Things to consider when visiting St. Peter’s basilica – Vatican city

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.

Cover up
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.

Forbidden items
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.


Stay together
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 dome7
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!

Read more:
Why there are so many bees in St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City
The complete iconography of the Stanza della Segnatura explained – Vatican City
Villa Farnesina has some curious fruits.. – Rome, Italy
Piazza Navona and the lie guides keep telling tourists – Rome, Italy


18 thoughts on “Things to consider when visiting St. Peter’s basilica – Vatican city

      1. Well, I accidentaly discovered this when I took the wrong exit in the Sistine Chapel. There were guards, but they didn’t stop me. So I think it’s open to everybody. Be warned, you cannot enter the Sistine Chapel that way. If you left something in the cloakroom of the Vatican Museums, you have to return via the road.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Once again, I wish I knew about your blog before going there! I didn’t know you could climb to the dome or about the grottoes…
    I confirm the other entrance though! We bought tickets for the Vatican Museums and when you do that, you exit the museums via The Sistine Chapel and that gets you straight to the basilica!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah they don’t make it easy for tourists 😉 I wanted to visit the Vatican Gardens but couldn’t find any info about how to visit. So when we left the basilica, I went in a visitor centre and asked the guy there and apparently you have to book in advance and you are not allowed in without a guide…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh that’s such a shame. I had the same experience with the Galleria Borghese when I went there with my dad. It sucks when you’re only there for one day and can’t visit something you really wanted to see.


      3. Yeah, the same thing happened to me last week actually! We were in Reading for 4 nights to visit Windsor Castle and great park and on the 3 days we had, the castle was closed 1 day and the other 2, you could only visit the outside,…

        Liked by 1 person

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