9 tips that will help you visit Rome on a budget

9 tips that will help you visit Rome on a budget

Europe is not the cheapest continent in the world to travel to. Furthermore, its capitals are often even more expensive! However, after visiting Rome several times, I think it’s certainly possible to visit Rome on a budget. These 9 tips will help you to have the best time, even when you have a low budget.

1. Accommodation doesn’t need to be expensive in Rome

First of all, you can save a lot of money when you pick the right accommodation. When you’re travelling to Rome on a budget, I recommend booking a hostel with Hostelworld.com. Affordable hostels in Rome with a good rating include The Yellow HostelHostel Alessandro Palace & Bar and Funny Palace Rome. Often, hostels are in or near the city centre. This allows you to save on public transport as well!

Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo

If you’re travelling with a group of 4 or more people, staying on a camping is another option. Last time I visited Rome, I stayed at Camping Village Roma. I’ve stayed at Camping Fabulous as well. These campings either have a ho(s)tel in addition to the camping or you can stay in a mobile home or tent of the camping. If you like being outdoors, staying on a camping is the perfect budget accommodation. Moreover, these campings have swimming pools where you can make use of. An added bonus during the summer period.

2. Getting around in Rome on a budget

Rome is a great city for walking. The metro system is not very extensive (also because the Roman remains underground make creating a new metro line a painstakingly slow process). Only recently the first metro stations on Metro Line C have been opened. Therefore, getting to A to B isn’t always easy by public transport.

Luckily, however, the centre of Rome is compact and you can easily get from A to B by walking. Moreover, sights like Piazza Navona and the Pantheon aren’t anywhere near a metro station and the fastest way to get there is often on foot.

If your accommodation is outside the city centre, you may save some money when you buy a 3-days public transport card (16.50 Euro) or a one-week public transport card (24.00 Euro) that allows for unlimited travel by public transport. However, if you’re staying in the centre of Rome, it’ll be cheaper to walk most distances and buy some single tickets. You can buy these tickets from newsagents, newspaper kiosks, vending machines located next to the main bus stops and in ATAC booths in metro stations.

3. Forget expensive museums, you can admire famous art in Rome for free

You don’t need to pay for the Vatican Museums, the Galleria Borghese and many other museums in Rome to visit art by famous artists. Rather, you just need to know which churches you need to visit to admire statues by Michelangelo or paintings by Caravaggio. Nearly all churches in Rome (including St. Peter’s Basilica!) are free of charge. The following table is a summary of various churches in Rome where you can admire art by famous Italian artists:

Bernini Caravaggio Michelangelo
Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in San Francesco a Ripa  Madonna di Loreto in Sant’Agostino Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria The Inspiration of Saint Matthew in San Luigi dei Francesi Christ Carrying the Cross in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Daniel and the Lion in Santa Maria del Popolo Conversion of Saint Paul  in Santa Maria del Popolo Architectural changes in Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
The architecture of the exterior and interior of St. Peter’s Basilica Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica
Madonna di Loreto in Sant'Agostino
Christ Carrying the Cross in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Madonna di Loreto
Christ Carrying the Cross

4. The best views over Roman ruins for free

In addition, you don’t need to pay to visit Roman ruins if you’re visiting Rome on a budget. If you know where to go, you can have some amazing views over the various archaeological sites that you can find in Rome. The most famous site is, of course, the Forum Romanum opposite the Colosseum. From the Capitoline Hill, the view over the Forum is stunning and free of charge. Head to the Via di San Pietro in Carcere for the best view. It’s a bit hidden away, so most tourists haven’t discovered this spot yet.

View over the Forum Romanum from the Capitoline Hill

Another great site with Roman ruins is on the Largo di Torre Argentina (also known as the Cat Sanctuary because of the many cats that have found shelter in these Roman ruins). On the site, you can find the remains of four temples dating to Republican Rome. They are all built between the 2nd and 4th centuries BC and are among the oldest in Rome. Moreover, this is the area in Rome where Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC. The site is not very large. Therefore, you can view all monuments from the sidewalk free of charge.

