lots of tourists outside the colosseum in rome

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Colosseum [2024 Update]

While Rome is filled with wonderful squares, fountains, and awe-inspiring ancient ruins, nothing will capture your interest like the Colosseum!

The nearly 2,000-year-old amphitheater is the symbol of the Eternal City and a must-see on any Rome itinerary — whether you have one day, 3 days, or a full week!

But visiting the Colosseum comes with tips and tricks. You may think it’s as easy as showing up, getting a ticket, and visiting the place… but you’d be wrong!

Cloudy day at the Colosseum with view of the arena floor and people visible in the distance.
View of the ground level of the Colosseum
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In my opinion, you’d be missing out if you skip a proper Colosseum tour, and you even risking having a bad experience without knowing a few key pieces of advice beforehand.

Tourists often make quite a few mistakes when visiting the Colosseum — I’m here to help you avoid them.

In fact, I recently visited the Colosseum and made a few mistakes of my own, just to ensure you won’t make those mistakes on your trip. (I’d like to see an AI with that level of dedication /j).

Read on to find out how to make the most of your visit and avoid falling into some easily avoidable errors.

But first — let’s quickly go over some history for context, to get you excited for visiting the Colosseum!

📝 This post was completely re-written after Allison visited the Colosseum in March 2024. She's since updated this post to reflect her experience, ensure its accuracy, and add recent photographs.

Want a Colosseum Tour? My 3 Top Picks

This post goes heavily into detail into everything you can expect about visiting the Colosseum.

But maybe you just want to skip all that and have a tour guide figure that all out for you?

Here are my top Colosseum tour recommendations in case you want to outsource all the planning!

#1 TOP PICK

detail of the arena floor area of the colosseum

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Colosseum Underground, Arena Floor and Ancient Rome Tour
✔️ 3 hour walking tour with guide & skip-the-line entry
✔️ Includes Colosseum dungeons & tunnels, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

#2 PICK

colosseum interior on a sunny day

Colosseum Guided Tour

✔️ Budget-friendly tour with live guide that includes Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum
X Does not include Arena Floor or Underground

#3 PICK

ceiling of the sistine chapel in rome

Colosseum and Vatican Museums Full-Day Tour
✔️ Skip long lines at the two most iconic sights in Rome
✔️ No need to plan meals, timing, or transport – it’s all handled for you

Why Visit the Colosseum?

Side view of the arena of the colosseum in Rome on a sunny day
Colosseum on a March day in 2024

The two mains reason to visit the Colosseum is its record-setting size as well as its history: even to this day, it’s the largest standing amphitheater in the world. Standing since 80 CE, the world has had nearly two millennia to beat this record… but no other structure has unseated it.

Taking about a decade to build, during the period from 70 and 80 CE, it was built by Emperor Vespasian, the successor to Nero. And, in typical Roman petty one-upping fashion, Vespasian decided to built it right alongside Nero’s old villa, the Domus Aurea, in a drained lake in the former gardens of the house.

Everyone who’s seen Gladiator has some idea of the macabre spectacles that took place in the Roman Colosseum: dark, violent ‘games’ of gladiators fighting each other (or animals) to death, as well as public executions. 

These executions were particularly gruesome: crucifixions, burning alive, and being fed to beasts. It’s hard to believe that these were the Eras and Renaissance Tours of Ancient Rome, drawing up to 50,000 spectators at a time… but times certainly were different back then.

Luckily, visiting the Colosseum in Rome today is a much more peaceful affair — the only fighting you’ll be doing is for good angles amidst the crowds.

How to Get to the Roman Colosseum

sign for the colosseo metro stop (line b) in rome italy
The Colosseum metro stop — pretty straightforward, no?

It’s quite easy to get to the Roman Colosseum either on foot or by public transport within Rome.

You can get to the Colosseum via the Metro from many places in Rome. Simply take Line B to the Colosseo stop.

Insider Tip: Have a little time before you need to pick up your tickets or meet your group? Put “Giardinetto del Monte Oppio” into your Maps app and walk there from the Colosseo stop before visiting the Colosseum — you’ll be able to get a great angle for a perfect photo!

