Rome is one of the most impressive travel destinations on earth, but it’s not the cheapest place to visit. It’s very common for travelers to spend anywhere between €100-200 a day there, if not more. With that said, it’s definitely possible to travel to Rome on a budget.
Here are 13 useful and practical tips for visiting Rome on a budget, as well as some of the best things to do in the Eternal City for free.
13 Tips for Visiting Rome on a Budget
1. Find an Affordable Area to Stay
The neighborhood of Esquilino is one of the best places to stay in Rome mostly because it’s right where Termini, the main train station in Rome, is situated. This makes it incredibly convenient to get to your hotel from the airport. On top of that, Esquilino is also the most budget-friendly neighborhood in Rome. It is full of affordable high-quality hotels and guesthouses, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Note that there are also affordable hotels in other areas of Rome, such as Centro Storico and Trastevere, but they tend to be far and few in between. You’ll have the widest selection of great budget hotels in Esquilino.
2. Visit on the Last Sunday of the Month
The Vatican is one of the most unmissable attractions in Rome, and it’s home to the Vatican Museums, where you can gaze at the world-famous Sistine Chapel. A regular entry ticket to the Vatican Museums is €17, which is quite a lot. However, if you visit on the last Sunday of any month… it is free!
It also doesn’t end there. This offer goes for all public museums in Rome, not just the Vatican Museums. This means that if you visit Rome on a weekend, you can spend a very eventful Sunday museum-hopping all around town for free. Imagine how much money you’d be saving!
3. Get Discounts and Free Transportation With the Roma Pass
The Roma Pass is a tourist pass that gives you free skip-the-line admission to certain attractions, discounted tickets to other museums and attractions, and free unlimited usage of Rome’s public transportation, which includes the metro, buses, and trams.
There are different types of Roma Passes with different benefits. If you’re staying in Rome for 2 days, you can get the 48-hour Roma Pass, which gives you free entrance to one main attraction. And if you’re planning to be in Rome for 3 days, the 72-hour Roma Pass may suit you better and will give you free entry to two main attractions.
Many of Rome’s important attractions come with a pretty pricey entry ticket, so getting one of these tourist passes could help you save a lot.
4. Visit Off-Peak for Cheaper Hotels
Rome is at its busiest in the summer, but if you visit in the winter — from mid-November to mid-December or from mid-January to early March, you’ll find that hotel prices are significantly cheaper. Plus, the busy peak season crowds will also have dissipated, making winter the best time to visit Rome for those who don’t mind the cold.
With that said, note that from mid-December to early January, hotel prices and crowds will rise, as Rome is one of the most popular places to visit for Christmas and New Year festivities.
5. Find a Guesthouse Near a Supermarket
Another easy way to stay on budget during your trip to Rome is to stay at an Airbnb or holiday apartment near a supermarket. That way, you can shop for groceries and make your own meals instead of eating out.
Grocery in Rome is typically pretty cheap. For instance, a lettuce head is only 1,50€ ($1.70 USD) and a kilogram of potatoes is just 2€ ($2.20 USD). If you eat meat, a kilogram of chicken breasts comes out to around 6€ ($6.80 USD).
Comparatively, a typical meal at an affordable restaurant in Rome would still come out to around 15€ ($17 USD) per person.
6. Visit Famous Attractions Without Actually Entering
If you’re on a really tight budget (or tight on time), consider visiting famous attractions like the Colosseum and the Vatican from the outside only. The truth is, these places are incredibly awe-inspiring to see just from the outside, and you can admire their breathtaking facades without actually buying an entrance ticket.
And while entering these attractions would definitely allow you to appreciate them more, you can still marvel at their beauty without going inside and find plenty of great photography angles as well.
7. Toss a (Small) Coin Into the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous and spectacular attractions in Rome, and it is completely free to visit. This magnificent structure is the biggest Baroque fountain in the city, and it is 85 ft tall and 160 ft wide.
A popular tradition is to toss a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder. According to a legend, this will ensure your return to the Eternal City. Pretty much every tourist who visits the fountain follows this tradition, as is shown by the thousands of coins in the water.
8. Marvel at the Ancient Pantheon (For Free!)
The Pantheon is another unmissable Roman attraction, and it is also completely free to visit (unless you’re visiting on a weekend, which would require a paid pre-booked admission). Between Monday and Friday, you can simply walk into this ancient temple to see its stunning interior.
The highlight of the Pantheon is its dome, which has a hole in the middle of it. In fact, if you stand inside the Pantheon, underneath the center of its dome, you can see the sky! There are also several notable tombs inside the Pantheon, as it was the burial place for many important Italian figures, such as artist Raphael and Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy.
9. Snap a Photo in Front of Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is a picturesque fortress near the Vatican. A regular entrance ticket costs €15, but you absolutely don’t need to enter this castle to appreciate its beauty. Right in front of this structure is a big bridge lined with stunning statues. You can get a great full-frontal view of the castle from there, and it’s an amazing photography spot as well.
Afterward, take the stairs from the bridge that lead you down to River Tiber’s banks. This riverbank is a great place to go for a scenic stroll and offers even more incredible views of Castel Sant’Angelo and its surroundings.
10. Enjoy a Cheap Picnic at Villa Borghese
A visit to Rome typically involves a lot of walking, but thankfully, there’s a huge green park in the middle of the city center, not far from the main attractions. This park is Villa Borghese, and it’s an amazing place to enjoy an affordable picnic. Head to a nearby grocery store to pick up some snacks and find a spot in the park to sit down and indulge.
This park is also a great place to go for a stroll. Stop by Terrazza del Pincio at the southern end of the park, where you can admire a stunning view of Rome’s rooftops and Piazza del Popolo.
11. Walk Up the Stunning (And Free) Spanish Steps
No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the famous Spanish Steps, and the great thing is that they are completely free to see and climb up. Take a moment to admire the beauty of the church above the steps before walking up to it and soaking up the views along the way.
Once you get to the top, you’ll have Trinità dei Monti Church right in front of you. Step inside (for free) to admire the gorgeous frescoes on its walls and ceilings!
12. Get Free Entertainment at Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome, and it is of course free to access. Not only is it full of impressive fountains, statues, and monuments, it’s also where many street performers and artists conglomerate.
Here, you can watch clowns and other live performers entertain audiences. You can also join the crowd in watching artists do fun caricatures and portraits of their clients in real-time. Many artists would also lay down a blank canvas on the ground and start creating a picture of Rome from scratch, which is very fascinating to watch.
Free (or cheap if you wish to leave a tip) entertainment abound in Piazza Navona, so be sure to stop by this square in the middle of the day or evening, when there’s the most action!
13. Admire Architecture for Free at Piazza Venezia
Last but not least, there’s one more free attraction in Rome that is absolutely worth seeing. Piazza Venezia is home to the Vittoriano, an extravagant monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy. The beautiful white marbles and majestic design of this structure are simply jaw-dropping.
You can admire the Vittoriano for free in Piazza Venezia and snap as many photos as you want. You can also climb up to its scenic terrace for €7 should you choose, although your visit will be complete even without it.
Rome is one of the most expensive places to visit in southern Europe, but there are many small things you can do to save big money on your Roman Holiday.
With the travel tips above and some travel hacking, you can explore the history, architecture, and culture of this wonderful city.
Start planning your trip to Rome on a budget today.