Rome is a fantastic city that is the dearest to me because I lived there for 2 years during my Master studies!
I am very happy you are going to Rome too! Be it your first or your 10th time visiting – I am sure you will find this post useful.
Now, this article is not about how wonderful the city is, we both know that already, don’t we? Rome is a popular destination and it can get REALLY crowded at times, trust me. And, because I really want you to visit Rome, I have collected all the available information about how to avoid the attraction lines below.
Some of my regular readers already know that I strongly dislike queues and I do everything possible to avoid them. I already have revealed many tricks for skipping lines in Paris and Barcelona and now it is time for the Eternal City!
Many people told me that they didn’t get a feel for the city, that it was too touristy, and this is too bad because, in my opinion, Rome is one of the most beautiful cities on Earth! But if you prepare in advance and you make sure to buy your Rome attraction tickets ahead of time, you will definitely come back home absolutely charmed by this city.
You do not want to spend precious vacation time waiting in the line under the hot sun, do you?
Here are the most popular attractions in Rome and my secret tips on skipping their lines:
1. Colosseum and Roman Forum
Even if it might seem crazy crowded, you should not miss this top attraction in all of Italy – the famous il Colosseo! It is definitely on top of my list of places to visit in Rome in a 3 days-short vacation!
The Colosseum averages around 11,000 visitors a day and this number goes muuuuuuuch higher during the busy season – to 30,000 people a day!
Don’t let the long line put you off, I have a couple of solutions for you for avoiding those lines:
Solution 1. Buy your ticket from the Roman Forum entrance
It is a bit confusing at first, so let me explain: when you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, regardless of what option you choose, you will automatically have the Roman Forum included as well. That is just how it works; it is basically one attraction.
The Roman Forum, in its tour, includes Palatine Hill and together they are the ancient ruins located right in front of the Colosseum. They definitely deserve at least a short visit!
As I said, the ticket for the Colosseum also gets you into the Forum and Palatine Hill, and vice versa.
So, what does it mean for us, smart travelers?
If you go to the Forum first and then to the Colosseum, you will wait in a much shorter line! 😉
Here is the map of the entrances to make it clear for you:
I recommend using the Foro Romano entrance (located at the end of Via Cavour, see the map above) as there is usually almost no one there. Once you finish with Foro Romano (the Roman Forum), go to the Entrance for the Colosseum and you will enter without in the line because you already have your ticket!
By the way, you can use your ticket the next day as well (it is valid for 48 hours) so no need to visit both attractions in one day if you feel tired.
PRICE: The ticket costs 12€ regardless of where you buy it.
Solution 2. Buy your tickets online on the official website
This is the official website, (yes, do not mind the strange web address; this is actually the official site). The price for the full ticket is 14€ (2€ higher than buying at the Colosseum because of a “reservation fee”. Get ready for these fees, they are apparently very normal in Rome). The price includes an audio guide too.
Print the pdf version and bring it to the ticket-holders-only booths just inside the Colosseum door and it will be transferred to a ticket right there.
If you (or your kids) are less than 18 years old, you will get in for free!
NOTE: You will still NOT skip the security line, but you will go directly to the reservation desk, where you will collect your ticket.
NOTE 2: I have heard that even if you buy tickets online, you might need to wait because the capacity of the place is 3,000 people and even if your ticket has a specific time, you might be asked to wait.
NOTE 3: As I said, the audio guide is included, but you might also try this amazing free audio guide here which in my opinion is more interesting.
PRICE: 14€ (12€ + 2€ online processing fee)
Solution 3. Get a guided skip the line tour
There are 2 different types of guided tours – group and private ones
1. GUIDED GROUP TOUR:
It is much more interesting to learn about something as ancient as the Colosseum with a knowledgeable guide, trust me! Having a live guide AND not having to worry about staying in line is the best option in my opinion.
Not only will you enter through a special group entrance, your security line wait will be cut down to almost 0.
There are so many Colosseum tours out there, so which tour to choose?
I recommend taking a small tour with access to restricted areas closed to the general public. Your tour guide will take you underground where the wild animals used to be kept and also all the way up to the 3rdlevel of Colosseum for an amazing view!
