What are the best things to do in Rome with kids? What are the best areas to stay in Rome for families and what are the best attractions for kids in Rome? Find out in our guide to Rome with kids!
City breaks with kids can be hard, especially if the city in question is Rome: big, crowded and so beautiful you feel you can never stop without missing out on something.
However, you have a secret weapon for planning a trip to Rome with children: this guide!
Rome is my hometown. I have lived there for over 30 years and now that I live abroad I still go back to Rome regularly with my kids. This gives me the very special advantage of knowing the city like a local but experiencing it with the eyes of a visitor.
I hope you find it useful and if you have questions, please leave them in the comments: I will be very happy to help!
- Practical tips for visiting Rome with kids
- 10 best things to do in Rome with kids
- 1. See Rome city centre and its beautiful piazzas
- 2. Visit the Roman Forum and the Colosseum
- 3. Run around Circo Massimo and Aventino
- 4. La bocca Della verita’ (the mouth of truth)
- 5. The Vatican, St Peter’s square and basilica
- 6. Go to a museum: best museums for kids in Rome
- 7. Rome cat sanctuary in Piazza Argentina
- 8. Take a pizza making class
- 9. Take a gelato tour
- 10. Go to the park: Rome’s best parks and villas
- Best places to stay in Rome with children
- Where to eat in Rome with kids
- Rome with kids: shortcomings
Practical tips for visiting Rome with kids
Best season for visiting Rome with kids
The best seasons to visit Rome, especially with children, are spring (March to June) and fall (September to November).
The months to avoid are July and August. The heat in the summer is unbearable and the city shuts down as this is when most of the locals take their annual leave. At this time, Rome feels like an urban wasteland filled with tourists: it is hard to get a good impression of the city: if you have no choice, I highly recommend booking a hotel with a pool and air conditioning (see paragraph at the end of this article for recommended addresses).
Important note about hotels in Rome. Do not assume rooms have air conditioning unless clearly specified. If you travelling to Italy with a baby in summer, you can find my advice on how to deal with the heat here
December is also a good time to visit Rome. The winter in the city is usually mild and dry and many shops and restaurants have longer opening hours to accommodate Christmas shopping (you can read here our full post about Christmas in Rome)
Rome with kids, how to get around
Taxi Taxis in Rome are few and far between. You find taxi stands outside Rome airports and in front of the main train stations but cabs are hard to flag on the street. The best way to get a taxi is asking your hotel reception to call one for you. A taxi ride from Ciampino costs about 30 Euro and from Fiumicino 50. Taxis are metered but it is not unusual for drivers to charge more: make sure you know your rights! Important: taxis do not normally have car seats for children (they are not compulsory in taxis, but they are a requirement in private cars).
Metro The metro system is Rome has improved in the last few years but has a long way to go before being even remotely comparable with the ones of other European cities. With kids, I have always found it hard to use: accessibility is scarce and only a limited number of areas are served.
Bus and tram. The Rome network of buses and trams is extensive but often crowded. At peak times, the buses are literally bursting at the seams and access for buggies and strollers may be impossible. If you cannot walk to your destination, I highly recommend selecting off peaks times to travel by bus and the use of a baby carrier.
Walking Despite its size, Rome is a hugely walkable city. The city centre can be easily explored on foot and accommodation in the area means you will hardly need public transport at all, with the notable exception of the Vatican (slightly out of the centre).
If you are visiting Rome with kids, I highly recommend the use of a baby carrier and of a lightweight stroller.
Reservations and tours
Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world and this popularity has consequences. The tourism high season in Rome is long and it is not unusual to have to wait in line for hours to gain access to the most popular attractions.
If you can, decide in advance when you want to visit a certain location and book skip-the-line tickets online. We got priority tickets when we visited the Colosseum and the Vatican and they were worth every cent: while people waited up to 3 hours in line, we went straight in!
Make sure you always print your tickets as often online confirmations are not accepted.
10 best things to do in Rome with kids
From world famous landmarks to small, hidden corners, Rome has a lot to offer to families travelling with young children: odd monuments, long history and funky cars make it a city where it is not necessary to choose between sightseeing and children entertainment!
1. See Rome city centre and its beautiful piazzas
Rome is so full of history and culture that in the city centre you literally cannot throw a stone without hitting something amazing.