Exiting the metro, you’ll be right on Piazza del Colosseo, where most small group tours meet up. You can also go to the security point to enter if you are doing a fast-track entry and you already have your ticket printed and ready to go.

The arch of constantine outside the colosseum with green trees in March
The Arch of Constantine (pictured here) was my tour’s meeting point. My guide was holding a white flag to help me find him.

If you pre-booked some sort of ticket through a tour company like Get Your Guide and you need to pick up your ticket in person, like I did, be sure to check the meeting point.

For my self-guided fast-track entry with audioguide, we had to meet at the Arch of Constantine, about 15 minutes before our entry time. We met the guide, got our printed tickets, and audioguide access information — but more on this part later.

Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting the Colosseum in Rome

Mistake 1: Not booking your ticket online in advance

The interior of the Colosseum as seen from one side of the ancient amphitheater
Exploring the interior of the Colosseum

The biggest mistake to avoid when visiting the Colosseum is showing up without a ticket — seriously, if there’s one thing you glean from this article, let it be this!

To avoid long lines (and potentially not even getting in!), especially in peak season, buy your tickets for the Colosseum online.

When planning my trips, I tend to use GetYourGuide since they have more ticket availability than official websites, which sell out quickly. But more importantly, I always buy skip-the-line tickets to popular attractions because my time while I’m traveling is one of my most precious resources!

The few extra dollars I spend pre-booking a skip-the-line ticket is well-worth it when I consider the opportunity cost of waiting in line on a trip I’ve invested time, money, and planning into.

Lines at the Colosseum in rome
I will always pay a little extra to avoid the lines!

The first time I visited the Roman Colosseum many years ago, I took a guided tour because I wanted to know all the history of this fascinating place.

Unless you really hate guided tours, I would recommend this. The history of the Colosseum is incredibly fascinating, and the tour guides usually do a good job of relaying this information in an engaging way. 

This guided tour has great reviews and a reasonable cost!

Allison's hand holding a paper ticket for visiting the Colosseum plus her audio guide log in which did not work
Printed ticket from my self-guided visit to the Colosseum in March

On my most recent visit, I chose to just book this skip-the-line ticket with an audioguide, since I had done a tour in the past and I wanted the freedom to wander and take photos at my leisure. However, I was pretty disappointed with the audioguide portion of the experience.

I hadn’t read the fine print (which is my mistake) and it was a phone app audioguide, not a physical audioguide. That would be just mildly annoying, except for the small fact that… the audioguide app wouldn’t work, and I spent much of my time at the Colosseum attempting to contact the tour company to get it fixed.

They were never able to fix the issue, claiming they sent me an SMS with a new link to access the audioguide, but I never received it. GetYourGuide did refund a portion of my tour, which I appreciated. That’s another reason why I book with them — the (very) few times I’ve had a bad tour, they’ve always issued a full or partial refund.

I didn’t love this experience, but for some, it may still be the right choice. If that’s you, you can still book this skip-the-line ticket and audioguide here. Be sure to read the email carefully and download the audioguide app a few days before so you can troubleshoot if it doesn’t work.

No matter what kind of ticket you get, you need to show up 15 minutes before at the dedicated meeting point.

If you already have the exact ticket you need for entry, you can just go straight to the dedicated entrance to show your ticket and go through the security checkpoint.

Mistake 2: Not knowing all the ticket options

people standing in line waiting for a guided tour departure inside the interior of the colosseum
One of the guided tour meeting points

There are actually a ton of different options for visiting the Colosseum, including certain parts of the Colosseum that are only accessible with a ticket add-on… and these can be a little confusing.

Your standard ticket gives you access to the Colosseum’s first two floors and the museum exhibits within it. It also gives you access to another site just a few minutes’ walk away: the combined site of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. 

But there is also a few other parts of the Colosseum that you can access! One is the arena floor, where you can wander the base of the amphitheater and see the entirety of the Colosseum towering above you.

