Why should you get a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket if getting in is actually free? Because, much like with many tourist attractions in Rome, this is one of the tourist attractions with the longest lines to get in.
If you are anything like me and aren’t a fan of standing in line for what seems like ever, you will surely appreciate that with a small investment you can breeze through the lines and get to see what really is one of the most impressive churches in the world.
In this post, I explain how you can avoid the lines at St. Peter’s Basilica, where you can get a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket and share a few tips to make the most of your day there.
Are you planning a trip to Rome? Make sure to read my post “30 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome.”
Why You Have To Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the Vatican State, where it was built over a Roman necropolis where, around 67 AC, St. Peter’s had been buried.
Most people visit the Basilica during their trip to Rome. It is such a unique place, so much a work of art, that it’s (obviously, if I may add) enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the largest catholic churches in the world, spanning for 186 meters, with a central nave that reached 46 meters, a dome that is 136 meters tall and 42 meters wide. It can host up to 20000 people.
Inside the church, there are a whopping 11 chapels, 45 altars and mosaics. Among the most prominent pieces, you’ll be able to see Michelangelo’s Pietà – a sculpture that the artist worked on when he was around 20 years old; Bernini’s Baldacchino, a masterpiece of Baroque art built in 1624; and the Chair of St. Peter, inside which the actual chair of St. Peter is located and which is known as one of Bernini’s masterpieces.
Every day, pilgrims from around the world visit the Basilica, and many of them are now getting tickets to get in.
Continue reading to discover where to get your St. Peter’s Basilica ticket and skip the line.
7 Smart Ways To Get A St. Peter’s Basilica Ticket And Skip The Line
As I have already said, St. Peter’s Basilica is free to visit. However, this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, where the combination of large numbers of visitors and increased security measures that have been implemented in the last few years cause very long lines to get in. You are bound to spend 1.5 hours in line (though that is an optimistic estimate, to be honest) even if you make an effort to arrive super early.
Trouble is, you can’t buy tickets to get in on the spot and directly at the Vatican. If you want to avoid the lines, the only option you have is to get a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket in advance. For a relatively small investment, these tickets will allow you to skip the line and to even have a guided tour of the Basilica. If you ask me, the money spent is totally worth to save time!
TIP: As I have said, you can’t buy a ticket for St. Peter’s Basilica on the spot. You may find some people trying to sell them outside, but I encourage you not to buy them. It may be a scam; and if not, chances are that they are being sold at a much higher rate than what you’d find online.
Anyways, without further ado, let me finally explain how you can get your St. Peter’s Basilica ticket and skip the line.
Please be advised that all skip the line tickets work based on time slots. This means that when you buy the ticket, you have to pick a preferred entry time and make sure to be there a bit in advance to get through the security checks.
Way N. 1: Take a guided group tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums
The most obvious way to skip the line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica is by purchasing a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. Indeed, most official tours of the Vatican Museums end in St. Peter’s Basilica, via the Sistine Chapel and through a dedicated entrance.
Some people who only have purchased tickets to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums try to sneak in by “accidentally” joining a guided tour that is exiting through the door towards St. Peter’s, but unless you want to risk to come across really badly, I’d suggest to avoid it and buy an all inclusive ticket that also goes to St. Peter’s Basilica.
These are the best tours of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel that also include a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket:
- Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s guided tour – a great tour that takes you pretty much through all the highlights of the Vatican.
- Faster than skip the line: Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica tour– an excellent option, and as the name says getting through is fast and easy.
- Early access Vatican Museum small group tour with Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica – a good morning option, so that you are done in the very early afternoon and can get on with your day.
- Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s tickets – a very good tour, no frills and straight to the point.
- Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica skip the line self guided tour – an excellent option if you’d rather opt for a self guided tour.
Keen on visiting the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel? Check out my post “How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line.”
Way N. 2: Take an official guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
You can buy guided tours of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum on the official website of the Museums. The tour costs €38, which is probably cheaper than buying it on any of the third party sites I have indicated above, but you may end up in a group of up to 35 people, which really isn’t ideal for full enjoyment of the site. This is honestly the option I least recommend.
Way N. 3: Buy St. Peter’s Basilica fast track entrance tickets without visiting the museums
I honestly don’t know why anybody would want to skip visiting the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. However, if for any reason you aren’t planning to visit them during your trip (maybe you’ve seen them already), you will be relieved to know that you can still skip the lines and just get tickets to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.
These are the best St. Peter’s Basilica tickets that allow you to skip the line:
- St. Peter’s Basilica guided tour – the best skip the line option as you also get a professional guide to take you around the Basilica and answer all your questions.
- St. Peter’s Basilica self guided tour – a good skip the line option where you also get an audio-guide to take you through the church.
- St. Peter’s Basilica skip the line – a self guided tour with an audioguide in several languages, and at a very convenient price.
