Why Visiting Colosseum? An essential stop on your trip to Rome (Updated)
You just landed to Rome and you are already wondering why visiting the Colosseum is important during your holidays ?
Make seeing the Colosseum an essential part of your holiday in Rome. I will explain to you all the reasons to visit the Colosseum, attractions, tours and special events. And also all the information you need to plan your trip.
Visit Colosseum and make it an essential stop on your holiday in Rome
A visit to Rome isn’t complete without a tour of the Colosseum. This amphitheatre in the center of the city was the largest ever built, taking almost a decade to construct during the Flavian dynasty. It’s one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, with over 4 million visitors a year. Once you see it, you’ll know why!
Let us help you plan the perfect outing with tips on how to visit the Colosseum and make the most of your voyage through Roman history.
Why visiting the Colosseum?
Here are 5 great reasons to make the Colosseum an essential part of your visit to Rome.
1. The Outer Wall
The Colosseum was originally 186 meters long, spanning 156 meters at the widest point of the oval. That makes modern football fields look pretty puny in comparison! The south side was destroyed by an earthquake in 1349, but the original construction remains at the north end. The ground pillars are Doric, followed by Ionic and topped by Corinthian.
2. The Hypogeum
This was a huge maze of tunnels and rooms where the props, scenery, and wild animals were kept. It’s also where the gladiators would psych themselves up for combat. The wooden floor of the Colosseum rotted out centuries ago, making the ruined walls of the Hypogeum easy to see.
3. The Arch of Constantine
This triumphal arch stands 21 meters tall, honoring the Emperor Constantine and the AD 312 battle of Milvian Bridge. See if you can find the relief that shows the sacrifice of a sheep, a bull and a pig to Mars to purify the land.
4. The Senators
The Emperor and Vestal Virgins watched from boxes at either end of the arena, and the Senators were seated in the expanse in between. Their names were carved into the stone and can still be seen if you look for them. By the way, the Vestal Virgins took a vow of chastity to maintain the sacred fire that burned at the goddess Vesta’s altar. It was a real honour to be chosen as only six could ever serve at one time.
5. The Bronze Cross
At one end of the Colosseum, a bronze cross commemorates the deaths of Christian martyrs. Despite the wishes of the Vatican to preserve the Colosseum as a holy site, there actually isn’t much evidence that the arena was used to put Christians to death.
What is the Colosseum exactly ?
The Roman Colosseum was built by Emperor Vespasian as a gift to the people of Rome. Construction began around AD 72, but the amphitheatre wasn’t completed until AD 80.
The Colosseum in Rome is freestanding. It could hold over 50,000 spectators who were seated according to their rank in society. From three levels marked with distinctive arches, everyone could watch clashes between gladiators, wild animals, and even mock naval battles.
The Colosseum was where all the action happened for about 400 years, until gladiatorial combat was phased out in the 6th century.
Be careful to choose the best time to visit the Colosseum
The Colosseum is part of the historical center of Rome which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage sight in 1990. It’s also one of the seven New Wonders of the World, making it an extremely popular destination. Popular means crowded – so and you should plan your visit really carefully.
- Open every day of the year except December 25 and January 1
- 8:30am to sundown (around 5:00pm in winter and 7:30pm in summer)
Choose the right period
The best tip for visiting Rome is to go between October and April when many of the big groups of tourists have dissipated and the temperature is lower. The weather hardly dips into freezing during the off season so you will never a very cold Italian holiday.
Spring is busy in Rome as it is Lenten season. Thousands of Christians flock to Rome during the Easter weeks to visit churches and museums inside the Vatican and in the surrounding areas of Rome. Not only will it be very busy but the hotels will also hike their prices up.
The Festa Di San Giovanni takes place in late June, a celebration of dancing food and music.
Christmas is celebrated with numerous elaborate nativity scenes in churches and a huge Christmas market in Piazza Navona. All religious festivities are paired with processions both through the city and the neighbouring Vatican.
Low season is from November-February and that’s when you’ll find the least number of tourists. It’s still going to be packed, but you’ll have more room to move around.
Tip #1 Wake up early for visiting the Colosseum
The best time to visit the Colosseum is right when it opens at 8:30am or within a couple of hours of “last entry”. That’s around an hour before sundown. Most of the tour busses have gone by then, so the crowds have thinned out a lot.
Tip #2 Avoid august for visiting the Colosseum
Avoid visiting in the middle of the day, especially in the summer months as there is no shade and very few places to sit down or rest.
If you arrive in Rome during August, you may struggle to find locals as the tourist take over the city. Romans, like many others, take their vacations in August, so hotels, restaurants and museums may appear short staffed or operate on a limited schedule.
The August holiday of Ferragosto, on the 15th, usually begins Italian summer break. Unlike many other tourist havens the hotels offer low rates during the month of August.
Must-see attractions when visiting the Colosseum
The line-up for tickets to the Colosseum is always way longer than those to see the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill.
Tip #3 to visit Colosseum Rome
Your ticket gives you entry into all three venues, so start by gaining entry to one of the other two attractions. That way you’ll skip the line at the Colosseum if you haven’t purchased your tickets in advance. And we highly recommend you to anticipate if you want to save your day without wasting your time.
The Roman Forum
This was the center of religious, social and political life in Rome. Now it’s an awesome pile of ruins which include:
- Temples to Saturn, Venus and Romulus among many others
- Triumphal Arch of Titus
- Arch of Septimus Severus
- Temple of Antonius and Faustina
- Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
- The Curia
- The Temple of Julius Caesar
- Column of Phocas
When visiting the Colosseum don't forget Palatine Hill. This is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills gives you fantastic views of the city. This is where the rich and famous built their mansions, kind of like the Beverley Hills of ancient Rome. It’s also believed to be where Romulus and Remus were raised in a cave by a wolf. A visit includes:
- Ruins of the Flavian palace
- Stadium of Domitian
- Iron age Hut of Romulus, founder of Rome
- Remain of the House of Augustus
- Remains of the House of Livia
How to visit the Roman Colosseum with Official Tickets ?