This guided tour includes the arena floor

sign that lets you know the different places and directions you can go on the tour, including to the underground and arena area
Bifurcation point for two different areas (and ticket types) of the Colosseum

Different from the arena floor, there’s also the underground area where you can explore the cells where animals and prisoners sat in purgatory before their executions were put on display to tens of thousands of spectators.

You’ll see the tunnels and hidden entrances and understand how the underbelly of the Colosseum really operated, which is fascinating for those with the stomach for a little dark history.

This guided tour includes the arena underground as well as the arena floor

Finally, there’s another option that might be interesting if you are visiting during the high season in Rome: the night tour. Availability for this is extremely limited — there are only a few dates remaining for the 2024 summer season — but you can try to get one of the last remaining dates. 


I know these options can be a little intimidating so here’s a quick summary:

Mistake 3: Forgetting your ID

Sign in italian and english showing you that you must display your ID card to enter the colosseum
ID cards with a photo are now mandatory for entry

I’m not sure exactly why, but it is mandatory to show a photo ID to enter the Colosseum nowadays, at least it was true for my March 2024 visit. This wasn’t the case for visiting the Vatican, which I had done the day before, but it is part of the Colosseum’s security process.

I don’t always carry all my important documents on me when I’m traveling around Italy due to the high risk of pickpockets. Luckily, I did notice the part of the booking details where it told me to bring my ID and I wasn’t caught off-guard by this. 

I’m not sure how strict they are on this and if they would accept a photograph or printed copy of your ID if you didn’t have your actual ID with you. I wouldn’t risk it though.

Presumably if you are reading this article, you’re not yet at the Colosseum, so you can just bring your ID and avoid any issues!

Mistake 4: Visiting at the wrong time of day

Peaceful vibe of one woman, in shadow, looking at a display in the colosseum without any crowds around her
Peaceful opportunities to enjoy the Colosseum at 9:30 AM

Another big mistake people make when visiting the Colosseum is picking a time right smack-dab in the middle of the day — avoid this if at all possible. 

I highly recommend booking one of the first openings of the day — on my March 2024 visit, I booked a 9:30 AM opening and it was perfect. The Colosseum was busy but not crowded.

no one in line at the roman forum and palatine hill line
Virtually no lines to enter the Palatine Hill area at 10:30 AM

By the time I made it over to Palatine Hill, there was virtually no one there and I could enjoy that area in peace.

However, by the time I reached the Roman Forum around 11:30 AM (having already visited the Colosseum and Palatine Hill)… it was extremely crowded.

That gave me a taste for what seeing the Colosseum is like later in the day (and I didn’t like it). 

busy crowds at the roman forum at 11:30
The crowds gathering later in the day at the Roman Forum (around 11:30 AM)

If you really can’t handle getting up early the morning, late afternoon isn’t a terrible second choice… but keep in mind that the Colosseum and its related sites close roughly an hour before sunset. 

In winter, that means it closes as early as 4:30 PM (with the last entry at 3:30 PM) — but in the peak of summer, it costs around 7:15 PM (last entry at 6:15 PM). 

You need at least 3 hours to properly see the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.

However, also keep in mind that your standard entry ticket is valid for 24 hours. If you are doing a self-guided tour experience, you can break up your time between the two sights, even on different days if you like!

If you don’t mind returning to the same place twice in order to minimize crowds (and summer heat), you could always see the Colosseum in the late afternoon before it closes.

Then you can visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill the following morning. This would be a nice way to break up the sightseeing and avoid the crowds.

Mistake 5: Skipping the Palatine Hill & the Roman Forum

The area of Palatine Hill in the spring with beautiful ruins and very few people
Don’t ignore the excellent Palatine Hill complex area!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make? Not realizing that even the most basic entrance ticket for the Colosseum also includes two other world class sites: the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. This alone makes it the best money you can spend in all of Rome, in my estimation.

Don’t be tempted to skip the Roman Forum just because you can see it while you walk down Via dei Fort Imperiali… trust me, there’s a world of difference between walking past the ruins of ancient Rome and being completely immersed in it, imaging the agora that used to stand where you’re standing. 

