Among budget travelers, Europe has a feared reputation for being prohibitively expensive.
On my first visit to the continent – Rome, Italy – I was concerned about how the notoriously high prices would affect my “value travel” budget, and hoped it wouldn’t put a damper on my experience.
Wow, was I ever worried for NOTHING. After only a few hours in Rome, I was shocked by how cheap everything was! From the inexpensive (and delicious) food, to the vast expanse of iconic activities and tourist must-dos that don’t carry a charge, I was beyond pleasantly surprised.
At the end of a whirlwind, action-packed 4 days in Rome, I actually came in under my original budget! These are my top tips for my favorite free picks in Rome.
If all else fails, simply wandering along the beautiful cobblestoned streets in constant awe of the amazing history and architecture that surrounds you literally everywhere you turn is pretty awesome, too.
Surprisingly few tourists make the minor schlep up this hill, which is even more beautiful at sunset and highly recommended.
This starry-eyed spot is the perfect location to bring a date. It is also arguably the best and most dreamy place in already romantic Rome to pop the big question (though I’m admittedly biased).
Bonus points if you bring a bottle of wine (and remember the opener), along with some snacks. Then you’ll be all prepared to sit back, relax, and watch the beautiful, ancient city be lit aglow as the sun sinks below the horizon.
The Pantheon was first built as a Roman temple (sometime during the super ancient age of 119-128 AD) and was later appropriated and repurposed as a Catholic Church, the condition it exists in today.
You’ll obviously notice the large gaping hole in the ceiling, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder what happens if it rains. Look down, and you’ll see little holes throughout the flooring for the rain to escape. You’re welcome.
The beautiful main attraction of the plaza is of course the fountain designed by Bernini, but there’s a lot else going on here. Artists hawk their wares, moms push babies in carriages, and groups of teenagers just chill and hang out.
It’s a great place for people watching and perfect if you have some time to burn and want to relax, for free.
The 135 Spanish Steps climb a slope between Piazza di Spagna (in English: Spanish Square, as the Embassy to Spain is located there, for which the steps are named) at the bottom and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top.
Built almost 300 years ago, the steps are a popular cultural icon, as well as a convenient place to sit and watch the world go by.
Campo de Fiori Market
While souvenirs cost money (and take up space in your bag), visiting the market is totally free. Make sure you go in the morning, and any day but Sunday, otherwise you’ll be greeted by an empty square and a closed market.
While Campo de Fiori may be the most touristy market, it is also one of the oldest markets in Rome, as it has been continuously running since the mid 1800s!
You can browse and photograph to your heart’s content, and the vendors are quite welcoming and friendly. The vibrant colors and vast assortment of different pastas, knickknacks, fabrics, and clothing make for great photo opportunities.
While the fountain was under construction when I visited, it was still a beauty to behold. The legend states that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you’ll be blessed with good luck and return to Rome some day.
While the Vatican Museums aren’t normally free, they are on the last Sunday of the month from 9am-12:30 pm. If you’re in Rome on this day, you can take advantage of the offer and browse the amazing museum and check out the Sistine chapel – FOR FREE!
What are some of YOUR favorite (or free) things to do in Rome?