churches in Rome

Top 10 Churches in Rome to discover the City with a New Eye


Rome, as we well know, has hundreds of amazing historical and cultural attractions. From beautiful piazzas to ancient ruins, museums and art galleries, there is something to keep even the most discerning traveller entertained. On top of that, there are literally dozens of amazing churches in Rome just waiting to be explored!

Often touted as the spiritual home of the Roman Catholic church, Rome (and we will include the separate Vatican City here) has been the seat of Catholic Christianity since the first century AD. However, even before that, Rome had many deities such as Romulus, Remus, Jupiter and Mars.

The arrival of Christianity and the establishment of the position of the Pope as an important leader meant that Rome grew in religious importance within the Christian world.  Christianity was declared the official religion of Rome by Emperor Theodosius in 380AD. Thus began centuries of religious architecture and construction, with awe-inspiring churches in Rome proudly on show to this day.

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Number of churches in Rome

How many churches in Rome are there exactly? Records show over 900 churches in Rome! How on earth are you supposed to decide which ones to visit! On top of that, if you count little chapels or other places of worship, the number of churches in Rome reaches over 1500! We will help you prioritise your visits, so you can take in the most famous churches in Rome, as well as the oldest church in Rome and many more.

churches in Rome Vatican
Vatican_Rome

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The oldest church in Rome

Dozens of ancient churches jostle for the position of the oldest church in Rome. The oldest public church in Rome is the beautiful St John Lateran Basilica. In fact, it is actually the most ancient Basilica in the west! Built in the early 4th century AD, the church has survived fires, raiders and earthquakes. Subsequently restored in the 15th century and again in the centuries thereafter, it is now remains the seat of the Pope. It is therefore more important than St Peters’ Basilica. You can now explore the beautiful nave and take in the stunning sculptures for free.

churches in Rome St John Lateran Basilica
St_John_Lateran_Basilica

The most famous church in Rome

Hands down, St Peters’ Basilica wins the title of the most famous church in Rome.   Dedicated to Rome’s first Bishop – aka the Pope, St Peter’s attracts thousands of tourists who queue to see the stunning interior. Michelangelo’s magnificent dome is one of the top attractions here, as is the statue of St Peter.

churches in Rome St Peters Square
St_Peters_Square

Best Churches in Rome – Top 10

The sheer number of churches in Rome make it a bit difficult to pack them all into a standard city break. Check out the top ten best churches in Rome here to help you prioritise:

1 – St Peter’s Basilica

We have already mentioned it above, but the stunning St Peter’s Basilica truly is one of the best churches in Rome, so it deserves its’ own description! There has been a church on the site since the 4th century; however the present building was completed in the 17th century.

Rumoured to be the burial place of St Peter, the Basilica has been a common burial spot for Popes throughout the ages.  We have much more information available over at our St Peter’s Guide, so make sure to check it out.

  • Location – Vatican City
  • How to get there – Take the metro to Ottaviano-S. Pietro, 5 min walk to the Vatican
  • When to visit – 7am to 6pm (Check on Wednesdays – Papal audience can disrupt opening times)
  • Ticket information – Free entry, however might be a good idea to buy a skip the line ticket online here if you are short of time
churches in Rome St Peter's Basilica
St_Peter's_Basilica

2 – St Paul’s Outside the Walls

Along with St Peters’ and St John the Lateran, St Paul’s Outside the Walls is one of the four important Roman Basilicas. It is actually not located within the Vatican, although it does belong to it.

It is one of the best churches in Rome to visit. Rumoured to be built on the resting place of St Paul, the cathedral was extensively refurbished after a fire in the 19th century, but remains true to its original character. Of particular note is the beautiful cloister.

  • Location – Piazza San Paolo
  • How to get there – Take the metro to San Paolo
  • When to visit – 7am to 6.30pm
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome St Paul’s Outside the Walls
St_Paul’s_Outside_the_Walls

3 – Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Rome

The 4th century Basilica of Saint John and Paul is a peaceful place to explore. Interestingly, some ancient Roman rooms were uncovered under the naves. Here, visitors can see the beautiful and well-preserved frescoes of the martyrdom of the two Roman Soldiers St Paul and St John.

