No visit to Rome is complete without a tour of the Colosseum and this guide on how to visit the Colosseum includes all the necessary practical information and explores in depth the available ways to get to know one of the world’s most iconic buildings.

One of the most visited places in all of Italy, the Colosseum is a marvel of the ancient world that has been miraculously preserved through centuries of change. Despite the earthquakes and the plundering by subsequent civilisations looking for a source of stone, the Colosseum remains the largest amphitheatre still in existence.

Gazing up from the arena floor at the rows upon rows of arches is one of the highlights of the 4-Day Rome Itinerary we recommend. This is why we decided to put together this article with travel tips on how to visit the Colosseum in Rome.

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Where Is The Colosseum?

The Colosseum is situated in the heart of the Eternal City. Part of Rome’s Centro Storico, the magnificent monument has its own Metro station, which is on the city’s Line B route, connecting it directly to the Italian capital’s principal train station, Termini.

The Colosseum's interior from the first floor.
Walking through history at the Colosseum of Rome

How To Visit The Colosseum at a Glance

What To Know Before You Visit The Colosseum

Historical Facts

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world, occupying five acres of land and capable of holding an estimated 50,000 spectators. Commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD, it was built using slave labour and took eight years to complete. When it finally opened, 100 days of games were held to celebrate.

Unlike visitors today, spectators flocking to the Colosseum could originally make use of 80 separate entrances to get into the building. Of course, officials back then didn’t need to worry about checking tickets. Most events were organised by emperors to curry favour with the populace. Therefore, they were completely free – and that includes the refreshments.

View of the arena floor and the seating area from the second floor.
The Colosseum may not be free to enter any more but it’s worth every penny

Back in Ancient Rome, the Colosseum was used as an arena to stage gladiatorial combat, animal hunts and executions. These brutal, bloody spectacles could see up to 10,000 creatures killed in a single day. Some historians have speculated that around 400,000 people met their fate within these walls during the 350-odd years the Colosseum was frequented.

The architecture of the Colosseum is remarkable. As you’ll be able to see on your visit, the structure is mostly built out of a mixture of stone and concrete. Comprising four levels, from the outside you can see a steady gradation in the style of the pillars.

They begin with the simplest Doric columns on the ground floor, rising through Ionic columns on the second floor and culminating with Corinthian columns on the third floor. All of this is topped off with a fourth storey. Later added on by Emperor Domitian, this floor doesn’t have any arches but did once boast decorative carvings instead.

The facade of the Colosseum with its Ionic and Corinthian columns.
Different styles of columns alternate to create a masterpiece of architecture

Fun Facts About The Colosseum

Amazingly, the Colosseum could also be used to stage naval battles. At least, that’s what some people claim. In its earliest days, the whole building could be flooded so that ships could be set afloat on the – admittedly shallow – waters to re-enact maritime warfare.

While the practicality of these water exploits has been questioned by a few historians, what isn’t in doubt is that the Colosseum once had the largest retractable velarium ever built. This awning was made of the same fabric sails were made.

This is why this complex contraption that could be extended to shade the audience from the sun on particularly hot days required a whole team of experienced sailors to operate.

Why Is It Called The Colosseum?

Supposedly, the name comes from a large bronze statue (aka Colossus) that stood next to the amphitheatre, depicting Emperor Nero. However, the building was originally known to the Romans as the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was named after the imperial dynasty of the Flavians, headed by Vespasian who oversaw the amphitheatre’s construction.

The walls of the Hypogeum with the upper floors in the background. If you want to know how to visit the Colosseum, the best way to check out the underground and all the other areas is with a guided tour.
What’s in a name – the Colosseum looks magnificent no matter what you call it by

Practical Info

Tickets to the Colosseum can be bought either online or via the on-site ticket office. Make sure you pay attention to the time indicated on your ticket, as you will only be allowed admission during that specific time slot. Unfortunately, there will almost inevitably be a queue for security, which can take half an hour during the high season. Therefore, plan your arrival accordingly.

A roofless narrow corridor at the Hypogeum.
Exploring the Colosseum is worth the wait and the queues

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. One, you will need to bring some form of ID to enter the Colosseum. This can be either your passport or a European identity card. Two, you will not be allowed to bring in anything larger than a small bag.

Technically, you can take a backpack, but not a large one. However, this is at the discretion of the staff. Therefore, we’d advise sticking to a tote or a handbag, just to be safe, as there aren’t any storage lockers or a cloakroom on-site.

