10 most beautiful churches in Rome

Rome is full of churches and choosing which ones to visit inside can be overwhelming, so here is a list of my favourites.

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

11 min read

10 most beautiful churches in Rome

The dome of St. Peter's Basilica, from the inside | ©Briana Tozour

Of the 900 or so churches you could visit in Rome, I've made a selection of my favourites, in descending order. I don't know if you can guess which one is in my top one, but maybe you haven't considered which ones you want to visit during the rest of your Rome travel itinerary and there's still time to change that. Without further ado, here's a list of the best churches in Rome.

1. The Pantheon

Leaving the Pantheon| ©Christopher Czermak
Leaving the Pantheon| ©Christopher Czermak

This building, built around 118 AD, was originally a temple dedicated to the ensemble of Roman gods. The coexistence of pagan customs and the religion inherited from Hellenistic culture with the growing Catholic cult led the early Christians in the 7th century to transform the Pantheon in Rome into the Basilica of Saint Mary and the Martyrs, also known as Santa Maria Rotonda.

The Pantheon is the best preserved building in Ancient Rome, and architecturally it is a marvel. The building was built with the idea of uniting the human being with the divinity and with the emperor, hence the proportions and structure of the Pantheon: a circular room that forms a perfect sphere with the dome, at the zenith of which an oculus opens to serve as the sun.

Many tours of the city of Rome pass through the Pantheon and then continue the itinerary to other major monuments of the city, an experience that I recommend if you want to get to know the Eternal City in depth.

Useful information

  • Admission: Admission to the Pantheon is free.
  • Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, from 8.30am to 7.30pm. Sundays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • How to get there: It is best to walk from Barberini metro stop (line A) or from Piazza Navona.

Book a guided tour of the Pantheon

2. Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Santa Maria in Aracoeli| ©Turismo Roma
Santa Maria in Aracoeli| ©Turismo Roma

This small basilica, which I discovered almost by chance on my last trip to Rome, is a jewel located at the top of the Capitoline Hill, at the top of a flight of steps next to Piazza del Campidoglio where the Capitoline Museums are located.

The church is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with three impressive naves lit by an endless row of chandeliers that cast dazzling coloured reflections throughout the interior.

On the altar is the most important piece of art in the church, a carving of the Infant Jesus which according to legend is carved from the wood of an olive tree from the Garden of Gethsemane, where, according to the New Testament, Jesus prayed for the last time before being crucified.

Useful information

  • Admission: Free admission.
  • Opening Hours: Open to the public from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm, every day of the week.
  • How to get there: The easiest way to getthere is on foot from Piazza Venezia or from the Campidoglio.

Book a tour of hidden Rome

3. Santa Maria dell'Anima

Inside Santa Maria dell'Anima| ©Rome Sightseeing
Inside Santa Maria dell'Anima| ©Rome Sightseeing

Santa Maria dell'Anima is a German parish church, founded as a place of welcome for pilgrims from the German-speaking country and whose interior will leave you speechless.

During the Napoleonic occupation of Rome in the 18th century, the Gothic Santa Maria dell'Anima was sacked and used as a stable, but the church still has some important works of art such as the funerary monument of Pope Hadrian VI, an altarpiece by Giulio Romano depicting the Holy Family and a Roman sarcophagus in the inner cloister.

A great excuse to visit it, too, is that it is located in one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. So I'm sure you'll definitely pass by it, probably on one of the guided tours, so go for it!

Some useful information

  • Admission: Free.
  • Opening hours: 9am-1pm and 2-5pm every day of the week except Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday mornings.
  • How to get there: The Zanardelli bus stop, served by bus lines 70, 81, 87, 492, 628, C3, N6, N7 and N25, is very close to the church. You can also walk from Piazza Navona, which is a stone's throw from Santa Maria dell'Anima.

Book the fountains and squares tour in Rome

4. Santa Maria in Trastevere

The Trastevere square with Santa Maria in Trastevere| ©Unsplash
The Trastevere square with Santa Maria in Trastevere| ©Unsplash

Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The church is featured in most guidebooks to Rome because of the impressive 12th and 13th century Byzantine mosaics that decorate the interior apse and the exterior façade. The images inside show six moments in the life of the Virgin Mary, and on the façade is an unusual scene of Mary on the throne with the baby Jesus and accompanied by ten women.