The best way to familiarise with Rome is by far taking a walking tour of the city centre. My favourite itinerary can be found here (if travelling with kids, divide it up into two or even three days), but if you are the kind of person who enjoys getting lost and discover the city that way, you will find Rome is the perfect place to do so!
However you decide to do it, make sure you include in your itinerary the Pantheon and Piazza Navona – they are stunning, quintessentially Roman and so imposing the kids will love them.
Piazza Navona for children: Little children are likely to fall in love with the big toy shop on one of the short sides of the square. It specialises in life-sized cuddly toys: elephants, giraffes, polar bears – they are a sight to behold!
Visiting Rome’s city centre will require a lot of walking.
Top tip for families visiting Rome with kids: instead of buying water in the shops, refill your bottle at one of the many fountains or do like the locals: sip the beautiful , fresh, clean water freely flowing from the tap: it’s delicious and incredibly refreshing. Adults will easily master the art of fountain drinking, but kids are likely to get very wet very soon: unless it is the middle of the summer, have a change of clothes ready!
2. Visit the Roman Forum and the Colosseum
A visit to Rome must include a visit to the forum and the colosseum: they are adjacent to each other and a sight to behold.
The forum is my favourite part and it’s surprisingly pleasant to visit even with young children, but the Colosseum is so imposing it usually steals the show. Tickets for both are available at the main tourist office on Via Dei Fori Imperiali and you can choose between a guided or self-guided tour.
You can read here our full guide to visiting the Roman forum with kids
With kids, I highly recommend choosing a guided skip-the-queue tour: you can find a great selection and the best prices on Viator (click on the banner below to go to their site and get the best quote)
If you have time, make sure you go up the Palatine hill also, for a stunning look over the Circo Massimo, the river Tiber and the city beyond. The city from the Palatine hill over the Circo Massimo and beyond is incredible.
3. Run around Circo Massimo and Aventino
At the bottom of the Palatine hill sits the Circo Massimo, the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium. Nowadays the ‘circus’ is just a large, poorly kept space, but it’s worth a visit for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a car free, enclosed, safe area for kids to run around and, therefore, an excellent stop if you want to let them loose and break up the sightseeing (avoid this in the middle of the summer as there is no shade in the circus).
Secondly, the view of the palaces of Emperors from there is breathtaking and something you don’t want to miss when visiting Rome.
The hill on the other side of Circo Massimo is called Aventino and is a wealthy and beautiful residential part of Rome. It is a stunning area for a visit (it makes for a very romantic Roman walk) and hosts one of the most surprising of Rome’s attractions: a keyhole through which you can peek at St Peter’s dome!
Top tips for families with kids: at the top of the Aventino Hill lies a small park with a stunning view over Rome. There are no cafes or shops here, but it makes a great stop for a pic-nic: make sure you stock up with sandwiches, pizza and gelato before starting the climb. Good shops are beside the Circo Massimo, near the big FAO building
4. La bocca Della verita’ (the mouth of truth)
Do you know the movie ‘Roman holidays’, the scene when Gregory Peck pretends to have his hand bitten off but a whole in the wall representing a mouth? That whole in the wall exists and the kids find it equally scary and hilarious!
If you go there, make sure you also look at the round temple just behind you and take a stroll in the Jewish ghetto (actually, get lunch there if you can: Jewish roman cuisine is amazing!)
5. The Vatican, St Peter’s square and basilica
I find the Vatican museums impossible to visit with children. As much of an effort as I can put into making museums interesting for them, I find the Vatican’s too big, crowded and plain boring for anyone without a well-developed sense of art or at least curiosity for it.
That said, I do think a visit to the Vatican is in order when visiting Rome and St Peter’s basilica and square is easily enjoyed by all ages. Older kids will love climbing to the top of the dome (warning, it’s hard!) and kids of all ages love the idea that the entering the square means crossing an international border!
If you are thinking of visiting the Vatican with kids, I do recommend booking a tour with Rome for kids. We took one of them this Christmas, you can read here our full review of the Vatican tour
Top tips for families visiting St Peters’ with kids: when in the main square, make sure you tell your children to have a good look at the colonnade from many standpoints. How many rows of columns can they see? Get them to take a note of that and then ask them to stand on one of the spots marked on the ground: magically, they’ll see most of the columns disappear!
