As adults we are able to view Rome’s ruins and spectacles in their historical context, and impose our own knowledge on what we see.
For children however, all that “old stuff” can be a little tough to enjoy, and the excitement and importance of what they’re looking at can be overlooked.
One way to avoid the sense that “it’s all just a bunch of rocks” is to get your kids informed and excited by the city before you go, or at least at the very beginning of your visit, which will allow them to get more out of it.
Another way is to provide activities that directly appeal to children to help bring the city alive. Here is a lot of advice to help you with this.
The good news about visiting Rome with kids
The great news is that Rome is a seriously child-friendly city. The people of the city – no matter what age – absolutely love and tolerate kids, and really go out of their way to help out.
Rome with kids – outdoor fun
Rome is absolutely stuffed with parks of all sizes, and most of them have playgrounds. From the wilderness of Villa Ada – which boasts a comprehensive playground near the lake – to the genteel sophistication and wide-open vistas of Villa Doria Pamphili.
We also recommend the small, quirky Villa Torlonia which boasts a brand-new kids’ eco-play area.
However the number one kids’ park in Rome is the elegant and very central Villa Borghese, with many child-centric activities such as a tiny fun fair, a kids’ theater, a boating lake, ‘Flintstones’ electric pedal cars, and go-karts, all centered around Viale dei Bambini (kids’ street).
Rome’s “Bioparco” is within the Villa Borghese park. It was built in the 19th century and is therefore of a somewhat outdated design with regard to animal welfare but has recently been significantly improved as part of a reimagining as an outpost of environmental education. A good visit anyway.
Choose age-appropriate tours of Rome
Leonardo da Vinci museum and kids’ workshop
Age guideline: 6-12 years old.
See Leonardo’s amazing inventions brought to life, and add a fun workshop with a trained educator.
Gladiator Training & Gladiator School Museum
7 years and up.
Get absolutely hands on with this course that teaches your offspring – or yourself – to become the kind of warriors who fought for glory or death in the famous arena.
How to eat out with kids in Rome
Restaurants in Rome are super child-friendly. As long as you book ahead and mention you have a child, all will be taken care of for you. There are no restrictions on bringing children of any age into restaurants at any time of the day or night – including babies.
There is always at least one high chair (“seggiolone” pronounced SEJ-uh-lone-eh) available, and the waitstaff will bend over backwards to make your baby or child welcome, to the point of prioritizing the making of kids’ food to be delivered even before the adults’ appetizers (locals’ tip: even if they’re not on the menu, if you have kids you can always ask for pasta al pomodoro – simple tomato pasta – or pasta in bianco – pasta tossed in butter/oil and parmigiano – and the kitchen will rustle it up for you for a nominal fee), or sending to the kitchen to make special baby food (pappa – this is usually a mild vegetable or veg/meat broth with tiny pasta cooked into it). People are also very tolerant even if your kid starts acting out.
If you have a toddler, there are also dedicated places available with a play pen/ball pit etc. so you can release them into the soft play area and relax with a beer and a pizza. One favorite place like this is Bucky pizzeria at Via dei Duranti 152, just a few minutes’ walk from Monti Tiburtini metro station. Nice house wine, Great German pilsner on draft, friendly staff, and pretty good pizzas for a good price. The tables are arranged around the soft play zone so you can relax while still keeping an eye on your beloved screaming and running around the soft maze.
For a more commercial approach to entertaining kids in a restaurant there’s the Mucca Pazza (‘Crazy Cow’) chain, which is always crammed with families with children, birthday parties, soft play, cakes, tchotchkes, and quite good food. It’s semi-organized chaos and incredibly loud, but there is tons for the kids to do.
For us, the ‘Rolls Royce’ of kid-friendly restaurants in Rome, with exceptional food to boot, is Cottage, about 5 minutes’ walk from Cinecittà Metro station on the A line. This restaurant features not only a large and engaging outdoor kids’ area, but also several well-trained animatori (entertainers/babysitters) to look after them while they play, so you can sit back and truly relax with some excellent wine and really well prepared Italian delights.
While most of the above child-oriented restaurants in Rome are in the suburbs, one fairly central place is Queen Makeda Grand Pub near Circo Massimo metro, which does pretty sophisticated food and drink and has a small indoor play area and an animatore to keep them busy and happy.
Top tip: before you visit Rome with (older) kids
Play Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
This is Renaissance Rome brought to life in an accurate architectural way – even if the city’s geography is somewhat compressed.
