The history and culture that define Rome keep travelers coming back again and again. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Pantheon, or the Trevi Fountain, there’s always something magical about those old cobbled streets and stories behind them.
However, for anyone who wants to see a different side of the Eternal City, it’s certainly worth stepping off the usual tourist trails to explore some of the lesser known sights. Rome is bursting with hidden gems that most visitors either never see or never notice as they’re exploring the city, and by taking a little extra time to discover Rome’s secrets, you can enjoy a different perspective on this ancient metropolis that has so much to offer.
So, read on to discover our top 5 hidden gems of Rome and enjoy a city that you never knew existed.
This fascinating and largely ignored corridor of Rome is definitely worth a visit. Located in the Palazzo Spada, Borromini’s Perspective is an optical illusion on the grandest scale, creating what seems like a 40-meter corridor in the space of just eight meters. Stand at the entrance to this other worldly piece of architecture and your mind will be blown!
Designed with the help of a mathematician, Francesco Borromini built diminishing rows of columns and a rising floor to create this Roman oddity, placing a sculpture of just 60 cm at the end of the corridor to really nail the illusion. The sculpture sits in an open part of the building bathing it in daylight, also helping to support this real-world trompe l’oeil and fooling your brain into thinking that this corridor is much longer than it really is.
Located just across the Tiber from the city center, Trastevere is a lesser-known district of Rome that rarely gets much attention outside of the Piazza di Santa Maria. However, if you’re willing to dive a little deeper, you’ll find some of Rome’s best food and drink in this pleasant neighborhood, alongside a calm atmosphere that the rest of the city would kill for.
Leaving the Piazza di Santa Maria, you’ll quickly find that the number of tourists drops off considerably. Head to the Piazza di San Cosimato to begin with to check out the outdoor food market and stop for a coffee at one of the cafes in the square. Once you’ve had your fill, be sure to wander around the charming old streets of Trastevere to escape the usual tourist trail and see a different side to Rome.
Rome is the city of seven hills, and there are plenty of great views to be had if you’re willing to climb any one of them. However, for those that don’t already know, Rome actually has an eighth hill! Gianicolo offers some of the best views of the city if you’re willing to hike up from Trastevere, and it’s also a very pleasant place to explore away from the majority of tourists.
While you’re there, make sure you check out the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola and the Piazzale Garibaldi where a cannon fires every day at noon. Additionally, the church of San Pietro in Montorio is worth a look as it is thought to be the site of St Peter’s crucifixion.
As the largest public park in Rome, you’d think that the Villa Borghese would be overflowing with tourists on a daily basis—particularly in summer! However, most people come here to see the galleries and skip the 80 acres of lush green space, tranquil ponds, and winding paths of the gardens. It’s a true oasis nestles between the bustling city streets, and the perfect place to eat a picnic an unwind a little.
Developed over the course of the 17th century, the gardens of the Villa contain many hidden places to just relax, alongside plenty of interesting buildings, fountains, and sculptures that will give you more insight into the history of this garden. Animal lovers will also be particularly pleased with the old city zoo that has now been turned into a Biopark with more than 200 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
It’s quite possible that if you blink, you’ll miss the Quartiere Coppedè entirely. As Rome’s smallest district, this unique little corner of the city is usually quiet and ripe for exploration by intrepid sightseers. It’s also home to some very interesting architectural wonders that are sure to stop you in your tracks as you discover this hidden gem for yourself.
Start at the corner of Via Dora and Via Tagliamento and wind your way through the Art Nouveau, medieval, baroque and Greek influences that were designed by architect Gino Coppedè between 1923 and 1927. It’s Rome’s equivalent of Gaudi’s Catalan masterpieces, and a surefire way to enjoy the eternal city from an entirely new perspective!
Medieval Towns with German Castles Near Munich & Frankfurt
Our favorite castles in Germany near Frankfurt and Munich:
We were crazy enough to visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a public holiday. This meant that along with all the Asian tourists, there were an awful lot of Germans. Plus, even though we arrived by 11 am, the soonest tickets we could buy were for the German tour at 2.30 pm, as the terms in English were sold out until 4 pm. So, if you don’t have German friends at hand to translate the tour for you, we recommend booking in advance online. The castle was impressive, and the time was undoubtedly fascinating! Don’t worry, I won’t spill the beans, but the manmade Grotto room made my jaw drop!
