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Rome, Italy — the Eternal City — is one of the greatest cities in Europe and all the world. Certainly, I’m a little biased, since I live near Rome and visit frequently with my daughter. But she and I have been going to Rome since she was in a stroller, and I can attest that it’s a terrific, kid-friendly destination for young kids as well as older ones. There are a ton of attractions and diversions for kids, the city center is mostly flat and the main sights are almost all within easy walking distance of one another. Plus, there’s gelato and pizza!
Below, I’ve laid out a 3-day plan for visiting Rome with kids. If this is your family’s first time in Rome, three days is just about right. Of course, you could spend a week or more here and not see all there is to see, but three solid days give you and your kids a chance to see the major sights and allow for some time to chill out at a park or playground, wander the winding streets of Rome’s beautiful historic center (or centro storico), and, of course, make plenty of pit stops for gelato.
Once you’ve taken a look at the itinerary below, read on for some travel tips on how to prepare for your trip, avoid long lines while you’re here, and save money by taking public transportation. This 3-day Rome itinerary assumes that you’ll arrive the day before, have a centrally located hotel or rental apartment, and be able to get an early morning start on your first day.
Read More: Best Countries to Visit with Kids
Day 1 – Sightseeing in the Centro Storico
You and your crew can spend the first day getting to know Old Rome by taking a self-guided walking tour of the centro storico. This area offers a mix of ancient Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque landmarks and architecture, so it’s a history lesson as well as a visual delight for all ages. Start at a point nearest to your lodging, and be sure to hit the following hotspots, which are all within walking distance of one another.
Campo de’ Fiori
If timing allows, make this your first stop in the morning, when the colorful, bustling produce market at Campo de’ Fiori is in full swing. Have your kids look for fruits and vegetables they may have never seen back home. Keep in mind that it’s a bit chaotic here, so keep a close watch on your little ones and your belongings.
The best-preserved building of ancient Rome, the Pantheon brings the wow! factor. Be sure to reserve your timed entry ticket in advance to visit this magnificent domed building, which dates to the first century CE. Once inside, you’ll only need about 30 minutes tops. Duck into nearby Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, with its cute Bernini elephant statue out front and a sculpture by Michelangelo inside.
Built on the ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, the oval-shaped Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful piazzas in the Eternal City. It’s car-free, so kids can run around a little bit here and admire fountains, street artists, and hawkers selling gadgets. The piazza is also lovely in the evening.
You have to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, which is said to guarantee a return trip to Rome. This majestic baroque fountain dates to the 1700s. It’s always crowded and touristy here, but it’s a must-see landmark. You may need to hold little kids here — otherwise, all they’ll see are the backs of other tourists.
The Spanish Steps
Named for the Spanish Embassy located nearby, this monumental staircase connects the centro to the Pincio and Villa Borghese areas above. At the foot of the stairs, a fountain, designed by the father of renowned baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, dispenses what is said to be the best-tasting drinking water in Rome.
Piazza del Popolo
Less than a 10-minute walk from the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo is another sprawling public square, said to be haunted by the ghost of Emperor Nero. If your kids are interested in art, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo contains works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Bernini and other giants of Italian art.
Via del Corso
If your kids haven’t totally run out of steam, walk back to your hotel or rental along Via del Corso, sections of which are pedestrian-only and stroller-friendly. There’s good souvenir shopping on this street, as well as a number of super high-end fashion houses, including the Fendi flagship store.
Pizza and gelato
After a nice afternoon break, head out for a real Roman pizza, which is some of the best in Italy. My favorite spot is Da Baffetto on Via del Governo Vecchio. It’s right next door to Frigidarium, which makes excellent homemade gelato. If you’re staying near the Jewish Ghetto, which is itself an interesting area, there are plenty of pizzerias and traditional restaurants there, too.
Day 2 – Exploring Ancient Rome
This is the day your kids have probably been waiting for — the chance to visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and other ancient Roman sites. Today requires some advance planning, but it will be worth it!
Reserve your tickets in advance to the Colosseum, the site of ancient gladiator combats, wild animal fights, and a host of other bloodletting. If your young kids are early risers, select an early morning timed entry so you can enjoy a few hours here. Consider booking a guided tour, or at least opting for the audio guide. There’s a family-friendly gift shop here, too. Note that even with timed tickets, you may run into long queues at security.
