Whether it’s the food, history, atmosphere, or architecture, Rome is eternally fascinating – and with so many things to do in Rome with kids, I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to its charms.
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Having decided to risk the weather at February half-term rather than book our trip for Easter, our timing couldn’t have been better, flying back just before northern Italy introduced its first lockdowns (and we all know what happened next…)
And for the past three years, my daughter has been asking to go back – because a visit to Rome with kids is perfect, those magical sights as enchanting as ever and no travel restrictions to stop you exploring. Here’s what we fitted into one week in Rome.
We couldn’t cover everything the Eternal City has to offer, needless to say – half the fun of being in Rome is taking time to sit outside a cafe and people watch in the sun, stroll the streets with some gelato and wander from piazza to piazza to see what secrets you find.
But our week included a great walking tour of Rome with kids, a family tour of the Colosseum and Forum, a chance to visit Gladiator School, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza Navona, and the Mouth of Truth, spotting ancient Roman sites and throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain, pizza galore and plenty more.
I’ve also picked out some more of the best things to do in Rome with kids, including the Vatican, more places to visit, a food tour of Rome and family activities to try.
And the best thing about never quite fitting everything into one week in Rome? You’ve got the perfect excuse to go back again…
Contents - click to jump to a section
Day one: Trastevere & Isola Tiberina
Start your family holiday in Rome slowly – after your arrival, settle in by taking some time to soak up the atmosphere.
If, like us, you’re staying in Trastevere, it’s the perfect place to amble. Stroll to the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere for its astonishing decoration and mosaics, and grab some gelato on the square while you watch street performers.
It’s also walking distance from the Isola Tiberina, set in the Tiber river, which has a long history of healing – there’s still a 16th-century hospital on the island.
The bridge connecting the island to the northern bank, the Ponte Fabricio, dates from 62BCE, making it the oldest Roman bridge in Rome that survives in its original state.
There are legends galore linked to the island, but even without knowing any of the tales, it’s a relaxed spot to wander the cobbled streets.
There’s not a huge amount to see (although there is a 10th-century basilica), but it’s a peaceful little oasis to stroll by the water (needless to say, you can also find gelato here).
Where to eat in Rome with kids
We spent a long lazy meal at Popi Popi, which had pizza and peach juice for my daughter, and pasta carbonara and prosecco for me.
I decided to try carciofi (the deep-fried artichoke dish that originated in the city’s Jewish ghetto) here too – and according to the waiter who evidently took pity on me, the best way is to quarter it and eat some of the softer heart with the crunchy leaves.
After all, travel isn’t all about exploring and stacking up miles, it’s about the experiences – and what’s more Italian than a long lunch in the sun?
Day 2: Walking tour, Trevi Fountain & Welcome to Rome Experience
It’s time to get exploring – you could create your own walking tour to see some of the highlights, but booking a family-friendly walking tour of Rome is a great way to get your bearings and see some of the key sights.
We took a tour with Tapsy Tours, which specialises in child-friendly tours – there was an activity booklet, an actor joining our guide to bring the stories to life, and a relaxed pace with plenty of time to chat along the way.
Read my full review of a Tapsy Tour of Rome with kids for all the details
Starting at the Circus Maximus, our tour took us past the Colosseum and Roman Forum, before spotting the famous statue of the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus.
Then moving to more modern history, we wandered through the Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michaelangelo, on to its Piazza Navona to learn more about the fountains before heading to the Pantheon – and the grey February skies came into their own.
As the drizzle started, we dashed inside to watch the rain fall through the oculus, the famous hole in the roof, before draining away through a clever system of holes and a slightly sloped floor, constructed by the Romans.
Finishing in the Campo de’ Fiori with some pizza bianca, the tour had whisked us through thousands of years of history and thousands of steps, although you get a lift from Piazza del Campidoglio to Piazza Navona part-way through – not to mention dozens of facts, and one giant mole, the tour’s mascot who waved us off at the start.
Along the way, there were plenty of quirky little facts and less well-known stories behind the famous sights, and we even got to wear a triumphal laurel wreath.