Mespelbrunn Castle is located on a pond between Frankfurt and Wurzburg. Unfortunately, we arrived 30 minutes after its closing time of 5 pm, but it looked cool from behind the fence!
Lichtenstein Castle is located on a clifftop near Stuttgart and costs 6 euros per person for a tour in German; however, they did give us a very informative written guide in English. This castle is small compared to Hohenzollern castle, but its story is fascinating. Tanks shelled it in World War II, and today you can still see the cracked mirror from where a small fragment of a tank grenade ricocheted!
Hohenzollern Castle is not too far from Lichtenstein Castle. It is located on a hilltop near Hechingen, and we enjoyed the guided tour. Along with getting to wear GIANT slippers, make sure you explore the casemates and secret passages. One sign made me want to learn more. It read, “Exactly where these steps lead to is unknown. More casemates and secret passageways are likely waiting to be discovered in the heart of the mountain”!
Heidelberg Castle was a lot larger than we expected! Unfortunately, we had spent far too much time at the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, so we did not have time to explore this castle. But if we get the chance, we will explore the town and its castle next time in Germany.
On our drive from Munich to Frankfurt, we also loved:
The beer garden at Andechs Monastery was just like Oktoberfest but amongst trees and more family-friendly. The beer was cheaper, and the food was great, including the giant pork knuckle, which Moss could not finish. It was also fun walking up multiple flights of stairs to the tower’s very top.
Three hours in Rothenburg was not enough to explore this wonderful medieval town! We recommend getting your hands on a city map from the tourist information office. We enjoyed Roder Gate, walking along the wall and exploring the 17th-century spital bastion, plus Moss lost me in the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop for over half an hour, and I didn’t even buy anything!
The average person would Google Munich to Frankfurt and see that it only takes about 3 ½ hours depending on how fast you wish to drive on the autobahn! However, we are NOT typical. We took one look at train prices and decided that hiring a car wouldn’t cost too much more.
We aren’t going to tell you our exact route. Still, after surviving Oktoberfest in Munich, we did a giant zigzag to see as many castles and medieval towns as possible. So to save you doing so much driving, we have picked our favorite cities and castles. First of all, ‘Ausfahrt’ is not a destination accessible from every off-ramp! It means ‘Exit’! Another word of wisdom to keep in mind is that the autobahns with speed limits do have speed cameras… and the flash is blinding!
Running with the Bulls Video
Our shaky Running with the Bulls Video footage from the Festival de San Fermin in 2012. Experience it first hand in Pamplona. Enjoy.
We recently wrote about our life or death experience of Running with the Bulls this year at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. On that run, I carried along with our GoPro video camera and tried to shoot some footage for our running with the video of the bull.
All our travel video shooting techniques went out the window when the bulls’ hooves started to shake the ground beneath our feet.
Once we had lined up for the running with the bulls, there was no escape from it as we were walled in by apartment blocks, shopfront windows, and 3-meter high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lay the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who were still partying from the night before. Behind me, a dozen wild bulls pawed the stony ground looking for freedom.
Unfortunately, I was standing in their path.
What we ended up with is below. However, I think what we filmed for our running with the bull video captures the chaos, craziness, and complete madness a lot better than if I had stood my ground.
Enjoy it and watch for the guy that nearly gets trampled to death near the beginning!
Running with the Bulls Video
Would you ever consider running with the bulls?
While we are very aware that not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead mainly due to animal cruelty, we think there are two sides to every story. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the Festival de San Fermin and whether you would ever consider running with the bulls.
Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Adventure City Guide
Find out how you can explore the streets, canals and local markets within minutes of Bangkok with our Outdoor Activities in Bangkok Adventure City Guide.
Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Bangkok?
Why visit Bangkok for adventure?
Bangkok is one of the world’s largest metropolises and a gateway for most of the world to access the rest of South East Asia. With numbers surpassing 14 million people in the Greater Bangkok Region, this is no small player in the world’s super-cities. Of course, having such a long history with foreign visitors, the city has become incredibly established in the world’s tourist sector.
This has allowed it to grow many facets of adventurous activities – making access to something for everyone!
Outdoor Activities in Bangkok
Exploring the Klongs
Klongs are canals that used to feed the entire city with life-giving water, branched off from the city’s main artery – the Chao Phraya River. Today, the locals wouldn’t drink the water if you paid them, but there is still a fascinating life along the Klongs’ banks. There is so much to explore, from floating markets to old houses on stilts, and it gives insight into this ancient way of life!
