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Ancient Rome with Kids - Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum

We planned for a strong start for our five days in and around Rome by spending day 1 at the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and Capitoline Hill. We didn’t want to peak too soon but turns out cheap tickets are very hard to ensure, and this was all we could get. Top recommendation - book as soon as you know your dates, and if you’re on a budget as we are, go direct and avoid the incredibly expensive tours! 

 

I found it really tricky to book for Rome. Much more complex than any other place we’ve explored. There are an overwhelming variety of tickets, and none of the official ticket websites look very official! However, we’ve got you covered below, and a larger overview including our budget and accommodation run down is available here! 



Colosseum 

 

We were determined to get an early slot because it gets crazy busy and we were pleased to nab the last 9:30 slot when we booked online in advance at the official site here. These tickets also include Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum as well (below).

 

You can opt to do just the stands (which includes a number of museum type displays throughout the sides) for €18, add in the arena floor (€24), or visit the underground areas as well. We really wanted to do the underground area (think backstage, holding the exotic animals, slaves and gladiators before battle!) but there were no tickets available even weeks in advance (this is how many get suckered into the very expensive £400 tours from GetYourGuide or similar!). Kids under 18 years of age are free. The arena was only €6 extra, so we went for that on top, but the only real advantage was it was less crowded, you can see everything on the arena from up above anyway. 

 

We spent about 1.5 hours here walking around, exploring the various levels and areas, and talking about gladiators nonstop. Our eldest (8) was our inspiration for the trip as he is currently studying the Celts and Romans at school (and devouring the Horrible Histories book Ruthless Romans!). He was thrilled to show off his knowledge of the sorts of things that occurred within the walls of this historical landmark. 



After finishing up at the Colosseum, head out to go find some lunch. We had a number of plans depending on the weather (February), either Pasta Chef in Monti district, famed for bringing Roman cooking, classical training and low prices together, even in the heart of the tourist district (around €9 each depending on the dish), or a picnic in Oppinio park. We brought a packed lunch with us and decided the weather was fair enough at lunch time to save the cash. Even though it’s very close, it was quiet and calm and perfect for sitting outside and enjoying a meal. 

 

Roman Forum and Palatine Hill 

 

Once you leave the colosseum it makes sense to go straight for the forum and hill (ticket info above). The sites are so close to each other that it’s worth doing them both in the same day. When you head towards the forum, you’ll likely be greeted with an enormous queue for security and ticket checking, even though tickets are purchased in advance. Thankfully it moves quite quickly, and the kids entertained themselves jumping over the big flagstones on the pathways. We had read in advance that the ground wasn’t suitable for a stroller, so we packed the carrier as well and definitely couldn’t use the pushchair for the first part. 

 

As you move through the area from the colosseum end, you can choose to turn left to trek up Palatine Hill for one of the best views of the ancient city, or turn right to wander through the spectacular forum ruins. We opted to push up the hill first, earlier in the day. It’s a lot of history in one go, but the climb up through the ruins make it fun for the little ones.

 

We walked through beautiful orange groves, a nice garden maze, cute fountains, columns, statues and all manner of ruins until we reached the very top. There was quite a lot of space for them to run around and burn off some energy without risking running into thousands-of-years-old columns! 



Once we’d taken our fill from up high, we headed back down to the forum. It was stunningly beautiful, and we felt so pleased to be here out of season as we were expecting huge crowds but it was absolutely fine. The kids enjoyed the slow pace, and the highlight was when some parakeets fluttered down from the trees to peck about on the grass at our feet! Random! We walked through the various statues and ruins, turning right at the bottom to come out near the Piazza Venezia. 



Capitoline Hill and nearby:

 

I was particularly keen to take a short walk over to the archaeological site of the Imperial Forum, which houses the Column of Trajan. This 2,000 year old column has an amazing continuous helical frieze which winds 25 times from base to top and was an architectural innovation in its time. It depicts 2,662 figures and 155 scenes, like an ancient cartoon strip! After this we headed up to Vittoriano (or “the typewriter”), the monument to the first Italian King, Victor Emmanuel II. Between the Column and the Vittoriano we paused to take some photos of the forum again below and were treated to a lovely serenade by an awesome violinist and guitarist and were privileged to shoot this lovely short video (#no edits!)





I read in advance that the 130-year-old structure is loathed by some Romans, being so out of keeping with the rest of the area, but we thought it was beautiful. After climbing the many steps you can get a lift to the very top viewing gallery for outrageous views of the Roman Forum and colosseum below! 

 

In summary:

 

No trip to Rome is complete without exploring the ancient heart of the city. We were a little concerned that the 5-year-old might find it a bit dry, or that some explanations of the gladiatorial battles might be a bit much, but there were no complaints or worries at all.



Given that we started at 8:30 and ended around 3pm, it was a long day of 19,000 steps but in fact they all loved it, particularly the cabinet in the colosseum of artefacts found in the Roman sewers! Buying tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment and hugely inflated costs is a must, and you’re sure to have your imaginations sparked with battles, bloody games, and emperors!  

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