Vatican City has some of the historically significant religious structures in the world, attracting millions of tourists annually. St. Peter's Basilica is one of the most significant structures of Vatican City. It is the region’s richest church.
It was sanctified in 1626 after 120 years of building on top of a 4th-century church. The original church, built around 349 on the site where St Peter is said to have been buried between AD 64 and 67, was commissioned by Emperor Constantine. But, like many antiquated churches, it fell into disrepair, and it wasn't until the mid-fifteenth century that attempts to rebuild it were made, first by Pope Nicholas V and then, more successfully, by Julius II. Apart from its historic significance, the architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica is also one of the reasons it is highly regarded. Its opulent interior houses many breathtaking works of art, including Michelangelo's Pietà, his rising dome, and Bernini's 29-meter-high baldachin over the papal altar. All of these factors have led to St Peter’s Basilica’s unending popularity. A visit to Rome, therefore, necessitates a visit to the St. Peter’s Basilica. At St. Peter’s Basilica, you can opt to explore the structure by yourself or go for a guided tour in the language of your choice.
Fancy yourself a convenient guided tour of this revered attraction? Check out our guide to choosing the right St. Peter's Basilica guided tour right away!
St. Peter’s Basilica In A Nutshell
Things to know
Best time to visit - Early morning
Suggested duration - 2 Hours
Starting St Peter's Basilica Tour price - €13.65
Constructed in - 18 April 1506
Closest metro station - Ottaviano-S. Pietro - Line A
St. Peter’s Basilica Opening Hours
April - September
7 AM - 7 PM
October - March
7 AM - 6 PM
The baldachin of Bernini
The beautiful statues
St. Peter’s Basilica Address
00165 Rome, Italy
Why You Should Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline of Vatican City and is often used as the representative structure of this tiny nation. Every inch of St. Peter’s Basilica is heavily laden with architectural genius and historical significance. One of the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring activities at St. Peter’s Basilica is the tour of the cupola.
Michelangelo's stunning dome, which stands 452 feet tall, was built in 1546. You can take the elevator for 7 euros and skip some, though not all, of the stair climbing. If you want to get some cardio, take the stairs for 5 euros. Be warned, the stairs are much more difficult to ascend than the elevator, and there aren't many views to enjoy along the way. From the roof, you can take in the amazing view of Piazza San Pietro, as well as the unique view of the nave and altar.
The interior of the basilica consists of numerous works of art that you witness during your visit. There have been significant discoveries and excavations beneath the surface of the basilica as well. Some of the pillars of the original 4th-century church have been discovered beneath the surface of St. Peter’s Basilica. In recent times, it has been unofficially said that the Tomb of St. Peter has been found to contain the skeleton of St. Peter. In addition to all these, you can also visit St. Peter’s Basilica to receive Papal Blessing every Wednesday.
History of St. Peter’s Basilica
Built on the orders of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, the basilica was completed around 349AD at the site of a small shrine meant to mark the location of the tomb of St. Peter. The church was marked for renovation by Pope Nicholas V in the late fifteenth century, but once he died, these restoration plans were halted. A century later, Pope Julius II began to build a completely new church, and appointed architect Donato Bromante who introduced the structure with the high dome.
It was designed to be a three-aisled Latin cross with a dome at the crossing, just above the high altar, which covers the shrine of St. Peter the Apostle. The dome was further worked upon and changed by architects and designers like Michelangelo Buonarroti, Giacomo della Porta and Carlo Maderno. The interior is filled with the greatest of masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque art. The most famous are Michelangelo’s Pietà, the baldachin by Bernini, the statue of St. Longinus, the tomb of Urban VIII, and the bronze cathedra of St. Peter. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age, and this, along with its immense religious significance, makes it a popular tourist site and an important pilgrimage destination.
St. Peter’s Basilica Architecture
After Carlo Maderno inherited the project in 1605, he designed the monumental facade that has contributed to this building’s astonishing architectural design. It is 48m high and 115m wide. Eight columns support the upper attic on which 13 statues stand representing Christ the Redeemer, St John the Baptist and the 11 apostles. An inscription on the entablature commemorates the fact that the façade was built during the pontificate of Pope Paul V Borghese. The central balcony is known as the Loggia della Benedizione, and it’s from here that the pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) upon his election, and at Christmas and Easter.
