The Low-Down on Vatican City and Kids

The Low-Down on Vatican City and Kids

I recently wrote a post entitled “Rome: Top 8 Things To See and Do With Kids”. Vatican City was not on there. While it wasn’t a total disaster, it was not my girls’ favorite. We knew going into it that the Vatican might be a little weighty for them, but we haven’t been to Rome in 9 years, so we couldn’t pass it up.

We hired a private tour guide in hopes that by skipping the lines, we might be able to lure the kids in more with our swift entry. But even with a tour guide, there is no such thing as a swift entry to the Sistine Chapel. Not if you plan to spend some time in the Vatican museums. Which we did, and then some. While our guide was the nicest guy ever and highly knowledgeable on his subject matter – and we were excited to be there and soak up some of the world’s finest art – we spent a loooong time in the museums preceding the chapel. He was just doing his job, but for the kids it was an eternity. They weren’t bored the whole time – there were some statues and decorative objects that caught their eye, but we spent a considerable amount of time in the museum rooms, that by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, it was completely anti-climatic. Instead of looking up, they were trying to play a game on the floor looking down! There were also so many people, of course, that viewing anything for them was difficult. We stayed as long as we could, but if I’m going to be honest, we walked out of there with them not having much appreciation for the famous chapel whatsoever. Maybe a little, when they heard the story behind it, but not much. It was so crowded they just wanted out. Who could blame them?

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When we went into St. Peter’s Basilica afterward, it was a little different, partially because they weren’t packed in like sardines the way they were in the chapel (it is, after all, the largest church in the world), but by that time they had been at the Vatican for so long, in so many crowds, they were winding down. We got them to stay for a decent chunk of time and then, much to everyone’s delight, including our own, we left and immediately grabbed some drinks from the vendor right outside. We had been on our feet for a long time, and it was hot, and we were thirsty!

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Should you visit Vatican City with your kids if you’re going to Rome? That’s totally a personal decision determined by so many factors. How old are your children and how high up on the list is it? Did you visit it recently? For us, as I mentioned, it had been many years. The adults really wanted to see it, so we decided to drag our kids along at the risk of them not enjoying or “getting” it. Who knows when we’ll be back again, and “when in Rome”. For us, I’m glad we did it, and at least the girls can look back on the photos some day…

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46 Comments

  1. August 14, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    I am an adult and am not sure how long my attention span would have been. There is so much else to see in Rome. I haven’t been there in a long time and am dying to go back, but I might skip Vatican City.

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      August 14, 2015 / 9:09 pm

      Ha – each to their own. Agree there’s so much to see in Rome – priorities depending on interests..

  2. August 14, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    I can not imagine doing it with children with the heat and crowds. yes they can see the pictures later.

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      August 14, 2015 / 9:10 pm

      I’m still glad we did it Jean – kids gotta realize it’s not ALL about them :).

  3. August 17, 2015 / 7:59 am

    It’s one I wouldn’t attempt with my kids 5, 3 and 1. Whilst I hope one day it will take their interest I know I’d spend 90% of my time chasing them, chastising them and saying words probably not acceptable in such a holy place. Good on you for trying – I would love to go back again one day with a guided tour – when they are MUCH older!!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      August 18, 2015 / 4:55 pm

      There’s no way I’d go with a 3 and 1 year old. What’s the point? My girls being 5 and 7 it was a little easier, AND they were with their cousins, which is always an added bonus. They could entertain each other. If we knew we were going to be in Rome a few years from now we prob would have waited, but alas most likely not..

  4. August 20, 2015 / 8:06 pm

    Despite the long hours and hectic crowd the children look extremely happy to be there!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      August 21, 2015 / 3:29 pm

      Ha – this is true though I prob should have posted the photos of them worn out to better represent. But yes, I guess they weren’t exhausted the whole time!

