All you need to know to visit the Colosseum underground and top tier: best tickets + why we believe this is the best way to experience the Roman Colosseum.
I have visited the Colosseum many times and the best tour I have ever taken is the one that led me to visit the main arena, but also the Colosseum underground level and top tier.
The option of visiting these areas only became available a few years ago and it was a fantastic addition to the Colosseum tour offering.
The guided tour of the underground level allows you to understand the workings and actual life of the amphitheater, making the whole theater come to life, and the climb up to the top ring will bring you to one of the most beautiful viewing spots in the whole of Rome.
In 2021, an even bigger underground area of the Colosseum opened to the public and allows for a truly comprehensive visit of the lower parts of the theater.
Need to know for 2022/23: due to current restrictions, the top tier of the Colosseum is closed and tours lead you to the second ring instead of the third. The view is nonetheless wonderful but please check what exactly is included in your tour of choice to avoid disappointment.
This is all you need to know to buy tickets for a tour of the Colosseum underground area and top tier, and why we believe this is the best way to enjoy and visit the Colosseum.
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission.
How to buy tickets for the Colosseum underground area and top tier
Access to the underground and top tier of the Colosseum is by guided tour only. Several provider offer ticket options.
Please note: in 2022/23, the highest tier accessible is the second ring.
Need to know: the Colosseum booking system operates with a color-coded canelendar:
Green dates = available
Red dates = sold out
Grey dates = not for sale yet
If you are trying to book for a date a few weeks ahead and your dates is greyed out, chances are you are just too early to make a booking. I recommend you bookmark the page and go back regularly for updates.
The Colosseum puts tickets out for sale 1 month in advance then periodically adds tickets as late as 1 week in advance.It is worth keeping an eye on the site for changes, should you not find the date you need.
Best budget-friendly Colosseum tour
Parco Colosseo – this is the official Colosseum ticket concession and the cheapest way to get a guided tour of the Colosseum.
This tour includes the underground area, arena level and second floor, where you also find a well laid out exhibition about the history of the Colosseum.
There are two types of tours you can choose from: ‘accompanied’ and ‘educational’.
The ‘accompanied tour’ is the cheapest.
If you book this tour, you will be greeted by a member of staff who will show you how to operate the free app that will be your audio guide for the tour.
They will also walk with you during the visit but they will not provide explanations on what you are seeing: this is not a guided tour (yes, the name is indeed confusing, to say the least!).
The ‘educational tour is a guided tour and you get an in person guide who will guide you and give explanations on what you are seeing. This is a standard guided tour and, I believe, the best value.
The tours are led by experienced guides, are offered in several languages and are excellent.
I am a Roman history graduate and pretty fussy about my guides, and I could not fault them.
The tours start from the back entrance of the Colosseum, operate on a time slot system and must be booked in advance, which means there is not queuing, aside from the short delay for security checks (you will need to open your bags for checks, its only takes a minute)
The tour is suitable for most visitors including families with kids. You can buy tickets here.
Other Colosseum underground and top tier tours
Some reliable private companies also offer tickets to the underground area of the Colosseum, often in conjunction with a guided tour of the Forum and Palatine Hill, which the tour above does not include.
Tours I recommend are:
Express Colosseum Tour with underground and arena by LivTours: this is an excellent, small group tour with just the right duration to see the best of the Colosseum without getting exhausted and still have time to visit the Forum.
This tour by The Tour Guy includes the Colosseum Underground Area, arena and a tour of the Roman Forum too.
Need to know: all tour providers must get tickets from the official concession and must provide the exact names of the tour participants at the time of booking. Because of constraints put on the reseals of tickets, this can usually only be confirmed one month before your visit – make sure you get clear info from your provider on the booking mechanism and what they can offer you. The two providers above are reliable and, in my experience, the most skilled at securing tickets in this convoluted system (it is not their fault; the ticketing rules depends on the Colosseum management).
What to expect on a tour of the Colosseum with underground and top tier access in 2022/23
The last two times I visited the Colosseum with this option was via the Parco Colosseo website, managed by the amphitheater official ticket concession Coopculture. .
I booked the tickets online, selected my time slot and, on the day, easily found the small group and my guide, following the good instructions on the booking confirmation.
I found the tours excellent, especially those with an actual live guide.
