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An Insider’s Guide to Philadelphia

Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love, “Philly,” the bird place of America, “the cradle of America.” Pennsylvania largest city is a place with many names, and now it’s a place that I hold dear to my heart.  As a New Yorker, I’ve heard great things about Philadelphia… especially in terms of its food culture, its history and its close proximity to Manhattan (thanks to the rail system). After just a few short days here on a whirlwind long weekend trip, I can honestly say I love Philadelphia. I’m excited to visit more regularly! Here are some of my absolute favorite finds in Philly!

Where to Stay

Fitler Club

When planning my rather spontaneous weekend trip to Philly, I found myself staying at the exclusive social club of dreams, Philly’s @fitlerclub. Each time you stay here earns visitors access to all of the privileges that the members have, such as 34,000 square feet of luxury co-working space, dining options curated by the geious Philly chef Marc Vetri, an incredible gym, and luxuriously stunning and sleek rooms. The Fitler Club also happens to be located right by the shimmering Schuykill River and a stone’s throw away from 30th Street station (Philly’s centrally located Amtrak train station). I loved waking up in the morning and having my breakfast right by the water. I can imagine this space is the perfect spot to grab a drink by the lounge or on their rooftop too! Such a stunning and easy location, if you ask me! Be aware there are only 14 rooms available, each of them adored with contemporary art and unique touches. It was the perfect place for a last minute getaway…  found on Hotel Tonight!

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Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

If you’re on the hunt for a hotel that’s both centrally located right near City Hall  that also houses some stellar views of the Philadelphia skyline… the Kimpton Hotel Palomar is a great choice. What I love most about this boutique hotel is its design sense! It’s stylish, Art Deco-inspired, but with a Philadelphia scene of humor and a twist (think busts of Benjamin Franklin). It’s no wonder it’s a favorite for travelers! The Kimpton also offers their guests bikes to explore the city, as well as complimentary yoga mats in each room… nice little touches that truly make a big impact!

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Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square

Decorated beautifully around the holidays, the Warwick has one of the most chic lobby’s in the city. I loved seeing it looking merry and bright right around Christmas time. If you’re looking to stay close to Philadelphia’s favorite little park, Rittenhouse Square – this is a great spot! The Warwick Hotel is also listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places as it was originally constructed in the 1920’s – so history buffs will adore its  commitment to maintaining its age and architectural details.

What to Do

Reading Terminal Market

This was honestly one of my favorite experiences in Philly! The market has endless food choices of some of the best of the best treats in Philly… but what captured my heart the most was how vintage and old school it is. You won’t find any hipster vendors trying to hard here. What you see is what you get (such a Philadelphia mentality – and I love that!)… and what you get in Reading Terminal market is the best, because many of them have been around for years and years. Established and Philadelphian-loved market vendors know what they’re doing here! Just spend an hour or two grazing amongst its stands! Trust me, you’re going to love this place.

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Broad Street

Head to Broad Street and capture the perfect shot of City Hall with this perfect frame of view. Philadelphia’s City Hall is an architecture lovers delight.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

I absolutely loved this unique experience of exploring Phlly’s Magic Garden! This large and expansive mosaic exhibit is so charming and interesting! It’s a outdoor labyrinth of some of the coolest mirror mosaic pieces that stretches three city blocks, as well as a museum and community art space with so many unique touches and picturesque spots. You’ll find splashes of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar all around Southern Philly too! I loved exploring the many quaint and quirky neighborhood blocks, especially Washington Square West.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia   An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

City Hall Tower & Observation Deck

The most popular observation deck in Philadelphia  is the One Liberty Observation Deck… but we decided to check out the observation deck inside the City Hall’s tower and found it to be stunningly beautiful and more of an authentic, less touristy experience. With a small space and 360 degree views all the way to Jersey, this desk is the perfect place to catch the sunset at golden hour.Bring your cameras for this one!

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Rittenhouse Square

Take a stroll around one of Philadelphia’s most beloved parks! The Rittenhouse Square area of the city is surrounded by old trees, historic architecture and… my favorite find, Anthropologie’s flagship store. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I explored the store decked out in holiday garb!