PRICE: around 49€ per person depending on the tour
NOTE: If you are searching for a good Vatican + Colosseum combined tour, COMBO – Colosseum AND Vatican Museum skip the line can be booked here (it is around 100€ per person depending on the date, which is actually a pretty good deal).
2. GUIDED PRIVATE TOUR:
If you would like to explore the Colosseum at your own pace with a knowledgeable guide, this exclusive private tour is for you.
Naturally, there is no waiting involved. You will be taken to all the secret spots usually unavailable to the public and there is no rush; the guide will be ready to answer all of your questions!
PRICE: from 74€ per person (It depends how many of you there are. If there are 2 of you, the tour will be 165€ per person, if you are a group of 4, it is 95 per person and so on. The bigger the group, the better!)
Solution 4. Get one of the Rome City Passes
Getting one of those Rome attraction passes might be a great solution for skipping lines to the Colosseum and numerous others important sights in Rome.
There are 4 tourist passes on the market right now, but only 3 of them actually save you money.
I have a detailed comparison with sample calculations for each of the passes here.
To save you time, here are the main ones below:
- Rome City Pass – you can get in without the line, get transportation from/to the airport and many other benefits; I explain all the advantages below. This pass is pretty cool because it is 100% mobile, so you do not need to pick it up from somewhere. The price of the pass is 67.50€ and it’s totally worth the money if you will use what it offers. Please see a sample calculation on how much you can save in this post.
- OMNIA Pass – if you are going to Vatican Museum as well, this pass will save you over 10€ per person and hours of waiting in lines.
- Roma Pass it can get you to the Colosseum, but the savings it would give you is just 1.50. I am not sure it is worth your time picking up the pass, to be honest.
PRICE: 29 to 113€ depending on the pass
Solution 5. VIP Colosseum at night tour with the Underground access
The tour starts at 9:30 pm and lasts for 2.5 hours. At this time of night, the Colosseum is virtually empty so you will have a rare experience as your guide leads you around telling you stories about Roman emperors and mighty gladiators!
NOTE: Only a handful of groups are allowed in at this time, so it is a much more personal experience. Sometimes the “pay more to see more” approach is really worth it!
I wish these tours existed when I lived in Rome as I am sure this is an unforgettable experience!
PRICE: 79€ per person. I think this is the best tour on the market at the moment, and you get to see the most popular attraction of Italy without the crowds!
BONUS: A secret spot to take great pictures in front of the Colosseum
Living in Rome for 2 years allowed me to discover some nice spots that are not so obvious for the first-time-comers. For example, do you know where to take a picture with this view?
Not many Rome tourists know about it, and meanwhile, it offers the best view of il Colosseo in my opinion!
Here is how to get there:
Go to the metro station called “Colosseo” (right in front of the Colosseum) -> there is an escalator on the left of the turnstiles (do not pass them) -> take the escalator -> the view is right in front of you and there is one more good point that is right behind you, on a pedestrian bridge.
You can also see the whole thing recorded on a video for your convenience. Just go to my Instagram page and check my “Highlights” section, there is one about Rome and there are many more tips on Rome including this one!
Oh, and don’t forget to follow me! 🙂
2. Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani display one of the richest collections of art in the world! You will see the Sistine Chapel decorated by Michelangelo, masterpieces by Raphael, the most important art works from the Renaissance period, a gallery of maps, paintings of Caravaggio and much more!
This place can’t be missed even if you are not that much into museums, trust me!
The museums are only a 5-minute walk from the St. Peter Basilica, the place we will talk about right after, as it also has long queues.
Vatican Museum is one of the most popular museums in the world – it hosted over 6 million people just in 2017 alone! This is insane and that is why the line to enter can be as long as 4 hours so brace yourselves!
NOTE: The entry to some parts of the museum – Sistine Chapel included, is not allowed if you are wearing low cut or sleeveless clothing, shorts, miniskirts and hats. Please take a light scarf with you to cover yourself if it is too hot outside.
NOTE 2: The museums close at 6 pm, but please come before 4 pm, as this is the final allowed entry time. You will be required to leave at 5:30.
