Everything you need to know before visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome

The 10 + 1 key things you need to know before visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Tickets, opening hours, dressing code, when to visit and much more. 

Visiting St Peter’s Basilica is a highlight of any trip to Rome. That said, St Peter is is a holy place, the center of Christianity, with massive security procedure, and it’s normal for first comers to have many questions about their visit.

I tried to collect the most frequent questions about visiting St Peter’s Basilica and to provide answers and guidance, so to make your visit  smooth and enjoyable.

Here are the 10 + 1 questions you will find an answer to in this post:

  1. What is St Peter’s Basilica dress code?
  2. What’s the best time to visit St Peter’s Basilica?
  3. Why are queues to enter St Peter’s Basilica so long?
  4. What are St Peter’s Basilica opening hours?
  5. Is St Peter’s Basilica always open?
  6. How much are the tickets to enter St Peter’s Basilica?
  7. Is it possible to climb on top of St Peter’s dome?
  8. Can I take pictures in St Peter’s Basilica?
  9. When are St Peter’s Basilica Mass times?
  10. Can I visit St Peter’s tomb?
  11. (bonus question: you need to get to the end of the post to know)

1 – What is St Peter’s Basilica dress code?

Many visitors, especially during hot summer months ask themselves questions such as: can you wear shorts in the Vatican? Can you wear flip flops? Can you wear short skirts?

Well, St Peter is a church (actually the largest church ever built), so unsurprisingly the answers to these questions are NO, you can’t wear shorts in St Peter’s Basilica, NO, you can’t wear flip flaps and NO, you can’t wear short skirts.

The dress code is strictly enforced at St Peter’s Basilica. Men must wear long trousers (no shorts) and cover their shoulders, women must not have either bare shoulders or skirts shorter than knee length.

The general idea is to wear a breezy long dress or trousers (for knee coverage) and pair with a light removable layer such as a denim jacket or cardigan you can wear to cover your shoulders once inside.

Jeans and a cute sleeved top are perfect when the weather is moderate.

2 – What’s the best time to visit St Peter’s Basilica?

St Peter’s basilica and the Vatican are one of the top attractions in Rome, so expect to find them rather crowded all year round, with long queues and waiting times to go through the security checks.

That said, there is a difference between “crowded” and “awfully crowded”, so let’s see what are your options.

  • Dates around weekends are generally busier, and on Wednesday there is (usually) the Papal Audience, meaning even more crowds. Week days are generally less crowded, Tuesday and Thursday are good options.
  • Most of the tour groups show up In the mornings, from 9:00 AM onward. Expect to find less people in the afternoon. Lunch time (1:00 PM – 2:00 PM) are a clever option, since most groups will be having their lunch. If you are early birds, getting to St Peter’s basilica when it opens at 7:00 will ensure that you will have the basilica nearly all for yourself.
  • Main tourist flow concentrate in warmer months (April – October), so in general you will find less crowds in Autumn and Winter (excluding, obviously, the Christmas mas period)

3 – Why are queues to enter St Peter’s Basilica so long?

Queues and long waiting time are mostly related to the strict security checks before you can enter the Basilica.

To facilitate and speed up security checks by metal detector, visitors are advised to remove inadmissible items from their hand baggage beforehand, and to inform staff in advance.

Skip the line tickets can help you avoid / minimizing your waiting times.

4 – What are St Peter’s Basilica opening hours?

Opening time of the Basilica are from 7:00 to 18:00 every day (until 19:00 during winter), except on Wednesdays (if there is the papal audience the Basilica remains closed until 12:00).

Entrance is free. It’s also possible to visit the dome (from October to March every day from 8:00 to 16:45, until 17:45 from April to September); entrance is charged.

5 – Is St Peter’s Basilica always open?

No, and you should be careful in planning your visit.

On Wednesdays (except for July, when the Pope takes a break), the pope holds an audience at Saint Peter’s Basilica. In warmer months, it will be in the square. In colder months, it will be in an auditorium-type hall just to the left of the basilica.

