Rome has so much to see and do, you could spend a year exploring the various nooks and crannies of this wonderful, ancient city. If you are visiting Rome with kids, here is our best itinerary for 4 days in Rome.
We’ll cover the major tourist attractions, hidden gems, where to stay and what to do in Rome with kids so they’ll remember the Eternal City fondly (and hopefully learn a thing or two as well).
I loved Rome when I first visited years ago, and after visiting with kids, still find it endlessly entrancing. The mix of ancient, old, and new is fascinating, complete with wonderful food and wine.
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4 Days in Rome with Kids
If you have 4 days to explore Rome with kids, here are our best suggestions for organizing your time. Of course, you can rearrange and add to this itinerary as you like. We spent a week in Rome, and stayed in the Trastavere neighborhood, which we adored.
At the end of the suggested 4-day itinerary, we’ve added a few more things to do in Rome with kids, in case you have more time, or need to swap things around. There’s so much to do in Rome with kids, we like to start with the biggest highlights and go from there!
Of course, the ideas we have listed will lead to very full days, so please feel free to ignore some of the suggested stops in favor of quietly enjoying an espresso or a gelato on the streets of Rome. Cafe culture is huge, and Italians love to enjoy the moment, and not rush too much.
Don’t Miss: Where to Eat in Rome with Kids
Day 1- Pantheon and Trevi Fountain
For your first full day in Rome, take in some of the iconic, but easily seen sites, such as the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Neither requires tickets, so you can wander as you please. There is often a line for the Pantheon, but it moves quickly. Try to start your morning in Piazza Navona and move east through the city.
Piazza Navona is a long oval plaza that was once a racing track. In the middle of this massive Piazza, you’ll find Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. The fountain has four figures, each representing a river god on the four major continents of the time: the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Rio de la Plata.
Across from the fountain is Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed by Bernin’s rival, Borromini. You’ll also find the Fountain of Neptune, and the Fountain of the Moor in this piazza.
Don’t miss the classic toy stop Ill Sogno Giocattoli on the north side of the piazza.
There are many cafes lining the square, though they can be quite pricey. We recommend starting your day hear, but if you are looking for a nearby lunch, Ristorante Pizzeria Navona Notte comes highly recommended.
There are also several great food options in Piazza di Saint Eustachio, just a few blocks over, including Pizza Zaza.
Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza
This church by Borromini is unique for the spiral tower that tops the church. Designed in 1642 with a six-sided dome, it’s considered a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. The main entrance is at Corso del Rinascimento 40.
This church is often closed- when we tried to visit it was closed for all of August and half of September. At other times, it appears to only be open on Sundays for a few hours.
Take a stroll to Piazza di Saint Eustachio, and enjoy a coffee and a pastry at either Sant’ Eustachio II Cafe, or Zer Otto Nove Cafe– you’ll have a great view of the spiral tower as you enjoy your snack.
The Pantheon is one of the most famous buildings in Rome. One of the best-preserved buildings from Ancient Rome, it was built by Hadrian around 126. Though it has had many uses, it’s most recent is a Christan church, which is why it is so well maintained.
The structure is famous for its oculus- a large round hole in the ceiling of the dome. This is the only source of natural light in the building. When it rains, water enters the building and disappears down small drain holes in the floor.
While it is free to enter, consider getting a tour guide to give you a thorough introduction to the city. This will also help you avoid standing in a long line to enter the Pantheon.
On this Elite Tour, a small group will not only learn about the history of this iconic building but also visit the Piazza della Minerva and learn about the founding myths of Rome including the story of Romulus and Remus
Check Details: Pantheon Elite Tour
Santa Maria Minerva
When you are finished visiting the Pantheon, add in a visit to St. Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica, which is just across the street.
In front of the church, you’ll see a carved elephant holding an Egyptian obelisk, by the famous sculptor Bernini. Supposedly the elephant is turning his bum toward the church since the head Dominican monk at the time criticized Bernini’s design.
When we visited, the church was undergoing renovation, and we had to circle around and enter by a small back door. A sign at the front will tell you how to find this entrance if this is still the case.
Inside you’ll find a ceiling painted navy blue with gold stars, as well as Michelangelo’s statue, Christ the Redeemer, which depicts the risen Christ as stocky and strong.
This church also has historical significance- this is where Gallileo was tried, and forced to recant much of his work before being placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.