An Insider's Guide to PhiladelphiaAn Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

An Insider's Guide to PhiladelphiaAn Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

30th Street Station

Whether you arrive in Philly via train or not, a stop to the city’s gorgeous train station is worth it, in my opinion! I’ve never seen a more elegant look to a buzzing train stop. Soak it in and observe the hustle and bustle.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

Where to Eat

Suraya

These Lebanese eatery stole my heart with its refreshing and authentic dishes with a twist. It’s been voted Philadelphia’s Restaurant of the Year, and I can truly see why! It’s not only a restaurant serving up creators Nathalie Richan and Roland Kassis’s genius recipes (the restaurant is named after their grandmother), but also a market celebrating the best grab and go bites from around the world. I loved their restaurant’s menu! Each dish was classical and modern, as well as their cocktails – all named after the beautiful words of Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran!

The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar

This timelessly styled, stainless steel diner is so much more than meets the eye. You’ll find a brunch menu with trendy choices just as much as the classics, served up with some of the best martinis in town. It’s the perfect place to pop in for a drink in between exploring!

The Dandelion

I was enamored with this pub’s exteriors! Isn’t it just darling? There are so many European influences around Philadelphia… but this one took the cake. The Dandelion is a British-style pub located right in the heart of the Rittenhouse Square area.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

The Love

Owned by some of Philly’s most renown restauranteurs, The Love is a bilevel restaurant and bar with communal style country tables, serving up fresh wine, ciders and more. It’s got such an energy to it that I loved!

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

Parc

A taste of France right in Philly! Parc has one of the best views of the Rittenhouse’s park area, and it’s a great place to pop in for a warm bite or a toast of champagne. The menu is all so chic, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Paris’s Forgotten Era.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia

Kanditori

I loved this little coffee shop! Filled with Swedish influences, Kanditori feels like a local, neighborhood coffee spot with some of the best Scandi pastries too.

An Insider's Guide to Philadelphia


I fell in love with Philly after just a few short days, and I hope more travelers consider a trip into America’s birth place! Philly’s attitude, its historic sights and amazing culinary scene will have me coming back for more, I’m sure!

Stay sponsored by Hotel Tonight.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.

Advice Guides Insider Tips Outdoors

Five Beautiful Botanical Gardens Around the World

As an avid traveler, I love pounding the pavement in a city I’ve never visited before. Urban architecture and artwork never ceases to impress and inspire me. But there’s one non-negotiable must-do that’s always at the top of my trip list: botanical gardens. Below are a few of my all-time favorites any wanderlust should add to their itinerary.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Walking distance from Melbourne’s bustling central business district – known as the CBD to locals – lies 90 acres of open air space. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is filled with an array of lawns, lakes, pavilions, and paths. Several entrance gates lead to a vast range of collections from bamboo to ferns and palms to roses, with many rare species of trees and foliage. You don’t have to be a botany buff to appreciate the Australian Forest Walk or Water Conservation Garden, but the Garden does have an education team that offers programs for those who want to learn more. It may take multiple visits to soak in all that Melbourne’s garden has to offer; luckily it is completely free of entry. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria hosts wellness experiences, family activities,  art exhibitions, guided walks, and more throughout the year. Or you could simply bring a picnic and soak in your surroundings before hitting the nearby beach or city. 

Innsbruck University Botanical Garden, Innsbruck, Austria

Two hours outside of Salzburg is the small, charming town of Innsbruck. Tucked away in the Austrian alps, Innsbruck is a prime location for year-round sports like hiking, skiing and mountain biking. But plant lovers are also in luck: the University of Innsbruck happens to have a lush park with three gorgeous ‘gram-worthy greenhouses. Each steamy greenhouse houses orchids, ferns, cacti, and more tropical plants. The real stunner is the indoor pond flecked with giant lily pads, surrounded by luxurious palms. The greenhouses are open every Tuesday, Thursday, and first Sunday afternoon of the month and cost just two euros to enter. Wander the rest of the botanical garden for free and explore over thousands of plant species from around the world.

