Rome Sightseeing with Kids

  • 01 of 07

    Rome with Kids: Introduction; The Colosseum

    Roman Colosseum. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• The Colosseum is perhaps the most recognizable sightseeing spot in Rome. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Rome is an unforgettable place to visit with kids. Older kids will be thrilled to immerse in ancient Rome, but you don't need to wait until the young'uns are a certain age: traveling with wee kids has its merits too, in a country like Italy where people love children. You'll see the country in a different way, and people will see you in a friendlier way that makes great memories.

    Rome is also a very hot city in summer time, which is when most families will be visiting, so you'll need to pace yourself and keep hydrated. See Tips about Visiting Rome with Kids, for advice about: walking with kids and beating the heat; free cold water; finding places to rest; finding toilets; using public transportation to get around. Also be sure to eat plenty of gelato -- Italian ice cream! Read tips about buying the best Italian ice cream.

    The Colosseum
    Two iconic Roman sightseeing destinations -- the Colosseum and the Forum -- are side-by-side, which makes it convenient to visit both in...MORE one day. See Top Ancient Rome Sightseeing at About.com's Italy Travel website for all the details about visiting the Colosseum, ticket purchasing options, and how to avoid line-ups.

    The Colosseum is an easy place to visit with kids, as they can scramble around in its giant amphitheater imagining scenes from ancient times or perhaps from movies, and also there are shady areas readily available when you need a break from the hot sun.

    A few tips: Rick Steves -- long-time expert on travel in Europe -- has free audio downloads for the top Rome sightseeing attractions, including the Colosseum. Also: how about gladiator school for the kids?

    - Continue to The Roman Forum

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  • 02 of 07

    The Roman Forum

    Rome Forum. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    The Forum is just a short walk from the Colosseum, and -- with buildings that date back as far as the 7th century B.C. -- to say that the area is rich in history is an understatement. However the Forum is a jumble of ruins from different eras and (at time of writing) almost no background information is presented to visitors. Unless you have a Guide, audioguide, good guidebook or app, you will likely wander around wondering what incredibly important monument you're looking at... Meanwhile the sun will be beating down, very little shade is available, your kids are hot and tired...

    For family visits to the Forum, I'd recommend doing a tour with a Guide. This is based on personal experience, having tried it both ways! Yes, a guided tour is an extra expense, but many other activities recommended here are low-cost or free so overall, sightseeing in Rome needn't be expensive. Also, a tour price may include admission and also the opportunity to enter the Forum without standing in...MORE line. (Most tours include three admissions, to the Colosseum, the Forum, and also the nearby Palatine Hill.) Here is a sample tour that has child prices for ages 4 to 14. (As noted for the Colosseum, the Rick Steves' travel site has free audio downloads for Rome's main sightseeing attractions -- however, when touring as a family a shared experience with a Guide will work much better.)

    - Continue to The Vatican City

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  • 03 of 07

    Visiting the Vatican City

    St. Peter's Square, Rome. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Photo © Teresa Plowright. Click for larger image.

    The Vatican City State is an actual sovereign city-state -- the smallest in the world, a tiny walled enclave that exists on just 110 acres inside the city of Rome. The Vatican has been the home of the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church since the 14th century.

    For travelers, the Vatican can be thought of as a three-part visit:

    • St. Peter's Square: one of the most famous squares on the planet, no admission charges, and easy to visit with kids.
    • St. Peter's Basilica: one of the world's largest churches and home to superlative works of art. Admission is free but line-ups are often long.
    • The Vatican Museums, home to the Sistine Chapel.
    Parents should consider carefully what to prioritize and how to best spend their time -- see tips about visiting the Vatican City with kids.
    - Continue to The Pantheon
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  • 04 of 07

    The Pantheon

    Photo credit: Martin Child / Getty Images.
    ••• Photo credit: Martin Child / Getty Images.

    This is one of my family's favorite places to visit in Rome: an amazing monument both visually and historically, and also so easy to visit! No line-ups, not even a price of admission...

    The Pantheon dates back to 25 BC, but was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian  about 125 AD, and is truly a place like no other, in Rome or anywhere: as About.com's Guide for Europe Travel puts it: "The Pantheon stands as the most complete Roman structure on earth, having survived 20 centuries of plunder, pillage and invasion."

