Planning a visit to the Colosseum and not sure what to do and see? There certainly is no shortage of attractions in the area which can be intimidating. The good news is that we’re here to help you map out the greatest attractions so you can decide what is right for you!
Pro Tip: This “cluster” of articles is what we refer to as a mega-resource for Rome. It contains 100s of cool things to do in Rome near each attraction. Definitely, something you should consider bookmarking in your browser. Also, check out our small group Rome tours – we’re rated one of the best if not the best Rome tour provider in the Eternal City.
12 Things to Do and See near the Colosseum in Rome
After you finish with the things to do and see near the Colosseum, use the toggle menu below to check out another of Rome’s most famous attractions.
12. The Palatine Hill
This is one of my favorite sites to visit. The archeological complex is so big, you can find yourself alone amongst the trees and magnificent ruins. If you have a few hours to spare while in Rome, I highly recommend you make your way up the hill.
This is one of the 7 ” founding” hills of Rome. Actually it is the first hill according to the legend of how Rome was founded. According to the story, Romulus and Remus were found by a shepherd at the base of the Palatine hill. Ironically it is also where Romulus supposedly killed Remus.
Republican & Empire
During the Republican era of the Roman Empire, this is where some of the highest statesmen had their homes. One of the more famous ones was Cicero himself. This was due in part to the location. The Palatine hill overlooks the Roman Forum which was downtown rome back in the day. Therefore this area would have been prime real estate.
With the arrival of the empire, the situation on the Palatine Hill drastically changed. The first emperor Augustus had a small, humble abode on these hills, as did Tiberius and Caligula. Contrast those homes with that of the emperor Domitian less than 50 years later and the results are shocking.
Domitian decided to build a massive palace which basically took up the entire hill. Imagine your palace was so big, it took up an entire hill?
Today you can visit the palace area and also the private arena of that palace. The main areas of interest to visit up here are the following:
- Circus Maximus Balcony
- Casa di Livia
- Claudian Aqueduct
- The First settlements
- Balcony overlooking the Roman Forum
To get a more in depth read about the Palatine, read Top 31 Things To See At The Colosseum, Roman Forum, And Palatine Hill
11. St. Peter’s in Chains
St. Peters in chains is a small church about a 7 minute walk from the Colosseum. From the outside it is very unassuming, but as you walk in you will realize that you found a hidden gem.
According to a story in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, arises the famous phrase- Domine Quo Vadis. In Latin, this means ” Lord where are you going”? In this story, St. Peter was a prisoner in the city of Rome and an angel comes and liberates him by breaking his chains. These chains can now be found in the church, St. Peters in chains, and can be viewed openly.
This church is also quite famous due to an amazing statue by Michelangelo. It is the statue of Moses and was to be a part of a gigantic tomb for Pope Julius II ( Pontiff 1503-1513). Originally, the pope commissioned Michelangelo to carve 100 statues for his tomb. This work would have taken Michelangelo his entire life and I have to think that Michelangelo was happy since his true passion was to sculpt.
So what happened? As the story goes, Bramante who was upset with Michelangelo for a previous slight suggested to the Pope that Michelangelo should paint the ceiling even though he was a sculptor and not a painter. Julius agreed and pretty much against Michelangelo’s will, he signed the contract to paint the ceiling.
Ironically, Michelangelo was not happy about the commission and supposedly even tried to run away from Rome! .The original design was to be the twelve apostles, but after Michelangelo objected, Julius put the design in the Master’s hands and the rest is history.
In the end, the only statue that was done for the tomb was the Moses and I have to say that it is one of the most beautiful statues I have every seen.
10. Basilica San Clemente
I have to say that this is one of the most fascinating churches that you will ever visit. The simple fact is that you are able to visit 3 different levels from 3 different eras starting from the 12th century and working your way back to the 1st century!
The 12th Century
As you enter the church, you will truly get a feeling for what a church was like in the middle ages in Rome. You will find gold leaf richly decorating the ceiling. An eclectic mix of marble and granite columns surround you as you work your way inside. The columns are not uniform, because during the Middle Ages laborers would grab anything they could from various pagan temples and erect them- Beggars can’t be choosers.
If you are a true history nerd then you will appreciate the Schola Cantorum ( choir) that is in the middle of the church. This was an area blocked off right in the middle of the church where the monks would sing. While a staple of Medieval churches, at my current count, there are only three churches left in Rome with these so it is a true treat!