Plus, Palatine Hill is an incredibly rich and diverse site that’s absolutely worth dedicating at least an hour of your time to. Between its gardens, viewpoints, and interesting ruins — as well as its smaller-than-average crowds — it was actually one of the highlights of my self-guided visit to the Colosseum and its related sites. 

View of the Roman Forum area from a vantage point above the area
The Roman Forum is definitely a highlight for many!

Personally, I loved Palatine Hill the most of all simply because it was so peaceful; after that, I enjoyed the Colosseum, and at the bottom of my list was the Roman Forum simply because it was so crowded at that point. But that’s just my personal two cents!

If you are self-guided your own visit to the Colosseum and not going with a group, you can structure your Colosseum itinerary any way you like — even doing it on separate days, like I mentioned above. 

There is no order in which you need to access the Colosseum or Roman Forum and Palatine Hill complex (which are together in the same area, so you only present your ticket once).

With your entry ticket, you can decide the order of your visit so long as everything takes place within 24 hours of your designated entry time.

Mistake 6: Bringing a big backpack or a rolling bag

Map of the roman colosseum
Unsurprisingly… no cloakrooms in an ancient amphitheater!

This is a big mistake some people make when visiting the Colosseum — one that unfortunately is quite a hassle to deal with if you are caught unawares.

There is a strict policy in place that doesn’t allow visitors to enter with big luggage, and there is no cloakroom available on-site at the Roman Colosseum. 

Put simply, if you show up with a large backpack or rolling bag at the entrance to the Colosseum, you won’t be allowed entry at all until you have found a place to store your bag.

That means you may lose out on your entry slot, and there’s no obligation for the staff to accept your ticket if you arrive outside of your designated time slot. 

If you plan on visiting the Colosseum before check-in or after an early check-out, prepare in advance. Leave your luggage at your hotel, or use a luggage storage company like Bounce.

Aside from not being able to enter the Colosseum, carrying a roller bag on Roman roads is no one’s idea of fun!

Mistake 7: Not wearing the right shoes

Allison Green wearing white sneakers as an example of appropriate footwear for the Colosseum
Trendy? No. Comfy? Yes!

Listen. I get that you want to look cute during your Roman holiday and take some banger Instagram pictures. 

But wearing the wrong shoes during a trip to the Colosseum and (to a larger extent) the Roman Forum is a big mistake. A big, uneven cobblestone, ankle-twist-waiting to happen mistake. 

You’ll definitely want to hedge your bets and wear a comfortable, sporty shoe — sneakers would be ideal here, or a pair of hiking sandals that will ensure you can walk on this uneven ground without injuring yourself.

the bumpy cobblestone roads of roman forum and palatine hill area
These cobblestones are begging you have some sense!

These roads are nearly two millennia old and haven’t been maintained in any traditional sense of the word, so trust me, you’re going to be uncomfortable if you don’t have the right footwear.

And heeled boots or flip flops? Forget about it. You’ll be miserable. Cute, but miserable.

Mistake 8: Not preparing for the weather

Allison Green at the Roman Colosseum smiling and wearing glasses taking a selfie
At first I was happy for my hat and vest… and later regretted it!

The Roman Colosseum is an all-season attraction, but depending on what time of year you’ll be visiting, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid any unpleasantness on your outing. 

Put simply, the weather in Rome is really unpredictable… on my March visit, I found it actually extremely warm — about 20° C / 68° F but very sunny — and I definitely found myself wishing I had slathered on some sunscreen before my visit (and left my heavier jacket at home).

And visiting in the summer? May the odds be ever in your favorite. Roman summer days are not to be messed with — they can get unbearably hot.

Wear light colors like white, taupe, and beige and pick quick-drying natural materials like linen. Avoid cotton, which doesn’t dry well when it gets sweaty, and for god’s sake, stay away from anything with polyester in it if you value not feeling like a baked potato. 

