Traveling to Rome with kids was one of the best decisions my family has made. The experience was so rich and fulfilling that I know for a fact I want to do it again with my youngest child in tow. When we first went, our son was 3 and a half years old. I often wondered if he was too young to appreciate the culture-heavy destination and I am glad to report he wasn’t too young. He was at a perfect age.
Not only did he do amazing in the 9 and a half hour flight, but he kept up the pace all over town and was capable of being quiet in sensitive places like the Vatican. More on that in a minute. As you explore the possibility of your own family vacation to Rome, I want to help you navigate where to stay, the absolute must-see places, and other great things to do in Rome with kids.
Questions about traveling with kids to Rome and Italy
First, let’s dive right into the questions you might be asking yourself such as is Rome good for families? Absolutely! From spacious piazzas to explore, learning to be gladiator classes, making pizzas, indulging in gelatos to children’s museums, there are plenty of reasons for your little ones to have a wonderful holiday in Rome.
Now I have been to a good number of Italian cities and I can tell you Italy is child friendly. We have had great experiences traveling with kids to Venice, Florence, Naples, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast.
How to get into Rome
The two main ways people get into Rome are via train and airplane. We chose to fly into Rome from Florence because we didn’t love our experience with the train when we traveled into Florence. It wasn’t anything negative per se, it just wasn’t memorable. I much prefer to save time on travel and fly out.
You can also, of course, take a public or private car or bus however I wouldn’t recommend this option unless it’s part of a tour.
Where to Stay in Rome with kids
We stayed at the NH Collection Roma Giustiniano. It is a 4-star hotel in the Rome historic enter half a mile away from Castel Sant’Angelo, and a 20-minute walk to Vatican city or a short 8-minute car ride. It is great accommodation if you are looking for an affordable place near the Vatican.
This is also an American Express Hotel Collection property and as Platinum cardholders, you can have additional amenities as well. The reputation and backing of Amex really solidified our trust in the hotel.
While my son did fine in this hotel, it didn’t necessarily cater to children. It felt a bit more like a business hotel however still accommodating and modern. We were upgraded to a suite and had a significant amount of space for the three of us.
Another thing I loved about this property was that it was within walking distance to a carousel. Next to the carousel was a coffee and sandwich shop and next to it were several street vendors where we obtained many beautiful souvenirs. At the time that we went, there was also a musician playing the saxophone. It made the experience so lovely.
Now if you have a bigger budget to work with, I suggest another hotel such as St. Regis or J.K. Roma. They both are less than a 15-minute car ride to the Colosseum and the Vatican. Both of these hotels are 5-star properties and part of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts collection.
Must go to Places to see in Rome with kids
Now I want to start with the main places to visit when you are in Rome with kids. Regardless of the length of your stay, these are the places I recommend you make time for and add to your itinerary. I’ll walk you through what to experience at the Vatican, Colosseum, and Trevi Fountain among others.
Vatican (International border)
It is important to note that The Vatican is its own country. While you might not necessarily receive a passport stamp, they have their own security and regulations to abide by.
Hear me when I tell you this, you want to purchase a tour that allows you to “skip the line.” Then know even the skip the line has a bit of a wait. Nowhere near as long as the regular line of course which makes this option suitable when going with small children who may not be as patient as you.
We went fully knowing we wouldn’t last for the tour. As soon as we entered the Vatican, our son wanted food and a bathroom break. Right then and there I returned our headphones to the tour guide.
Not all tours are created equal and there is a lot to cover in the Vatican so unless you have a private tour guide for just your family, know it may only be worth it to enter through the expedited line. Remember manageable expectations when traveling with children makes all the difference in the world.
Once inside the Vatican Museum, there is a restaurant and a patio on the main courtyard if you need refreshments and a bite to eat when your little ones need a break. The Vatican is so large often times you’ll encounter a quiet hallway or empty showroom believe it or not.
Bring a stroller umbrella and or a baby carrier
Like most of Italy, be prepared to fold your umbrella stroller as there will be stairs throughout. While there is an elevator as well, it can be a bit of a wait and you’ll have to go out of your way to locate the nearest one on your floor. Sometimes it’s best to just lift the stroller through a few stairs.
I do not recommend a full-size stroller for this reason. Not to mention, while some places may be empty and quiet, many are very crowded with tour groups. A full-size stroller will make it more challenging to navigate.
An interesting fact is that having a stroller may also give you access through an hc-entrance that provides a shortcut queue to the Sistine chapel! We were pleasantly surprised to discover this at the Louvre as well.