6. Go to a museum: best museums for kids in Rome
A more family friendly museum is Palazzo Valentini, near piazza Venezia, right in the city centre. Part of this museum is devoted to the ancient history of the city and hold reconstructions, drawings and miniature of what the city would have looked liked. Older kids might also enjoy the cinematic reconstruction of Rome in the nearby Time Elevator.
Another great museum is Chiostro del Bramante, close to Piazza Navona. This cloister is a beautiful architectural space and hosts temporary exhibitions, often including children workshops.
The one museum that truly is for kids and for kids only is the children museum: there is nothing in it that is specific about Rome, but it’s close to Piazza del Popolo and a real treat for little ones with options for role play, water-play and many interactive installations to stimulate learning through play.
If you need to something that is just for them, or if you are caught in the rain, this is the pace to go.
The museum is suitable for babies up to teenagers if you speak/understand Italian: if you don’t, I believe children over 8 or 9 might not find it as engaging (they run many workshops but they are all in Italian)
Top tips for families visiting explora children museum: the museum can get crowded and operate on a strict shift schedule. Make sure you ask for the schedule and if you happen to arrive very late after the start of a shift, wait for the next one: you can do so in the small cafe of the museum or, if the time of day is right, treating yourself to a meal in their nice restaurant.
7. Rome cat sanctuary in Piazza Argentina
If your kids are cat lovers, a fabulous to place for them to visit is the cat sanctuary in Piazza Argentina: this square hosts an important archaeological site that over the years have become a sanctuary for Rome’s cats.
Stray cats are common in Rome, I would go as far as saying that cats are one of the main features of the city, and here they find a safe haven: a group of volunteers cares for them and visitors are welcome to drop in for a cuddle.
8. Take a pizza making class
A fantastic activity suitable for kids of, almost, all ages, is taking a pizza making class. The one we took was specific for families and took place in a real Roman pizzeria right in the centre of the city. You can read our full review here and book the same experience through the excellent Viator: click on the image below for availability and best prices.
9. Take a gelato tour
Another food-based activity, but how could I not include gelato in a list of must-do activities in Rome? Gelato tours are available from food tour companies but my best advice is to make your own. You can find the best places for gelato in this article (yes, we put some proper research into it and it was a delicious task!)
10. Go to the park: Rome’s best parks and villas
Rome is a big city and traffic can get crazy, but it’s also a city with many parks.
A break in one of these green oasis can make the difference between an overwhelming day and a pleasant one, so it’s worth knowing what parks are available. In the city centre, you are likely to encounter Villa Borghese: a massive park, it has a lovely terrace overlooking piazza del Popolo, a lake with a cafe and a small shop lending rowing boats, a small playground and the zoo.
A lovely park can also be found in front of the colosseum (Colle Oppio) and, near the Vatican, you have the stunning Gianicolo.
One of the seven hills of Rome, Gianicolo has a lovely green area and a terrace overlooking the city: it’s best visited in the afternoon so that you can the enjoy aperitivo in Trastevere, the area just at its bottom.
Outside of the city centre, we are also fond of Villa Torlonia (where Mussolini used to reside and where it is still possible to visit his bunker) and Villa Ada, a massive park that will make you feel miles aways from the busy metropolis surrounding it!
Top tips for families visiting Villa Borghese with children. Villa Borghese is very big and you can spend a whole day visiting its different sections. The ones to give priority to, with children, are the area hosting the zoo and the one immediately adjacent to that. Here you will find them small lake in the photo above where you can take out rowing boats.
Best places to stay in Rome with children
Rome has thousands of hotels and both standard and prices vary widely. Here are some of our favourites.
