Rome has many impressive and beautiful parks, but one of the largest that is well-worth a visit when you’re in the city is Villa Borghese.
Located near the city centre, it’s easy to walk to from other popular tourist attractions like the Spanish Steps, and because there’s no cost to enter it’s one of the best free things to do in Rome.
It’s not just a park, either. In addition to the green spaces and scenic fountains, there are many other things to do in Villa Borghese, from visiting art galleries to hiring bikes.
It’s large enough that you can spend time simply wandering along its many pathways, and on a hot day there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy a picnic.
With so many activities and sights in the park, it’s possible to spend an entire day here without getting bored. If you’re planning a visit, here are the best things to do in Villa Borghese.
1. Go rowing on the boating lake
One of the main attractions in Villa Borghese is the boating lake in the centre of the park. While there are several fountains around the area, this is the largest body of water.
You can hire a rowing boat and take to the water, which is especially fun to do on a sunny day.
A beautiful temple right by the water provides a scenic backdrop as you row across the lake, so taking a picture and relaxing in this picturesque setting is one of the most romantic things to do in Rome for couples.
You can also discover some of the local inhabitants of the lake, including the many terrapins that hang around on the rocks around the edge.
2. Hire a bike
In addition to taking to the water, there are also a couple of places from where you can hire bikes.
While the park isn’t too big to explore fully on foot, it’s a lot more fun to travel up and down its paths by bike, and you can hire them for a long enough period to see all the major sights in Villa Borghese.
Not only are there individual bikes available, but you can also hire rickshaw-style bikes with electric-powered motors, which are the perfect way to travel around as a couple or in a group.
3. Have a picnic
With many green spaces, benches, and shade from the trees above, one of the best things to do in Villa Borghese is to simply sit somewhere and have a picnic.
Around lunchtime, the park gets busy with people enjoying their lunch, as it’s the perfect place to eat while getting away from the bustle of the city.
Our favourite spot to eat was by Fontana Rotonda di Villa Borghese, a fountain with benches around it as well as lots of grass to sit on nearby.
4. Get a drink from a cafe
Along with having a picnic in the park, there are also a couple of cafes which you can visit if you’re looking to buy a refreshment or a bite to eat.
This includes Casina del Lago, a small cafe located near the boating lake that’s one of the nicest places to eat in Rome. With covered outdoor seating, it’s also a good place to escape the sun if you’re in need of some shade.
5. Look around the Borghese Gallery
One of the best things to do in Villa Borghese is to visit the Borghese Gallery, which is among the top must-see attractions in Rome.
This famous art gallery contains artwork and sculptures from some of Italy’s most influential artists, including Bernini and Caravaggio.
The Borghese Gallery isn’t too extensive, so won’t require hours of your time like the Vaticans Museums, but the various masterpieces on display make it worth the visit, especially if you’re already exploring what else Villa Borghese has to offer.
It’s recommended to pre-book a ticket in advance in order to guarantee entry, and each visit is up to two hours but this is plenty of time to see everything inside.
6. Go to the Carlo Bilotti Museum
Another museum in Villa Borghese that’s also worth a visit is the Carlo Bilotti Museum.
While the collection is small, the various pieces of art on display make it a fascinating gallery to take a walk around.
Best of all, entry to the museum is free and there’s no need to pre-book, so there’s no excuse not to take a look inside if you’re passing by!
7. See a play at the Globe Theatre
One of the most unique things to do in Villa Borghese is to pay a visit to the Globe Theatre.
It may be a surprise to find what appears to be a copy of the famous English Renaissance theatre outside London, but this Globe Theatre is it’s own venue built in homage to the original and hosts all it’s own events.
There are often Shakespeare plays at the venue, so you can feel like you’re in Elizabethan London, but there are also performances of more contemporary plays.
8. Catch a film at the Cinema dei Piccoli
Another of the more unique things to do in Villa Borghese is to see a film at the Cinema dei Piccoli.
Founded in 1934 and originally used as a children’s cinema, this tiny building holds the Guiness World Record for being the smallest cinema building in the world.
It’s still a fully-functioning cinema too, not only showing films for children during the day but also films for adults in the evening too.
9. Visit the zoo
One of the most popular activities for those visiting Villa Borghese is heading to Bioparco di Roma, a zoo in the northern section of the park.
Despite being in the centre of Rome, this zoo is surprisingly large and has plenty of animals to see, from armadillos and caimans to lions and lemurs.
Having been created in 1911, it has long been one of the most important zoos in Rome and is among the best things to do in Villa Borghese if you’re interested in animals or are after something a little different to do.
10. See views of Rome from Terrazza del Pincio
On the edge of Villa Borghese you can find Terrazza del Pincio, a terrace that looks west over the city and down onto Piazza del Popolo.
From here you can get some of the best views in Rome, especially in the evening as the sun sets against the beautiful city skyline.
Heading up to Terrazza del Pincio is the perfect way to end your visit to Villa Borghese, and from there you can meander down to the piazza and discover what else Rome has to offer!