Updated: October 2, 2017
Where Should I Stay in Rome?
At first sight, Rome can seem chaotic and confusing. But once you’ve found your feet, you’ll find it has a surprisingly compact center and you’ll be able to do much of your exploring on foot.
Most sights are concentrated in the area between Stazione Termini, the city’s main transport hub, in the east, and the Vatican in the west. The Vatican, technically an independent country, is one of Rome’s most awe-inspiring areas with two highlight sights: St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (in the Vatican Museums). To the south of the historic center, the Colosseum makes for a dramatic landmark, whilst away to the north, Villa Borghese is an extensive park, ideal for recharging your batteries. You’ll come across many monuments, including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain in the areas flanking Via del Corso, the nearest Rome has to a main drag.
Walking the city you’ll discover Rome is quite a hilly place. In fact, it encompasses nine hills. There are the seven on which the ancient city was built – the Palatine, Aventine, Capitoline, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal and Caelian – and two that have since been incorporated into the cityscape, the Janiculum and Pincian. A further geographic feature is the river Tiber, which bisects the center en route to the sea at Ostia. Although you can cover a lot of ground on foot, you’ll probably need public transport at some point. There’s a limited metro system with two lines that traverse the city in an X-shape, crossing at Termini, but for much of the center you’ll find buses more useful.
The Best Places to Stay in Rome
- Most Romantic Neighbourhood: Aventine
With a lofty hilltop location, memorable views and elegant Art Nouveau villas, the Aventine is a wonderful, romantic area. It’s a little off the main tourist path and doesn’t have many hotels, but that just adds to the sense of exclusivity. There aren’t many must-see sights but the Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) is a divine spot to catch the setting sun and the Villa del Priorato di Malta boasts a fabulous keyhole view of St Peter’s Basilica.
- Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: Ancient Rome
There are three main sightseeing areas: Ancient Rome, the historic center and the Vatican. Ancient Rome, centered on the Colosseum, is home to the city’s most celebrated ancient ruins. To the north, the historic center is littered with artistic treasures and headline sights such as the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Over the river, the Vatican is another prime spot with St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, home of the Sistine Chapel. All three areas have a decent choice of hotels.
- Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: Trastavere
Trastevere is one of Rome’s most lively districts. Its colourful lanes are awash with bars and cafes, and every night it buzzes with activity as crowds of locals and tourists pile in to enjoy the party vibe. Back over the river, the historic center sees plenty of after-hours action with everything from swish designer bars to relaxed neighbourhood cafes and piazza-side hangouts. For a more alternative scene, head to studenty San Lorenzo, or Pigneto, a trendy bar hub east of Termini station.
- Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Testaccio
Foodies are spoilt for choice in Rome with everything from family-run trattorias to boisterous pizzerias and Michelin-starred restaurants. For an authentic culinary experience head to Testaccio, the spiritual home of Rome’s traditional nose-to-tail cuisine. Here you’ll find some excellent, old-style trattorias to try. Rome is also famous for its Jewish cooking, which was originally developed by cooks confined to the city’s Ghetto. For a taste, try the restaurants on Via del Portico d’Ottavia.
- Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: San Giovanni
Just outside the center, San Giovanni offers a slice of authentic Rome. Its headline sight is the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano but the area is just as much about its shops, neighbourhood markets and popular eateries than its tourist sights. A short walk up from the Colosseum, Monti is a cool district with a boho village feel. It has become very trendy in recent years but still retains something of a local vibe.
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timer: Historic Center
The historic center is hard to beat for a first time visit to Rome. It’s one of the city’s most beautiful districts and is perfectly placed for just about everywhere. Amongst its historic lanes, you’ll discover all manner of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Trastevere is another district that makes a fabulous impression with its medieval streets, vibrant piazzas and buzzing atmosphere. It’s not the quietest part of town, but has some decent accommodation options.