Usually the museum is closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of each month when the entrance is free for everyone (I highly do NOT recommend going then as it will be complete madness and you won’t be able to enjoy the museum). You can find the opening times here.
While it is really worth it to see the masterpieces in the museum, I doubt you want to spend that much time in the line and spoil your well-deserved vacation.
Here are some tricks to skip the line and a pro tip on how to see the Sistine Chapel without people:
Solution 1. Buy your ticket online on the official site
The ticket to the Vatican museum is 17€ if you buy it at the museum. But I am sure you don’t want to wait in the line for 2-3 hours, so this is not even mentioned as a solution in this post.
You can buy your tickets online with a booking fee of 4€ per ticket, so, it will be 21 instead of 17. This reservation fee holds true for all the other options of skipping the line I am going to mention – it is always 4€ per person more expensive than buying at the gate, no way to escape it.
Is it worth it? I would say so, because you save your precious time (which is at least a couple of hours in the line under the hot sun).
You can buy your ticket directly from the official site. If you don’t see tickets for your desired dates on the official website (very likely if you book last minute), try GetYourGuide. This company helped me so many times to get tickets last minute! No idea how they do it! The price is even a bit lower than the official site in case you take the audio guide (and you should!).
You do not need to print the ticket this time, you can just show the electronic voucher, they will scan it directly from your smartphone.
PRO TIP: a good time to go would be early morning on Wednesday as many people will be at the Basilica for Pope’s audience and they will start flocking into the museum only after 11 a.m.
PRICE: 21€ (17 + 4 online booking fee per person) + optional audio guide 7€ (they also have a special audio guide for kids for 5€!). The price is 8€ for students up to 25 years old (you will need to present a valid student ID at the entrance).
As usual, if there are no tickets on the official site left for your dates, try here, for a couple of extra euros you will probably be able to buy your tickets!
NOTE 2: If you are visiting the Vatican museum with kids, there are baby changing stations and elevators to move your stroller between the floors.
Solution 2. Get a guided tour of the Vatican
Musei Vaticani is one of those museums that is worth visiting with a knowledgeable guide and tour groups get to go directly to the entrance and cut the line, so it is a win-win for you!
Here are some great choices I have selected for you for both guided and private tours:
1. GUIDED GROUP TOUR:
A guided group tour is 33€ for the 2 hour tour on the official site.
Attention! No one can bypass the security line (don’t trust the companies that tell you otherwise) so you might still need to wait for some time.
Groups can also use a special separate entrance to enter the Saint Peter Basilica right after the Sistine Chapel without the line if you get a combo Vatican + Basilica tours. Individuals are not allowed to do it, they will have to stay in the line all over again.
Price: 33€ for the guided tour, 50€ for a small guided tour and skip-the-line access to St. Peter’s Basilica
2. GUIDED PRIVATE TOUR:
Getting a private tour is a more exclusive albeit more expensive option. Here is a classic private tour of the Vatican that will show you all the highlights in 3 hours, get you to some closed-access zones and, of course, get you to Saint Peter’s Cathedral without the queue as well.
PRICE: around 310€ depending on how many people you are
Solution 3. Get the OMNIA pass
This city pass allows you to skip the line to ALL these 3 tourist attractions in Rome:
- Peter’s Basilica,
- the Vatican Museums,
- and the Colosseum!
The price is 113€ and along with the skip-the-lines advantage, you will also get a discounted entrance to more than 30 attractions in Rome, get a hop-on/hop-off bus pass and unlimited transportation in the city! If this sounds like a good deal, you can book your card here.
The card must be picked up from the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi Office (right across the street from Vatican Museums). When you pick it up, you can select your desired dates for your skip-the-line tickets, you cannot do it before.
More information about all the available tourist passes in Rome and a sample calculation on how much you can save is here in this post.
Solution 4. A night tour of the Vatican museum
If you are visiting Rome from April to October, you can enjoy an amazing opportunity of visiting the museum after it is officially closed to the public! On top of that, you will be able to enjoy a concert inside the Vatican.
Also, you will get access to some areas normally closed to the public and, of course, see the Sistine Chapel without the crowds – all of this for the same price as the daytime tour.