- St. Peter’s Basilica self guided tour and dedicated entrance – a great no-frills option, to get straight to the point.
- No wait dedicated access to St. Peter’s Basilica with audioguide – similar to the ones above, but you can even download the guide on your smartphone.
Way N. 4: Buy St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Dome combined ticket
If you already know that you want to enjoy the incredible views of Rome from St. Peter’s Dome, you should totally opt for the combined skip the line ticket for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome.
These are the best tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica that include entry to the Dome:
- St. Peter’s Basilica guided tour with Dome climb – the Dome usually has a separate additional cost of €8, which in this case is already included.
- St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb & Crypt – a great guided tour that includes everything there is to see.
Are you interested in visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome? Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.”
Way N. 5: Take a tour of the Necropolis
The Vatican has a tour that is called “Scavi Tour” that takes visitors in the necropolis, which was discovered in the 1950s and which is a very well preserved Roman cemetery. It is a burial ground that dates back to the 1st century and thought to be the place where St. Peter’s himself has been buried – which is why the Basilica was built right on top of it. The tour finishes right in the Basilica.
The Scavi tour can be booked directly by sending an email to the Ufficio Scavi; it lasts around 90 minutes and costs €13. Kids under the age of 15 aren’t allowed.
There is a very detailed webpage that gives instructions on the information you have to provide when booking the tour, but the page is in Italian – so you may want to opt for the easy way and book your ticket via a third party.
These are the best tours of the Necropolis that also go to St. Peter’s Basilica:
- St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and Necropolis tour– straight to the point and a very honest price.
- Necropolis, Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – an excellent option that really includes everything.
- Necropolis and St. Peter’s Basilica guided tour – you’ll also get a guide to take you around the Basilica.
- St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb & Crypt – a great tour that literally goes through all there is to see.
Way N. 6: Buy a Rome City Pass
The Rome City Pass and the Vatican Pass are excellent options if you want to visit the best attractions in town and skip the line at St. Peter’s Basilica. These tourist passes offer considerable savings not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time. Here’s what’s available:
- Carta Turistica di Roma– the basic price is €67.50, and you can add the attractions you are interested in – you’ll have to add the tickets to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican, for example.
- Vatican and Rome card– this card costs only €55, and with it you get tickets to the Sistine Chapel and entry to 2 archeological sites or museums of your choice. You also get a 20% discount to other sites. The only problem is that the site is in Italian only.
- 72 hours Rome pass – this is the cheapest option at €38.50. You’ll have to pay for the audioguide to the Vatican Museum separately.
- Rome visit silver pass – a budget friendly option with which you get an audio guide to take you through the most popular attractions, including St. Peter’s Basilica. Prices start at a friendly €44.
- Vatican and Rome city pass – it costs €113, which may seem expensive, but it includes skip the line tickets to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, to St. Peter’s Basilica and even to the Colosseum. You also get a hop on hop off bus pass.
- Vatican, Colosseum, Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo pass – the most expensive yet the most inclusive of all the options, at €125.
Check out my post “The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.”
Way N. 7: Get a combined Colosseum and Vatican skip the line ticket
Finally, if you are just spending a very short time in Rome and just want to hit the highlights during your visit, you can get a combined skip the line Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica ticket.
These are the best options available:
- Rome combo: Vatican City and Colosseum – a tour that goes to the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning, and the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill in the afternoon, and at a more than reasonable price.
- 2 in 1 entire Vatican tour and fast track Colosseum ticket– you’ll be guided around the Vatican and go on a self guided tour of the Colosseum.
- Rome in a day small group tour with Vatican and Colosseum – this full day tour of Rome also goes to the Pantheon, and it includes a stop for gelato.
- Rome in a day low cost Vatican and Colosseum tour – it’s a best seller, because it is extremely good value for money.
- Vatican City and Ancient Rome full day small group tour – this tour starts at the Arch of Constantine and goes to all the highlights – perhaps at a bit of a too fast pace.
- Vatican and ancient Rome 6.5 hour skip the line tour – you’ll get a live guide and fast track tickets, but transportation is not included.
Make sure to read my post “Five Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines.”
Other Tips To Skip The Line At St. Peter’s Basilica
Ok, to be completely honest you won’t be able to skip the line if you don’t buy a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket, but if you don’t want to pay to do so, you may at least spend less time in line if you follow a few simple tips.
Don’t visit in peak season
That’s kind of hard, given it is Rome: this is a city that gets a lot of tourists year round. However, the largest flow of tourists visits between April and October. If you want to find a slightly less crowded city, visit in the winter – except during Christmas time.