  • Location – Piazza dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo
  • How to get there – Take the bus 271 to Circus Maximus
  • When to visit – 8.30am-12pm & 3.30-6pm
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Basilica Santi Giovanni Paolo
Basilica_Santi_Giovanni_Paolo

4 – Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of a number of churches in Rome that claims to be one of the oldest. This 4th century beauty is a great place to visit for those who love mosaics – it boasts a number of beautiful 12th and 13th century pieces. The exterior of the church in particular has a stunning mosaic of the Virgin Mary.

  • Location – Piazza dei Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • How to get there – Take Metro B to Circo Massimo, then cross the Ponte Palatino
  • When to visit – 7.30am to 9pm
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Santa Maria in Trastevere
Santa_Maria_in_Trastevere

5 – Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem)

Another one of Rome’s churches claiming to exist from the fourth is the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Interestingly, the Basilica gets its name from its original construction, which was built with soil physically brought from Jerusalem. The Basilica has a baroque construction added later and some beautiful frescoes.

  • Location – Piazza della Croce di Gerusalemme
  • How to get there – Metro A San Giovanni
  • When to visit – 7.00am to 19:30pm  (pause between 12:45 and 15:30)
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Basilica_di_Santa_Croce_in_Gerusalemme

6 – Pantheon – Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs

Formerly a place of pagan worship to many gods, the Pantheon was dedicated and renamed to the Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs in the 7th century. The Martyrs refers to a large number of sacred bones that were removed from the catacombs and brought here once the church became Christian.

  • Location – Piazza della Rotonda, 63
  • How to get there – Metro A Barberini
  • When to visit – 9am – 18:30pm Monday to Saturday. Closes at 1pm on Sundays
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Pantheon
Pantheon

7 – Santa Maria in Aracoeli

In English, Santa Maria in Aracoeli means Santa Maria of the Altar in Heaven. The church was founded in the 6th century and boasts a number of stunning frescoes, including Cavallini’s Madonna and Child. The gold ceiling was added in the 16th century as a celebration of thanks for victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto. Climb over 120 steps to get there if you dare!

  • Location – Scala dell'Arce Capitolina
  • How to get there – Metro Line B Fori Imperiali/Campidoglio
  • When to visit – 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. Closes at 1pm on Sundays
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Santa_Maria_in_Aracoeli

8 – The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Legend has it that a childless couple were driven to donate their earthly possessions to the Virgin Mary and asked for a sign. One day, it snowed on the site of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, and so it was built! There is however no historical evidence to suggest this, but it is a nice story! The exterior was completed in the 18th century; however there are many different styles and architectures in the building. 

  • Location – Piazza di Santa Marie Maggiore
  • How to get there – Metro Line A + B Termini
  • When to visit – 7am to 6.30pm
  • Ticket information – €3

If you want to discover Rome Monti District with a Churches walking tour, here is a great 2-hours guided tour.

churches in Rome Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
santa_maria_maggiore_rome

9 – St John of Lateran Basilica

We have mentioned this famous church already, but it deserves its’ own spot in the top churches in Rome. It is indeed Rome’s oldest church, dating back to the 4th century. It is known to be one of the most stunning Basilicas in Rome, so it is definitely worth checking out.

  • Location – Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano 4
  • How to get there – Metro Line A San Giovanni
  • When to visit – 7am to 6.30pm
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome St John Lateran Basilica
St_John_Lateran_Basilica

10 – Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome

Another Santa Maria here – this time the Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome. This interesting 14th century church is special in that it is German speaking! This stems from the fact that it used to be a German hospice before it was a church. Restored in the mid-19th century, the church is known for its stunning fresco of Jesus and family.

  • Location – Via di Santa Maria DellAnima 64
  • How to get there –  Bus 40 to Piazza Argentina
  • When to visit – 9am-12.45pm then 3pm-7pm
  • Ticket information – Free entry
churches in Rome Santa Maria dell’Anima
Santa_Maria_dell’Anima

Churches in Rome – Map

Check out this handy map of churches in Rome!