Make sure you stop at the Vatican shop
I was surprised by how small the shop was! It had wonderful religious items like pendants, rosaries, jewelry, and craftmanship among many others. I made sure to grab several of my souvenirs there.
My best tip to you for going to the Vatican Rome with kids
Take your time there. Admire the Sistine Chapel without mentally going ah got it and checked off my list. Take all the photos and read all the interesting facts you want.
I understand when we have little ones, we want to rush through everything because we’re accustomed to meeting their pace. From my experience, try to slow it down as much as you can.
St. Peters Basilica
In Vatican City, there is the famous St. Peter’s Basilica that you must go inside to see the incredible church. While very well organized, it is pretty busy and as a result of a little loud of whispers and chatter, therefore, your children will be just fine.
Inside you will be amazed by the beautiful paintings and sculptures such as Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is a little dark however plenty of candlelight and low lights to feel comfortable. The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free however many advise similar to the Vatican Museum to get a tour guide in efforts to expedite wait times. We didn’t encounter any lines at all so a tour guide would have been unnecessary for us.
Did you know you can climb St Peter’s Dome? While I would only recommend if you have older children, you can climb the stairs! Which let me tell you many people don’t do it only because it’s not as widely talked about.
You can even take an elevator to the first floor and see the apostles onto the roof of the basilica. On the first floor, there is also a refreshment stand and restrooms. If you forgo the elevator, it would be 231 steps and if you keep going it’s another 320 stairs to the top. I’ll let you be the judge of whether that’s tiresome or not, ha!
Plan to be at Vatican city for at least 3 hours though if you also spend time in St. Peter’s Basilica you will need an additional two. For that reason I recommend Vatican city be the only attraction you visit that one day. Plus it’s more than enough for your little ones for a day.
I should note there is plenty of space in the square for your little ones to blow off steam and chase the pigeons. There’s also a lovely fountain our son had a blast playing around that day. We chose to grab dinner and a drink to relax afterward from all the walking and further soak up Rome.
More must-see places in Rome with kids and toddlers
Colosseum (kid-friendly guide) (Where the Lions lived)
The Colosseum was a big hit with our toddler. He did so well for over 3 hours that he made it through the entire tour we purchased! Remember how we only made it to the entrance on the Vatican before needing to leave our tour group? Well not here. Perhaps it was a better day for him or he was more interested in an outdoor atmosphere or both but nonetheless, we had such a positive experience.
We met the tour group at their offices within walking distance from the Colosseum so we avoided the traffic. Like in most places in Italy, a stroller is welcomed however be aware that much of the path is very rocky. You may need to go through stairs to get by therefore I recommend bringing that light umbrella stroller.
Something to note, we were the only ones with a child in our tour group and I didn’t see too many young ones from my recollection. Matter of fact I am pretty sure we were referred to as the girls with the baby by our guide the entire time. Don’t let that discourage you.
Just always have on top of mind when traveling not everyone is used to accomodating to children. Regardless of the tour guide’s feelings to take extra bathroom breaks or search for us while locating a smoother path, she was respectful and very conscious of not leaving us behind.
That being said, I recommend getting a tour for the skip the line access but also the experience overall is positive. Just keep in mind you may miss a lot of what the tour guide is saying through your earphones. It’s just how the cookie crumbles with young kiddos.
Palentine Hill- The Orange Garden of Rome
Prior to arriving at the Colosseum, we walked through Palentine Hill Forum. These are almost always lumped together because of the close proximity they are to one another. The structures are very fascinating. The House of Livia, Cryptoporticus, Domo Flavia, Domus Augustana, and Stadium of Domitian are all a sight to see there. There is also of course the Palatine Museum and the Circo Massimo (at the bottom of Palatine hill.)
This probably took a little bit longer than inside the colosseum itself. While there are plenty of places for you and your little ones to stop for a rest, there aren’t many places to grab food or restrooms. Ask your guide or personnel ahead of time to be prepared. Also, bring snacks as I mentioned there is no restaurant.
There are however plenty of water fountains so you will want to bring your own bottle of water to refill. The sun can also be harsh so I recommend wearing quality sunscreen. You can also bring one however you won’t be able to take any spray ones.
Have you heard the saying throw a coin in the Trevi fountain and you will return to Rome? I had heard of that one. The one that was new to me however was if you are looking for love throw one or two more! Pass that on to your single friends and family.
The Trvei fountain is one of the most popular fountains in Italy that you cannot miss. It’s popular for its beauty and legend that I shared. It’s also pretty huge at 85 feet tall and nearly 65 feet wide!
