Best things to do in Rome with kids
Rome, Italy would have to be one of my top family-friendly destinations because there are so many things to do with kids in Rome that will make everyone from the toddler to the teen and beyond happy.
I fell in love with Rome over 20 years ago. I loved everything from its stunning architecture, jaw-dropping historic sites, and quaint cobblestone streets; to its passionate people, delicious food, and even its crazy drivers (as long as I’m watching them from a safe distance).
Fast-forward to more recent times with two little kids and a husband in tow, and the city didn’t dissappoint. What worried me about visiting Rome with kids was would there be enough to interest them at age six and eight? This was a city I loved, and I wanted to wander the streets seeing the sights and enjoying the culture.
It turns out a family holiday to Rome can be just as enjoyable as it was in the pre-kid days, as there are plenty of fun things to do in Rome with kids. It’s just a matter of working out what you want to see and do, and consider if your Rome kids itinerary will be interesting for all ages.
Here are our favourite things to do in Rome with kids.
Colosseum with kids
At the top of our list of family attractions in Rome is the Colosseum – one of the most popular tourist attractions for good reason.
With stories of emperors and gladiators, ferocious animals and mock sea battles, there is no wonder the Colosseum is a top destination for families. However, it isn’t as simple as strolling on in and seeing all the action. The thing is, the most action you’ll see is the long line of visitors waiting to go in if you don’t know what you’re doing.
This is where local knowledge and the supreme storytelling skills of someone in the know will bring this incredible piece of architecture to life and keep your family occupied for hours.
Having been there before and realising that most tours will bore the pants off young kids, we looked for Rome tours for kids and discovered Tapsy Tours, who specialise in tours for families with 5 to 12-year-olds.
The kids all had gladiator names and pretended to be gladiators while hearing great stories of battles, fierce animals, and learned about what it was like in ancient times. Each child was given an activity book which also kept them busy over the three hour Colosseum tour.
Skip the queue at the Colosseum
One of the other added benefits of taking a rome tour for kids is that we got to skip the neverending queue and head straight for the security checks. It still took us 15 minutes to get through the security screening, so imagine how long it would take if you had to line up with everyone else!
Roman Forum with kids
As part of the kids Colosseum tour we took, we also got a guided tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Having a guide to bring the stories to life was totally worth it. It was a scorching hot day which was not conducive to lining up in the full sun for the Roman Forum so we were thankful for being able to skip the queue again thanks to our guides request.
As we entered the Roman Forum it was interesting to hear the stories of the lives of the people, and the creation of the monuments. We got to discover the Altar of Julius Caesar, the Arch of Titus and Palatine Hill amongst other things.
The last time I visited the Roman Forum I went without a guide (I was a backpacker in the 90’s who couldn’t afford one), and didn’t ever get a proper understanding of the significance of the site.
If we had gone by ourselves again this time, we would have learned even less, as reading display signs with kids gets pretty boring after a while.
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (without the crowds)
There are hundreds of fountains in Rome but none come even close to being as astonishing as the Trevi Fountain. The kids loved the sheer scale of this fountain and also the tale of throwing in a coin.
If you want to experience the beauty of the Trevi Fountain without the crowds, then go early in the morning before all the tourists get moving – it’s magical seeing it this way.
We wandered down there at about 7 am in mid-summer and there was only two other people there. How did we get there so early? Because we stayed at a beautiful Airbnb about halfway between the Trevi Fountain and the Panteon. (you can read about where we stayed in Rome here).
If you can’t get there in the morning, then be perpared for the large crowds and that you’ll probably have to lift your kids onto your shoulders to get a look at it. Yes it can be that bad!
Take a look at our short guide on how to see Rome without the crowds.
Indulge in Italian Gelato
True Italian gelato is the best ice-cream we have ever tasted, and the kids took every opportunity to prove this theory right. Not only was it delicious, but it was also a good motivator to get the kids to walk “just a bit further”.
Lucky for us we had the help of some wonderful locals who were only too happy to share their favourite gelateria’s with us such as Don Nino’s.
Fill them up on pizza and pasta
When it comes to feeding growing kids, what’s not to love about endless offerings of fresh pizza and pasta? It was so easy to find restaurants and cafes offering kid-friendly food in Rome. The hardest part is deciding where to eat.
The trick is to ask the locals where they eat so you get authentic Italian food, and can avoid the tourist restaurants. A very wise Italian told us, if a restaurant needs someone to stand outside spruiking to bring in customers, they can’t be that good and they’re there purely to feed the tourists.
If you’re gluten free, don’t worry because they have lots of other delicious fresh food with meats, salads and more.
Insider Tip: Check out this fun eating tour of Rome
Take a stroll through Villa Borghese
Get away from the busy city streets for a few hours and take a stroll through the beautiful Villa Borghese in the Rome city centre. This enormous park has so much to offer. You can also hire a boat but the water didn’t look terribly inviting the day we visited.
You can pedal a bike, visit the zoo, watch a puppet show or row a boat. And that’s just to start with. One of the best museum’s in Rome, the Galleria Borghese, is situated there, but we decided not to try it the day we visited as the kids were jetlagged, restless and we knew we’d reached our limits.
Marvel at the Pantheon
It might seem like yet another old building but it’s history, atmosphere, and the HUGE hole in the roof is what will entice the kids to visit the Pantheon in Rome. It’s huge, it’s impressive and it doesn’t take long to explore. Ask the kids to look for clues for what will happen when it rains (to give you a clue there are drains in the floor).
The Pantheon is also surrounded by an incredible array of food and drink such as Caffe Tazza Doro (best ever coffee), Don Nino’s gelateria (fantastic gelato) and L’Antica Salumeria (a top charcuterie we loved visiting to buy lunch supplies).
Visit the Vatican
On our last day in Rome, we attempted to see the Vatican but the weather had other ideas. Just as we reached it, the heavens opened in one mighty thunderstorm and there was no going any further. Oh so close, but not close enough to get inside. Even though we didn’t go inside, thing I have heard so many other parents say is that taking a general Vatican tour was quite often a nightmare with kids, and that the kids tours were better but to really look into them before you go.
Statues and fountains
There aren’t a lot of statues and fountains in Australia in comparison to Rome, so for my kids, these were a real treat. It certainly didn’t take them long to realise that many of the statues were nude which as you can imagine, caused a lot of giggling and excitement. Ahhh boys! In saying that, they also learned many interesting stories behind the statues.
Cannon blast and spectacular views at Piazzale Garibaldi
Every day at noon, the army fire the cannon in a beautiful park that sits above Trastevere. Our kids were so excited to go, but after a seriously early jet lag start to the day, it wasn’t to be. We walked all the way to Trastevere where we spent a beautiful few hours but by 11am the boys had had enough and we headed for home. Maybe next time.
Rome’s Gladiator School looks like so much fun and kids love it. The problem was, when we visited we didn’t have enough time to do everything, so we opted for things that the whole family would enjoy, not just the kids. If you have time, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed.
Finding your way around Rome
Make sure you have a really good map because believe me, it is so easy to get lost in Rome. We had bought the GPS mobile navigation app, CoPilot to help us drive around Italy. You can also use it walking which was a lifesaver on so many occasions in Rome. I have a good sense of direction but Rome is one city, which I find really hard to navigate with all of it’s alleyways. It probably doesn’t help that you’re also spending half your time keeping all the family out of the way of fast oncoming bikes and cars!
We hope you’ve found some inspiration for when you visit Rome with kids. Let us know what places in Rome your kids love.