The Colosseum: Opening hours, directions, the best tickets & tours, free entry, insider tips, all the information you need to visit the Colosseum.
Colosseum · The Flavian Amphitheatre
The Roman Colosseum was originally called Amphitheatrum Flavium, the Flavian amphitheatre. The name Colosseum comes from a colossal statue of Emperor Nero that was located there.
Colosseum · The best tickets
The simple tickets for the Colosseum are often booked out weeks in advance. Guided tours or tickets with a video guide are usually available within a short period. A guided tour or video guide in the Colosseum is very helpful to better understand the building and its history.
Besides the tickets for individual visitors and guided tours, there are tickets for the special entrance “Stern”, with which you get direct entry into the arena. The waiting times at this entrance are much shorter compared to the entrance for individual visitors. While you can only visit the 1st and 2nd levels of the Colosseum with the normal tickets, there are entry tickets for the arena that allow you to visit the arena and the underground of the Colosseum, and tickets for visiting the arena and all five levels of the Colosseum with a panoramic view. However, these tickets are usually booked months in advance.
Colosseum · Why you should book online
The Colosseum, the Flavian amphitheatre, is visited by more than 6 million people every year. As part of the security measures, you will find security checks at the entrance of the Colosseum. No more than 3,000 people are allowed to visit the Colosseum at the same time. For this reason, the Colosseum can only be visited by reservation.
At the Colosseum there are almost always long queues at the ticket offices. The ticket offices only sell tickets with a reservation for that day. When you arrive at the ticket office, you will find out for which times tickets are still available. If the tickets for the day are already sold out, you can queue again the next day.
At the Colosseum there are always merchants roaming around offering guided tours and preferential entry. These offers should be considered with care. Tickets from the
daily contingent can also be booked online. You book directly on your mobile phone
and receive the ticket immediately delivered to your telephone.
- Do not book vouchers that you need to exchange for a ticket on the spot. Book tickets that are valid both printed and on your mobile phone. With these tickets you can go directly to the entrance and you don’t have to exchange a voucher for a ticket.
- The Colosseum only has tickets with a fixed entrance time. Also, you need a reservation with the Roma Pass and the other City Cards. Here you can compare the different City Passes for Rome.
- A maximum delay of 15 minutes is allowed. Since you have to pass the security check in advance, you should be at the Colosseum 30 minutes before the scheduled entrance time.
Colosseum · Preferential entry · Avoid queues
The Colosseum has three entrances: the entrance for individual visitors, the entrance for groups, and on the opposite side of the Colosseum the “Stern”, entrance, which leads directly into the arena at the ground level. The “Stern” entrance is also called the
You will always find a queue at the entrance for individual visitors. These are the visitors who want to buy the ticket at the entrance. If you have already bought the ticket on the Internet, you can pass the queue and go directly to the security checkpoint.
With the Roma Pass, Omnia Card and Rom Sightseeing Pass, you go to the entrance for individual visitors. For children and adolescents up to the age of 18 accompanied by you, tickets are available at the ticket office for reservations and groups. Please do not forget that you must also have a reservation when you have a Roma Pass. The reservation can be made by calling +39 06 39967575 and costs 2 euros.
The “Stern” entrance, which is located on the other side of the Colosseum and leads directly into the arena, may only be used with a guided entry. Tickets and guided tours to the upper floors and underground of the Colosseum and some express tours start at this entrance. While the waiting time at the entrance for individual visitors can be as short as 15 minutes, there is usually no waiting time at this entrance. The fastest way to get to the Colosseum is through the gladiator entrance “Star”.
Since the queue at the ticket offices at the Colosseum can last longer than one hour, it is highly recommended to buy your tickets online. You can save valuable time at the cash desk with the Internet tickets for individual visitors and guided tours, and only have to wait for the security check.
The tickets for the Express Entrance “Stern” are only available on the Internet. At this entrance the entrance time is exactly fixed, and at each date a maximum of 25 visitors and only with a guide are admitted. It is equally difficult to get tickets for this entrance because they are sold out a long time in advance.