You also should definitely bring a hat because there’s very little shade in any portion of this visit — and you’ll also want sunscreen no matter the season. 

Layers are going to be your friend if you visit Rome in any season outside of summer, as the mornings and evenings are often rather cold before the mercury soars up in the middle of the day.

Wear a lightweight layer underneath, and don’t carry too heavy of a jacket as it heats up during the day. 

And of course, rain is always a reality in Rome, so be sure to bring a rain jacket or umbrella if there’s even the slightest inkling of rain in the forecast.

Mistake 9: Bringing any prohibited items

airport style security at the colosseum
Make sure you don’t have any prohibited items!

When entering the Colosseum, you’ll have to go through a security checkpoint like at the airport (only with much friendlier workers), and your bag will also be checked during that process.

It is forbidden to bring any sharp objects (including Swiss army knives), glass bottles, tripods, selfie sticks, weapons, or any sort of aerosol. Yes, that includes spray-on deodorant and even aerosol sunscreens!

Given that there is no cloakroom to store any of your items in, any prohibited items found on you will simply be confiscated, so avoid bringing them altogether if you don’t want to risk losing them.

Mistake 10: Not carrying a water bottle

roman water fountain with face and public drinking fountain
One of Rome’s many public fountains

As long as you bring a plastic, non-glass reusable water bottle, you can bring it into the Colosseum and refill as much as needed.

Rome is pretty warm for much of the year, and you’ll walk more than you ever thought possible when visiting sites like the Colosseum. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the duration of your visit and thinking you won’t need water!

Luckily, there are so many great free-to-use public foundations available all over Rome, including plenty of ones in the area of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum.

Avoid the touts selling water around the Colosseum and Roman Forum for overpriced water — you will certainly overpay for it. Just bring your own bottle and fill up!

Just head to the closest fountain (fun fact: they are called nasoni in Italian, which means big noses). You’ll get as much fresh water as you need, all for free!

Colosseum Ticket Options

I briefly went into this above, but here, I’ll explain the different Colosseum ticket types with more detail about what’s included and how they differ.

Guided Tour Including Colosseum Arena Floor & Colosseum Underground

Low down angle of the colosseum showing the arena floor area

If you want to see as much of the Colosseum as possible, this is the best, most all-inclusive Colosseum tour for you.

In addition to your regular Colosseum and Roman Forum ticket, it also includes a multi-hour guided tour to help bring all of these unique facets of Roman history to life, adding color and detail to your sightseeing.

This tour in particular offers special access to the arena floor and the Colosseum underground, which many other Roman Colosseum tours do not include.

The underground area (called the hypogeum) is a really interesting piece to add to a Colosseum tour. It includes tunnels and passageways that connect a series of cages and dungeons underneath the arena floor of the colosseum.

This part of the Colosseum was a purgatory of sorts, where enslaved people and prisoners were kept before being publicly executed, as well as the wild animals who were fought and slaughtered by the gladiators for entertainment.

If you’re interested in dark history — or just getting the full story of the historical places you visit — adding the Colosseum underground is a must-do.

This is one of the best tours if you want the full Colosseum experience and are curious to get a bit off the beaten path and learn some of the Colosseum’s more macabre history by adding the underground access!

Book your guided underground tour with special access here!

Fast Track Rome Colosseum Ticket

View of the beautiful constantine arch through the windows of the colosseum

This is the most affordable and flexible way to visit the Colosseum — great if your budget is short on time or money. This is what I personally did in March 2024.

Pre-booking your Colosseum ticket (you can do so online here) allows you to skip the long line at the ticket booth. Instead, you just find the guide at the designated meeting point, mine was at the Arch of Constantine and was very easy to find.

This ticket includes an audioguide which you access on your phone. Mine didn’t work, unfortunately, but I was still able to enjoy the Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum independently.

You will be on your own to explore the site, but you won’t have to deal with any queues besides the normal security line (which is unavoidable and moves really fast — I was in within minutes).

Note that this ticket does not include the arena floor or the Colosseum underground or an in-person tour guide: it’s the bare bones option.