Malahide Castle and Gardens, Dublin, Ireland

A peaceful outdoor retreat can be found thirty minutes outside of Dublin’s city center. Malahide Castle is a popular tourist destination, and daily tours of the medieval home fill up fast. The grounds around the 800 year old castle are equally as impressive: 260 acres are filled with gardens, greenhouses, the Republic of Ireland’s only butterfly house, and a fairy trail that’s perfect for kids. You may run into brightly colored peacocks who call the gardens home, which was originally created to grow vegetables and herbs for the castle kitchen decades ago. The last owner of Malahide Castle was enthusiastic about exotic plants and rare flora, and transformed the kitchen gardens into the existing landscape. Explore a rose garden, Victorian Conservatory, a geometric greenhouse and much more. Malahide also screens movies and hosts concerts, yoga and more events when weather allows. P.S. – their onsite cafe and food market is insanely delicious as well. Tickets for the gardens, butterfly house and fairy trail are 7.50 euro for adults, and are included in the 14 euro guided castle tour ticket. 

Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri 

Not only one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States, the Missouri Botanical Garden was also awarded National Historic Landmark status. 79 acres of indoor and outdoor space with more than 20 individual gardens make up this serene space. Historical structures, including founder Henry Shaw’s townhouse built in 1849, make this botanical garden unique. Victorian era architecture – like a  stone cottage from the late 1800’s and a brick greenhouse constructed in 1882 – give a glimpse of the past, while newer builds like the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory are equally impressive. Multiple museums, a maze, koi fish pond and more round out the garden grounds. The Missouri Botanical Garden hosts events throughout the year, including the jaw-dropping nighttime Garden Glow with over one million lights; the only tradeoff being chilly temperatures. The garden is open daily with free admission for kids 12 and under, and $14 for adult visitors. 

Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado

It may be relatively small, but it’s substantial. Denver’s botanic garden on York Street, near downtown, is 24 acres of diverse plant life from around the world. Explore Gardens of the West, highlighting greenery that’s native to Colorado, and international gardens with foliage from China to South Africa and beyond. Colorful ornamental gardens with fan-favorite annual blooms, shady low-light gardens and water gardens with aquatic plants make up the rest of Denver’s collection. While Denver may be known for breweries and sports teams, the Mile High city makes outdoor space a priority with over 200 parks: the botanic garden being the most memorable. The York Street gardens are open all year with $12.50 entry fee for adults, with weekly events ranging from sunrise yoga to botanical illustration for an additional fee. There is a second Denver Botanic Gardens location at Chatfield Farms in nearby Littleton on working farm and native plant refuge. 

Advice Asia Guides Insider Tips

What Not To Miss In Singapore Your First Time

For me, Singapore is my home away from home.  The things I adore about Singapore are often the things that tourists miss out on when they visit.  As it turns out, Singapore is so much more than just shopping on Orchard Road. 

Follow this list of things you won’t want to miss your first time visiting Singapore and you’ll get to experience everything Singapore has to offer.

1. Eat at the Hawker Centres

You will find hawker centres all throughout Singapore.  These are essentially government-regulated food courts where the locals go to eat. Here you’ll experience some of the best and most authentic dishes in all of Singapore.  

We would highly recommend you eat most of your meals at hawker centres and do your best to try different dishes each time!  Some local favorites include char kway teow, laksa, wantan mee, and roti prata.

2. Shop on Orchard Road

When most people think about what to do in Singapore, the first thing that comes to mind is shopping…  and Orchard Road is the quintessential spot in Singapore to do it! You’ll get the opportunity to shop at countless high-end shopping malls (with air-conditioning thankfully) and every brand you can think of.  In fact, most big brands have numerous shops on Orchard Road.

If you are a big shopper, then Orchard Road is an absolute must.  Even if you aren’t, it’s still well worth taking a few hours out of your day.

3. Visit Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is a stunning feat of architecture found right in the heart of Singapore.  A handful of giant supertrees tower over the park. A sky bridge extends through the grove connecting two supertrees and allowing you to walk amongst the treetops.

Two massive conservatories contain two separate ecosystems – one filled with tropical plants and another packed with flowers.  It’s absolutely worth visiting and spending the S$28, but if you are limited on time consider skipping the Flower Dome.  

The Cloud Forest is by far the more impressive of the two structures, containing the second tallest indoor waterfall in the world (after the Jewel at Changi Airport, also in Singapore).

4. Shop & Eat at Chinatown

Make sure to visit and explore Chinatown.  It’s home to some of the best Chinese hawker stalls in Singapore, plus it’s a great opportunity to get some shopping done and find some souvenirs to take back home.