Please Note: The entrance to all churches in Rome is free, though you’ll often see places to donate a few coins, or put a euro in a box to light up a dome or other section of the church.
Men are expected to remove hats, and women to cover shoulders and knees. The only place we saw this enforced was at the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica, but best to be respectful.
Sant Ignazio de Loyola
Just west of Santa Maria of Minerva, is Sant Ignazio de Loyola. The ceiling fresco here is extraordinary, and there is often a line to stand in front of the mirror to see it without craning your neck. There is also an extensive nativity scene (1 euro to light up the scene).
Legend says that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain you are bound to return to Rome! But don’t worry, the coins are collected each evening and donated to charity.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most famous landmarks in the city, drawing crowds of tourists. Try visiting in the early morning to avoid the crowds.
The fountain is built over the end of an ancient Roman aqueduct, where three roads meet, giving it its name- “tre-via”, or three streets. In the center of the fountain, you’ll see Oceanus, God of the Sea.
Day 2- Colosseum and Roman Forum
When it comes to learning history while in Rome, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are the heavy hitters. You could easily spend a full day exploring the Roman Forum with a guide. These two sights can easily take a day.
We highly recommend taking a tour to make the most of these incredible, historically rich places. There is very little signage in the Roman Forum, and some exhibits with signage in the Colosseum, but nothing that will give you an overarching explanation of the site.
See Details: Private Tour of the Colosseum + the Roman Forum
The Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is just outside the Colosseum, making it a good place to start your visit. Many tours will meet or end here as it’s an easy landmark.
This is the largest surviving Roman Triumphal arch. It commemorates Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in the year 312. At 21 meter high, it is considered the last great monument of Imperial Rome.
I visited the Colosseum on my own years ago, and after learning very little from that visit, swore I’d only go again with a guide to explain more of the history of the site. A lot has changed since my initial visit- sections of the floor have been reconstructed, and the lower area which contained training rooms and animal cages has been opened for visitation.
The Colosseum is one of the most iconic structures in the world. It was recently named one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”. Built around 70 AD, it held up to 80,000 spectators, with entertainment provided every day.
This private tour geared toward families will help to bring this site alive to kids- whether 5 or 15. Over two hours you’ll hear how the Colosseum was used, and what the life of a gladiator was really like. You’ll also see the lift they used to bring wild animals to the arena floor. We also found this tour to be very reasonably priced for families!
See Details: Private Tour of the Colosseum + the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is huge. It was the center of Ancient Roman life and contained everything from markets to courts to temples. Military processions came through here as well.
There is minimal signage, but it is a vast space to wander on your own. We highly recommend taking a tour. The Colosseum tour we recommend above includes a stop at the Roman Forum, but you may want to consider making this a separate destination to give it your full attention.
For those visitors who really want to understand the breadth of the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill (where the elite built fancy houses), we suggest a more in-depth tour that is focused on the Roman Forum.
This 2-hour tour takes you to the most important places in the Forum, as well as parts of the Imperial Palaces on Palantine Hill.
Check Details: Tour of Roman Forum and Palantine Hill
St. Clement Basilica
After you’ve exhausted yourself from absorbing hundreds of years of Roman history, consider a stop at the nearby St. Clement Basilica.
Founded in 324, this is the oldest surviving public church in Rome. Entrance to the basilica is free of charge. Admire the gold mosaics above the altar, and check out the Medieval frescos in the old basilica.
Reservations and a fee are required to enter the excavated Roman ruins on the lower floors.
Day 3- Villa Borghese and Spanish Steps
The Villa Borghese is extensive, so plan a day to wander this park, and see the fantastic art inside the galleries. This area is probably the farthest from where you are staying, so you will either need to wander up from the Spanish Steps, or take a bus to reach the far end of the park and wander back.
The Spanish Steps
On your way to the Villa Borghese, take a few minutes to visit the famous Spanish Steps. Best visited in the morning when they are less crowded, these 135 steps have been featured in movies, and become associated with Rome itself.
At the base of the steps, you’ll find a fountain by Bernini and his father (Pietro Bernini). The fountain is inspired by the flood of 1598 when actual ships were pushed up to this location from the Tiber River.
To the right of the steps is the Casina Rossa, where John Keats (English poet) lived and died.
