Best tours in Rome [2019] – Colosseum, Vatican, food tours and more

best tours in Rome

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Rome is one of the most incredible cities on earth and you barely scratch the surface exploring on your own.

Join a guided tour of Rome and you will discover the stories and beauty of the Eternal City with expert knowledge. They can even help you skip long lines at the major tourist attractions.

But here’s the thing, there are so many too choose from and it can be quite overwhelming. So we searched high and low for the best tours in Rome to build this list.

It includes both large and small group tours so you can choose the perfect tours for you based on your budget and preference. 

best rome tours

TOUR PRICE GUIDE for Rome and the Vatican [assumes entrance tickets are included] – €20 per person for a basic audioguide tour; €35 – €45 for a large group tour and €60+ for a small group tour depending on length of tour and sites visited. If you are interested in hiring a private guide expect to pay €90+ per hour for an experienced guide

We recommend specific tours we have done or those that have been tested by people we trust and are available to book on GetYourGuide or Viator [see our full review of GetYourGuide here].

Looking for a full day tour of Rome covering the Colosseum, Vatican and historic center? Use promo code – UntoldItaly – and save 5% on this popular full day Rome tour with our favorite tour company The Roman Guy – click here for tour details

Best tours of the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Colosseum tips

Sure you can buy tickets for the Colosseum and wander through on your own but there’s nothing quite like having the insider knowledge of a tour guide to bring this important monument to life.

They will tell you stories of gladiators, emperors, battles and looting. So much more fun than staring at some old rocks on your own. Plus, without a guide we could have walked right by the tomb of Julius Caesar!

Your Colosseum ticket includes access to the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.  This is a huge area full of  history and the important sites of Ancient Rome. A tour guide will help you navigate this incredible area and you’ll be amazed at how much we owe to this civilization that collapsed 2,000 years ago. 

The Colosseum is open from 08.30 until 16.30 (and as late as 19.15 from April to the end of August) every day except 25th December and 1st January.

Plan to spend around 2-3 hours or half a day exploring this area. Most tours are for at least 2 hours. 

best colosseum tour

Basic skip the line Colosseum tours

The most basic tour of the Colosseum is a skip the line tour with audio guide. This self paced tour allows you to hear narrated commentary on a handset for one hour and is great if you are travelling on a budget. You need to return the audio guide at a specified time.

Where to buy tour tickets

Note – you can only purchase tickets and this basic tour of the Colosseum 3-4 weeks before your visit

Group tour of the Colosseum and ancient Roman sites

Tour the Ancient Roman sites including the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill on this 3 hour skip the line tour.

This larger group tour (up to 30 people maximum) is extremely well rated and great for those who are on a tight budget but don’t want to miss learning about this fascinating part of Rome. You’ll be provided with headsets so you can hear the guide at all times >>click here for more details

best tour of rome

Recommended small group Colosseum tours

If visiting the Colosseum is a lifelong dream and you just want to soak up every second, there are extra options for experiencing additional parts of the arena available when you take a small group tour. Numbers are strictly limited for these locations so you need to book early.

The Roman Guy is well known for their creative and fun tours of the Colosseum Use promo code – UntoldItaly – and save 5% on their small group tours – >>click here for Colosseum tour details

Some of the options offered include:

  • Colosseum Arena tours – stand where the gladiators fought for glory
  • Underground Colosseum tours – recently restored and fascinating ‘backstage’ area of the arena
  • Belvedere or 5th level Colosseum tours – sweeping views of the city from the nosebleed section
  • Colosseum after dark – visit after the crowds have left and the arena is beautifully illuminated 

colosseum night tour

If you miss out on a tour with the Roman Guy then try these tours bookable on GetYourGuide and Viator

  • Colosseum arena tour: stand on the arena floor and later enjoy a tour of the ancient sites – >>more details
  • Colosseum restricted areas tour: access to the underground areas and arena so you can imagine exactly how a gladiator felt before entering the arena and meeting his fate – >>more information
  • Colosseum belvedere tour: VIP access to the highest levels + fast track entry – >>ticket info
  • Night tour of the Colosseum: an intimate small group tour of the Colosseum under moonlight – includes access to restricted areas – >>click here for details

Colosseum virtual reality tour

As self-confessed tech nerds, this virtual reality tour of the Colosseum is at the top of the list for our next visit.

Using state of the art technology, the Colosseum is recreated in all its former glory. You actually feel like you are in the arena watching gladiators fight lions. Contrasting the ruins with the recreated arena is a very special and unique experience.

There is a backstage glimpse at the preparations underneath the main arena and your guides help you to understand the history behind one of the world’s greatest marvels. >Click for more info and tickets

Pro tip – Make sure to book tours early – at least 2 months in advance for Summer, late Spring and early Fall/Autumn. In peak tourist times guided tours and attractions sell out fast.