During Papal audience Saint Peter’s Basilica will be closed until the papal audience is over (around 12:00 pm.)

6 – How much are the tickets to enter St Peter’s Basilica?

Good news! St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are free.  However, yo will be charged 8 € if you would like to climb on top of St Peter’s dome.

However, you may consider purchasing an audio guide + skip the line ticket.  Queues are very long, and there are so many things to see that you may not get all of them without a proper explanation.

Follow this link for a good value for money option.

Keep in mind that you will have to purchase a ticket to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (both sites are combined). Note that the entrance to the Vatican Museums is not in St Peter’s square but in viale Vaticano, a 15′-20′ walk away.

7 – Is it possible to climb on top of St Peter’s dome?

Yes you can!

Actually getting on top of St Peter’s dome is one of Rome must do, a great opportunity to enjoy a fantastic and dizzying city panorama all around Rome and to admire a top down view of St Peter’s basilica nave.

To know more read my post “Climbing up St Peter’s Basilica’s dome: best way to do it“.

8 – Can I take pictures in St Peter’s basilica?

Yes, you can take pictures and videos inside St Peter’s Basilica, with the exceptions of the lateral chapels, when functions are taking place.

The use of tripods, stands and/or professional equipment is not allowed, unless you obtain a written authorization before hand by the Directorate of the Vatican Museums.

The use of telescopic “selfie sticks” is forbidden. In my view, selfies are not appropriate anyways,  given the sanctity of the place.

9 – When are St Peter’s Basilica Mass times?

Here is the mass schedule for St Peter:

WeekDays 
8:30 – Blessed Sacrament Chapel In Italian, with homily, followed by Eucharistic Adoration
9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 – Altar of St. Joseph (Left Transept), In Italian, with homily
5:00pm Altar of the Chair  (Cattedra) In Latin, with singing, homily in Italian

Eucharistic Adoration in the Blessed Sacrament Chaepl is from Monday to Saturday.
Adoration follows the 8:30 mass until Benediction at 4:45pm

Sunday and Holy Days
9:00 –  Altar of the Chair  (Cattedra) – Mass for the Parish, in Italian, with homily
10:30 – Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) – Solemn Mass in Latin, with singing, homily in Italian
11:30 – Blessed Sacrament Chapel – In Italian, with homily
12:15 –  Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) – In Italian, with homily
1:00pm – Altar of St. Joseph – (Left Transept), In Italian, with homily
4:00pm –  Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) – In Italian, with homily
5:45pm –  Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) – In Italian, with homily

There are no scheduled masses in English at St Peter’s.

10 Can I visit St Peter’s tomb?

Yes you can!

There is a tour given by the Vatican, called the Scavi Tour, that guides visitors down into the lowest levels of St. Peter’s Basilica, to an area known as the “necropolis”. Discovered in the 50’s, this is a perfectly preserved ancient Roman cemetery, you’ll have the feeling of walking in a Roman era street.

In addition to being the site of an ancient pagan and Christian cemetery and burial ground from the 1st century, this is the presumed location of Saint Peter’s burial tomb. Michelangelo built St Peter’s dome exactly on top of the tomb.

To visit this amazing site, you need to contact directly the Vatican, here all the info.

And the final, bonus question:

11 – Are there restrooms in St Peter’s basilica?

Yes, there are three main restroom areas, even though not exactly inside St Peter’s Basilica

Along the Charlemagne Wing (left side), beyond the colonnades on the upper right side, and in the bag check area on the lower right side of the facade of the basilica.

The bag check area has the newest restrooms, and the only ones that can be used without exiting security.

 

That’s it! If you have any other question, ask it in the comments, I will answer to you and update this post.

Enjoy your visit to St Peter’s Basilica!


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3 Replies to “Everything you need to know before visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome”

    1. Thanks for liking my post! Well, if you come to Rome you will surely visit St Peter!
      Write me if you need any trip planning advice, I’ll be delighted to help

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