The Colosseum

Perhaps Rome’s most awe-inspiring ancient monument, despite the depredations of nearly two thousand years of earthquakes, fires, riots, wars and, not least, plundering for its seemingly inexhaustible supply of ready-cut travertine blocks, the enormous Colosseum still stands relatively intact.

Rome’s most awe-inspiring ancient monument

Today Colosseum is a recognizable symbol not just of Italy or the city of Rome, but of the entire ancient world. Sitting in the middle of a traffic roundabout, it was eaten away by pollution and cracked by the vibrations of cars and the metro – until a huge, 25-million-euro renovation, funded by Italian shoe giant Tod’s and completed in 2018, uncovered a much sprucer structure.

You’ll not be alone in appreciating it and during summer the combination of people and scaffolding can make a visit more like touring a contemporary building site than an ancient monument. But visit late in the evening or early morning before the tour buses have arrived, and the arena can seem more like the marvel it really is.

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (the name Colosseum is a much later invention), it was begun around 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian. Inside, there was room for a total of around 60,00 people seated and ten thousand or so standing.

Seating was allocated according to social status, with the emperor and his attendants naturally occupying the best seats in the house, and the social class of the spectators diminishing as you got nearer the top.

There was a labyrinth below that was covered with a wooden floor and punctuated at various places with trapdoors that could be opened as required and lifts to raise and lower the animals that took part in the games.

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Rome from above aerial view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum © Calin Stan/Shutterstock

Rome from above aerial view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum ©Shutterstock.

Best Tips to Visit the Colosseum

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an awe-inspiring testament to ancient Roman engineering and culture. As one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, it attracts millions of visitors each year who come to marvel at its grandeur and historical significance. To make the most of your visit to this ancient wonder, here are some best tips to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience.

#1 Purchase tickets in advance

The Colosseum is undoubtedly a popular attraction, and during peak tourist seasons, the lines to buy tickets can be incredibly long. To save time and avoid the hassle, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets online in advance.

You can also consider getting a combined ticket, which includes access to nearby sites like the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, maximizing your exploration of ancient Rome.

#2 Join a guided tour

To truly immerse yourself in the history and stories of the Colosseum, consider joining a guided tour. Expert guides will provide fascinating insights into the amphitheater's construction, the gladiatorial games, and the daily life of ancient Romans. Moreover, guided tours often come with skip-the-line access, further optimizing your visit.

Tour groups in the reconstructed arena, among the ancient ruins of the Colosseum © Shutterstock

Tour groups in the reconstructed arena, among the ancient ruins of the Colosseum © Shutterstock

#3 Arrive early or late in the day

The Colosseum is at its least crowded during the early morning or late afternoon hours. By arriving early or visiting near closing time, you can avoid the masses of tourists and have a more serene experience inside this ancient wonder. Additionally, the lighting during these hours offers a beautiful ambiance for capturing stunning photographs.

#4 Wear comfortable footwear and dress appropriately

Be prepared for a fair amount of walking and standing during your visit to the Colosseum. Comfortable footwear is a must to navigate the uneven terrain and ancient stone steps. Also, consider dressing appropriately for the weather, as Rome can get quite hot in the summer months.

#5 Respect the historic site

The Colosseum is an ancient monument of immense historical value, so it's essential to treat it with respect. Avoid touching the walls or structures, and be mindful not to leave any litter behind. Responsible tourism ensures the preservation of this cultural treasure for future generations to enjoy.

Fragments of the Colosseum © Shutterstock

Detail of the Colosseum © Shutterstock

#6 Be Prepared for security checks

For security reasons, there are strict guidelines on what you can bring inside the Colosseum. Large bags and backpacks are not allowed, so it's best to travel light. Remember to carry only essential items like your camera, water bottle, and any required medication.

#7 Check opening times and ticket

The Colosseum is open daily from 8.30am–5pm (mid-February to mid-March); 9.30am–5.30pm (late-March); 9.30am–7.15pm (April–August); 9.30am–7pm (September); 9.30am– 6.30pm (October); 9am–4.30pm (November to mid-February)

A single ticket covers the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill and is valid for 24 hours. Last entry is one hour before closing. You’re allowed to visit each attraction once during this time, and the Forum and Palatine Hill count as one site, so have to be visited at the same time.

Another option is the two-day ‘Full Experience’ ticket which includes entrance to the Colosseum and its underground area, the Museo Palatino and the Tempio di Romolo.


Queues can be a problem at the Colosseum, and while they do move quickly, during summer they’re rarely less than 100m long and are often besieged by touts.