Colosseum · Preferential entry on the first Sunday of the month · Free entry for everyone
From October to March entry into the Colosseum is free on the first Sunday of the month and the queues are consequently long. The days with free entry into the Colosseum in 2019 are: 23 September, 4 and 6 October, 3 and 4 November, 22 November and 1 and 18 December 2019.
In principle, I do not recommend visiting the Colosseum on free days. It is extremely crowded on these days.
Colosseum · Entry
Tickets for the Colosseum, with the exception of tickets for the night tour, are valid on the same day, and the following day for a visit to the Roman Forum together with the Palatine.
Entry into the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine is free for persons up to the age of 18. Online booking saves you valuable time at the ticket offices. School groups must reserve in advance. Information can be found on my page Colosseum tickets.
For all tickets and guided tours, you must be there at the indicated time. Since the time windows for access into the Colosseum are strictly regulated, the guides cannot wait for you.
You must have passed the security checks by the time indicated on the ticket. You should not be more than 15 minutes late, otherwise the ticket will be cancelled.
With the City passes , a visit to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatin is considered one museum visit. The Roman Forum and Palatine area has two common entrances, one on Via di San Gregorio and one on Via dei Fori Imperiali. You can visit the Colosseum once and go through one of the two entrances into the Roman Forum and the Palatine, and the two visits are considered as one entrance into the museum.
Colosseum · Night opening “La Luna sul Colosseo”
The Colosseum is open at night for guided tours from the end of April to the end of December. Guided tours can only be booked on the Internet and last for 75 minutes. Since these guided tours are quickly booked out, I recommend that you book well in advance.
Colosseum · Useful tips
Since the Colosseum is one of the main attractions in Rome, many people who want to take advantage of the tourists, are concentrated here. So you must be on guard against pickpockets and fraudsters.
At the Colosseum there are often people who disguise themselves as gladiators. They charge money when they are photographed. You should therefore agree on the price in advance, otherwise they will charge more and which can get you into trouble.
Mobile merchants offer all kinds of goods, most of them of no value. For bottled water, you should make sure that they are originally sealed, otherwise they are only filled with water from wells. It is best to have your own bottles with you, which you can fill up at any well in Rome. You will find a free drinking water point with still and sparkling water at the Colosseum right in front of the exit of the metro station.
You should also be careful with mobile merchants offering guided tours or admission without waiting. Hop-on hop-off tours, and all kinds of other tickets are also available. You cannot be sure if the offers are genuine, and it is therefore better to book on the Internet or buy your tickets at a recognized ticket office.
In the Colosseum there are toilets, but there are often waiting times. So you might want to visit a toilet before going to the Colosseum.
Colosseum · Short overview
The Colosseum is located on the edge of the archaeological area of the Palatine and the Roman Forum. It is the largest Amphitheatre in the world and was built by Emperor Vespasian since 72 AD. Formerly there was an artificial lake, which belonged to the Nero’s imperial palace, Domus Aurea. It was used until the 5th century for games, show fights and animal baiting. From the Middle Ages until the 18th century, the Colosseum served as a quarry for the construction of churches and palaces.
Colosseum · Opening hours
The Colosseum is open all year round and closes only on the 1st January and on 25th December.
The Colosseum opens at 8:30 in the Morning. Last entry is one hour before closing. The Colosseum closes:
- From the last Sunday in October – 15th February: 16:30
- 16th February – 15th March: 17:00
- 16th March to the last Saturday in March: 17:30
- From the last Sunday in March to 31st August: 19:15
- 1st September – 30th September: 19:00
- 1st October until the last Saturday in October: 18:30
There may be extraordinary closures at the Colosseum due to certain events, such as the Pope’s Way of the Cross on Good Friday or a bicycle race.
Colosseum · Directions
There is a metro station Colosseo of line B at the Colosseum.
The bus lines are:
- Line 51 from Piazza San Silvestro – Via del Corso and continues to San Giovanni
- Line 75 From Trastevere to Termini Central Station
- Line 85 From Via Tuscolana through San Giovanni and then Via del Corso and Via del Tritone to Termini Central Station
- Line 87 From Via Appia via San Giovanni and through the city centre to Prati, and the
- Night bus lines nMB and N3.