Best tours of the Vatican Museums and St Peters

best vatican tours rome

The Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica are probably on your Rome bucket list and rightly so. You really must see the incredible works of Michelangelo and other great artists and one of the largest churches in the world with your own eyes. Many companies combine a visit to both places in their Vatican tours but you can also visit them separately.

In fact, if you are traveling with small children we recommend that you visit St Peters only and leave the museums for another visit as the museums are huge and involve a lot of walking and quiet time. 

Be warned though, these are some of the busiest tourist sights in the world. Queues for the Vatican attractions are legendary so choosing a skip the line Vatican Museums and/or Basilica tour is just common sense unless you like standing in lines all day. We do not!

For our pick of the best value combined Vatican group tours click here

Vatican Museums

private tours of rome

One of the largest collections of art and antiquities in the world, the 54 galleries of the Vatican Museum display over 20,000 works of art. Most famous of these are the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo depicting scenes from the Bible’s Book of Genesis. 

The Vatican Museums are open from Monday to Saturday 09.00 – 18.00 (final entry 16.00) and every last Sunday of the month (provided this does not coincide with Easter Sunday, 29 June Sts. Peter and Paul, 25 December Christmas Day, and 26 December Feast of St. Stephen) 09.00 – 14.00 pm (final entry 12.30). On Fridays between May and August the Museums are open late with limited tickets available.

Also consider your timing as the museums can be very crowded in the morning. If you are an art lover or want to avoid the crowds take advantage of Friday late openings in the summer months and special early access tours available year round. 

Make sure to dress appropriately for the Vatican as dress codes are strictly enforced. Both men and women are expected to cover their knees (ie no shorts) and shoulders. 

St Peter’s Basilica

best vatican tour rome

St Peter’s Basilica is a destination in its own right and apart from the interior of the Basilica you can also visit the Dome or Cupola for incredible views of the city (see above), the Treasury Museums and Grottoes. 

The Basilica is open every day from 07.00 to 19.00, April to September and from 07.00 to 18.00, October to March. On Wednesdays and Sundays many tours are limited due to the Papal Audiences. 

Expect to spend at least 3 hours in the Vatican Museums and at St Peters. 

The most exclusive tour of the Basilica is the Scavi tour of the excavations below St Peters. The Necropolis is on the site of the original burial ground of the church and is said to be the final resting place of St Peter. Only 250 people per day are allowed in this area. Bookings by appointment only – click here for details

Vatican Gardens

A stroll in the Vatican gardens is also included in some tours. The beautifully landscaped gardens are home to grottoes, statues and manicured lawns. Most visitors never make it to this part of the Vatican so it is a quiet area away from the crowds.

Basic skip the line Vatican Museum tours

vatican highlights tour

The most basic tour of the Vatican is a skip the line tour with audio guide.  This self paced tour allows you to hear narrated commentary on a handset and is great if you are travelling on a budget. 

Where to buy tour tickets

Basic skip the line St Peter’s Basilica tours

While entry to St Peter’s is free, you can pay a small charge to skip the line and tour with an audioguide

Group Vatican tour including the Vatican Museums and St Peters

vatican rome day tours

This highly recommended 3 hour tour of the Vatican not only lets you skip the line but you will learn about the intrigues and mysteries of popes past and present.  During the tour you visit St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums.

Expect tour group sizes of around 25 people and the use of headsets to hear the guide >>Click for more info and tickets

Recommended small group Vatican tours

For art lovers and those who want a more intimate experience of the Vatican, choose a small group tour and let your guide navigate you through the crowds or even avoid them entirely! You can choose from early morning access, Friday night time tours in summer and tours that include the main sights plus more.

Next time I visit I’ll definitely take advantage of the early morning access tours. Viewing the Sistine Chapel in relative solitude is a dream of mine. 

The Roman Guy is well known for their early morning and in depth tours of the Vatican Use promo code – UntoldItaly – and save 5% on their small group tours – >>click here for Vatican tour details

Some other small group options:

  • Vatican Museums, St Peters + catacombs – popular 3 hour tour of the major Vatican highlights plus catacombs and grottoes underneath the Basilica – click here for details
  • Early morning small group Vatican tour – top rated Vatican tour on Viator that gets you into the museums well before the crowds arrive – more information

Full day Rome tour

trevi fountain - must see in rome

If you have one day in Rome for sightseeing, you might consider doing a full day of touring with a guide. When choosing a ‘Rome in a day’ tour make sure it covers all the sights – Colosseum, Vatican, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.

