Ah, the Colosseum. The Flavian Amphitheatre. The icon of Rome. Whether you’re a history buff, a movie-lover, or a newbie tourist after a unique day out, a trip to this monumental landmark is a must.
The Colosseum is up there with the Vatican City as one of Rome’s most significant tourist attractions. One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, around six million visitors head through the limestone archway every year. Join them when you plan your perfect visit to this one-of-a-kind destination.
Getting to the Colosseum by train
Getting to the Colosseum is easy. Thanks to its position in the city’s historical centre, or Centro Storico, you’ll probably be hanging out in the area no matter what you’re visiting for. A stone’s throw from lots more ancient attractions, including the Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, and Arch of Constantine, there’s plenty to see nearby.
Celio, the district where the Colosseum and other landmarks sit, is one of the only parts of Rome to maintain its historical feel. As such, it’s a natural tourist hotspot, teaming with thousands of travellers looking to catch a glimpse of this area of ancient beauty. You can probably cover off most of the landmarks in this location in a day, then spend the rest of your trip exploring more laid-back parts of the city.
Let’s figure out how to get there to make your experience simpler.
Which station is nearest to the Colosseum?
The closest station to the Colosseum is appropriately called Colosseo. We don’t need to tell you why. You can take a bus or a Metro service to get here, or to one of the many other neighbouring stops. You’ll know when you’re in the area, not least because you’ll be able to see the iconic Colosseum towering above.
Taking public transport around Rome couldn’t be more straightforward. Most Metro, bus, train, or tram services in the city centre are owned and operated by the same company. That means you can use just one type of ticket to cover any journey. Or, pick up a Roma Pass, a Rome Public Transport Card, or something similar and get about for the entire duration of your trip.
Expert tip: a Roma Pass also gives you free entry to the Colosseum, and lets you skip the line!
The best type of ticket to choose for nipping about the city centre is called a 100 minutes ticket. You can grab one of these for just €1.50 from a newsstand or tobacco shop. You’ll be able to travel on any public transport for 100 minutes from the moment of validation, which is easy to do on the platform.
Exploring the Colosseum
Now to the exciting stuff. The Colosseum is packed with history and interest, with lots of unique features to notice during your visit.
You might like to join a group guided tour or book a private one for just you and your party. That way, you’ll be able to explore the Colosseum with an expert and learn lots of facts and stories about its fascinating past. Opting for a guided tour will also mean you can explore the top three floors of the Colosseum, which are out of bounds to regular visitors. If you don’t fancy it, there are lots of plaques around with information to enjoy.
Let’s take a look around.
The Colosseum from the outside
Before you step inside, be sure to take in the impressive outer wall of the Colosseum. It’s oval in shape, not circular like lots of people think. The walls are built from travertine rock and held together with iron clamps instead of mortar. Although it’s always been a sturdy structure, the Colosseum is partly ruined today by several earthquakes, including one which brought down its entire south side in 1349.
The outside walls have three levels of arches studded with decorative columns. Once, marble statues filled the archways on the second and third levels. You’ll also notice many entrance archways, called vomitoria, which meant visitors could be seated quickly.
The Colosseum inside
The Flavian emperors built the Colosseum as an extravagant stage for public entertainment. The 50,000-seat amphitheatre was once covered with a massive piece of canvas to shield spectators from the sun and rain. At the same time, they enjoyed a variety of games and gladiator fights. The emperors themselves would attend these events, sitting at a level reflective of their rank.
The inside was split into three sections to accommodate the performers, the public, and the emperors. These were the arena, the cavea, and the podium.
Let’s start with the arena, which comes from the Latin word harena. This area had a wooden floor that was covered with sand to soak up blood and stop the contestants from slipping. This is where the name harena, therefore arena, comes from. It means sand in Latin.
The cavea, or spectator seating, is divided into three levels. The magistrates and senior-ranking officials sat in the lowest tier, closest to the action. Next up, wealthy Roman citizens. The highest level was for the general public, known as plebeians or plebs.
Lastly, the podium, or ‘place of honour’, which is where the emperor, the Vestal Virgins, and important priests and senators would sit. The podium is above the Colosseum’s main entrance and is a kind of flat platform, made from marble.
The interior of the Colosseum would have been richly decorated in Roman times. However, not much remains to reflect this today.
The original Colosseum floor was made of wood and sprinkled with sand, as we’ve mentioned. It’s been gone for a long time, which happily allows visitors today to see beneath the level into the hypogeum. This is a two-story maze of tunnels and rooms, which would have been used for training and storage of animals and armour.
Colosseum History and Facts
The Colosseum is the icon of Ancient Rome with almost 2,000 years of history, making it a fascinating destination for modern visitors. Let’s fly through the landmark’s past. There’s plenty more to learn when you’re there, but here are some of the highlights.
The construction of the amphitheatre began in the year 72 under Emperor Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty. Unfortunately, the gigantic structure wasn’t finished in his lifetime but finally inaugurated in 80 AD under the reign of Emperor Titus, his son and successor.
The new amphitheatre would be built in the grounds of Emperor Nero’s Domus Aurea complex. A large artificial lake once stood in the place of the Colosseum, the centrepiece of Nero’s beautiful palace site. Vespasian ordered the water to be drained to make way for the public amphitheatre. It was a symbolic move, undermining the tyrannical Emperor Nero in favour of the Roman people.
