Located in Vatican City, Saint Peter's Basilica is one of the largest and most grandiose churches in the world.
Constructed around the tomb of Saint Peter — one of Jesus’s apostles and the very first pope — it is an important pilgrimage site for devout followers of the Catholic faith and lovers of art and architecture alike.
Regardless of your faith or interests, you can come and appreciate this grand edifice for yourself. Something to remember while you’re there is that St. Peter’s Basilica required 120 years of construction under the guidance of 18 different popes and 12 different Renaissance architects, including Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo. What a colossal undertaking!
Nearly 50,000 people visit the church on a daily basis, making it one of the most visited places in Rome, so make sure you book your St. Peter's Basilica tickets and tours as early as possible.
Here's everything you need to know about St. Peter's Basilica, one of the most captivating attractions in Rome.
Good news! St. Peter’s Basilica tickets are free.
However, if you wish to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you will need to pay €8 to use the stairs or €10 for an elevator ride halfway up.
You also have the option to book a St. Peter's Basilica tour, which includes the ticket price and a guided visit to the Dome, Papal Crypts, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.
You can find St. Peter’s Basilica tours starting at €35.
Knowing how to skip the line is important if you want to make the most of your time. St. Peter's Basilica is very popular and free to enter, so you may have to wait in line for up to two hours if you don’t know how to skip the line.
Those waiting in line for hours didn’t take the time to research ahead of time like you. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip the security line. However, you can skip the ticket line for the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome Climb by booking your tickets online in advance.
You can find tour packages to skip the line from dozens of different online providers. Searching through them all can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That’s why TourScanner compiles all the offers to make it easier for you to book and compare prices.
Yes! St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most visited sights in Rome, so only a limited number of visitors can enter per day, and guided tours sell out weeks or even months in advance.
Booking your ticket or tour in advance allows you to make sure that you’ll be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica on your preferred date.
Although St. Peter's Basilica has free entry, you must pay a fee to climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, which is not included with the standard Vatican Museums ticket.
Before entering the basilica or climbing the dome, you must wait in line and pass a security check. If you don't want to wait in line again to buy a ticket to climb the dome, you can book a St. Peter's Basilica tour to skip the line.
Your St. Peter’s Basilica tour will include a visit to the church and, optionally, you can also climb St. Peter's dome, where you will scale 551 steps (or take an elevator up halfway) to the top of the dome for breathtaking views of Rome.
Yes! Guided tours of St. Peter’s Basilica are the best way for you to see this historical monument. You will have a more personal experience, along with many other advantages.
Skip the ticket line and head straight into St. Peter’s Basilica at your own pace with an audioguide to lead you around the church and provide insightful historical context for the incomparable paintings and works of architecture all around you.
On St. Peter’s Basilica group tours, you have a guide to ensure you don’t miss the most impressive works of art and that you fully appreciate the historical importance of each piece.
Although there is certainly plenty to see at the Vatican for an entire day, you can also book a half-day or full-day tour that includes other important sights in Rome, such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum or the Catacombs of Rome.
A great benefit of guided tours is that they include true skip-the-line access. Even skip-the-line tickets have a fast-track line to wait in. However, most guided tours will skip both the normal and fast-track lines to take you directly into the Vatican Museums and other sites. This is especially important during the high season when both lines can get very long.
If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, then St. Peter’s Basilica private tours with your very own guide are just the thing. The tour can focus on what you’re most interested in, from specific works of art and architecture to the rich cultural and religious history hidden around every corner.
You can choose from small group tours of up to 10 people, semi-private tours of up to 6 people or private tours exclusively for your own group. With a small group, you will have a more personal experience and be able to appreciate St. Peter’s Basilica at your own pace.
Private tours can be combined with visits to other sites, such as the Vatican Gardens, Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. You can also choose from tours lasting only a few hours or half-day and full-day tours with pickup directly from your hotel.
There are many exciting ways to combine St. Peter’s Basilica tours with other attractions of the Vatican Museums, or nearby destinations:
St. Peter’s Basilica is arguably the most impressive Renaissance-era building ever created. The iconic church dates back to the 16th century. It is largely considered one of the holiest shrines in Catholicism. The religious site is erected around the tomb of St. Peter.
St. Peter’s Basilica offers incredible views of Renaissance architecture and art. It is one of the largest churches in the world. The impressive St. Peter’s Dome is worth the extra cost to climb to its top. The sights from on top of the dome offer unparalleled views of Vatican City and Rome.
Standing tall and wide as the largest church in the world. This impressive feat of Renaissance architecture covers over 23,000 square meters. By law, its dome is the tallest building in Rome and reaches a height of 136 meters.
Besides appreciating the size and intricacy of the architecture, you will also be able to appreciate frescoes and sculptures — the most well-known being Michelangelo’s “La Pietà.” This masterpiece is all the more impressive considering that he carved it when he was only 24 years old!
Another highlight is Bernini’s baldachino, which is a canopy directly under the dome to mark the burial site of Saint Peter. Christians will call to mind Jesus’s reference to this in the Bible when he proclaimed, “you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
Bernini constructed four bronze columns that sit on marble plinths and reach a height of 20 meters to mediate the vastness of the church to the human scale, much like Jesus mediated the glory of God for humanity.
Please be aware that St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica are inaccessible on Wednesdays as part of a Vatican Museums tour due to the weekly Papal Audience. If you plan to visit on a Wednesday, you can buy separate tickets to attend the Papal Audience.
