Hop On Hop Off Rome: The Best Tours To TakeJuly 27, 2016 1:54 pm
All roads lead to Rome and, once you’re there, a hop on hop off Rome bus tour is a great way to explore the city. Whether you want to get your bearings or plan to visit attractions that are further apart, it gives you the freedom to make your own way without being tied to a particular itinerary – as well as not having to spend the whole day on your feet. Brought to you by the OMNIA Vatican & Rome team, here is a handy guide to the best tours and how to get the most out them.
Pulling out the stops
Most of Rome’s hop on hop off bus tours follow a similar route through the city, with departure points at the Vatican and Termini station. This is partly because Rome’s authorities control the number of stops in the ancient city centre, to keep pollution and congestion in check. The main routes operate three or four buses an hour, providing similar open top buses with audio commentary in a number of common languages, including English.
Completing the circuit
A complete bus tour should take between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on traffic. It’s a good idea to complete the whole circuit on your first day as you’ll get an excellent understanding of the layout of the city. Some of the central attractions are within easy walking distance of each other and once you have a rough idea of where they are, you’ll find it much easier to plan your visit.
The main attractions
The Pantheon, the ancient pagan temple built in 120 AD and later converted into a church, and Piazza Navona, a public square on the site of an ancient arena with beautiful examples of Baroque architecture, are close together. They can be conveniently visited by ‘hopping off’ at the stop for either attraction.
Similarly, the Colosseum, the world’s largest amphitheatre ever, is located close by the Circo Massimo (or Circus Maximus), the ruins of an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium, so you can conveniently visit both without hopping on the bus in between.
If you want to visit the Forum (Foro Romano), you will need to get off at either Piazza Venezia to the north or the Colosseum to the south and continue on foot, as it doesn’t have its own stop. The Forum was for many centuries the centre of Roman public life: originally a marketplace, it went on to become the site of processions, elections, speeches and trials. The site attracts over 4.5 million visitors and is one of the highlights of a visit to Rome.
The must-see attractions at the Vatican are served by all hop on hop off Rome buses. They include St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the art of Michelangelo, Raphael and many others. You could easily spend a whole day here!
Most bus tours also include stops along the river Tiber, including Tiber island (Isola Tiberina). However, if you wish to visit the Basilica of St John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano) in the west of the city, you should book with Roma Cristiana, as it is the only operator with a stop here.
Ticket to ride
A Bus tour is included in the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Pass as one of our free attractions, but a bus tour ticket can also be purchased via company agents near the main stops or at hotels. It’s much better to book online, to avoid getting rushed into a purchase. There are also often online discounts. Make sure you know where tickets can be ‘activated’, so that you can include this in your travel plans for the day, and also look at the operating hours for your line.
The tours mainly operate during the day, so if you are going out in the evening, you will not be able to hop on for a ride to your hotel. Routes may vary at the weekends. If you are travelling with children, it is worth shopping around, as there are significant differences in pricing for under-15s.
Many of the bus tours partner with attractions and other organisations to offer combination tickets. This can save you money compared to paying for each entrance ticket separately and provide other benefits, such as fast track entry or public transport passes. It’s definitely worth looking into.
While hop on hop off Rome tours remain a popular attraction in themselves, it is definitely worth spending some time exploring the city on foot. Although the main sites can get very busy, every Roman holiday should include a taste of the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. With picturesque fountains, traditional trattorias and tiny piazzas around every corner, the city is also a photo album waiting to happen.