- Safest Areas of Rome
Rome is a safe city and there are no real no-go areas in the city center. For a quiet, well-connected part of town, Prati is a good bet. It’s easy to get to by metro, convenient for the Vatican, and has loads of good hotels and eateries to choose from. Another quiet, central zone is the upmarket area around the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. This is Rome’s designer shopping district and is refreshingly quiet once the stores and boutiques have closed for the day.
- Unsafe Areas of Rome
The area around Termini station is often made out to be a dangerous part of town. And whilst you should be on your guard in streets such as Via Giolitti, the area does have some positives. There are some good budget accommodation options and a number of great basilicas and museums within easy striking distance. Food wise, there are also some excellent eateries hidden away.
The Best Neighborhoods in Rome for Tourists
Historic Center & Jewish Ghetto
To be right in the heart of the action, the historic center is the place to be. You’ll have top sights such as the Pantheon and Piazza Navona on your doorstep and countless cobbled lanes to explore. It is a touristy part of town but locals also enjoy it, dining in its many restaurants and trattorias, shopping in its fashionable boutiques, and drinking in its busy bars and cafes. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, mostly mid-range or above.
Vatican & Prati
On the left bank of the Tiber, the Vatican is home to some of Rome’s greatest sights. Throughout the day, crowds flock to St Peter’s Basilica and the vast Vatican Museums. Nearby, Prati has good shopping on and around Via Cola di Rienzo and a vast number of restaurants, trattorias and takeaways. It’s busy during the day but quietens at night, although you’ll still find pockets of life with some popular bars and Rome’s oldest jazz club.
Ancient Rome & Monti
Sightseeing is the main activity in Ancient Rome, the part of town centered on the Colosseum and ancient forums. There are several good accommodation options but decent eateries are thin on the ground. A short hop away, Monti is a favorite haunt of Rome’s boho set and exudes a laid-back village vibe with its hip boutiques, popular bars and excellent restaurants. The center of action is Piazza Madonna dei Monti, but there’s also plenty going on around Via Leonina and Via Urbana.
Tridente & Trevi Fountain
Upmarket, elegant and touristy, this area encompasses Rome’s top shopping strip, Via de’ Condotti, and several big-hitting sights such as the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Amidst the designer boutiques and flagship stores, you’ll find some historic cafes and several swank bars favoured by well-to-do Romans and visiting celebs. Busy by day, it’s a fairly quiet district at night. Not surprisingly, accommodation here tends to be top end.
Over the river from the historic center, Trastevere is a picturesque warren of medieval streets and vibrant piazzas. It harbors several interesting sights, including some wonderful art-clad churches and villas. Best of all, it boasts hundreds of bars and eateries, offering everything from Michelin-starred fine dining to authentic neighborhood pizzerias and grungy cafes. Great to explore by day, it bursts into life at night when tourists and locals keep it lively until the small hours.
Villa Borghese, Barberini, & the Quirinale
The main draw here is Villa Borghese, Rome’s Central Park. This green oasis is a great place to unwind and boasts several fabulous art museums. Snaking up to the park, Via Vittorio Veneto is a broad tree-lined avenue flanked by five-star hotels and swish pavement restaurants. Elsewhere, you’ll find several grand baroque palaces, including Palazzo del Quirinale, Italy’s presidential palace. Quiet at night, the neighborhood is well positioned for exploring the city whilst also offering some respite from the relentless crowds.
Termini & Around
You’ll find much of Rome’s budget accommodation in the area around Stazione Termini. This not the most attractive part of town, but nor is it as bad as it’s sometimes made out to be. There are some terrific museums and churches in the area, as well as several cool eateries and bars. Nightlife in the area is concentrated in two areas east of Termini: studenty San Lorenzo and Pigneto, a shabby-hip quarter full of bars and trendy restaurants.
A little off the tourist radar, Testaccio is a former working-class area on the rise. It has some interesting sights but is best known as a foodie hotspot, famous for its authentic trattorias and traditional Roman cuisine. It also has some popular clubs and discos, drawing a young weekend crowd. There aren’t many hotels but the nearby Aventine has some excellent romantic hideaways.