But for me, the really impressive thing is the history of this place: according to legend, in 38 BC, on the very site where this temple now stands, a spring of oil gushed from the earth and this was interpreted as an announcement of the coming of Christ. This spring was given the name Fons Olei, and is now the presbytery of this church which was the first official place of Christian worship in Rome.

The church is a popular meeting point for tours of the Trastevere district, a great way to get to know this neighbourhood and its charming corners in depth. Since the church closes late, my advice is to visit Trastevere at night or go for dinner at one of the restaurants in the neighbourhood. You will fall in love with this place at sunset.

Useful information

  • Admission: Entrance to Santa Maria in Trastevere is free.
  • Opening hours: Every day of the week, from 7.30am to 9pm.
  • How to get there: To get there directly, bus lines 23, 280 and 780 stop nearby. You can also walk from Campo de' Fiori or Palazzo Spada.

Book a guided tour of Trastevere

5. St. Peter's Basilica

Inside St. Peter's Basilica| ©Mathew Schwartz
Inside St. Peter's Basilica| ©Mathew Schwartz

The most important church of Christian worship worldwide, one of the architectural wonders of the West, and sometimes the only reason millions of tourists need to travel to Rome.

Of course, I couldn't end this list without mentioning St. Peter's Basilica, a must-see on any visit to Rome, even though it is technically located in Vatican City and not in the Eternal City. The main church of Christianity, designed by the celebrated artist Michelangelo and built over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle, houses tombs of Popes, a sacristy and a Treasury, which has been converted into a museum that you can visit.

On your visit, either on your own or on a guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica, be sure not to miss **Michelangelo'**s Pieta, located in the first chapel on the right as you enter the basilica, peruse the impressive Baldacchino above the high altar, look up and lose yourself in the dome and its beautiful frescoes, and marvel at the baroque art spectacle of the tomb of Alexander VII.

And while you're there, I can't recommend a visit to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums- you won't regret it!

Useful information

  • Admission: Admission to St. Peter's Basilica is free, but you can buy a skip-the-line ticket or book a tour to avoid waiting in line.
  • Opening hours: The Basilica is open from 1 October to 31 March from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and from 1 April to 30 September from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • How to get there: To get to St Peter's Basilica directly it is best to take metro line A to Ottaviano station. Tram 19 stops nearby at Piazza del Risorgimento and buses 40 and 64 (Termini stop) and bus 23 (Transpontina/Conciliazione stop) will drop you off a short walk from the basilica.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and Dome

6. St. Clement's Basilica

Facade Basilica San Clemente| ©Primeros Cristianos
Facade Basilica San Clemente| ©Primeros Cristianos

Besides being one of the most beautiful churches in Rome, the Basilica of San Clemente is also a witness of the beginnings of Christianity in Rome until the Middle Ages.

Entering this temple dedicated to Pope Clement I is not only exciting from a spiritual point of view, but also from an archaeological point of view, as you can take a fascinating journey back centuries down the stairs through the different levels on which the building stands.

Excavations carried out in the 19th century revealed the existence of a much older church which serves as the foundation of the present church and underneath it, an ancient mithraeum and some amazing structures from the 1st century which underlie the whole structure. You will literally be left in awe when you see it!

Some useful information

  • Admission: Admission to the Basilica is free, but visiting the excavations costs 10 euros, with free entry for children under 16.
  • Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 9.45am to 12.30pm in the mornings and from 3pm to 5.30pm in the afternoons. On Saturdays the morning opening hours remain the same (9:45 to 12:30) and the afternoon opening hours are from 15:00 to 17:45. On Sundays it is open non-stop from 12:00 to 17:30.
  • How to get there: It is located at Via Labicana, 95. By metro you can get there on line B, Coliseo station.

7. Church of Santa Maria della Concezione

Inside the Crypt of the Capuchins.| ©-JvL-
Inside the Crypt of the Capuchins.| ©-JvL-

Unlike other churches in Rome, the interior decoration of the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione is not so impressive and is characterised by its modest dimensions. However, it is a place much visited by tourists because of the peculiar crypt of the temple, the so-called Crypt of the Capuchins.

A surprising place whose small chapels are decorated with the bones of thousands of Capuchin friars who died between the 16th and 19th century to remind us of the ephemeral nature of human life and the immortality of souls.

