How to visit Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, and why you shouldn’t miss it

Castel Sant’Angelo is a not to be missed sight. His 20 centuries of history are intimately linked to Rome, views from the top are great and child love it!

A visit to Castel Sant’angelo is usually not in the bucket list of rushy Roman travellers. That’s surprising, because few monuments can give the same  sense of the Roman history along the centuries.

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - night view

Castel Sant’Angelo, formerly Adrian Emperor Mausoleum, is one of the most famous Roman landmarks. And it’s just in front of you when walking along the tiber to Piazza Navona or getting out from St Peter’s Cathedral.

it has a fascinating history and offers one of the finest views of Rome from its rooftop terrace.

That’s why it would be a pity not to cross the scenic Ponte degli Angeli to visit one of the oldest and most fascinating Roman Monument.

You can visit Castel Sant’Angelo in an hour, after you are done with St Peter’s basilica. In this post I will address the main questions and interest you may have concerning Castle Sant’Angelo, such as:

  • What are Castel sant’Angelo hystory and facts?
  • What about Castel Sant’Angelo bridge?
  • What is inside Castel Sant Angelo?
  • How long to visit Castel Sant’Angelo?
  • Is Castel Sant Angelo part of Vatican City
  • What are Castel Sant’Angelos hours?
  • What’s the price of Castel Sant’Angelo tickets? Can I use my Roma pass?


1 – Castel sant’Angelo hystory and facts

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - view from the Tiber river bank

Castel Sant’Angleo construction began in 130 AD and ended in 139 AD. The Roman Emperor Hadrian wanted a mausoleum for himself, his family, and his successors.

We don’t have precise images of how the Adrian Mausoleum looked like in the second Century, this is how archaeologist depict it .

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - Emperor Adrian Mausoleum

Over the centuries, Adrian’s mausoleum lived many changes that eventually ended up with present shape and look.

Following his death in 138 AD, Hadrian’s ashes were placed here, along with those of his wife and his son . The remains of succeeding emperors were interred here ending with the Roman Emperor Caracalla in 217 AD.

In the 5th century Emperor Aurelian converted Adrian’s mausoleum into a fortress, to defend Rome from barbarian invasions.

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - fortress detail

In 1277 Pope Nicholas III connected the castle to the Vatican with the now famous corridor called the Passetto di Borgo.

Dan Brown’s movie, Angels & Demons, made this elevated passage worldwide famous.

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - the Passetto di Borgo

Popes used the Passetto di Borgo  in times of danger as an escape route from the Vatican to the safe confines of the fortress. Today you can visit it in small groups.

Castel Sant’Angelo’s past has a sinister side to it as well, having been used as a prison during the middle ages and as recently as the late 19th century.

2 – How long to visit Castel Sant’Angelo?

You will certainly notice the large statue of an angel on top of Castel Sant’Angelo. Actually the statue gives the Castle its present name.

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - St Michael Angel

Legend says that in 590, during a terrible plague, Pope Gregory I had a vision:  an angel (Saint Michael) appeared above the castle announcing the plague’s end.

The statue of Archangel Saint Michael shows the angel sheathing his sword in a sign that the end of the plague was at hand.

3 – Castel Sant’Angelo bridge – Ponte degli Angeli

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - Ponte degli Angeli

Ponte Sant’Angelo is one of the finest surviving Roman bridges. Emperor Adrian  built it  to connect the Campo Marzio with his mausoleum. It dates from AD 135.

In the 16th century Pope Clement VII placed statues of Saints Peter and Paul at the end of the bridge. In 1688, 10 statues of angels, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, were mounted on the parapets.

Bernini himself sculpted the figures of the Angel holding the crown of thorns and the Angel bearing the cartouche INRI (1668-71). When the Pope saw them, he thought they were too beautiful to be exposed to the elements.

The two statues were eventually placed in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte church, where you can still see them, while Bernini assistants refurbished the two statues that are still exhibited on Ponte S. Angelo instead of the original ones.

Visit Castel Sant'Angelo - Bernini's angels, Santa Maria delle Fratte

4 – What is inside Castel Sant Angelo?

The main attraction you will find in Castel Sant’Angelo is the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo and its eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, military memorabilia and medieval firearms.

The Castle has five floors starting with a winding ramp of Roman Construction. The second floor holds the prison cells and a torture chamber, the third floor has courtyards and a chapel, the fourth floor holds Papal apartments, and the fifth floor houses the treasury and the library.

At the top is a huge terrace, as well as a cafe, with great views of both Rome and the Vatican City. If you get there early for lunch, you may be able to snag a table with a great view of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

You can easily visit Castel Sant’angelo in one hour if you are on a rush, twice as much or more if you indulge in the different museum rooms, take the Secret castle visit and maybe sip an Italian caffé at the good Caffetteria.

5 – Is Castel Sant Angelo part of Vatican City?

Well, it used to be, but now it belongs to the Italian state.

Castel Sant’Angelo became part of the Vatican property back in the middle ages. In 1870, during the Risorgimento period, the Castel Sant’Angelo fell into the hands of the Italian Army.

Since then, the castle was opened to the public and became a museum.

6 – Castel Sant’Angelos hours

Castel Sant’Angelo is open everyday from 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM.

There’s a “Secret Castle” guided tour for groups of up to 15 people at the Passetto di Borgo, the Olearie, the historical prisons and the Stufetta di Clemente VII, with the following hours:

  • 10:00 AM – English
  • 11:00 AM – Italian
  • 4:00 PM – English
  • 5:00 PM – Italian

7 – Castel Sant’Angelo tickets prices

Full ticket price is  14 €, 7 € for special categories such as child and elderly visitors. Prices could increase in case of exhibitions.

Price for the Secret Castle visits (on top of entry tickets): full ticket price 5 €, reduced ticket 2,5 €

Visa, Mastercard and Maestro creditcards are accepted.

Free entrance the first Sunday of the month.

The Castel Sant’Angelo National Museum is part of the Roma Pass and Roma & Più Pass circuits. Card holders must present them at the ticket office for validation.

The new museum paths offer a free app downloadable in 7 languages, that everybody can use thanks to the Castel Sant’Angelo Wifi. Complete info at the entrance.

Enjoy your visit to Castel Sant’Angelo!


Visit Castel Sant'Angelo

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