, depending on your budget!) is likely going to be the best option. Whilst we love the convenience of an apartment when we travel, we find that for shorter trips, the full service convenience of a hotel is going to be a better option.
One reason we love staying in an apartment is the flexibility it gives us for things like cooking for ourselves, doing laundry and having a space to work, but with only 2 days in Rome, we don’t think you’ll be doing any of those things!
In terms of location, we would definitely suggest picking somewhere central – so basically the area between the Rome train station (Termini), and Piazza Popolo in the north, and Piazza Navona in the west. This will put you right within walking distance of the main attractions in Rome, as well as close to hundreds of fantastic eateries and cafes.
For an idea of where I mean, take a look at these hotel options:
When we travel we usually use Booking.com as our first port of call for accommodation. They have everything from hostels to apartments to hotels. The review system makes it easy to pick a good option, and they have an excellent cancellation policy.
How to Save Money And Time in Rome
As with many of the cities we’ve visited and written about, Rome has a number of options for saving money (and time!) on your visit, particularly when it comes to sight-seeing.
As previously mentioned in this post, Rome is a popular destination, and the lines at the major attractions, especially the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Coliseum can get quite long. You definitely don’t want to spend your time in Rome standing in line if you can help it, especially if you are only in Rome for two days!
So your options are to prebook entry for the popular attractions, to take a tour that includes entry (we recommend Walks of Italy and Context Travel, see below for specific tours we recommend), or to pick up a pass that includes entry and fast track access.
The way these work is that you get free access to the first attraction you visit with the 48h pass, and free access to the first two attractions you visit with the 72h pass. Once you’ve used your free entries, you get discounted admission at the remainder of the attractions you visit, which includes a wide range of attractions across the city.
Based on our itinerary, the two day Roma pass would get you free skip the line access to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum (these count as one attraction), after which you would get discounted entry at the majority of other attractions on the list. If you picked up the three day pass, you would also get free entry to the Capitoline Museums as well.
The only disadvantage of the Roma Pass is that it doesn’t include the Vatican attractions, so you’re still going to be queuing for those. So you have a few time saving options. You can book a tour, you can pre-book your ticket online in advance, or you could invest in an Omnia Rome and Vatican Pass instead.
This actually includes the Roma Pass, but also comes with a number of other advantages, including skip the line access to both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Rome Hop On Hop Off bus service.
Unfortunately, this pass is currently only available in a three day version. If you were visiting Rome for three days, we’d definitely recommend you invest in it. For two days – it’s really up to you. The benefits of time saving in our mind are definitely worth it, plus it comes with extra features such as an audio guide of St. Peters Basilica.
Whatever you choose to do, we highly recommend you come up with a plan in advance. We’d suggest either a Roma Pass and a walking tour of the Vatican / St. Peters that comes with skip the line access, or to invest in a Omnia Rome and Vatican Pass.
If you don’t want to do any of those, then you definitely will want to book your tickets for the most popular attractions online in advance.
How to Get Around Rome
For the two days on this Rome itinerary, the easiest way to get around is going to be by foot. The centre of Rome is very easy to get around on foot, and we think that seeing Rome this way is definitely a highlight of a visit to the city.
You’ll just keep stumbling across beautiful old cobbled streets, old churches and buildings, and hidden little restaurants and cafes.
Of course, there’s an extensive and easy to use public transport system in the city as well. If you invest in a Roma Pass or a Rome and Vatican Pass, these both include free public transport for the duration of the pass, so you can hop on and off buses or metros as you wish.
Should You Take a Tour in Rome?
Of course, this is up to you and your style of travel! We think that because Rome has so much history and there is so much you can learn on a visit, that taking a tour can be a really great way to do that. Some of the tours can also get you exclusive access to locations that you might not otherwise have been able to see, as well as skip the line access that can save you time.
The two companies that we’ve used in Rome for walking tours (and many other cities around the world) are Walks of Italy, and Context Travel. For Context Travel, you get an automatic 10% discount on any booking through any of the Context Travel links in this post.
The tours we’d recommend in Rome based on our itinerary are the following:
- Walks of Italy: Skip the line Colosseum Tour with Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
- Walks of Italy: Early Entry Sistine Chapel / Vatican Museum & St. Peters tour
- Context Travel: Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel & St. Peters
- Context Travel: Roma Antica Tour (Coliseum & Roman Forum)
We think that these are the best tours to match up with our itinerary, but of course both companies have many more options depending on your specific interests. You can read some of our experiences taking tours in Rome with both of these companies, Context Travel here, and Walks of Italy here.
Further Reading for Your Rome Visit
We’ve written a number of posts and guides to visiting Rome, as well as Italy and Europe in general, that we think you will find useful. We also have a number of go-to guidebooks and other resources that we think you will find helpful for planning your time in Rome.
- If you have longer in the city, or are just looking for more options for what to do, take a look at our guide to spending 3 Days in Rome, which also has some more practical information for your visit.
- If you’d prefer to take more of a guided visit to Rome rather than plan your trip yourself, we have a guide to doing just that here.
- If you are particularly interested in visiting the Borghese Gallery, one of Rome’s most popular museums, we have a guide to visiting the Borghese Gallery here.
- No visit to Rome is complete without eating gelato! To be sure you get the best stuff, take a look at our guide to finding the best Gelato in Rome.
- If you’re planning on visiting Rome in summer, read our tips for visiting a European city in summer to stay sane
- Looking to visit more of Italy? Check out our content on Venice, Milan and Florence for inspiration!
- If you’re looking for a physical (or Kindle!) guidebook, we recommend the Rick Steves Rome 2017 guide, which has lots of practical information to help you make the most of your stay
And that’s it for our guide to how to spend 2 days in Rome! We hope you found it useful – as always, if you have any questions or feedback, just let us know in the comments below!
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