The best location for sightseeing is near the Pantheon / Piazza Di Spagna /Piazza del Popolo in Rome historical centre. From here you can walk pretty much anywhere and can negotiate the vast majority of the city without having to use its confusing public transport system
The only drawback about this area is the lack of green spaces: with young kids, especially in the summer, it is worth moving slightly out of the historical city centre to hotels with private gardens are swimming pools
Hotel de Russie (luxury): a fantastic hotel with excellent facilities and amazing service. Rooms have air conditioning and mini bar and you can choose between a street or garden view. Kids are welcome and special attentions to them include the availability of cots, high-chairs, mobiles, nightlights and bathroom baby products. You can check latest prices on hotels.com or booking.com
Hotel Kolbe A four star hotel recommended to me by my brother in law, who stayed here with his wife and two young children. The hotel has a great location, large rooms, a garden and pleasant and helpful staff. You can check latest prices on hotels.com or booking.com
Hotel Mascagni Conveniently located close to Termini Train station, Hotel Mascagni had good family rooms and special attentions for little guests such as cots, high chairs, bottle warmers and complimentary colouring set on arrival. You can check latest prices on hotels.com or booking.com
Hotel Santa Maria A good 3-star hotel located in Trastevere, regularly rated as one of the most ‘authentic’ areas of Rome. Originally built as a convent, this hotel has beautiful rooms, a lovely cloister and a very welcoming attitude towards families. You can check latest prices on hotels.com or booking.com
Rome is also home to several Hilton hotels, always a great address for families thanks to the special attentions most of the Hilton properties devote to their younger guest. Click on the image below for latest offers
Where to eat in Rome with kids
They say it’s impossible to get a bad meal in Rome but I am afraid this is not true. If you go to touristy places with ‘tourist menus’ you will get exactly that: a washed down, lower quality version of the amazing roman cuisine. Thankfully there are many other options to choose from: for a real Roman experience, I suggest you look for places marked ‘enoteca‘.
Technically a wine bar, enoteche are usually small establishments presenting a limited but fresh menu to choose from (salads, pasta dishes or meat). In the good season they often have tables outside and consumption of alcohol, despite their name, is not compulsory. Try Cavour 313 (near the Forum), Trimani (near termini station) or Antica Enoteca via della Croce.
To be clear: these are not specifically child-friendly places (no toys or entertainment) but the staff is lovely, professional and families feel welcome. They are a great option if you want some tasty, homemade food but do not feel like a full restaurant meal.
Pizza is amazing in Rome and you will notice it’s available in two forms: Pizza al taglio (cuts of pizza) is a take out option, perfect for lunch, while in pizzerie you will sit down and are served round pizza (pizza tonda), usually in the evening. You might notice pizza, in Italy, does never come in slices! The best places for pizza in Rome are the areas of Trastevere and Testaccio: here it is really impossible to find a bad address and you guaranteed a meal to remember.
You might notice pizza, in Italy, does never come in slices! The best places for pizza in Rome are the areas of Trastevere and Testaccio: here it is really impossible to find a bad address and you guaranteed a meal to remember.
Rome with kids: shortcomings
As I mentioned at the start, Rome is far from perfect and can be infuriating, especially if you have mobility issues such as a buggy or a wheelchair. Here are her worst traits.
- Rome is confusing. As much as I love getting lost in Rome’s cobbled streets, I find it infuriating that the city is unable to have a clear sign system. Road signs are absent, impossible to read or simply pointing the wrong way: to find anything is a treasure hunt. Make sure you have a paper map with you at all times and ask for directions: even if people do not speak English, they will try to help
- No wifi: talking of paper maps, make sure you do not rely on wifi to go around. Officially there are two free city wifi systems you can join but they do not work. No reason, they just don’t!
- Rubbish. Rome lately had a lot of management problems and this included waste disposal. Parts of the city, at times, resemble a city from much less wealthy parts of the world: it’s a shame, Romans are themselves disgusted, but it’s a problem that goes to the heart of Italy’s troubled political history. As much as you can, try to ignore it: it’s not always like this and no one is proud of it.
- Public transport: Rome has some metro lines and buses but they are not a good system. The buses do not follow a schedule (will a bus shop up, will it not? It’s a guessing game) and the metro is dirty and often only accessible through steps. If you can: walk, especially in the city centre.
- Finally, accessibility: Rome can be hazardous to navigate with a buggy or a wheelchair – cars are parked everywhere including pavements, potholes are ubiquitous and steps are everywhere. When you go, always take your time as never wear heels! In the centre, some efforts have been made to provide ramps, but they are not enough, so I am afraid some patience is very much needed.
Finishing this post will Romes shortcomings was probably a bad idea as it might leave you with a bad taste in your mouth about the city, but I felt as a Roman I could not simply ignore at least some of this problems. I believe Rome is a fantastic city, by far the most beautiful I have personally ever seen in the world and I hate to think you might not love it because of her problems: I hope that letting you know about them will make you more aware and prepared for her and maybe more ready to forgive her for what doesn’t work.
If you do visit Rome with kids, I am sure my wonderful hometown will surprise you and them with her never ending beauty, a sky like no other and a compelling desire to know her more.
Going to Rome soon? Don’t forget our printable packing list!
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