We believe some of the best things in life are free (or very cheap) when it comes to travel and experiencing a new destination. If you know where to look, what to book and a few budgeting tricks, being prepared with some key tips can afford you the chance to find free things to do in Rome, and soak up local culture at extremely affordable prices.
To most, the eternal city of Rome is synonymous with high fashion, artistic grandeur and lavish dining. But for every impossibly expensive Michelin star establishment, there’s an authentic eatery tucked beside it; and around the corner from every designer boutique is a backstreet market. Attractions in Rome are bursting with budget friendly treasures to uncover, and we’ve mined out a few for you.
Save your € with a Roma Pass
For €30, buy yourself a Roma Pass, a golden ticket to making the most out of your euros, and your time in Rome. Giving you free entry into the first two museums, or archaeological sites you visit, and a concession into all other attractions you go to afterwards, the Roma Pass also allows free use of the city’s public transport network.
Unfortunately, the pass doesn’t grant you free entry into the Vatican, but you can use it for the iconic Colosseum and the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Airport transfers can also be a drain on your trip savings: be sure to bag a cost-friendly Terravision shuttle ticket from either Ciampino or Fiumicino airport. At just €4, they will drop you at the main train station in Rome (Roma Termini – conveniently placed right beside our Rome hostel, or the other way around) but make sure to plan and book a while in advance to make sure you get a seat.
You can really cash in on public churches and art in this historically rich capital, so dodge the big events and exhibitions where the masses flock. You can avoid the crowds, roam Rome and find somewhere free and equally wonderful: head to San Pietro in Vincoli, which houses Michelangelo’s Moses; whilst Sant’Agostino contains Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto and Raphael’s fresco of the Prophet Isaiah. How much does it cost to stroll around these churches filled with relics of human genius? Absolutely nothing.
There is also an extensive list of mosaic clad, medieval churches offering a pretty jigsaw of Rome’s artistic past. Santa Maria in Trastevere is a feast for the eyes, and the Santa Cecilia is a mind-boggling traverse into history, with art dating back to the 9th century.
Roman feasting for frugal foodies
If you’re visiting Rome, chances are your trip is going to be centred on food, and why wouldn’t it be? Cucina Romana, or Roman cuisine, is the core of Rome’s social life and with wood-fired pizza and home-style trattoria food – a romantic concept focused on comfort eating at affordable prices – it could claim an important place in your heart, too. Try affordable delights Armando al Pantheon, or Cesare al Casaletto. For your perfect pizza Neapolitan style, check out Tonda.
There are many affordable wine bars around Rome, but visit Piazza del Fico, 26, 00186, which draws bohemians and locals for its shabby-chic interior and effortless cool. Oh, and the all-you-can-eat aperitivo buffet is free with a €5 glass of wine, or an €8 cocktail.
Bottled water is pricey (and bad for the environment), so make use of the abundant fresh spring water fountains all over the city.
Bargain shopping at backstreet markets
If you want high end without high price, Rome’s Via Sannio street market offers a wide selection from heaps of €1 clothes if you’re keen to rummage for hidden treasure, all the way through to fancy knits and vintage leather. Porto Portese flea market is another haven for bric-a-brac, food, antiques, with clothes second hand and brand new abound, and at affordable prices. As the largest market in Rome, there are endless stalls to help kill a few hours.
For high street fashion fused with small boutique wonders and bookstores, walk down Rome’s narrow Via del Corso, running from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo.
Find your home-from-home in Rome
As is the norm for a city centre, finding a spot to stay in Rome’s beating heart will make yours flutter with the extortionate price tags as well as the beauty. Right next to the Termini station, though, our hostel in Rome is an ideal base for exploration, with comfy sophistication from just €12.
Got any budget travel hacks to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below; or you could email us at firstname.lastname@example.org