Book your skip-the-line Colosseum ticket here!

Guided Tour and Colosseum Tickets

faraway view of the colosseum with trees and other views

If you have a little more room in your budget, I definitely suggest booking this guided tour, which includes a guided walking tour and admission tickets.

There is simply so much to learn about the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill that you won’t really be able to appreciate without the expertise of a licensed guide who is an expert in Roman history.

This tour is rather affordable with not much of an up-charge for the tour guide, especially when you consider the initial price of the ticket.

You’re paying roughly another $30 USD for a 3 hours of a tour guide’s time!

You can book in a small group of up to 10, 20, or 30 people, at different price tiers based on how many people are in the group.

Book your guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum here

Colosseum by Night After Hours Tour

the exterior of the colosseum as seen at night - yes you can visit at night!

Did you know you can visit the Colosseum after the doors have officially closed? There are a number of tours which offer exclusive access to the Colosseum after dark!

This is a really fun way to beat the crowds (or the summer heat) if you are planning to visit the Colosseum in the peak season, June through August.

It is more expensive than other ticket options, but not by a drastic margin… which may be a nice price to pay, given the peace you’ll enjoy!

However, if you want those classic daytime photos of the Colosseum, you won’t be able to get those, so if photography is a big aspect of why you are visiting the Colosseum, that is something to consider.

But if all you want is a unique way to see the Colosseum and learn its history without the crowds or heat of peak summer travel, a night tour is an epic way to do it!

Note that night tours sell out extremely fast and nearly all of the 2024 tour offerings are gone, totally sold out — the only remaining tours I could find are linked below.

Book your night tour of the Colosseum here!

Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & Colosseum Full Day Tour

an ornately painted ceiling in the vatican museums in rome

If you want to see all of Rome’s most essential (and crowded) sights under the expert eye of a tour guide, I strongly suggest this tour option.

Visiting the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with a guide is really helpful because these sights can be quite stressful to navigate on your own.

It’s very crowded, tickets must be booked well in advance (same-day ticket waits often exceed 2 hours), and there is so much to see that it is helpful to go with a guide w ho will ensure you see the most essential parts and skip the rest.

This tour also includes transportation between Colosseum and the Vatican so you can simply sit back and sightsee and enjoy your day, without having to worry about anything other than taking in the sights and history and making memories.

This tour includes all entry tickets, skip-the-line access, lunch, guides, and transportation.

It’s a little pricy, but it plans you the perfect day in Rome seeing its two most iconic attractions without a second thought.

Book your tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & Colosseum here!

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing such a valuable and informative guide! I’ll be sure to refer to your tips when I plan my own visit.

  2. Hi Roxana,
    Thank you for ALL amazing information. We will be there on the 1st Sunday and had booked tickets with a guide. Afraid it will be super crowded. Do you think visiting Vatican City Monday morning, then the Colosseum in the afternoon with a Full Access Pass is do-able? Any insight is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Liz! Not Roxana, since she doesn’t answer comments, but I can help. I think that is very doable 🙂 The Monday morning early bird tours will help you get one early start. As long as you pick a slightly later time slot for the Colosseum, giving you enough time to have lunch, I think that’s fine. But it will be a very busy day!

  3. Hi Allison – thanks for the insights. My wife and 3 teen daughters will be taking the express train from Civitavecchia Port (cruise) to Ostiense, then headed to Colosseum. Is my best bet to cab from Ostiense and do self guided skip the line tix? Trying to save time since we have to be back at the port by 7pm..Plan to do Colosseum, Forum, Palatine, Pantheon, Trevi, Spanish steps plus lunch/early dinner. Any ideas would be great thanks –

    1. Hi Alan, it’s a little tricky for me to say because I’ve never done Rome as a cruise stop, I’ve always stayed in the city. It really seems like a lot to fit into a day, and I don’t know how much a cab would help matters, so I would personally try to arrange a tour guide for the day with your cruise company so you don’t risk missing your return to the port. Sorry I can’t be of more assistance!

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