There are a number of booking options when considering buying tickets. Let's review the options and tips to getting the best ticket choice for you when visiting the Colosseum. If you are in a hurry here is a summary of what you need to know.
- The official site for ticket purchases
- The first Sunday of the month is free, but the crowds on these days can be deadly
- A timed entrance ticket is valid for two consecutive days. That gives you one admission to the Colosseum at a fixed time and one admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill whenever you want to go
- Open tickets are valid for two consecutive days but can only be used for admission to the Colosseum after 2:00pm
- A Super Ticket gives you one entry to the Colosseum and two to the Forum and Palatine Hill. It also includes entry to special exhibits and various other venues like Nero’s Cryptoporticus, the Palatine Museum and the Temple of Romulus
- The best way to avoid line-ups is by taking a guided tour like the half-day walking tour you can find here
- Many other companies provide tours and sell tickets, but expect to pay a mark-up if you’re not purchasing your tickets from the official site
- Tickets are available onsite but buying a ticket in advance is the only way to skip the line. Your best bet is to be organized and get your tickets before you come.
Prefer online booking for visiting the Colosseum
Booking online is considered the easiest choice because it eliminates long queues and payment issues.
Booking online will often require you to print your own tickets. Also read the small print because online booking may still mean you to visit a ticket desk and get the code scanned by a staff member before they give you a physical ticket.
Ticket offices are available outside the Colosseum but don’t think it’s the only place in Rome where they are available.
Queues will be very long for buying Colosseum from any vendors near the amphitheatre but a little further away in Via di San Gregorio (Palatine), Largo Salara Vecchia or former Largo Romolo e Remo (Roman Forum) and Via Sacra (Roman Forum, Arco di Tito).
Even if you go to these vendors still put aside 45 minutes to an hour to wait and then another hour for queueing to get into the Colosseum itself.
You will also be subject to airport style bag checks which are a part of the reason for the queuing. After 3 p.m. is the quietest time to enter the Colosseum.
Free and discount entrances
There is free entry on the first Sunday of the month but, because there is no reservations, you can expect long queues.
It also free for those under 18 and there are discounts for EU citizen aged between 18 and 25.
Anyone with valid medical documentation of their disability and is an EU citizen will be given free entry alongside their companion.
Why not a tour operator?
Tour operators provide carefully curated tours that will help you get most out of your holiday to Rome.
Doing it this way means you won’t have to worry about booking tickets, working out transportation and queueing times.
Making the trip with a tour operator also means you will get a guided tour and will skip the entrance queue, all while the guide brings ancient Rome back to life again.
Take advantage of the two-day ticket for visiting the Colosseum
Tickets to the Colosseum will also include the Palatine Hill (one of the Seven Hills of Rome) and Roman Forum so it is putting aside a whole day to visit these wonderful locations.
Aside from visiting Palatine Hill be sure to visit the Fori Romani, Septimius Severus’s Arch, The House of the Vestals, The Arch of Constantine, the arch of Septimius Severus and the hippodrome of Domitian.
The Colosseum, Roman forum and Palatine Hill have different ticket entrances but share the same admission tickets, which is valid for two.
You can walk freely between the different attractions but you can only enter the Colosseum once and the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill once during the 2 day ticket validity period.
Visit Colosseum Rome with the Roma Pass
A great tip for visiting the Roman Colosseum is to invest in a Roma Pass cards.
There are two different types. The €52 one is valid for 72 hours and the €32 one is valid for 48 hours.
This tourist pass will allow you access to many places on the Roma pass circuit, this includes 2 museums and/or archaeological sites for the €52 and 1 for the €32 pass plus the ability to travel anywhere on the ATAC transport network.
The card also covers numerous other museums and archaeological sites, like Rome’s National Museum, Arc Pacis and the ruins at Osia Antica.
Roma Pass will also allow you to skip the queues, which in sweltering Italian heat is worth it.
Other ways to discover the Colosseum
1. See the Colosseum by Night
A night tour of the Colosseum is a terrific experience for visiting the Colosseum. But you’ll need a special ticket (not included with a Roma Pass or any other combination entry ticket). Think about making a night visit if you and to avoid the crowds and as a bonus, you’ll also be able to visit to the Hypogeum.
2. Visit the Underground
You can tour the Hypogeum with a special ticket that you have to buy in advance. They’re available at the official site or from a few select tour companies such as this one. You’ll be able to see the underground chambers and walk onto the fighting stage, an area restricted from regular tours. This is a close as you’ll ever get to feeling like a gladiator!
3. See the Upper Tiers
Only the first and second tiers are accessible to the public. With a special ticket, however, you can tour the third tier. Worth it for the great views of the city and a view of the Colosseum from the nosebleed seats.
Be sure to purchase your skip-the-line tickets in advance to make the most of your must-see visit to the Roman Colosseum. Join a guided tour and consider upgrading to see the Hypogeum and walk in the footsteps of the gladiators. Relax, the lions and tigers are long gone…
A visit to the Colosseum is an essential part of any trip to Italy’s capital, and literally the cornerstone of exploring ancient Rome. Try to time your visit in the off-season and arrive either at the start of the day or a couple of hours before closing. There will always be crowds but with a bit of planning in advance, you’ll get to see all the features of this iconic New Wonder of the World.
Why visit the Colosseum in Rome? Because after almost 2,000 years, it’s still the greatest show in town.