As its names suggests, it is a bloody game (and in fairness, Renaissance Rome was pretty violent too), but on arrival in Rome your kid will be delighted to recognize familiar sights such as the Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo and St Peter’s Basilica (half constructed in the game!). See video below.
Watch the movie ‘Gladiator’
It’s also violent so make sure it’s age-appropriate, but it’s also hugely entertaining and gives the Colosseum in particular a huge boost in recognition factor.
“Are you not entertained?”
Alas other ‘Roman’ movies such as the old (and modern) Ben Hur may prove a little tedious for younger people.
Getting around Rome with kids
Rome is not the easiest city in the world to get around, especially with children. In particular pedestrianized areas still allow local traffic, so you must keep your wits about you at all times, especially with kids.
To buggy or not to buggy in Rome?
Getting around Rome with a baby buggy/pushchair (passeggino) can be a challenge: cars park haphazardly on the sidewalks and crosswalks, or so close together it’s difficult to pass them, there are hazards all over the place such as badly parked e-scooters, and cobblestones galore.
Many local parents swear by a baby carrier (marsupio) because of this issue, but if you have a toddler or more than one baby, this is impractical. You will just need to brave the obstacle course that is Rome’s streets.
Public transport in Rome with kids
Getting around Rome by public transport is relatively pain-free with children. People are accommodating to a fault and older people will even give up their seat for a little one on the metro! You can bring your buggy on buses, trams, and the metro, with no problem. Under-tens travel for free.
Rome taxis with kids
Unfortunately Roman society has a rather lax attitude towards car safety for children. It’s still common to see kids rattling around in the back of vehicles with no safety belt on, as if it were still the 1970s. Nor do most Rome taxis and Ubers carry child seats. You can book one with a child seat using a taxi app, but you may have to wait some time for it to arrive – and even then you may not find it’s the safety equipment that you envisaged: some cabs carry a booster cushion in the trunk but these are not suitable for smaller children.
We strongly suggest that you take matters into your own hands and carry child car safety equipment with you. Technology has moved on so such items can be dual use, and therefore not an extra burden: if you have a baby, use a buggy/pram with a detachable child seat that can be strapped into the rear seat of the car. If your child can sit up, we highly recommend the Trunki Boostapak, which is a European safety-rated backpack that can be used to carry your kid’s stuff while on the move, that doubles as a robust temporary car seat with strap to lower the height of the seat belt to protect your kid’s neck.
When you see how Roman taxi drivers drive, you’ll be glad you did.
Driving yourself around Rome with kids
Don’t do it. You may think that the safest option is to rent a car and bring your own car seat (like buggies, they’re carried in the hold of airplanes for free) – and in terms of equipment safety it is – but driving in Rome is a fraught experience, and parking is even worse. As detailed in our dedicated article about renting a car in Rome, you will likely ruin your stay by renting a car for a vacation in Rome.
What to do in Rome with children if it’s raining
Don’t panic! As well as the more traditional exhibitions of art and archaeology, there are also dedicated child-friendly museums in the city.
The Museum of Illusions
This tops our list for fun things to do indoors in Rome!
Go cross-eyed trying to work out how the optical tricks work. Lots of photo opportunities and contrivances to amuse and amaze pretty much all ages.
A visit will take about an hour. The museum is conveniently located in the central, trendy Monti district where there are lots of places to eat.
Book now >
Explora: The Children’s Museum
A fun indoor space that gives kids of all ages hands-on experience with various tactile substances, from playing with water courses to driving a remote control train. There’s also a soft play area for toddlers. Each scheduled visit is one and a half hours long so it doesn’t get too crowded, and there’s a wonderful pizza restaurant in the lobby before or after you go in.
Booking in advance is mandatory >
If the Eternal City just ain’t cutting it for you and your loved ones, there are always theme parks just outside the city. Here are three of the best.
Rome’s newest and most exciting theme park, based on the output of the city’s famous movie studios where La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday were filmed but also exploring other fun themes. Modern rides, and very suitable for children of all ages. Book now >
Rome’s first and largest theme park, this place is themed on fairy tales. Book now >
Marvel at the wonders of marine life, and enjoy spectacular aquatic shows.
Book skip the line tickets >
Whichever combination of these ideas you choose, with just a little preparation, you can turn a child’s perception of ‘boring’ history around, and share with them what Rome really is: a vibrant, endlessly fascinating, living museum.