There are so many fun things to do in Rome with kids, but can be overwhelming to plan a trip. It is a wonderful city to enjoy with children, who will love the ruins, the people, and the gelato! The Eternal City is beautiful any time of year, but the crowds will vary depending on the weather and school holidays. Our best advice is to have a plan and make reservations for the more popular tourist sites, but leave time for wandering the squares and enjoying la dolce vita.
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How to Get Around Rome
From the Rome airport to Rome’s city center
Do not plan on arriving at the airport, taking a shuttle to the train station (Termini), and then a taxi to your destination. You will be jet lagged and you will have dead tired children and luggage in tow.
Arrange for a driver through your hotel ahead of time. The cost is comparable to the shuttle/train/taxi formula.
From Termini train station to your hotel
Termini is not a place you want to hang out for a long time, nor is it a place where you want to stick out like a sore thumb. With kids and luggage, it’s hard to hide the fact you are tourists so be sure you know how the taxi system works.
Licensed, official taxis are white, with a TAXI sign on top, a Rome crest on the door, with the letters SPQR. They will also have the taxi license number on the door.
If your group is larger than 3 people, look for a van that can fit everyone in your party. Vans are not as common, but they save you the option of taking two separate taxis and paying double the fare.
Public Transportation in Rome vs. Walking
We did not use the Metro system while we were in Rome, but have on previous visits. It is very efficient and easy to use but we walked everywhere.
Were there complaints about all the walking? Yep? Did we care? Not really. We always tell them it’s exercise and it’s good for them. After we bribe them with gelato they stop complaining, LOL.
What to do in Rome with kids
Our best tip is to avoid Rome during major holidays. The crowds are crazy and things close for no rhyme or reason. We have plenty of ideas on how to skip the lines in Rome.
1. Visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
At least once during your time in Rome, you must head to Vatican City. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world and home to the Pope, Swiss Guards, and others who support the Holy See. While younger children might not be able to fully appreciate the chapel and museums, it’s a must-see for parents and older kids visiting Rome.
The best way to see the Sistine Chapel is by purchasing entrance tickets in advance through their ticket office. Once booked you will receive a voucher that confirms your tour time.
Before or after your visit to the chapel, head to St. Peter’s Basilica. Here you will find the tombs of former popes, monarchs, and other important figureheads of Ancient Rome.
You can climb to the top of the Basilica’s dome, but you will need to pay a separate entrance fee. Climbing the stairs has one fee, but you will incur an extra cost if you wish to use the elevator. If you want a guided tour of St. Peter’s and the dome, this is the tour for you.
*Note: You will still have to wait in line for security at both the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican. Sometimes lines can be very long, so we recommend going first thing in the morning or the early afternoon.
2. Colosseum – Roman Forum – Palatine Hill
Let me save you some heartache (and money). Do not wait in the long line at the Colosseum. Go to the Forum (or Palatine Hill) and buy your ticket there. It will cover the entrance to each of the sites and is valid for two days. Better yet, buy your tickets online.
The Roman Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in Rome and a place the whole family can enjoy. Consider taking a tour that allows you to explore the arena floor and the Colosseum underground. This is THE place to go to learn about Rome’s ancient history.
If your kids want to know more about Ancient Rome and learn about life as a gladiator, we highly recommend taking them to Gladiator School.
Classes take place at the Gladiator School of Rome on Via Appia Antica, and ages 6 and up are welcome. Guests will learn fun facts about the ancient city, and basic gladiator skills, and channel their inner warriors.
The Forum used to be the center of Roman society – political, social, and religious events all took place here. Today it has the ruins of public buildings, markets, temples, and other important structures. Palatine Hill is one of the original seven hills the Roman Empire was built on and provides stunning views of the Forum and Circus Maximus. It’s a peaceful place with stunning views of the city.
We toured the Forum and Palatine Hill the day after we toured the Colosseum and were equally impressed by the ancient ruins. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. The kids loved every minute and never complained about the five hours we spent between the three sights.
3. Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
What’s not to like about an enormous fountain with a giant statue of the Roman god Neptune standing atop a shell-shaped chariot pulled by sea stallions?
Children and adults of all ages flock to the Trevi Fountain for people-watching, coin-flipping, and of course, gelato-eating.
I think there are no fewer than five gelato shops surrounding the fountain, so take your pick and find a flavor that suits you. Before leaving, turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your left shoulder. Legend has it this will guarantee a return trip to Rome.
4. Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is one of my favorite places to take the kids in Rome. The piazza is pedestrian friendly so children can run around and parents don’t worry about them getting hit by cars or the ever-present Vespa scooters.
The place is lively, filled with tourists and locals alike admiring the beautiful fountains or lounging at the multiple cafés ringing the piazza.
There are plenty of little shops along the perimeter where adults can grab a cappuccino while the kids burn off some energy. Walking around the square is one of my favorite things to do in Rome at night.
If you are looking for other car-free areas where the kids can run free, head to Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, and Campo de’ Fiori (home to Rome’s most popular daily market which is open every day but Sunday).
On our first visit to the Pantheon, our boys were unimpressed by the 2,000-year-old sacred temple. All they saw was an old building, columns, and an enormous hole in the roof. They took one look and then headed back outside.
A few days later we returned when we were caught in a torrential downpour. The water came rushing through the ceiling like a raging river, drenching those of us standing nearby.
Our kids will never forget the sonic boom of thunder as it resonated through the dome and the screams of terror shouted by hundreds of people at the same time. Let’s just say they still talk about it to this day.
6. Spanish Steps
This used to be a famous spot for people watching and simply relaxing, but it is officially illegal to sit on the steps these days. So take a quick look and head to the gelato shop for an afternoon treat.
If you have time, check out the McDonald’s next to the Spanish Steps, one of the largest in Europe. The lines inside will be long, but it’s one of those things you should do since you’re there. Trust me on this one, especially if your kids can’t take one more meal of pizza and pasta.
Where to Eat Gelato in Rome
No Rome family vacation would be complete without gelato. We tried four different gelato (ice cream) shops and some we tried more than once (it is vacation after all).
Here were our two favorites in Rome, and if you are traveling around, here is the best gelato in Italy.
Giolitti, Via Uffici del Vicario, 40– Giolitti has been dishing gelato since 1890 and everyone loves it. Go in the front door, pay for your gelato at the register up front, get a ticket, then get in line to order your gelato. Enjoy the creamy goodness outside like everyone else because there’s an extra charge to eat inside.
La Gelateria Frigidarium, Via del Governo Vecchio, 112-One of our favorite gelato places. Good selection of flavors, including the option of dipping your gelato in chocolate. Yum!
If you want a unique archaeological site that is sure to impress kids of all ages, head to the catacombs. There are more than 60 of these underground burial chambers in the city, but only 5 are open to the public.
The Catacombe di San Calissto (Catacombs of Saint Callixtus) is the most visited and it covers over 35 acres across 4 different levels. Saint Domitilla Catacombs is one of the largest.
Several companies offer guided tours of the Catacombs or you can use public transport.
Note: All of the catacombs are found outside of the city and if young children are afraid of the dark, I would not recommend a visit.
8. Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is an experience that will make a big impression on all ages. The site was originally a mausoleum built for Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, and since then it has been a castle, a prison, and now a museum. Kids will marvel at the stunning statues that line the entrance to the building.
The interior is equally stunning with its beautiful frescoes, lavish rooms, and breathtaking city views from its rooftop terrace. This is a great way to learn about the city’s rich history and it’s a great place to visit on a rainy day.
9. Try a cooking class
If you want to impress the kids, consider booking a pizza or gelato-making class, or maybe one that does both! This hands-on cooking class is perfect for all ages and teaches them how to make two Italian favorites, pizza and gelato, from scratch.
