Up and up you walk, legs burning, knees aching but when you get to the top, you forget yourself entirely as the full magnificence of Rome’s skyline sweeps over you. When in Rome, you can’t miss a visit to at least one of these viewpoints over the city. Any would qualify for a list of best Instagram worthy photos in Rome and whenever possible, I try to include these lookouts in my Rome tours. Go in the morning for that golden light or plan a Romantic twilight stroll as the lights come on. Some of these views require an entry ticket but most are completely free (I’ve specified costs at the beginning of each description). I’ve also indicated where you can get a drink with your view since what’s better than a refreshment for the eyes and for the palate? Let me know which are your favourites in the comments below! Coming soon: Best rooftop bars with a view in Rome.
1. Capitoline Hill
The Capitoline hill offers some of my all time favourite views over the Roman Forum and is also the location of the Capitoline Museums and Rome’s city all. If you’re face to face with the the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the square on top of the hill, head down the road behind him to the right for a view of the Roman Forum. In the forefront is the temple of Saturn, in the background the Colosseum.
Or, if you are face to face with Marcus Aurelius head to the road behind him to the left where you’ll find a road leading down to the Via dei Fori Imperiali and entrance to the Roman Forums. Half way down, you’ll be looking straight over the Arch of Septimius Severus, Roman Forum in the background. On the right of the picture below you can see Palatine Hill rising up in the distance.
And for one more angle (and a drink) head back to face Marcus Aurelius’s statue again and this time go to the right and through the big archway. You’ll reach this shelf of trees with the view below.
Or find the very unobtrusive door on your left that leads to a staircase and up to the Capitoline Museum bar. This is oddly set up with the bar and tables in the BACK and to get to the view you have to go to the terrace where they have no tables and don’t want you to take any drinks. No doubt a tax issue of some kind. It’s still lovely.
2. Top of the Vittoriano
Entry ticket: €7.
Also located on the capitoline hill. You can climb all over the Altar of the Fatherland (also known as the Vittoriano) in Piazza Venezia (there is even a bar tucked away on the side) but at a certain point you have to pay to take the elevator to the very very top and wow is it worth it for the 360 degree view over Rome.
You’ll get up close and personal with the massive bronze statues of winged victory on her chariot.
This sunset was perfect.
And then you’ll have a view back over the Roman Forum and Colosseum.
Over the front down the Via del Corso.
And over the Theater of Marcellus, Synagogue of Rome (on the right of the picture below), Tiber River and Trastevere.
3. Climb the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
Entry ticket: €8 to take the stairs. €10 to take the elevator… and then still walk many stairs.
Note: The ticket office is on the right side of St. Peter’s Basilica when you get all the way to the covered area right before going in. It’s free to enter the church but you have to buy a ticket to go to the top. This is not part of your Vatican museum ticket. If you’d like to include a visit to the dome on a Vatican tour with us, let us know and we can leave time to make sure you get up to the top either with your guide or on your own!
The top of St. Peter’s is the tallest point in Rome. On your way up you’ll be right on the inside of Michalngelo’s Dome.
Then you’ll come out on the top for a view back over St. Peter’s Square.
And back over the museums and Sistine Chapel.
And into the Vatican gardens.
And at the saints designed by Bernini.
And lastly the outside of the dome from half way up where… wait for it…there is a caffe/bar. You could have a capuccino or a beer on the top of St. Peter’s. Done.
4. Castel Sant’Angelo
Entry ticket: €15 for adults.
This museum is well worth the visit plus the view from the top is amazing. You’ll find this view at the top next to a little bar so you can pause your exploration of this incredible site, sip a spritz and take in THIS VIEW. You’re on top of the Mausoleum of emperor Hadrien turned Papal palace … Does it get better than that?
Here’s the view from the table by the bar through the battlements.
5. Pincio Overlook: Three perspectives
This view has been famous for a long time. People used to “promenade” up here back when promenading was a thing one did, checking out each other and this view over the Piazza del Popolo with St. Peter’s dome in the distance.
From the famous view point overlooking Piazza del Popolo, also head down the road to just beyond Casina Valadier for another amazing view, usually with less people.
Then keep going and you’ll find yourself at the top of the Spanish Steps.
6. From Palatine Hill over the Roman Forum
Entry ticket: €16 for basic the Roman Forum/Colosseum ticket bought on location.
Still looking into the Roman Forum like the view from the Capitoline Hill (number 1 above) but this time from the opposite side and higher, from the lookout on the top of Palatine Hill. To get here you have to pay for an entry ticket into the Forum but I hope you go in here anyway! This view is also a part of most Ancient Rome tours.
Here you’re looking over the Roman Forum toward the back of the Capitoline Hill and the Vittoriano.
Looking over the house of the Vestal Virgins and Temple to Romulus.
Looking at the three arches of the Basilica of Constantine and toward the Colosseum.
7. Aventine Hill: Over Circus Maximus, The Orange Garden & The Keyhole
This is one of my favourites and the photo doesn’t do it justice. You’re standing on one of the original seven hills of ancient Rome, the Aventino, looking into the vast valley that once was the largest stadium ever created. You’re looking at the ruins of the emperors palace built on Palatine Hill, where Rome was founded in 753bc. You can FEEL TIME. And it’s breathtaking. I’ll stop before I get even sappier.
Then head to the other side of the Hill to the famed Orange Garden, favourite for couples and often deemed one of Rome’s more romantic spots… that is until they started forbidding people from sitting on the grass which slightly ruins the whole picnic-and-make-out scheme of many a first date. There’s a cool perspective trick to try here also. From one end of the garden the dome of St. Peter’s in the distance looks large but the closer you get to it and the more the panorama of the city expands before you, the smaller and smaller it becomes.
Then the famous keyhole that allows you to look through the Knights of Malta garden for a teeny tiny, picture perfect view of St. Peter’s. This is a site that, if you find a long line of people and have to wait in the sun, you’ll probably feel disappointed. If you come at the right time (early in the morning, usually) and find almost nobody around then it’s magical.
8. Gianicolo Hill
The hill rising behind Trastevere is worth the hike (or the taxi) as you can visit Bramante’s exquisite Tempietto, explore the un-touristy Monteverde neighbourhood or go for a walk or run in the gigantic Villa Pamphilj park. For the view, start at the Fontanone for a view over the rooftops of Rome with one of the most beautiful fountains in the city that will give Trevi a run for its money.
I prefer the Fontanone view which feels closer to the skyline but you should also head up to the top of Gianicolo hill to reach the viewing point at noon so you can see the symbolic cannon being fired that supposedly the pope instated to keep everyone’s clocks in order so the noontime church bells would all ring at the same time (when you’ve got nearly a thousand churches on your hands, this is an issue.) On the other side is a view of St. Peter’s Basilica.
So, what do you think? Did you enjoy this look at Rome from on high? Let me know in the comments! To find out more about me (Lauren) and Unlock Italy, click here or to start planning your trip or sign up for one of our personalised, private guided tours, shoot me an email here. I hope to see you in Italy soon!