The Spanish Steps are considered the widest and longest staircase in Europe. Events are held here throughout the year, from flowers to celebrate Spring, to elaborate fashion shows. Approaching the steps is via Condotti, which is chock full of high fashion stores, from Gucci to Prada.
The Borghese Gallery
The Borghese Gallery is two floors of a highly decorated palace that used to belong to the Borghese family, who collected an incredible amount of world-class artwork. The first floor features many sculptures by Bernini. The second floor focuses on paintings, with a large number of Caravaggios as well as Raphael and Titian.
This is my favorite gallery in Rome- it’s small enough you can see it in a few hours, and there is something for everyone. There are ornate interiors, stories of greedy Cardinals, beautiful sculptures, Roman artifacts, and priceless paintings.
We highly recommend getting the audio tours. They offer insightful stories, explain some of the frescos, and help you to focus on a few pieces when entering a room just loaded with treasures.
Make sure you book tickets ahead of time, as the Borghese Gallery often sells out. You will get a timed entry which allows you two hours to explore the Gallery. If you arrive late, you will simply get less time.
You can also get a guided tour of the gallery to make the most of your two hours inside. With only two hours, the guide for this small group tour will make sure you spend your time wisely and don’t miss any highlights.
Check Details: Guided Tour of Borghese Gallery
National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
If you need a break from the ancient, classical, and baroque art that seems to be everywhere in Rome, head over to the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. Focusing on the 19th Century through the present, this National Gallery has worked hard to keep its collection fresh and relevant.
You’ll find works ranging from van Gogh to Duchamp, with special exhibits ranging from photography to short video collaborations.
The Villa Borghese
The Villa Borghese is a massive park (just under 200 acres) that is open to the public. It used to be part of the estate of the Borghese family, before being acquired by the state in 1901. Well known for the Borghese Gallery, the park itself has a lot to offer.
You’ll find cafes offering gelato, drinks, and snacks. You’ll also find bike rentals, and golf cart rentals to make getting around the park easier. Pick a few locations to visit, and try to enjoy the peace and quiet of the park.
Highlights of the park include a small playground just inside the Porta Pinciana Gate; the Temple of Asclepius on a lake where you can rent boats to row around; and Pincio’s Water Clock, built in 1867 and powered by water.
Finish your visit to the park at the Terrazza del Pincio. From here you can look down on the Piazza del Popolo, and see the dome of the Vatican in front of you.
Piazza del Popolo
From the Terrazza del Pincio, head down the stairs to the Piazza del Popolo. This wide Piazza has a number of magnificent fountains, as well as the Northern gate to the old city.
Because of its location just inside the gate, many roads converge here. In the center is the Fontana dei Leoni- with four lions around the Egyptian Obelisk of Sety. This obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC, making it one of the oldest (and also one of the tallest) in the city.
Day 4- The Vatican and Castel Sant’ Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums are all geographically very close and can be done in one very tiring day. However, if you have the time to separate them, you will enjoy them more.
Please Note: There is a strict dress code for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. Both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders. Men should remove hats.
Vatican City is an independent, sovereign state, so when you visit, even though you will not see any borders, you are crossing into another country! The Vatican is the smallest country in the world, at just over 0.2 square miles. For reference, that is smaller than Central Park in New York City!
Castel Sant’ Angelo is a bit like visiting a museum- you’re reading informational placards, navigating the lavishly decorated rooms, and learning about the layered history of the place. We found we were quite tired afterward, and still had a long day at the Vatican ahead of us.
Pont St. Angelo is the pedestrian bridge that connects the city center with Castel Sant’Angelo.
The most famous bridge in Rome, it is called the “Bridge of Angels”, it was built in 136 AD. In 1669 Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini to sculpt new angels for the bridge. There are ten angels by Bernini- each one holds an emblem of Jesus’ death.
Castel Sant’Angelo started out as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, then was later converted into apartments for the pope, then a fortress, a prison, and a museum. You’ll see a bit of all of these iterations as you tour the castle.
As you approach the castle, you’ll see the famous statue of the Archangel Micheal at the top of the castle, sheathing his sword. Legend says that he appeared to Pope Gregory I here in 590, heralding the end of the plague, and giving the castle its current name.
There is no need to pre-book tickets, you can buy them on-site when you arrive. Children under 18 are free, adults are 12 Euro (2022).
The signage around the castle is decent- but I recommend taking a tour to really bring this place to life. There are several popes mentioned who are responsible for decorating certain areas, but there is little to really make them memorable. With six levels, it’s easy to miss details if you are on your own.