What’s it cost, and how to get to the Klongs?
You can usually arrange the Klongs from the pier “Saphan Taksin” along the Chao Phraya River. This is conveniently a stop on the Skytrain, making it very easy to access. Usually, you will be renting the entire boat for the day (about 1000 THB, or USD 35) and not paying a per-person rate. So if you can find a few people to go with, the price will drop significantly per person.
Rickshaw City Tours
If you’ve never been to Asia before, Rickshaws are one of the most fun ways to get around. Although they can often be a little more expensive than metered taxis, you get an experience (and a view) that is unparalleled, especially in the busy streets of Bangkok.
What’s it cost?
Occasionally, you can even haggle a deal for a city tour for next to nothing (50-100 THB or $1.50-3 USD), as long as you visit a couple of affiliated ‘custom suit tailors’ throughout the day, as they’ll get a kickback from the shops just for bringing you there… No purchase is necessary.
You can often find Tuk Tuk drivers willing to do this standing along the perimeter of the Kings’ Palace. It may take a few attempts of asking for a ‘special city tour,’ but you will be bound to find someone ready for a cut of this business.
Local Secret Spot
Though most people wouldn’t consider going to a market an adventure, they probably have never experienced the likes of Chatuchak (also known as JJs). This is one of SE Asia’s LARGEST outdoor markets. It’s so prominent that you can find maps of the market to help navigate. It’s roughly the size of 4 city blocks and is divided into various sections.
You’ll find everything under the sun here, from clothing to handicrafts, food, mobile phones, and even puppies and other cute critters for sale!! It’s bonkers. If it gets too much for you, you can take a break in one of Bangkok’s most famous parks (Chatuchak park), located next to the market.
How to get there?
You can get here via Skytrain (BTS), subway (MRT), taxi, bus, you name it – it’s very accessible! But it’s only open on weekends, from about dawn until 5 or 6 pm at its peak. Some shops stay open longer, but most will be closed by dusk. It’s free entry and a perfect place to buy ANY souvenirs at the end of your time in Thailand.
Suppose you can coordinate to be here on the weekend. I generally hate shopping for ‘stuff,’ but I love this market and its energy!
Best time of the year to visit Bangkok for adventure?
Bangkok is in the tropics and quite close to the Equator. Of course, this means it’s hot on a year-round basis.
It’s considered the rainy season from May to October, though showers can happen at any time of the year. This is generally a less busy time for tourists, though the rains are not quite as bad as expected and often only last 30 mins-1 hour, cooling the city’s heart. Peak season is in December-January when temperatures are at their most astounding ad driest… though it’s still pretty hot!
And if Bangkok isn’t to your taste, the luxury Koh Samui will be. Endless sandy beach, beautiful clear waters, and nightlife that could be lived in forever. The luxury rental properties are stunning, and we recommend Tempston Luxury villa rentals.
Finally, the reason I love Bangkok for adventure is that…
It’s never-ending. This city is SO BIG that you could get lost in a new neighborhood almost every day. Single. Day. And still find new, exciting things to explore. On my list for the upcoming weeks, I’ve got the Scala Cinema, the Thai Air Force Museum, Papaya Vintage Shop, and the Erawan Museum – to name a few. Every time I explore one place, I learn of 3 more!!
From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He’s since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. You can follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and his travel blog Where Sidewalks End.
Have you been to Bangkok? What were your favorite outdoor activities in Bangkok?
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
New on Four Jandals
- Get Peace of Mind When You Pre-Book Transportation November 29, 2022
- Paris on a Budget: Best Cheap Eats in Paris November 7, 2022
- Travel Tip: Train to Pisa from Florence November 6, 2022
What Are You Looking For?
See Our Favorite Topics
Europe3 weeks ago
Travel Tip: Train to Pisa from Florence
Asia1 month ago
Devouring seafood at the Fethiye Fish Market
Europe3 weeks ago
Paris on a Budget: Best Cheap Eats in Paris
North America1 month ago
The Best Way to Stay in LoDo Denver
Travel Tips1 month ago
The Top Ways To Avoid Relapse While On Holiday
Travel Tips1 month ago
Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Yacht
Travel Tips27 mins ago
Get Peace of Mind When You Pre-Book Transportation