The 8th Century
After viewing this church from the 12th century, you head underground to visit the previous church which was on the same spot and was from the 8th century. At this point, you are looking at an early middle ages church. It is at this time when many of the church’s traditions and rituals took effect, especially in the artistic form. For example, it is at this time, when Jesus started to be portrayed with long hair, a beard, and a sorrowful look on his face ( Paleo-Christian depictions which much different, but that’s for another article).
The 1st Century
As if that wasn’t exciting enough to see, you can go down another level and at this point ( 60ft) below ground. At this point, you have been transported to 1st century Rome. You will see various rooms of what was believed to be a warehouse. Although the most exciting area to view is the Mithraeum. This was a temple dedicated to the god Mithras which was a type of sun god originating in Persia. The worshipping of Mithras was very popular with Roman soldiers who imported the deity back to Rome.
After visiting the church you will understand why people have given it the nickname- The Lasagna Church!
9. The Arch of Constantine
Flavius Valerius Constantinus or Constantine the Great to most of us was the first Christian Emperor of Rome. A triumphant arch was built and dedicated to him for his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. It is an epic arch right in front of the Colosseum.
The arch sits in Piazza del Colosseo adjacent to the massive amphitheater. The arch took about two years to construct which is record speed. The architect took some creative liberties by borrowing some of the statues from other nearby arches, temples, and structures to adorn to Constantine’s arch.
It is the largest Roman arch and 1 of 3 arches remaining in Rome. There were 36 triumphant arches by the 4th century AD, three of which have survived.
8. Domus Aurea
Domus Aurea translates to the House of Gold and was a great sprawling palace built by Emperor Nero. He built it across the area affected by the great fire of 64 AD which burnt down the valley between the Palatine, Esquiline, and Caelian Hills.
This is why Nero was famously blamed for causing the fire. Historians speculate his golden compound was between 100 and 300 acres in the center of Rome. Much of the compound was dismantled after Nero’s death by one Emperor after another. Vespasian most famously removed a massive lake Nero had built to construct the Colosseum.
To get an idea of its opulence you first have to understand that he built an artificial lake in the area where today you would find the Colosseum. Around that lake was a portico of marble columns a mile long. This was a level of opulence and power without limits.
7. Mamertine Prison
Just outside the northern facing exit of the Forum, you’ll find the Mamertine Prison. It is not actually inside the structure so make sure you are ready to leave as you won’t be allowed reentry. The prison was said to have been built as early as the 7th century BC and originally was referred to as the Tullianum.
According to Christian Dogma, St. Peter was imprisoned here prior to his execution on the cross upside down. The prison was not intended for long-term incarceration, but merely a place to be held prior to a trial and eventually execution. It was close to the Forum and Capitoline Hill which made it accessible.
Peter was not the only prisoner of mention to be held here. Jugurtha, king of Numidia was held in the Mamertine Prison for a short stay and possibly died inside. Vercingetorix, a chieftain from Gaul and nemesis of Julius Caesar who attempted to unite Gaul against the Romans, but didn’t get far also died here.
Most generals and high-profile leaders were pardoned after the war with the Romans which was part of their process of getting nations to capitulate. There were some cases of extreme hatred where Romans would be more demeaning to high-ranking opponents. The Mamertine prison was a foul enough place to seek that revenge. Also, if you wanted to display your human-spoils of war, the Palatine Hill was a short walk away.
6. Teatro Marcello
Many people mistake this structure for the Colosseum when they first visit Rome. It does look similar! But actually, they built this theater BEFORE the Colosseum. However, unlike the Colosseum, you can only visit the outside of this cool ancient theater.
Once being able to hold up to 20,000 spectators, the main entertainment was theater and dramatics. To this day, if you happen to be here in the summertime, you could attend a classical music concert outside. What better way to listen to music than by dreamily staring up at a 2,000-year-old monument as you listen to Beethoven?
The Orsini’s, a noble Italian Family, currently own the theater. One of the oldest bloodlines in Rome, this family actually has rights to and lives INSIDE a property older than the Colosseum!
5. The Base of the Colossal Statue of Nero
Right across from the Colosseum metro station and in front of the Colosseum is the base of the Colossal Statue of Nero. It isn’t much to look at today, but an important element to pass by on your way in. You’ll see a plaque reading “Area Del Basamento del Colosseo di Nerone.”
The Colossal Statue of Nero was a massive structure that measured, including the base, 106.5 Roman feet according to Pliny the Elder. That means about 99 feet (30.3m) in today’s measurements. It was built in the likeness of Nero, at least his face, until after his death when it was modified to the likeness of the sun god Sol.