Make sure to check out Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  Making it here during a Chinese festival, such as the Chinese New Year, can be absolutely stunning.  The streets will be decorated with lanterns and you can expect the locals to be festive.

5. Explore Clarke Quay and Visit the Merlion

Clarke Quay is a great spot to explore for a few hours on a nice evening.  There are plenty of upscale eateries and bars here and a river with boat rides and bridges.

A short walk will offer spectacular views over the bay towards the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Singapore Flyer.  You also won’t want to miss a photo of the iconic Merlion which was relocated here in 2002.  

6. Stroll Through Macritchie Reservoir Park

The Macritchie Reservoir is Singapore’s oldest reservoir and is a giant park found in the middle of the island.  Consider hiking the Macritchie Nature Trail, where you will find eleven kilometers of trails, with a full loop taking around four hours. 

Along the way, expect to encounter some cheeky, long-tailed macaques (yes, monkeys) that want nothing more than the food in your bags.  Make sure not to feed them – and be especially careful not to corner them. They are cute to look at, but they can be aggressive.

You may also come across a treetop walkway suspended 25 meters above the ground.  It’s a great way to experience the park from the sky, but consider avoiding it if you’re afraid of heights.

Advice Guides Travel Planning

A Guide To Planning A Mother-Daughter Trip

Have you ever taken a mother-daughter trip? I’m not sure of your relationship with your mother… but for me, my mother is my favorite traveling companion. She has always encouraged me to travel and as a single immigrant mother, I am still in awe of how she put me through college and a study abroad program.

When I was in college, it was before we had smartphones, Airbnb and other travel apps. More than ten years ago, she planned my post study abroad trip to Italy from Switzerland. I had used the excuse that I was busy studying, which we all know isn’t entirely true but at the time, my exams seemed urgent and important. She booked the hotels, trains and flights. ​​​​​​​

It was only years later when I planned a mother-daughter trip that I realized exactly how much she had undertaken without the conveniences and ease of today’s technology. Since that first big trip to Europe we have traveled to Japan, Canada, Mexico, France, the UK, U.A.E. and Sri Lanka. 

I’m currently planning a trip with her again this fall to attend a friend’s wedding.​​​​​​​ Here are some of my biggest suggestions for planning an amazing mother-daughter trip!

Find what you have in common

It may not be what you think you have in common. Get to know her as a person. What does she enjoy? What are her pet peeves? Use this as a way to figure out where to stay and what to do while you’re in said location.

While you may be fine sleeping in a private hostel room, your mom probably desires much more comfort and cleanliness. I have always booked an Airbnb for us. I’m in my 30’s now so I’m not up for hostel hopping and my mom has probably never stayed in one, which is why booking an Airbnb is a wonderful option. You can brew your own coffee, make breakfast and have your privacy.

Book Transportation & Accommodations As Soon As Possible  

This will remove a great deal of stress on your part. With your friends you might be okay having booked the first night of your stay, but you want to make your mother-daughter trip as stress-free and fun as possible. Part of this is to get the two largest expenses and possibly challenging aspects of the trip out of the way. 

3. Do your homework

Will you need to know a foreign language? I have found that in my travels, English isn’t always as common as you think. Non-verbal communication makes up a large portion of overall communication. Being clear in your actions even if you don’t know the language will be helpful. Additionally, speaking louder doesn’t mean that you’ll be understood unless they are hard of hearing.

I am fortunate to be skilled at learning new languages and while my mother is bilingual, her languages she heavily relies on me to communicate our needs. My favorite language app (it’s free!) is Drops. I find it far superior to Duolingo as it starts you from the very basics and uses topics that make sense in day-to-day conversation. On the contrary, maybe your mother is the linguist in the family and she has the time to dedicate learning some phrases for your trip.

Will you need a visa beforehand or is there a visa on arrival that you can buy? How is the political climate? While I personally don’t check the U.S. travel alerts, it is likely that you’ll have a friend or family member that will be concerned about your travel destination. The destination I personally get the most questions about is Mexico. “Is is safe?”

Again, do your homework so you can avoid certain areas or situations. Use your gut instincts. As women, this instinct is quite intense, but it is always useful to hone that strength. For example, you might not want to walk around after a certain time at night. Whatever rules you follow at home, you should follow while you’re on vacation. 

