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Rome has one of the most iconic and visually stunning skylines in Europe. Built over seven hills, Rome has many viewpoints to enjoy, from intimate rooftop terraces, hilltops and, observation decks to green parks and the dizzy heights of church domes. If you’re searching for the best views of Rome, then read on and find out where to find them!

When you’re visiting Rome, checking out the top Rome attractions is a must, especially for the best views. Rome’s elegant skyline can really take your breath away, which is why I’ve rounded up some of the most impressive views in Rome that I have found during my 25 visits over the past 10 years. 

Believe it or not, some of the best views in Rome don’t involve spending a lot of money, or having to drink at pricey cocktail bars. In fact, many of them can be enjoyed for free! 

Best views of Rome

Cupola di San Pietro – The Dome at St Peters Basilica

My favourite view in Rome is from the magnificent dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. Designed by the great Michelangelo, the dome has a height of 136 meters and an internal diameter of 42 meters, making it one of the largest domes in the world. 

The view from the top is amazing and well worth climbing the 491 steps to reach the top. From there you look out over St.Peters Sqaure, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Tiber River and out over the rooftops of the historic centre. You can even see the Colosseum to the far right (if you are facing St.Peter’s Square).

When, where and how?

The best time to visit for no crowds is early morning around 7 am when the basilica opens, but the best photos are taken late afternoon, sunset and at night (during the winter) because the basilica faces east so the sun is directly in front of you in the morning and this isn’t great for photos. 

There are two parts to the dome. The first part can be reached either by stairs or by elevator. This takes you to the roof level where you can get up close to the dome’s mosaics inside, see the view of the basilica looking down and see the statues that line the square. 

The second level is only accessible by stairs. The narrow single-file staircase spirals slowly up with a rope to hold on to. I would only advise this part if you are fit and able and do not have fear of heights, small spaces or vertigo.

Unfortunately it is not possible to visit only the dome. You have to visit by going through the Vatican Museums or through the St. Peters Basilica. Unless you want to wait in line for 2 hours (during peak time), I highly suggest visiting early or purchasing skip the line tickets in advance. If you do not wish to join a tour, then tickets are available to buy on the spot for 8 EURO for stairs or 10 EURO for the elevator. Up to date opening times can be found here.

The Vittorio Emmanuel II National Monument, Piazza Venezia

In my opinion, the second best view of Rome for an overall panoramic look over the city is from the rooftop of the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. The hard to miss white marble monument on Piazza Venezia is an iconic landmark in Rome. Built as a tribute to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy after the country’s unification, this colossal building is worth visiting in its own right. 

Inside you’ll find the Museum of the Risorgimento; a museum dedicated to the unification of Italy. Its an interesting sight if you’re interested in the history of Italy, but the biggest reason most tourists head here is for the rooftop terrace and the panoramic view over Rome. 

When, where and how?

The best time to visit is again early in the morning when there are fewer crowds. The terrace is open daily from 9:30 am until 7:30 pm (last admission at 6:45 pm) but closed on 25th December and January 1st. Tickets cost 8 EURO per person which includes the terrace and the elevator ride up to the terrace. 

Giardino degli Aranci (The Gardens of Oranges)

Giardino degli Aranci, also known as The Garden of Oranges lies at the top of the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills on which ancient Rome was built. This popular hangout for lovers in Rome is one of the best spots from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of Rome. 

According to legend Saint Dominic gave the garden its first orange tree, after transporting a sapling from Spain. He was travelling to Rome to visit the Pop to seek approval of his newly founded Dominican order. It is said he planted the orange sapling in the garden during his visit. 

From this beautiful garden you have one of the best views of the Vatican which lies directly in front of the garden, across the Tiber River. The garden as you see it now was completed in 1932 and it features an inviting avenue which leads to the viewing platform. The other most interesting sight is the fountain at the Orange Garden’s entrance on Piazza Pietro D’Illira. Similar to the Mouth of Truth, the fountain was once a simple Roman thermal bathtub and the marble head was once in the Roman Forum but it was moved twice before ending up on the Aventine Hill to decorate the fountain.

When, where and how?

The garden is open from dawn till dusk which coincidentally are the best two times to visit the gardens for the best light if you’re looking to take a great photograph. Because the viewing platform faces Northwest, it is one of the best sunset views of Rome too. It is one of my most favourite spots to read my book or sit and enjoy sunset over Rome.

