How to beat the crowds in Rome (the best times to visit + insider tips)
The Italian capital of Rome is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Europe. History lies around each. corner, and it’s impossible not to fall in love when you wander the winding streets. With so many museums, churches and pieces of art to admire, there will barely be enough time to see everything in one visit – I recommend at least three or four days! The queues at some of these spectacular attractions can be atrocious, especially during the hot Roman summers. Don’t waste time waiting in line for tickets! In this article I’ll share the best tips & tricks to get into your favourite Roman attractions without waiting in line (and save some money while you’re at it!).
The most iconic structure in Rome is the Colosseum. This Flavian amphitheater was built thousands of years ago and was the biggest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. It was previously used for gladiator fights, build in such a way that all of the fifty thousand spectators could easily watch the action. Nowadays it’s of course an iconic tourist attraction that works with time slots: the amphitheater only lets in three thousand people at any given time. From time to time there are special events planned, you can check their website to see what events are scheduled. MONEY SAVING TIP: Every first Sunday of the month the entrance is free for all visitors during the normal opening hours.
SKIP THE LINES: The tickets kiosk at the Colosseum has one of the longest queues in, like, the world. With this skip-the-line ticket, however, you can bypass the lines of tourists and enter straight away. Make sure you enter through the right entrance as there are three different ones: two for group tours and one for individual visits. Just follow the instructions on the ticket and you will get inside the Colosseum in no time. Please note that even with pre-booked tickets it is advised to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time, so you don’t miss your slot.
All tickets to the Colosseum also include entry into the Forum Romanum and Palatine. And vice versa, if you buy a ticket for the other attractions it also includes entrance to the Colosseum.
EXTRA TIPS: With this ticket you get entry to the Mamertine Prison as well as the Colosseum, Forum Romanum and Palatine Hill with Priority entrance! This way you don’t have to wait in line for any of these attractions and can just plan a good full day of sightseeing. Just make sure to drink enough water you as it can get quite hot when the sun is out.
SAVE MONEY: There are special promotions for European citizens under 18 who can go in for free, and if you are aged between 18 and 25 years you can get a discount. Sadly, you can only get this discount by queuing in person and buying the tickets in person at the tickets booth.
If you insist on queuing up for a ticket in person, the best option is to go to the Palatine Hill ticket office. You can buy a ticket there that gives you access to Palatine Hill, Forum Romanum and the Colosseum. The queues here are generally shorter than at the other two ticket offices, though I still had to wait in the burning hot sun for thirty minutes when I was there so it’s advised to go early.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Colosseum is early in the morning from 8:30 to 9:00 or from Tuesday to Thursday anywhere after 15:00.
Opening hours: As the opening hours can vary per season, it is recommended to check the schedule beforehand. You can find the opening hours here.
Piazza del Colosseo, 1
0184 Roma RM
2: Forum Romanum
The Forum Romanum, located next to the Colosseum, used to be most important place of Rome. In the glory days of the Roman Empire it was the center for political, juridical and religious uses. Nowadays, it is a fantastic tourist attraction and archaeological park that can be visited. Just walking through this amazing park filled with architectural wonders makes you relive the past and wonder how life used to be in the Roman Empire. It was one of my favourite places in all of Rome!
SKIP THE LINES: There is a combo ticket available for a visit to the Roman Forum including a fast-track entrance access to the Colosseum + access to the Arena floor. This way you get to see the three most popular attractions and get a skip-the-line ticket. You also won’t have to wait in line, and just proceed to the right entrance lane.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Roman forum is from Monday to Friday anywhere after 5PM. If you decide to go during the weekend, please note that it is extremely busy from 9AM to 3PM. If you’re there in summer I highly recommend going either early in the morning or in the late afternoon. It’s a completely open field with little shelter from the brutal burning Roman sun!
From 8.30 to one hour before sunset.
For exact times you can visit their website here.
Via della Salara Vecchia 5, 6
00186 Roma RM
3: Palatine Hill
Towering at 40 Meters above the Roman Forum, you’ll find the Palatine Hill. It is the center most of the Seven Hills of Rome and one of the most ancient parts of Rome. According to Roman Mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa that had kept them alive. So aside from it being an archaeological beauty it also has some nice myths tied to it.
EXTRA TIPS: With this ticket, where you get a 3 hour guided walking tour to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hills. Also be sure to stay hydrated on hot days!
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Palatine Hill is during the weekdays from 5PM till closing time. There will be more people during the weekend, especially between 9AM and 3PM, when it can get quite busy.
From 8.30 to one hour before sunset.
For exact times you can visit their website here.
Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53
This gorgeous ancient temple is located on the Piazza della Rotonda. The building is well known for the fact that it has a round hole in its roof, called an Oculus. It was rebuilt in 80 AD after being burned down by a fire. This makes it one of Rome’s most well preserved and oldest buildings.
SKIP THE LINES: There is no entrance fee for the Pantheon and that’s why there may be a line. If there are lines, they usually move pretty fast. However, it can get very overcrowded once inside. The entrance is free, but you could opt for a guided tour or audio guide.
EXTRA TIPS: In the morning it can get very crowded. The best moment to visit the Pantheon is anywhere between 4PM and closing time. Please take note that the building does close earlier on Sunday. Also, it is not recommended to visit during heavy rain. The Oculus won’t give you any shelter, so the floor can get slippery.
Best time to visit: It is less crowded during the weekdays, so visiting anywhere from Monday till Friday from 16:00 to 19:30 will be a safe bet.