Our favorite tour company The Roman Guy has a full day tour of Rome covering the Colosseum, Vatican and historic center. Use promo code – UntoldItaly – and save 5% on this popular tour  – click here for tour details

If you missed out on booking the Roman Guy tour then take a look at this full day tour of  Rome including the Colosseum and Vatican museums. Your guide will help you navigate the city and help you learn all about its ancient and imperial past with stops at Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain. >>Click for more info and tickets

Best Rome walking tours

pantheon rome walking tour

I always recommend first time visitors take a highlights walking tour of Rome – in particular its historic center. This way you can get a feel for the city, its ancient past and evolution over the centuries.

There are no shortage of “free” walking tours in Rome. However, free tours like these ones also tend to be in large groups and cater for the masses.

It’s important to remember also that they are only free if you don’t offer a tip at the end of your tour. And as this is what the guides rely on for their income – please tip! Around €10 per person is reasonable.

We recommend joining a small group walking tour to take in the city highlights like the Pantheon, Trevi fountain and Piazza Navona. This way you can ask lots of questions and hear the guide properly.

Rome walking tour suggestions

  • Best of Rome walking tour – a perfect introduction to Rome on this top rated 2.5 hour tour of the highlights including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona – more details
  • Piazzas of Rome at sunset – stroll from one romantic Roman piazza to the next at dusk. Don’t forget to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain! – click here for tour info 
  • Ancient monuments of Rome – discover the ancient Roman sites on this 3 hour tour of the city where history is around every corner – more information

Private tours take it one step further and will cater the tour to your interests and needs. Check out this link for an insight into costs for a private tour of Rome.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring water with you on your walking tour

READ:   10 reasons to hire a local tour guide and take a tour on your travels

Rome sightseeing tours

spanish steps rome bus tour

Bus sightseeing tours of Rome

Hop on, hop off tours are our pick for families with small children and those with mobility challenges.

Take a bus tour and you ride around the city’s major sites listening to a recorded guide of the city. You can hop off at stops along the way and rejoin the bus tour after visiting your favourite sites.

Our favourite Rome bus tour offers complimentary walking tours at the Vatican, Roman Forum and Spanish Steps. Tickets can be purchased for 24 or 48 hours and start when you join your first bus. >>Click here for tour times and prices [Note – this bus tour does not include tickets to attractions and landmarks]

Pro tip – Take a full circuit of the bus route in the late afternoon/evening of your first day to get your bearings

Golf cart tour of Rome

If you are unable to walk long distances you could try a golf cart tour of Rome. These private tours will take you quickly through the city so you can see the highlights and sights in comfort.

Golf cart tours are flexible and can be customized to your interests and needs. They’ll even take you to the top of some of Rome’s famous seven hills for sweeping views of the city that you would never reach on a walking tour – >>more information

Segway tours of Rome

The latest in fun tour options, a segway tour is a great way to see Rome. On a segway, you can dive down small streets and laneways away from the traffic.

Most tours last from 2-3 hours and cover the history of Rome and its ancient past. Plus, it’s almost like riding a Roman chariot! If you are young at heart or traveling with teenagers this tour is for you. >>Click here for ticket info and prices

 

Bike tours of Rome

Rome bike tour

Honestly, getting around Rome by bike is probably not the easiest thing to do. Crowds and traffic are a constant battle and you would need to be a confident rider to navigate all that plus the cobblestones.

But if you are determined to do a bike tour in Rome we suggest joining an electric bike tour of the Via Appia (Appian Way). This beautiful area just outside Rome is home to ancient ruins, catacombs and a stunning national park >>Click here for tour info and prices

We recommend booking tours through the Get Your Guide online portal – click here for a full review of Get Your Guide plus tips on how to use it to find the best tours in Rome.

Rome food tours

Rome food guide

Food tours and cooking classes are our favourite way to get to know a city. And after all, after all that culture and exploring you are bound to be hungry!

In Rome we had a blast exploring the neighbourhood of Trastevere and around the Campo de’Fiori market on a wonderful food tour with the Roman Guy. We even took our kids and it was such a fun family activity. You can click here to read more about our foodie adventures in Rome.

For more details on our food tour with The Roman Guy click here Don’t forget to use our promo code – UntoldItaly – you can save 5% on their small group tours

Avoid the tourist traps and discover  the food culture with these delicious experiences and food tours of Rome. Just remember to wear your stretchiest pants!

  • Rome food and wine tour – eat your way around the Eternal city with this essential tasting tour of Rome. Over 4 hours you’ll taste the iconic dishes of the city and try amazing local wines – >>click for tour details
  • Rome street food tour – after three hours of tasting and sipping the best bites and drops in the city you’ll know your suppli from your truffle tartine. This tour stops at 5 traditional eateries – >>tour information and prices

Rome tours with a difference

fiat 500 tour rome

Have you see Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck?

A vintage classic, it’s one of my favourite movies. Set in Rome in the 1950s, it features the stars taking in the sights on the back of a Vespa scooter.  It’s ridiculously romantic and cool and guess what?

You can ride a Vespa 125cc around Rome too! This vespa tour of Rome takes in all the major sights.

