I have visited St. Peter’s basilica four times now and I have discovered new things every time. There is just so much to see in this single basilica. That’s why it is a good idea to prepare your visit, so that you won’t regret not seeing a part of the basilica that you wish you had seen. Here is a list of things you should consider when you are planning to visit St. Peter’s Basilica.
Opening hours and masses
When you are deciding when to visit the basilica, look up what the opening hours are and when the masses are. No one wants to end up finally getting to the basilica and finding out it is closed for the rest of the day, especially if your time in Rome is limited. If you’re planning to climb the dome or to visit the Vatican grottoes as well, you should also look into those opening hours, because they are different from the opening hours of the basilica.
Long lines in the heat
Keep in mind that the line to get into St. Peter’s basilica is very long, especially in the high season. It could take more than an hour until you’re inside and you’re standing in the sun most of the time. Take sunscreen, lots of water, maybe an umbrella or a hat and anything else you will need to last this long in the heat.
St. Peter’s basilica is, after all, a church, a holy place. You should have something that covers your knees and your shoulders, so if you’re wearing shorts or a tank top, take a scarf or a cardigan to cover yourself up. Nothing is more frustrating than having survived the hour-long line in the heat and not being allowed inside because your pants are too short.
There are cloakrooms next to the entrance of the basilica where you can leave items that are not allowed inside, like umbrellas, tripods or big backpacks. Naturally, weapons are not allowed and you can’t leave them in the cloakroom either. Here is a list of items that should be left in the cloakroom.
If you’re with a group, try to stay together or arrange a time and place to meet each other. The St. Peter’s basilica is huge and there are a lot of people inside, so it’s easy to lose sight of each other.
Climbing the dome
If you have a good pair of legs, I would definitely recommend climbing St. Peter’s dome. You will have an amazing 360° view of Rome from the top. The view is an amazing reward after climbing 551 steps to the top. Climbing the dome costs 6 euros, but you can also choose to skip 200 steps by taking the elevator, which will cost you 7 euros. The entrance to the dome is at the reception, where the cloakrooms and the toilets are located. I would recommend climbing the dome before visiting the basilica, because you end up inside the basilica when you take the stairs down. And I would not recommend this for people that are claustrophobic, because the stairs are really narrow.
Visiting the Vatican grottoes
After visiting the basilica, you can go down a stairs to visit the Vatican grottoes. A lot of former popes are buried here, so you can see their tombs. And for the art historians and the archeologists amongst us: this is also the place where you can still see a few ancient columns from the older St. Peter’s basilica from the 4th century!
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