Rome in a Day

What to see and do if you have only one day to spend in Rome, Italy

Rome wasn't built in a day, so don't expect to see it all in one. Still, you can give it your best shot.

Note: This is the itinerary to follow if you actually have one full day in Rome. I say that because many of you will be arriving in Rome from somewhere else to start your Italian vacation, in which case—sad to say—you don't actually have three full days to spend here, since much of that first morning will be spent arriving (at the airport or train station), perhaps clearing customs, getting into town, and settling into your hotel.

Below is the itinerary if Rome is just another stop on your itinerary and you genuinely have a full day to spend. (This separate page has a one-day itinerary for those arriving in town this day but who are headed out of Rome tomorrow morning.)

1 Day in Rome

The Sistine Chapel cieling
The Sistine Chapel cieling.

Take a tour
If you prefer an expert guide for your sightseeing, here are some walking tours from our partners that cover many of the sights featured on this day:

Best plan for fitting in all of this day's activities on guided tours (in slightly different order; not that the afternoon walk ends 6:30pm and the Vatican evening tour starts at 7pm, so you'll have to hustle):

A la carte (pick your own tours):

Vatican/St. Peters:

Tiber Bend:

MORNING: Be up bright and early so that you beat the legions of tour buses to the grandiose church of St. Peter's Basilica, which opens at 7am. See Michelangelo's Pietà and the other amazing sights inside, and tour the tombs of popes under the basilica before climbing its dome (opens at 8am) for a panoramic sweep of the city across the river.

By 8:45am, have exited the church, turned left under the start of the colonnade surrounding St. Peter's Square out front, and be walking around the Vatican walls to get to the entrance to the world-famous Vatican Museums, which open at 9am.

You'll have time only for the highlights of its artistic wonders : the Pinacoteca painting gallery with Raphael's Transfiguration and Caravaggio's Deposition, the Raphael Rooms, and Michelangelo's incomparable Sistine Chapel ceiling.

AFTERNOON: By 11am, head out of the galleries and grab lunch on the run as you cross the Tiber River into the center of Rome to see the Roman Forum.

After taking a gander at the Colosseum, check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona and then wander the churches and piazze of the Tiber Bend area. Make sure you stop by the elegant Spanish Steps for a peek. Also make sure you stop for some gelato (Italy's divine ice cream). In fact, if you have to choose between gelato and the Spanish Steps, well...

Mingle for a while at the Spanish Steps, then window shop down fashionable Via dei Condotti and the surrounding streets.

EVENING: By the time you get to the Corso, one of Rome's main drags, the evening passeggiata stroll will be in full swing and you can strut your stuff with the Romans until it's time for a hearty and well-deserved dinner in the old city.

Before you turn in for the night, be sure you stroll to the famous Trevi Fountain, into which it is tradition to toss a few coins in order to ensure that, one day, you'll return to the Eternal City.

Tips & links

This is merely a blueprint

You really should spend your time on whatever catches your own interest. Some people would rather get a root canal than spend a day strolling the boutique-lined streets radiating from the Spanish Steps, but for others a day of window-shopping would rank as the highlight of their trip. Same goes for cramming a dozen churches and museums into a single day: heaven for some, hell on earth for others. For some less-famous sights to visit, check out Reid's List: Rome.

Adjusting the schedule

Keep in mind that you may have to adjust these itineraries in case one of the days you're in town happens to fall on a Monday (when most museums are closed) or a Sunday (when many things are closed, and those that remain open tend to operate on shorter hours). » more

Save time by booking ahead

You can avoid long lines to get into the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums—and ensure entry to the Galleria Borghese, which releases a limited number of tickets per day—by paying a few euro extra to reserve tickets and an entry time before you leave. Also, you have to book (free) papal audience tickets in advance. » more

Considering an alternative day in Rome

All these itineraries are designed for the first-time visitor who wants to be sure he or she gets to all the highlights—all the must-sees.

But what if you want to avoid the crowds that pack those highlights, or you've already done the Vatican, St. Peter's, the Forum, and the Colosseum and are looking for less famous—but still rewarding—sights?

As luck would have it, I have whipped up Reid's List of Rome sights and experiences devoted entirely to this purpose.

These are sights from the B-list (sometimes the C-list) that I happen to love and that are definitely worthy of your time—in some cases, perhaps more worthy than some of the more famous sights

If you're arriving in Rome by ship (or, more accurately, arriving into Civitavecchia, which is the cruise ship port for Rome but is actually located an hour north of the city), you are not prisoner to the cruise ship's overpriced shore excursions. You can arrange your own tour (or your own transport into Rome), either with our partners at, or completely D.I.Y. » more

Consider daily tours

Prefer to leave some of the planning and information-providing to a professional? Consider signing up for a guided tour—doesn't have to be a standard bus tour; our partners at Viator and Context Travel offer loads of neighborhood and thematic walking tours, private guides, and other fun ways to explore the capital as well. » more

How long does Rome take?

Planning your day: Rome wasn't built in a day, and you'd be hard-pressed to see it in that brief a time as well. Still, you can cram a lot into just a day or three.

To help you get the most out of your limited time in the Eternal City, here are some perfect itineraries, whether you have one, two, three, or four days to spend in Rome.

» Rome itineraries

Rome tours

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