Visiting the Colosseum should be on anyone’s bucket list, the place is after all one of the most important attractions in Rome for a good reason. No matter how much time you have to spend in Rome, a day, 4 days, or even one week, I will help you with all the information you might need to plan your unforgettable visit.
Because it’s not always easy to find the best information, and since Rome has so much to see and do, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to plan for the perfect itinerary.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into everything you need to know for visiting the Colosseum.
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Visiting the Colosseum – a complete and easy guide: tips, tricks + FAQ
The Colosseum – a short history
Today, many of us think of the Colosseum as the quintessential symbol of ancient Rome and its Empire. It was the place where Julius Caesar held gladiatorial games or Emperor Nero fed the early Christians to the lions, right? Well…not really. Even referring to the ancient arena as the ‘Colosseum’ is inaccurate – no contemporary Roman called it by this name.
Initially, the place was a flat marshy area between the Caelian, Esquiline, and Palatine hills. However, by the time of Julius Caesar, it was densely inhabited, the more impressive houses of the rich scattered among the hovels of the poor masses.
The neighborhood’s proximity to the Forum, the beating heart of the Eternal City, made it a desirable location to live. Imagine a huge city, at its heyday the population peaked at over 1.000.000 inhabitants, without cars or public transportation – even horse-drawn carriages were banned within the city limits during the day. So how would one commute to work or go shopping or visit the temples? By foot, of course, either on one’s own feet or carried in a litter by a bunch of muscular slaves (and you thought today’s billionaires are excentric, eh?).
Thus, living close to the action was both fancy and necessary for either the poor and rich.
Fast forward a hundred years to the reign of Emperor Nero: on 19th July, 64 A.D., a fire began around the Circus Maximus, Rome’s chariot race stadium. The fire expanded to most of the city due to the wind, and it burned for nine days, destroying two-thirds of the Empire’s capital. How could the center of the Roman civilization burn down like that, one might ask?
Well, think of today’s disaster scenes: bumbling politicians, under-funded emergency services, a crazed populus focused on looting instead of helping, and wealthy speculators ready to jump in and capitalize on the disaster.
It was even said that Nero himself provoked the fire for he needed the inspiration to write a new poem – most historians believe this assertion is nonsensical; the Emperor was not in the city at the time, he traveled to the capital only after several days of burning chaos. Still, his next actions further fueled the suspicions that Nero had something to do with the whole thing.
After the fire, the Emperor requisitioned most of the land around the Forum, and, among other things, he built a huge palace complex as his residence, the Domus Aureus or Golden House, surrounded by extensive gardens and an artificial lake. Furthermore, he erected an enormous statue of himself, the bronze Colossus of Nero.
All these actions, combined with his mismanagement of the Empire and his erratic and violent behavior, led to what will be known to history as the ‘Year of the Four Emperors.’
In a nutshell, following a failed conspiracy to restore the Republic and a rebellion in Gaul led by the Roman governor Gaius Julius Vindex, Nero committed suicide – four successive leaders vied for the throne.
First, Servius Sulpicius Galba took over the Imperial throne just to be murdered by his guards.
Then, Marcus Salvius Otho was recognized as Emperor by the Senate, and it seemed order would be soon restored.
However, another ambitious politician raised the legions in revolt and marched on Rome: Aulus Vitellius’ troops defeated Otho’s, prompting the reigning Emperor’s suicide. Secure in his position as the new Emperor, Vitellius went on a spending spree, bankrupting the Empire while torturing and murdering anyone who dared question his actions.
Finally, the legions of the East proclaimed their general, Vespasian, as Emperor. His supporters abandoned Vitellius, Vespasian got him killed, officially ascending to the throne with the support of the Senate.
No wonder that year remained etched in history.
The year is 70 A.D., Vespasian, the son of a tax collector, is the new Emperor of a bankrupt and disintegrating Empire. His first priority: restore the people’s faith in the state. He ordered Nero’s Golden House to be demolished, its artificial lake filled with soil, and a huge arena to be built in its place to entertain the people – the Colosseum was born.
The new amphitheater was not just a building, it was a powerful political statement: the Empire is restored, it is as powerful and rich as ever, and it will entertain and feed its people.