What is the appropriate attire? Are there customs that you have to follow to remain respectful? Taking off your shoes, covering your shoulders or head, dressing conservatively as to not attract extra attention, asking to take someone’s picture etc… Religious sites tend to be where you will have to be most aware. You do not want to put you or your mother in an awkward or uncomfortable situation. 

Research Places To Eat, Things To Do, etc… 

My mother’s favorite part about traveling is to eat food that she doesn’t get to eat when she’s home. She also has a dietary preference. This is where knowing the local language will be essential. Does your mom have allergies, special requirements or preferences? You and/or her will need to be able to communicate this effectively. In my experience, some countries in Asia do not think that chicken is meat. If you’re vegetarian for example, this would limit what you can have, but if you can’t communicate this preference then you will have to adjust your mother-daughter trip itinerary accordingly.

Choose one or two places per day for the length of your stay. Don’t be too stringent with these choices as your local Airbnb host or someone you meet during your trip may recommend something that outweighs whatever you found on a blog/Yelp/Instagram post. Airbnbs not only offer privacy, but save you from having to go out and buy breakfast if you pick up a few things and make your tea/coffee in your room or apartment. In Sri Lanka, our hosts provided breakfast, but we had to make sure they knew my mother’s food preferences. 

As far as places to go and what to do. This is a trip for the both of you so while I don’t necessarily recommend separating from your mother, it might depend on where you’re going. Personally, I need some alone time no matter who I travel with. But that’s something you can do during the day like waking up before your mom or going to sleep later.. as long as you’re safe.  

You and your mom may like different activities. Maybe you love to lay on the beach and relax because your work week was stressful while she doesn’t like much sun. Find some middle-ground so that you can both enjoy your mother-daughter trip and each other.

Ask for recommendations from locals because it’s likely you’ll discover a hidden gem that might be something only locals know of. Then plug these activities into your itinerary while allowing for some flexibility. If you and your mom both love a detailed itinerary, then go ahead and do that, but it’ll reduce stress if you don’t have to worry about being at a certain museum at a certain time when your taxi driver doesn’t understand where you’re going for example or you’re caught in traffic.

Make A Packing List 

Not to draw too much of a blanket statement, but women really like to shop. Keeping this in mind, pack less. If you don’t live in the same city as your mom, talk about what you’re planning to bring based on the climate, season and local attire. If you happen to have the same shoe size or can wear the same tops then bring even less. That way you can alternate or share even if your fashion style isn’t the same. Unless the trip involves a fancy gala, you won’t need formal attire. Plan a list based on comfort and what you’re doing. Nothing ruins a mother-daughter trip quite like too much luggage!

You might not want to risk the time wasted or stress over lost luggage so you may only want a carry on. What is the drinking water like? I’ve loved having a filtering water bottle from REI to fill up at the Airbnb so I can save time, money and reduce waste. However, if you’re somewhere where the tap water might be unsafe then plan accordingly.

You and your mom will probably buy trinkets, gifts or hand-made items during your trip. Maybe she’s a collector of wooden bowls and wants to buy one. You’ll have to account for this before your trip. If you have a rendezvous before you fly somewhere together then pack together, combine, edit your things so that each of you is carrying an even amount. And for carry-ons, if you’re young, a backpack might work for you especially if you’ll be somewhere will a lot of cobble- stone streets, but that might not be practical for her. Carry things for her even if she’s a super fit, it’s just the right thing to do.

Leave Your Worries Behind

Depending on how long you two are traveling, things may come up in that time and you might have a disagreement or argument, but don’t go into the trip with emotional baggage and leave anything that happens on your trip behind you once you’re headed home. The trip may create a deeper bond and you don’t want to risk that by bringing up unpleasant things that happened on the trip or blame one another for anything. Unless an awkward situation could be funny, it isn’t worth bringing up displeasing things once you’re around other family members. Be advocates for one another, uplift each other as women and find that friend who also happens to be your mother.

Advice Europe Guides Insider Tips Trips

Everything You Should See In Rome On Your First Visit

From the windy lanes of Trastevere to the monumental beauty of the Trevi Fountain, there are just some things you can’t miss in the eternal city. Rome simply isn’t Rome without the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the majesty of the Colosseum. 