Besides St. Peter’s Basilica, you can also visit the Sistine Chapel and explore dozens of collections in the Vatican Museums. Here you will find on display contemporary and classical works of art by the best painters and sculptors to have ever picked up a brush or chisel.
Over 6 million people visit the Vatican Museums each year, making it one of the most visited art museums in the world. You could spend weeks or even months exploring all the works in the museums. However, if you only have a day, be sure you don’t overlook the masterpieces described below.
Here, you will find some of Michelangelo’s most timeless works. If you look up, you will see God stretching out his finger to mankind in “The Creation of Adam,” which is actually only one panel in a series of murals spanning 40 meters across the ceiling.
In front of you, covering the entirety of the altar wall, you can gaze at Michelangelo’s incomparable fresco “The Last Judgement,” which reaches 14 meters high and stretches 12 meters across with over 300 figures depicting the Second Coming of Christ.
This chapel still serves as the site of the papal conclave, which is a tradition dating back centuries where the cardinals will meet to choose a new pope. People will gather to observe the color of the smoke leaving the chapel's chimney until white smoke declares that a new pope has been chosen!
Divided into four grand rooms, here you will find the masterworks of the great Renaissance artist Raphael. Giant frescoes depicting mythological and historical events adorn the walls and ceilings of each room.
The most famous of these paintings is The School of Athens. If you look closely, you can see Raphael included a self-portrait, as well as portraits of some of the brightest minds of his own time and antiquity, including Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Plato and Aristotle.
Here you will find one of the most historical pieces in the Vatican Museums — the Belvedere Torso. Only a fragment remains of this marble statue of a male nude, which dates back to the first century BC.
You can see the influence this piece had on Renaissance artists, including Raphael and Michelangelo, if you pay attention to the male figures in their paintings and statues. For example, Saint Bartholomew in Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement” bears a strong resemblance to the Belvedere Torso.
In Room IX of the Pinacoteca, or Art Gallery, you will find Leonardo Da Vinci’s only work in the Vatican Museums, which is actually an unfinished painting known as “St. Jerome in the Wilderness.”
This is only one of many timeless paintings you will see here. Bellini’s “Pietà,” Raphael’s “Madonna of Foligno” and Carvaggio’s “The Entombment of Christ” are some of the other masterpieces you can appreciate in the Pinacoteca Vaticano.
Bernardino di Betto, or Pinturicchio as he was often called due to his small stature, is responsible for the design and frescoes that decorate the six rooms of the apartments once inhabited by Pope Alexander VI, or Rodrigo de Borja.
Today, most of the rooms house the Vatican Collection of Modern Religious Art, which includes Vincent Van Gogh’s “Pieta,” Salvador Dalí’s “The Announcement” and August Rodn’s “The Thinker.”
At first glance, this area appears to be a single courtyard, but it is actually divided into a lower terrace, Cortile del Belvedere, and an upper terrace, Cortile della Pigna.
The upper terrace gets its name from the four-meter bronze pinecone adorning the vast niche in the wall of the Vatican, which was once a Roman fountain and dates back to the first century AD. Dante mentions this pinecone in his Divine Comedy to describe a giant’s head as “long and large as is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter's.”
On the west side of the Belvedere Courtyard, you will find the Gallery of Maps. Instead of frescoes portraying religious and historical events, this gallery has a more geographical theme with paintings outlining regions of the Italian peninsula.
Although the Vatican Gardens are not part of the Vatican Museums, you can book guided tours that include the gardens with your visit to the rest of the Vatican. This is actually the only way to visit the Vatican Gardens, as you cannot explore the gardens on your own, but only as part of a guided tour.
The Vatican Gardens cover 23 hectares, which is about half the area of the entire Vatican! Legend has it that the gardens were founded with soil transported from Mount Calvary, where Jesus Christ and thousands of early Christians were once crucified.
Pope Francis only opened these gardens to the public in 2014, so it is a rather new opportunity for you to be able to see this more secluded area of the Vatican. Besides its statues and fountains, a highlight of the gardens is the collection of Blessed Virgin Mary shrines. Countries from around the world have been gradually adding to the collection since the early 20th century.
Yes, you can use the Omnia pass to visit the Vatican Museums (including St. Peter’s Basilica).
Take Line A to Ottaviano station. Then, walk for about 10 minutes southwest to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Take Line 49 to the stop Musei Vaticani, which leaves you at the square right in front of the Vatican Museums.
You can also take Lines 32, 81 or 982 to the stop Piazza del Risorgimento, or Lines 42 or 990 to the stop Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni.
Take Line 19 to the stop Piazza del Risorgimento.
You can arrive and leave from the taxi parking at the square right in front of the Vatican Museums.
This is certainly the most convenient way to get to St. Peter’s Basilica. You can outsource all the stress and concerns about logistics to your tour guide, who will pick you up directly from your hotel.
St. Peter’s Basilica is open daily from 7 AM to 7 PM from April to September. However, from October to March, it closes one hour earlier.
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica opens one hour later and closes one hour before the church itself. In other words, the dome is open from 8 AM to 6 PM for most of the year.
Please be aware that St. Peter’s Basilica closes for special events. For example, most Wednesday mornings St. Peter’s Basilica is closed to the public until 12 PM for the Papal Audience.
The early morning or late afternoon is the best time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. This is when there tends to be fewer people. Just make sure you consider the final permitted entry of the day.
St. Peter’s Basilica is exceptionally busy during the peak seasons of April to May, and July to October. It also gets very popular during important Christian holidays.
Weekends, especially the final Sunday of the month, are also much busier than weekdays.