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 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, and using public transportation to get around. Also be sure to eat plenty of gelato. Read tips about buying the best Italian ice cream.
Two iconic Roman sightseeing destinations—the Colosseum and the Forum—are side-by-side, which makes it convenient to visit both in one day.
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 has free audio downloads for the top Rome sightseeing attractions, including the Colosseum. Also, how about gladiator school for the kids?
The Roman Forum
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, audio guide, 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, it's best to take a tour with a guide. 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 line. (Most tours include three admissions, to the Colosseum, the Forum, and also the nearby Palatine Hill.)
Visiting the Vatican City
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.
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 one Tripsavvy Europe travel writer 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 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 is right on the plaza.
The Trevi Fountain
Here is another wonderful place to simply hang out with your kids in Rome. So popular is the Trevi 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.
Stroll Through Rome, Exploring the Piazzas
You can make great memories of Rome with 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, 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 the 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.
The Spanish Steps and Fun in the Borghese Gardens
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 artificial lake. There's a puppet theatre in summer months. There's another entrance to this park by the Piazza del Popolo.
Evening is a lovely, cool time to gather on the steps.
More to Explore
Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II: This neo-classical monument 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-dos. 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.