Curiously, the Romans never used the name ‘Colosseum’; it is a medieval name probably derived from the megalomaniacal statue erected by Nero. Vespasian didn’t destroy it but refurbished it to represent Sol, the Sun God, and placed it next to his new arena. The statue is thought to have outlived the Empire by a couple of centuries, surviving until the early middle ages.
Hence, in one of the ironies of history, the mad Emperor Nero imprinted his mark on one of the iconic buildings of Rome for all eternity.
Visiting the Colosseum today
When you visit the Colosseum, try to imagine the noise, smell, and violence of over 9000 wild beasts being slaughtered in the building’s inaugural games alone: lions roaring, weapons clinging, the frenzied masses shouting their encouragement, the metallic smell of gallons of blood spilled on the arena’s floor.
Or envision the appalling conditions in the dim, suffocating underground area below the floor: the visitors of today can see the remains of the ‘hypogeum,’ a series of tunnels and cells used to hold the wild beasts and the slaves and prisoners condemned to fight.
Imagine the utter terror of a young girl, condemned to be fed to the lions because of her parents’ religious beliefs, as she was elevated into the arena from the dingy cell below on a wooden platform; the blinding sunlight, the booming noise of people shouting abuse at her and, eventually, the overwhelming fear as she glimpses her executioner, a starved, angry lion ready to gore her to death.
It is claimed that the Colosseum could even be filled with water and used to re-enact famous sea battles to the delight of the tens of thousands of spectators. That must have been a sight, ships ramming each other and battling for supremacy as gladiators and slaves were leaping from them in a life-and-death struggle.
These games would be held over several successive days, from morning to evening. One can easily deduct the presence of dozens of food and drink vendors similar to today’s sporting arenas. Equally, the building must have been surrounded by several public toilets to cater to the biological needs of the gathered masses. Ohhhh, the smell!
To this day, the top of the arena retained two hundred and forty structural pieces of stone called mast corbels; these were used to hold a retractable awning, basically a huge canvas, that shielded the spectators from the elements but let in the breeze during the hot summer days.
Apart from being an engineering wonder, the Colosseum was also a gigantic work of art containing many minuscule artistic jewels.
For example, the now-empty arches of the 2nd and 3rd floor framed statues representing divinities and mythological creatures. In addition, the arena walls were probably painted in red and gold and black; some interiors might even contain beautiful frescos depicting battle scenes or relevant mythological ones.
All in all, the sheer scale of the amphitheater showcases an advanced civilization of builders, engineers, artists, and artisans, but it also reminds us of the immense cruelty we are capable of in the name of politics, entertainment, and social control. Thus, it is a monument to our bright, creative side and our dark, destructive nature in equal measure.
I hope you will enjoy visiting one of the iconic monuments of European civilization.
Read also: The Best Italy Subscription Boxes
Where is the Colosseum in Rome and how to get there?
Located in the heart of Rome, in Piazza del Colosseo (Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy), you will find it easy to get there by public transportation, or even by walking.
One of the largest architectural structures in the area, you will find it hard to miss.
Distance from other main attractions in Rome:
2 minutes away from the Roman Forum
30 minutes away from the Vatican City by public transportation (Cipro or Valle Aurelia on the orange subway line)
20 minutes walk from Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon or Piazza Navona
35 minutes walk from Piazza del Popolo
How to get to the Colosseum
On its northern part, you’ll find a bus stop with plenty of options to choose from, but also the subway station with the same name: “Colosseo”.
Hop on the metro blue line (line B) and make your way to the Colosseo. If you are traveling on the orange line (line A), simply change the line at Termini station (Rome’s main train station) and ride for 2 stops until the Colosseum.
A hop on hop off bus will also leave you in front of the Colosseum and is worth taking when you want to see as much as possible in a short time, without having to worry about means of transportation, tickets, and other similar things. Get your ticket here!
You can have unlimited transportation for up to 72 hours with the Roma Pass. On top of that, the pass offers free access to two venues of your choice (one when you choose the 48-hour option), making it a cost-efficient option to look at. Get your pass here!
The Vatican & Rome City Pass is another option for when you are spending more time in Rome and wish to see as much as possible. This one has a higher price tag but you will get unlimited public transportation, along with skip the line with free admission to the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and Michelangelo’s miraculous ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. Get the pass here!
