A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome offers some of the most impressive views of Rome.

The Dome is the second tallest building in Rome and can be seen from many places in town. It’s an impressive sight, especially at night when it is beautifully illuminated.

Unfortunately, getting to the Dome is a bit of a hassle. Much like the rest of the Vatican the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica can be quite crowded and you will find a long line of people waiting to get their tickets. Getting there prepared – having purchased tickets in advance – is key to a more enjoyable experience.

This post will tell you everything you should know before visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, with useful information on how to get the tickets and skip the line.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome interior
The interior of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

What’s Special About St. Peter’s Basilica Dome?

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome was built to cover the main basilica – the largest church in the world and, together with the rest of the Vatican, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its height of 136 meters (446 feet) and diameter of 42 meters (almost 138 feet), this is one of the largest domes in the world.

While the church was designed by artists Bernini, Bramante and Raphael, the Dome was designed exclusively by Michelangelo, inspired by the Pantheon in its design. Construction of the Dome started in 1546, when Michelangelo was 71. When he died, in 1564, the construction had yet to be completed. Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana started working on the site again in 1588, and the Dome was finally completed in 1590 (the church was only completed in 1626).

You have to climb 551 steps in order to get to the top of the Dome (or 320 if you take the elevator to the interior balcony). The steps are narrow; there is a part where you have to hold on to a rope and bend; it is narrow and dark. Yet, it’s a fun experience. Once you reach the top of the Dome, you get breathtaking views of St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Gardens and the city of Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica
The beautiful Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

How To Get Tickets To St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

You do need tickets to climb St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, which means that, much for like other famous tourist attractions in Rome, there are often lines. The only way to avoid those lines is to purchase tickets in advance. Continue reading, and I will explain how to do that.

Tickets to the Dome aren’t sold via the official site of the Vatican. You either have to buy tickets in person (and opt for an early visit to avoid the crowds) or buy tickets via a third party site. You can get tickets here.

Here are more ways to get St. Peter’s Basilica tickets.

View of Rome from St. Peter's Basilica Dome
The gorgeous views of Rome from the Dome

Way N. 1: Head to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome before it opens at 7:30 am

This is the most budget friendly way of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome – it can be a bit of a hit and miss in terms of lines, depending on the day. Anyhow – just head there super early – the Basilica opens at 7:00 am, and they start letting people in at the Dome at 7:30 am.

The best thing to do is to climb the Dome first and then visit the Basilica afterwards – you have to go through the Basilica anyways once you leave. Just as well, if you want to admire Rome in the golden light of sunset, climb the Dome right before it closes and visit the church afterwards, since it closes later than the Dome.

A lot of sites claim that the entrance to the Dome opens at 8:00 am. However, the official site of the Vatican states it opens at 7:30 am.

These are the ticket options:

  • €8 ticket to climb all 551 steps to the top of the Dome;
  • €10 ticket for the elevator – for which there may be a line – to the interior terrace, from where you will have to climb the remaining 320 steps.
St. Peter's Basilica Dome
A guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is the best way to also climb the Dome

Way N. 2: Join a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome climb

At the moment, there are no tickets-only option to visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. If you aren’t ready to wait in line, your only option is to join a guided tour of the Basilica which includes a visit to the Crypt and the Dome climb. It’s definitely more expensive than getting tickets at the door, but completely hassle free – not to mention, you get the bonus of a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica – which I wholeheartedly recommend!

Tours typically start at 8:00 am. Your first stop will be the Dome: you’ll take the elevator to the first terrace, and then climb the remaining stairs. Then, you’ll head back for a guided visit of the church.

You can book your guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome climb here or here.

For a selection of guided tours of the Vatican, click here.

Via della Conciliazione
St. Peter’s Basilica Dome as seen from Via della Conciliazione

Other Useful Information For Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Opening times

The opening times of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome vary between winter and summer months.

October 1 to March 21 – from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm.

April 1 to 30 September 30 – from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm.

For the updated opening times, you may want to consult the website of the Vatican here. Keep in mind it’s in Italian only, but it is fairly self explanatory.

Prices of the tickets to St Peter’s Basilica Dome 

These are the ticket options available directly at the door:

  • €8 ticket to climb all 551 steps to the top of the Dome;
  • €10 ticket for the elevator – for which there may be a line – to the interior terrace, from where you will have to climb the remaining 320 steps.

Ways of climbing to the dome

When you climb the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you have two different options:

  1. Climb the 551 steps to reach the very top of the Dome.
  2. Take the elevator to the first terrace and then climb only 320 steps to the top of the Dome.

The price difference for the two tickets is minimal, so you may want to invest in the elevator to ease your way to the top. On the other hand, there may be lines to board the elevator.

Once you get to the first terrace you will get impressive views of Piazza San Pietro below, and of the upper statues.

From the first terrace, continue climbing along a very narrow spiral staircase, at times having to hang on a rope. It’s a dark climb, with the occasional small window to peak outside. It will take you 10 minutes to climb this final section.

You will go down via another staircase.

It will take you about one hour to visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. This includes the time needed to climb to the top (depending on which option you pick, anything between 10 and 20 minutes); admire the views and take photos and then head back down to visit the Basilica. You may want to keep this in mind if you are packing your day with other visits.

St. Peter's Basilica at night
The stunning views of St. Peter’s Basilica at night

How to get to the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

The entrance to the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is inside the church, in Piazza San Pietro. Once you walk in, it’s on your right the security checks. There are clear signs pointing to the ticket office of the Dome.

By metro

The nearest metro station is Ottaviano, on line A: it’s a 5 minutes walk to the entrance from there.

By bus

From Termini, take bus n. 40 or 64.

If you are traveling from Tiburtina, take bus n. 492.

From the Colosseum, take bus n. 81.

St. Peter's Dome
It’s all about gorgeous views

Dress code

There is a strict dress code to enter the Vatican – including the Basilica and the Dome. Avoid wearing shorts, tank tops and flip flops; cover your knees, chest and shoulders. Wear long pants or a long skirt even in the summer months, and carry a light shirt to wear for the duration of the visit.

Security checks

No matter the kind of ticket you have purchased, you will have to go through the security checks. For a faster process, leave any bulky items in your room, and don’t bring prohibited items such as umbrellas, tripods, knives or scissors.

Toilets and other facilities

Toilets are located on the first terrace, where you will also find a water fountain, a coffee shop and a souvenir shop. You will have to go a few steps down from the terrace.

St. Peter's Basilica Dome view
St. Peter’s Basilica Dome as seen from Orange Garden B&B

The best views of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

The views of Rome from the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are stunning, but the views of the Dome itself are just as incredible. You will get beautiful views from the Aventine Hill, where Villa del Priorato di Malta has a unique keyhole view of St. Peter’s Dome. If this something you are keen on, I recommend going on a guided tour of Secret Rome. You can book here

You’ll also get incredible views of the Dome from the dining room of the lovely B&B Orange Garden.

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts about Rome

These are my detailed attractions’ guides:

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