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Know Before You Go: Visiting the Colosseum

The Colosseum, Rome’s iconic ancient amphitheater, can be tricky to visit—here’s how to get the most out of your trip.

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Hi, I'm Rebecca!

Rebecca’s first visit to Italy was a coup de foudre and her affection for Il Bel Paese has only grown over almost 30 years of living here, during which time she has mastered the art of navigating the sampietrini cobblestones in heels but has yet to come away from a plate of bucatini all’amatriciana with an unsullied blouse. She covers Italy travel, culture, and cuisine for a number of print and online publications.

The magnificent Roman Colosseum is perhaps the most popular sight in all of Italy, with more than 6 million tourists taking in its soaring tiers of seats and arena floor each year. Exploring this astounding feat of engineering takes some advance planning, however, so you can optimize your time and see the areas of the ruins that interest you most. Before you head down Via dei Fori Imperiali to delve into Roman history, take a look at these top tips for a hassle-free visit.

Do I need tickets to visit the Colosseum?

Visitors to Rome check out the exterior of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is one of the most popular spots in the city.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Yes, you need to book tickets for the Colosseum in advance.

All visitors must purchase tickets in advance to enter the Colosseum. The information office does not actually sell tickets on-site, but instead offers assistance for visitors having trouble downloading their pre-booked electronic tickets. If you arrive without a ticket, you’ll be instructed to go online with your phone and purchase a ticket there.

Keep in mind the likelihood of finding a ticket available on the same day you want to visit is almost zero, especially during the busy season from April through October. To avoid the stress of trying to hit the last-minute-ticket jackpot, plan ahead and book your ticket in advance or join a tour that includes admission tickets. Keep in mind that tickets are for a specific date and time, which makes it easier to plan out your sightseeing day.

Insider tip: Direct tickets to the Colosseum go on sale exactly 30 days in advance, and often sell out quickly. However, taking a tour of the Colosseum can help you snag access even when direct tickets are sold out.

What ticket options are there for the Colosseum?

Visitors explore the interior of the Colosseum on a sunny day.
Choose the right ticket type for you.Photo Credit: Zoe Vincenti / Viator

Different tickets include access to three different areas.

There are three different Colosseum ticket types, so be sure you’re purchasing the right ticket to visit the parts of the amphitheater you want to see. The basic entrance ticket includes one entrance to the Colosseum on the date and time booked, with access to the ground level and bottom tiers of seats. The Full Experience ticket includes one entrance to the Colosseum with access to the ground level, bottom tiers of seats, and arena floor. The Full Experience Underground ticket includes access to the same areas as the Full Experience ticket, plus a guided tour of the restricted underground corridors and chambers.

Insider tip: Remember to take ID with you to enter the Colosseum.

Should I tour the Colosseum with a guide?

A guide takes tourists on a Colosseum tour.
Join a guide to really get to know the area's history.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Touring with a guide is the best way to visit the Colosseum.

While the Colosseum has a wow factor all its own, you may not grasp the full extent of its wonder without delving into the context of the amphitheater’s history and construction, so it’s worth exploring with a guide. You can opt for a customizable private tour, a more budget-friendly group tour, or even a simple audio guide. A family-friendly guided tour is an absolute must if you’re visiting with kids, so they can stay engaged and entertained while learning about the site.

What's the best time of day to visit the Colosseum?

Tourists head to the Colosseum at dawn.
Early birds catch the Colosseum (in a quiet moment).Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

The quietest time to visit the Colosseum is early in the morning or right before closing.

Thousands of visitors pack into the Colosseum each day, so time your visit carefully to avoid the throngs. You’ll never have the amphitheater completely to yourself, but if you book your entry for 9am, just as the doors are opening, or for an hour before closing time (usually about an hour before sunset; check closing times for your specific date online), you’ll have to share the Colosseum with hundreds rather than thousands of others. Weekdays are slightly less crowded than weekends, and the first Sunday of the month, when the Colosseum is open free of charge, is by far the busiest time to visit.

Insider tip: Plan to spend roughly one hour exploring the Colosseum alone, or take a more in-depth guided tour that allows you to see areas off-limits to the general public and learn more than you would visiting solo.

When's the best time to take a Colosseum tour?

A twilight view of the Colosseum.
Head to the Colosseum as dusk falls.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Nighttime is the coolest and quietest time to visit the Colosseum.

