Is there a more iconic sight in Rome than the mighty Colosseum? This ancient marvel, once home to crowds of 50,000-plus cheering on gladiators and wild animals as they battled to the death, embodies the mystique and magic of the Roman glory days. It’s an unmissable part of a family trip to the Eternal City, but a successful Colosseum visit with kids takes some advance planning and a few insider tips.
Don’t even think about touring the Colosseum without an expert who can make its past come alive. The story of this behemoth is fascinating and complex, and the right guide will help kids understand what they’re looking at and why it matters, from the tiniest construction details to the arena floor that was the site of so many brutal and bloody clashes. Some even incorporate bells and whistles such as virtual reality, allowing you to travel back in time with a little high-tech magic. Without this kind of insight, kids may get bored quickly.
Our Family Travel Advisors maintain a list of vetted guides whom we work with regularly and trust; we can help you book one as part of our comprehensive trip planning service. As a bonus, hiring a guide means you’ll avoid the huge ticket lines that build throughout the day.
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There is little shade and no water or other amenities inside the Colosseum. Bring hats and sunscreen, as well as water bottles that you can fill beforehand at one of Rome’s many wonderful nasoni (public fountains). The site is decidedly not stroller-friendly; a front carrier is a better choice for babies. You also won’t be allowed to bring in large bags or backpacks.
The only way to see the Colosseum’s underground tunnels, where the gladiators prepared for combat and the animals were kept, plus the arena floor and upper tier is by booking a special tour (our Advisor team can help arrange this as well). Just be aware that this will make for a longer visit with kids, at least three hours. With older children it can be a rewarding experience; very young ones may get restless.
The Colosseum is set apart from most of Rome’s other historic attractions, and you’ll need half a day or more to do it justice, especially if you add the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (right next door and included with your ticket). Trying to squeeze in other big-name sights is a recipe for tired and cranky kids. Instead, take your time at the Colosseum and the surrounding ruins, then build in a gelato break and some well-earned relaxation for the rest of the afternoon.
Want to grab lunch nearby? We love AllBiBox, a stone’s throw away. Combining street-food ease with comfortable sidewalk seating, this local favorite specializes in organic salads and meatballs of all kinds — from a classic beef version with tomato sauce to salted codfish, mortadella and curried chicken.
TIP: If your kids have the stamina, one of the most popular children’s activities in Rome, Gladiator School, takes place nearby. Kids don gladiator gear, learn dueling skills and more. What a way to drive home the history lesson!
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