The difference between the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill

For someone unfamiliar with Rome, trying to work out the difference between the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palatine Hill can be confusing. Below is a brief overview of each one to help you understand the difference between these three iconic sights of Rome. We’ll explain how ticketing works for each, and also tell you how to find our favorite little ‘hidden gem’ Roman museum!

difference between colosseum forum and palatine hill

The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill are adjacent to each other. The Forum and Palatine Hill are in one enclosure, and the Colosseum is a few yards away within its own fence. 

Insider tip: if you’re just going to pay for ONE guided tour while you’re in Rome, make it for the Forum and Palatine Hill. There’s just so much to see, a lot of it in ruins, so an expert guide brings it alive for visitors.

Visiting the Colosseum

This world-famous icon is an ancient amphitheater dating from AD 70 and is the iconic, unmissable sight of Rome. Official tickets to the Colosseum are surprisingly cheap, but difficult to get hold of due to management issues and time restrictions, which is why we offer last minute tickets.

The difference between the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum

What ticket do I need to buy for the Colosseum?

Many visitors to Rome aren’t aware that the ticket to the Colosseum also gets them into the Forum and the Palatine Hill! Your Colosseum ticket is validated at the time of your first entry into either the Colosseum or the Forum, and then you have 24 hours to enter the other site.

You get one visit to each site on that ticket, to be taken in a one-day period. Theoretically you can do this in either order; however, since March 2019 all visits to the Colosseum have required a time slot to be booked in advance, and the ticket is only valid for one entrance per site. So if you enter the Forum beforehand, do be aware that you must still observe the time booked for your Colosseum visit, and it must be within 24 hours of your first validation of the ticket. Here are all your ticketing options for visiting the Colosseum >

You can also get a great view and walk all round the Colosseum even without a ticket – and combine this with a Forum-only ticket so that you can still get the flavor of the ancient city.

The Roman Forum

The Foro Romano (Roman Forum) is located just to the west of the Colosseum and is the truly ancient city of Rome – the very place where history took place, with processions, criminal trials, elections, and intrigue all happening here. It was the site of the original Senate, and where Caesar’s body was brought following his assassination. The ruins of some of Rome’s most important ancient structures can be found at or near the Forum.

The difference between the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine Hill

What ticket do I need for the Forum?

The ticket you purchase to visit the Colosseum will also grant you access to the Forum. If you don’t have time to visit the Forum on the same day as your Colosseum visit, your ticket will remain valid for 24 hours. You can of course visit the Forum first before going to the Colosseum but remember you still have to honor the time-slot you booked to visit the Colosseum so don’t ‘activate’ your ticket by entering the Forum more than 24 hours before your Colosseum time slot.

While you must visit the Colosseum on the time and day you booked, you can enter the Forum at any time during its opening hours (8:30 am–7:15 pm, last entry at 6.15 pm). Allow a minimum of one and a half hours to visit the Forum, and an extra hour for the Palatine Hill. There’s nowhere to buy food in the Forum, but fresh cold water is available from drinking fountains.

There is considerable domand for Colosseum tickets and many people are being disappointed – but there is hope. Tickets for the Forum Romanum only are available too, which allow you to see the wonders of ancient Rome without fighting for a Colosseum ticket. Buy Forum-only tickets >

Hidden gem: easily overlooked, the Temple of Romulus still has its original huge bronze Roman doors in place – and the lock still works!

Insider tip: you will find much shorter lines at the Forum entrance marked “Entrance 2” on the map above.

The Palatine Hill

The flat-topped Palatine Hill that rises above the Forum is where the emperors built their palaces (and indeed “Palatine” is the source of the word “palace”. Contrary to the beliefs of some visitors to Rome, it is not the “Palantine Hill”, and it’s definitely not the “Palpatine Hill”!)

To visit this incredible place there is a path from the eastern end of the Forum that leads up to the plateau on which Augustus Caesar built his first palace, and that the Emperor Domitian subsequently grew into a truly vast complex containing swimming pools, saunas and fountains, a gym, and even a sports stadium. In fact he extended his palace all the way to the other edge of the hill so that he could watch the chariot racing in Circus Maximus – immortalized in the action sequences of the movie Ben Hur – without having to mingle with the hoi polloi.

The Palatine Hill, part of the Forum complex - Rome Vacation Tips

Up here you will find all sorts of delights: stunning views over the city, the city villa of Livia – wife of Augustus – the tunnels used by palace servants to rush banquets to wherever the emperor chose to eat that day, and some of the oldest, pre-Roman dwellings in the city. While on top, don’t miss a visit to a true hidden gem: the wonderful and tiny Palatine Museum, once a baroque palazzo, set in Renaissance gardens that occupy the central area of the hill. Escape the heat, view relics retrieved from the hill, and enjoy a cool sit-down in air conditioning as you watch an audio-visual display of the evolution of the Palatine.

What ticket do I need for the Palatine Hill?

The Palatine Hill is inside the huge complex of the Forum. Since your ticket will only allow you one entrance to the Forum, you should ensure you visit the Palatine Hill at the same time as you visit the Forum. Allow an hour for your visit to the hill.

Now make sure you don’t miss out: plan your visit in advance:

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Photo credit: AFP

Tickets in advance!

Because of ticket supply problems following the end of Covid restrictions, it is strongly advised that you buy tickets and tours in advance to visit attractions in Rome.

Buy your tickets now to avoid disappointment.