It’s a perfect introduction to the city, especially with younger kids, and a great way to see a lot of the main highlights in one go.
If you’re looking for something a little different than a standard walking tour of Rome with kids, this self-guided Rome treasure hunt is a really fun way to see the sights while keeping kids entertained
Day 2 Afternoon: Welcome to Rome
If you’re visiting when it’s rainy (or searingly hot), fancy resting your feet for a bit, or want another way to wrap your head around Rome’s astonishingly long history, don’t miss Welcome to Rome, not far from Campo de’Fiori.
The multimedia exhibit includes a film taking you through Rome’s history from kings to republic, empire, popes, and unification, whisking you through 3,000 years of the city’s highlights.
There are also 3D virtual recreations to show what some of the current-day ruins would once have looked like – perfect after having had a glimpse of some earlier that day and a great way to prepare us for more exploring. Allow around one hour.
We finished with a few more unmissable highlights not already seen in our tour, walking up to Piazza Venezia past the astonishing Trajan’s column with its intricate detail.
From here, you can carry on towards the Trevi fountain – the February drizzle meant we got almost as wet as if we’d waded through it, La Dolce Vita style (definitely don’t try that in real life!).
My daughter still threw a couple of coins in to ensure she comes back. Rome has another fan!
While it’s an experience just to look inside, you’re unlikely to escape without buying at least a few of the chocolates (brace yourself for the prices, but they’re worth the splurge).
Where to eat in Rome with kids
Our Tapsy Tour guide recommended Rossopomodoro in Largo di Torre Argentina, not far from the end of the tour in Campo de’ Fiori, for some great woodfired pizza.
One of four of the chain’s restaurants in Rome, the pizza was great and it’s ideal if you’re looking for a pitstop to rest your feet and refuel.
Day 3: Ancient Rome & the Colosseum
You can’t go to Rome with kids and not see the Colosseum – well, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it! So, having seen the exterior on our day two tour, we booked a second tour to take us inside as well as into the Forum.
There are Colosseum tours galore, but not all are aimed at kids, so it does pay to choose wisely to discover the stories behind the ancient stones and bring the drama of the Colosseum to life.
With challenges for the kids in our group to win points by spotting details and taking part in other games, my daughter flung herself enthusiastically into the competition, trotting out all her knowledge of Ancient Rome from studying it at school (visiting a string of Roman sites in the UK had evidently paid off!).
But it definitely wasn’t dumbed down, with details of what the games entailed, the chance to see ancient graffiti and Latin inscriptions, and even tales of 2000-year-old toilets. Let’s just say 70,000 spectators and a few holes isn’t the prettiest picture.
We got a great view of the cages where wild animals would have been kept, heard tales of gladiator school and why the star performers would have been treated with kid gloves, as well as some colourful anecdotes about the emperors.
The gladiator area underneath the arena itself is also now open, as an added bonus if you’re visiting the Colosseum with kids.
Then, on into the forum, where the temples still standing give an impression of just how astonishing the area would have been in its heyday.
After almost three hours, I still wished the tour had lasted even longer, although I was definitely flagging – even if Minnie was still scampering around the old Roman paving stones at top speed.
Who to book with? Ours was run with Pink Umbrella tours booked through Get Your Guide – led by our fantastic guide Simona.
Day 3 Afternoon: exploring more of Ancient Rome
The Colosseum and Forum certainly aren’t the only places to discover more about Ancient Rome, as we discovered during the rest of our day – with the added bonus of meeting up with native Roman Marta (who blogs at Learning Escapes) to show me some secrets.
We headed up to one of the free viewpoints from the Altare della Patria, or Vittoriano, a gigantic white construction commemorating the unification of Italy – and spotted the changing of the guard by the tomb of the unknown soldier as well.
Trajan’s Column and Trajan’s Market are both next door, so it’s easy to explore both of those before heading towards the river and the Theatre of Marcellus.
This theatre, which held games as well as performances, could have seated up to 40,000 people, and it’s a great reminder that the Colosseum might be the most famous arena, but it’s certainly not the only one.
