Essential advice for the Eternal City

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

The difference between the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the 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!

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. 

The Colosseum

This world-famous icon is an ancient amphitheater dating from AD 70 and the unmissable sight of Rome. Official tickets to the Colosseum are surprisingly cheap, but difficult to get hold of due to 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 two days to enter the other site. You get one visit to each site on that ticket, to be taken in a two-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 two days of your first validation of the ticket. Here are all your ticketing options for visiting the Colosseum >

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 two days. 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. By contrast you can enter the Forum at any time during its opening hours (8:30 am–7:15 pm, but last entry is 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.

Hidden gem: 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.

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 nor is it 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 eventually Emperor Domitian grew it into a truly vast building containing swimming pools, saunas and fountains, and even a sports stadium. In fact he extended it all the way to the other edge of the hill to overlook the Circus Maximus, where he could watch the chariot races now immortalized in the action sequences of the movie Ben Hur without having to mingle with the hoi polloi.

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

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.

Insider tip if you’re 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 ruined, so an expert guide brings it alive for visitors. 

Book an early bird tour of the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill >

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Fast-track tickets for the Colosseum and Forum

Skip the lines at the Colosseum to walk straight into the amphitheater and arena and Forum!​