Largo di Torre Argentina
Largo di Torre Argentina, the area where Julius Caesar was murdered
Bonus: Do you love visiting Roman monuments? Head to the Pantheon. Nowadays a church, this building used to be a Roman temple and is free of charge.

5. Many museums are free on the first Sunday of the month

In several European cities, museums are free of charge on the first Sunday of each month. This is also the case in Rome. If you’re in Rome during the first Sunday of the month, you should definitely take advantage of that. This is the day that you can visit the Capitoline Museums or the Galleria Borghese for free! However, beware of the crowds. Especially in the busier months, Roman museums are very busy on this day.

Emperor Augustus Statue Rome
Bernini statue Galleria Borghese
Statue of Emperor Augustus in Museo Nazionale Romano
Bernini’s The Rape of Proserpina in Galleria Borghese

Therefore, you may want to opt to visit less popular museums on this day, such as the Museo Nazionale Romano or the Etruscan Museum.

6. Don’t pay for the Colosseum

I know this tip is highly controversial. However, after having visited the Colosseum 2 times now, I just don’t think the interior is worth your money. It’s true that the Colosseum is one of Rome’s most iconic sights and you should definitely visit the exterior of the Colosseum! But the interior doesn’t add much to this experience. In my opinion, the exterior is the most impressive part of the Colosseum. Moreover, it’s possible to walk around the amphitheatre.

Exterior of the Colosseum
The exterior of the Colosseum

7. Treat yourself for dinner, but skip dessert

What? Skipping dessert? What a stupid idea?!

Please, don’t click away! Of course, you can treat yourself to tiramisu once or twice. However, if you want to visit Rome on a budget, you can easily cut costs by only eating a main course at a restaurant. Afterwards, buy some Italian ice cream at one of Rome’s many gelaterias. Usually, getting gelato is cheaper than dessert at a restaurant. Unless you buy ice cream with 5 scoops of course…

Eating gelato in Trastevere
Santa Maria Trastevere

8. Travel during the winter months

Generally, travel in Europe is more expensive during the summer months. During the winter months, both flights and accommodation are cheaper, which is perfect if you’re planning to visit Rome on a budget. Luckily, Rome is a perfect winter destination. I visited Rome in December for a winter school 2 years ago. The temperatures were still fine, around 15 degrees Celsius. Moreover, it was (slightly) less busy than during the summer months.

Rome in December
Rome in December

It was the first time I saw the city in autumn colours! And it was already December. Snow is rare in Rome. However, when it does snow in Rome, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The downside to travelling off-peak is that you have fewer hours of daylight. However, most attractions such as the Roman Forum are illuminated at night.

9. 15 free things to do if you’re visiting Rome on a budget

As I’ve already mentioned above, most churches in Rome are free. However, there are many other free things to do in Rome. Here are 15 more free things do to in Rome on a budget:

  1. Watch people on the Piazza Navona
  2. Relax on the Spanish Steps
  3. Visit the market of the Campo de’ Fiori
  4. Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (okay, this one will cost you a coin)
  5. Discover Villa Borghese Park and climb the Pincio terrace
  6. Walk the Appian Way
  7. Wander around in Trastevere during the evening
  8. Receive the Pope’s blessing in St. Peter’s Square (every Wednesday)
  9. Visit the Piazza del Popolo
  10. Admire Michelangelo’s design on the Piazza del Campidoglio
  11. Place Your Hand in the Mouth of Truth on the Piazza Bocca della Verita 
  12. Visit Piazza della Pietra to discover another Roman temple
  13. Get the best view of St. Peter’s Basilica from Ponte Umberto I
  14. Go on a scavenger hunt to find all of Rome’s obelisks
  15. Climb the Gianicolo for stunning views over the city

Bocca della Verita

Bocca della Verita

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Rome on a budget
Rome on a budget

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