  5. August 24, 2015 / 8:56 pm

    I agree, even I was very impatient, annoyed and hot and bothered when we visited the Vatican. The crowds at the Sistine chapel were unbearable! I do think the girls will appreciate it when they are older! I don’t think Monkey would enjoy it, he’s too young at the moment!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      August 26, 2015 / 2:24 am

      Yes, from the pics I’ve seen of adorable Monkey, he looks too young. Even we were pushing it, but having cousins around always makes things easier. I’m sure you’ll make it to Rome with Monkey some day, esp since you love the city so much!

  6. aandj8804
    October 4, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    I know my husband (a catholic) would love to visit the Vatican, but after hearing stories of the crowds and heat, I’m not too sure I want to visit. Your pictures do make the Basilica look beautiful though!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 5, 2016 / 1:38 am

      Thank you Amanda! I would say in the end it’s all worth it, you just have to know what you’re getting into;).

  7. Ruth
    October 5, 2016 / 3:51 am

    Being bored and feeling packed in a place like this is not a thing kids only experience. My husband doesn’t like museums at all. When we travel, we keep them at a minimum. During our last trip to Europe we visited one palace in in two weeks. So I will keep in mind your story in case we decide to visit Rome.

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 5, 2016 / 1:47 pm

      Thanks Ruth – it’s true, crowds aren’t for everyone, yours truly included. The most important thing with any travel is to get what you want out of it and not what you’re “supposed” to get out of it.

  8. October 5, 2016 / 5:46 am

    Great advice and lovely photos. We are end of the month of with a baby by don’t think we’ll do the museums #citytripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 5, 2016 / 1:49 pm

      Aww, good luck to you and baby! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. October 5, 2016 / 8:16 pm

    Hmm, it’s a tricky one that – we want our kids to be cultured but at the same time I guess we can’t expect them to appreciate it as much as us. We had talked about taking our kids actually (Rome is our favourite city and we’ve both done it loads of times but only with other adults) but you’ve made me think hard about wether they’d appreciate certain aspects. #citytripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 6, 2016 / 3:28 am

      Oh I’d still definitely recommend taking your kids to Rome – there is loads of other stuff to do and my girls had a blast. The thing about the Vatican is more the crowds and the whole process – by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel they were so wiped out. I would recommend Rome but maybe hold off on the Vatican until they;re older if you know you’ll be going back.

      • October 6, 2016 / 6:53 am

        Oh yes, we would still take them to Rome, it was just the Vatican I was questioning. Just out of interest, we’re you there really early?

  10. October 5, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    Really interesting discussion about whether it’s a good idea to take kids to a cultural place. Your post would be ideal for my #CulturedKids monthly linky, starting this Friday (7 Oct). I’d be delighted if you were able to link up!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 6, 2016 / 3:30 am

      Thanks, Nell, I would love to! Count me in. And for the record, I’m all for cultural (I worked in the museum world and always encourage the likes with my girls), but the Vatican is a whole different beast altogether!

      • pigeonpairandme
        October 11, 2016 / 11:32 am

        Yes, I agree there are some places where it’s tricky to take kids, and often not the right thing to do. Thanks so much for linking up with #CulturedKids!

  11. October 5, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    That’s a hard decision – I sometimes find it really hard to predict how my daughter will find museums and art galleries. I’ve been to some on topics I think she’ll love and she raced around in minutes; the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam kept her much more interested as we played a ‘hunt the painting’ game. I have to say the Vatican museums are so huge, they can be overwhelming as an adult but definitely amazing (and the Sistine Chapel is always so busy, it’s definitely harder to appreciate!).

    I think if it’s something you want to do, and you think kids might enjoy it (or at least don’t think it would be spoiled by them being there), it’s worth it. Who knows if one painting will grab their fancy, or the stories of being there and photos will trigger something. And if nothing else, you got to see it! #citytripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 6, 2016 / 3:33 am

      Exactly! My motto is usually – where I go, the kids go. I’m all for doing lots of cultural things with my girls, but the Vatican is in a league of its own. I guess my advice is if you know you won’t be back for some time – like us – then just do it, but if you know you’ll be coming again soon, maybe wait until they’re older. But each to their own!