The atrium, or the ancient portico of the early Christian basilicas. is considered one of the most remarkable works of Carlo Maderno. The cavernous 187m-long interior covers more than 15,000 sq m and is an immense and magnificent space, richly decorated with Baroque stuccos, mosaics and statues, almost overwhelming at first glance. Bernini's famous baldachin occupies the centre, made with bronze taken from the Pantheon. It stands over the high altar, which itself sits on the site of St Peter's grave. The pope is the only priest permitted to serve at the altar.
Designed by Michelangelo, the dome was completed by Giacomo Della Porta, Michelangelo’s pupil. The dome, with an inner diameter of 42.56 metres measures 136.57 metres from the base to the top of the cross. There is a viewing platform at the base of the lantern from where you can enjoy an unparalleled panorama over Rome, which can be reached by stairs or elevator. This dome was used as a model for other domes in the western world, like Saint Paul’s in London (1675), Les Invalides in Paris (1680-1691) and the Capitol building in Washington (1794-1817).
The grottos contain chapels dedicated to various saints and tombs of kings, queens and popes, dating from the 10th century, and are found sandwiched between the Renaissance Basilica and Constantine’s 4th century basilica. The holiest spot here is Peter’s tomb, containing the "memory", built in the 4th century on the spot were the Apostle’s tomb was venerated. The monuments to Paul VI (1978) and Pope John Paul II (2005) are also in the grottos. There is also a fresco by the 14th century Roman painter Pietro Cavallini called “Madonna della Bocciata”, because of Mary’s swollen face. According to an old legend, her face bled because a drunken soldier had thrown a bowl into the holy image after he lost a game of bowls.
The Vatican necropolis, or scavi, is often confused for the grottoes, the latter of which resulted from the construction of St. Peter's Church and is located on the ground level of the old Constantinian basilica. It was originally a burial ground built on the southern slope of the Vatican Hill, adjacent to the Circus of Caligula. In accordance with the Roman law, it was forbidden to bury the dead within the city walls. For this reason, burial grounds sprang up along the roads outside of the city cemeteries. It is thought to be the site of Apostle Peter’s tomb.
Visiting the attraction from the inside
St. Peter’s Basilica Entrances
There are three major and one secret entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. Read more about which of these St. Peter’s Basilica Entrances are most convenient for you.
The Basilica's Cupola, often known as the Dome, provides a magnificent view of the city and sometimes takes a little extra time during your visit. The entrance is right at the start, above the visitor's square in St. Peter's Square, so going there first is a good idea. This entrance is best if you want a bit of cardio and a bird’s eye view of the surroundings after that.
Necropolis & Treasury
The treasury, unlike other entries, needs payment. As a result, you will need to buy tickets ahead of time to see them. It can be found on the left side of St. Peter's Basilica and is marked by the columns that surround it. The names of the Popes who have been buried at St. Peter's Basilica, as well as a statue of St. Andrew's, can be seen on the left.
St. Peter’s Basilica Grotto
If you select this entrance, you can witness the Grotto of St. Peter's Tomb during your visit. You must be accompanied by a guide to this entrance, which is situated underground. The tour will take you on an excavation where you will be able to see what could be the remains of St. Peter. The tour lasts over an hour and can be booked at the Vatican Scavi office or online as part of a combination ticket.
On the right side of the Sistine Chapel, there is a concealed small entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica that is not open at all times, but mostly reserved for guided tours.
Must-see At St. Peter’s Basilica
The Pieta is a religious sculpture carved by Michelangelo when he was 24 years old – it is also the only piece of artwork he has ever signed, with his signature found across Mary’s chest. It was carved from a single slab of Carrara marble. Commissioned by French cardinal Jean de Billheres, who served the church in Rome and wanted to be remembered long after he'd died, he hired Michelangelo to make a memorial for his tomb that would capture a scene that was popular in Northern European art at the time: the tragic moment of the Virgin Mary taking Jesus down from the cross.
