How Many Days in Rome Are Enough for a First Visit?

That is the million-euro question.

The Eternal City is vast and has many faces. I have spent three decades unpacking its treasures and am far from done.

As with any travel destination, deciding how many days in Rome are enough will depend on your interests and pace of travel. That said, for the average first-time visitor to Rome, the sweet spot is between three and four days.

Get the lowdown in the article where I also share realistic itineraries and tips for deciding how long to spend in Rome.

old stone bridge across the tiber river in rome

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I recommend spending 3 – 4 days in Rome on your first visit

Within three days, you will be able to give Rome’s most famous attractions the attention they deserve. Extend this to four days if you prefer a more relaxed itinerary.

With forward planning, you can hit Rome’s must-see sights in two full days. But manage your expectations. It will be a jam-packed itinerary and you will have to be content with scratching the surface of its historic and cultural attractions.

What you can see in 3 days in Rome

outside wall of colosseum which should be on your rome bucket list

Colosseum

An icon of Rome itself, this world-famous UNESCO-listed site witnessed over 500 years of what passed for entertainment in Ancient Rome. 

columns and arches of the ruins of the roman forum in rome

Roman Forum (Foro Romano)

This powerfully evocative site was the heart of civic and political life in the Roman Empire. 

fountain spouting water in front of the columns of rome's pantheon buidling

Pantheon

This is my favourite building in Rome. Formerly a temple built by Marcus Agrippa, it became the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres in 609 AD and is the burial spot of the artist Raphael and kings Vittorio Emmanuele II and Umberto I.

people outside the colonnaded front entrance to st peters basilica in rome

St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)

Said to be built on the site where St. Peter was buried, the instantly recognisable St. Peter’s Basilica is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. 

the fountain of trevi in rome with majestic statues in niches

Trevi Fountain

Ensure your return visit to Rome by throwing a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain. Yes; it is super-touristy but it has to be done.

people walking up the spanish steps in romewith a police woamn keeping watch

Spanish Steps

These monumental steps, linking Piazza di Spagna with the church of Trinità dei Monti, are another of Rome’s most famous sights. The surrounding streets are flush with high-end shops.

ornate baroque fountain in the beautiful piazza navona in rome italy

Piazza Navona

Perhaps Rome’s finest Baroque square – and there are a number from which to choose – Piazza Navona is a scenic spot for an expensive cup of coffee.

What you can see in 4 days in Rome

Spending an additional day in Rome will allow you to visit its must-see sights with time left for soaking up the city’s culture, relaxing in its restaurants – I recommend heading to the Ghetto area for fried artichoke – or a few fun activities.

pyramid of artichokes in a street in rome italy

FUN ACTIVITIES IN ROME

If you prefer, you can squeeze in a few more sights.

If you are an art history buff, make a beeline for the Galleria Borghese (this is one place in Rome where it is obligatory to buy your ticket in advance) or the Capitoline Museums. For a taste of Rome’s magnificent Baroque churches, visit Santa Maria Maggiore or Santa Maria in Trastevere.

classical marble sculpture of semi nude lady
Paolina Borgheese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix, Canova in Borghese Gallery

5 days in Rome may suit some, but not all, travellers

Thanks to the sheer business of the city, some people may find that five days in Rome is pushing it. But if you are an average visitor who wants to explore the city at a slower pace or take a day trip from Rome, then 5 days will be perfect.  
 

You can start to get under the skin of the city and take a day trip to Florence, Ostia Antica or Naples, or a few hidden gems like Bracciano and Farfa (to name but a few worthy candidates).
 

old buidlings and bell tower by lake Bracciano in italy
Bracciano is a popular day trip with Romans

Tips for deciding how many days in Rome are enough

To judge how many days in Rome will be enough and to make the most of your time there, you’ll need to consider what you would like to see, how you will arrange your sightseeing and your preferred pace.

Determine the actual number of days in Rome

Unless you are on a silly-o’clock outbound flight, day one in a city is rarely a full day. If your flight arrives at midday, for example, your first day in Rome is half a day at best.