Then on through the ghetto, the walk took us through countless picturesque narrow streets on our way to Largo di Torre Argentina.
It’s easy to wander past the ruins here without realising the significance of this unusual spot: once home to four temples and the Theatre and Curia of Pompey, it was here that Julius Caesar was assassinated.
As well as looking at the columns, it’s also now home to a refuge for stray cats: very fluffy, sleek-looking ones, including a tabby sunning itself majestically on the archaeological remains. No one argues with a cat, right?!
You can go inside to pet them as well (donations welcome!)
Where to eat in Rome with kids
On Largo di Torre Argentina, it’s easy to overlook Pizza Florida, but it’s perfect for lunch on the go – so much so that my daughter kept asking to go back (and still talks about their veggie pizza).
One of Marta’s recommendations, it’s definitely not just for tourists either. There’s pizza by the slice to buy, with a whole host of flavours, often fresh from the oven – totally delicious.
Day 4: Gladiator School & The Mouth of Truth
Once you’ve been inspired by seeing inside the Colosseum, the next logical step is obviously to become a gladiator yourself, right?
So it was off to gladiator school we went. And after a few days of walking and history, this was something really different – and huge fun for the whole family!
The tour started with a mix of learning some more background about gladiator life and what the training entailed, before getting taught some basic techniques with the sword.
And after looking around the little museum, learning about the costumes and helmet design, before dressing the kids up in various outfits – as you’ll discover, there isn’t just one kind of gladiator – it was time to head into the arena.
Matched up with our opponents, we got ready to spar… thankfully just with a padded wooden sword. It’s a good job my life didn’t depend on my own performance – although my daughter, concentrating fiercely, won her bout.
Gladiator School is set a few miles outside the city: there are buses that run there, but I quickly learned it’s best not to rely on those. After waiting almost 40 minutes for the 118 bus near the Circo Massimo (which allegedly runs every 15 minutes), we flagged down a taxi – 10 Euros at the time, we should really have done that in the first place!
It’s not the cheapest thing to do with kids in Rome, but it’s easily one of the most memorable – book tickets to Gladiator School here. And I am now officially a Roman citizen (sort of), with a certificate to prove it.
Day 4 Afternoon: Finding some of Rome’s quirky sights
Heading back to Trastevere, we took on another challenge at the Bocca della Verita – the mouth of truth at Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
I first came across it in the famous scene from Roman Holiday and couldn’t resist trying it, although it took some convincing to reassure my daughter that her hand wouldn’t genuinely get bitten off if she told a lie.
Apparently, in days gone by, priests used to put scorpions inside to continue the legend.
It’s well worth exploring the church too, with a relic of St Valentine whose skull is on display, and an ancient crypt that once housed the altar of Hercules.
If you haven’t already explored the Circus Maximus, it’s just next door too, or you’re a short walk from Isola Tiberina and the Theatre of Marcellus, as well as from the Baths of Caracalla, a 3rd-century complex of thermal baths.
We climbed up the Aventine Hill for one of Rome’s most unusual sights. In the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, keep an eye out for the large door at no 3 with a big round keyhole, and look through – chances are there’ll be a queue waiting if you’re unsure which door it is.
Despite being a couple of miles away, you get a view straight to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, framed by the plants in the garden behind the big green door.
Day 5: Castel Sant’Angelo or the Vatican
For me, no visit to Rome is complete without heading over towards the Vatican and St Peter’s Square – and getting to see it close up, if you’ve already had a peek through that keyhole.
I’d decided against taking my daughter to the Vatican museums on this trip – my own memory is of being wowed by the incredible contents but feeling slightly overwhelmed, and we had a string of tours and lots of history lined up already.
Definitely one for a return trip, though – scroll down to see more if you’re planning to visit the Vatican Museums with kids.
Instead, we headed to St Peter’s Square with a plan to head inside St Peter’s Basilica, where the sheer size of the building always takes my breath away.
Even in February, the queue stretched around two-thirds of the way around the square. And it’s not a small square!