It’s not easy to come up with a list of everything you should see in Rome on your first visit. The city is bursting with awe-inspiring historical treasures. After studying art history there for a year and living there for several more, I’ve come up with a list of the absolute must-sees for your first time in the Italian capital.

For each of Rome’s amazing famous sights, there’s an equal number of amazing secret spots!

Want to see some hidden corners of Rome on your visit, too? I’ve got you covered!

In the same way that Rome isn’t Rome without the Vatican or the Colosseum, she isn’t herself without carbonara and cacio e pepe, either! Want tips on where to get some of the best food in the city? I’ve got you covered, too!

Are you ready to discover everything you should see on your first visit to Rome? Andiamo!

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

Built over the course of 120 years by some of Italy’s most famous architects, including Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo, St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the world. You can visit the crypts underneath, the church itself, and climb the dome on top.

2. The Vatican Museums

People have been visiting the Vatican Museums since the 16th century, and rightly so. With 54 galleries (called sale in Italian) and thousands of works of art that span the centuries, it’s a true treasure trove for lovers of art and art history. The final sala that visitors pass through is undoubtedly the museum’s most famous: the Sistine Chapel.

Beat The Crowds At The Vatican

There are both early morning and after-hours tours of St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums! If you want a less crowded visit, go for one of these off-peak tours.

3. Trastevere

After visiting the Vatican, head over to Trastevere, which is on the same side of the Tiber river. Get lost in the narrow streets, take pictures of laundry drying in the sun, and just enjoy one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhoods. 

Trastevere Food Tip

Trastevere has some great pizza places. Seu Pizza Illuminati, Pizzeria ai Marmi, Dar Poeta, and Ivo a Trastevere are regarded as some of the city’s best pizzerie. Try one to get some of the good stuff!

4. The Colosseum and the Ancient City

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater that was constructed during the Roman empire. It was commissioned by the emperor Vespasian and opened by his son, Titus, in 80 AD. Famous for gladiatorial matches and animal fights, the Colosseum is the symbol of the eternal city.

A ticket to the Colosseum gets you into the adjacent Palatine Hill. Legend has it that Romulus and Remus, the founders Rome, were raised by a wolf in a cave there, which is the most central of the city’s seven hills. It later became an area inhabited by Rome’s elite, including some of the emperors. You can visit the ruins of many of the remaining structures today, along with the small museum there, and get great views of the Roman forum as well as the Circus Maximus.

The Roman forum was once the hub of the city’s public life, containing a host of temples, basilicas, and other public structures. Visit the forum and then walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali, where you’ll be able to see the fora and markets constructed by different emperors.

Pro Tip For Visiting The Ancient City

Don’t do this part of Rome without a guide! Whether it be a person, a book, or a blog post, the ancient city can be confusing (and can sometimes seem meaningless) if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Secret Spot In The Ancient City

Ready for a break from the crowds? If you loved the ancient city and want more, head to the Celio hill behind the Colosseum, and visit Le Case Romane del Celio. Twenty rooms decorated with frescoes dating from between the second and fourth centuries unfold beneath the Basilica of Saints John and Paul and culminate in a small gallery displaying objects that were recovered during the excavation of the site. You’ll probably be one of a handful of visitors exploring this underground gem. If you love ancient Rome, don’t miss this secret spot!

5. The Jewish Ghetto 

Located in the city center, the Roman Jewish Ghetto was historically home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. You can visit the Jewish Museum of Rome in order to gain an understanding of the history of the area, and see the Synagogue, which is thought to be the largest in Italy. Other sights in the area include the Theater of Marcellus and the Bocca della Verità.

The Roman Jewish Ghetto also has some signature foods, like carciofi alla giudia (grilled artichokes) and pizza ebraica, which is actually a sweet!

6. Piazza Navona

Designed by famous Roman artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Piazza Navona is home to one of the city’s most spectacular fountains. Depicting the great rivers of the time, the four figures represent the Nile, the Ganges, the Rio de la Plata, and the Danube. The church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and the Palazzo Pamphilj (which is the current Brazilian embassy) are also both located in Piazza Navona.  

