St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest Catholic church in the world. All visitors are welcome. Alongside the Colosseum, it is one of the most important sights in Rome. The Pope’s altar and Michelangelo’s dome are over the tomb of the holy Apostle Peter.
Although visiting the basilica is free, it may make sense to book a preferred entry ticket to avoid the long lines.
We will inform you about the opening times, the regulations for clothing and the best time to visit.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the main church of Catholic Christendom and seat of the Pope. The present building dates mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. It has one of the largest interiors in the world.
Since 1547, St Peter is also a parish. Here baptisms, confirmations and marriages are made. Information can be found in my article Marriages in Rome.
Below the Basilica are the grottoes. The grottoes were created by erecting the present building one floor above the first basilica of the 4th century built by Emperor Constantine. In the grottoes many popes and high-ranking personalities are buried.
You can go down to the grottoes at the pillars that support the dome. The path through the grottoes ends above the visitor center of St. Peter’s at the entrance to the dome.
Opening times St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is open every day. The opening times are:
April – September 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
October – March 7 a.m. – 6.30 p.m.
St. Peter’s Basilica is closed during all events for which you need tickets. These are the Pope’s Masses and the Papal Audiences. All information on the dates can be found in the monthly overviews and in our
When you enter St. Peter’s Square, you leave Rome and Italy and enter the State of the Vatican.
In principle, everyone can visit the St. Peter’s Basilica. Only for the Pope’s Masses and Papal Audiences you have to pre-order tickets.
As in all sacral sites, you must follow the dress code in St. Peter’s Basilica. Shoulders and knees must be covered and you need sturdy shoes. This also applies to children. It is at the discretion of the volunteers of St. Peter’s whether they consider your clothes appropriate.
You cannot visit the Sistine Chapel, where the popes are elected, from St. Peter’s Basilica. It belongs to the Vatican Museums.
Ticket prices 2020
St. Peter’s Cathedral entrance fee: The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free. If you have booked an online ticket for an audio guide or a tour with the official visitor service, you have skip-the-line access to the security control.
To visit St. Peter’s Basilica, you must pass a security check. Normally the security checkpoint is on the right side of St. Peter’s Square. At major events, additional checkpoints under the portico of the Bernini will be opened.
You must not carry dangerous items such as scissors or knives, and metal bottles are often rejected. You may take drinks in plastic bottles and umbrellas.
The body temperature is measured and may not exceed 37.5°C / 99.5°F.
Avoid long lines
People with disabilities do not need to queue.
If you have booked online an audioguide or a tour by the official Visitor Service of St. Peter’s Basilica, you can go directly to the meeting point with skip the line access to the security checkpoint.
The meeting point is in front of the left arcade at Piazza del Sant’Uffizio.
A tour of the Vatican Museums with St. Peter’s Basilica will take you straight through, as you have passed the security check already in the Vatican Museums. However, the passage is currently closed.
Best time to visit
It is the quietest in the morning. Until about 8:30 you do not have to expect long queues at the security checkpoint.
As a rule, St. Peter’s Basilica is not accessible on Wednesday mornings, when the Papal Audience takes place in St. Peter’s Square, and at Pope’s Masses.
However, there are a few reasons why you might not want to visit St. Peter’s in the early morning:
Grottoes: Although the grottoes are officially open from 7am, they are usually only accessible later, because liturgical celebrations are held.
Dome: It is difficult to photograph Rome in the morning from the dome while the sun is in the east.
Sistine Chapel: You can only visit the Sistine Chapel together with the Vatican Museums. A visit to the Sistine Chapel is included with the ticket to the Vatican Museums.
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St. Peter's dome tickets
You can either take the elevator to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica or climb up 231 steps. The ascent inside the dome goes over another 320 steps.
with elevator 10 €, on foot 8 €, School groups 5 € with a list of participants on official paper
St. Peter's dome hours
April – September 8-18
October – March 8-17
Ascent to the dome
The way to the top of the cupola is one-way. Inverting the ascent is difficult to impossible. During the ascent you can smell fear pheromones. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you should not dare to climb! On the other hand, there is not much you can do, you will be pushed by the people behind you.
The further you get to the top, the narrower the gait will be until you have to climb up curved in the corridor along the cupola. The last piece is a staircase upwards.
In good weather you will be rewarded with a wonderful view over the city and the gardens of the Vatican.
Entrance treasury and grottoes
Entrance to the Treasury is to be paid. The visit of the grottoes is free.
St. Peter's treasury hours
When St. Peter’s Basilica is open, you can also visit the treasury. The treasury is located on the left side of St. Peter’s Basilica and has the following opening hours:
April – September 8-18:15
October – March 8-17:15
The grottoes open at 7, but are only accessible for liturgical celebrations. In general, it can be said that the grottoes are never accessible to visitors before 9, and sometimes much later. The grottoes can be closed at any time for liturgical celebrations.
The official opening hours of the grottoes are:
April – September 7-18
October – March 7-17
St. Peter's Square entry
St. Peter’s Square is usually open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Depending on the event, such as masses and audiences, there are reserved areas that are only accessible with tickets.
Bernini designed the colonnades around St. Peter’s Square in such a way that pilgrims can find shelter in it. Pope Francis set up washrooms on the right side of the colonnades. More information about St. Peter’s Square
In November 2019, Pope Francis inaugurated a reception center for the homeless next to St. Peter’s Square. Video on Vatican News
How to get to St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is on the Vatican Hill. In ancient times it was outside Rome and was a burial ground. Next to it was the circus, the race track, of the Emperor Nero. In this circus, according to tradition, the apostle Peter was crucified. He was then buried on the Vatican hill and later the first basilica was built there.
San Pietro train station is right next to the Vatican. From Fiumicino airport visitors have to change trains in Trastevere, from the cruise port Civitavecchia you arrive directly in San Pietro station.
From Termini central station take bus 40 or 64.
From the city center, take underground line A to the Ottaviano metro station.
Campo Santo Teutonico
The Campo Santo Teutonico is accessible only via the Vatican area and is open daily from 7am-noon as well as at masses. The entrance to the Campo is located, seen from St. Peter’s Square, behind the left columns of the Bernini. If you want to visit the cemetery or the church of Santa Maria della Pietà, you have to ask the Swiss Guards for access at the entrance in German language.