As the most enduring symbol of the Roman Empire and one of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Colosseum receives more than 6 million visitors per year, so it’s not easy to escape the crowds. A visit is worth it, though, if you want to see the world’s largest amphitheater – once known as the Flavian Amphitheater – and try to imagine what it would have been like 2,000 years ago.
A standard ticket to the Colosseum also includes access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, so many (but not all) tours also include those ancient sites. Inside the ancient complex, there is very little signage explaining what you’re looking at. A good guide will not only get you skip-the-line access but also bring these incredible places to life. Keep in mind that most Colosseum tours only give you access to the arena floor and upper level. If you want to visit the underground hypogeum, you need to make sure it’s included in the tour.
Crown Tours: Skip the line Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum tour
Price: From $57 for adults
Standout perk: Engaging guides speak several languages.
Selected by GetYourGuide as a Certified Experience, this group tour starts at the Colosseum, then takes you to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Groups consist of up to 30 people, and tourgoers are given headsets so they can better hear and follow the guide. The tour meets at Largo Gaetana Agnesi on the hill overlooking the Colosseum about 30 minutes before the official entry time to get everyone checked in and set up with headsets. The guide then leads participants into the Colosseum and up to the second level, where there’s a chance to stop and take photos. On the way back down, there’s another photo-op at the arena level before the guide leads the group over to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.
Crown Tours also offers guided tours of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Borghese Gallery, Pantheon and other sites.
Local tip: This tour is offered over a variety of time slots every day. Pick one of the earlier time slots to make sure you’ll finish up by lunchtime.
Through Eternity Tours: Ultimate Colosseum Tour with Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Price: From $85 for adults
Standout perk: This tour includes the Palatine Hill, which some tours skip.
Recent visitors praise the knowledgeable guides for their passion about ancient history and keeping the tour moving while explaining everything in detail. This tour starts at 9:30 a.m. seven days a week and finishes up around lunchtime. In addition to the Colosseum, highlights include the Via Sacra and the House of the Vestal Virgins in the Roman Forum, as well as the Farnese Gardens on the Palatine Hill.
Groups are limited to 16 people; if there are six or more people taking the tour, the guide gives out headsets so everyone can hear. Participants are asked to meet 10 minutes before the start time in front of Cafe/Restaurant Angelino ai Fori on Largo Corrado Ricci. The tour is stroller-accessible, but not wheelchair-accessible. Participants should wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle, especially on hot days.
Local tip: Book a table at the nearby Taverna dei Fori Imperiali to enjoy a leisurely lunch after the tour.
The Moon Over the Colosseum Tour
Standout perk: You get after-hours access to the Colosseum and hypogeum.
This seasonal tour offers a completely different perspective on the Colosseum, when it’s illuminated and the last of the visitors have left for the day. The official night tour offered by the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo focuses on the underground level, where the guide shows participants where the animals were caged and how they were lifted up onto the stage on proto-elevators made of wooden platforms. The tour group then ascends the stairs and sees a multimedia installation depicting Jerusalem before passing through the service gallery and ending on the arena level. The tour offers a rare opportunity to see the Colosseum without the crowds, but the tradeoff is that photos may not come out as well at night.
Participants on the tour arrive at the Valadier Gate, meet the guide and go through security. This tour does not include the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill. The tour hours change by season, and dates for the spring 2024 season have not been released yet as of the time of publication.
Local tip: There are a bunch of companies offering this tour for triple the price of the official tour, but the official tour is great.
LivTours: The Best of Colosseum & Ancient Rome With Exclusive Arena Access
Price: From $151 for adults
Standout perk: Virtual reality headsets show what the ancient sites would have looked like.
Recent tourgoers praise the guides on this tour for bringing the facts and stories about ancient Rome to life. These semiprivate tours are guaranteed to have no more than six people, making them a more personalized experience than other group tours. However, because the tours are small, the guides don’t use headsets, and some participants note that it can be difficult to hear the guide over the noise in the Colosseum.