If you are on a red-eye to Rome, check that your accommodation will be able to store your luggage. Most, but not all, hotels offer this service and it may be more challenging if you are renting an apartment.  

The same applies on the day of your departure.

Create a Rome wish list

Rome is not a city to wing it on a first visit. Your bucket list will focus the mind and give you a feel for how many days you need.  

massive bronze sculpture of the head of constantine

Book tickets in advance

Don’t risk disappointment. For hugely popular sights like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums, advance booking is essential.

Colosseum – Buy your ticket here or discover the best Colosseum tours

Vatican Museums – Buy your skip-the-line ticket here, or to book a visit with a tour guide click here.

Cluster sightseeing into areas

Be smart in how you arrange your Rome itinerary by clustering sightseeing into a geographical area. For example; day one could be the Ancient Roman sites; day two, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, Castel Sant’Angelo and perhaps Trastevere; day three, Rome’s historic centre.

Consider transport time

Grouping your sightseeing into neighbourhoods that you can navigate on foot makes the time toing and froing between Rome’s attractions less of an issue. Rome is surprisingly walkable but you may need to use the metro system or take a bus to reach Vatican City.

red ticket machine for rome metro

Pace yourself

Rome can overwhelm you and not always in a positive way. This is a very busy city, the most visited in Italy.

Take it from me. You quickly tire of swerving around tour groups, and of bumping elbows with others craning their necks to look at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Build in time for rest and reflection.

panoramic view of the skyline of rome with tress in foreground
Panoramic view from the Orange Garden, Rome

Base yourself in a central location

It’s hard to beat walking from your hotel or apartment to the must-see sights on a city break. Although it’s unlikely that you will be able to visit all of Rome’s major landmarks on foot from your accommodation, by choosing a centrally located place to stay you can cut down on travel time.

Where to Stay in Rome

Make it easy on yourself by staying in a central location.

CENTRO STORICO

For your first visit to Rome, you can’t go far wrong staying in the historic centre or Centro Storico (on my first visit over 30 years ago I stayed in a pensione on Campo de Fiori).

This neighbourhood is super central and has a wonderful ambience. But as this is tourist central, it can be very busy and noisy at all times of the day.

>>> SEARCH FOR HOTELS IN CENTRO STORICO HERE

TERMINI AREA

If you are looking for a budget to mid-range accommodation, take a look at the streets around Rome Termini station. As well as being a relatively affordable area, it is Rome’s main transport hub.

It’s safe to say that this isn’t the nicest area late at night but I have stayed near Termini a few times with zero problems.

Hotel Canada, BW Premier Collection | MORE INFORMATION HERE

small double bed in a room with a tiled floor and small desk at hotel canada in rome

I stayed in this 3-star hotel on my most recent trip to Rome. It offers comfortable rooms and an elegant lounge, and Termini station is a ten-minute walk.

iQ Hotel Roma | MORE INFORMATION HERE

The 1Q Hotel Roma was my base on an earlier solo trip to Rome. This trendy 4-star hotel has a lovely rooftop terrace and a shared laundry.

>>> SEARCH FOR OTHER HOTELS NEAR ROME TERMINI HERE

AROUND VILLA BORGHESE

I’m a big fan of this district. Although it’s away from the tourist hubbub, you are within walking distance of Rome’s Centro Storico.

River Palace Hotel | MORE INFORMATION HERE

small double bed in a room with a patterened carpet floor and small desk at river palace hotel in rome

This elegant 4-star hotel is often my base when I am visiting Rome. It is a five-minute walk from Piazza del Popolo and Flaminio Metro Station.

>>> SEARCH FOR OTHER HOTELS AROUND VILLA BORGHESE HERE

Enjoy your first visit to Rome!

Regardless of how many days you are in Rome, you can’t go far wrong. Whether you are walking in the steps of Ancient Romans or sipping an Aperol Spritz on a sun-drenched piazza, Rome will reveal itself to you through its three millennia of architecture, history and culture.

If you have found this useful and need more help with planning your city break, check out a few of my other articles:

If you are looking for travel inspiration here are my favourite Rome quotes.

Happy travels!