European cities don’t get much more kid-friendly than Rome. There are tons of fun and historic activities, it’s super walkable, and, let’s be honest, there’s gelato after every meal. Kid (and adult) heaven!
Three days is a nice amount of time to be able to see quite a few of the main attractions and eat some great food, while still leaving time in your itinerary to (hopefully) visit a couple other Italian cities, as well. Obviously, there are a million things to see, so if you can stay longer, absolutely do!! But I find that most people tend to have about that much time to explore a new city while traveling. That’s how much time we had for our kids’ first visit a couple months ago, and we absolutely loved our Roman holiday.
Here’s how our family with 4 little kids would spend those three days!
- Lunch in Celio neighborhood
- Roman Forum/Palatine Hill
- Sora Margherita for dinner
Hit the ground running by starting off your day at the Colosseum. Make sure you buy tickets in advance, and try to get an early time slot before it gets crazy crowded. We paid just a tiny bit extra to get a short tour. The tour was only about 30 minutes, which was great with the kids, and we learned some interesting facts. Plus, what kid doesn’t love having headphones?
Spend about 2-2.5 hours here walking around, exploring the various levels and areas, and talking about gladiators nonstop.
After finishing up at the Colosseum, head out to go find some lunch. We liked the Celio neighborhood that’s sort of on the back side of the Colosseum (opposite from the Forum). Even though it’s very close, it was quiet and calm and perfect for sitting outside and enjoying a meal.
After lunch, wander through the Roman Forum and go up to Palatine Hill for a great view. It’s a lot of history in one day, but the climb up and through the ruins make it fun for little ones, and they’re so close to each other that it’s worth doing them both in the same day. Plus, the hill up top tends to be less crowded than the Forum below, and there’s a nice garden maze that’s fun for kids to explore, as well as lots of space to run around and burn off some energy without risking running into thousands-of-years-old columns. 😉
Head over to Sora Margherita in the Jewish Ghetto for dinner – the fresh pastas are amazing and the waitress we had was the most Italian person I’ve ever met – she was feeding the kids by hand within seconds of us being seated. Make sure to get the cacio e pepe (a Roman specialty – eat it as many times as you can while here) and the fried artichoke. (Be sure to make reservations in advance.) Then go crash into bed!! Everyone will surely sleep well tonight.
- Trevi Fountain
- Pantheon, San Luigi dei Francesi, Piazza Navona, Gelateria del Teatro
- Campo de’ Fiori market
- Borghese Gallery & Gardens
- Come il Latte gelato
Get up bright and early and head straight to the Trevi Fountain. If you manage to make it early enough, you may even avoid some crowds! Either way, grab a coin to toss with your right hand over your left shoulder. Try (but possibly fail) to keep your kids out of the fountain, but do let them drink out of the many ancient drinking fountains. If you push the right spot, it will shoot up like a modern drinking fountain!
Next, head over to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. While you’re in this area, be sure to stop into the church San Luigi dei Francesi, which has a set of 3 moving Caravaggios of St. Matthew. If you need something kid-friendly and air conditioned, the little Gladiator Museum in Piazza Navona is worth a short stop. Our kids loved looking at all the armor! It won’t take you long, but it’s fun for little ones if you need to stop and cool down. And grab some gelato at Gelateria del Teatro!
From there, head over to Campo de’ Fiori market, which is bustling and fun. Grab some lunch and eat it picnic-style as you sit or wander. The kids will love getting some fresh fruit or a treat. If you want a bigger meal, try Roscioli just down the way, which has fantastic handmade pasta.
After lunch, head over to the Borghese Gallery. If you were smart, you got tickets well in advance. If you procrastinated (like we did), then you may want to rearrange your day to try to get there right at opening. There’s a decent chance you’ll get in early on (we did), but it gets rather unlikely later in the day, especially during busy season. The Borghese was one of our very favorite museums with kids in all of Europe, so it’s worth the effort!
Before heading in, stop at the gift shop to pick up the I Am the Artist book. It has about 15-20 works of art with just the right length description for preschoolers/early elementary kids. Plus, then they get to color in their version later! This is by far and away the museum from which my kids learned and remembered the most, and this book was a big reason why. Plus, having a set number of pieces to find really helped focus our time and help us to not feel overwhelmed.
Even if you don’t get in, the gardens have delightful opportunities for renting bikes, taking a carriage ride, or just meandering. In fact, if you don’t want an art stop, I’d highly recommend spending the afternoon in the Borghese Gardens – there are several playgrounds and lots of room to run and play for little ones.
Walk over to the area near Como il Latte gelato, our very very favorite in Rome. Either grab something for dinner first, or just…have gelato. 😉
- Vatican Museums/St. Peter’s
Head over to the Vatican bright and early. (Make sure you reserve tickets in advance.) Be sure to pace yourselves – you should be in there 2-3 hours MAX, or everyone will be grumpy and totally worn out. We’re art nerds and loved doing a tour, but it’s absolutely doable without – there are audioguides available, and everything is well-labeled if you just want to google along the way. Be prepared for sensory overload – there is just So. Much. (Incredible) Art. Don’t miss the Raphael rooms, the Sistine Chapel, and stop into St. Peter’s Basilica. (I really liked this blog post on 10 must-sees in the Vatican Museums.)
Spend the rest of the day wandering around Trastavere, taking in the atmosphere, eating, and, of course, getting gelato. There are lots of tiny and charming restaurants as you wander, as well! Consider looking into a pizza-making class that will be fun for all ages.
There you go – three pretty amazing days in Rome that are doable and enjoyable for kids and grown ups alike. How about you? What are your favorite stops in Rome?
(One Note: When we travel, we don’t typically spend a ton of time wandering normal playgrounds and such. We do definitely stop in for a bit, and absolutely make time for special ones – like the Princess Diana Playground in London – especially to have the unique opportunity of interacting with some locals. But we figure we didn’t travel across the world just to have our kids play on a teeter totter. We really like to focus our time on the most important historic and cultural sites in a city, whether we have kids in tow or not. Just to give some background on our travel style!)