Rome is a city rightly famed for its beautiful vistas and viewpoints to gaze in wonder and to take incredible photographs, and witness astonishing sunsets and sunrises. These are the best places to gaze over the roofs and domes of Rome going back two thousand years.
Given that Rome was built on the “Seven Hills”, most of the following viewpoints are free and easy to get to by walking from the center of Rome, though do bear in mind that there’s almost always a short, steep hill walk involved.
Free viewpoints in Rome:
1. The Pincio Balcony (Terrazza del Pincio), Villa Borghese park
This is a classic baroque balcony that towers above Piazza del Popolo, and looks across the Tiber river straight onto the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica. To your left you can also gaze across the Baroque city and glimpse the dome of the Pantheon. Our free self-guided walk around the Baroque city starts here.
To get to it, you can walk from Flaminio station for about ten minutes up the steep side of the Villa Borghese hill, or from Piazza Fiume, turning left at the roundabout in the middle of Villa Borghese. Alternatively you can walk from the top of the Spanish Steps (Trinità dei Monti) along the side of the park, again about ten minutes’ walk.
2. The Garden of the Oranges (Giardino degli Aranci), Aventine Hill
Arguably the most beautiful view in all of Rome, this balcony – popular with wedding parties – reveals the entire sweep of Rome from north to south, and is on the hill between Circo Massimo and Testaccio.
While you’re there, it’s also worth going to Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta and lining up to view St Peter’s dome through the famous Aventine Keyhole (Buco della serratura). Visit this hill on our free self-guided walk around the ancient city.
To get to it you can approach the hill either from Circo Massimo Metro station, or from Piramide Metro. 15 minutes’ walk from either station.
3. The Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo)
Despite its Latin name, this isn’t one of the seven hills of Rome. This grand viewpoint looms above Trastevere. It’s the source of some of the most famous views of Rome, with the Alatare della Patria being the main focal point of the view. The hilltop is about half a mile long with some interesting sight of its own, such as the Fontanone and the Faro (lighthouse). The Botanical Gardens are also on the side of this hill.
To get to it, walk up the steep Via di Porta San Pancrazio from Trastevere; about 20 minutes.
4. Monte Mario
This hill is the site of the university of Rome’s astronomical observatory. It is a bit further out of the dead city center and provides a much broader vista of the city. Atop the hill is a terrace that overlooks northern Rome including the Olympic Stadium, and where there is a restaurant and a bar. A few hundred yards down the hill is another viewpoint from which you can also see St Peter’s Basilica.
This is not near any major transport hubs, so get here you could try the 495 bus to Via Trionfale and walking the rest of the way (10-15 minutes up a steep hill), but for this particular hill you may be better off taking a taxi.
6. Piazzale Socrate
A panoramic view around the “back” of the Vatican and St Peter’s, this viewpoint is about a 20-minute walk from Cipro metro station.
Paid viewpoints in Rome:
7. The Terrace of the Vittoriano (Altare della Patria)
The “wedding cake” that dominates the center of Rome has a terrace on top that is accessible by elevator. This is accessed on the side of the Capitoline Hill that faces the Forum. Often jokingly famed for being the best view of Rome “because it’s the only view from which you can’t see the wedding cake”.
8. Castel Sant’Angelo
This is the tomb of Hadrian, later turned into a medieval castle in a defensive position in front of the Vatican City. To visit this you must buy a ticket and ascend to the terrace of the Papal Apartments on top. The terrace provides stunning views across the city and to St Peter’s, and is particularly popular at sunset.
9. The Dome of St Peter’s Basilica
This requires you to book a visit to the Cupola of St Peter’s. There is an elevator to the base of the dome, but still more than a hundred steps to get to the top. The view of Rome from here is spectacular, but dominated by the beautiful symmetry of St Peter’s Square.
Finally, for a really unusual view of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, read about the optical illusion at Via Niccolò Piccolomini >