Why should you get St. Peter’s Basilica tickets if getting in is actually free? Because this way you can get in in a matter of minutes. In this post, I explain how you can avoid the lines at St. Peter’s Basilica, where you can get St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and share a few tips to make the most of your time in this amazing church.
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. Enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one of the largest catholic churches in the world, spanning for 186 meters (610 feet), with a central nave that reaches 46 meters (151 feet), a dome that is 136 meters (446 feet) tall and 42 meters (almost 138 meters) wide. It can host up to 20,000 people.
Inside the church, there are 11 chapels, 45 altars and mosaics. Inside, 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 another masterpiece of Bernini.
Every day, pilgrims from around the world visit the Basilica, and at times the lines to get in can get overwhelming – which is why some visitors opt to get skip-the-line tickets, even though visiting the Basilica is free.
5 Ways To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, where the combination of large numbers of visitors and increased security measures can cause lines to get in – it certainly was so in 2019. At times, lines were of up to 1.5 hours!
If you want the certainty of avoiding the lines, you must get a St. Peter’s Basilica ticket in advance. For a relatively small investment, these tickets will allow you to skip the line, and (depending on the option you pick) to even have a guided tour of the Basilica.
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 these are more expensive than those sold online! All skip the line tickets work based on time slots: upon buying the ticket, pick a time for your visit and get to the Basilica a bit early to get through the security checks.
Way N. 1: Take a tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums
The easiest way to get into St. Peter’s Basilica is by purchasing a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum that ends in the Basilica via a dedicated entrance. Not only this is the easiest way of accessing the Basilica, but it’s also the best value-for-money tour.
The price of tours is $103. It lasts 3 hours in total, after which you can spend more time on your own inside the Basilica.
FURTHER READING: How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums
Way N. 2: Buy St. Peter’s Basilica tour
If you’d rather visit St. Peter’s Basilica first, then go on a separate tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, opt for fast-track St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and tour which will help you jump the lines and go directly through security (you can’t skip that, I’m afraid!).
Guided tours of just St. Peter’s Basilica cost around $33 and last one hour. They don’t include a Dome climb, for which you need to purchase a separate ticket or a different tour altogether.
You can book your guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica here.
If you already know that you want to enjoy the incredible views of Rome from St. Peter’s Dome, opt for a tour that includes St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and the Dome climb. In this case, the tour lasts 2 full hours and costs $72 – a bit more expensive, but totally worth it in my opinion!
To book your tour of St. Peter’s Basilica complete of Dome climb, click here.
FURTHER READING: A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
Way N. 3: Take a tour of the Necropolis
The Vatican has a tour that is called “Scavi Tour” that takes visitors in the necropolis 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, thought to be the burial place if St. Peter’s – which is why the Basilica was built there! The tour finishes in the Basilica.
The Scavi tour can be booked directly by sending a request to the Ufficio Scavi via this page: it’s in Italian, but it’s self-explanatory. It lasts around 90 minutes and costs €13 (around $16.50). Kids under the age of 15 aren’t allowed.
This page gives exact instructions on the information you have to provide when booking the tour.
Way N. 4: Buy a City Pass
The Rome City Pass and the Vatican Pass are excellent options if you want to visit the best attractions in town, including St. Peter’s Basilica. These tourist passes offer considerable savings in terms of money. The only downside is that some attractions have timed entrances which means you have to call them ahead of your visit to book your time slot.
The Best of Rome Pass includes St. Peter’s Basilica tickets; tickets to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums; and tickets to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It costs $87 and you can book all attractions easily online when you get the pass – get it here.
FURTHER READING: The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.
Way N. 5: Go on a one-day tour of Rome
If you are spending a very short time in Rome and just want to hit the highlights during your visit, join a tour that will take you to the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. I have selected the best options available that you may want to consider:
- Rome in a day small group tour with Vatican and Colosseum – this 7.5 hour tour of Rome also goes to the Pantheon, and it includes a stop for gelato. It costs $157 USD for a completely hassle free day.
- Vatican and ancient Rome 6.5 hour skip the line tour – you’ll get a live guide and fast track tickets for $115 USD.
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 6:30 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 skip the lines or join 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 observes 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.
You’ll have to go through security checks before getting inside the church even if you have previously purchased a skip the line ticket. Tour groups that include 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
Rome normally gets lots 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.
The best time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica is between 7:00 and 10:00 am, when the line to go through security is shorter. Alternatively, plan to visit at lunch time, between 1:00 and 3:00 pm when all the tour groups (ie shore excursions that typically arrive around 9:00 or 10:00 am) are out having lunch.
St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesday mornings, when the Pope gives his public address and audience. Also avoid Saturdays and Sundays, when Rome gets a large influx of weekend trippers.
FURTHER READING: The Best Time To Visit Rome
Photography is allowed inside St. Peter’s Basilica, with the exceptions of the chapels on the sides. Beware that you won’t be allowed 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
The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is separate from that of the Vatican Museums 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 see 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.
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.
You can get instant tickets for the Papal Audience here. They cost $30 and include a guide that will 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 addresses and blesses the audience in St. Peter’s Square from one of the windows of his apartment. 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 early 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. Book well ahead of time!
Further readings about Rome
Make sure to read my posts:
- 17 Reasons To Visit Italy
- The Best Things To Do In Rome
- How To Get Tickets To The Colosseum
- 6 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 2 Days
- 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
- All The Food In Rome You Should Eat: 25 Delicious Dishes
- How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center