Here are even more of the best Churches in Rome that are worth the trip!

Sistine Chapel

  • Where  – Vatican City
  • When – 9am – 5.30pm
  • How – Inside the Apostolistic Palace in the Vatican Museums
  • Book tickets here
sistine chapel rome
sistine_chapel

San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls)

  • Where  – Piazzale del Verano, 3
  • When – 7am – 12pm  4pm – 7pm
  • How – Quartiere Tiburtino
  • Website – Here

Santa Maria del Popolo

o   Where  – Piazza del Popolo, 12

  • When – Mon-Fri: 7:30 am – 12.00 pm 4.00 pm – 7.00 pm
  • Saturday: 7:30 am – 7.00 pm
  • Sunday: 7.30am – 1.30pm and 4.30pm – 7pm
  • How – Rione Campo Marzio
  • Entrance + Audio guide here

The Basilica of San Clemente

  • Where  – Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 45
  • When – 9.00 am – 12.30 pm  / 3.00 pm – 6.00 pm; All day on Saturday
  • How – Quartiere Appio Latino
  • St Clemente & Quattro Coronati Churche small group tour (book here)
  • St Clemente & San Silvestro Oratory private tour (book here)
  • Website – Here

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

  • Where  – Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 22
  • When – 10.00-13.00 / 16.00-19.00
  • How – Rione Trastevere

Basilica di Sant’Agostino

  • Where  – Piazza di Sant'Agostino, 80
  • When – 07:30am-12:00pm 04:00pm-07:30pm
  • How – Rione S. Eustachio

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

basilica di santa maria sopra minerva best church rome
basilica_di_santa_maria_sopra_minerva

San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains)

  • Where  – Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/A
  • When – 8.00 am – 12.30 pm + 3.00 pm – 7.00 pm
  • How – Rione Monti
  • Guide tour – Monti district discovering San Pietro in Vincoli + Saint Mary Major + Santa Prassede (book here)

San Luigi dei Francesi

  • Where  – Piazza di San Luigi de' Francesi, 5
  • When – 9.30 -12.45  / 14.30 – 18.30  (Sun 11:30 opening)
  • How – Rione S. Eustachio
  • Website – Here

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

  • Where  – Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18
  • When 9.30am-5:00pm
  • How – Rione Ripa
  • Website – Here

Sant'Andrea al Quirinale

  • Where  – Via del Quirinale, 30
  • When – 09:00am-12:00pm 03:00pm-06:00pm Closed Mondays
  • How – Rione Trevi
  • Website – Here

St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls

  • Where  – Via Appia Antica, 136
  • When – 8.00am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-5.30pm
  • How – Quartiere Appio
  • Website – Here

Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Rome

  • Where  – Piazza Sant'Ignazio
  • When – 7.30am – 7.00 (9am on Sundays)
  • How – Rione Colonna
  • Website – Here
rome san ignazio di loyola
san_ignazio_di_loyola

Chiesa del Gesù in Rome (Church of Jesus in English)

  • Where  – Piazza del Gesù
  • When – 07.00am-12.30pm  16:00pm-19.45pm
  • How – Rione Pigna
  • Website – Here

Santa Prassede

  • Where  – Via di Santa Prassede, 9/a
  • When – 07:30am-12:00pm 15:00pm-18:30pm
  • How – Rione Monti
  • Website – Here
  • Guide tour – Monti district discovering Santa Prassede + San Pietro in Vincoli + Saint Mary Major(book here)

Basilica di Santa Sabina

  • Where  – Piazza Pietro d'Illiria, 1
  • When – 07.15 -20.00
  • How – Rione Ripa

Conclusion to the Best Churches in Rome

This surely is enough to keep you occupied during your visit to Rome. The best thing about visiting Rome’s stunning churches is that they are mostly free to enter! However, do look at some of the ticket packages on offer, such as skip the line or group tours to make the most of your trip!