St. Peter’s Baldachin is a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy over the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, the work began in 1623 and ended in 1634, the story of its design is interesting - when the Basilica had finally been finished it seemed as though something was still missing: there was no connection between the main body designed by Maderno and Michelangelo’s majestic dome. Bernini came up with a gigantic, yet perfect solution. He designed the Baldacchino and he placed it in the most holy spot in the entire church, right above the tomb of Saint Peter, as if the crowds of faithful had brought it and placed it there over the body of the apostle.
The statue of St. Longinus is a 4-metres-tall sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Longinus was the blind Roman soldier who speared Jesus in the side during the crucifixion. He was alleged to have converted to Christianity after the event, having realized Jesus was the son of God. When converting to Christianity, Longinus was cured of his blindness and regained his sight, experiencing not only a spiritual awakening but a physical one as well. The statue depicts Longinus, with his arms extended, receiving the divine light. This divine light, in practice, would come through the window's of St. Peter's Basilica.
Saint Peter's tomb is a site under St. Peter's Basilica that includes several graves and a structure said by Vatican authorities to have been built to memorialize the location of Saint Peter's grave. Excavations beneath St Peter's Basilica have uncovered part of the original church and a necropolis with what is held to be the Tomb of St Peter. In 1942, the bones of an elderly, strongly built man were found here, in a box hidden behind a wall covered by pilgrims’ graffiti. In 2013 Pope Francis publicly displayed the relics for the first time.
Also called the Throne of St. Peter, this relic is a wooden throne that tradition claims the Apostle Saint Peter, the leader of the Early Christians in Rome and first Pope, used as Bishop of Rome. The relic itself is described as an oaken chair damaged by cuts and worms, while the back and front are trimmed with carved ivory. The wooden throne was a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VIII in 875. The spiritual significance of the chair is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.
St. Peter's Basilica Tickets
St Peter's Basilica is free to enter. But knowing what went into the making of this world famous church, or climbing it's Dome, or paying a visit to the grottoes are only possible with guided tours. Check out what these St Peter's Basilica tickets offer and what you would like to do the most.
How To Skip-The-Line At St. Peter’s Basilica?
Lines can be excruciatingly long at this popular tourist site. There are three ways that you can avoid them:
Take a Skip the line ticket
Book a skip-the-line Vatican Museums tour and use this door to skip the extra line for the church. However skip-the-line access are sought-after, so even the fast-track lines are long. This experience includes admission through a special entrance, so there are no lines whatsoever. Enter directly into the vast collection of private artwork that is the Vatican Museums.
Check out all skip the line St. Peter's Basilica tickets.
Take a guided tour
Guided tours of St. Peter's means you get access to a special ceremonial papal corridor, that goes directly from the Sistine Chapel to St Peter’s Basilica; and a knowledgeable guide leading the way. Please note that this only applies to visitors with an authorized guide: people on standard tickets to the Vatican Museums are diverted to the exit of the museums on the other side of the Vatican. The advantage of this is that you end your Vatican tour in St Peter’s with all of the expertise that this will bring.
Check out all the guided tours of St. Peter's Basilica.
Rome City Pass
The Rome City Pass is the ultimate entry ticket to Rome – not only do you get to skip all the lines and visit almost all the attractions in Rome and Vatican, but the passes also offer benefits like free travel on public transport, free hop-on hop-off bus tours and huge savings on tickets. You can get all these benefits at whopping savings of up to 30% on ticket costs.
Check out the Rome City Pass.
Recommended St Peter's Basilica TicketsCheck out all St. Peter's Basilica Tickets.
St. Peter's Basilica - Location
Download this map and keep it handy to navigate around Vatican city.
Below is St. Peter’s Basilica's location map for your easy navigation.
Visiting St. Peter's Basilica - All You Need to Know
Getting to St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City is to the north of the city centre of Rome and is easily reached independently by public transport plus and even by Rome hop-on hop-off tourist buses which have a stop here.