My daughter’s verdict: you have to be kidding me, mummy. So having marvelled at the fountains, we strolled on down the grand Via della Conciliazione towards Castel Sant’Angelo.
It’s one place I hadn’t visited before, but this fascinating spot is really fun with kids.
It has been a fortress and papal apartments, now a museum, but started life as the burial site of the emperor Hadrian – it’s still known as the Mole Adriana. The huge grassy mound has a gigantic statue of Hadrian as the sun god with a chariot on an equally huge pedestal.
Today, the round fortress has been built up over the centuries, but Hadrian’s memorial has mostly survived, unlike other emperors.
As you explore, you wander through tunnels, circling round and round as you climb each level until you reach the very top – the views out across Rome and to St Peter’s are spectacular.
Along the way you see the passetto, the passage running to the Vatican and escape route for at least one Pope, the fortifications, a cafe high up (which might not have had Rome’s best pizza but did have one of the best views) as well as displays in the armoury, the decorated rooms of the Papal apartments, grand statues, and imperial poetry.
We spent a happy couple of hours wandering before trotting back down the curved passage out.
There’s a free app to download which gives an audio version of the signs that are dotted around – you could easily skip it, but handy if it’s busy and you can’t see the boards.
It’s recommended to buy tickets in advance to skip the queues, with timed entry slots – allow at least 90 minutes to explore. I don’t think you need a guided tour here, but if you prefer to take one, try this family-friendly tour of Castel Sant’Angelo.
Behind the fortress are the gardens of the Parco Adriano, also home to a playground, so it’s a great place to while away a bit more time if your kids need a break from sightseeing.
Then stroll across the Ponte Sant’Angelo for some fantastic views, and you’re less than 10 minutes from the Piazza Navona and its wonderful fountains.
More things to do in Rome with kids
The Vatican Museums are just astonishing – not only for the incredible pieces in the collections but for the sheer size of them. You could spend all day exploring (well, without kids) if you didn’t get museum fatigue.
So the first question to ask is whether to visit the Vatican Museums with kids: consider that you have to be silent in the Sistine Chapel, there are often big crowds and there’s nothing hands-on or interactive – this really is not somewhere to come with a toddler.
But if they’re old enough to appreciate what they’re seeing, don’t immediately rule it out. However, I think this is somewhere where a guide is worth their weight in gold to help kids appreciate some of the highlights, without them feeling utterly overwhelmed.
There is a strict no-photo rule in the Sistine Chapel, and you have to be silent – this is enforced for everyone. You also have a limited amount of time inside.
If you do want to visit independently, you can buy skip-the-line tickets to the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel (although you still have to queue for security).
For a family-friendly tour, check out Rome4Kids, which has a whole string of options, including a treasure hunt-style tour that lasts two and a half hours.
Bear in mind that there is a dress code to enter any of the Vatican buildings, including the museums: as you’re more likely to be exploring the museums with older kids, do ensure they’re also dressed appropriately – no shorts or bare shoulders, for example.
St Peter’s Basilica
This monumental church will leave kids as open-mouthed as adults – the sheer scale of the building is astonishing, quite apart from the ornamentation and artwork inside.
As it is a working church, there’s no charge to enter the main basilica, although you do need tickets to see some areas, including the Dome (be prepared for steps!), the necropolis (very limited tickets), St Peter’s tomb and the treasury.
And whether you are planning free entry, a self-guided tour, or a guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica, you can’t avoid queuing entirely, with security checks before you’re allowed in.
As above, you will need to follow the dress code to enter St Peter’s Basilica, including outfits that cover your knees and shoulders – the rules tend to be less strict for little ones and toddlers as long as they’re still dressed reasonably modestly.
It’s the gardens at Villa Borghese which are the big selling point for families, with playgrounds in the Borghese Gardens and the chance to go on the lake in a rowing boat, plus a little train to take you around if small legs get tired.
You’ll also find Rome’s zoo here – the Bioparco is home to 200 species, including leopards, tigers, monkeys, and even Komodo dragons, among others.
The villa houses the Borghese Gallery, including artworks by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, while the building itself is practically a work of art. This one is better if you’re visiting with older kids, though.
