Think St. Peter’s Basilica is only for religious visitors? Wrong! For art and history lovers, this is a major bucket-list stop in Rome. Not only does this massive and important church house great works of art, it is one! Its beauty and history will blow your mind. Here’s everything you need to know about how to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.
Pro Tip: Planning your visit to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? Bookmark this post in your browser so you can easily find it when you’re in the city. See our St. Peter’s Basilica guide for more planning resources, our top basilica tours for a memorable trip, and how to climb the dome.
Visit St. Peter’s Basilica: What We’ll Cover
When in Rome, you can’t miss the most important Catholic Church on Earth! As the most important of Rome’s four major basilicas, St. Peter’s Basilica has earned that title.
But you don’t have to be religious to visit. This Renaissance wonder of the world will blow your mind! It contains a great many works of art and has a fascinating story of its own to tell.
Check out some astonishing facts about St. Peters. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, from tickets to tours and an itinerary of what to look for inside. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Opening hours and tickets
- How long to budget for your visit
- How to get there
- What to see at St. Peter’s Basilica
- Guided tour options
- St. Peter’s facts and history
- Where to eat nearby
Not ready to book a tour? Find out if a St. Peter’s Dome climb is worth it.
St. Peter’s Basilica Hours and Tickets
- From April to September: 7 am to 7 pm
- From October to March: 7 am to 6:30 pm
- Closed Wednesday mornings for the papal audience
St. Peter’s Dome Climb Hours:
- From April to September: 7:30 am to 5 pm
- From October to March: 7:30 am to 5 pm
- Closed Wednesday mornings for the papal audience
Tickets: You can buy them directly at the entrance to the dome. Find out if a dome climb is worth it.
St Peter’s Basilica Tickets:
The Basilica of St. Peter is free to enter but does not include entry into the Sistine Chapel.
Climbing the dome costs €8 if you take the stairs or €10 by elevator. We recommend taking the elevator. Find out everything you need to know about how to climb St. Peter’s Dome.
St. Peter’s Dress Code:
To gain access, you’ll have to abide by the Vatican dress code. Cover your shoulders and avoid shorts, short dresses, and skirts. We know that Rome gets hot in the summer, so we suggest bringing a light scarf to wrap around yourself when you need to.
Hats, food, and metal tools like knives and scissors are also not allowed. The security check includes metal detectors.
Visiting the Vatican with kids:
If you want to visit the Vatican Museums with your kids, you’re in luck. The museums are happy to welcome families with children and strollers in tow.
As you explore the collections, there are also plenty of restrooms with changing tables and places to sit and rest. There’s even a private room for mothers to nurse in complete privacy. For a more private experience truly geared toward a younger audience, consider our family-friendly Vatican tour.
How Long To Spend at St. Peter’s Basilica
Short Answer: 1-2 hours
Even if you’re not a religious person, once you walk inside the basilica, there’s a strong chance your jaw will drop just for a second. Yes, it is that amazing inside—even more so when you understand the dimensions.
The church is built so proportionally that you would never guess the ceiling right above you is 150 feet (50 meters) high. The itinerary is quite easy to follow since they put a barrier in the middle for crowd control. Start your itinerary in a counter-clockwise walk around the entire basilica.
Popular Rome Tours
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our best Rome tours to take and why.
How To Get To Vatican City
Luckily, St. Peter’s Basilica is really easy to reach. It’s located in Piazza San Pietro of Vatican City. Depending on your preferences, you can take the metro, a bus, a cab, or just walk.
How To Take the Metro To the Vatican
About 20 minutes
The closest metro stop to St. Peter’s Basilica is Ottaviano. It is located on the A-line (orange line). So, if you jump on near the Spanish Steps (Spagna) or Termini Train Station, make sure you catch the A-line going towards Battistini and get off at Ottaviano.
The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is a five-minute walk from the stop. Of course, you can also catch the A-line from many other stops, just check the Rome Metro schedule. You can buy tickets at the metro station or a corner store, but not from the driver.
