The Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. If you are planning your first trip to Rome, most likely the Colosseum is on your to-do list. In this guide, we cover what you need to know about how to visit the Colosseum, including what to do when you are here, the best time of day to plan your visit, and whether or not it is worth it to take a tour.
The Colosseum is Rome’s most popular landmark to visit. Lines to enter can be enormous and the last thing you want to do is spend your valuable time waiting in line.
Fortunately, with proper planning, you can avoid this long wait and have a great experience at the Colosseum. We have visited the Colosseum twice, on a self-guided visit and on a tour, and have a lot of helpful tips to share with you.
Interesting Facts About the Colosseum
Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum (also called the Flavium Amphitheater) is the largest amphitheater that was ever built at the time. It could hold up to 80,000 people, spectators who were drawn here to watch gladiatorial contests, executions, animal hunts, and re-enactments of famous battles.
It gets its name from the “colossal” bronze statue of Nero, which sat right next to the Colosseum. The statue no longer stands but the name remains. In Italian, you will see the Colosseum written as Colosseo.
In medieval times, once the Colosseum was no longer used as an amphitheater, it was used as housing, a fortress, a quarry, a cemetery, and a small chapel was built inside of the Colosseum.
In 1349, an earthquake damaged much of the structure and the stones that fell from the Colosseum were then used to construct other buildings in Rome.
Beginning in the 17th century, efforts were made to protect the Colosseum, as people realized the importance and history of this building. Between 1993 and 2000, it underwent a major renovation, and smaller projects continue today.
It is one of the seven New Wonders of the World and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Things to Do in the Colosseum
There are several levels of the Colosseum: the underground, first level, second level, and the third level (top tier). There are several different ticket types and which one you choose determines which of these levels you can visit.
First Level of the Colosseum
This is the level of the arena floor. From this level, you can walk the circumference of the Colosseum, with several viewpoints into the underground. The arena floor was once made of wood and covered with sand, but this disappeared once the Colosseum was no longer used as an amphitheater. From this level, you look down into the inner workings of the underground rooms and hallways.
First level | How to Visit the Colosseum
Cross on the first level | How to Visit the Colosseum
The Arena Floor
Part of the Arena Floor was recently rebuilt, giving visitors a sense of what it is like to stand in the arena. This is also the best spot to look into the Underground. For entrance onto the Arena Floor, you will need a special ticket.
View from the Arena Floor | How to Visit the Colosseum
The Underground, also called the hypogeum, is the area under the Arena Floor. This is where the animals were kept and where the gladiators waited to be released. It’s a maze of underground tunnels and rooms and can only be visited on a guided tour. This is one of Rome’s best history lessons and well worth it, in our opinion.
Underground tunnel | How to Visit the Colosseum
Colosseum Underground and the bottom of the Arena Floor
View from the Underground | How to Visit the Colosseum
The Second Level
On the second level, now that you are higher, you get one of the best views of the Colosseum. There are various viewpoints into the Colosseum, but one of the best is from west side of the Colosseum, where you get a panoramic view of the interior plus the Arena Floor.
The second level is included on the standard ticket.
Second Level | How to Visit the Colosseum
View from the second level | How to Visit the Colosseum
Second Level Terrace
On the west end of the second level, once you take your photos of the interior of the Colosseum, turn around and walk towards the exterior of the Colosseum. This takes you to a terrace that overlooks the Arch of Constantine, with views of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Here is the view.
Arch of Constantine
For more clarification, below is a photo of the Colosseum, taken near the Arch of Constantine, with a view of the terrace.
Museum of the Colosseum
On the second level is the Museum of the Colosseum, which displays archaeological artifacts, mosaics, and graffiti from the Colosseum. It is included on the standard ticket.
Museum of the Colosseum | How to Visit the Colosseum
Third Level (Top Tier) aka the Belvedere
This is as high as you can go in the Colosseum and the top tier can only be visited on a tour. Currently, it is closed for renovations, but you can check the official website for updates as to when it will reopen.
Things to Do Outside of the Colosseum
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch that is dedicated to Constantine the Great. It is the largest Roman triumphal arch and it was built between 312 and 315 AD. It is located next to the Colosseum and free to visit.
The Roman Forum is located just a short walk from the Colosseum. This is ancient Rome, a complex of government buildings, temples, and marketplaces from 2000 years ago.
From the Colosseum, you will enter the Roman Forum by walking along Via Sacra and entering at the Arch of Titus.
Via Sacra | How to Visit the Colosseum
Notable things to see in the Roman Forum include the Via Sacra, the Temple of Venus, the Temple of Romulus (the bronze doors date back to 309 AD), the Temple of Antonius and Faustina and its “hanging door,” the Temple of Vesta, the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Septimius Severus, and the Temple of Julius Caesar.
A visit here lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how many sites you visit and/or your tour.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are included on the standard Colosseum entrance ticket.
Sitting on Palatine Hill is a complex of archaeological excavations, the remains of temples and palaces, and a museum. During the time of the Roman Republic, many imperial palaces were built here, including palaces for Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian.
