St. Peter’s Basilica opening hours tickets dome grottoes

Explore St. Peter’s Basilica: Free Entry, Hours, Dome Climb

Discover the wonders of St. Peter’s Basilica with free entry, operating hours, and the thrilling dome climb. Perfect for curious travelers.

St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Square

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is not only a religious landmark, but also an architectural marvel that attracts millions of visitors every year. Offering a wealth of experiences, from its stunning interior to the breathtaking views from the dome, St. Peter’s Basilica promises to be an unforgettable visit. In this guide, we provide essential information for planning your visit, including free admission, opening hours, guided tours, and the exhilarating ascent of the dome.

Hours

St. Peter's Basilica nave

St. Peter’s welcomes visitors year-round, but it’s important to know the Basilica’s opening hours. It is usually open from 7 in the morning until 7.10 in the evening.

However, there are a few exceptions that you should be aware of so as not to disrupt your plans. For example, from March to June and from September to early November, the Pope’s General Audiences take place in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday mornings at 9 am and the Basilica is not accessible.

The dates of the Pope’s Masses are published in the calendar of the Holy See at very short notice, and access is by invitation only. For information on yearly recurring Masses, please see our monthly information and our holiday calendar.

Best time to visit

St. Peter's Basilica queue

A major problem when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is the security check. Depending on the time of day, you may have to wait more than an hour. In general, early morning and late afternoon are the quieter times without long waits.

People with disabilities do not have to queue. In addition, pilgrims and believers have their own access “Percorso Preghiera”.

Unfortunately, it is usually impossible to visit the grottoes in the early morning because Masses are celebrated almost daily by groups of pilgrims.

Entry Rules

One of the most enticing aspects of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is that it is completely free to enter. This means that travelers can marvel at the awe-inspiring beauty of this architectural masterpiece without worrying about admission fees. Whether you’re a devout pilgrim, an art lover, or simply curious about history and culture, St. Peter’s Basilica offers an inclusive experience accessible to all. It’s important to note, however, that while admission is free, certain experiences within the Basilica, such as guided tours, a visit to the treasury or climbing the dome, may require additional fees.

You cannot visit the Sistine Chapel, where the popes are elected, from St. Peter’s Basilica. It belongs to the Vatican Museums. However, you can take a guided tour from the Vatican Museums directly to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Admission to the Pope’s Masses and audiences is also free. You can book your free tickets for the Pope’s audiences here.

Dress Code

St. Peter's Basilica dress code

It is important to know that anyone can visit St. Peter’s Basilica, regardless of their faith or religion. However, it’s important to know about the dress code to show respect for this sacred place. As a place of worship, modest dress is required for both men and women. This means avoiding clothing that exposes shoulders, cleavage, or knees. Sleeveless tops, shorts, and short skirts are not permitted. You should also wear sturdy shoes. It is generally not allowed to enter the Basilica in sandals or barefoot. Visitors who do not comply with the dress code may be denied entry or asked to cover up with a scarf or shawl. By dressing appropriately, you not only show respect for the religious significance of St. Peter’s Basilica, but also ensure a smooth and respectful visit for yourself and your fellow visitors.

It is also important to know the security rules. Glass and metal bottles, scissors and even small pocket knives must be left behind at the checkpoints in order to pass through. Leave these items at home and bring only plastic bottles.

Guided Tours

For those seeking a deeper understanding of the rich history and significance of St. Peter’s Basilica, guided tours are an excellent option. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours offer insights into the Basilica’s architecture, art, and religious significance, allowing visitors to appreciate its beauty on a deeper level. Tours typically cover iconic highlights such as Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino and the dome, providing context and anecdotes. Whether you’re a history buff or simply interested in learning more about this iconic landmark, a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is sure to enrich your visit.

It is important to note that access to St. Peter’s Basilica is not “skip the line” and you will have to wait in line at the security checkpoint in St. Peter’s Square. The only way to skip the line is to take a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, where you walk directly from the Sistine Chapel to the Basilica.

Other options for a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica are available at

Climbing the Dome

Vatican Museums with St. Peter's Dome at night

Climbing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is a must for adventurous travelers and anyone who wants to enjoy an unparalleled panoramic view of Vatican City and Rome. Although climbing the dome is not for the faint-hearted, brave visitors are rewarded with a breathtaking view that stretches as far as the eye can see. The way to the top involves 321 steps up narrow staircases and winding corridors, but the effort is worth it for the unparalleled view that awaits you at the top. Whether you’re taking breathtaking photos or simply admiring the stunning scenery, the climb to the top of St. Peter’s is an unforgettable experience not to be missed. If you take the stairs to the dome instead of the elevator, you will climb a total of 551 steps.