It was initially called the Anfiteatro Flavio, or Flavian Amphitheatre, after Vespasian’s family. The name Colosseum came about in the Middle Ages, not because of its monumental size, but the Colosso di Nerone, a statue of Nero which stood nearby.
100 days of games
When the Colosseum was finished, the new Emperor Titus marked its inauguration with 100 days of games. The inaugural games included wild animal fights and gladiator combats. During these 100 days and nights of Roman entertainment, around 5,000 animals and many slave gladiators were killed.
If you’ve seen the film Gladiator (2000), you’ll have some idea of what this was like. If you haven’t, be sure to watch it before your visit.
The Colosseum in ancient times
After its inauguration, the Colosseum remained in use for around 500 years. It wasn’t always bloody, although the gladiator fights were extremely popular and public executions equally so. Other spectacles included exhibitions of exotic animals and recreations of famous battles. These shows kept the Roman people entertained for centuries, with the last recorded games celebrated at the Colosseum in the 6th century.
Did you know? There are some theories that the Colosseum was occasionally filled with water for sea battle reenactments.
Descending into ruin
Since then, the Colosseum has suffered from lootings, bombings, and devastating earthquakes. While it’s nowhere near as detailed as it once was, with much of the building collapsed and ruined, history replaces décor, and it remains a great place to visit.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near the Colosseum
It should come as no surprise that the area around the Colosseum is one of the most touristy in Rome. Home to the most iconic landmark in the city as well as a wealth of other historical sites, lots is going on here.
As such, the restaurants, bars, and shops near the Colosseum can be a little overpriced and inauthentic. That’s not to say they all are, but you’ll need to be careful when you’re choosing a spot.
Let’s take a look at some of the best restaurants near the Colosseum, so you can refuel without compromising on quality.
The best restaurants near the Colosseum
- Trattoria Luzzi – for delicious Roman food and views of the Colosseum
- Taverna Dei Quaranta – an authentic ambience with quality food
- Crab – a swishy seafood spot, perfect for a romantic meal
- Goloseum – not a typo. Head here for a quick, low-cost lunch
- DivinOstilia – a lovely little wine bar serving great antipasti and pasta
- Li Rioni – another traditional spot with fair prices
- Ai Tre Scalini – this ivy-covered restaurant serves excellent wine and seasonal dishes
- La Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali – well-made traditional food and a memorable atmosphere
- Aroma – a Michelin Star restaurant with views over the Colosseum
The best bars near the Colosseum
If you’re more in the mood for a drink after your trip around the Colosseum, you’re in luck! There are lots of great bars close to the landmark. So whether you fancy a glass of wine, an Aperol, or a quick coffee, you’re sure to find something nearby.
- La Terrazza at Hotel Capo – one of the most popular rooftop bars near the Colosseum
- DivinOstilla Wine Bar – a cosy spot with plenty of excellent wines to choose from
- The Race Club – a speakeasy-style bar with unique décor
- 47 Circus Roof Garden – another rooftop spot with views of the Colosseum
- American Bar at Hotel Forum – a beautiful place with a rooftop terrace
- Enoteca Wineconcept – a modern wine bar with lots of choices
- Ex Galleria – for cocktails and a cosy atmosphere
Shopping near the Colosseum
The area around the Colosseum is unsurprisingly home to gift shops galore. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir to take back with you, whether it’s a memento of your trip or a gift for somebody special. The best places to grab this type of thing are street stands. When you buy from a street vendor rather than a big shop, not only do you support local business, but you’re more likely to get a bargain.
If you’re looking for more serious shopping in the Italian capital, this is not the place. Just like you wouldn’t expect to bag a deal in Times Square or Central London, you should head to a more fashionable district for the best shopping in Rome. Check out our shopping guide for some ideas about where to go.
Opening Times and Prices
When you’re planning a visit to the Colosseum, you’ll want to start your day as early as possible for the best chance of beating the crowds. Tourists flock to the amphitheatre every day, which means some queuing and crowding will be unavoidable.
The Colosseum is open every day except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and May 1st, which is an Italian holiday. The most recent opening times are as follows:
Colosseum opening times
How much does it cost to visit the Colosseum?
We recommend you buy your tickets online. You can choose a ‘skip the line’ option, which means – you guessed it – you’ll be able to skip the line and get straight inside.
There are some other types of ticket you might like to choose from. Lots of different ticket providers and tour guides charge different prices for their tickets, so it’s best to shop around and decide which is best for you. Under 18s go free with ID, while an adults ticket should cost between €10 to €20, depending on the tour option you choose.
Travelling to Rome by train
Italy is blessed with a fantastic high-speed railway network, making it easy to travel to Rome by train. Roma Termini is the main railway station in the capital and it's served by several speedy services, including Trenitalia's Frecciarossa ("Red Arrow") services and Italo trains. Thanks to high-speed trains, you can get from Florence or Naples to Rome in under 1h 20m, Milan to Rome in 3h 10m and Venice to Rome in 3h 26m.
And if you're travelling onwards from Rome, why not continue by train? The capital has links to Venice, Florence, Milan, Verona and Genoa - to name but a few places you can reach by rail! So why not hop on a train and say arrivederci to Rome!