For younger kids, check out the puppets at the San Carlino Puppet Theatre, not far from the water clock and Pincio Terrace – which also has some great views back onto Rome.
Head into the catacombs
Rome has a network of catacombs hidden beneath the city, which once housed some of the earliest Christian cemeteries when the Roman Empire still ruled.
Not all are open to the public, and some are more family-friendly than others, but these quirky attractions are a great alternative to the usual historic sights, especially for older kids.
One of the biggest and most popular to visit is the Catacombs of St Callixtus on the Via Appia Antica (not far from Gladiator school), where St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, was first buried, along with a string of Popes.
Kids aged six and under don’t need a ticket, although none of the catacombs are exactly toddler-friendly (you can’t take buggies in, and the floor is uneven if you’re visiting with a baby).
Find Rome’s pyramid
Rome isn’t short of unusual and eye-catching buildings, but you probably wouldn’t expect to find a pyramid there. But the Pyramid of Cestius dates back to the 1st century CE – a similar age to the Colosseum.
The burial place for a wealthy Roman who wanted to emulate the pharaohs, it’s a little way away from most of the places you’re likely to visit in Rome with kids, but walkable from the Aventine Hill if you’re looking through the keyhole – or you can include it as a stop on the way back from Gladiator school.
At present, you can’t go inside, but it’s another unexpected spot to appeal to kids.
Take a Dark Rome tour
Not one for younger kids, but it’s a great change from the usual stories with plenty on Rome’s murderous past and some of its more scandalous moments – from the Roman emperors to some of the Renaissance popes, there are plenty of those to go around!
Try a pizza or pasta-making class
There are some great activities to try with kids, but pizza making – even if you have already eaten your body weight in pizza – is one that always appeals when you’re looking for things to do with kids in Rome.
This great family-friendly pizza masterclass takes place just off Piazza Navona in an authentic pizzeria, where you can discover the secret of getting the perfect Roman pizza.
Or if you prefer pasta, there’s also a pasta and tiramisu class that’s suitable for kids, where you meet a local family. You get to taste the results in both cases, too!
Join a food tour
If you’re keener to eat the food than to make it, try a family-friendly food tour of Rome to nibble your way around the city – including gelato, of course.
As well as discovering corners of the city that you might not otherwise find, you can discover classic Roman dishes, browse markets, and sample olive oil (that one might be just for the adults).
Take an art class in Rome
If your kids have been inspired by the art in Rome, you could take a painting class with a Roman artist – suitable for families, it can even be adapted for younger kids too.
For children aged 12+, you can even learn to make your own mosaics – perfect after seeing some of the wonderful creations in Rome’s churches and ancient sites – at a mosaic-making class.
Where to stay in Rome with kids
Easily one of the most overwhelming decisions to make, there’s a seemingly endless choice of places to stay in Rome with kids.
Some will cost a small fortune, some will leave you far from the main sights or facing pricy taxi rides from the airport, so it can be hard to know where to start.
Trastevere is one of my favourite areas, and it makes a great base for somewhere to stay with kids in Rome, too – our Airbnb was within walking distance from the restaurants and Isola Tiberina, as well as on several tram routes.
That meant we could take a train from the airport, then hop onto public transport to get around, with more tram lines just a few minutes walk across the Tiber from our apartment.
As well as having pizza and gelato on the doorstep, Trastevere felt far enough from the bustle to be quiet, with a local bakery around the corner too, for a little taste of life as a Roman.
For more ideas of where to stay in Rome with kids, check out my guide to Italy with kids.
If you need somewhere to leave your bags after checking out, especially if you’re staying in an Airbnb, we used Luggage Hero (or check out Radical Storage) – you can book using their site and app, leave your bags securely in one of around 50 locations in the city, then pick them up before heading to the airport.
*First published 2020, last updated 2023*
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Images: Aventine Hill/Vatican Museums/St Peter’s Basilica/Borghese Gardens/Pyramid of Cestius courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravelsLIKED THIS? SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL NEWSLETTER