Your best bet is to buy your ticket online in advance (booking fee in addition to the ticket price), or buy it at either entrance to the Forum early in the morning when things are usually quieter.

Alternatively, holders of the RomaPass and Omnia Cardare allowed to use a different queue.

Forum Romanum, Rome © Rudy Blasko/Shutterstock

Forum Romanum, Rome © Rudy Blasko/Shutterstock

Best things to do at the Colosseum

A single ticket covers the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill and is valid for 24 hours. You’re allowed to visit each attraction once during this time, and the Forum and Palatine Hill count as one site, so have to be visited at the same time.

Here's what to do at the Colosseum and around.

#1 Check out the Outer Walls

The grandeur of the Colosseum's outer walls is a testament to its remarkable design. Comprising three levels of arches adorned with decorative columns crowned by Ionic (at the base), Doric, and Corinthian (at the top) capitals, this awe-inspiring structure exudes architectural splendour.

Originally cloaked in travertine, the outer walls featured niches on the second and third levels, once brimming with marble statues. The upper level, adorned with slender Corinthian pilasters and punctuated by windows, played a vital role.

Here, 240 masts supported an expansive awning, ensuring that the arena's spectators were shielded from the scorching sun and capricious rain.

Italy, Lazio, Rome, Colosseum, the Colosseum in warm light

The Colosseum Outer Walls © Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock

#2 Wander through the interior

Within the Colosseum's majestic interior, three distinct sections unfolded: the arena, cavea, and podium. The arena, where the gladiatorial combats took place, boasted a wooden floor covered with sand—a surface known as "harena" in Latin, hence the word "arena."

This ingenious arrangement prevented combatants from slipping and absorbing spilt blood, ensuring safety and maintaining the dramatic atmosphere. Beneath the arena floor, a labyrinth of underground chambers and passageways, known as the hypogeum or Sotterranei del Colosseo, lay concealed.

These secret realms housed caged animals and set the stage for various battles. Through the operation of 80 winch-operated lifts, these elements would ascend to the arena, captivating the spectators with awe-inspiring spectacles.

Colosseum, Rome © Farbregas Hareluya/Shutterstock

Colosseum, Rome ©Shutterstock

#3 Ascend up to the Terrazzo Belvedere

To fully appreciate the grandeur of the Colosseum, one must ascend to the top three floors collectively known as the Terrazzo Belvedere. These upper levels, along with the enigmatic hypogeum, can only be accessed through guided tours.

It is essential to make advance bookings for these exclusive experiences, which come at an additional cost of €9 per tour, in addition to the standard Colosseum ticket. For those seeking a guided tour of the Colosseum's main area, an extra fee of €5 is required on top of the general admission.

#4 Gawp at the huge Arch of Constantine

Next to the Colosseum is the huge Arch of Constantine, placed here in the early decades of the fourth century AD after Constantine had consolidated his power as sole emperor.

The arch demonstrates the deterioration of the arts during the late stages of the Roman Empire – most of the sculptural decoration here had to be removed from other monuments.

The round medallions are taken from a temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian’s lover, Antinous, and show Antinous and Hadrian engaged in a hunt. The other pieces, taken from the Forum of Trajan, show Dacian prisoners captured in Trajan’s war.


Arch of Constantine @ Shutterstock

#5 Take in the drama of the Roman Forum

The five or so acres that make up the Roman Forum were once the heart of the Mediterranean world. Although the glories of ancient Rome are hard to glimpse here now, there’s a symbolic allure to the place. At certain times of day it exudes a desolate drama that make it one of the most compelling sets of ruins anywhere in the world.

#6 Walk along Via Sacra, Ancient Rome’s most renowned street

You need some imagination and a little history to really appreciate the place but the public spaces are easy enough to discern.

Look for the spinal Via Sacra, the best-known street of ancient Rome, along which victorious emperors and generals would ride in procession to give thanks at the Capitoline’s Temple of Juno.

Towards the Capitoline Hill end of the Via Sacra, the large cube-shaped building is the Curia, the meeting place of the Senate, which was built on the orders of Julius Caesar as part of his programme for expanding the Forum.

What you see now is a third-century-AD reconstruction. Inside, three wide stairs rise left and right, on which about three hundred senators could be accommodated with their folding chairs.

Sunset over the cobbled road of Via Sacra, the main street of ancient Rome © Shutterstock

Sunset over the cobbled road of Via Sacra, the main street of ancient Rome © Shutterstock

#7 Seek out the Arch of Septimius Severus

Near the Curia, the Arch of Septimius Severus was constructed in the early third century AD by his sons Caracalla and Galba to mark their father’s victories in what is now Iran.

