St Peter's Basilica - A Practical Guide

An Introduction For Those Planning On Visiting St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica


St Peter's Basilica Rome Official Web Site

St. Peter's was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter's is not a cathedral - that honour in Rome goes to the Basilica of St John Lateran.

For the innocent tourist, you will see the famous dome of St Peter ( designed by Michelangelo, who became chief architect in 1546) from far off, so its a natural landmark to head for.

The Via Della Conciliazione is a wide avenue that runs from the River Tiber and the centre of Rome from St Angelo Fort up to St Peter's Square.

If you arrive by Metro, you are about 5 minutes walk through typical Rome streets until you come into St Peter's Square.

Once you arrive at the square, things start to click. This is the square you've seen on the news, and yes there is the balcony the Pope is seen at.

Once you've got the mandatory photographs, its time to think about visiting. The Vatican Museums where the Sistine Chapel is, is a 5/10 minute walk around the Vatican walls.

If you think the queues in front of you snaking into St Peter's are long, odds are the Vatican Museums are longer and slower moving. So do read our Vatican logistics page and have an informed strategy in place for one of the main reasons you come all this way to Rome.

St Peter's Basilica Rome - Cost Of A Visit

St. Peter's Basilica is open daily, Apr-Sep 7:00-19:00; Oct-Mar 7:00-18:00

There is also good news in that its free to enter the main St. Peter's Basilica, though there are admission fees for a few parts (see below).

If you want more out of your visit than the images caught on your camera you need either a guided tour or an audio guide or good guide book to make sense of what you are seeing. There is very little to explain what you are witnessing.

St Peter's Basilica Rome - Gaining Access & Queue Times

First of all the dress code is strictly enforced at St. Peter's Basilica. No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women.

The queues you join in St Peter's Square are to pass through the airport style scanners and security. Even if you get through security, you will be turned away by the attendants at the door if you are not dressed appropriately.

On a hot day there will be plenty of men in shorts turned away.

Dress code is strictly enforced within the basilica, more so than in the Vatican Museums.

St. Peter's Basilica is open daily, Apr-Sep 7:00-19:00; Oct-Mar 7:00-18:00

Its a good idea to join the queue as early as you can. By 11 a.m. the queue is snaking all around St Peter's Square, if so budget on queueing for about 45 minutes.

The Order Of Sightseeing Options & Facilities

After clearing security in St Peter's Square you have a short walk up to the steps that climb up to St Peter's Basilica and your first decision.

1) Toilets, Left Luggage, Access To The Dome (Cupola)

At the foot of the steps up to the Basilica there is an entrance to a reception area that fulfils several options. There is a left luggage area (free) which includes an area to leave child buggies plus toilets and a gift shop plus rental of audio guides.

You will also find the ticket desk and entrance to access the Dome (Cupola), see below.

St Peter's Basilica Interior
St Peter's Basilica Interior
St Peter's Basilica Interior

St Peter's Basilica Interior

2) Climbing the Cupola (Dome)

When you arrive at St Peter's Square and look up to the Dome you will may think you see people at the top. If you are attracted to the idea of joining them then you have two options, steps all the way or a lift part of the way. Access to the Dome is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m (extended to 6 p.m. April to September.)

Climb all the way (551 steps) by foot or take the lift and then climb the rest on foot (320 steps). The admission charge is of course a couple of euros less than if you take the lift.

Once at the top, you have 360 degree views of St Peter's Square and the city of Rome. Allow about an hour for the experience.

3) The Basiica / Audio Guides

Climbing the steps to the entrance of the Basilica you are rewarded with a view over St Peter's Square and after the obligatory photo you are inside. Through the door and immediately on your right is an information desk that sells audio guides and guided tours in a range of languages.

Once inside, even the most travelled cannot fail to be impressed by the spectacle and riches that confront you. There is nothing to explain what you are seeing.

4) St Peter's Treasury

The entrance to the treasury is signed. The treasury contains church ornaments, statues, papal mitres and various objects, usually gifts of kings or princes and an impressive art collection. No photos allowed. Admission Charge

5) Vatican Grottoes

The vast underground graveyard or crypt beneath St Peter's Basilica is known as the Vatican Grottoes It houses the tombs of scores of popes; others are buried in the Basilica. The tomb of John Paul II is in the grottoes below the floor of the Basilica and its free to enter.

The Vatican Grottoes are open every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. April to September).

