Walking Tours in Rome

Rome isn’t a big city, and walking is by far the best way to see it. Finding ancient remains nestled between shops, pieces of ancient statues decorating the sidewalk, and churches filled with mosaics and artistic masterpieces is part of the Rome experience that can only be enjoyed walking through the Eternal City.

Is Rome a Walkable City?

Rome wasn’t designed for cars, but it’s perfect for walking. From Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Campo dè Fiori, and the Jewish Ghetto are all less than 20 minutes away on foot, meaning you can see a lot in a day at a leisurely pace.

Summer in Rome can be hot, so be careful, especially in July and August when temperatures are often around 100°F/38°C. Rome has a lot of wide streets, open squares, and archaeological parks that offer little shade during the heat of the day.

Try to start early, stay inside during the hottest part of the day, and come out again in the evening when the city is cooling down like the locals do. 

Conclusion: Rome is a walkable city if you are used to walking and avoid walking when the sun is hot.

Is it Worth Doing Guided Walking Tours in Rome?

With more than 2000 years of emperors and popes to get your head around, not to mention the artists and aristocracy who have lived in Rome, taking a guided tour can help you make sense of what you are seeing and prevent information overload.

Tour operators also have access to exciting options that are not available to the general public, like the chance to be the first to enter the Sistine Chapel in the morning or visit the Vatican Museums after hours.

But you don’t need a guide for every place. Rome is beautiful even if you don’t know the history of what you are seeing, and some places, like the catacombs and the Domus Aurea, can only be visited with their guides, so the tour is included in the ticket price.

Conclusion: Guided tours can give you exclusive access to some locations and help you to focus on the most important details at the most popular sites, but there’s also a lot you can see on your own.

How do Guided Tours Compare to Self-Guided or Free Walking Tours?

If you want to keep costs low, many places in Rome are easy to visit on your own with a guidebook. Get a map and plan a themed route, for example:

Or create your own street food tour by picking the best places to try supplì, pizza al taglio, trappizzino, tiramisu, and gelato, passing beautiful monuments on the way.

Free walking tours are another option if you don’t want to break the bank. These kinds of tours will show you a small part of the city. They usually last a couple of hours at the beginning or end of the day and don’t include any entrance fees, and are tip-based at your discretion. 

Conclusion: If you’re on a budget, guided tours aren’t your only option. There are some excellent resources you can use to explore on your own and free tours that can offer an introduction to some of the monuments in the city center.

What Should I Look for to Find the Right Walking Tour for Me?

Do you want a group tour? A small group tour? A private tour? Consider your budget and the kind of experience you want to find the right tour.

Group Tours

While a group walking tour might cost you €50 per person, you could be with 30+ other people, with little chance of interacting with the guide, who is hooked up to a radio system. However, these tours can be great if you just want to hear a little information about a place, to know what’s important to look at and don’t feel like reading a guidebook.

Small Group Tours

Walking tours with fewer than 10 people in a group will cost more (think around €100 per person), but you can ask questions and talk to other people in the group. The guide will have some flexibility to adapt the tour to the ages and interests of the group, offering you a more personalized type of tour.

Private Tours

Private guides offer maximum flexibility and, for families traveling together, may not be the more expensive option. Some guides specialize in history, art history, or archaeology, and some offer tours for younger travelers. Private guides will arrange your tickets and transportation or start the tour at your hotel, so you don’t have to worry about meeting points.

Tips for Choosing a Walking Tour in Rome:

  • Check the list of places visited carefully and whether the tour includes entrance to a site or just an external view. 
  • The Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine are on a single ticket. If a tour includes the Colosseum and Forum, you won’t be able to go back in on your own to visit the Palatine without buying another ticket.

  • The basic Colosseum tickets do not include entrance to the underground. If seeing that is important to you, make sure you’re booking the right tour.

  • Most walking tours last about 3 hrs, and (group tours) won’t include stops. Walking is usually at a leisurely pace, but if you don’t think you’ll be able to stand for so long, consider a golf cart tour instead.

Conclusion: Take time to compare different tours and see what each one offers. Doublecheck if entrance to the sites you want to visit is included on the tour and in the price before booking.

Can You Walk Rome in a Day?

The historic center of Rome isn’t big, but there’s a lot to see. The Colosseum to the Vatican Museums would take you about an hour on foot and wouldn’t be the best use of your time. 

If you only have a day in Rome, I suggest choosing either the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums. A tour of either site will take about 3 hours. Then you can enjoy the rest of the day walking around the center where Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain are easy to walk between.

Conclusion: You can’t walk Rome in a day if you plan to visit the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum. Two days would be the minimum to do walking tours of both sites and to visit the most important monuments of the city center.

Are Night Walking Tours Worth Doing?

Rome is another kind of beautiful at night, with lights on many of the monuments, cooler temperatures, and no crowds. If you arrive in the afternoon and are ready to start exploring Rome, a night tour is a wonderful introduction to the Eternal City.

Most night tours will include the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and possibly Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s on the other side of the river. However, some focus on darker parts of Rome’s history, like stories of the Inquisition.

Conclusion: Rome is worth seeing at night, and some companies offer tours that include some of the city’s most famous monuments. This is also an easy self-guided option with GoogleMaps.

Tips for a Great Walking Tour Experience

  • Don’t book a walking tour if you can’t walk at a leisurely pace for 3 hours. Think about doing a bus or golf cart tour instead.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re visiting any ancient sites, it’s best to wear closed shoes.

  • If your tour includes any churches, remember to respect the dress code and cover your shoulders and knees. Carry a light scarf in your bag so you’re ready any time you pass an interesting-looking church. 

  • In the summer, bring sun cream, a sun hat or umbrella, and a water bottle with you. Rome has many water fountains where you can refill your bottle for free.

  • Avoid outdoor tours during the middle of the day in summer. Try and book tours at the beginning or end of the day when the weather is cooler.

  • In winter, bring an umbrella. Rome doesn’t have a lot of heavy rain, and tours will go ahead as long as the sites remain open.

  • Book tours in advance, especially if you want hard-to-get tickets, like Galleria Borghese or the Colosseum Underground, and make sure you understand the cancellation policy. 

  • Finally, always check what other travelers have said in online reviews to know what to expect before you book.