This two-hour small group walking tour includes the highlights of the castle including the library (count the unicorns!) and the treasury.
When you are ready to exit the castle, don’t miss the Passetto di Borgo on level 2- this is the raised walkway that allows the pope to move from St. Peter’s Basilica to the castle safely.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is the center of Vatican City. A massive square, on either side of this large piazza, are two oval-shaped colonnades with almost 300 columns. Above these columns stand statues of saints and martyrs by Morelli.
Look for a spot toward the center of the piazza marked “Centro del Colonnato”. Stand there, and the columns in front of you will align perfectly with the columns behind, thus disappearing from view.
This is a space for events and celebrations. When the Pope is in Rome, he greets people in this square on Wednesdays at 10:30.
When you enter St. Peter’s Square, you are in the Vatican City State, a sovereign nation, apart from Italy. While there is no border crossing, you are in a new country! They have their own passports, media, and mail service.
Look for the Swiss Guards, in their two-toned uniforms that haven’t changed since the Renaissance.
St. Peters Basilica
St. Peters Basilica is the largest church in the world and the seat of the Roman Catholic faith. On the day we arrived, the church was closed to the public, as the clergy was in the process of electing a new Cardinal.
You’ll need to plan some time to see the church properly- first off, it’s huge. The scale of this church is hard to comprehend. Once inside the church, don’t miss Michelangelo’s Pieta, one of his most famous sculptures.
The line to get into the church can often stretch two hours or longer, and there is little shade while you wait. No tickets are required for entry, though you will need to pay to climb to the dome (which we highly recommend you do!)
The line tends to be shorter in the morning, and late in the afternoon. The only way to avoid this long wait entirely is to buy a Vatican Museums Tour which includes skip-the-line access to the Basilica.
Most people visit the Vatican City Museums to see the famous Sistine Chapel. While this is certainly worth seeing, on the way to the chapel you’ll see a lot of other museums and spaces as well!
The Vatican museums are huge- there is more to see here than you can handle in one day, regardless of age. From an incredible Egyptian museum to maps and paintings to carriages and “popemobiles” the breadth of this collection is incredible.
We wrote an entire post on how to visit the Vatican with kids– from when to book tickets, to how to get there and what to see.
We visited on our own, but trying to manage adult and children’s audio guides was a challenge, as they highlighted different pieces from the collection. These vast collections can easily be overwhelming. We highly recommend taking a guided tour that is tailored to families.
This 2 1/2 hour tour is designed for families- and includes trivia and treasure hunts to keep the kids engaged. You’ll visit the highlights of the collection including the Raphael, the Sistine Chapel, and the Carriage Pavillion. Choose between private or small group options to best fit your family.
Tell Me More: Family Tour of the Vatican Museums
Please Note: If you are not taking a tour, it is best to buy tickets for the Vatican Museums in advance. Tickets are released 60 days in advance on a rolling basis. Tickets sell out quickly once released.
Other Things to Do in Rome with Kids
Here are a few additional things to do in Rome with kids- these are fantastic things to do if you have a bit more time, or want to switch up some of the itinerary ideas listed above.
We weren’t able to try this, but I’ve heard that kids (and a few adults) absolutely love it. In this class, you’ll spend two hours dressing up and training to use the weapons of the gladiators. Includes admission to the Gladiator School of Rome Museum. The minimum age is 6 years old.
Check Details: Roman Gladiator School
Trastavere and the Ponte Fabricio
Trastavere is a neighborhood of Rome located to the west of the city center, just across the Tiber River. Here you’ll find narrow cobblestone alleyways, lots of cafes with outdoor seating, and more “local charm” than you find in most of Rome.
We stayed in Trastavere, so were able to explore it in bits and pieces during our stay. If you are staying in another area, you may want to devote at least half a day to this absolutely beautiful area of Rome.
The center of Trastavere is the Basilica of our Lady in Trastavere, known for its 12th-century mosaics. In this piazza, you’ll also find spray-paint artists and musicians in the evenings.
On your way to Trastavere, don’t miss the Ponte Fabricio which takes you across Tiber Island. This is the oldest Roman bridge in the city and was built in 62 BC. Look for the sculpture of four heads- these are supposedly the four architects tasked with restoring the bridge in 1500. They squabbled so much that they were later executed, and the sculpture was placed as a warning.