There are several sites on Palatine Hill, such as the House of Augustus, which requires an additional ticket (it is included on the S.U.P.E.R ticket, also called the Full Experience ticket).
While on Palatine Hill, make sure you visit Terrazza Belvedere del Palatino for a bird’s eye view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It’s one of the best views in Rome. Here is the view:
View of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Since Palatine Hill is included on a ticket with the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, grouping these three sites together makes the best use of your time. To visit all three, plan on spending anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on how quickly you move.
Viewpoints of the Colosseum
For close up views of the Colosseum, take some time to walk around the entire building. This takes about 15 minutes, depending on how frequently you stop for photos.
View of the Colosseum near the intersection of Via Nicola Salvi and Via Labicana
View of the southern side of the Colosseum
For one of the best views of the Colosseum, to go Giardinetto del Monte Oppio. This small park is located next to the Colosseo metro station, it’s free to visit, and this is the view that you get:
The view from Giardinetto del Monte Oppio
How to Get to the Colosseum
METRO: The closest metro stop is Colosseo, on line B. This metro station sits across the street from the Colosseum, and once you exit the station, the Colosseum will be right in front of you.
TAXI OR UBER: It’s possible to take a taxi or Uber to get to the Colosseum. Taxis can be hired from taxi stands throughout the city.
BUS: It’s also possible to get to the Colosseum by bus, whether it is by public bus or on a hop-on hop-off tourist bus.
ON FOOT: Depending on where you are staying in Rome, or what you plan to do before your visit, you can walk to the Colosseum. We use Google Maps for walking directions in Rome.
ENTRANCE INTO THE COLOSSEUM: The entrance into the Colosseum is on the west end of the building. These GPS coordinates (41°53’26.5″N 12°29’28.6″E) give you the approximate location.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit the Colosseum?
The answer to this question depends on which levels you want to visit. Here are the Colosseum ticket types.
Cost: €18 (€16 entrance fee + €2 reservation fee)
Includes: Level 1 and Level 2 of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Valid: Valid for 24 hours
Standard Ticket + Audioguide
Cost: €23.50 (€21.50 entrance fee + €2 reservation fee)
Includes: Level 1 and Level 2 of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, audioguide for the Colosseum
Valid: Valid for 24 hours
Full Experience Ticket
Cost: €24 (€22 entrance fee + €2 reservation fee)
Includes: Level 1 and Level 2 of the Colosseum, Arena Floor, guided visit to the Underground, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, entrance into the S.U.P.E.R sites (Casa Augustus, Palatine Museum, House of Livia, temple of Romulus, Santa Maria Antiqua, Criptoportico neroniano, and Aula Isiaca)
Valid: Valid for 48 hours
FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH: Admission is free the first Sunday of every month. Expect BIG crowds on this day. It may sound like a good idea to visit the Colosseum for free, but lines can be long to enter and the crowds can take away from the overall experience.
If you have a Roma Pass, your entrance fee is included. However, you will still need to book a time slot to enter the Colosseum. This must be done in advance and there is a €2 reservation fee. Click here for more information.
Tickets for Children
Children can enter the Colosseum for free but you will still need to book a time slot in advance, which you can do on the official website.
The Colosseum at Night
Evening tours of the Colosseum are offered, which allow you to see the Colosseum illuminated at night. These tickets sell out far in advance, so if this sounds like something you want to do, make your reservation as soon as you know your dates of travel. Learn more here.
You can also take this tour, which includes a nighttime visit to the Colosseum plus the Underground and the Arena Floor.
Arena Floor | How to Visit the Colosseum
Purchasing Your Colosseum Tickets
For the best experience, book your tickets in advance, ideally at least several weeks before your visit (but even 4 weeks is better, especially from April through September). Tickets go on sale one month in advance as of April 2023 (you can read about when and how tickets are released here).
In helping people purchase tickets, we have noticed that tickets are being purchased as soon as they become available, especially the Full Experience tickets. For example, on April 8, tickets become available for May 8 (and sometimes selling out within 24 hours of becoming available). The earlier time slots of the day sell out almost instantly, so set a remimder on your calendar to purchase your tickets as soon as your date becomes available.
Tickets to the Underground are limited and sell out fast. It can also be difficult to get tickets to the nighttime tours of the Colosseum.
Purchase your tickets on the official website. When you make your booking, you will also reserve a time slot. We recommend reserving the first time slot of the day for the lightest crowds (opening time is at 9 am). On our most recent visit to the Colosseum, we entered at opening time and there was no line (this was in September 2022).
What if Tickets are Sold Out?
If tickets on the official website are sold out, we recommend booking a guided tour of the Colosseum.
A portion of the entry tickets into the Colosseum are sold to third-party providers, who then resell the tickets at a slightly higher price or as a guided tour. It will cost you more money, sometimes just a few extra euros, but it is worth it to get the time slot you want and not miss out on this experience.
This skip-the-line guided tour includes your entrance into the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill and is one of the cheapest tours that we found of the Colosseum.
This skip-the-line tour includes entrance into the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill and has the option to add on the Arena Floor.