This is what to expect on a Colosseum full experience tour.
Stop 1 – Colosseum underground area
The first stop of this tour leads you to the underground area, the one I believe is the most interesting of all.
Access to the Underground area of the Colosseum is via ramps or lift/elevator, and poses no difficulties.
As you arrive at the main Colosseum entrance, you are shown the meeting point relevant to your tour and you are met by your guide/staff member through the entrance leading you to the lower area of the Colosseum first.
Soon, you find yourself in the belly of the theater and what you see is simply wonderful.
Here, you can appreciate how massive the structure really is, you can see the inner workings of the theater including how the sewage would have worked and you will see where the animals and gladiators would have gotten ready to perform.
The highlight of this part of the tour is likely to be the animal lift.
This is a modern replica of the real thing but it is just how it would have been in ancient times.
The lift/elevator was manually operated and would have been the machine that allowed theater props and wild animals to reach the arena.
If you consider wild animals including exotic beasts as big as tigers and elephants, you can see how this is a machine not to be missed!
Until summer 2021, only part of the underground area was open to visitors but now, you have access to all the tunnels the gladiators, animals and Colosseum workers used before and during the shows.
It is an incredible vantage point!
The underground area of the Colosseum is cooler than the arena as it is in the shade however, it is not claustrophobic.
You do not find yourself in small tunnels and there is a lot of air and natural light coming in, meaning this area is suitable also for people who don’t love enclosed spaces and kids.
Stop two – visit to the Colosseum arena area
After the underground area, your guide/leader leads you to the main arena area.
The arena floor was the stage and where gladiators and animals would have fought and it is a great vantage point to see how the Colosseum amphitheater was conceived.
From here, you can see all the seating, so numerous and high you’d struggle to take in its size, and your guide will use this time to explain where the Emperor would have sat and where you could have has the women, the senators are the slaves.
In this part of the visit, you learn most of your fun facts about the Colosseum and Roman society in general.
From here, you can also peek down to the underground area and what used to be under the stage, the tunnels you have just walked in the first part of the tour!
Good to know: the sun is very strong in this part of the Colosseum so if you are visiting in summer, make sure you have a sunhat and sunscreen.
From here, you also have access to the steps leading you to the second tier, above the arena.
This floor is scenic, as if offers beautiful views both onto the inside and the outside of the theater and it is also home to a nicely laid out exhibition about the history of the Colosseum.
The exhibition has an interesting reconstruction of the Colosseum as it used to be and interesting artifacts that tell us the story of the (many) uses the Colosseum went through during the course of the centuries.
Stop 3 – the Colosseum upper tier (closed in 2022/23)
The third and final stop of the Colosseum underground and upper tier tour is the top ring of the Colosseum.
This is the most scenic part of the Colosseum and one I believe should not be missed.
Access is via a series of steps, so this part of the Colosseum is a little harder to reach if you have mobility issues or are visiting the Colosseum with kids and it is not accessible via ramps – please do take this into account if mobility is an issue.
At the top of the stairs, you find wonderful viewing terraces overlooking both inside and outside the Colosseum and your guide will make the most of the opportunity to point at Rome landmarks you can spot from here, including the San Giovanni’s Basilica and the Temple of Venus.
In terms of visual impact, this is by far the most beautiful part of the Colosseum.
The area is pretty high up so you may not be happy here if you have a fear of heights, however, there are several areas that are not exposed so I feel unless you are severely acrophobic, you will be able to enjoy it!
What to pack for visiting the Colosseum top tier and underground area
You don’t need special equipment or attire for this visit however, I recommend you:
- wear comfortable shoes with rubber sole, to help you stay safe on uneven surfaces and steps
- leave home bulky bags, which can cause delays and problems at security checks
- bring a sun hat and sunscreen if visiting in the height of summer
Visiting the Colosseum top floor and underground area with kids
The underground of the Colosseum is fantastic for kids, who are sure to love the lift and the stories about the wild animals.
The main arena area and underground tier are stroller accessible while the top tier is not.
I recommend you bring a carrier for the day or a compact stroller you can carry on your shoulder up the (short) flight of stairs up to the top tier.
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of why and how to visit the Colosseum underground and top tier level, and why we believe it is the best way to visit the Colosseum. Safe planning!
A visit to the Colosseum is on our top ten of the best things to do in Rome.