If you’re planning a family visit to the monuments of ancient Rome, a trip to the Colosseum is hands-down an opportunity not to be missed. This iconic amphitheater is the one of the world’s most memorable buildings – but you’ll want to make sure your little ones appreciate it just as much as you do!
With the right amount of advanced planning, you’ll avoid complaints of boredom and tired feet, not to mention the dreaded temper tantrums, and instead ensure that the Colosseum becomes a highlight of your children’s vacation.
When considering how to visit the Colosseum with kids, preparation goes a long way – both for you and the children. This includes familiarizing the kids with this important monument beforehand and arming yourself with information on the best way to get tickets, which parts of the Colosseum to add to your itinerary, what essentials to pack, and the best time of day for visiting the Colosseum with kids in tow.
Our advice for how to visit the Colosseum with children will ensure you get the most out of the trip and that your children experience this must-see Roman monument in a way they’ll remember for years to come. Follow the tips below and your kids will thank you for an unforgettable encounter with Roman history and memories for years to come!
1.Prepare the kids for the visit
Watch movies/cartoons about the Colosseum
Before you even leave home, get their brains working by bringing the Roman Colosseum to life. Sit down as a family and watch a selection of movies and cartoons about the Colosseum, including such titles as the 2012 animated feature Gladiators of Rome and the 1985 film Asterix and Caesar, with exciting scenes from the Colosseum from 55 minutes in.
Don’t forget to check You Tube for a number of Horrible Histories videos about the Colosseum, including Gladiators versus Animals and Colosseum Training, as well as the always fascinating TED-Ed channel and the short film, A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome.
Using stories and movies that familiarize the kids with the Colosseum in advance of their visit will make the experience so much more meaningful!
Visit the Gladiator School
Once you’re in Rome, and you know that the kids are familiar with who the gladiators were, give them the chance to become one! Book in at Rome’s Gladiator School before you go to the Colosseum and the children can enjoy a gladiator training session, followed by a visit to the Gladiator Museum. This fun activity only takes two hours and is the perfect way to prepare the kids for what will be a hotly anticipated visit to the arena floor of the Colosseum.
Take in a Gladiator Show
Take the kids to a Gladiator Show on an evening prior to your trip to the Colosseum, and let them enjoy a spectacle of music, lights, special effects, and gladiator fights that incorporate real weapons and Roman armor. The show lasts an hour and a half and is an enjoyable re-enactment of all that took place in ancient times at the Colosseum. When they’re looking over the ruins they’ll be able to conjure up the spectacle in their mind’s eye.
Take part in the multimedia show Travel in Time
This 25-minute video, projected on the internal walls, ceiling, and floors of a large building on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, will bring thousands of years of Roman history to life! This fascinating multimedia experience will take your kids on journey that shows the construction of all of the city’s major monuments, including of course the Colosseum. Make sure you book this interactive experience that’s sure to keep even the shortest attention spans occupied!
2.Book your tickets or tour in advance – and take advantage of reduced prices
How to buy tickets (and reduced price tickets for children)
You can opt to buy tickets on arrival at the Colosseum, but be aware that doing so can result in a wait of 2 or 3 hours, even longer at peak times. We have insider tips for you though: there are a couple of tourist information kiosks near the Colosseum where you can also purchase tickets, rather than at the main ticket office – the Roma Tourist Information booth on Via dei Fori Imperiali (you’ll find it marked on Google Maps) and the Biglietteria Foro Romano, located by the Roman Forum exit.
Now the good news for those traveling with children – visitors under the age of 18 get free entry to the Colosseum, but note they will still need a ticket! If you’re booking online (more on that below), don’t forget to include every member of your party as even those entering for free will need to have a ticket and ID to prove they’re eligible. EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 can avail of discounted entry at €2 per person but this doesn’t apply for visitors from outside the EU. One important thing to remember is that you will need to present your children’s passports before entering the Colosseum, so make sure you pack them – securely – to avoid disappointment.
To avoid spending hours waiting in line, consider skip-the-line tickets for the Colosseum. These can be purchased through the official website or through several other online sites. If using the Colosseum’s own website, be aware that availability is usually quite limited, and you may not be able to choose the exact date and time you want.
For that reason, you may want to buy your tickets from an online reseller instead, or you can purchase the Roma Pass discount card, which will enable you to walk right by the lines. Alternatively, you can buy your tickets at the Palatine Hill or the Roman Forum ticket offices, (your ticket includes access to both of these).
