St Peter's Basilica, Rome - a practical guide

St Peter's Basilica opening hours, queuing, fast track entry and what to expect


St Peter's Basilica

Visiting independently: St Peter's Basilica

 

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St Peter's Basilica Rome official website


St Peter's Basilica 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.


Many people visit independently, but often people find taking a tour with a professional guide gives them the informaiton they need. We have details people of tours - with fast track entry - further down this page.

 

The famous dome of St Peter is a distinctive landmark to head for, wherever you are in the nearby vicinity. 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, it is about a five minute 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.


The Vatican Museums where the Sistine Chapel is, is a ten 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

It is free to enter the main St. Peter's Basilica, though there are admission fees for a few parts, such as climbing the cupola and the Vatican Treasury. See below.


St Peter's Basilica Rome - opening hours, queue times and dress code

St. Peter's Basilica is open daily, Apr-Sep 7am-7pm and Oct-Mar 7am-6pm.

 

Most visitors wish to visit the Vatican museums in addition to St. Peter’s in the same day. Although the queues are long from early in the day, it is worth noting that the Vatican queues are usually much longer than St. Peter’s at all times.

Queues at The Vatican Museums

Queues: for security to go into St Peter's Basilica

The queues you join in St Peter's Square are to pass through the airport style scanners and security. By 11am the queue is snaking all around St Peter's Square, if so budget on queuing for about 45 minutes.

 

Many guide books recommend starting your day with the Vatican Museums, ending up in St. Peter’s in the afternoon. Peak queue time for either attraction is around mid-morning, although they start early for both. One option is to start your day at St. Peter’s first thing, arriving at the Vatican Museums mid afternoon, preferably after 3pm.


The dress code is strictly enforced at St. Peter's Basilica. Men must wear long trousers (no shorts) and cover their shoulders, women must not have either bare shoulders or skirts shorter than knee length.

 


Outside the basilica: 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.

 

Inside St Peter's Basilica, Rome

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.


St Peter's Basilica Interior

Audio guides: to rent at St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica Interior

St. Peter's Baldachin: Chair of St Peter + St Peter's tomb.

St Peter's Basilica Interior

Spectacular: St Peter's Basilica interior

Audio guides at St. Peter’s Basilica

As with many sites in Rome there are few information signs to explain what you are seeing. 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.

 

Through the door and immediately on your right is an information desk that rents audio guides and guided tours in a range of languages. These are only a few Euros and quite reliable.

 

If you have pre-booked a skip-the-line ticket you will be provided with an access code to enter into an app that you can download onto your mobile. Be aware though, this can take a long time to download depending on your provider and you may not even get access by the time you have walked round!

 

Climbing St Peter’s cupola (dome)

If you wish to climb the dome itself, this is a ticketed option; for current prices see official website, above.

Your options include taking the steps all the way (551 steps) or a lift part of the way foot (320 steps). The admission charge is of course a couple of Euros less than if you take the lift.

 

Access to the dome is from:
8am to 6pm April to September
8am to 5pm October to March.

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.


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.


Vatican Grottoes

The Vatican Grottoes is a vast underground graveyard or crypt and can be found just below the Renaissance basilica and above Constantine’s 4th century 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.

It houses the tombs of scores of popes as well as kings and queens from the 10th century. The monuments to Paul VI (1978) and Pope John Paul II (2005) are also in the grottoes.

The Vatican Grottoes are free to enter and are open every day from:
7am to 6pm April to September
7am to 5pm October to March.

No photography allowed.
You have to be silent in the Grottoes.

Make this your last call after your tour of the basilica, because once you exit the Grottoes you will be outside of the Basilica.


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, 12.30, 1.30, 3pm
On Wednesday: only at 1.30 – 3pm


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, 1.30, 2.30, 3.30

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, where your guide will point out to you everything you wanted to know: Michelangelo’s Pietà, the 91 papal tombs, and the statue of St. Peter for a blessing, which you traditionally rub for a blessing. You will end your tour of the world’s largest church with a view of the Swiss Guards in St. Peter’s Square.


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    €66.00

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 €64.00

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

Early Access Vatican Museums Small-Group Tour with St Peter’s    €93.50

Visiting Vatican Museums, St Peter's Basilicas

Other Vatican Tours

Audience With The Pope    €28.00

Attending Wednesday audience with transfers

Vatican Gardens Tour    €41.00

Includes admission to Vatican Museums


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