If you are not so sure about weaving in and out of Roman traffic (it can be a bit scary it’s true!), how about joining a convoy of Fiat 500s on a tour of the city? Having done a similar tour in a classic Citroen in Paris, we would love to do this one day too!

Rome night tours

trevi fountain rome night tour

Rome is so beautiful after dark. The city’s impressive monuments are lit up and people enjoy street performances and an evening stroll. It’s an experience not to be missed.

If you are not keen to wander on your own then why not join a night tour of Rome. Stroll from the Spanish Steps to Piazza Navona with stops along the way at the Trevi fountain which, as you can see, looks incredible at night.

For people who like to be a little spooked (I do not!) you can join an after hours tour of the catacombs and Capuchin monk bone crypt.

An unforgettable experience, that you can only have in Rome, is a tour and opera concert at the magnificent Throne Hall of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Held on Tuesdays, the concert features arias from Italian greats Puccini and Verdi.

Best tours  in Rome for families

Marble Zoo Rome4Kids

We took the kids on our last visit to Rome and had a brilliant time. This was mostly due to some excellent family tours we did of the Colosseum and hidden Rome.

If you haven’t tried taking your kids on a tour while on vacation, I highly recommend that you do. Not only did the kids have a lot of fun but we learnt a lot too. Plus, family tour guides usually know where the best gelato shops are!

Unfortunately some of the tours we went on are no longer available so here are some alternatives.

Rome family tours

  • Colosseum family tour for kids – if there is one place in Rome that can capture the imagination of the youngest of visitors it is the Colosseum. This tour includes treasure hunts and other interactive activities, plus 3D reconstructions of the buildings to bring them back to life – >>click here for details
  • Vatican for kids – I would never attempt the Vatican Museums with kids without a guide. This highly rated family tour of the Vatican will take your tribe through the galleries with ease. The guides are used to working with children of all ages to keep them entertained so you can relax and enjoy the experience too! – >>click for tour information

  • Family sunset tour – learn about the history of Rome with a side of pizza and gelato! I can’t think of a better way to capture your children’s imaginations can you? You will see the major sights of Rome’s historic center and have lots of fun along the way –>>tour information and prices
  • Gladiator school! – get dressed up and learn the skills of a gladiator in ancient Rome. This 2 hour lesson combines history, sports and lots of fun. It is suitable for kids aged 6 and over – >>more information

Best day tours from Rome

Rome has plenty to keep you occupied but if you are using the city as a base to see more of Italy, then here are our favourite guided day trips from Rome.

Tivoli – Roman ruins and Renaissance gardens

villa deste tivoli tour from rome

With the exception of Villa Borghese there are few parks and gardens in Rome. A day trip to Tivoli will have you out in the sunshine enjoying the ruins of emperor Hadrian’s villa – one of the biggest and most luxurious in Ancient Rome.

Explore the many baths and fountains of this former palace once considered a more important site than Rome itself.  At Tivoli you also visit Villa D’Este, a Renaissance masterpiece with ornamental fountains and magnificent gardens.

>>Click for more info and tickets

Wine tasting tour in Frascati

When in Rome, you must drink wine right? This wine tour takes you to the Frascati countryside near Rome where you learn about the centuries old tradition of wine making.

Gaze over the 200 acres of vines and learn the secrets of traditional wine making. After your tour explore the beautiful vineyard and of course, taste some wine! Snacks are included in this half day tour >>Click for more info

Umbrian hill towns tour – Assisi and Orvieto

assisi day trip from rome

While we love Rome and Italy’s other big cities, the hill towns will make you fall in love with Italy.

Visit Assisi and Orvieto on a day tour from Rome and you pass through rolling hills and olive groves before reaching these picture perfect medieval towns.

Explore the beautiful basilicas and enjoy incredible views as well as trying the local produce – olive oil, cheese and wine. This is Italy at its most charming in my opinion >>Click for more info

Guides to Rome and Italy

how to plan a trip to italy on your own

We adore Rome and really value the tours we have taken for teaching us about its incredible history and culture. Having visited as students many years ago, our experience this time was all the more richer for hearing the stories and background of the city from our Rome tour guides.

For more information on visiting Rome, take a look at our 5 day itinerary for the Eternal city. This itinerary covers all the major highlights and some special hidden gems. 

If you are planning a bigger trip to Italy, check out our guide to organizing your travels. It includes everything you need to know about travel in Italy – from flights and trains to hotels and culture – click here for guide

We would also love you to join our free Italy Travel Planning Facebook group where members help each other plan their trips with tips, suggestions and useful advice – click here to join now


Disclaimer – Untold Morsels assists our readers with carefully chosen product and services recommendations that help make travel easier and more fun. If you click through and make a purchase on many of these items we may earn a commission. All opinions are our own – please read our disclosure page for more information.

 

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