It is the highlight of Sunday at the Vatican when Pope Francis appears at the window at noon to pray the Angelus.
The Angelus prayer takes place every time the Pope is in Rome, except in July. It is the grand finale of a Sunday morning in the Vatican.
Tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica:
Rome Pass: Vatican Museums + St. Peter’s guided tour with dome + Colosseum + Pantheon
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is usually open on Sunday mornings. On special occasions, Masses of the Holy Father are held in St. Peter’s Basilica or in St. Peter’s Square, and then St. Peter’s Basilica and the dome are closed. Details can be found in our monthly overviews and in our holiday calendar.
So on most Sundays you can visit St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s worth getting there very early, between 7 and 8 am. Security checks are quicker in the early morning. On Sunday there are many masses and some areas are closed off. There are also many masses in the grottoes and access is rarely possible on Sunday.
It will take you about an hour to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. Starting at 8 a.m., the dome of St. Peter’s opens. You take the elevator up to the roof and then you can climb up into the dome. This will also take you a round hour. You should definitely visit the dome before the Angelus prayer. After the Angelus prayer, everyone wants to go to St. Peter’s Basilica or to the dome. Guided tours for St. Peter’s Basilica
From St. Peter’s Square to Castel Sant’Angelo you need 10 minutes on foot.
The Castel Sant’Angelo opens at 9 am. You should buy the tickets in advance, otherwise you may have to wait quite a long time. Tickets
Castel Sant’Angelo was built as Hadrian’s mausoleum and was fortified later. Between the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo runs a passageway on a wall, the “passetto”, along which the popes fled from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo if necessary.
At 10 o’clock there is a tour in English, “the secret castle”, and on this tour you can visit the popes’ escape route, the “passetto”, and other parts of Castel Sant’Angelo. This tour can be attended by a maximum of 15 people. The tour can not be reserved in advance. You have to ask at the cashpoint for the tour. It costs 5 euros, reduced 2.50 euros. The tour will also take place at 4pm, at 11am and 5pm the tour will be in Italian.
People with disability can take the elevator to the middle level. There’s also a simple bar, but it has a really amazing view.
From Castel Sant’Angelo you have a very nice view at different places. From the roof of the castle you can see far over the city.
Campo Santo Teutonico
The Campo Santo Teutonico is also open on Sunday mornings. The cemetery of the German-speaking and Flemish was founded by Charlemagne in 800. The entrance is on the left outside the portico of the Bernini. You must tell the Swiss Guard at the entrance that you want to go to Campo Santo Teutonico.
The most important event in the Vatican on Sunday is the Holy Father’s Angelus prayer at noon. He gives a short talk and then says the prayer. The prayer is canceled in July and of course when the Pope is traveling. During Easter, the Regina Caeli is prayed instead of the Angelus and on Easter Sunday the city and the world are blessed with Urbi et Orbi. The Angelus also takes place on public holidays such as Christmas, Easter Monday, Peter and Paul, Assumption and the Immaculate Conception.
Usually many people gather in St. Peter’s Square to hear the Pope. To enter St Peter’s Square, you must pass the security checkpoints that are located under the Bernini’s portico. On the occasion of the event in St Peter’s Square many checkpoints are open and there are no extremely long waiting times.
The Pope stands at the window of the library of the Apostolic Palace. To see him well, you need binoculars and a powerful telephoto lens for photos. The prayer will also be broadcast on the large screens in St. Peter’s Square.
The Angelus Prayer ends at 12:20. Getting into St. Peter’s Basilica after the Angelus prayer is difficult because many visitors want to enter.
The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are closed on Sundays and on religious holidays.
On the last Sunday of the month there is free admission 9-12:30. With free admission there are long lines in front of and a big crowd in the museums. Whether it is worth it, everyone must know for themselves. It costs nothing, but you have to queue quite long and can not see everything.
If the weather is nice, a trip to the Via Appia Antica is a good idea. The Via Appia Antica is traffic-calmed on Sunday. You can have lunch there too.
Take bus 64 to Ara Coeli / Piazza Venezia and then continue past the Capitol to the Teatro Marcello / Ara Coeli stop. From there, take bus 118 to the Basilica S. Sebastiano stop. If no 118 bus is in sight, take bus 30 or 160 to Piazza Navigatori. From there, cross the 10-lane Via Cristoforo Colombo and walk on Via delle Sette Chiese to the catacombs.
If you don’t want to go to the Appia Antica, you can look for a nice eatery in the Borgo between the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo. Or you cross the Angel’s Bridge and continue towards Piazza Navona or Campo de’ Fiori. There are many nice restaurants in the area and you can visit the city center.
We would rather advise against a trip to Ostia on Sunday. Ostia is totally overcrowded on Sundays, especially with good weather.
Suggestions for the morning
Here are some other suggestions of what to do in Rome in the morning.