9 Best Things to Do Near the Spanish Steps in Rome

Spanish Steps, Rome

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre 

During your wanderings in Rome, you'll probably stumble upon the Spanish Steps, or Scalinata di Spagna—one of the biggest tourist draws just north of Rome's centro storico. Constructed by the French in the 1720s as a gift to Rome, the regal open-air staircase links the Piazza di Spagna, named for the presence of the Spanish Embassy, to the Trinità dei Monti church, which dominates at the top of the steps. The Spanish Steps are wildly photogenic, especially in springtime when they are covered with pots of blooming azaleas. 

The one thing you have to do at the Spanish Steps is climb to the top. There are 138 stairs, but each step is shallow, and the climb is broken up by terraces where you can stop and catch your breath. Once you reach the top, linger and take in the view of the steps as they fan out below you, as well as the rooftops and narrow streets of Rome. If the church is open and mass is not being observed, you can go in and take a look around—it offers a nice, quiet respite from the crowds outside.

01 of 09

Throw a Coin in Trevi Fountain

Low-angle view of fountain with Roman sculptures

HANIF HAMZAH / Getty Images

Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 0608

There's a small fountain, dubbed Bottino, located just one block north of the Spanish Steps. But a grander fontana can be found in the Trevi district, about a 10-minute walk away. Trevi Fountain translates literally to “three-street fountain" because it sits at the intersection of three streets. It also sits at the terminus of one of Rome's earliest aquaducts.

The fountain features a stunning statue of Oceanus being pulled by a horse-drawn chariot. It's said that if you throw a coin into the water with your right hand over your left shoulder, you'll return to Rome someday.

02 of 09

Admire the Grand Villa Medici

Vila Medici rising above Rome skyline

Ansaharju / Getty Images

Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 67611

The Mannerist palace and architectural complex that is Villa Medici is a five-minute walk from the Spanish Steps. It's a French academy and museum with a 17-acre botanical garden of rare plants. You can go inside the grand edifice to see rotating art exhibits or stay outdoors and appreciate the fountains and characteristic umbrella pines, now a symbol of the property. The historical and artistic value of the villa have inspired countless French creatives who have lived in its quarters.

03 of 09

See Where Famous Poets Once Lived

Keats-Shelley House Rome

HarshLight / Flickr

Piazza di Spagna, 26, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 678 4235

Located at the bottom right of the Spanish Steps is the Keats-Shelley House, now a museum. It's dedicated to the English Romantic poets, several who lived in or frequented Rome in the early 19th century. John Keats died in this house in 1821 when he was just 25 years old. Today, his bedroom is preserved as it was at his death.

04 of 09

Walk Around Villa Borghese Park

Galleria Borghese in Rome. Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

00197 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital, Italy
Phone +39 06 0608

Once a playground of the Popes, this vast park contains walking trails, a zoo, a carousel, a small lake with boat rentals, cafes, pony rides, and even a tiny cinema. It's also home to two of Rome's greatest art museums, the Galleria Borghese and the National Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia. The former is a stellar collection of mostly Renaissance and Baroque art, while the latter contains thousands of artifacts from the pre-Roman Etruscan culture. You need a reservation to visit Galleria Borghese.

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05 of 09

Pay Your Respects at the Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt Museum in Rome

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Via Vittorio Veneto, 27, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 8880 3695

One of the most unusual sights in Rome, the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars contains the skulls and bones of nearly 4,000 Capuchin friars. They're artfully displayed—there are even chandeliers made of bones—but above all, this is a place of worship and reflection. If you're squeamish about death, it's not for you, nor is it suitable for young children. It's located about a 10-minute walk from the Spanish Steps.

06 of 09

Pop Up to Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Piazza del Popolo, Roma RM, Italy

The vast open space of Piazza del Popolo, one of the largest squares in Rome, offers a lot of breathing room after the dense crowds at the Spanish Steps. The obelisk in the middle of the piazza was looted from Egypt by Emperor Augustus in 10 C.E. On the north side of the piazza, the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo contains works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Bernini, and other Italian masters.

07 of 09

Do Some Luxury Shopping

Gucci store, via dei condotti rome

Carlo Raso / flickr

Largo Carlo Goldoni, 420, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 3345 0896

Many of Rome's most exclusive temples to high fashion are found on the streets surrounding the Spanish Steps, including Fendi, Bulgari (which paid for a recent renovation of the Spanish Steps), and Valentino, who all have their flagship stores nearby. Other iconic names in Italian fashion, such as Prada, Gucci, and Armani, are within sight of the steps or not far away, on Via dei Condotti, vias Borgongona and Frattini, and Via delle Carrozze.

08 of 09

Walk to the Mausoleum of Augustus

Mausoleum of Augustus Exterior

Alun Salt / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Piazza Augusto Imperatore, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 0608

Take a short walk—less than a mile—and visit the Mausoleum of Augustus, a large tomb built by Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 B.C.E. to honor his own reign. You'll find the tomb, where Augustus and his wife Livia are said to have been buried, at the western edge of the Campo Marzio, or Field of Mars. Originally there were obelisks that stood at the entrance and now those were moved to other Roman piazzas.

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09 of 09

Visit the Ara Pacis Augustae

Ara Pacis Augustae

Alun Salt / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lungotevere in Augusta, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone +39 06 0608

Also at the Campo Marzo, you'll find the Ara Pacis Augustae, an altar dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace. The monument was built to celebrate the return of Augustus in 13 B.C.E. from his campaigns in Spain and Gaul. It was originally built near the Tiber River but was flooded and had to be moved and reassembled in its present location the Museum of the Ara Pacis.

Practical Information

There is a Metro station, Spagna, at the base of the Spanish Steps, or it's about a 20-minute walk from Piazza Venezia. A taxi stand is available at Piazza Mignanelli, just south of Piazza di Spagna.

Though you will see people sitting on the Spanish Steps, prolonged lingering on the Steps, even to eat lunch, is prohibited.

Because of the dense crowds at the Spanish Steps, be wary of pickpockets. Keep your handbag closed and close to your body, and cameras and cellphones tucked safely away when not in use.

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9 Best Things to Do Near the Spanish Steps in Rome