Daily from 9:00 to 19:30, with the exception on Sunday where it will close at 18:00.
Piazza della Rotonda
5: St Peters Basilica
The St Peter’s Basilica is a Catholic Cathedral. It used to be the biggest one in the world until in 1989 a copy was built in Yamoussoukro. It is also one of the holiest buildings in Christianity. Inside the Basilica you will find amazing masterpieces created by world famous artists such as Bernini and Michelangelo. The most famous part of the Basilica is of course the Dome, where you will find an amazing painted ceiling designed by Michelangelo and finished by Giacomo Della Porta.
SKIP THE LINES: The lines at St. Peters Basilica can be very long. If you get a guided tour with reserved entrence you can gaze at the amazing artworks and get extra commentary from a guide who knows all about the the building.
If you also want to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, it’s worth getting a combo-ticket. This tour includes fast-track entrance to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica and you’ll visit with an art historian that can explain everything about these wonderful works of art.
EXTRA TIPS: There are quite some things to point out here. It is recommended to avoid visiting on a Wednesday morning, because this is the day of the Papal audience, after which the Basilica will be closed till at least 12:00. The Vatican Museums are closed on Sunday, but the Basilica itself will be open. So if you just want to see the Basilica this will not be a problem. Also try to avoid visiting during any other religious dates as these will attract more visitors than normal.
Please note that the Pope can close the Basilica at any given time. It is not uncommon that this happens so it could be that it is closed for a day.
And make sure you dress accordingly! Just like is many other cathedrals and churches you will not be let in when you show a too much skin. So make sure you cover your shoulders and knees.
Best time to visit: It is recommended that you visit either early in the morning, or anywhere after 16:00. There will also be more visitors to the Vatican Museums during the mornings, so going to the chapel first is recommended.
Best time to visit: Try to avoid Wednesday mornings and Saturday. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday it is recommended to be there right after opening time. If you can’t make it that early, going after 15:00 will be less crowded than during midday.
Daily from 7:00 to 19:00, with the exception on Wednesday morning.
Piazza San Pietro
00120 Città del Vaticano
6: Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are Christian art museums that are located within the city boundaries of the Vatican City. It contains roughly 70.000 works of which 20.000 are on display. These include artworks of Davinci, Caravaggio and Rafael.
Next to the Vatican Museums we have the Sistine Chapel. This is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. The chapel contains some of Michelangelo’s most famous paintings, such as the world-famous The creation of Adam. As the Vatican Museums is a very popular place and it can be very crowded.
SKIP THE LINES: The Vacitan Museums are one of Rome’s busiest attractions. It’s also a place where street sellers are most annoying, trying to get you to join their tour by lying about how busy the attraction actually is. Sure, on busy days during the high season (May-July & September-October) you can wait up to three hours at the museums. But this isn’t always the case. I recommend these options for your visit:
1) Walk up to the front of the line, ask how long people have been queuing and if that’s too long for your liking, buy a a fast-track entry ticket online. On busy days the online tickets may sell out ahead of time, so keep this in mind.
2) Come prepared, don’t take the risk and buy these fast-track entry tickets you get escorted through the fastest entrance available to skip the lines at the entrance.
3) Take a tour. Go for these combo tickets that give you entrance to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and the Saint Peters Basilica with a guided tour that will tell you all about its history.
If you really want to have a fancy day trough the city with no hassle from street sellers, you could take a look at this full-day Vatican Museums and Christian Rome Tour, which includes lunch.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Vatican Museums depends on which day it is. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. Your best bet to avoid big crowds is from Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 to 18:00. Most people spend about 3-4 hours here, and some rooms start closing around 17:30. On the last Sunday of every month the entrance is free, however this generally leads to waiting times of up to 4 hours.
From Monday to Saturday
9:00 – 18:00 (final entry 16:00)
9:00 – 14:00 (final entry 12.30)
For more accurate schedules you can visit their website here.
00120 Città del Vaticano
00165 Roma RM
7: Villa Borghese
The Villa Borghese is a public park in Rome. It is at least 80 hectares big and is the home of many uniquely constructed gardens, museums and pavilions. The park can be entered through different entries. Villa Borghese is a nice place to get a breathe of fresh air and escape the city crowds. You have a beautiful view of the city from here. There is also a museum here that carries the same name.
SKIP THE LINES: Booking your tickets for the museum is mandatory. You will need to book your tickets online at least a week in advance if you want enough choice for a nice time-slot. The museum only lets in 320 people every two hours, so you will have to be quick. You can order your online tickets here. For those with a Roma Pass that can enter the museum for free, you can book your free time slot by calling: +39 06 32810.
Best time to visit: It won’t be able to get extremely crowded, since there is only a limited amount of people able to enter, but the most popular time is around 11:00. This will show in the schedule, as the time-slots around this time will most likely already be taken. So if you want to go around 11:00, make sure you book your visit way in advance.
From 7:00 to 21:00.
Closed on Monday.
P.zzale del Museo Borghese
Is it worth getting a ROMA PASS?
A Roma Pass gives you access to:
- Free public transport
- One or two museums (depending on the card you choose)
- 30%-70% discounts to other attractions
- Fast track entry
If you visit 5 attractions within 48 hours, you save €30. If you visit 10 attractions in 72hrs you save €70. The pass is valid for. Check the page to see which museums qualify. I highly recommend making an itinerary for yourself with the things you want to visit, and then see if this pass gets you a bang for your buck! More information about the Roma Pass.
These are the best tricks for avoiding the long lines in Rome! What is your best tip?
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