Rome can be like an amusement park for kids, especially with a bit of context about the history of the Empire and with the right visits and activities. Luckily, the Eternal City has plenty of options for them to enjoy an unforgettable trip.
Here's a list of 10 things to do in Rome with kids, with activities that even you will want to do. But sorry, you only get to be a kid once in a lifetime!
1. Visit the Bioparco, a very special zoo
Bioparco, also known as Giardino Zoologico di Roma, is a zoo with more than two hundred different species of animals located in the Villa Borghese park. There you can find lions, monkeys, elephants, tigers, giraffes and some endangered species such as the Egyptian tortoise.
It offers a very pleasant walk and unlike zoos in other European capitals it is a natural environment that fits very well with a stroll through the Borghese Gardens. However, I recommend that you buy your Bioparco tickets in advance to avoid queues at the entrance to the zoo.
2. Experience a day in the life of a gladiator
The Official Gladiator School of Rome, located on the ancient Appian Way, offers a unique experience for young travellers visiting the city: become a gladiator for a day.
With an authentic gladiator training session in which you will learn the fighting techniques that raised cheers in the Colosseum, this is a way to learn an aspect of the history of the Roman Empire in a different way. The school uses special tunics, swords and shields to faithfully recreate the experience of a gladiator.
3. Search for hidden treasures in Rome
Sometimes it's hard to get kids to be willing to spend a whole day walking around a city at its best, especially if it's on a typical tour full of facts and history. Luckily, there is a fun way to get around Rome, and that is by turning the walk into a game of hidden treasure hunt.
You have a few different options when it comes to this kind of game; you can book a game of exploration around Rome's old town and take advantage while the younger ones are entertained to see Rome's most famous sights.
When you book this experience, you will receive a confirmation email which will indicate a meeting point. Once there you will enter the code from your email on the website and you will receive a password to open a secret box and receive your inventory to start the adventure. Take your time and you will discover Rome's best kept secrets, which will blow your mind!
4. Discover the Vatican on a guided tour for kids!
Another treasure trove, like those housed in the Vatican Museums, can overwhelm even the oldest of us. But knowing beforehand that it is one of the top must-see places in Rome, don't miss it if you are travelling with children, as there are tours specially designed for them.
With the guided tour of the Vatican for families, the tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica will be much more fun. The guide will tell anecdotes, invent interactive games and make sure the little ones don't get bored and learn about history. Plus, tickets are included and you' ll avoid the queues at the ticket office.
5. Discover Leonardo Da Vinci's machines at work
The Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, at Via Conciliazione, 19, is the only museum in the world with more than 50 certified Da Vinci inventions, as well as a place where you can see some of his most famous paintings.
Here you can discover how the Renaissance genius' mind worked by operating his machines and learning about mechanics and physics, something that can be very interesting for adults and teenagers alike. With tickets to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum you will also have access to the underground pond.
6. Explore the Catacombs of Rome
When I was a kid, my favourite holiday of the year was Halloween and my favourite thing to do with my friends was to play Dungeons and Dragons, so if my parents had taken me to visit the Catacombs of Rome, it would probably be an experience I would never forget.
OK, maybe it's not an activity for all children as it can be a bit scary, but as long as you take a tour of the Catacombs of San Callisto or San Sebastiano, you won't find human remains or tombs made of bones. These are two of the most popular in Rome, of which the former may be the most interesting due to its historical importance and size.
If you feel like enjoying this experience as a family, be aware that they can only be visited on an organised tour. For more information about visiting the Catacombs of Rome, I recommend you read this article: Rome Catacombs Tickets: how to buy and prices.
7. Rent a bike or roller skates to explore the Borghese Gardens
The Villa Borghese gardens are a delight to stroll through, before visiting the fascinating Borghese Gallery. But I suggest something a little different to enjoy with the family, and that is to rent a bicycle, rollerblades or a Segway to explore the flowery paths of this park. Around Villa Borghese you'll find shops and stalls for rent.
You can also hop on the miniature train that takes you around all the sights of Villa Borghese, from 10:30 in the morning until sunset, non-stop. It's a fun way to tour the gardens and see the beautiful sculptures in the process.
8. Get your adrenaline pumping at Rainbow MagicLand amusement park
Rainbow MagicLand is a theme park located one hour from Rome, in the village of Valmontone, where you can find a wide range of 40 attractions and shows, perfect for a day of thrills with the family.
Much of the amusement park is set in the Winx Club universe, with a recreation of Alfea Castle and the Fairy Lake, where you can ride roller coasters, shuttles, water rides and enjoy performances and musical shows. There are also areas dedicated to the legend of King Arthur, with horseback tournaments, arena battles, and medieval-style dining (spoiler: no silverware).
To get to Rainbow MagicLand amusement park, the best way is by train or bus, both of which leave from Termini Station. As this is a full-day excursion, I recommend doing it only if you are in Rome for five days or more.
9. Visit the Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Shelter
Largo di Torre Argentina is the name of a group of ruins from the time of the Roman Republic, and includes four temples as well as part of the Senate building in Rome. Most visitors come here for its historical interest: history claims that the assassination of Julius Caesar took place here in 44 BC.
But on the other hand, Largo di Torre Argentina is home to hundreds of abandoned cats who live in a shelter in the square itself, and wander peacefully among the ruins of what was once an important site in ancient Rome. If you go with children, the experience of being able to learn about the history of the place while petting a cat or watching them walk around can be very endearing and beautiful.
10. Buy wooden toys at Bartolucci
After a hard day of walking and sightseeing, you can buy a nice souvenir for the little ones at Bartolucci on Via dei Pastini 96-99. This is a wooden toy shop, where you'll find cuckoo clocks, pinocchios, planes and horses, made with great taste and as they are hard to find any more.
Another option is to visit Al Sogno, in Piazza Navona, 53, known for its endless catalogue of stuffed animals. Here, your children can take home a unique souvenir of their visit to Rome.
Tips and tricks for travelling to Rome with children
I can't finish this article without telling you some tips and tricks to travel with your family to Rome and save some money and time, as many attractions and museums have free admission for children or special advantages. Here are a few things to know before your trip:
- The metro and bus is free for children up to the age of 9, and the train is free for children up to the age of 3, with 50% discounts for children aged 4-11.
- Admission to the Catacombs is free for children up to 6 years old and children between 7 and 15 years old have reduced admission.
- Similarly, for the Vatican Museums admission is free for children up to 5 years old and reduced admission for children up to 18 years old.
- Rome is not the most stroller-friendly city, so I recommend carrying your child in a baby carrier. It's also a good idea to bring nappies and baby food from home, as the brands sold in the supermarkets there will probably be unfamiliar to you.
- With a Roma Pass, your children have free admission and access to everything included in the pass.
- I advise you to prepare your children a little in advance of the trip, documenting them even superficially on the history of Rome and the places they are going to see.