The Roman Forum
Once the political, commercial, and social center of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum today is a fascinating jumble of ruins spanning more than a thousand years. If your kids haven’t read up a little bit beforehand, this is another good place to opt for an audio guide. Your Colosseum tickets include access to the Forum and the Palatine Hill (see below), and kids can wander freely here — though keep an eye on them in the crowds!
The Palatine Hill
Romulus, brother of ill-fated twin Remus, is said to have founded the settlement of Roma on top of the Palatine Hill, one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. During the height of the Empire, it was an exclusive neighborhood of noble palaces, many of which now lay in ruins. Climb up here if your kids still have some energy, and let them run around in the gardens and open space. You can also look out on Circus Maximus from here, which is better than making the longish walk to the actual site.
The Capitoline Hill
Before or after your day among the ruins, walk up the monumental steps to the top of the Capitoline Hill and a piazza designed by Michelangelo. At the rear of the Senatorial Palace, you’ll get an unforgettable view of the ancient city.
After everyone has had a chance to rest from this long day of sightseeing, walk across the Tiber River to Trastevere, one of the most colorful neighborhoods in Rome. There are a host of restaurants here serving traditional Roman dishes like cacio e pepe or carbonara pasta. All but the fanciest restaurants are extremely kid-friendly and will be happy to churn out some pasta pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce) and probably an order of fries, as well.
Day 3 – The Rome of the Popes
When you walk across the Tiber River this morning (or take a taxi or public transportation), you’ll be heading into Papal Rome, and actually setting foot in another country — Vatican City. Get an early start for another full day of art, architecture, and history.
I’ll be honest — I only recommend booking a visit here if you know your kids will enjoy a huge, crowded, art-filled museum. The Sistine Chapel, with its famous ceiling by Michelangelo, is here, as are masterpieces by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and a host of others. Kids love the Egyptian and ancient Roman collections here but again — this is a marathon, rather than a sprint. Consider an early morning entry ticket or a private, guided tour.
St. Peter’s Square
Once you’ve seen the museums, head to the monumental St. Peter’s Square, one of the most magnificent piazzas in Europe. (Tip: Stop at a cafe along the way for a snack or sandwich.) Unless you book a private tour with skip-the-line entry, you’ll have to wait in a long line to enter the basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Built on the alleged burial place of St. Peter, this massive basilica — the largest in the world — is one of the most spiritually important sites of the Catholic Church. Its scale is overwhelming, and little kids might feel swallowed up by the thickness of the crowds. If you’re not sure, just stick to the piazza. Older kids might enjoy climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome for a sweeping view of Rome or going down to the crypts to visit the tombs of dozens of Popes.
After a midday break, head to Villa Borghese, which is not actually a villa but a large public park set above the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. There are playgrounds, a carousel, pony rides, and rowing boat rentals on a small lake. It’s almost all car-free and a great place to let kids take a break from sightseeing.
For your last evening in Rome, you can head back to Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, the Pantheon, or any of the little cobblestone side streets around these landmarks for dining at a sidewalk trattoria, and a last gelato before saying arrivederci to Rome!
Rome Travel Tips
Here are some of my kid-tested trips for a successful visit to Rome:
Bring reusable water bottles. Rome is full of public spigots dispensing clean, cold water. Bring a refillable bottle and skip the plastic waste.
Build in an afternoon break. Especially in the summer months, the afternoon heat and crowds can be oppressive. Give everyone a break after lunch to cool off and nap before heading out to dinner.
Beware of skip-the-line tour offers. Sometimes guided tours are a great way to learn more about an attraction, but be aware that your timed entry tickets to the Pantheon, the Vatican Museums, and the Colosseum already include skip-the-line options.
Consider a food tour. If your kids like their Italian food, consider a daytime or evening food tour, which helps put Roman history and cuisine in context. Almost all food tours conclude with a gelato stop!
Use public transportation. With Termini train station as its hub, Rome’s system of buses, trams, and subways is efficient, with the occasional service hiccup. Trams are fun for kids to ride, and buses allow you to do some sightseeing out the window.
Bring good walking shoes. Since most of the centro storico is car-free, you gotta walk if you want to see Rome. Cobblestone streets are tough on feet, so make sure everyone is equipped with good walking shoes.
Read up before your trip. Introduce your children to ancient and historic Rome by having them read a book or two about the city. The Diary of Dorkius Maximus is part of the Wimpy Kid series, while Madeline and the Cats of Rome see the beloved heroine touring the city. Or have them bring Mission Rome: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure with them on their visit to Rome!