The Rome Metro has a station just outside the Vatican at Ottaviano-S. Pietro. Line A direction Battistini, Ottaviano or Cipro stations of the Metro has trains running every few minutes. It's a 5 minute walk from the Metro to both St Peter's Square and the Vatican Museums.
49, stop in the square in front of the Vatican Museums
32, 81, 982, stop at Piazza del Risorgimento
492, 990, stop in Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni
- April-Sept 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM
- Oct-March 7:00 AM -6:00 PM
Mass Schedule for St. Peter's Basilica
8:30 AM- Blessed Sacrament Chapel In Italian
9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM - Altar of St. Joseph (Left Transept), In Italian
5:00 PM - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) In Latin, with singing, homily in Italian
Sunday and Holy Days
9:00 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - Mass for the Parish, in Italian
10:30 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - Solemn Mass in Latin, with singing, homily in Italian
11:30 - Blessed Sacrament Chapel - In Italian
12:15 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
1:00pm - Altar of St. Joseph - (Left Transept), In Italian
4:00pm - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
5:45pm - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
Dress code at St. Peter’s Basilica
At St. Peter's Basilica, the dress code is very strictly followed. There cannot be a show of knees or shoulders. Headgears are disallowed as well. Even if you have been in line for an hour and have passed screening, you will not be allowed in if your knees and shoulders are visible. Even if you are wearing a dress or shorts that almost hit your knees, security can tell you to stretch them down. You can spot some people wearing sweaters around their waists to cover their knees, which is permitted.
Best time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica
The best time of the year to visit St. Peter’s basilica if you want warm weather is in June and July. If avoiding the crowd is your priority, visit the basilica during the coldest months, December and January. However, no matter when you visit, you need to time your visit to avoid over an hour’s waiting time. The basilica opens to visitors at 7 AM. If you can visit within the first two hours of this time, you may have a lower waiting time. You may also try your luck by visiting after 4 PM. However, you should try to avoid Wednesdays and the weekends. Wednesday is generally kept aside for a papal audience, causing a higher tourist footfall. The weekends, as a rule, bring more tourists to St. Peter’s Basilica. You should also know that the basilica may be closed without prior notice if the Pope wishes to use it.
Insider Tips for visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
- Though entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free, entering the Vatican Museums isn’t. But be sure not to miss the latter, for the historical and cultural significance of both are equally important to getting the full experience.
- Timings: Ensure that you visit the Vatican early in the morning to avoid long queues, and then walk twenty minutes to the Basilica. The latter is also closer to the city, making it easier to exit.
- Investing in a guide book may come in handy, for a lot of the charm of these monuments is their historical significance. It may also help with directions – it can get confusing inside!
- Visiting both the Vatican Museums and the Basilica could take around 6-7 hours, so plan your meal times accordingly.
- It can take 45 minutes to an hour to get inside the Basilica, if your are using the free entry queue. You can avoid the waiting time by buying St Peter's Basilica Guided Tours which include fast-track access.
- Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothes. Your shoulders and knees must be covered all the time. Avoid wearing shorts and bare shoulders.
St. Peter’s Basilica Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
- St. Peter’s Basilica isn’t the official seat of the Pope. One of the main reasons for its procedural importance is its proximity to the residence of the Pope.
- Bernini’s Baldacchino is about 10 stories tall and uses about 100,000 pounds of bronze.
- The paintings inside the basilica are actually incredibly detailed mosaics made of tiny tesserae.
- Michelangelo’s Pietà is now encased in bulletproof glass after it was attacked with a hammer in 1972.
- Michelangelo’s dome has 491 stairs to the top.
- The dome of the basilica is the tallest dome on earth.
- The bronze statue of St. Peter present inside the basilica is believed to be cast in the 5th century by some historians.
- The two fountains in the front of the basilica were built by different artists.
