When you think of Rome there are a number of things that come to mind. Above everything however is of course the globally recognised Colosseum.
During our recent city break to Rome we explored the entire city but without a doubt one of the highlights was ticking off a visit to the Colosseum from our bucket list.
Making your way towards the Colosseum you’ll be hard pressed not to be in awe of the building as it comes into view. It completely dominates the landscape. Outside you’ll find the usual assortment of street vendors trying to sell you tourist tack and skip the line entry tickets.
A little history
The Colosseum really doesn’t need much of an introduction. It was a gladiatorial arena where the emperor would host events and entertain the people of Rome. When it was in use the Colosseum was in fact a political tool for the emperor. He hosted events free of charge for the citizens of Rome to wow and entertain them, deflecting their attention away from other issues and gripes in the city. And it certainly worked.
When the Colosseum was in its prime the building was fully enclosed unlike the crumbling walls that you see today. Each archway was adorned by a statue and the top of the Colosseum was lined by flags adding colour and stature the the building. Overhead across the main arena, ribbons were draped the full width to create shade for the spectators who came to watch.
During the hosted games the Colosseum required gladiators, who were trained to fight, to enter the arena and take on other men and wild animals including bears and lions for the entertainment of the crowds. It was as you could imagine, a brutal environment resulting in thousands of people and animals being killed. At the same time however the arena created a celebrity status for the top gladiators who fought and won there, many of whom had agents controlling their activity.
Book in advance to skip the line
Getting into the Colosseum is quite confusing if you haven’t planned ahead. There is a ticket booth at the Colosseum itself but the queue is very long so you’re not going to want to stand in that during the heat of summer.
You can however book your Colosseum tickets in advance from many websites including the official Colosseum website and our personal favourite, Viator. By booking in advance you won’t need to queue and so you can “skip the line”, “jump the queue” or “queue jump”… you’ll see different statements online but they all mean the same thing.
When booking online the positioning of skip the line tickets often implies that there is a separate ticket to your entry ticket required to get this service however that’s not the case. Simply booking in advance includes this. With ticket in hand your entry to the Colosseum takes around 10-15 minutes as you need to pass through security and the inner walkways.
Buy a combined Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill ticket
When you buy your entry ticket it will also give you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill which are located just 5 minutes away. Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum take around 3-4 hours to explore at a leisurely pace and the Colosseum takes around 1-2 hours so make sure you allow at least half a day to enjoy all 3 of the sites without feeling rushed.
Our top tip for buying your tickets if you haven’t done so in advance online is to walk 5 minutes down the road to the Palatine Hill ticket office. There you’ll find no one queueing and will have all 3 entrance tickets in your hands in a matter of minutes compared to a potential 1 hour queue at the Colosseum itself!
Book a guided tour
In my opinion having a good guide book is a must for any intrepid city break explorers. They will help you plan your trip, find the best places to visit and give an indication of prices. They are however very limited for information as they cram so much in so the majority of guide books will likely give you 1 or 2 sentences about the Colosseum. As this is such a limited way to learn about the history and culture of a place such as the Colosseum you should look to book yourself onto a guided tour. This experience allows you to ask questions to a local expert and explore parts of the building that others don’t get to access.
The Colosseum offers a number of guided tours including the underground where the animals and gladiators were kept and the the third tier which is the highest point within the building. On our visit we opted for a tour to the third tier which took around an hour. This offered incredible views looking down into the arena.
Our guide walked us through the history of the building and also through the museum. Did you know for example that the Colosseum was prevented from being ripped down due to it being declared a religious site?
If you are planning a tour, note that this will be an additional cost on top of the standard entry ticket (unless the ticket says it also includes entry) so you will need to ensure you have made 2 purchases.
Wonder of the World
The Colosseum really is one of those places in the world where it’s hard to imagine it’s still standing after so many years. It has a rich, if not brutal history that will keep your interest peaked both during and after your visit.
If you’re heading to Rome this year you would be crazy to miss out on a visit to such an iconic location not only in Rome, not even in Europe, but the whole world.