Tram line 3 runs from Trastevere through the Pyramid to the Colosseum and continues to San Giovanni, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, San Lorenzo and the Zoo.
On foot to the Colosseum:
- From Piazza Venezia through Via dei Fori Imperiali
- From Circus Maximus through Via di San Gregorio
- From the Papal Basilica of St. John – San Giovanni past San Clemente through Via di San Giovanni in Laterano
- From the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore through Via Merulana to the first junction at Largo Brancaccio and then through Viale di Monte Oppio and continue through the park.
- From Monti and the Cavour metro station, take the long staircase to the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli with the Moses of Michelangelo and continue along Via Eudossiana and Via della Polveriera. More comfortable, without stairs, but also less pictorial, it goes through the Via dei Serpenti and continues through the Via degli Annibaldi to the Colosseum.
From the airport to the Coliseum:
- Rome Fiumicino Airport – Colosseum: Train line FL1 to Roma Ostiense, change to Metro B at Colosseo Station or to tram line 3 to Colosseum
- Rome Ciampino Airport – Colosseum: shuttle bus to Rome Termini Central Station, change to Metro B and get off at Colosseo Station.
- Port of Civitavecchia – Colosseum: take the train direction Rome to Roma Ostiense, change to Metro B at the Colosseo station or take tram line 3 to the Colosseum.
by Heinz-Jürgen Beste, DAI Rome
History and events in the Coliseum
The Romans loved their games: Thousands flocked to the huge arena on match days to watch animal raids and gladiatorial combat. It was a bloody pleasure. Death was omnipresent, though not every fight ended lethally. After all, the training of the gladiators cost time and money, which wanted to be well invested. The effort that the emperors drove as playmakers is still immense for today’s circumstances: For some celebrations, which could last several days, they brought hundreds of wild animals from all areas of the empire to Rome. Elephants and bears, deer, antelopes, wild boars and wolves …
As brutal as the games were, their process was well thought-out and so refined was the infrastructure that made the realization of the shows possible. It is estimated that up to 50,000 people were seated on the ranks of the Flavian amphitheater. An ingenious route system ensured that the crowds came smoothly to the ranks and, after the end of the performance, also quickly outside.
The pleasure of one was the work of the other. Hundreds of slaves and workers were in the background to ensure that the performance went smoothly on the stage. It helped a sophisticated elevator system.
The ancient writers repeatedly report that animals and fighters appeared out of nowhere in the arena. Researchers have therefore long suspected that there must have been lifts in the basement of the Coliseum, with which even entire sets could be promoted upwards.
In recent years, archaeologists and building researchers of the Archaeological Monuments Office of the city of Rome and the German Archaeological Institute have studied in detail the entire basement. It succeeded in bringing some secrets of the lifts to light.
Since steam and electric drive were not yet available, on the other hand, muscle power was available at low cost, the lifts were powered by winches. So that the elevators did not obstruct the view of the arena, the elevator cabins were only pulled up to below the arena floor. The last meters were laid back by the animals over ramps, which could be folded down from the arena floor by counterweights.
The elevator systems of the first phase were not in operation for a long time. A few years after opening, the statics of the arena-supporting walls had to be improved. The elevators were moved to the center of the arena, where they were less vulnerable.
History of the Colosseum – Facts and Figures
The “Flavian Amphitheater”, the ancient name, was built from 72 to 80 AD. The opening ceremonies in year 80 allegedly lasted 100 days: In addition to gladiator battles and animal hunts (in which 5,000 animals are said to have been killed), even sea battles were readjusted.
The elliptical structure is about 188 m long and 156 m wide, the arena measures 86 m by 54 m, the basement 76 m x 44 m.
The last gladiator fights took place in 434/5 AD, and the last animal baiting is recorded for the year 523 AD. The common name “Colosseum” dates back to the early Middle Ages.
by Heinz-Jürgen Beste, DAI Rome
The Flavian Amphitheater is one of the highest achievements of Roman civil engineering, for which the huge dimensions, the short construction period of less than ten years, the capacity of fifty thousand spectators and the perfect organization of the stream of visitors give a vivid testimony. The building influenced strongly the shape of the Roman amphitheater, as the great theaters in Italy and in the provinces show its archetype.