Top things to do around St. Peter’s Basilica
1Museo Pio Clementino
The Vatican Museums house the world's largest collection of ancient art, with the majority of it on display in the systematic arrangement planned by Pope Clement XIV and Pius VI between 1769 and 1799. There are so many beautiful and important objects in these galleries that even a list of the highlights will be lengthy. Visit Museo Pio Clementino to transport yourself to the past.
From 1980 to 1994, the frescoes on the walls and ceiling of this rectangular hall by Michelangelo and others, considered the pinnacle of Renaissance art, were extensively restored, removing layers of candle-soot, dust, varnish, grease, and overpainting to expose their original luminous colors. Sistine Chapel tickets are a must have when you are in Vatican City.
The Pinacoteca includes 16 rooms of priceless art from the Middle Ages to modern works, despite Napoleon stripping it of many of its treasures. The images, which are organized in chronological order, offer an excellent summary of the history of Western art. Byzantine, Sienese, Umbrian, and Tuscan paintings, as well as a Giotto triptych and a Madonna and St. Nicholas of Bari by Fra Angelico, are among the works on display.
4Piazza San Pietro
Bernini built the grand Piazza San Pietro in front of St. Peter's Basilica between 1656 and 1667 to act as a meeting place for pilgrims from all over the world. It continues to serve its purpose admirably, and it is packed to the brim on Easter Sunday and other significant occasions. The magnificence of the square is truly worth taking in, despite it never being completely devoid of tourists at any point of time in the day.
The first parts of the Vatican Gardens were designed in the 13th century for Pope Nicholas II as a place of quiet contemplation. The landscaped parks, grassy spaces, and orchards have developed to cover nearly half of the tiny city-territory state's land area and rival the most beautiful gardens in Italy over the years. Visitors can find many individually potted plants along the paths, including beautiful azaleas and other lush flowers, in addition to the formal French Garden. Check out more about visiting Vatican Gardens with the Vatican Garden Tickets.
Restaurants around St. Peter’s Basilica
One of the finest eateries serving traditional Roman cuisine near St. Peter’s basilica is Cantina e Cucina . The restaurant is known for its modest decor and a mouthwatering tiramisu.
When in Rome, do as Romans do: try the pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli. Located in close proximity to Vatican City, Antico Forno Roscioli is also famous for its baked products.
If it takes you until evening to finish your tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, go straight to Mizzica and take advantage of their happy hour. Mizzica offers Sicilian cuisine that you can wash down with quality beer or wine.
If you are looking for a niche fusion of Japanese and Brazillian cuisine, Rome won’t disappoint you. Temakinho offers this odd combination of dishes just a few minutes away from St. Peter’s Basilica.
No trip to Rome is complete without heading to a dessert parlor. Pompi Il Regno del Tiramisù is known for its delectable yet reasonably priced spread of ice cream and tiramisu.
Frequently asked questions about St. Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter's Basilica is a church built in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City.
St Peter’s Basilica is located in Vatican City.
St. Peter’s Basilica is open daily from 7 AM to 6 PM. It is open until 7 PM from April to September.
The construction of St Peter’s Basilica was started by Pope Julius II in 1506 and completed in 1615 under Paul V.
Emperor Constantine The Great built the Old St Peter’s Basilica between 319 AD and 333 AD on the soils of the burial place of St. Peter.
Yes, visitors are expected to dress modestly and cover their shoulders, neckline, and knees.
No. The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is free.
Pre-booking is the best way to go about it if you know exactly when you want to enter and have a scheduled plan after the visit.
Although the entry for St Peter’s Basilica is free, if you can't make it early to St. Peter's, then consider booking in advance for either an official self-guided audio tour or an official guided St Peter’s Basilica Tour.
No, the Vatican museums can be accessed through a separate entrance.
No. But most of St. Peter’s Basilica is wheelchair accessible.
No, pets are not allowed inside the basilica.
Small backpacks and umbrellas are permitted inside the basilica. However, larger bags and bulky items must be left in the cloakroom.
Yes, photos are sanctioned, but camera tripods are not allowed.
Yes. As long as you are respectful and not wearing shorts and sleeveless clothing you can enter the Basilica.
Yes, strollers are allowed inside the basilica.