A very interesting fact is that all the money generated from the coin tossing goes to charity. And probably for this reason it is illegal to fish coins out of the fountain. I am not surprised by that one. By the way, my son loooooves throwing coins in fountains as it turns out. Ha! I am certain your little ones will as well.
Try to go early in the morning to avoid crowds. Even an hour from 8 AM to 9 AM makes a big difference. You may even have an opportunity to take a decent picture without people around you.
Also, did you know you can go underneath the Trevi Fountain as well? This isn’t widely known. If you look up how to get to that entrance it isn’t too far. It is just around the corner after a few turns and you will see really cool waterways where the water from the fountain flows through.
Things to do in Rome with kids
One of my favorite recommendations to make is to find a book that speaks to your children from the destination. It will help them remember the city and it provides an opportunity to reminisce every time you read it. If they are too little when you go, it gives you the chance to tell them stories about the trip they can hold onto for life.
Make pizza class
My son adores baking and cooking with me. What more memorable activity than to be shown how to make an authentic pizza from scratch? Now as a side note, there is no such thing as a pepperoni pizza in Italy.
Since my son loves them, we tried asking for them in different ways per local suggestions however it was never the same. We either got spicy sausage pizza or just sausage pizza. For that reason, I suggest prepping your kiddos when in Rome, expand your palettes!
If your kiddos are a little bit older and enjoy drawing, there are wonderful artists in Rome that will host classes for you and your little ones. It will serve as a beautiful souvenir for grandma or just yourselves to have at home.
Learn to be a gladiator class
Thing one is really popular. It’s a two-hour class where your kids not only learn to duel like gladiators but also learn history! The swords are fake of course and the instructor is kid-friendly and very entertaining.
Watch a Puppet show
On Sundays, there is a great puppet show at Ginicolo Belvedere where at noon they even fire blanks from a canon at the top of the hill! While you are there you can enjoy the beautiful views of ancient ruins and monuments through Gianicolo hill.
Boat ride at The Borghese Gardens
There is a lot of things to do at the Borguese gardens such as the Museum and bikes rides. If you venture out that way take a 20-minute boat ride with the kids!
It’s pretty neat. Interesting fact, despite being a tourist attraction, don’t expect English to be spoken at the ticket box office so be prepared. I recommend having the kids ride with an adult and not themselves as it may be a little difficult for them to maneuver the boat.
Now I try to do things I wouldn’t necessarily find in my hometown however this one is a pretty good exception. I have yet to go to a zoo where kids aren’t entertained and have an excellent place to run and explore. Not to mention, it’s a nice break from all the culturally rich education they’ve taken in Italy thus far.
Piazza Navona (toy store)
One of the most famous piazzas in Rome is the Piazza Navona. If you’ve spent time in Italy, you’ll know a lot of many cities attractions surrounds these piazzas.
In Piazza Navona you’re going to encounter 3 well-known fountains; Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro, and Fontana de Nettuno. You will also encounter Sant’Agnese in Agone church as a beautiful backdrop.
There is a lot of life here, from street vendors and artists to musicians. I would definitely take the time to stop. I am a sucker for live performances.
While you are there you can stop by the Palazzo Brasci where you will find a Museum of Rome. It’s 3 floors to explore and it also has a nice cafe and courtyard to grab snacks and beverages for the family.
Gelatos & food tours
There are so many tours to choose from but when you are traveling to Rome with kids, I recommend making gelato lessons! There are private tours in one of Rome’s known gelato parlours. A professional gelatieri gives them and your family a hands-on gelato-making class. In the end they not only will learn a new skill from local culture but they will have dessert.
Places to visit if staying for a week or longer
Rome is such a large city that you may not get to check or experience everything out if you’re only in town for a few days. It’s why I named the must-see places first regardless of the length of stay when traveling to Rome with kids. I was able to get through them in three days by the way. The remainder of the amazing sites I will list now. They are great for longer stays when you travel to Rome with kids.
While you will have a plethora of museums you can explore, it helps to know which cater a bit more to children so let me help guide you to some. This list isn’t inclusive or necessarily all specific to just children but they are museums with something to offer to young children.
Explora Children’s Museum
This may be the only museum actually catered to little ones. They have areas divided by age appropriation such as 0 to years, 3-6 years, and 6- 12-year-olds. Almost everything inside this museum is interactive therefore plan on staying there a while since your little ones will love it.
While the exhibits are in Italian, there is English-speaking staff available to help as well. This is an excellent place for young children to be themselves in a culture-rich environment. All the Rome facts for kids you will find here.
