We love, love, love Rome! We’ve paraphrased the old adage to say “all flights lead to Rome”. We go often with the grand kids and without. The kids love it so much they couldn’t wait for last summer’s trip to Europe, they made sure Rome was on the itinerary.
The Eternal city can be very kid friendly, Italians love kids. Here are 10 things to do in Rome for little or no cost.
Grab the front seat on the top deck on one of Rome’s Hop on – Hop off bus. You can buy 24, 48, or 72 hour tickets. Children under 5 are free, 5-15 are about half the adult fare.
These buses are a great value, the routes are a good way to get familiar with the Eternal City and they stop at all the major Roman sites including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, and the Coliseum. Some stops require a short walk to and from the bus stop. The top deck gives you a whole different perspective of the sites, great photos too.
Stop by the Vatican. See the Swiss Guards in their uniforms designed by none other than Michealangelo. Climb the 551 steps to the top of the Copula (Dome) in St. Peter’s Basilica. (You can save 320 steps and take the elevator.) At the top you get awesome views of the inside of the Basilica, then step outside for a spectacular view; you will see ALL of Rome.
Tickets per person are 5 Euro for steps, 7 Euro for elevator. Here’s a YouTube video. For art lovers the Vatican Museums are a must see, the route thru the museum leads to the Sistine Chapel. It is very busy and crowded, younger kids may not find it so enjoyable.
Look up at the oculus of the Pantheon. Entrance is free.
My grandsons thought the crypts along the walls were interesting as well. The Pantheon is a church so have your kids use their inside voices and keep them close, it can get crowded in there.
Toss coins in the Trevi Fountain to guaranty your return to Rome. You can stop for a gelato at one of the Gelateria’s around the fountain.
Walk up to the top of the Spanish Steps then head over to the Borghese Gardens for some R&R. You can grabs some paninis and have a picnic, rent bikes or a row boat.
Attractions in the park include the Villa Borghese Gallery, Bioparco (100+ year old zoo), Puppet Theater, and more. The gardens are public, there is no entrance fee, however there are fees for attractions and rentals. Reservations must be made to view the collections of the Borghese Galleries.
Older kids and teenagers will probably think a visit to Capuchin Crypts beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concesione dei Cappuccini would be cool.
The 6 chapels are adorned with bones and skulls of over 4,000 Capuchin Monks nailed to the walls and ceilings. This macabre vision may appeal to some kids and give others nightmares.
People watch in one of Rome’s many Piazzas.
Our most favorite is Piazza Navona where Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, featured in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, takes center stage. There are also lots of interesting street artists in the piazzas and along the way that the kids enjoy. Drop a few coins in the basket if you’re going to pose for a photo with them.
Let their imaginations run wild at the Coliseum.
This vast sports arena was where ancient Romans watched Gladiators battle wild beasts. Wandering around its stone corridors and looking into the main arena will capture kids’ imagination.
There’s an awesome view of the Foro Romano from there as well. When you’re done, stroll thru the ruined temples along the Foro Romano, the heart of ancient Rome and wander thru the Palatine Hill.
Entering the Foro Romano is free, Coliseum ticket includes admission to the Palatine Hill. If there is a long ticket line at the Coliseum buy your tickets from the Palatine ticket booth across the way, it’s usually less busy. Better yet buy tickets online, click here!
Our grandsons love wandering the streets of Rome looking for public drinking fountains.
The goal is to drink from as many public fountains as they can. Water from Roman Fountains is safe to drink and some of the fountains are centuries old.
Have a Gelato or two, or three.
My grandsons try different gelaterias all over Rome in search of the perfect gelato. Ask prices before you scoop, gelaterias in the major tourist sites are very expensive. Also don’t sit at a table! A cover is charged per person if you choose to order and be served, your gelato can cost you 20 Euro or more for each dish. You can also enjoy a granita, an Italian slushie.
Rome is a walking city, you can actually do a “turbo tour” and see all the “must see” sights in a day. But “See” is the key word, depending on the time of year getting into Roman attractions involve waiting in long lines, especially for St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Coliseum.
If you’re lucky you will probably have just enough time to enter one or two, the rest a glimpse and a photo will have to do. Avoid lines and cranky kids, buy tickets online for the Vatican Museum or for the Coliseum. Or buy a Roma Pass it includes entry to many of the city’s sights.
Vatican Museum Tickets click here!
Coliseum Tickets click here!
Roma Pass click here!
A word about bathrooms, crucial when traveling with kids! There are public bathrooms located around town. Look for a sign that says “W.C” There is usually a charge of .50- .60 cents Euro to use them.
Here are a few that I know of:
By the Vatican – Facing St. Peter’s go out the right arch that goes to Via Porta Angelica – immiediately on your right on Via Corridori you will see a sign that says “W.C.” located at the top of a flight of stairs. Go down the stairs the bathrooms are on the bottom. There is a charge of .60 cents Euro collected by the attendant at the entrance to the bathrooms. These bathrooms are clean and usually have toilet paper.
By the Coliseum – Go behind the Coliseum towards Via Labicana and Via Claudia – you will see a “W.C.” sign by the Coliseum about where those two streets intersect. I believe there is a charge to use the restroom.
At the Train Station Roma Termini – There is a public restroom located on the lower level by the supermarket, use the escalator on the Via Marsala side. There is a .60 cent Euro charge to use it.
There is also a restroom located inside the Chef Express restaurant which is located in the station by the Via Marsala entrance. There is an attendant sitting in front of the stairs leading to the restrooms. Pay the fee of .60 cents Euro and the attendant lets you thru.
Otherwise most cafes and restaurants have restrooms. If you ask nicely they will let you use their restrooms even if you aren’t dining with them. Italians are very sympathetic when they see kids needing a restroom.
Whatever you decide to do in Rome for however long you’re there be sure to take a minute from sightseeing and just enjoy La Dolce Vita!