    It's a marvelous structure, known for the massive columns that support its portico, and for its oculus, a round opening in its dome (which, by the way, features prominently in the bestselling novel, Angels and Demons.) The Pantheon has been a church since 608 AD. Inside are beautiful paintings and the tomb of the Renaissance artist Raphael -- history buffs could spend hours here, but a great thing about visiting with kids is that you can simply make a quick visit, go...MORE outside and enjoy the piazza, get an ice cream, come back in if you like...

    The piazza outside the Pantheon -- Piazza della Rotonda --  is a most enjoyable place. People rest on the steps and enjoy the beautiful view of the Pantheon plus some diverting people-watching. Cool fresh water is available from one of Rome's fountains-- refill your water bottle.  An Italian-style MacDonald's is just steps away, with outdoor eating and sun umbrellas, and a terrific gelateria -- ice cream shop-- is right on the plaza. (Make sure you only eat the best quality ice cream when in Italy!) also.

    -Read more about the Pantheon
    -Continue to The Trevi Fountain

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  • 05 of 07

    The Trevi Fountain

    Trevi Fountain, Rome. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Photo © Teresa Plowright. Click for larger image.

    Here is another wonderful place to simply hang out with your kids in Rome. So popular is this fountain -- which was completed in 1762-- that a small amphitheatre of seats has been built so foot-weary visitors can take a rest enjoy the place. Ice cream places are conveniently nearby.

    -Read more about the Trevi Fountain.
    -Continue to Stroll Through Rome, Exploring the Piazzas

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  • 06 of 07

    Stroll Through Rome, Exploring the Piazzas

    Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Fountain of Nepture sculpture in Piazza Navona. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Some of my family's best memories of Rome are of night-time walks from the Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon to the Piazza Navone or the Campo di Fiore... The streets are alive at night and full of families with strollers and kids of all ages, the temperature in summer is lovely, the sidewalk restaurants are bustling, the visitor's eyes are constantly delighted by beautiful statues and architecture at every turn...

    No line-ups, no price of admission, kids can run around -- just about a perfect way to enjoy Rome.

    Campo di Fiore is a colorful market in daytime, and then becomes a busy place for evening strolls and refreshments -- great for people-watching.  Read more about the Campo de Fiore, Piazza Navone and other top tourist attractions in Rome.

    - Continue to The Spanish Steps and Borghese Gardens

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  • 07 of 07

    The Spanish Steps and Fun in the Borghese Gardens

    The Spanish Steps, Rome. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Almost every tourist visits the Spanish Steps in Rome:  the 138 steps lead from the Piazza di Spagna up a steep slope to the Piazza Trinita dei Monti.  Most people simply sit on the steps and people-watch; kids can play around the fountains in the Piazza. Meanwhile, history buffs like the association with the English Romantic poets who gathered in Rome in the early 19th century.

    Families however may want to continue up the steps and head to the Villa Borghese Gardens, a giant public park (148 acres) which contains many fun things for kids to do (in addition to several museums.)  Families can rent bikes or try several kiddie rides, or rent rowboats on a little artifical lake. There's a puppet theatre in summer months -- read more fun things to do in the Borghese Gardens (Parco della Villa Borghese.) There's another entrance to this park, by the Piazza del Popolo.

    Tip for visiting the Spanish Steps: evening is a lovely, cool, time to gather here.

    More to Explore

    The neo-classical Monu...MOREment of Vittorio Emanuele II, built in grandiose style from 1911 to 1935, has drawn adjectives such as "pompous" and names like the "wedding-cake" or "the type-writer" (and it's also been resented because it destroyed historical areas and is associated with the Mussolini fascist era.) Therefore it's not generally on most lists of tourist must-do's. Yet it draws over 2M visitors a year, and has a few features to recommend a visit: it's air-conditioned; it's free; and it has a very nice casual restaurant at the top with great views of Rome. Visitors can also pay a small fee admission fee to visit a terrace at the highest level of the monument.

    Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina): On a summer evening, take a stroll to this little island in the River Tiber -- which, like everything in Rome, has centuries of history, and has been linked by bridge to mainland Rome since antiquity. In summer, this island is a fun place to go, with restaurants and open-air flea-markets. Reportedly there is also an open-air cinema.