  12. October 7, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    We went to Rome with kids aged 8 & 14 and normally I’d take them everywhere we go at that age but we had limited time and the queues where phenomenal for the Sistine Chapel so we decided we’d rather just wander around and soak up the atmosphere in general than stand in a queue. We went into St Peter’s which they really liked though. I know I’ll go back one day but if I thought it might have been the only opportunity in like….ever, I probably would have suffered the queue. #CulturedKids

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 7, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      I think that’s exactly it – for us, living in the U.S., who knows when we’ll be back in Rome again (though we’ve been talking about another trip to Italy this summer), so we just went for it. But there’s a lot more to soak up in Rome, as you say, so I think it’s really just a personal decision.

  13. October 7, 2016 / 4:20 pm

    I visited the Sistine Chapel when I was about 12 I think and as that was in the Dark Ages, it wasn’t too crammed. But we decided when we took our own son to Rome, when he was about 10, not to bother. We adored Rome and just couldn’t face the queues. I don’t think he minded – he can always go again on his own now he’s an adult!
    #CulturedKids

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 8:52 pm

      Yes that’s true! And the lines are enough to turn anyone away I don’t blame you;).

  14. October 7, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    Your girls are so adorable! I think I would have been tempted to take them too…if there is a chance they will get something out of it then why not – especially as the adults wanted to go. I am sure they will remember the experience and significance in the future. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 8:54 pm

      Yes, and at least they have the photos to look back on so when they do return they can see how it was for them when they were younger;).

  15. October 7, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    I do enjoy an honest post! The truth is that travel with kids isn´t always easy, especially in crowded places and particularly when there are high expectations. You hit this nail right on the head, and I admire your honesty! Thanks for the interesting post!

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 8:57 pm

      Thanks so much! I think it’s important to be honest as a travel blogger – traveling isn’t always a piece of cake – and I try to give honest, realistic advice.

  16. October 8, 2016 / 12:53 am

    awww that’s such a pity to not be able to enjoy the Vatican City with the children. I had been there personally with my parents and the crowd was one thing I cannot forget. We were walking through corridors like sardines and the experience wasn’t that nice. Thankfully it was the winter and at least we had good weather.

    I loved the experience in Sistine Chapel!

    I do agree it isn’t a place for the children – no matter what age. Probably when they are in their teens. At least for mine I believe! #citytripping

    May, A Million Little Echoes

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 8:59 pm

      Thanks May! For sure, children in their teens will appreciate the Vatican much more. We can’t expect little kids with not much sense of history to love everything we do!

  17. October 8, 2016 / 2:43 am

    What a fun trip! I’m sure it was an amazing learning experience that your kids can look back on (and write essays on in school 😉 haha) #CityTripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 9:00 pm

      Thanks – yes essays in school – that will be fore sure;).

  18. October 8, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    I think it’s good to be honest about these things. I remember going as kids to some of these type of things, and really thinking I was been dragged there! I’d love to do Rome with the kids, but my hubby thinks the kids are too young at 8 and 11 … The vatican does look stunning though

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 9:03 pm

      Thanks – it was my second time to the Vatican and needless to say my first time (on my honeymoon) was a more pleasant experience. I’m still glad we did it with the kids again though since who knows when we’ll be back, but I agree, if you can go when they’re teens it will probably be much more worthwhile for them.

  19. October 8, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    A guide is such a good idea. When we went pre-kids I was a little overwhelmed by it all! #citytripping

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 9:04 pm

      It’s definitely overwhelming!

  20. October 8, 2016 / 10:41 pm

    Rome is on my list to do with the boys, maybe if you get there early the crowds wouldn’t be so bad?
    #culturedkids

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 9, 2016 / 9:05 pm

      Going at the crack would definitely help, but it will always be a decent line! Go for it:).

  21. October 14, 2016 / 10:01 am

    Fascinating and very honest review of your experience. I’m a recent convert to exploring Italy having been for the first time this summer and totally fallen in love. Would enjoy visiting Vatican City but can imagine my boys playing the same game with the floors lol

    • fifi + hop
      Author
      October 14, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      I know we just love Italy..we’re planning an international trip for this summer, and yet Italy keeps coming back on the list. So much to explore..thanks for reading :).

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