Welcome to Rome – family-friendly exhibitions
This one is short and sweet. If you have an hour to spend, this one is a good museum to visit with the family. Here your little ones will see 3D renditions of Roman buildings.
Leonardo’s machines (Palazzo della Cancelleria)
This one is close to Welcome to Rome if you want to make it a museum day. It has Leonardo Da Vinci’s exhibition of about 50 machines. The adults will find it fascinating and older kids interesting as well.
Centrale Montemartini, kid-friendly museum
This is an industrial space vibe.
Other neat places to visit while in Rome with kids
If you have a longer stay or have already been to Rome in the past and have seen the main tourist attractions such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, here are some other greatly recommended attractions. If you have not, I highly recommend you visit the places mentioned first in this post prior to any of the following.
Piazza della Minerva
This popular piazza is overlooked by Sopra Minerva church. It is known for the Bernini statue of a small elephant with an obelisk on its back. You will also find a small Formula One store for Ferrari fans.
Spanish Steps- Best stop for Shopping!
The first thing you should know is that you cannot actually stop and sit at these stairs. Ha. These very popular stairs are in front of Trinita dei Monti church which actually sits at the top of the stairs.
At the actual piazza you will also find a small museum for John Keats. There is also the Fountain of the Old Boat or Fontana della Barcaccia. If you are hungry you can also stop at the Babington’s Tea Room and Restaurant. But at the very foot of the stairs, there are many more bars and restaurants in addition to boutique stores.
Facing the stairs is The Via dei Condotti you will have luxury designer stores such as Prada, Armani, Dolce and Gucci.
This Roman Catholic church previously known as a temple for the Gods is one of the most preserved monuments in Rome. It’s a pretty common feeling entering such a grandiose structure.
It has a 9-meter diameter hole at the very top. This is the only natural light source. Also keep in mind that if it rains, it also rains inside the Pantheon. While not a whole lot to do here, this 2,000-year-old structure is a pretty cool one to see.
It is known for a quiet, elegant residential area with great views. Here is where you are going to find Piazza of the Knights of Malta and the Keyhole. What is interesting is that you can see three countries in that property; the Gran Priorato di Roma dell’Ordine di Malta, a patch of Italy then the Vatican.
You will also see Basilica Ss. Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, Sant’Anselmo and the Basilica of Santa Sabina, one of Rome’s oldest basilicas. There are also nice hotels and restaurants in the area if you want to stay for a bit.
Here are some other recommended places to check out on your family trip to Rome, Italy and you stay for longer than a week:
She-wolf on Campidoglio hill
Pyramind (cat colony)
Ostiense street art
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Rome’s talking statues
Baths of Caracalla (kid-friendly ancient site)
Piazza del Popolo (twin churches)
Pincnic in Villa Doria Pamphili
Villa Torlonia (Techno town)
Campo dei Fiori
Tiber River Walk
Rome’s drinking water fountains
I first learned about Rome’s drinking fountains at Palatine Hill. We were so thirsty and didn’t have a bottle of water. Had we known about these we would have absolutely been prepared with one.
Now the first thing that came to my mind was how is it safe to drink and how is it different from tap water? Well, I have since learned that the water comes from the mountains. It is pure, fresh spring water. It has no chemicals or salt.
The Romans created an aqueduct centuries ago that is piped into the drinking fountains. They are completely licensed by the city of Rome and they are tested for purity around 250,000 times a year.
What is neat is that unused water doesn’t go to waste. It is used to water squares, factories, shops, and markets. There is also an app that can tell you where these fountains are because, remember, not all are. Some are just for decorative purposes such as the Trevi Fountain. The app is called I Nasoni di Roma if you want to be prepared which I highly suggest that you do.
Tips for walking with kids in Rome
Remember that there will be a lot of walking. Regardless of how you get to your destination, once you are there you will be walking. Little kids get tired frequently therefore we established you need an umbrella stroller for them to rest in. Make sure it is reclinable if they are still of napping age.
Be prepared with sunblock, water, or an empty bottle of water to refill at the fountains we spoke about and snacks! Do not forget the snacks as they are very important to keep little ones happy.
Try not to rush them. The more we are patient with them in general but especially walking, the more they will enjoy the destination. Also make games a long the game. Ask them to point out different things and stay by your side at all times.
I wish I could have spent at least a couple of weeks in Rome. There just is so much to take in, admire and learn when you take a family trip or holiday to Rome. This place is truly a must-see that I would love to return to in the near future.
Not only would I visit the same incredible places such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, but I would venture out more, try more restaurants and absorb the culture. I bet it would be a different experience if, for example, I stay in a different part of town next time.