If you’re wondering whether there’s a dress code for the Colosseum, the answer is no. However, as there are a lot of stairs to go up and down when visiting the Colosseum, make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be mostly outdoors, which means that you should wear appropriate clothes depending on the weather.

There are toilets inside the Colosseum, so don’t worry about getting caught short. There is also a free water fountain to refill bottles. That said, you won’t be able to purchase any other refreshments inside.

The seating area of the Colosseum. There are some marble seats with engravings on them.
The relentless passing of time reflected in the Colosseum

Opening Hours

The Colosseum’s opening hours have been subject to fluctuations in recent years. Here, we’ve included the most up-to-date hours according to the Colosseum official website. However, we strongly advise you to check the official website before you visit in case there have been any more alterations.

January 01 to February 28 – 09:00 to 16:30 
March 01 to March 26 – 09:00 to 17:30
March 27 to August 31 – 09:00 to 19:15 
September 01 to September 30 – 09:00 to 19:00
October 01 to October 30 – 09:00 to 18:30
October 31 to December 31 – 09:00 to 16:30

This is a long-exposure shot of the Colosseum with light trails.
Stick around after your visit to see how utterly impressive the Colosseum looks at night

Is It Worth Going Inside The Colosseum?

Before going into much detail about how to visit the Colosseum, let’s answer this fundamental question. Is it worth going inside the Colosseum? Yes, absolutely. While from the outside you can appreciate the grandeur of the building – which would have towered over the surrounding city with its 48-metre-high tiered stories – the interior is much more atmospheric.

One of the most fantastic things to do at the Colosseum is to simply wander along the corridors of the second floor, gazing between the arches at the city outside as well as looking down upon the arena floor, like a patrician of old.

View of the arena floor and the underground.
Stepping inside the Colosseum is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

There’s also a small museum inside the Colosseum that gives you a rundown of some basic facts about the structure, as well as the vicissitudes of fortune that the building has endured over time. If you purchase an arena ticket, you can also set foot on the actual arena of the Colosseum, where gladiators once fought for their lives.

Part of the arena floor has been peeled away to expose the hypogeum, also known as the underground area. This is also accessible, but only with a separate ticket or on a tour. The upper floors of the Colosseum are currently closed for renovation. They will hopefully reopen in the future to allow for an even more extensive experience.

Check out this tour that gives you access to the Colosseum underground and arena.

The corridor at the Colosseum's underground floor. If you're wondering how to visit the Colosseum underground, the only way is with a guided tour.
In the depths of the Colosseum

Is The Colosseum Underground Worth It?

The underground area of the Colosseum is like a glimpse behind the scenes at a theatre. In that sense, it is definitely worth visiting. The hypogeum is not an original feature of the Colosseum. In fact, it was built about a decade after the main building was completed, during the reign of Emperor Domitian.

However, it is a stunning upgrade, one that once boasted 36 trapdoors, allowing animals and gladiators to rise from out of the ground in dramatic fashion, rather than simply sauntering in through one of the side entrances.

We recently enjoyed this V.I.P. Tour that takes you to one of the most exclusive parts of the Colosseum!

This image shows the upper floors as seen from the Colosseum underground.
Looking up from the Colosseum underground – one of the best views of the Colosseum

How To Get To The Colosseum

One of the first things to know about how to visit the Colosseum is how to get there. Although much of downtown Rome is walkable, how to get to the Colosseum depends on where you’re staying in Rome. If your hotel is a bit farther outside the Centro Storico, the Colosseo metro station is dedicated to the Colosseum.

If you want to stay above ground and watch the city go by, Tram Line 3 runs from the Trastevere train station via the Colosseum to Piazza Thorvaldsen (just outside the Villa Borghese).

View of people standing on the arena floor as seen from the Hypogeum.
Inside the Colosseum

What Is The Best Time To Visit The Colosseum?

The Colosseum opens every day at 09:00 in the morning, which is when it tends to be the quietest. Therefore, this is the best time of day to visit the Colosseum. If you can manage to get to the site in the early morning, before all the other tourists have finished their breakfasts, you will tend to have fewer fellow visitors jostling with you as you wander around the area.

Another option, if you want a crowd-free experience, is to book an evening tour. These run after general admission to the Colosseum has closed, which means you don’t have to wrangle with the daytime masses. As part of the evening tour, you will usually be guided through the arena and the hypogeum. Note that times vary according to the season.