Those in the know book Colosseum-by-night tours to enjoy the ruins in the milder evening hours, when the site is closed to the general public. After-hours visits are guided only, so you can’t explore on your own. Instead, join a guided nighttime Colosseum tour that covers the main floor and lower tiers of seats, or a more in-depth tour by night that also includes the restricted arena floor and underground areas. Visiting after sunset is a smart way to make the most of your time in Rome and stretch your sightseeing hours into the evening hours. Tickets for after-hours tours do not include access to the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill, however, both of which close at sunset.

What time does the Colosseum open and close?

A closeup of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
The opening hours vary for the Colosseum.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

The Colosseum opening hours vary throughout the year.

You can visit the Colosseum year-round, with the exception of December 25 (Christmas Day), January 1 (New Year's Day), and May 1. While opening hours vary throughout the year, the general rule is that the Colosseum is open from 9am to roughly one hour before sunset, with last entry one hour before closing time. Expect that Colosseum to be busy all year round, but especially during the peak season of May to October.

Should I visit the Forum and Palatine Hill?

An aerial view of the Forum and Palatine Hill in Rome.
Head to the Forum and Palatine Hill if you can.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Take advantage of a 3-in-1 ticket.

All three ticket types (basic, Full Experience, and Full Experience Underground) include access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill archaeological sites. While the Colosseum entry is timed, admission to the Forum and Palatine Hill is flexible, so you can visit before or after your reserved Colosseum entry, as long as it’s on the same date. (The only exception is nighttime entry, which only includes the amphitheater as the other two sites close at sunset.) Colosseum guided tours generally include a quick visit to the nearby ruins in the Forum and Palatine Hill, unless you opt for an express tour. These 1-hour experiences include a guided visit inside the Colosseum, and then free time to explore the Forum and Palatine Hill on your own.

What should I wear to visit the Colosseum?

Friends chat on a wall outside the Roman Colosseum in light summer dress.
Dress for the weather in Rome.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Keep the open-air environment in mind when dressing for a Colosseum visit.

Unlike the Vatican, the Colosseum does not have a dress code. That said, there’s little shade and few covered areas at the amphitheater, so you’re completely exposed to the elements while visiting. During the summer, wear a hat and sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and bring plenty of water. In the wet fall and spring seasons, bring a small umbrella or waterproof jacket and wear waterproof shoes in case a sudden shower rolls in. In winter, wear layers so you can stay warm, or peel off a scarf or jacket if the sun comes out and the temperatures become balmy. You can bring a small backpack inside, ideal for carrying a travel umbrella, extra jacket, or other outerwear.

Related: Dress Like a Local: What to Wear in Italy

Is the Colosseum accessible?

Tourists walk through the Colosseum in Rome in the heat.
The ground floor of the Colosseum is accessible to all.Photo Credit: Zoe Vincenti / Viator

Only certain areas of the site can be visited with a wheelchair or stroller.

Like most of Italy’s ancient sites, the Colosseum is only partially accessible to those touring on wheels. The ground floor is fully accessible, and there is an elevator to the second tier, which is also accessible. The underground areas and upper tiers are not accessible to either wheelchairs or strollers. The Colosseum has one wheelchair available for visitors on each level, but given the thousands of tourists who visit each day, you may find it already in use. Bring your own (or rent one while in Rome) to avoid the hassle of finding yourself without a wheelchair when you visit. There are no strollers available for hire at the site.

Frequently asked questions

The Colosseum and pathway leading up to it in Rome, Italy.
There are many fun facts about the Colosseum.Photo Credit: Silvia Longhi / Viator

Everything you need to know about the Colosseum.

  • When was the Colosseum built and how long did it take? Construction began on the Colosseum between the years 70 and 72 AD, and was completed in roughly 80 AD. That means construction took around 10 years, and makes the Colosseum over 1,950 years old.

  • Who built the Colosseum and why? It was Roman Emperor Vespasian who ordered the construction of the Colosseum, although the higher level was added later at the command of Emperor Domitian.

  • What was the Colosseum used for? The Colosseum was primarily a site of entertainment, known for hosting the infamous gladiator battles, chariot races, mock battles, and more. It was even used as a church for a period and fell into disrepair before being revitalized beginning in the 19th century.

  • Where is the Colosseum located? The Colosseum is situated in the historic center of Rome, Italy, east of the Roman Forum and easily accessible on foot from most major landmarks in the Italian capital.

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