Only have 24 hours in Rome? Want to see the Rome highlights in one day?
Everyone (including me) will tell you that 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 mostly about walking through Rome's city center on your own, and seeing as many highlights and famous monuments, piazzas, and fountains in Rome as you can absorb in a one-day visit.
My suggestions come from doing this walk hundreds of times with friends and family, and with our guests when we ran our B&B.
I promise you it's very feasible.
If you follow my suggested route, you will include all the must-see attractions in Rome in one day.
And, as a bonus, the entire walk is completely free (except for any food or drink you might consume.)
In a nutshell, the stops are:
Click here to visit my Google map where you can see the route (it opens in a new window.)
On this page you will find step-by-step instructions, maplets (that does not seem to be a word but I'm making it up to mean little maps showing a closeup of that particular step in the route!), and lots of photos for an easy-to-follow full-day walking tour of these Rome Highlights in One Day.
I've included some suggestions for fabulous gelato, coffee, and lunch along the way.
Oh and a wine bar or two.
What's NOT on this page
On this page, my suggestions don't include visits to the Vatican Museums (where the Sistine Chapel is) or inside the Colosseum/Roman Forum / Palatine Hill.
If you want to see the Colosseum and Vatican Museums in one day, visit my page here.
The actual walk would take about around 2 hours if you didn't stop at all (Google Maps clocks it at 1 hour and 40 minutes!)
But you should account for food and rest stops, picture taking, getting a little lost, popping into a church or two, and spending time enjoying some of the views, plazas, monuments, and fountains.
So plan for 8-10 hours total, including a lunch stop.
I'd start around 9 am at the latest.
Don't feel like walking?
Further down the page you'll find options for seeing top Rome sites in one day:
With a car and driver or golf cart tour
Disclosure : If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!
I am partial to seeing Rome on foot, although I realize that's not for everyone.
But if you only have one day in Rome, and can manage several hours of walking, you will see a lot more if you walk.
And you can stop when you want to for a coffee, lunch, gelato, or just to absorb it all.
Want to take the guessing out of it?
Click here to take a walking tour of the city center and let someone show you the way.
One reason I like to start this walk here is because we start up high and walk down.
From there, much of the rest of the walk is fairly flat.
Second of all, you can start out with a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome.
You can reach this area by metro (there is a Metro stop at the bottom of the steps, and an elevator will take you to the top.)
You could also take the Metro to Piazza Barberini and see Bernini's beautiful fountain, then walk about 5 minutes to the top of the steps from there.
The lookout at the top of the Spanish Steps can be a bit crowded.
If you keep walking about 200 meters, you will come to the Villa Medici on your right.
And on your left, you will have all the gorgeous views (mostly) to yourself.
.... and you will be smack in Rome's most famous shopping zone, Piazza di Spagna.
You could easily spend a lot of time shopping in this area if you are interested and have time.
But if you're trying to see the highlights in one day, I suggest you keep going!
The next stop is the Trevi Fountain, just a short walk from the Spanish Square.
In the map below, you can see the walk takes less than 10 minutes, unless you stop on the way.
You may also want to visit this page about how to walk between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, where I share lots of hidden gems along the way!
As you face the Trevi Fountain, turn to your right and walk fairly straight until you come to the Pantheon.
If you take the most direct route possible, you will pass Piazza di Pietra where you can see Hadrian's temple.
Two of my favorite places to eat and drink are here so if it's time for a break, try Spiriti wine bar or Osteria dell'Ingegno.
The Pantheon is free and open all day, so go ahead inside if you have time (sometimes the lines can be long but usually they move quickly.)
One major caveat is that on weekends and holidays, you MUST book ahead to visit the Pantheon. It's still free but you need a reservation. Find out more on my dedicated page.
Once inside, the visit won't take long, usually about 15 minutes.
Make your way from the Pantheon to Piazza Navona.
These two sites are only a short walk apart, but there are a couple of interesting detours along the way.
If you are ready for something quick to eat/drink, Piazza Sant'Eustachio is the perfect spot.
There you will find what I call the trifecta of yummy food.
You will find some of the best pizza, gelato, and coffee all in this piazza (see below about sitting down at a café.)
The pizza and gelato are both either to-go or you can stand around eating them but you won't be charged more since there is no table service.
To sit or not to sit?
As you do this walk and pass so many beautiful piazzas, you may feel like sitting and enjoying a coffee, gelato or sandwich.
If you sit down at a café/bar, i.e. not a restaurant, you need to know that it costs considerably more to sit down and consume anything than it does to go inside and consume it at the counter.
This is not because it's a "touristy" area.
That's just part of the culture in Italy.
But sitting in any of these piazzas is lovely and I do it a lot.
Just check the menu, or ask before you order about the price difference.
Another interesting detour on this walk is the church of San Luigi dei Francesi.
If it's open and you have time, you may want to pop in to see the stunning Contarelli chapel with 3 paintings by Baroque master Caravaggio.
After you visit Piazza Navona, go behind the Brazilian Embassy towards via del Governo Vecchio.
