It’s one of the greatest and most recognisable buildings in the world, the Colosseum Rome. So no city break to Rome is complete without a photo of you and your companions or family in front of this iconic landmark. A tour inside is the perfect way to understand more about the ancient Roman way of life, and get some more great photos.
Why visit the Colosseum in Rome?
Firstly, the Colosseum will really bring ancient history to life. Standing in the huge amphitheatre, you can imagine what it was like to be a slave being pitted against a lion or bear. You’ll get a sense of the scale of the place, and that it’s not so different to a modern football or sports stadium.
Rather than reading about the crowds baying for blood on the stands, you can stand where the Romans once stood. And where else could you visit the ancient tunnels where the tigers and lions where once caged before being hoisted into the arena to start their savage fight? The ancient Romans inspire many a young historian with their gruesome tales. The thought that an estimated 500,000 people lost their lives in this giant sporting arena while fighting wild animals is sure to capture the imagination.
Secondly, the Colosseum Rome is impressively old and big. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was completed in 80AD. It’s made from stone and concrete (yes, real Roman concrete: the Romans actually invented the stuff) and took tens of thousands of slaves to construct.
It’s the world’s largest amphitheatre, measuring 189m long and 156m wide. At 50m high, it’s about the same as a 12-storey building. Originally, 50,000 spectators could sit in relative comfort (as long as they brought their own cushions) to watch the gladiatorial games. It’s the symbol of Imperial Rome and it’s considered one of the greatest achievements of ancient Roman architecture and engineering.
Lastly, it’s still reasonably intact, unlike many ancient ruins. Although earthquakes and stone robbers have taken their toll, you can still get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the Colosseum.
Arriving at the Colosseum
When you arrive at the Colosseum, be sure to take plenty of pictures outside the building before going in. There’s lots of space here to line up your shots or enjoy a cooling gelato while someone takes a snap of you. There are normally plenty of people dressed up as gladiators to add a little bit of Roman menace to your pictures.
The Colosseum is arguably Rome’s most famous landmark. Every year around 4 million tourists visit this important historical site. To avoid the queues, it’s worth buying your tickets in advance online. Alternatively, you could try to avoid the main ticket desk and got to the ticket office at Palatine Hill on Via di San Gregorio. This is usually much quieter.
At the ticket office, you’ll be faced with a selection of options. Standard entry to the Colosseum doesn’t allow you to visit every public area. So if you want to access the top three-tiers (the Belvedere) and the hypogeum (the passages below the arena floor) you’ll need to purchase a special ticket at an extra cost.
After getting your tickets, head to security. Bear in mind that large bags are not allowed inside, and water is the only drink permitted. Then you’ll be ready to go up the stairs or take the lift. This takes you into the main arena of the Colosseum. As you look out across the seating areas, where spectators once watched great games, animal hunts, executions and gladiator fights, you can imagine the noise made by over 50,000 people all cheering and clapping as they watched the spectacle.
While at the Colosseum, look out for the west exit, otherwise known as the Gate of Death. This was used to take out the bodies of fallen gladiators. Although the years have taken their toll on the building, it’s still easy to imagine how these brutal events unfolded in the arena below.
A great way to learn more about the history of the Colosseum is to book a private tour. With these tours, your group will have its own guide and in some cases you can access special areas not open to other visitors. Book your tour online or through your hotel. A word of warning though; always be wary of touts selling tickets outside of the Colosseum. The tickets and tours they offer may not be genuine.
Alternatively, you could join a group on a standard guided tour. You can find out more about these at the Colosseum ticket office. If you prefer to take your time, explore the Colosseum at your own pace with an audio guide. Available in many languages, including English, these hand held guides give you all the information you need to make the most of your visit.
Planning your visit
The Colosseum is open every day except 25th December and 1st January. Opening hours are longer in the summer months and last entry is one hour before closing.
The closest metro stop is Colosseo on line B. The tourist hop-on-hop-off buses also stop here.
Most visits to the Colosseum will last at least an hour. Once you’ve taken in the sights, head to Palatine Hill just a short stroll away. Your Colosseum ticket includes entry to this large and fascinating area where you’ll discover many more ancient remains.
Your ticket will also include entry to The Forum. This is another huge excavated area of temples, squares, and buildings, some of which date back 2,000 years. Luckily your combo-ticket is valid for two days, so you won’t need to squeeze the sights all in on the same day.