Sounds interesting, huh? Here is how to get it:
ATTENTION: this tour is only available on Friday nights from April to October and should be booked in advance.
Time – from 7 to 11 pm, final entry is at 9:30 pm.
Here are 2 options to choose from when visiting the Vatican Museum at night:
Self-organized tour: Here is more information about which sections of the museum are open after hours (quite many and the Sistine Chapel is included).
Guided tour: If you would like to get a night guided tour (I ALWAYS recommend guided tours, especially in museums like this!), you can book it here.
PRICE: 59€ per person (at least 2 people are required to book)
Solution 5. An early entry to the Vatican
Are you more of an early bird? No problem, I have a great choice for you too!
How about getting in the museum an hour before it is officially open? Visit the Sistine Chapel before the crowds arrive and enjoy skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums, Raphael Rooms and St. Peter’s Basilica without the crowds!
By the way, an early entry also gives access to some rooms that are usually closed to the public. The guided tour lasts for 4 hours and I think it is just right to enjoy the museums’ many masterpieces.
PRICE: around 50€ depending on the season and running promotions
BONUS: How to see the Sistine Chapel without people?
Now, do you want to know one more life hack? How about seeing the magnificent Sistine Chapel without other people around?
It is easy (and free):
Get the earliest ticket possible and go straight to the exit right away. Sounds strange, I know, but the Sistine Chapel is located at the end (see the official map here). You and a couple of more smart travelers like you will be able to have the place all to yourself! And after that, you can come back to the beginning and see everything else at your own pace.
Another way to do it would be to take a private after-hours tour to see the Sistine Chapel (see above).
As a bonus, here is a free audio guide for you explaining the masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel – enjoy it!
3. St. Peter’s Basilica
First things first – I know that many people confuse the Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
Even if they are located 5 minutes walking from each other, there are not the same things and they have different entrances!
The entrance to St. Peter Basilica is free of charge and the only way to get there without crowds is to go early or through skip-the-line tour that gets you into a reserved security check line with no people.
PRO TIP: Do not forget to cover your shoulders and knees (you can take a light scarf for this purpose with you if it is too hot outside)! You will not be let in by the guards if you are not dressed modestly! But you will only figure that out AFTER you stay in the long line when you are at the entrance. There are some scarf sellers near the entrance for tourists, but they are HEAVILY overpriced, (~8€ for a scarf), so be sure to take something with you!
Here are the best ways to jump the lines to the famous Basilica:
Solution 1. Get there as early as possible (7 a.m.)
Here are the opening hours of the Basilica, as you can see it is open as early as 7 a.m.
We all know that tourists on vacation usually do not wake up that early, so, chances are, there will be no line or a very short one.
If you arrive about 20 minutes before the opening, your wait time is likely to be about 20 minutes. You will see the queue 4-5 times longer when you leave the Basilica.
BONUS: download a free audio guide that covers St. Peter’s square and the masterpieces inside the Basilica here.
PRO TIP: If you do not have your heart set on meeting the Pope, I recommend avoiding the Basilica on Wednesdays and Sundays as these are the dates of the Papal appearance and you should expect large crowds. This does not affect people who hold a skip-the-line ticket of course (see solutions below).
Solution 2. Skip-the-line access with the audio guide
If you absolutely can’t make it early, there are more options, do not worry!
There is a way to get an audio-guide that will let you skip the whole line. Even if the price for the audio-guide is higher than normal, you basically pay for skipping the lines.
Or this one for 19.5€ with GetYourGuide
NOTE: Bring your own headphones please, otherwise they are available for purchase there for an extra 1€. Also, do not forget your ID; you will need it as a deposit for the audio guide.
To be honest with you, this tour does not give you much, only the priority access. The entrance to the Basilica is free anyway and the Audio guide can be downloaded inside the basilica for free. Therefore, if you want to save many hours of standing in line, I would pay a bit extra and at least get a guided tour (see the next option below). This option is only good for those who want to check out the Basilica fast and do not want to wait in the line.
