Is there any such thing as St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and should you get one? Do you need tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica?
Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is actually free, and there is no such thing as official St. Peter’s Basilica tickets. However, you should consider options for guided tours as these will make your visit much smoother and enjoyable – and going through the lines quicker.
In this post, I explain the best ways of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and make the most of this incredible 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. Here’s a brief overview of what you will be able to see.
St Peter’s Baldachin
Known in Italian as the Baldacchino, this pavilion structure is one of the holiest spots in St Peter’s Basilica. Thought to be one of the largest single pieces of bronze in the world, it is situated above the altar, beneath the dome, and above the spot below ground where St Peter was buried.
It was designed by Baroque master Bernini between 1623 and 1634. He took influence from the canopy that is held over the Pope’s head during processions.
Make sure to read my post Where To See The Works Of Bernini In Rome.
Located in the first chapel is the beautiful Pietà by Michelangelo. Created by the artist between 1498 and 1499, the piece was carved out of white marble and depicts the Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. Michelangelo was a relatively unknown artist at the time of its creation. Interestingly, it’s the only piece that he ever signed.
Check out my post Where To See The Works Of Michelangelo In Rome.
Loggia Delle Benedizioni
Known also as the Loggia of the Blessings or simply St Peter’s Central Balcony, this is where blessings are given by the Pope. It’s also from here that new Popes are announced.
The Chair of St Peter
The throne located in the baldachin is a wooden chair that is said to have been used by St Peter himself for sermons preached to the early Christians of Rome. Around the chair is a giant gilt bronze casing designed by Bernini and constructed between 1647 and 1663.
The throne was given as a gift to Pope John VIII in 875 by Charles the Bald, Emperor of the Carolingian Empire. However, after modern analysis, it was concluded that the wooden chair is no older than the 6th century.
Tomb of Innocent XI
Another piece by Bernini, the tomb of the 17th-century Pope Innocent XI is a beautiful monument. Interestingly, the body of Innocent XI can actually be seen in situ through a grate, fully clothed in Papal regalia. The tomb itself is situated below Raphael’s painting of the Transfiguration.
5 Ways To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, with tourists and pilgrims visiting every day. The combination of large numbers of visitors and increased security measures can cause lines to get in.
That’s why some visitors opt to get skip-the-line St. Peter’s Basilica tickets, even though visiting the Basilica is free.
If you want the certainty of avoiding the lines, you must get St. Peter’s Basilica tickets in advance. For a relatively small investment, St. Peter’s Basilica 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 St. Peter’s Basilica tickets 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 starting price of tours is €45. They last around 3.5 hours, after which you can spend more time on your own inside the Basilica.
To book your guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, including a St. Peter’s Basilica tickets and tour, click here.
For a selection of guided tours of the Vatican, click here.
You should also read my post How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel.
Way N. 2: Buy a 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 €30 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.
For an in depth tour of St. Peter’s Basilica which includes a visit to the grottoes (where you can see the papal tombs) and St. Peter’s Square, click 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. The tour lasts two full hours, including the Dome climb and visiting the Basilica.
The Dome was an idea of Bramante, who took inspiration from the dome at the Pantheon, and was completed in 1590.
To get to the Dome you have to climb a series of winding staircases, consisting of 551 steps. Be warned: it is enclosed space and not good therefore if you are claustrophobic at all.
St. Peter’s Basilica Dome is open daily from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can get tickets directly at the door and they cost either €8 if you opt to climb all the way up (551 steps) or €10 if you take the elevator and then clim the rest of the way (320 steps).
To book your tour of St. Peter’s Basilica complete of Dome climb, click here.
For more information about the Dome, head over to my post 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!
Descending a staircase, you’ll find a necropolis featuring over 100 tombs, including 91 for Popes. It’s also here that you can find the Tomb of St Peter. Additional tombs were discovered beneath the Basilica when Pope Pius XI ordered excavations in the 19th century, as he wanted to be buried next to St Peter.
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. Kids under the age of 15 aren’t allowed. The tour finishes in the Basilica.
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 in the range of €100 and you can book all attractions easily online when you get the pass – get it here.
For more information, head over to my post 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. You will have 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.
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
You can’t visit St Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday morning. However, that does’t mean you can’t go! In fact, you can actually attend mass at St Peter’s Basilica. Every Wednesday (if the Pope is in Rome at the time), visitors have the chance to receive a Papal blessing.
The audience takes place in St Peter’s Square, and consists of teachings and a readings in Italian, and several other languages. The Papal Audience culminates in a group prayer with those in attendance.
The event usually starts at around 10:00 – 10:30 am and can last between one and one and a half hours. Many people arrive up to three hours earlier in order to secure the best spot. The gates open at 7:30 am.
St. Peter’s Basilica tickets for the Papal Audience are free but should be acquired in advance – you will need to fill in the application you can find here. Everyone is welcome, and even if you don’t have a ticket, you still may be able to access the blessing.
Third party bookings sites also allow you to get tickets for the Papal Audience – for more information, click here. In this case, you will have to pay a fee, vs getting in for free if you book via the official site. On the other hand, you will get a guide that will walk you through the event and take you to the best seats.
If you are not in Rome on a Wednesday you may still have a chance to listen to the Pope. Each Sunday when he is in town, at 12:00 pm sharp, the Pope addresses and blesses the audience from one of the windows of his apartment.
The event is known as the Angelus and lasts for about 20 minutes. You will be able to access the square for free, but arrive a bit early as there will be security check to enter the square. The Pope’s address in this occasion is in Italian only.
Check out my post A Guide To Visiting St Peter’s Square.
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!
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, on Wednesday morning.
Is St. Peter’s Basilica free?
Yes! St. Peter’s Basilica is free. Let me reiterate – if you are wondering “do you need tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica?” the answer is no. You only have to pay if you want to join a guided tour.
There is an added €8-€10 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 bringing an extra layer 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.
Make sure to read my post The Vatican Dress Code for more information.
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 St. Peter’s Basilica
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, between November and February – 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 (you can find out more about it below). Also avoid Saturdays and Sundays, when Rome gets a large influx of weekend trippers.
Are you wondering when to go to Rome? Then read my post The Best Time To Visit Rome
Taking St. Peter’s Basilica photos
You can take St. Peter’s Basilica photos, 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.
There are no toilets inside St Peter’s Basilica itself, but there are plenty in the Vatican. The nearest ones are to the right of the security checkpoint before you enter.
Wheelchair access to some of the sites within the Basilica is limited, unfortunately. There are wheelchair ramps and elevators (to the first terrace of the dome, for example). Guide dogs are 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.
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