Climbing to the top of St Peter’s dome is one of the highlights of a trip to Rome. Here is how to climb the dome and how to skip the queue.
Not that many visitors know that it is possible to climb up to the top of St Peter’s dome (the “cupola”). Actually getting on top of St Peter’s dome is one of Rome must do, and 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.
When to visit St Peter’s dome
Best thing for you would be to visit the dome first thing in the morning, when it opens, at 8:00 AM. Not much queue at that time, you may have the dome almost for yourself.
In that case, you may first climb up the dome and then visit St Peter’s basilica (when you get down from the dome you will end up in the nave).
A good alternative is to climb on top of St Peter’s dome before it closes: you will then admire Rome in its unique sunset golden light. In Wintertime, you will see Rome’s lights and, at Christmas, the huge Christmas tree in St Peter’s square.
Similarly, first go up to the dome, then visit the Basilica, which closes later than the dome.
In summertime, better to avoid climbing on top of St Peters dome in the hottest hours of the day: the stairs and the viewpoint can get very hot and uncomfortable at that time.
How to climb up St Peter’s dome
In order to climb up St Peter’s dome, you need to go throw St Peter cathedral security check.
At the entrance to the basilica, after the security check, look right. There is a sign that directs you to the far right of the portico (past the Holy Door) and to the kiosk for the elevator.
This is where you purchase the tickets to St Peter’s dome. Note that the Basilica entrance is on the right side of the colonnade.
In high season, queues could be very long and spoil part of your day.
You can take the elevator to the roof level (saving 320 steps). However, if you want to get to the top of the dome you must take the stairs for the last portion. This makes 551 steps in total.
The entrance cost is Cost 10 Euros for elevator, 8 Euros for stairs.
After the brief elevator ride (or the first 320 steps) stop before your climb to the dome. Here you can enjoy a great view from the gallery inside the dome looking down into the basilica .
Take a few moments to absorb the astonishing beauty of the cupola from within – and looking down – the main altar.