Don’t go first thing in the morning
Most people will tell you that the best way to avoid the massive lines at tourist sites is to go very early in the morning. WRONG! This is when the big groups go. Most of them start their visits at 9:00 AM. Instead, plan to visit at lunch time, between 1:00 and 3:00 PM when all the tour groups are out having lunch. Alternatively, opt for a super early start and plan to be at the Basilica at 7:00 am, when it opens.
TIP: If you decided to visit in the early afternoon, keep in mind that if for some reason the line is still long you may risk not making it in before it closes to the public.
Don’t go on a Wednesday or at weekends
St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesday mornings, when the Pope gives his public address and audience. The square gets incredibly crowded, and it’ll be impossible to make it inside the Basilica in the afternoon. I’d also suggest to avoid Saturdays and Sundays, when Rome gets an even larger influx of visitors.
Practical Information For Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica
Between 1 October and 31 March, St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 AM and closes at 6:00 PM.
Between 1 April and 30 September, the Basilica opens at 7:00 AM and closes at 7:00 PM.
Keep in mind that the Basilica is closed during Papal audiences.
Getting inside St. Peter’s Basilica is free. You only have to pay if you want to get a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket that allows you to skip the line, and if you want to do a guided tour.
There is an added €8 to visit St. Peter’s Dome. I wholeheartedly recommend adding this to your visit, as the views of the city from the dome are simply breathtaking.
St. Peter’s Basilica is a church, and like all other churches there is a strict dress code for visitors. Make sure not to wear shorts, mini-skirts, flip flops, tank tops and low cut shirts. In general, you have to cover your knees and shoulders.
While this may hardly be an issue in the cold winter months, you may want to consider wearing layers during the summer months. Opt for a light cotton shirt or jacket that you can wear on top of your base layer, and for long pants or a long skirt or dress. Please note that if you don’t comply with the dress code, you will not be allowed entry.
You’ll have to go through security checks before getting inside the church even if you have previously purchased a skip the line ticket. Holders of skip the line tickets, however, can go thought a different (and much quicker) line.
To speed up the process of going through security, make sure to remove items that aren’t allowed inside the church from your bag. Prohibited items include umbrellas, sticks, tripods, luggage and large bags, knives and scissors.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica is between 7:00 and 10:00, when the line to go through security is still manageable. Any time after that you’re likely to find a large crowd and it’ll take you a long time to go through.
GOOD TO KNOW: A skip the line St. Peter’s Basilica ticket will allow you to go in much quicker even after 10:00 am. There is a separate security line for people who hold a skip the line ticket.
Photography is allowed inside St. Peter’s Basilica, with the exceptions of the chapels on the sides. However, beware that you won’t be able to use tripods, stands and other professional equipment without previous authorization which should be granted by the Directorate of the Vatican Museum.
Flash photography is not allowed.
How to get to St. Peter’s Basilica
Keep in mind that the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is separate from that of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. You can enter the Basilica directly from Piazza San Pietro, or after a tour of the Sistine Chapel via a reserved entrance.
The nearest metro station to St. Peter’s Basilica is Ottaviano – that’s line A. You can also get there by bus, with n. 40 or 64 which depart from Termini Station and n. 492 that leaves from Tiburtina.
BONUS! How to tee the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica
If you care about seeing the Pope, you should plan to go to St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday or Wednesday. That’s when you can attend mass and see the Pope for free. You need to have a ticket for that, but you can usually get it for free (I will explain more about that below). One thing for sure is that you can expect very large crowds on those days.
Wednesday Papal Audience
The Pope addresses his audience every Wednesday, and that’s when you have the highest chances of seeing him.
Papal Audiences usually start at around 10:00 -10:30 am; they last between one hour and one and a half. You need to get there at least two hours in advance to get a seat. You need to get a ticket for that, by way of an application you can find here. You will have to download the application, fill it in and fax it to the number provided.
TIP: You can get instant tickets for the Papal Audience here. Tickets cost €39 and include a guide that will take you around and walk you through the event, leading you to the best seats, and a headset to be able to hear the guide.
Each Sunday, at 12:00 pm, the Pope shows up from one of the windows of his apartment and addresses and blesses a large audience in St. Peter’s Square. The Angelus (that’s how the event is called) lasts for about 20 minutes, it is 100% free to attend, but you should plan to arrive in St. Peter’s Square at least two hours in advance to get a good spot to see the Pope.
For Catholics all over the world, attending a Papal Mass is an unmissable event. Tickets to attend the mass are actually free, but the mass schedule changes regularly so you may want to monitor the website to make sure you can book your tickets and know when to go. Make sure to book well ahead of time (I’d say, even six months in advance if your heart is set on that).
Further readings about Rome
Make sure to read my posts
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines
- A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon, Rome + What You Should Know About Pantheon Tickets
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- The Perfect Itinerary For 3 Days In Rome
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- 20 Great Day Trips From Rome
- A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome
- All The Food In Rome You Should Eat: 25 Delicious Dishes
- How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center