With its mighty monuments, creepy catacombs and glorious food, Rome is a magical place for kids. Romans, like all Italians, love children and with a little imagination you’ll find there’s plenty to keep your little ones entertained among the city’s tumbledown ruins and ancient streets.
Is Rome good for kids?
Your children will love roaming around Rome. Child-specific attractions might be thin on the ground but tales of gladiators and heroic deeds can transform historical sights into fantastical playgrounds. Technology also helps and several sites provide smartphone apps and interactive displays, even VR headsets.
Away from the headline attractions, there are parks to explore and underground treasures to discover. And then there’s the food. Gelato and sliced pizza make perfect snacks while restaurants are pretty relaxed about accommodating young diners. Few have kids menus but most will happily serve a mezza porzione (child’s portion).
But it’s not always so easy-going. Cobbled streets and out-of-order metro lifts can make life tough with a stroller. Similarly, there are few nappy changing facilities and public toilets are rare.
Where is best in Rome for kids
The centro storico and ancient heart harbor many top sights, as well as countless gelaterie and pizza takeaways. Villa Borghese is another top spot, home to the city zoo, a small boating lake and plenty of picnic spots. In the Vatican, you can climb St Peter’s dome while Via Appia Antica is the place for bike rides and catacomb chills.
Best things to do in Rome with babies and toddlers
Family fun in Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese, Rome’s central park, is great for tots with several open-air playgrounds and a miniature train ride. Older kids can row on the Giardino del Lago and peddle around on bikes (available to hire in the park). Rome’s zoo, the Bioparco, is also here, and with around 1200 animals it’s a reliable kid-pleaser.
An urban safari
For more animals, look out for the colony of cats that lives among the Roman ruins on Largo di Torre Argentina. Elsewhere, you’ll find a veritable menagerie of animal sculptures, including an elephant near the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, lions on the Cordonata staircase, and a wolf in the Capitoline Museums.
A rainy day museum
Rome’s only dedicated kids’ museum, Explora – Museo dei Bambini di Roma is aimed at under-12s. It’s a colorful, hands-on, feet-on kind of place with thematic sections, interactive displays, a fire engine and free play park. Your nippers will love it.
Best things to do in Rome with kids
Relive past glories at the Colosseum
Everyone wants to see the Colosseum, and it doesn’t disappoint, especially if prefaced by tales of mortal combat and ferocious lions. To see where the lions were caged, consider a tour of the hypogeum, the network of underground corridors that extends beneath the main arena.
Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the one place you’ll encourage your kids to throw their money away. Tradition dictates that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you’ll return to the Eternal City. To secure your comeback join the crowds – which lessen after dark – and chuck in your pennies.
Summit St Peter’s in the Vatican
You’ll almost certainly pass through the Vatican at some point and while it’s not made for kids, it can be fun. Toddlers can chase pigeons around St Peter’s Square and stare at the Swiss Guards’ snazzy uniforms. Their older siblings might enjoy climbing St Peter’s dome and admiring the stunning rooftop views. Similarly dramatic panoramas await at the nearby Castel Sant’Angelo.
Tell a lie at the Bocca della Verità
It’s said that if you tell a lie with your hand in the Bocca della Verità – an ancient marble disc with a face carved into it – the mouth will slam shut and bite off your mitt. Try it, then decamp to the nearby Circo Massimo for a run-around and picnic.
Tech at the Terme di Caracalla
If your kids love technology, try them with the augmented-reality headsets at the Terme di Caracalla. These VR guides recreate the vast baths complex as it looked in its 3rd-century heyday. Multimedia displays are also used to good effect at Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini, bringing life to several underground Roman villas.
Best things to do in Rome with teenagers and tweenagers
Views from the Vittoriano
Teens might be hard to please but even they’ll be impressed by the Vittoriano. This colossal white monument boasts some of the capital’s most spectacular views, including a breathtaking panorama from the 80m-high Terrazza delle Quadrighe. To get there, take the lift on the structure’s western flank.
Catacombs on the Appian Way
Via Appia Antica is home to Rome’s best-known catacombs. These underground tunnels are where the early Christians buried their dead and it’s a wonderfully creepy experience to poke around their hidden depths. On returning to the land of the living, clear your head with a bike ride along Via Appia.
Go to gladiator school
Give free rein to your inner Spartacus at Rome’s gladiator school. Here you and your young warriors can dress up in traditional garb and learn gladiatorial combat under the watchful eyes of instructors from the Gruppo Storico Romano.
Footie at the Stadio Olimpico
For an unforgettable sporting experience, take your teens to a match at the Stadio Olimpico. Hardcore fans fill the Curva Nord (Lazio) or Curva Sud (Roma) but for a more family-friendly experience, try the central tribune sections. If you can’t make a game, stadium tours are also available.
Roman hotels tend to have small rooms but many have at least one set up for families. Book early to secure your choice.
Public transport is free for under 10s but you’ll still be walking a lot. A carrier will help if you’re traveling with a baby while for toddlers a robust stroller is a must. For long days out, a re-usable water bottle is useful for filling up at drinking water fountains (known in Rome as nasoni or ‘big noses’).