PRICE: 19.50€ + 3€ booking fee = 22.50€
Solution 3. Take a skip the line guided tour
Guided tours are entered through a shorter exclusive access line< this might be helpful for those who want to get to know more information about the Basilica and who are not willing to stand in line. The tour will take about an hour and is available in many languages so check the details and read the reviews here.
Solution 4. Book a combo tour of the Basilica and the Vatican Museum
As I mentioned above, there is an option to skip the line to BOTH the Vatican Museum and the Basilica. Here is the great group tour you have been searching for.
This, to be honest, might be the best option in my opinion, as I see no reason to overpay for the simple audio guide just because it gives you access to a reserved entrance.
If you want a private tour, here is it.
PRICE: 44€ for the group tour and from 310€ for the private one (please note that the price might vary depending on the dates and promotions)
BONUS: Free tour of the Basilica (requires waiting in line though)
There is a free guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica that is organized by The Pontifical North American College. The tours are given in English on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from February to May, beginning at 2:15 PM and there is no need to reserve it in advance, just show up at your desired time outside the Visitor Information Center. The tour is in English, free of charge and it lasts approximately 2 hours depending on the waiting time in the line.
You can read more information about the tour here.
4. Borghese Gallery
Galleria Borghese, located in the famous Villa Borghese park, might be my favorite museum in Rome, I have been there twice and I would go again! I sincerely hope you will pay a visit there!
Borghese Gallery hosts a unique collection of sculptures, paintings, bas-reliefs and mosaics mostly from the 15th to the 18th century.
Even if the museum looks quite simple from the outside, don’t let that fool you – it is posh and amazing on the inside! Moreover, it was specifically designed that way by the architect so that visitors of the museum (back then, a private collection of art by a powerful Borghese family) would get shocked by the beauty of the place inside, not outside.
Borghese Gallery is also pretty much the only place where you CAN’T get in unless you have a ticket purchased in advance!
It is done this way due to the big amounts of visitors and the small size of the building. The limitation of the number of people allows visitors to truly enjoy the museum. And, believe me, there are things to get mesmerized about!
NOTE: Each ticket gives you a 2-hour time slot in the museum and you are not allowed to stay longer because the admission is strictly limited to 360 people in the building at one time.
Here are a couple of solutions on how to avoid the madness of buying the tickets to Galleria Borghese and how not to miss this amazing place:
Solution 1. Buy the tickets WELL IN ADVANCE on the official site
Here is the official website of Borghese Gallery. You have to buy tickets before you go because you will not be allowed to enter if you do not have a pre-purchased ticket.
The price of the ticket is 20€ or 26,5 for a guided tour. If you are an EU citizen aged 18-25 you can enter for 9€ and the guided tour will cost 15,5€ for you. If you are less than 18 years old, you can enter for free but you will still have to pay the 2€ booking fee for reserving your spot online; the guided tour will be 6,5€ for you.
The audio guide cannot be reserved in advance and it will be an additional 6€, but since the guided tour would be just 0,5€ more expensive, I would go for it in that case.
NOTE: Buying tickets to this attraction needs planning of AT LEAST 2 weeks in advance as the tickets get sold out with the speed of sound!
When I tried to buy my tickets only a week in advance (late April), everything was absolutely full already!
UPDATE: I was told that sometimes it is possible to get last-minute tickets over the phone (if there are any cancellations that are not reflected on the website).
PRICE: 20€ (18 + 2 reservation fee) + 6€ optional audio guide. Or 26.5€ for a guided tour.
Solution 2: Buy a guided tour from GetYourGuide
As I missed the tickets from the official website, I then checked if anything was still available on GetYourGuide and I was in luck!
I have no idea how they still have tickets available when it is completely sold out on the official website. I guess they have their own pre-reserved spots?
I don’t care and in fact, I am actually quite happy things turned out this way because my guided tour was fantastic!
If you do not wish to take a guide, here is a skip-the-line normal ticket to Galleria Borghese, but I HIGHLY recommend taking a guide. As I said, I would not have been able to appreciate the masterpieces of Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael etc. as much as they deserve if I did not receive a proper explanation from a passionate knowledgeable guide.
PRICE: 26€ for a normal ticket and 30€ for a guided tour