This is a fun and cute cobblestone street full of boutiques, vintage shops and cafés.
At the very beginning of this street in Piazza di Pasquino, you'll find Cul de Sac, which could be a good lunch stop.
If you don't feel like stopping here yet, there are plenty more places to eat along this street and further along in the walk.
Keep walking down Via del Governo Vecchio.
It turns into Via dei Banchi Nuovi.
Take this street and follow it all the way across the bridge to the Castel Sant'Angelo.
Ready to plan your trip?
From Castel Sant'Angelo, you can see Vatican Square which means you are seeing Vatican City, a separate state from Italy!
Visit St. Peter's Square from the outside - unless you want to make time to go inside Saint Peter's Basilica.
It's free to enter the basilica 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.
As I mentioned at the top, on this walk, you won't have time to visit the Vatican Museums where the Sistine Chapel is.
If you do want to include the Vatican Museums on a one-day visit to Rome, visit my page here.
If you are a little off schedule or tired, and need to cut things short, you could get on the metro near the Vatican at the Ottaviano stop, and take it back to Termini train station or wherever is convenient.
After visiting Vatican City, cross the Tiber river again, and this time, make your way towards the Via Giulia, a lovely quiet cobblestone street full of beautiful doorways, small boutiques, artisan shops, cafés and wine bars.
Come all the way up the via Giulia until you come to the archway with hanging vines.
Turn left and follow the walls of the French Embassy, Palazzo Farnese.
You'll arrive at 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 de' Fiori, one piazza over.
This is an historic piazza in Rome (it was once the main site for public executions), and used to be the main city center market (it is still a market but you will now find many stalls geared towards tourists.)
Today it's also know for its nightlife.
From Campo dei Fiori, walk up via dei Giubbonari towards Largo Argentina, where you can see the ruins where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
The ruins also happen to be home to a cat sanctuary that you can visit if you want.
From here, make your way along the via delle Botteghe Oscure towards Piazza Venezia.
You may want to go to the front of the monument to take a look and to get some photos.
Then, walk up and around to the right so you can climb the ramp to Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio.)
As you come up the ramp, note the beautiful piazza including the pavement. This was all designed by Michelangelo towards the end of his life.
Campidoglio is where City Hall is, and where Alessandro and I got married!
It's also home to the Capitoline Museums.
You won't have time to visit the museums, but right in the square you can see a bronze statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The statue is a replica; the original is inside the Capitoline Museums.
Walk around the right-hand side to the back of this plaza. There you'll 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.
After you view the Roman Forum, walk back around to the left-hand side of City Hall.
You will see a replica of the bronze she-wolf, the symbol of Rome (the original is inside the Capitoline Museums.)
Walk down the back side of this hill to the left, and you'll be on the Via dei Fori Imperiali.
From here you can see the Colosseum.
This is where the forums, or administrative centers, of three of Rome's emperors once stood (they are mostly in ruins now, but still visible which is why this is such a scenic walk.)
As you walk towards the Colosseum, you'll pass on your left in this order: the forums of Trajan, Augustus, and Nerva.
There is a fourth forum, the one on your right. This is the Forum of Julius Caesar (who was not an emperor, but rather a dictator.)
The Colosseum is the last major site on this walk. You can walk right up to it and all around it.
Want to know why there are holes in it? What those Roman numerals above the arches mean?
Find out on my page Facts About the Roman Colosseum.
And now, you have seen the Rome highlights in one day!
An easy option for seeing the top Rome attractions in one day is to take one of the many hop-on/hop-off open buses.
These buses have 24-hour and 48-hour ticket options, and you can take them all around Rome.
If you opt for this, I'd suggest doing a full round-trip once (it takes around 1.5 hours). This will give you a good overview and then you can decide where you want to get off the second time around.
Some of the most important sights in Rome, like the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navona, are not visible or accessible by bus so you'll have to get off and walk a tiny bit to see them.
To see the route almost all the companies take, and to book in advance, go here.
If you can splurge a little, hiring a private driver with car and 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.
You have the option of hiring a private car and driver, or of hiring a private golf cart tour, which is also a lot of fun!
A fun and interesting way to see the highlights of Rome in one day is on a Vespa scooter or on an e-bike. You can do either of these as a rental on your own, or with a tour.
If you only have one day in Rome, you might want to do this as a tour so you don't get lost or stress too much about trying to find all the sites.
If you are visiting Rome in one day because your cruise stops here, you actually have less than 24 hours to see the sights in Rome.
When you are visiting Rome as a shore excursion, you can:
Visit my Civitavecchia to Rome page for more.
Remember to make sure to specify if you want to include visiting the Vatican Museums (where the Sistine Chapel is) as this will take up half your day!
Want to save this page to Pinterest? Pin it here!
Get your free Rome trip planner!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
Please come over to the private Romewise Facebook group and join in the conversation.
You will often find me there, happy to answer your questions / comments!
You will also meet other Rome lovers and experts, too.
What are you waiting for?