When we create Italy itineraries that include Rome, our travelers always ask: “what’s the best way to visit Rome’s Colosseum?”
As with all of Italy’s attractions, the best way to visit Rome’s Colosseum depends on the travelers and personal preferences. But we can help you figure out the best fit for you!
Before June 1st, 2018, if you wanted to buy your own ticket to Rome’s Colosseum, visitors could buy an “open” ticket online. This ticket was valid for entry anytime within a 2-day window. The best approach was to show up (or meet your guide for a tour) right at 8.30 AM when crowds were relatively thin. But, a few things have changed.
I’ll start by noting that there is one ticket for the Colosseum and the Forum. The Colosseum and Forum are indeed two separate sites, each with its own opening hours. But, they are next to each other, and a ticket allows the visitor one entry to each site.
The official website for buying online tickets to the Colosseum and Forum is here. There are many, many websites that sell tickets online, but they all mark up.
(Before June 1st, 2018, it was also possible to buy the Colosseum / Forum ticket in person at Palazzo Altemps or at the Terme di Diocleziano. No more.)
As of June 1st, 2018, an “open” ticket will allow visitors to enter the Colosseum only from 2 PM onward. Note that this “after 2 PM” limitation is valid for only the Colosseum. Visitors with an open ticket can visit the Forum anytime.
But, the best way to visit Rome’s Colosseum is to book a timed entry. This is a new option as of June 1st 2018, and mimics the Vatican Museums’ booking system: choose a specific time slot, arrive at the designated time, and use the fast track line.
Note that children’s tickets, which are free, cannot be booked for timed entry. If you need children’s tickets, book the timed entry adult tickets for your group. Then when you arrive at the Colosseum, go to the ticket desk (with potential line). Show the children’s ID, and pick up their tickets. Then everyone goes through security.
Tip: if you want to avoid the additional ID line, just buy adult tickets for the children.
There’s a new entrance on the other side of the Colosseum that gives visitors who enter with a licensed guide direct access to the arena floor in 20 minute time slots.
Tickets for this entry are limited, but the arena floor used to be open only to tour groups. Now (as of June 1st 2018), individuals who have a private guide can also visit the arena floor via the Stern entrance.
Note that children’s tickets CAN be booked online for the Stern entrance.
Many people think that the best way to see Rome’s Colosseum definitely includes a visit to the VIP Underground and Upper Levels. And indeed, these areas are restricted spaces of the Colosseum. Prior to June 1st 2018, very limited access was given, only to tour groups, and only with permission from the city of Rome.
Because of this exclusivity, these two areas were bundled into a VIP tour offered by tour operators. It was not possible for individuals or private guides to buy tickets to visit these areas — until now. As of June 1st, these two areas of the Colosseum are now two separate attractions. Each can be booked separately, and they can be booked by individuals, not just tour operators.
However availability is still very limited, so anyone who definitely wants to visit these areas may still want to book with a tour operator.
The best way to visit Rome’s Colosseum in a perfect world would be with nobody else there. But this is one of Rome’s top attractions, and it is pretty much always busy.
It is not possible to skip every single line at the Colosseum. First, there’s a security line that nobody can avoid. In addition, there’s a line for anyone who needs to show ID for the reduced tickets that they bought online, or to get the free children’s tickets. And finally, the Colosseum can safely accommodate 3,000 people. So when the monument hits capacity, even people with tickets will have to wait.
So: buy your alleged skip-the-line tickets online, but plan to stand in at least one line when you visit.
The Colosseum is free on the first Sunday of the month – great, right? By visiting on the first Sunday of the month, you’ll save 12 EUR per adult, which is great. On the other hand, it’s very very crowded.
If you want our advice on the best way to visit Rome’s Colosseum, here it is: start by avoiding free Sundays.
The amount of time needed to visit the Colosseum and Forum varies, of course. If you’re very interested in history, a couple of hours won’t be enough. But most people with an interest – and not a deep obsession – in Roman history find that about 2.5 – 3 hours is enough to visit both sites.
As with many Italian treasures (the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the archaeological site of Pompeii are two great examples), some people want to be in and out quickly, while others could spend the whole day trying to look at every last artifact.
If all of these details are making your head spin, hire a guide, or book spots on a small group tour with a local tour operator and let them take care of the tickets for you! Or let Italy Beyond the Obvious take care of planning your Italy itinerary. Contact us for more information.
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