Pro Tip: Always budget an extra 10 to 20 minutes if you have a scheduled event like a Vatican Tour. This way you don’t have to rush and it gives you time for that quintessential morning espresso.
How To Take the Bus To the Vatican
About 20 minutes
From Termini train station, head outside and get on bus number 64.
The bus ride will take about 20 minutes and your stop is the last one on the route: P.za Stazione S. Pietro. Getting to St. Peter’s Basilica is about a five-minute walk from the bus station.
You can also take the number 81 bus from the Colosseum area (the bus stop is located right outside of the metro station, B-line). The 81 bus route ends in Piazza Risorgimento, which is a five-minute walk to St. Peter’s Basilica.
How To Take a Taxi To the Vatican
Depends on the leaving point
A taxi ride should cost no more than €20 if you’re staying in the historic center of Rome. When you get in, tell the driver to take you to St. Peter’s Basilica.
The most typical way to get a taxi in Rome is to go to a taxi stand. These are located near every major tourist attraction. If you aren’t located near one, you can always order a coffee and pastry at a café and ask the people working there to call you one.
Walking To the Vatican
About 20 minutes
You can walk if you’re staying near Piazza Navona or in Campo de’ Fiori and the weather’s right. Prati is also within walking distance to the Vatican.
You can walk to St. Peter’s Basilica from basically anywhere in Rome, as long as you’re up for quite a bit of exercise prior to being on your feet for more than 3 hours—it can be very exhausting. We recommend taking public transport. You’ll be on your feet plenty in Rome!
Pro Tip: A neat trick for using your phone map is to set your course when you are in wifi on airplane mode. GPS will still show your location while on airplane mode. It won’t reroute you, but it will show you where you are. It’s the most useful way to get directions when traveling.
Not ready to book a tour? Find out how to do a St. Peter’s Dome climb.
17 Top Things To See at St. Peter’s Basilica
As you can imagine, there is a lot to see in Catholicism’s biggest church. For a more detailed list with descriptions, check out our guide to the top things to see in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Here’s a quick summary to guide you through the must-see sights in the basilica, in reverse order ending with the most important.
17. La Navicella Mosaic by Giotto
16. The Fountains in St. Peter’s Square
15. The Pillars
14. The Ceiling
13. St. Peter’s Square
12. The Dome
11. Statue of St. Peter
10. Tomb of Innocent XI
9. Holy Mass
8. St. Peter’s Throne
7. La Porta Santa (Holy Door)
6. The Paintings (or Mosaics)
5. The Obelisk
4. Loggia Delle Benedizioni (Loggia of the Blessings or Central Balcony)
1. High Altar (Tomb of St. Peter)
St. Peter’s Basilica Tour Options
A major advantage of a tour is that it provides you with special access to many sites like St. Peter’s Basilica, beyond the explanations and local insight.
If you plan to visit on your own, you’ll have to exit the Vatican Museums from the same entrance where you came in to get to St. Peter’s basilica and that involves about a mile of additional walking.
Going with a guide gets you direct access from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica—both faster and better! Here are a few of our top Vatican tours with St. Peter’s Basilica.
On this tour, you’ll go from the very top of St. Peter’s Basilica right to the bottom. Meet your guide at the basilica and then head straight up to the dome before the large crowds arrive. After taking in the incredible view, you’ll go into the church for a guided visit. Then, descend into the Papal Crypts below.
This tour begins by climbing up to St. Peter’s dome, followed by a tour of the church. Then, your guide will lead you to the Vatican Museums where you’ll see all its treasures, including the Sistine Chapel.
This tour is for the art-history buff, visiting the majority of the Vatican Museums including the Pinacoteca, Sistine Chapel, and more. You’ll even have time in the Cabinet of Masks, which is an area reserved specifically for guided tours. Your guide will share plenty of stories and information to engage and inspire even novice art lovers.