7. Campo de’ Fiori

Campo de’ Fiori was developed around 1456 by Pope Callixtus III. In the morning, the piazza comes alive thanks to its bustling market, and in the evening, it transforms into an evening hot-spot popular with tourists and foreign students. The central statue in the piazza depicts Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for heresy in 1600.

Secret Spot Near Campo de’ Fiori

Exit the piazza onto via del Pellegrino and turn left at Arco degli Acetari. You’ll end up in a tiny little courtyard that doesn’t have any major sights, but is a great little spot for taking pictures!

Where To Eat Bear Campo de’ Fiori

There are two excellent spots to get pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) in this area. One is in Campo de’ Fiori itself. In the left corner of the piazza, if you’re facing the same way as Giordano Bruno, there’s a sign that says FORNO, which means oven in Italian. Some say that they have the best pizza bianca in the city. They also offer sandwiches and other baked goods.

Just outside of Campo de’ Fiori at Via dei Chiavari 34 is Roscioli Forno, which has the best pizza margherita al taglio that I’ve ever had. Order a few different slices – last time I was there we sampled the margherita, a slice with mushrooms, one with roasted potatoes, and another thick-crusted one with burrata and pesto that was delicious. 

Neither of these places have seating, so be prepared to munch your slices standing up.

8. The Pantheon

The first Pantheon in Rome was destroyed by a fire in the same year that the Colosseum opened, 80AD. In 118, the emperor Hadrian commissioned a new Pantheon, which is the structure that you can visit today. The Pantheon is considered to be the best-preserved ancient building in Rome and its dome is the largest unsupported dome in the world. Its oculus is 8 meters across, which is about 25 feet. You can visit the tomb of Raphael inside.

Beat The Crowds At The Pantheon

Despite some discussion about charging admission in the last few years, the Pantheon remains free to visit. For this reason, it’s a very popular sight. If you want to beat the crowd, visit when it opens at 8:30 am. 

9. The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is the combination of two designs, one by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and one by Nicola Salvi. Completed in 1762, the fountain is an example of Roman baroque architecture. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain backwards over your left shoulder, you’ll return to Rome someday, if you throw two in, you’ll find a Roman romance, and if you throw in three, you’ll get married!

Beat The Crowds At The Trevi Fountain

Visiting the Trevi Fountain at peak times is pretty miserable, if I’m being honest. I highly recommend heading there while the city is still sleeping – around 7am, if you can. You’ll have a much better experience without the crowds! If you’re not a morning person, head there late at night to have a similar, crowd-free visit. 

10. The Spanish Steps

Named for the Spanish embassy to the Vatican, which is located in the square below, the Spanish Steps are another Roman icon. They were originally built to connect the church above to the piazza. There’s another famous fountain in the square called La Barcaccia, which was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s father, Pietro. 

A recent law was passed that prohibits sitting on the Spanish Steps, so you’ll have to take your pictures standing up! If you want to beat the crowds, head from the Trevi Fountain straight to the Spanish Steps on your early morning tour. 

Secret Spot Bear The Spanish Steps

Ready for another hidden corner of Rome? Walk down Via Margutta, which is very close to Piazza di Spagna. Made famous from the film Roman Holiday, Via Margutta has been home to a long line of artists and filmmakers and still has several art galleries on it. You can see a tribute to these artists in the form of a bucket of paint brushes atop a little fountain.

11. Monti

There’s nothing particular to see in Monti, but like Trastevere, it’s a great little neighborhood to wander around and get lost in. Located near the Colosseum, Monti is a hip little area full of second hand shops, cute cafés, and chic restaurants. 

12. Testaccio

Known commonly for its nightlife, Testaccio actually has some of the best food in the eternal city. If you want to try Roman street food, head to the Mercato di Testaccio, which is open from 7am to 3pm every day except Sunday. You can do your shopping and eat at the communal tables in the center of the market. Try supplì, carciofi alla guidia, or any of the other delights that look good to you. Looking for a sit-down meal? Book a table at Flavio al Velavevodetto, Felice a Testaccio, or Da Oio a Casa Mia for some traditional Roman fare.

So, there you have your list of everything you need to see in Rome on your first visit! If you’re spending more than just a few days there, don’t be afraid to explore beyond the city center. Rome is a series of layers, and each one you peel back reveals another treasure.

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