Only have 24 hours in Rome? Want to see the Rome highlights in one day?
Everyone (including me) will tell you you need more time in Rome, but if you only have a day, and want to see the top sights, here's how!
This page is about walking through Rome on your own, and seeing as many highlights and famous monuments, plazas and fountains in Rome as you can absorb, in a one-day visit.
My suggestions come from doing this walk hundreds of times over, with friends and family, and with our hotel guests. I promise you it's very feasible, and it's enjoyable.
If you follow my suggested route, you will include all the must-see attractions in Rome in one day. In a nutshell, these are:
Below, you have a printable map, and following that, step-by-step instructions, with lots of photos, for a full-day walking tour of Rome Highlights in One Day. I've included some stops for fabulous gelato, coffee and lunch along the way. Oh and a wine bar or two.
The actual walk takes about 2-3 hours if you don't stop at all. But you should account for food and rest stops, picture taking, getting a little lost, and spending time enjoying some of the views, plazas, monuments and fountains.
So plan for 8-10 hours total, including a 1.5-hour lunch stop. I'd start around 8 or 9am at the latest.
I am partial to seeing Rome on foot, although I realize that's not feasible for everyone.
But if you only have one day in Rome, and can manage several hours of walking, you will actually see a lot more if you walk.
To begin seeing Rome highlights in one day, begin at Piazza Barberini. It's a 2-stop, 5-minute metro ride from Termini station and the perfect starting point for you.
First of all, you start your day with one of Rome's most iconic fountains by one of Rome's most prolific and famous Baroque artists, Gianlorenzo Bernini.
Second of all, you are a five-minute walk to the top of the Spanish Steps, one of the highest points in Rome, where you can take in a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome.
From here, take via Sistina to the right, and in about 5 minutes you will come to the top of the Spanish Steps.
Enjoy the view from here, although you will likely find yourself a bit crowded out by artists, rose-sellers and other tourists.
Head down the Spanish Steps....
.... and you will be smack in Rome's most famous shopping zone, Piazza di Spagna.
You can decide to walk straight down via Condotti (one of the most exclusive shopping streets in Rome.)
Or, walk a little to the left until you come to Piazza Mignanelli, then turn right to go down via Frattina, which I find to be a bit more intimate and charming.
At the bottom of via Frattina, cross via del Corso to come to Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina.
Time for a gelato break! Pop into the back entrance of Ciampini and get a scrumptious cone of some of Rome's best gelato.
From here, walk along via di Campo Marzio (a great shopping street.) This is one of the oldest parts of Ancient Rome. Keep walking pretty much straight, and you will come to the Pantheon.
Read more about the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is free, and open all day, so go ahead inside. It won't take long, and it's truly amazing to see it inside and out.
From the Pantheon, make your way (about 3 minutes' walk) to piazza Navona. Don't miss this! It will be one of the highlights of your one day in Rome. (I say this because I often hear our hotels guests they somehow missed it, and I find many people have never heard of it. I think it's one of Rome's most beautiful piazzas and a must-see!)
From Piazza Navona, go behind the Brazilian Embassy towards via del Governo Vecchio. This is a fun and cute cobblestoned street, full of boutiques, vintage shops and cafés.
At the very beginning of this street, is a plaza, Piazza di Pasquino. There is a great wine bar there, Cul de Sac, which can be a good lunch stop if you haven't eaten yet.
Via del Governo Vecchio turns into via dei Banchi Nuovi. Take this street and follow it all the way across the bridge to Castel Sant'Angelo.
From here, you can see Vatican Square.
Visit Vatican Square from the outside (unless you want to make time to go inside Saint Peter's Basilica. It's free but there is a queue to go through security, and even in low season/winter, it can take an hour just to get through the line.)
After visiting Vatican Square, come back towards Castel Sant'Angelo, and this time, make your way towards the via Giulia.
Come all the way up the via Giulia until you come to the archway with hanging vines. This is the back of the French Embassy.
Turn left and follow the walls of the French Embassy, which is called Palazzo Farnese. You'll be on Piazza Farnese, one of the prettiest squares in Rome.
Those two giant bathtub fountains you see on Piazza Farnese were originally from the Caracalla Baths. Yep, the ancient Romans bathed in them!
From Piazza Farnese, head towards Campo di Fiori. This is an historic piazza in Rome (it was once the main site for public executions), and used to be the real city center market (until it became the tourists' market). But now it's best known for its pubs and nightlife.
From Campo di Fiori, walk up via dei Giubbonari towards Largo Argentina. These are the ruins where you can see where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
From here, make your way along the via delle Botteghe Oscure towards Piazza Venezia.
Walk to the top of the ramp behind that big white monument (above), and you'll be on Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio.)
This is where City Hall is, and also the Capitoline Museums. You won't have time to visit the museums, but right in the square (designed by Michelangelo), you can see a bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius (one of the emperors of Rome.) The statue is a replica; the original is inside the Capitoline Museums.
From the back of this plaza, you have a wonderful view of the Roman Forum from above. You can also see a bit of the Colosseum peeking up in the way back.
Walk down the back side of this hill to the left, and you'll be on the via Fori Imperliali. From here you can see the Coliseum.
As I said, on this page, I don't include a visit inside, but you can go walk up close and around it. It's still amazing to see, even from the outside. I walk around the Colosseum all the time and never get tired of looking at it!
By now you've seen most of the Must-See Rome highlights in one day. You've accomplished a lot! One more fountain to go. But you still have time. It doesn't close, and can be even prettier at night, so maybe now is a good time for a little aperitivo?
Hiding in plain sight right next to Trajan's column, is a wonderful little enoteca, Enoteca Provincia di Roma, with huge windows that look right out onto Trajan's forum and the ruins there. With local specialties, an affordable happy hour, and free wifi, it's the perfect place to take a break from your whirlwind tour.
Walk around Piazza Venezia, and take a right on via IV Novembre. Make a left onto via della Pilotta and you will end up at the Trevi Fountain.
From here you can walk five minutes up to Piazza Barberini, back where you started. And now, you have seen the Rome highlights in one day!
It's the end of a long and very full day. You may decide it's time for a nice dinner. Well, don't be surprised to learn, there are actually a lot of excellent places to eat right near the Trevi Fountain!
An easy option for seeing the highlights of Rome in one day is to take one of the many hop-on/hop-off Open buses.
These buses have 24-hour (even 48-hr) tickets, and you can take them all around Rome. You'll need to get off at times, especially if you want to see some of the most important sights in Rome, like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navona, as those are not accessible by bus. To see the route almost all the companies take, and to book in advance, go here.
If you can splurge, hiring a private driver with car, and even a guide, can be an excellent way to get around Rome easily, without having to think about any of it. These guys do this a lot, and know how and where to take visitors so they really get a lot out of a full day in Rome.
I can help you with booking this as I work with some excellent drivers and guides. Please contact me with your dates and number of people in your party, and I'll get back to you with a quote.
Would you like a private One Day in Rome walking tour? I will personally take you around to show you the above highlights, but with lots of insider info, tips and some very special churches to show you along the way. Please contact me with dates and the number of people in your party and I'll be glad to get back to you with a quote.
If you are visiting Rome in one day because your cruise stops here, you actually have less than 24 hours to see the Rome highlights. Visit my Civitavecchia to Rome page, to find out how to see the Rome Highlights in One day when you are here on a cruise.