Make this your last call after your tour of the basilica, because once you exit the Grottos you will be outside of the Basilica. The narrow entrance stairway down from within the basilica is not the most obvious so if this is important to you ask for guidance at the information desk.

Seeing The Pope

Assuming the Pope is in residence, on Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the window to pray and bless the crowd in St Peter's Square. No ticket is required.

Otherwise, you can attend the Wednesday General Audience held in St Peter's Square, advance tickets required

When the Pope is at his summer residence (July and August), the General Audience is held in the Courtyard in the town of Castelgandolfo.

St Peter's Basilica Fast Track Entry With Audio Guide

Days Of Operation: Not Sundays.

Tour: Audio Guides available in Italian - English - Spanish - Portuguese - French - German - Russian - Polish - Japanese - Chinese

Departure Times: 9.30 – 10.30 – 11.00 – 12.30 – 13.30 – 15.00
On Wednesday: only at 13.30 – 15.00

Meet at the ORP office in St Peter's Square and then skip the line to St Peter's Basilica with an audio guided tour of St Peter's included.

St Peter's Basilica Fast Track Entry With Audio  Tour

St Peter's Basilica Fast Track Entry Including Entrance To Lift Up To Cupola For Views

Days Of Operation: Not Wednesdays or Sundays.

Tour: In English with your own personal headphones.

Departure Times: 8:30, 9:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30

Skip the line to St Peter's Basilica with a guided walking tour and a visit to the cupola. Ride an elevator to the cupola and admire the mosaic designs of Michelangelo. Then walk 300 steps to enjoy unrivaled views at the top, the highest point in Rome where few people go.

Your small-group tour starts in St Peter’s Square, where you’ll meet your professional guide. Skip the lines with exclusive access through the Vatican,

Head to the elevator for a ride to the cupola of St Peter's Basilica, created by Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo. Then, follow your guide up approximately 300 steps to the top of the cupola, the highest point in Rome, affording spectacular views

After you descend, begin your small-group walking tour through St Peter’s Basilica,

St Peter's Basilica Fast Track Entry With  Guided  Tour

Vatican Museums & St Peter’s Basilica Combined Tour With Fast Track Entry Tickets

Days Of Operation: Monday to Saturday

Your knowledgeable guide will escort you into the Vatican Museums to explore the world's most extensive collection of art.

Highlights of the museums are Michelangelo's famous Creation of Adam fresco in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms.

After taking in the Vatican Museums, you will walk over to St Peter's Basilica for a fascinating finish to your group guided walking tour stopping to admire magnificent St Peter's Square.

Vatican Walking Tour Pricing Information
Vatican Walking Tour Pricing Information
Vatican Walking Tour Pricing Information
Vatican Fast Track Tickets & Tours

Vatican Museums Tours & Fast Track Tickets

Vatican Museums Fast Track Tickets    €30.00

Fast track admission to Vatican Museum

Vatican Museums Fast Track Tickets + Audio Guide    €38.00

Fast track admission to Vatican Museum with Audio Guide

Vatican Museums Fast Track Tickets + Early Entrance    €49.00

Fast track admission to Vatican Museum before public opening

Vatican Museums Fast Track Access With Coach Transfers    €64.00

Tour in English plus hotel pickups

Vatican Museums Private Tours With Fast Track Access    Prices vary on numbers

Your own personal guide for your own grouo of 1 to 9 people

St Peter's Basilica Tours & Fast Track Tickets

St Peter's Basilica Fastrack with audio guide    €15.00

Fast track access to St Peter's together with audio guide in choice of languages

St Peter's Basilica & Cupola Fastrack plus guided tour    €46.00

Small group tour including visit to Cupola (Dome)

St Peter's & Vatican Museums Combined Tours

Vatican Museums + St Peter's (With Fast Track Access) Tour 1    From €38.00 (+€23.00 admissions)

Guided 3 hour walking tour with Fast Track Access + early/evening entrance options

Vatican Museums + St Peter's (With Fast Track Access) Tour 2    From €56.70

Guided 3 hour walking tour with Fast Track Access + early/evening entrance options

Early Access Vatican Museums Small-Group Tour with St Peter’s    €97.50

Visiting Vatican Museums, St Peter's Basilicas

Other Vatican Tours

Audience With The Pope    €26.00

Attending Wednesday audience with transfers

Vatican Gardens Tour    €41.00

Includes admission to Vatican Museums

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