Do bear in mind there is always a short wait at security, advance ticket or not: all visitors must pass through a security check, including metal detector and bag scanner, so expect two lines when you arrive – one to pick up your tickets and one to go through security. To speed things up, try to limit the number of bags you take with you and avoid carrying large items of luggage (for a start, large backpacks and suitcases are banned and there is nowhere you can store them during your visit).
Also during high season, the Colosseum management limits the number of visitors within the monument to reduce overcrowding, so occasionally there are delays as they operate a one-out-one-in policy.
Take a guided tour with Rome4Kids
The best tip of all! Book a fun family driving tour with a specially-trained child-friendly guide, and you’ll avoid the need to wait in line to purchase tickets. You’ll get your own private driver and guide for a special tour that will take in not just the Colosseum, but the Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and many other must-see sites! Tours can take as little as three hours or as much as eight, depending on how much you want to include.
Book a scavenger hunt through ancient Rome
A highlight of any kid’s Roman vacation would surely be an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt that takes in the Colosseum, the Forum, along with Palatine Hill or the Pantheon, in the company of an experienced guide. Although designed with children in mind, this activity is tons of fun for adults too!
3.Go underground at the Colosseum
To see a bit more of this magnificent monument, visit the underground level. This is where all the preparation took place before the gladiator fights (the “backstage” area if you like) and where the caged animals were kept before being released into the arena. Let your mind drift back in time as you imagine the adrenaline the gladiators would have felt, standing on the very spot you find yourself in. This area of the Colosseum is off-limits to regular ticket holders but well worth booking a special tour for.
4.Visit the Roman Forum
Your ticket to the Colosseum also includes access to the Forum so make sure you don’t miss this equally significant Roman landmark! This historic site, home to the ruins of several important government buildings, was once the scene of busy Roman life, including gladiator showdowns, public speeches, and criminal trials. It was also the hub of commercial life in Rome.
5.Tip for families with kids
Leave the large backpacks and suitcases at your hotel, along with the baby stroller. None of these items can be taken into the Colosseum but if you do have a baby in tow, you can use a soft baby carrier instead.
Ensure you have enough water and snacks with you but note that you cannot (officially) eat inside the Colosseum, though snacks for the kids will likely be overlooked. If visiting in summer, don’t forget the sunscreen. You may also want to take an umbrella to ward off the sun’s rays if waiting in line.
6.Frequently asked questions
How long should we spend at the Colosseum?
This is dependent on a number of factors, not least the age and attention span of any little ones in your company. We suggest that one hour is a good time just visiting the Colosseum, and allow another two or three at the Forum and Palatine Hill – or you can book a guided tour which will also include the Forum as well as other sights of Rome and will last a bit longer. For the best experience, we would allow a full half-day to do both. You can of course save time by availing of skip-the-line tickets, not taking too many bags and large items, and generally arriving prepared.
Should we visit the Roman Forum with children?
In a word, yes. The Forum is guaranteed to be unlike anything your children have ever seen and, along with the Colosseum, is the best way for them to imagine how life really was in ancient Rome. With some advance research, and in the company of an informed guide, it’s an experience that will stay with them long after the vacation is over.
How much does it cost?
One entrance to the Forum and Palatine is also covered by your Colosseum ticket. A simple ticket is €16 and a reduced ticket is €2.
How do I get to the Colosseum?
You can take a taxi to the Colosseum or immerse yourself in Roman life and use public transport like a local! Take line B of the Metro (the blue line) from Termini station and get off two stops later at Colosseo station. The Colosseum is also on several of the city’s bus and tram routes but the network can be confusing for visitors and we recommend opting for the metro instead.
What is the best time to visit?
Go early in the morning or just after lunch and you may miss the worst of the crowds, depending on the season. The winter months (excluding the end-of-year holiday period) are the quietest, particularly on weekdays. Note the Colosseum is closed on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Fun facts for kids:
- The Colosseum was built by tens of thousands of slaves, under the direction of Emperor Vespasian.
- It is the largest amphitheater in the world, at 89 meters long and 156 meters wide. At 50 meters high, it’s about the same height as a 12-story building!
- In its heyday as the center of Rome’s entertainment, it had 80 different entrances and could hold up to 50,000 people.
- There was no entry fee to attend any of the events held at the Colosseum. Every citizen of Rome was given a free ticket for life, so everyone could come along and enjoy the spectacle! Some people spent all day there. Sometimes people even built fires on the stone steps to barbecue their food on!
- The Colosseum had a special awning – designed by the Roman navy – that could be opened out to protect spectators from the fierce heat of the Roman sun.
- The trap doors beneath the Colosseum floor hid elevators that were powered by slaves pulling ropes. Some of these were so large that they could produce a fully grown live elephant from beneath the stage in seconds!