Next to the arch, the low brown wall is the Rostra, from which important speeches were made (it was from here that Mark Anthony most likely spoke about Caesar after his death). To the left are the long stairs of the Basilica Julia, built by Julius Caesar in the 50s BC after he returned from the Gallic wars.

A bit further along, on the right, rails mark the site of the Lacus Curtius, the spot where, according to legend, a chasm opened during the earliest days of the city and the soothsayers determined that it would only be closed once Rome had sacrificed its most valuable possession into it.

Marcus Curtius, a Roman soldier who declared that Rome’s most valuable possession was a loyal citizen, hurled himself and his horse into the void and it duly closed.

#8 Explore the Temple of Castor and Pollux

Next to the Basilica Julia, the enormous pile of rubble topped by three graceful Corinthian columns is the Temple of Castor and Pollux. It was dedicated in 484 BC to the divine twins or Dioscuri, who appeared miraculously to ensure victory for the Romans in a key battle.

Forum Romanum and standing columns belonging to the temple of Castor and Pollux © Shutterstock

Forum Romanum and standing columns belonging to the temple of Castor and Pollux © Shutterstock

#9 Head to Nero’s House of the Vestal Virgins

The House of the Vestal Virgins is a second-century- AD reconstruction of a building originally built by Nero. It features four storeys of rooms set around a central courtyard, fringed by the statues or inscribed pedestals of the women themselves, with the round Temple of Vesta at the near end.

Statues of the Vestal Virgins at the Vestal Virgins Garden inside the Roman Forum © Shutterstock

Statues of the Vestal Virgins at the Vestal Virgins Garden inside the Roman Forum © Shutterstock

#10 See the impressive Basilica of Maxentius

Almost opposite the House of the Vestal Virgins, a shady walkway to the left leads to the Basilica of Maxentius. In terms of size and ingenuity, it’s probably the Forum’s most impressive remains.

Begun by Maxentius, it was continued by his co-emperor and rival, Constantine, after he had defeated him at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 1 AD.

The Roman Forum and Basilica of Maxentius © Shutterstock

The Roman Forum and Basilica of Maxentius © Shutterstock

#11 Climb up to the Arch of Titus

The Via Sacra climbs more steeply to the Arch of Titus, built by Titus’s brother, Domitian, after the emperor’s death in 81 AD, to commemorate his victories in Judea in 70 AD and his triumphal return from that campaign.

Titus Arch and the Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy as seen from the Palatine Hill © Shutterstock

Titus Arch and the Roman Colosseum in Rome, Italy as seen from the Palatine Hill © Shutterstock

Best places to stay

There’s plenty of accommodation in Rome, with a good choice of hotels, boutique hotels and contemporary B&Bs. But it’s always worth booking in advance, especially when the city is at its busiest – from Easter to July, from September to the end of October, and during Christmas and New Year. Here are the best places to stay in Rome for the Colosseum.


Consider also staying across the river in Prati, a pleasant neighbourhood, nicely distanced from the hubbub of the city centre proper and handy for the Vatican, or in lively Trastevere, also on the west side of the river but an easy walk into the centre.


Many of the city’s cheapest places are located close to Termini station, but this isn’t the nicest part of town.

Centro Storico

There are plenty of moderately priced places in the centro storico and around Campo de Fiori. However, you’ll need to book well in advance to be sure of a cheaper option in the centre.

The Tridente, Trevi and the Quirinale Hill

Up towards Via Veneto and around the Spanish Steps are more upscale accommodation options, although there are a few affordable options here too.


Trevi Fountain, Rome @ Shutterstock

How to get here

The Colosseum is easy to reach. If you feel comfortable enough, you can walk here from anywhere in the central area. Buses #75 and #118 both stop outside the Colosseum. Tram #3 has a stop a couple of minutes away from the Colosseum.

Best time to visit the Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome, so it tends to get crowded throughout the year, especially during the peak, hot summer months of June, July, and August.

However, the number of visitors tends to be lower during the winter months (November to February) and early morning hours. Weekdays are generally less crowded than weekends. If you prefer milder temperatures and fewer crowds, consider visiting during spring (April to May) or autumn (September to October).

To avoid large crowds, consider visiting the Colosseum early in the morning when it opens or later in the afternoon closer to closing time. These times are generally less busy than midday. Need more information to choose the best month for your visit? Read our article about when to go to Italy.

Find out the best ways to get to Italy.

Eleanor Aldridge

written by
Eleanor Aldridge

updated 06.06.2024

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