The dome was designed by Michelangelo but he did not live to see the completion. The elevator to the dome is in St. Peter’s Basilica on the left. The ticket office is in the vestibule on the left side under the equestrian statue of Charlemagne.

St. Peter's Basilica dome ascent

The climb to the top of the dome is one-way, so it is impossible to turn back once you have started. If you suffer from claustrophobia, it is not advisable to attempt the climb. However, with the crowd behind you, you have little choice but to continue.

The closer you get to the top, the narrower the path becomes and the more you have to climb the winding corridors along the dome. A final section leads up a spiral staircase with a rope in the middle.

The ticket office for access to the dome is situated in the portico of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the elevator to the roof is located inside the basilica on the left side. Operating hours are from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm. In case of long queues, entry closes at 5.30 pm.

Tickets cost €10 with lift, €8 on foot, €5 for school groups with name list.

Treasury and grottoes

The Treasury Museum is located on the left side of the Basilica, behind the Sacristy.

Under the basilica are the grottoes. They were created when the current building was constructed one floor above the first basilica of Emperor Constantine from the 4th century. Many popes and dignitaries are buried in the grottoes.

You can go down to the grottoes through the columns that support the dome. The path through the grottoes ends above the St. Peter’s Visitor Center.

The grottoes are often only accessible for liturgical celebrations. In general, the grottoes are never open to visitors before 9 am, and sometimes much later. The grottoes can be closed at any time for liturgical celebrations.

How to get to St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica stands on Vatican Hill, once an ancient burial ground outside Rome. Adjacent to it was Emperor Nero’s racetrack, where tradition holds that the Apostle Peter was crucified. Peter was later buried on Vatican Hill, and the first St. Peter’s Basilica was built on the site in his honor.

To reach St. Peter’s Basilica from the center of the city, one must cross the Tiber River. From Piazza Navona, the Angel Bridge leads to the impressive Castel Sant’Angelo, which serves as a landmark on the way to the Vatican.

Bus number 64 connects Termini train station to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Cavalleggeri/San Pietro stop is beyond a tunnel. Along the banks of the Tiber, at the Ospedale Santo Spirito, several bus lines stop: the express line 40 starts and ends at Termini, line 23 connects Prati with the Basilica San Paolo fuori le mura, and lines 46, 280 and 115 also serve the area.

Between St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museums is Piazza del Risorgimento, which can be reached by tram 19 and several bus lines, including 32, 81, 49, 492, 913, and 982.

The subway line A stops a little further away at the Ottaviano station. Both bus line 64 and the metro are known to be frequented by pickpockets.

From San Pietro station, it’s a short walk to St. Peter’s Basilica. Many cruise ship passengers who dock at Civitavecchia disembark here. Travelers arriving at Fiumicino Airport can take the train to Trastevere Station and then transfer to San Pietro Station.

Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica

Of course, numerous Masses are celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica. The following times apply:

AltarWeekdaysHolidays
Choir Chapel - in the nave on the left
Chapel of the blessed Sacrament - in the nave on the right8.30
Altar of St. Joseph - in the transept on the left7.00, 7.30, 9.00, 10.00, Angelus 12:007.00, 8.00
Cattedra - behind the Baldacchino11.00, 12.00, 17.00, 18.009.00, 10.00, 12.00, 16.00, 18.00, Vespri 17.00

In addition, on weekdays at 18:00 and after the Papal Audience at 12:00 there is a Pilgrim Mass with meeting point at the statue of St. Peter.

Private groups make appointments for Masses in the sacristy. Masses can usually be held in the morning in the grottoes.

Since 1547, St. Peter is also a parish. Here baptisms, confirmations and marriages are made. Read about getting married in Rome.

Have masses celebrated – Mass stipends

St. Peter's Basilica Entrance to the sacristy
Entrance to the sacristy

The Mass stipend is the donation for the celebration of a Holy Mass. The intent that the faithful wishes to bring to the Holy Mass is the Mass intention.

For a Mass stipend, you must go to the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Sacristy is located on the left side of the Basilica in front of the Treasury.

If the entrance is blocked, you can call at the Treasury and someone will come to give you access.

In the sacristy you can pay the Mass stipend, 10 euros per Mass, and receive a receipt.

The Mass will be celebrated in the course of the following two weeks. You cannot set an exact date.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.