Most visitors come to the church of Santa María de la Concepción only to see this chapel, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Gothic church of Sedlec in the Czech Republic.

Useful information

  • Admission: Admission to the church is free. A visit to the museum and crypt costs 6 euros.
  • Opening hours: Closed on Tuesdays. The rest of the days, including weekends, it is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • How to get there: It is located in Via Vittorio Veneto, 27 and can be reached by metro, line A, Barberini station.

Alex's Traveler Tip

The Crypt of the Capuchins in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione is a very impressive place. For this reason it may not be a suitable visit for the very sensitive.

8. Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Façade of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin| ©Stefano Costantini
Façade of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin| ©Stefano Costantini

Another of Rome's churches that should be on your tour of the city's temples is Santa Maria in Cosmedin, famous because it houses the Mouth of Truth and the glass reliquary containing the relics of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers.

Two powerful reasons to visit this 6th century AD Romanesque church, whether you are a religious person or not. Compared to other churches in the city, this temple has hardly any decoration, although it still conserves very interesting decorations such as the mosaics on the floor, the baldachin and the choir and the bishop's throne.

Useful information

  • Admission: free of charge.
  • Opening hours: open from Monday to Sunday from 9.30am to 6pm.
  • How to get there: located in Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18. You can reach it by underground, line B, Circo Massimo station.

9. Church of the Gesù

Visiting the Church of Gesù| ©Daniel Montes
Visiting the Church of Gesù| ©Daniel Montes

The Church of the Gesù is located in a very central area of Rome, close to Piazza Venezia and the Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II. You can take advantage of your visit to the "Vittoriano" viewpoint (one of the best views of Rome) to go to this church, the first of the Society of Jesus to be built in Rome, which at first perfectly embodied the values of the Council of Trent with which it was built.

However, its decoration was soon changed to a more sumptuous baroque style, the model of which soon spread to other parts of the world.

Some of the most striking parts of this church are its single nave plan and its façade (a revolution at the time) but especially the beautiful frescoes on the vault that leave you speechless as soon as you enter.

Useful information

  • Admission: The entrance to the Church of the Gesù or Church of Jesus is free of charge.
  • Opening hours: Every day from 7.00 am to 12.00 noon and in the afternoon from 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm.
  • How to get there: Located in Via degli Astalli, 16. It can be reached by metro, line B, station Colosseo.

10. Church of Santa Maria del Popolo

Outside the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo| ©Carlo Raso
Outside the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo| ©Carlo Raso

If you have the opportunity to stroll through Piazza del Popolo, one of the most popular squares in Rome, I recommend you visit the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, a very special church from a decorative point of view, as some of the most famous artists of the time, such as Caravaggio, Raphael, Pinturicchio and Bernini, worked on the chapels.

The church of Santa Maria del Popolo is therefore richly decorated and worth seeing. Not so much on the ceiling, as is the case with other Roman temples, but on the walls of the building.

In addition, as an anecdote, the origin of this church has a very striking history: the Romans thought that a tree had grown on the place where Nero was buried that was haunted because it attracted many crows.

To put an end to the rumours, Pope Paschal II ordered the tree to be uprooted and a Romanesque chapel to be built there, which eventually became the present church. Curious, isn't it?

Useful information

  • Admission: Free admission
  • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 7.15am to 12.30pm and from 4pm to 7pm. Friday and Saturday open non-stop from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm. Closed on Sundays.
  • How to get there: Located in Piazza del Popolo. Accessible by metro, line A, Famino station.

Tips for visiting a church in Rome

Walking around Rome| ©Javon Swaby
Walking around Rome| ©Javon Swaby

Churches in Rome are sacred places of Catholic worship, so they have a strict dress code that requires shoulders and knees to be covered regardless of gender. As summers in Rome are very hot, my advice is to wear a large scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders and knees or wear very light long trousers. You should also remove any hats and caps when entering.

Admission to the vast majority of Rome's churches is free. You will find many ways to leave a donation, although in no case are you put under any obligation to do so.

Especially in the case of St. Peter's Basilica, I advise you to buy a combined ticket for the basilica and the dome of St. Peter's or hire a guided tour, as it will save you from the tremendous queues that form at the entrance.