Otherwise, you can visit anytime during the day. The nearest metro station is the Circo Massimo and then you will have to walk the rest of the way. Alternatively you can take the tram #3 or #8 to Aventino/Albania and then walk or the bus 105, 51, 714, 87. The garden is free to visit.

Piazza of the Knights of Malta

The secret is out on this “view”, nicknamed the “Secret Keyhole of Rome”. Found just a little further down from the Garden of Oranges, the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (Piazza of the Knights of Malta) is home to a large green door which leads to the Villa del Priorato di Malta. On the other side of the door is a sovereign entity belonging to Malta under international law. When you look through the keyhole you’ll see a well-kept manicured garden with an avenue of hedges that leads the eye to a perfect view of the Dome of St Peters Basilica. It is the only place on earth where you can gaze across three countries, Malta, Italy and the Vatican City. 

Many people try to capture this view on camera which is a little tricky so I advise to shoot in manual mode. It is unclear whether the keyhole was aligned with St Peter’s dome on purpose, though the position of the door and the hedges seem to suggest it was.

When, where and how?

Because of the difficulty of the picture, the line of people to take the photo can get very long in the peak travel season, so I advise you visit either early morning or later in the afternoon. The nearest metro station is the Circo Massimo and then you will have to walk the rest of the way. Alternatively you can take the tram #3 or #8 to Aventino/Albania and then walk or the bus 105, 51, 714, 87. 

Castel Sant’Angelo

Just a short walk from the Vatican is the Castel Sant’Angelo, one of Rome’s top iconic sights. The imposing Mausoleum of Hadrian also known as Hadrian’s Tomb attracts many tourists, although only a handful ever pay to go inside. Most stand on the bridge in front taking selfies. It is a great shame to not visit inside this grand monument that holds over 2000 years of Rome’s history. 

Most tours and visits conclude at what I believe to be the best part of visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo, its rooftop. Here you can gaze up at the large statue of the angel before casting your eyes out on another top view of Rome. The panoramic view extends over the Bridge of Angels, the Tiber River and directly over to the historic centre of Rome. 

When, where and how?

You can visit Castel Sant’Angelo every day from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but note that the ticket office closes at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost €10 per person or you can also get free entrance as one of your included sights if you purchase the Roma Card. The easiest way to reach the Castel Sant’Angelo is on foot (a short walk from the Vatican or Piazza Navona). Alternatively, you can take the underground metro line A to Ottaviano-San Pietro and walk or by bus number 62, 23, 271, 982, 280, getting off at Piazza Pia stop. 

Terrazza del Pincio

If you’re searching for one of the best sunset views of Rome (if not in the world) then head directly to the Terrazza del Pincio located in the Villa Borghese Park. With a view over the Piazza del Popolo and the rooftops and domes of Rome, the view is incredible, especially at sunset. Two of the biggest sights you’ll see is the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument and the beautiful dome of the Basilica of St Peter in the Vatican City. 

Its worth spending time exploring the Villa Borghese park before heading to the terrace. It is one of the most under estimated sights of Rome, home to some wonderful man made lakes, statues and the Galleria Borghese which features a number of Bernini’s statues and sculptures. 

When, where and how?

The terrace can get pretty crowded at sunset, especially during the summer, so aim to get there early if you want a spot to take a decent photo. You can walk up the stairs from Piazza del Popolo (on the left if you are facing the terrace) or through the park. The nearest Metro station is Flaminio and from there a short walk. The terrace is free to visit, as is the park. 

 

Gianicolo – Janiculum hill

Located behind the bohemian district of Trastevere and just south of the Vatican, you’ll find the most famous Roman observation deck, The Gianicolo. The terrace on top of Gianicolo Hill offers some of the most diverse and far reaching views of Rome. It is also one of the best sunset views of Rome, so you can expect a number of people to visit during this time. 

If you happen to visit during the day, try to reach the hill before noon, because at midday three soldiers fire a cannon. The cannon has sounded every day for the past 165 years, a tradition that Pope Pio XI began in order to synchronise all the Roman churches bells to avoid any confusion on time. 

When, where and how?

You can visit Gianicolo anytime during the day but sunset is a very special time to experience one of the best views of Rome. You can walk up the hill from Trastevere, following the Passeggiata del Gianicolo which starts next to the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola. Alternatively, bus #115/870 goes to the top of Gianicolo Hill and it can be caught from the Gianicolo/Urbano Viii bus stop close to St Peter’s Square.

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