Is visiting the Colosseum worth it?
I’m sure that after you’ve read its short history, we managed to make you hungry for more. The Colosseum is one of Rome’s major attractions for a good reason, and it is in my opinion absolutely worth visiting on a guided tour.
When is the best time to visit the Colosseum? How to skip the crowds?
When you choose to visit the Colosseum during the peak season, you can expect a sea of people all wanting to visit the famous landmark. With that comes the endless ticket and entrance lines, with waiting times that can go well over one hour.
When you don’t have months to spend in Rome, and especially when you only have one or two days to see some of the most popular landscapes in Italy, you must find workarounds and skip the crowds.
That’s why visiting the Colosseum and Rome in winter might be a good idea. Temperatures aren’t as low as in many other places around Europe.
November or March could also be perfect months for walking around Ancient Rome’s ruins.
Opening hours for the Colosseum
The Colosseum is currently open every single day of the week, as follows:
- 9.30 – 18.30: until the 30th October 2021 (last admission at 17.30)
- 9.30 – 16.30: from the 31st of October 2021 to the 26th March 2022: (last admission at 15.30)
- 9:30 – 19:15: from 26 March to 31 August 2022
Don’t bother trying to visit on the 1 January and 25 December, because the Colosseum is closed on these dates.
It is worth knowing that you can only go inside in the timeframe you chose when booking your ticket.
Also, it is advisable to get there 15 minutes before your time slot.
These days, together with the ticket, you will have to show a Green Pass and an ID.
Ticket prices and options – where to purchase your tickets?
There are countless ticket and tour options for visiting the Colosseum, and you can choose to buy your ticket online or directly at the ticket office.
While getting your tickets in Rome is an option, I strongly recommend going prepared and booking your ticket online in advance. By doing this, you will skip the long queues and have more time to enjoy Rome.
The official tickets cost 18 EUR and can be booked online here.
This ticket will offer you access to the Colosseum, at the booked time, along with entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine, and the temporary Exhibition.
If you want to visit the Arena, Underground, and III Level of the Colosseum, check out the ticket options below.
I always prefer doing this when I travel to popular destinations in Europe. The Tiqets site has plenty of options, and they have real-time updates on the availability of time slots for visiting the Colosseum. It is in English and very easy to use, while the official site was not working at the moment I am writing this.
Here are some of the best ticket options to consider, especially if the simple entrance tickets are sold out:
|Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill: Priority Entrance||24 EUR||Book Here!|
|Semi-Private Colosseum Underground Tour + Roman Forum, Palatine Hill & Arena||79 EUR||Book Here!|
|Arena Floor Ticket: Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill: Skip The Line + Arena Floor||28 EUR||Book Here!|
|Colosseum & Roman Forum: Guided Tour||55 EUR||Book Here!|
|Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill: Video Guide||25 EUR||Book Here!|
The other possibilities are to book one of the available Rome Cards that would bundle together limitless access to public transportation with access to the Colosseum and other important attractions in Rome:
Rome Tourist Card – See the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, and St. Peter’s Basilica, along with the Pantheon and a guided tour of Rome. Get it here!
Roma Pass – 48 or 72 hours options, free access to two venues of your choice (one for the 48-hour option), limitless public transportation. You must know also that even if you hold the Roma Pass you will still have to book a visiting slot online and pay an extra fee of 2 EUR. Get your pass here!
Vatican & Rome City Pass – unlimited public transportation, along with skip the line with free admission to the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and Michelangelo’s miraculous ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. Get the pass here!
How to book your ticket for the Colosseum online
Once you’re done with the hardest part, choosing the right tour or city pass for you, booking the ticket online couldn’t be easier.
Choose the date and time you would like to visit and take into consideration the fact that you will have to go through a mandatory security check that might take up to 30 minutes in peak times.
Choose the number of tickets, depending on your age and place of residence. As you can see below, EU citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 pay only a fraction of the ticket cost.
Once you fill in all your information you will pay online and just show up at the Colosseum on the chosen date, 30 minutes ahead of time.
Can you visit for free? Which are the available dates in 2022?
Yes, like many places around the world, the Colosseum has certain dates with free entry.