Along with the confirmation email, participants receive an invitation to download an app. During the tour, the guide gives everyone a cardboard virtual reality headset that works with the app and shows a reconstruction of the Colosseum and surrounding valley. After visiting the Colosseum, the tour continues to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, where the virtual reality headsets show you a reconstruction of the Circus Maximus and the structures in the Roman Forum. At all the sites, you get skip-the-line access.
Local tip: You can get some great photos from the upper level, especially if you stand at the apex of the oval.
ArcheoRunning: The Unveiled Colosseum Running Tour (or Walking Tour)
(Courtesy of ArcheoRunning)
Price: $218 for private groups of up to 6 people + the cost of tickets
Standout perk: You get access to the third level and attic.
This private tour is led by Isabella Calidonna, a licensed tour guide and certified personal trainer. Through her company ArcheoRunning, she leads visitors on running and walking tours of Rome early in the morning to see the city without the crowds. For this tour, Calidonna meets guests at their hotel at 7:30 a.m. and leads them on a running tour through the Eternal City’s most beautiful squares before bringing them to the Colosseum, where they have the chance to visit the third level and the attic – areas normally closed to the public – as well as the lower levels of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. This tour must be booked at least a month in advance in order to confirm 8:30 a.m. access to the Colosseum.
AR Experience, an offshoot of ArcheoRunning, also offers tours of the underground at 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., as well as more relaxed three-hour tours that are also suitable for children and people with mobility problems.
Local tip: You can’t run inside the Colosseum, but running around it is a great way to take it in while getting some exercise.
Roma Experience: Private Colosseum Tour With Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
(Courtesy of Roma Experience)
Price: From $520 for two people
Standout perk: See these ancient sites with an archaeologist who dug at the Roman Forum.
For a deeper understanding (no pun intended) of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, a tour with Elisa Valeria Bove, CEO of Roma Experience, is one of the best you can buy. She studied archaeology and has been involved in excavations at the Roman Forum and other sites, so she’s just the person to guide you if you want to get beyond the surface level. Her private tours range from just under three hours for a skip-the-line Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill tour to the full-day “See Rome in One Day” tour, which also includes a guided visit of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Be sure to specify if you want to visit the hypogeum when you book.
Roma Experience organizes bespoke private tours throughout Italy, including multiday itineraries. Bove will work with you to customize your experience and bring you to places you wouldn’t think to visit, like Quintili’s Villa on the ancient Appian Way.
Local tip: If you want to see another incredible archaeological park, let Bove take you to Ostia Antica, less than an hour from Rome.
Imago Artis Travel: Timeless Tales of Gods and Laymen of the Ancient Rome
(Courtesy of Imago Artis Travel)
Standout perk: This tour includes the Pantheon in addition to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Founded by three art historians with a passion for Roman art and history, Imago Artis Travel offers bespoke private tours of Rome and beyond. Imago Artis works closely with their clients to craft personalized itineraries that highlight the city’s most incredible monuments and hidden gems. This tour lasts a half-day and includes the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Pantheon, with an optional stop for espresso, but you can customize the itinerary to do a full-day tour or multiday itinerary.
Other itineraries that include the Colosseum bring visitors to the Basilica of San Clemente, known as the “lasagna church” because it was built in layers: The deeper you descend, the further back in time you go. Imago Artis also grants visitors exclusive access to off-limits places, such as a church overlooking the Roman Forum. The company also organizes multiday itineraries throughout Italy.
Local tip: There’s an element of surprise and delight with Imago Artis that’s hard to find elsewhere, especially if your guide is Fulvio De Bonis, one of the company’s founders.
Why Trust U.S. News Travel
Laura Itzkowitz is a Rome-based freelance journalist who thinks about the Roman Empire all the time. She has visited the Colosseum in the morning, in the evening after the crowds have left, on group tours and on private tours. To curate this list of the best Colosseum tours, she used her own experience as well as her research expertise, culling tips from locals and visitors.