This tour only includes the Colosseum but takes just one hour of your time, so it’s a good option for those who want a quick visit to the Colosseum.
If you want to tour the Colosseum at night, this tour gets rave reviews and includes the Underground and the Arena Floor.
Finally, if you want to tour the Colosseum and the Underground, take a look at this tour.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: You cannot just show up at the Colosseum and expect to purchase a ticket. You have to make a reservation in advance in order to enter.
When is the Colosseum Open?
The Colosseum is open every day of the year except for Christmas.
It opens at 9 am everyday but closing time varies by season. The Colosseum closes between 4:30 pm and 7 pm, depending on the month. Last entry is one hour before closing. Get updated hours here.
Best Time of Day to Visit the Colosseum
I recommend visiting first thing in the morning, at the first time slot of the day, to tour the Colosseum with low crowds. Crowds also tend to be lighter at the end of the day, just keep in mind that the last entry is one hour before closing.
What We Did
We have visited the Colosseum twice.
Our first visit was in 2014. We entered midday and toured the Colosseum on our own, without a guide. We realized that there is a lot to see and without a guide, you don’t really know what you are looking at.
In 2022, Tim and I returned to Rome and took a guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, including the Arena Floor and Underground. This tour lasted 3 hours and we got a lot out of it. The history of the Underground is fascinating and we learned a lot, not just about the Colosseum but the other ancient archaeological sites on Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.
Skip the Line Tours of the Colosseum
It is well worth it to take a tour of the Colosseum. This allows you to visit the Underground, but if you visit the Colosseum with a guide, you also learn a lot about the history here (and the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, if you add those to your tour).
The cheapest “tour” is to book a standard ticket into the Colosseum plus the audioguide (€23.50).
We wanted to take a nighttime tour of the Colosseum, but these tickets sell out far in advance so we were unable to do this, but it’s a unique way to tour the Colosseum and people rave about this experience.
If you are unable to purchase entrance tickets into the Colosseum or you prefer to take a guided tour to get the most out of your visit, here are some highly rated tours of the Colosseum.
Helpful Tips for Visiting the Colosseum
There is no dress code for the Colosseum. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
Backpacks & Luggage
Large backpacks and luggage are not permitted inside of the Colosseum. Small backpacks are allowed.
What to Do After Your Visit
Here are a few nearby places to visit. For a more complete list, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome.
- After your visit to the Colosseum, visit Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.
- For lunch, we recommend La Prezzemolina. This small restaurant is within walking distance of the Colosseum and Roman Forum and serves delicious Roman style pizza. It’s one of the best cheap eats in Rome.
- Visit the museums and viewpoints on Capitoline Hill.
- Visit the Altar of the Fatherland for 360° views of Rome.
- Have a cocktail at The Court at Palazzo Manfredi for views of the Colosseum (the bar opens at 5 pm).
- See the Ludus Magnus (the remains of the gladiator school), which are located a short walk east of the Colosseum
Roman Forum from Capitoline Hill
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to see the Colosseum?
The best way to see visit the Colosseum is on a guided tour. On a guided tour, you can visit the Underground and tour the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill with a knowledgeable guide, so you get the most out of your visit.
How long does it take to visit the Colosseum?
It takes 1 to 2 hours to visit the Colosseum. With one hour, you can tour the first and second levels, visit the museum, and take photos from the Arena Floor. A tour of the Underground adds on roughly 30 minutes to your visit to the Colosseum.
Can you just turn up at the Colosseum?
No, tickets must be purchased in advance.
Can you visit the Colosseum without a tour?
Yes, you can purchase a ticket online in advance and visit the Colosseum without taking a tour.
More Information about Rome
In our article How to Visit the Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica, we cover what you need to know to plan your visit, including if a tour is worth it, how to avoid the lines, plus information about the “secret rooms” in the Vatican.
For advice on where to eat, read our guide about Where to Eat in Rome, that has restaurant recommendations near the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the historic heart of Rome, plus some great rooftop restaurants. We also have a guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.
Get recommendations on where to stay in Rome in our Rome Hotel Guide.
If you have any questions about how to visit the Colosseum, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.
VENICE: Learn more about Venice in our article Best Things to Do in Venice. We also have guides about How to Visit St. Mark’s Basilica, where to get the Best Views of Venice, and how to spend Two Days in Venice.
FLORENCE & TUSCANY: If this is your first visit to Florence, read our guide to the Best Things to Do in Florence and the best rooftop bars in Florence. If you plan to visit Tuscany, learn about the Best Things to Do in Tuscany, how to spend One Day in Siena, how to plan your Tuscany itinerary, and check out our guide to the Best Day Trips from Florence.
VERONA: Verona is a beautiful city in northern Italy. Learn how to spend one perfect day in Verona.
AMALFI COAST: Find out the best way to get around the Amalfi Coast and what it is really like to drive the Amalfi Coast. Learn about the best things to do on the Amalfi Coast, how to hike the Path of the Gods, and things to do in Ravello and Positano, and how to visit Paestum, an archaeological site that is located just outside of the Amalfi Coast.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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