You have to imagine that this statue was almost the size of the Statue of Liberty; only 10 or so feet shorter. Built and constructed without any of the machinery our Lady Liberty had during the late industrial revolution.
A great example is that the statue was moved after Nero’s death to right outside the Colosseum and ancient writers said it took some 40 elephants to transport the structure. The last mention of it in history was in the late 4th century before it vanished in thin air. Today, all we have is a portion of the base with trees growing out of it. A great place to take a load off and enjoy the shade.
4. Ludus Magnus
Just across from the Colosseum on Via di San Giovanni in Laterano are the remains of the Ludus Magnus which was the closest and greatest gladiator training school in the empire. It has many cells for slaves and even an underground tunnel directly connected to the Colosseum.
The Ludus was built by Emperor Domitian. The Colosseum was built between 72 AD to 82 AD, with a soft opening in 80 AD. Just after it was finished they must have realized there were some supply chain issues with great fighters so Domitian decided to take it upon himself.
The school underwent renovations and improvements but it was more or less used for over 200 years. Gladiators came from across the empire to train, as free persons or slaves, and the Ludus Magnus was the Harvard of gladiator schools.
The word ludi could be used to refer to the games and training all the same. Once you entered a Ludus, your primary skillset would be chosen and you’d be trained by a lanista. The word gladiator was one specific type of fighter that fought with a short sword known as the gladius. This was popularized by the movie Gladiator with Russel Crow which is possibly the best movie ever produced.
3. The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was downtown Rome 2,000 years ago. Originally, it was a market and was transformed little by little into a space full of temples, administrative buildings, and Basilicas ( courthouses, not churches).rum
As the legend goes, this swampy area was once a neutral no-mans-land for the various tribes who lived on the surrounding hills. When they would want to meet, they would go into the forum and discuss serious matters. Today, we also go into forums to discuss things, so we owe this word, as well as many others, to the Ancient Romans.
Daily Life and Special Occasions
Imagine if you were a Senator in Ancient Rome. A large part of your day would have spent in the Forum. In the morning you would arrive in the Forum and meet with some friends to discuss matters of the day. After you would head to the Senate house to go over government matters of the day. After that, you would head over one of the Basilicas to listen to some court cases happening. Finally, you would go to a temple to pray, before heading home.
Another important function of the Forum were the triumphal arches inside. When Romans won a military victory, they loved to show it off with massive military parades. These huge processions would wind their way around the city and also go under massive triumphal arches. In the beginning these would have been made of wood, but over time would replaced with ones in stone.
While you could easily spend a few hours in the Roman Forum, I will name off below some of the top sites to see while here. If you would like more in-depth descriptions than read the article Top 31 Things To See At The Colosseum, Roman Forum, And Palatine Hill. The main highlights are:
- Arch of Titus
- Basilica of Constantine
- The Temple of Romulus
- Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
- Temple of the Vestas & Eternal Flame of Rome
- The Temple of Julius Caesar
- The Curia (Senate House)
- Arch of Septimius Severus
- Temple of Saturn
2.The Arena Floor of the Colosseum
Personally this is one of my favorite parts of the Colosseum. Imagine being able to walk in the same area where brutal animals and crazy gladiators walked 2,000 years ago? When you go on the Arena floor, not only is it a once in a lifetime experience, but you can truly size up how big the Colosseum is when you are in the middle of it.
The arena floor is one of the exclusive access areas that the Colosseum offers. It is quite difficult to get tickets for this, but luckily you can come with us! We offer a 2.5-hour tour that includes exclusive access to the Arena floor and also the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
When you are out in the middle of the Arena floor you get a 360-degree view of the enormity and power of Ancient Rome. Imagine if you were just a farmer who was made a slave by the Romans. Then for some punishment, you were sent into the Arena to be destroyed by ferocious animals. The last thing you would hear were the thunderous screams of more than 50,000 people.
1.The Underground ( Dungeons) of the Colosseum
Yes, underneath the Colosseum there is a complex labyrinth of tunnels that were used by Gladiators and event organizers. This is by far the most popular subject that visitors want to hear about and that extends even before they opened the area for floors.
It is really one of the defining features of the Colosseum. What other stadium or arena has trap doors that allow fighters or animals to elevate or pop out of? The underground or hypogeum was a very complex area. As stated. above, as many as 36 trap doors and areas to store an entire show’s worth of entertainment.
It is without a doubt the most exclusive area of the Colosseum. General admission won’t get you there, but we have a Colosseum Underground tour that takes you there.