Check out this V.I.P. Colosseum at night tour with a visit to the underground and arena floor to escape the crowds and the heat of the summer!

The Colosseum as seen from the outside at night.
The Colosseum as the day gives way to night

How Long Does It Take To See The Colosseum?

If you purchase a ticket for the entire site, including the arena and underground, you should budget between an hour and an hour and a half. That’s plenty of time to explore everything in a leisurely manner and grab loads of photo mementoes. If you opt for a guided tour instead, your tour provider will let you know the duration of your visit to the Colosseum.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit The Colosseum?

There are several kinds of entry tickets you can purchase. The first is the basic admission, which costs 18 EUR. It provides access to the main part of the Colosseum as well as the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

You can also purchase a full-experience ticket for 24 EUR. This includes entry to the arena floor and the underground section of the Colosseum. This includes admission to the so-called S.U.P.E.R. (Seven Unique Places to Experience in Rome) sites, such as the Palatine Museum, the House of Augustus and the Temple of Romulus.

If you buy tickets from the official website, you will be able to turn up to the Colosseum and head straight through to the security check, rather than queuing at the on-site office. However, during the busy tourist season, tickets from the official website tend to sell out.

As a result, it’s probably best to buy skip-the-line tickets from a reseller or book a group tour if you don’t want to spend an hour waiting in the sun.

A big wooden cross on the ground floor. If you're asking yourself how to visit the Colosseum, a guided tour is the most insightful and hassle-free way.
With a guided tour, you’ll learn the story behind this cross inside the Colosseum

Is It Worth Getting a Guided Tour of The Colosseum?

If you prefer to set your own schedule and take your time, the Colosseum has an excellent audio guide for an additional fee. However, the best way to see the Colosseum is with a guided tour.

There are some obvious benefits to opting for a guided tour. First of all, you can ask your cicerone any questions that you have as soon as they pop into your mind. Secondly, the guide will be able to reveal some interesting snippets that aren’t included in the audio guide.

What’s more, as this is one of the most visited sites worldwide, visiting the Colosseum on your own can be overwhelming. Moreover, not only does buying tickets from the official website look confusing, they also sell out fast. Last but not least, joining a skip-the-line tour will save you time as a good tour guide knows every hidden place of the site.

A group of visitors on the ground floor in front of the hypogeum.
If you’re wondering how to see the Colosseum in Rome, a guided tour is highly recommended

Best Colosseum Tours in Rome

There are countless guided tours to the Colosseum. Most of them include a visit to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, both of which are part of the Colosseum Archaeological Park. Other tours include the arena and the underground floor, others run at night and others include other important attractions of the city.

Among all tour operators in Rome, we prefer Walks as they organise small-group tours led by passionate and knowledgeable experts. After joining their tours in Rome, London, Athens, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville we couldn’t help but love them. We truly can’t recommend Walks enough.

So here is our list of the best tours of the Colosseum run by Walks:

The Colosseum's interior from the first floor. The underground and the arena floor can be seen in the background.
A stunning view of the Colosseum interior

Can You See The Colosseum For Free?

Yes, you can. Anybody can visit the Colosseum for free on the first Sunday of every month, as part of Italy’s nationwide initiative to provide access for everyone to state-run historical sites. 

There are also certain national holidays when admission is free, too. These include the Anniversary of the Liberation (April 25), Republic Day (June 2) and National Unity and Armed Forces Day (November 4)

You do still have to queue to get your complimentary ticket, though. As you can imagine, it can be a bit manic. If you’re visiting Rome for just a few days, wasting that much time queuing up for a complimentary ticket doesn’t really make sense.

The holes on the columns of the facade.
History written all over the Colosseum’s walls

Attractions Near The Colosseum

Just outside the Colosseum are a couple of grand arches. These were built to commemorate the reigns of Emperor Titus and Emperor Constantine.

A short walk away, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill await. The former is a collection of crumbling, picturesque remnants of what was once the heart of the Roman Empire. The latter is home to the ruins of palaces that were called home by several emperors. Entrance to both is included with all types of Colosseum tickets.

This is a panoramic view of the Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum

We do hope that you’ll find this guide on how to visit the Colosseum useful next time you’re in Rome. No matter how long you’re visiting Rome for or the main purpose of your trip, a visit to the Colosseum is an unmissable part of any Roman holiday and one of the most unique experiences you can enjoy in Europe.

WORDS: Maria & Katerina
IMAGES: Katerina
EDITING: Maria

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