To the question "What can't I miss in Rome?" The answer is fairly simple: "the Colosseum and the Vatican". No trip to Rome is complete without a stop at these two iconic landmarks of the city.
1. How to buy a combined ticket for the Colosseum and the Vatican
Both the Colosseum in Rome and the Vatican Museums receive many thousands of visitors every day. To visit any of them you need a ticket and, if you do not want to spend hours in a queue or run the risk of tickets being sold out, it is advisable to book in advance. That's why I recommend you to buy online and in advance this combined ticket for the Colosseum and the Vatican.
With this ticket, you will have the absolute guarantee that you will get to visit two of the main landmarks of the Eternal City without having to stand in line for kilometers under the sun. Plan these two visits in advance and spend the rest of your time walking the streets of Rome, marveling at its statues and buildings, soaking in the essence of history in every corner, and tasting the best pizza and pasta dishes without any rush. It will be worth it.
2. What is included in the combined ticket
The guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill
The Colosseum ticket is a combined ticket that also includes a visit to the Roman Forum, the huge esplanade with the archaeological remains that was once the epicenter of the city's social life, and to the Palatine Hill, the most central of Rome's seven hills and one of the most ancient points of the city. These three points are very close to each other and are included in the tour.
Guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica
When we talk about tickets to the Vatican we are actually referring to the entrance to the Vatican Museums, one of the largest art collections in Europe. The area in which the Vatican City is located has two main points of interest: the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica. The entrance to the basilica is actually free and you do not need a ticket. The joint tour of the Vatican and the Colosseum also includes a visit to the Basilica.
3. Advantages of getting the combined ticket
- Save hours of waiting time (yes, hours, plural) at both sites, since by getting your tickets in advance you can access both landmarks directly.
- Better organization. Particularly I always like to leave room for improvisation when I travel and let myself get carried away by the city I'm visiting. However, every city has its must-see places that are always overcrowded with tourists, and visiting them involves some degree of stress (how to get there, opening times, etc.). That's why making it as easy as possible for yourself when it comes to visiting iconic landmarks or points of interest is a really good idea.
- Access to a specialized guide who will explain fascinating things about the places of interest and to whom you can also ask for local recommendations to make your visit to the city even more authentic.
- Guided tours included: If you decide to purchase the combined ticket for the Colosseum and the Vatican, guided tours of the Forum, the Palatine Hill, the Arch of Constantine, and the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica are also included.
4. About the Colosseum
The Colosseum is the past of Rome, a Rome of greatness, emperors, and gladiators, but also a Rome of its people since it was precisely in this amphitheater where the Roman society gathered to attend the famous gladiator fights and wild animal fights.
Details of interest
- It is the most visited monument in Italy.
- It was built around 72 BC by Emperor Vespasian, who was a professional soldier who later became emperor.
- It owes its name to the statue "Colossus of Nero" in front of the amphitheater.
- Although now only 3,000 people can access it, its stands used to have a capacity of 55,000 spectators. If it were a soccer stadium, its capacity would place it in fifth place among the largest in Italy.
5. About the Vatican
The Vatican, on the other hand, exudes magnificence and ostentation; it is marked by the power of religion. The Catholic Church has its headquarters in the city of Rome (specifically in Vatican City, which is considered a separate state) and it is inevitable to be amazed by its wealth.
You cannot miss the St. Peter's Basilica, its dome, St. Peter's Square, and the Vatican Museums, where you will find the wonderful Sistine Chapel. Here's what you have to see in the Vatican Museums to make the most of your visit:
Details of interest
- All the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel (especially, 'The Creation of Adam' or 'The Last Judgment') by artists such as Michelangelo and Botticelli.
- You can't miss Raphael's paintings such as 'The Transfiguration' (his last painting), 'The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple', 'Parnassus' or 'The School of Athens'.
- Its museums house famous sculptures such as the 'Laooconte and his sons' or the 'Apollo of the Belvedere'.
- In St. Peter's Basilica you will find the famous "Pietà" by Michelangelo.
- The view from the top of the dome, open to the public, is probably one of the best in Rome.
6. Get organized for your joint visit to the Colosseum and the Vatican
The good thing about buying this guided tour with tickets for the Colosseum and the Vatican is that you will barely have to prepare anything; just be at the meeting point at the indicated time and listen to the guide's explanation through the headphones you will be provided with. Even so, here's a couple things that you should know beforehand:
The meeting point
The meeting point may vary depending on the time of the year, but it will be a central location such as Piazza del Risorgimento so you will have no problem getting there either walking if you are staying in the center of Rome (the city is generally quite accessible for walking) or by public transport. In any case, once you book the tour you can ask how to get to the indicated address and they will tell you how to get there without hassle.
