Access to the Colosseum is by timed entry only
New as of 2019, visitors to the Colosseum need to schedule, in advance, their entry time. Do this at the Colosseum’s online ticket office -- and by advance, we mean well in advance of your trip. This is especially true during the busy summer months. (We checked in mid-July for tickets, and didn’t find any open time slots until well into August.) Print out your ticket and bring it with you, rather than trying to pick it up on-site. This will save you time, which means more space in the day to eat gelato.
Pick an early morning time slot
The Colosseum opens at 8:30 am. If possible, grab the earliest morning time slot and get there before all those other chumps. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll also avoid the worst of the midday heat. If no morning time slots are available, settle for an afternoon slot (and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate) but make sure you enter at least two hours before closing. Anything less and you might as well have just toured the Colosseum on Google Maps. Closing times vary depending on the season -- check opening hours here.
Which Colosseum tour is right for you?!?!?
On the Colosseum’s ticketing site, you’ll see a raft full of options that is, frankly, a bit mind-boggling. The “ordinary admission” ticket is priced at €12 (plus a €2 service charge), and is the best option for people with limited time/attention spans who just want a basic tour. It includes access to the first and second levels of the Colosseum (plus entry to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill -- more on that later).
Gladiator fans should opt for the €16 ticket, which offers additional access. Choose between the Colosseum’s upper third level, normally closed to the public, OR the underground, where you'll see the maze of tunnels and cells used to house wild animals and gladiators about to meet their fate. The €23 ticket throws in a guided tour (in English, Spanish or Italian).
And finally, for all you history professors out there, an all-in-one ticket for €29 includes a guided tour of both the upper level AND the underground. Once the guided tour is over, you’re free to stay in the Colosseum for as long as you like.
Pre-purchased Colosseum tickets also grant you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Your pre-purchased ticket will display a specific date and entry time for the Colosseum -- but it also grants you access to the Forum and Palatine the day before (OR after) your Colosseum visit. If your Colosseum ticket is for April 21, for example, you can present the ticket the day before, on April 20 (or the day after, on April 22) to enter the Roman Forum or Palatine. The timing doesn’t matter -- so even if your timed Colosseum ticket says 4pm, you can access the other sites whenever you want the previous (or following) day.