After the city fire of 64 AD, Emperor Nero had transformed the area between Esquiline, Caelius and Palatine into his private park, the Domus Aurea. During the reign of Emperor Vespasian, this was returned to the public and built with public buildings, which centered on the Coliseum. The works probably began in the years 70 to 72 AD. Gladiator schools, depots for weapons and stage decoration and other infrastructure were among them. The amphitheater was inaugurated in the year 80 AD by Emperor Titus. During the hundred-day inauguration ceremony a sea battle was organized in the Colosseum in addition to gladiatorial fighting and animal hunts. Completed was the entire plant probably in the nineties of the first century AD. The last reported animal hunt took place in 523 AD and henceforth the construction largely served as a quarry. The current name Colosseum was created only in the eighth century.
The first systematic excavation took place from 1806 to 1814 by the Roman archaeologist Carlo Fea. Because of the high groundwater level, the excavation had to be stopped soon and filled up again. Only 1874 to 1876 it was possible to expose the eastern part of the basement. The until then buried western part was excavated between 1934 and 1938, unfortunately without any documentation. In the extensive restoration in the course of this work, a large part of the ancient structure was lost.
In my (DAI Rome) study and documentation of the podium and the basement, begun in 1996 in collaboration with the Roman Antiquities Administration, it was possible to distinguish between several construction phases from half a millennium of use. So far, three different systems can be located, whose installation between the end of the 1st century (81-96) and the middle of the 4th Century AD are to be set. Two of the elevator systems, those in corridors B, F and H, belong to the construction phase of the Colosseum, due to structural details, and can thus be dated to the Flavian period. For corridor B, an elevator system with 28 cages was used to transport animals up to the size of a cat or a bear into the arena. Corridors F and H complete the elevator system in the basement, since there was a system of 20 movable platforms about 4 x 5 m in height, by means of which large decorations were pulled up to give a showcase to the animal hunting (venationes).
Due to a fire disaster in the Colosseum caused by a lightning strike in 217 AD, and the consequent restoration work that lasted nearly twenty years, there was a need to stabilize the wall structure in the basement, rendering the two previous elevator systems useless. In this respect, a new elevator system was built in Corridors E and G with which 60 cages could be moved. However, due to the limited space in the corridors E and G, it was necessary to abandon the previous elevator model – winch, elevator cage, winch, elevator cage, etc. – and hoist several cages with one winch.
In addition to focusing on the function of the basement, it was also possible to make statements about the location and course of the naval battle (Naumachia) at the inauguration and the division of seats for the senators.
The desire of the Antiquities Authority to restore the arena was met by the year 2000 in collaboration with the University La Sapienza. For didactic and monument preservation reasons, only about a seventh of the total area in the east of the arena was covered. This part was so heavily destroyed by the excavation and subsequent restoration of 1875 that could easily be set the new support system on the ancient foundations. The examination of this project showed that the arena’s ground in antiquity was completely renewed at least twice, its running level raised and its wooden structure profoundly changed.
The name of the Colosseum
The Coliseum is actually called Anfiteatro Flavio, in Latin Amphitheatrum Flavium, in honor of the ruling family of the Flavians, at the time of its construction. Prior to the construction of the Colosseum, at the entrance to the palace of Emperor Nero, the Domus Aurea, stood a colossal bronze statue of the Roman Emperor, the Colossus of Nero. He should have been around 35 meters high.
After Nero’s death, the amphitheater was built on part of the site. The colossus was converted to the sun god and set up in front of the theater. The name Coliseum is attributed to this colossus.
The Coliseum is located in the oldest part of Rome and is surrounded by archaeological sites. The most famous are the Palatine, the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forums, the excavations under the Basilica of San Clemente and the Roman houses under the Basilica of St. John and Paul on Celio Hill.
More information can be found in my post about Ancient Rome.