Date of entries
When booking tickets for the Colosseum and the Vatican on the joint tour, you must book them for a specific day. If you have any unforeseen circumstances, try to cancel 24 hours in advance for a full refund. The organizers of the tour will be in charge of scheduling the times to visit each of the points of the tour. Keep in mind that the departure time will be early, so no oversleeping on the day of the experience!
Duration of visit
The duration of the visit will be about nine hours in total for both sites. Of those nine hours, between 2 and 3 will be dedicated to the Colosseum and about the same for the Vatican Museums. I'll be honest with you: it's going to be an intense day, but in my opinion, it is much better to do it this way than doing the Colosseum one day and the Vatican on another.
This tour includes headphones with an audio guide available in several languages: English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.
Food is not included so, although you will be given a lunch break, I recommend you to pack some food and a soft drink. You will also find a bunch of street food stalls where you can get something to eat.
Visit the Colosseum and the Vatican with children
If you plan to do this tour with children, keep in mind that they may end up very tired... If they are interested in art there will be no problem because they will have many things to see, but if they are too young better choose another option for your visit to the Colosseum and the Vatican.
7. Practical tips for your visit to the Colosseum and the Vatican
What to wear
If you go in summer, Rome is very hot. Specifically, in the Roman Forum temperatures are high and there is no shade, so you will need to bring water, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
In the Colosseum, there are some shaded areas, but most of it is under direct sunlight. You may be tempted to wear the coolest clothes you own, but then you won't be able to enter the Vatican unless you cover your shoulders and knees. Pro tip: carry a scarf or fowl in your backpack and wear it over your shoulders to enter St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
Wear comfortable shoes, otherwise, the nine hours of the experience can become very long. Although it may seem obvious, do not wear brand new shoes.
Do not carry large backpacks or luggage as you will not be allowed to bring them inside.
Do not separate from the group
Keep track of time during the tour. They're going to wait for you if you're running a little late, but that means not only will you slow down the whole group, but the next tourist attraction you see you'll have less time and you'll have to see it faster. Organized tours are not a time to buy gifts or explore the area at your leisure; you'll have plenty of time for that.
Don't forget to charge cell phone and camera. I'm not saying this because you are going to be looking at your phone; it would be a shame if you did. I tell you this because if you are going to take pictures of the tour (and not taking them will be very difficult) you may run out of battery since you get to see quite a lot of things. Personally, what I do on trips, if I don't have my camera with me or I don't want my cell phone to quickly run out of battery, is to put the phone in airplane mode and use only the camera.
8. Guided tours of the Colosseum and the Vatican
If you're looking for an in-depth visit to the Colosseum and the Vatican, this option may not be the one for you. The time to visit both places will be restricted as the priority will be to see all the points of the tour as comfortably as possible, but not to explore them in detail.
If you are looking for a longer and more detailed guided tour in which each of the wonders you will see will be carefully explained to you, I recommend you to book the Colosseum guided tour or the guided tour of the Vatican Museums, of which I have also written articles that explain their nooks and crannies. Follow these links to check them out: Best Vatican guided tours and Colosseum Tours.
9. Roma Pass and Omnia Card: the tourist card to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican
The best option to make the most of the tourist pass at these attractions is the Roma Pass and Omnia Card, since with it you can choose to enter for free to two tourist attractions that do not necessarily have to be the Colosseum or the Vatican. In addition, with this card, you can use the city public transportation for free so you can use it to go to the meeting point of the tour and return from it at the end of the day.
In any case, my advice is not to get carried away and read carefully about a city pass before investing in it. Here's all the detailed information about Rome Pass and other passes.
10. If you are interested in visiting the Colosseum and the Vatican, you will also be interested in...
With this option, you will see the two great wonders of Rome, but there is so much more to see in the Eternal City. With the peace of mind of having visited the essentials, my advice is to spend the rest of your trip visiting fountains, palaces, and the most important squares of Rome and of course its charming corners, secret spots, and viewpoints.
If, after this tour, you want to keep visiting impressive monuments, do not miss the Pantheon, the Castel Sant'Angelo or churches such as Santa Maria Maggiore or Santa Maria in Trastevere. If, on the other hand, you are most impressed by the Vatican Museums, be sure to visit the Borghese Gallery. You can read more information in my post about Borghese Gardens and Gallery Tours & Tickets.
And if you're looking for a more extensive guided tour of the city, I have also prepared a post about my favorites. Here's everything you need to know about Best Rome Tours.
Frequently asked questions
Can you take pictures in the Sistine Chapel?
You are allowed to take pictures and videos at the museum, but once you enter the chapel you will be instructed to take no photos inside.
What's the dress code for the Sistine Chapel?
The only rule is knees and shoulders covered for both women and men.
When is the best time to visit the Sistine Chapel?
Usually the best time is as early in the morning as you can. Doors open at 9 am and at that time you should beat the crowds and the heat.