Campo di Fiori Market
Campo de Fiori Market is a famous produce and souvenir market. While you can certainly stop by, we were not impressed. There are fruit sellers who also sell glasses of juice, a few people selling jarred sauces like various pestos, some sunglasses, etc. The market felt very touristy.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
This church is most famous for the “Mouth of Truth”. Believed to originally have been a drain cover, this legendary face of a faun was featured in the movie “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn. The legend says that when you put your hand in the mouth of the stone, it will get bitten off if you tell a lie. This huge stone is 22 cm thick and weighs about 1300 kg or 2800 lbs.
When you approach the church, you may see a line in front. There is no charge to see the Mouth of Truth, and you can skip the line to enter the church first if you wish. Inside you’ll find a timber roof and ancient frescos, as well as the Crypt of Adrian.
This church can easily be visited on your way to Trastavere via the Ponte Palatino or can be combined with your visit to the Roman Forum. Piazza della Bocca della Verita 18.
When is the Best Time to Visit Rome with Kids?
The best time to visit Rome is in the Spring and in the Fall- the weather is lovely, and you will avoid the high prices and crowds of summer.
The worst time to visit Rome is in August- the temperatures are high, the crowds are thick, and most of Italy has gone on vacation. You’ll find many places closed or on reduced hours during the month of August. However, we visited Rome in August, and despite the heat and the crowds, we still loved our time in the Eternal City.
High Season in Rome is considered Easter through September, as well as during any major religious festivals.
Is Rome Expensive with Kids?
The answer to this completely depends on your perspective. Rome can be quite expensive. However, we visited Rome after spending some time in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and were surprised to find Rome to be less expensive than central Dubrovnik!
In general, the city center and directly around tourist hot spots can be quite expensive. We found many of the restaurants in Trastavere (across the river) to be quite reasonable. Pizzas range from 9-12 euros, and can often be split between two people. On the other side, we paid 9 euros for a 3-scoop ice cream sundae in the famous Piazza Navona.
Bus tickets are 1.50 Euro per person, and churches do not charge admission, making sightseeing fairly reasonable for a family on a budget.
Most places in Rome do not charge extra for kids- they are free on public transportation and do not need tickets at most venues, making it easier on budget-conscious families.
Where to Eat in Rome with Kids
For our full recommendations, check out: Where to Eat in Rome with Kids
Can You Drink the Water in Rome?
Yes, you can drink the water in Rome! You’ll often see people filling water bottles from fountains in the city. The water comes into the city from the same ancient system of aqueducts that the Romans constructed so long ago. Many of these fountains along the streets continually pour water. Keep an eye out and keep hydrated!
Getting Around Rome with Kids
There is no Uber in Rome, you can take regular taxis with meters, the local bus, or the metro, though the metro didn’t often run to where we wanted to go. In most cases, we chose to walk. Part of what makes Rome amazing is that there are ruins and monuments and other surprises around every corner, so walking is part of the fun.
To take the local bus, buy tickets ahead of time from a local Tabac/kiosk. You’ll find them in many piazzas, and along the major roads. Google maps will easily tell you which bus to take and where to find the nearest bus stop. The bus stops are clearly marked with bus numbers.
There is no need to flag down the bus, they will stop at the marked bus stop. When you enter the bus, validate your ticket at one of the yellow boxes. Children under 10 ride free, in 2022, adult tickets were 1.50 Euro each.
Where to Stay in Rome with Kids
We stayed in the Trastavere neighborhood and loved the ambiance- narrow cobblestone streets, grandmas peeking out of upper-story windows, and lots of cafes and bakeries. Trastavere is across the Tiber River from central Rome, where you’ll find many of the major tourist sites. In general, we found Rome to be very walkable and did not feel too removed from the center of the city.
Recommended Trastavere Hotel: Trastavere Inn
You may also consider staying closer to the major sites, northeast of the city center. This hotel has Junior Suites and is a short walk to the metro and the famous Spanish Steps.
Recommended Central Rome Hotel: Trevi Private Suites
There You Have It: 4 Days in Rome with Kids
Our best itinerary for spending 4 days in Rome with kids to make the most of your family time in the Eternal City. We’ve covered the major tourist attractions (and a few hidden gems), as well as alternate ways to experience all the history and culture of Rome when visiting as a family.