This is our most popular Vatican tour. It covers all the must-see sights for visitors including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s good for art lovers and anyone who wants to see a ton but doesn’t want to be too mentally exhausted by the end of the visit. A major benefit of this tour is that we have an 8 am entrance time, which is an hour prior to general admission and gets you in when it’s less crowded.
This is a great low-price Vatican tour that covers most of the main attractions including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. It features a large selection of start times throughout the day, so you can fit your visit into the rest of your plans. The price is also hard to beat from a top-quality tour company.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our best Vatican tours to take and why.
St. Peter’s Facts and History
St. Peter found himself in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero in A.D. 64 after the death of Christ. It was not a very convenient time, considering that the emperor had just faulted the Christians for a fire that destroyed half the city.
The Christians were perceived as a radical cult, so they were an easy scapegoat for an emperor with no conscience. He initiated the persecution of Christians and according to dogma, this persecution was responsible for martyring St.Peter, St. Paul, and countless other Christians.
Peter attempted to flee Rome since he knew his days were numbered, but Christ appeared to him and asked him to return to the city to meet his fate. As dogma goes, St. Peter was crucified upside down by Emperor Nero and buried in A.D. 64. This was all part of Nero’s plot to blame Christians for his great fire, a plot that was semi-successful.
When Christ first met Peter he said, “You are the rock upon which I will build my Church.” His name wasn’t even Peter at the time, it was Simon. Jesus changed his name to Peter, which means rock.
Constantine defeated Maxentius in A.D. 312 and legalized Christianity. He then took it upon himself to fulfill the literal version of the scriptures above and he built a church on top of St. Peter’s tomb. Constantine’s mom, St. Helen, was a devout Christian and this was likely a big deal for her. It’s not every day that your son fulfills the scriptures, right?
The early beginnings of the establishment of the Vatican began with Constantine’s St. Peter’s Basilica, which stood where the current basilica stands today. After Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 313 with the Edict of Milan, he quickly got started building the church Jesus had referred to. For Constantine, Jesus would have been as old as George Washington is in relative history to us.
The original basilica Constantine built lasted from the mid-fourth century A.D. (the 300s) until 1506. That’s a very long time. The current basilica was built over Constantine’s and, while it does not exist today in full form, the current basilica still uses foundational elements from the original structure. That means the foundation is nearly 1700 years old!
Pope Julius II decided it was time for a new basilica when he appointed Donato Bramante to design the current St. Peter’s Basilica. Bramante’s designs were later taken over by Raphael (the Raphael) a few years later. The current basilica involved every famous name in Italian art from Michelangelo to the Modernos father and son and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
It took 120 years to build St. Peter’s Basilica, which is pretty impressive considering the magnitude of the structure. There were many works that went on even after that timeline. The last fountain, built by Bernini, was not finished until 1675!
Where To Eat Nearby
As you can imagine, there is nowhere to eat inside the church itself. However, if you climb the dome you will find a small bar. Also, close by there are some great lunch places. Check out our comprehensive guide to the top places to eat near the Vatican for more options. Here are few quick picks:
St. Peter’s Dome Bar: €€ | Refreshments—Yep, you can get coffee on top of St. Peter’s Dome. There is a little bar open basically whenever they want to be open. But if it’s open, stop for a coffee and enjoy the view.
Near The Vatican:
Hostaria Dino e Toni: € | Roman Restaurant—Somehow this owner-operated and authentic Roman restaurant has yet to get touristy. They make good food with relatively friendly service, and they may just order for you. Come here for pizza, pasta, and apps.
200 Gradi: €€ | Sandwich Shop—Have a big day of sightseeing planned after your Vatican visit? This sandwich shop is perfect. You can get really tasty to-go sandwiches or sit down inside. Super reasonably priced.
La Zanzara: €€ | Bistro—A bit more cool and trendy with a modern spin on Italian classics, this place feels like a French bistro but the food is definitely Italian. It’s great for a cocktail and sit-down lunch.
Not ready to book a tour? Find out if a Vatican tour is worth it.