10.Villa Borghese Gardens
The Borghese Gardens are a huge green space in the city center. Think of it like New York City’s Central Park, as it has playgrounds, Bioparco di Roma (Rome’s zoo), bicycle rentals, and even a puppet theater! For those with older children, there are several museums on the grounds including the popular Borghese Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Consider grabbing sandwiches and drinks before heading into the park. There are plenty of places that are perfect for a picnic. If you prefer not to bring your food, there are cafés and restaurants in the park.
In our opinion, there is no better place in Rome to let the kids run free and burn off some energy!
11. Nighttime Vespa tour
With an experienced guide as your driver, you’ll explore the Colosseum, the Mouth of the Truth, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Saint Peter’s Square, and the Trevi Fountain. A nighttime gelato and coffee are included. Children must be 5 years of age to join in the fun.
Where to Eat in Rome with Kids
We ate pizza and pasta at many restaurants that were not worth mentioning, so here are the ones we would recommend.
Cantina e Cucina, Via del Governo Vecchio, 87- On a cute, mostly pedestrian street off of Piazza Navona is this charming little restaurant. The focaccia bread is delicious and we enjoyed the pasta, risotto, and pizza.
The waiter was very friendly, my son even gave him a hug when we left. It began to rain as we were leaving so they let us borrow their umbrellas and told us to bring them back the next day! Now that is what I call customer service.
Mastro Ciccia, Via del Governo Vecchio, 76- Right across the street from the above restaurant, is Mastro Ciccia. The place seemed to be equal parts locals and tourists, and plenty of families.
Our kids thought they had the BEST pizza and my husband and I enjoyed the pasta.
Trattoria Antonio al Pantheon, Via dei Pastini, 12- Found this place after we made a mad dash in the rain from the Pantheon to the nearest restaurant recommended on Trip Advisor.
Our waiter was outgoing, the food was delicious (pizza and pasta as always), and the atmosphere was warm and cozy. A convenient location and friendly service always make a winner in my book.
Best Family Tours in Rome
If you’re looking for a personalized, guided family tour of Rome, we highly recommend The Roman Guy who has some of the best Rome excursions in the city. If your kids are adventurous, check out this Rome food tour.
Planning a weekend in Rome? Don’t miss this 3 days in Rome itinerary. If you’re looking for other Italy posts, don’t miss our things to do in Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast with kids.
Where to Stay in Rome with Kids
We have an article that covers our favorite family-friendly hotels in Rome, but here are some others.
- Gli Scipioni Bed and Breakfast – Excellent bed and breakfast around the corner from the Sistine Chapel and walking distance to Vatican City. The owner is extremely helpful and they have rooms that sleep 5. Easy access to shops and restaurants.
- Navona Gallery & Garden Suites – A quiet oasis in the heart of Rome just steps from Piazza Navona. We recommend the Michaelangelo Suite which is perfect for families. The apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a stocked refrigerator with everything you need for a continental breakfast, and a private terrace, for enjoying afternoon coffee (or vino).
- Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese – Centrally located hotel near the entrance to the Borghese Gardens and the Spanish Steps. The hotel’s rooftop lounge and restaurant has stunning overlooking the gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Sofitel offers a curated Roman Culture Experience which is everything from a tea party with a real princess and watercolor painting to a gelato workshop and a day trip via e-bike. There is a junior suite option for families that sleeps 3.
- Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá – Five minutes from the Vatican and St. Peter Basilica, this property sits between Trastevere and the River Tiber. For families looking for a Rome hotel with a swimming pool, this is the one to choose! Several rooms have private terraces and there’s even a villa with a private pool.
Book Your Flights – You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service. If you need airport transfers, we recommend Welcome Pickups.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option. If you plan to take the train, we recommend using Rail Europe.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages. Other companies to look at include Tours by Locals and Withlocals.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational-based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours. For unique, curated activities, check out Headout.
One of our favorite things to do annually is taking photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threats, or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master or World Nomads to find the best policy for your group.