Since the recent months have been a bit hectic, I couldn’t find any information online on the dates available for 2021 or 2022.
However, in the past, the first Sunday of the month offered free access to the Colosseum.
What I’ve learned from visiting the Parthenon in Athens on one of these days? It gets crazy crowded! But it is still a great idea if you are traveling to Rome on a budget.
How much time to book in your schedule for visiting the Colosseum?
When planning your Rome itinerary, factor in anywhere between 2 and 4 hours for visiting the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
Of course, if you choose to buy only the entrance ticket and make your way around, you can spend much less time inside the Colosseum.
However, I strongly encourage you to book a guided tour that will take you back to the past and tell you much more than we have managed to tell you about the Colosseum.
How to better visit the Colosseum
As already mentioned, I strongly encourage you to either book a skip-the-line ticket or go on a guided tour of the Colosseum.
While skip-the-line won’t erase completely the waiting time, the whole process will be considerably shorter. You will still have to go through the security checks and other mandatory checks.
Here are a few great guided tours and skip-the-line ticket options worth considering:
Things to bring with you and what to wear while visiting the Colosseum
Unlike the Vatican for example, the Colosseum does not have a mandatory dress code and you won’t have to cover your shoulders or wear over-the-knee skirts or pants.
However, especially if you are visiting on a sunny day, you might want to be wearing sunscreen and have a scarf or a hat that could cover your head in need. There aren’t many places where you can hide from the sun, so that will always come in handy.
Wear comfortable shoes with soles that are not too slippery – you will be going up and downs stone stairs, so you must do your best to avoid any potential accidents.
Additionally, I always try to have a bottle of water with me, especially when I plan for a back-to-back itinerary.
Don’t bring heavy luggage, suitcases, or any large backpack because you won’t be allowed inside and there isn’t any on-site storage room.
Closest storage to the Colosseum
If you are planning to visit the Colosseum before leaving Rome, or before your check-in, here are some options for storage:
Left luggage Colosseum & Roman Forum is only 4 minutes away from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, making it the perfect destination to leave your luggage. It is self-service and it’s open every day of the year.
Left Luggage Room is another option close by, you can book and pay online, and it will cost you 7 EUR for the whole day.
Driving in Rome?
If you are staying longer and you choose to rent a car for your longer itinerary, you should know that driving in Rome requires special skills, particularly when it comes to parking.
Additionally, the center of the city has plenty of limited traffic zones (ZTL) where cars are not allowed. Be aware because there are plenty of cameras around, and you risk getting a ticket if you don’t pay attention.
That being said, the closest parking space to the Colosseum is Park Services Colosseum in Via Capo d’Africa, 29/C, 00184 Roma RM, Italy.
Where to stay close by with a Colosseum view?
Nothing beats staying in a place with a view!
That’s what I’m always looking for whenever I travel to someplace new, but having a view of the Colosseum, the Vatican, or Trevi Fountain would be a dream come true.
If that’s also something you dream about, here are a few hotels that could well accomplish that dream.
Luxury option $$$$
Hotel Palazzo Manfredi is one of the most luxurious hotels in Rome, set across the street from the Colosseum. The hotel has a modern twist with an antique design, and from some of its rooms, you can literally see the Colosseum from your bed! Check it out here!
Colosseum Palace Star is set only 200m away from the Colosseum, and you can easily see the famous landmark from the shared terrace. Enjoy a breakfast with a breathtaking view! Check it out here!
B&B Santi Quattro Al Colosseo – while you cannot really expect to pay only a few bucks for a room with a Colosseum view, this might be the most budget-friendly option there is. The guestrooms are set in a historical building, right around the corner from the Colosseum. Check it out here!
Rooftop bars and restaurants with a Colosseum view
Start your day with a breakfast with a view, or finish it off with a romantic dinner or a glass of Italian wine, overlooking the Colosseum at one of these restaurants and bars.
The Roof Garden at the Minerva Hotel offers a marvelous 360-degree view of Rome, mouthwatering food, and Le Cupole bar.
The Court is another great option for a rooftop bar with a Colosseum view. It is hosted by the Palazzo Manfredi luxury hotel, and here you will find an exceptional cocktail list, but also a Michelin star restaurant – Aroma Luxury Restaurant.
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