13. September 2018

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: Entrance fee, hours, steps and admission

The St. Peter’s Dome is a must for many visitors to Rome because it offers a great view of the city. That’s why I dedicate a detailed article with useful tips and information on opening hours, admission fees, tickets without waiting and the ascent to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Have fun reading and visiting!

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica Rome: Useful tips and information on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Dome Ascent: What you should know about the ascent to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica!

I have visited the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome many times and I know exactly what visitors to Rome think about the visit to St. Peter’s Dome and what the most frequent questions about the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are. I will specifically answer these FAQ’s in this post and hopefully contribute to a smooth and well-prepared visit to the dome!

St. Peter's in Rome

St. Peter’s Dome Access: Where is the entrance to the dome of St. Peter’s?

Where the entrance to the dome of St. Peter’s is located, is a very good starting point, because if you do not find the access, you can not enjoy the impressive view of Rome! And that would be a pity! The entrance to the dome is located – if you are in St. Peter’s Square and looking at the St. Peter’s Basilica, on the right side, above the visitor center within the portico. First you have to check through the security controls similar to the airport. You are allowed to bring drinks and umbrellas, but no knives, penknives and other dangerous items.

Queue St. Peter's Basilica Rome

Mostly the access to St. Peter’s Square is not checked and then the control points for St. Peter’s are on the right side of St. Peter’s Square. The queues are usually very impressive and long and the waiting time can also be one hour and more. Only in the early morning, until 9am, there is hardly any waiting time. On some days, access to St. Peter’s Square is also controlled, for example at the Pope’s Audience on Wednesday or at the Angelus prayer on Sunday. Then more checkpoints are opened and the waiting times are automatically shorter.

Safety check Vatican Entry

You can skip the queue if you book the preferred access to the security checkpoint. Then you pass the waiting line on the right and find the preferred access behind the post office. The preferred access  can also be booked on the Internet, if you are already in St. Peter’s Square. The ticket is then immediately on your mobile phone. Often privileged access to St. Peter’s Basilica and its dome is also offered by hawkers, but that is risky and you should not accept this offer!

St. Peter's Dome above

You have several options to get into the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. First you can do as described on the right side of St. Peter’s Basilica. If you visit the Vatican Museums beforehand, as I did on my last visit to the Vatican, you can go directly to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica after the Sistine Chapel. This passage is only allowed to guided tours and groups.

St. Peter's Dome entrance

If you are in St. Peter’s Basilica, you can go down to the crypt and the grottos inside. If you leave these again, you come out opposite the entrance to the St. Peter’s dome (see passage on the left in the picture). Here you only have to do a bit to get past the barriers and put you in the queue or go directly to the cash points, if the rush is low.

St. Peter’s Dome View: What can be seen from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

The visit of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is absolutely recommendable and an absolute highlight in the context of many Rome visits. Especially when the weather is good, it is worth to visit the St. Peter’s Dome.

View over Rome

If the weather does not play along and the sun is scarce, it is still recommended to enjoy the great 360 degree view of the rooftops of Rome. What impressed me personally is that from the dome you can look at the Vatican and you will become aware of its extent.

You can see the gardens of the Vatican, the Vatican Museums and other building complexes such as the new Audience Hall, where the Papal Audience takes place with little crowds. Your gaze reaches the mountains of the Apennines on the horizon and the volcanic cone with the summer residence of the popes in Castel Gandolfo.

Vatican Gardens

Also on the German cemetery in the Vatican, founded by Charlemagne, the Campo Santo Teutonico, you have a nice view. German-speaking visitors can visit the cemetery of the Germans and the Flemings in the Vatican for free in the morning from 9am-noon.

Campo Santo Teutonico in Rome

This is not possible on all days, it is best to ask the friendly Swiss guard. Incidentally, you must also contact them if you would like to visit the cemetery. You must request access in German.

St. Peter’s Dome Steps: How many steps are there in the dome of St. Peter’s?

Entrance to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome depends on several factors. There are two ways to get to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: You can either cover part of the ascent with the lift or walk all the way to the upper platform of St. Peter’s Dome.

Dome of St. Peter's

If you climb completely on foot to the St. Peter’s dome, you must bring 551 steps behind you. If you choose the elevator and stairs option, you only have to complete the second part of the ascent and 320 steps on foot.

St. Peter’s Dome admission: Entrance fees and tickets without queuing

Dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral entrance fees

StairsElevator & Stairs
8 Euro10 Euro

The ticket for the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is slightly more expensive if you opt for the lift variant to the first platform and from there the ascent on foot. This is no different, because the elevator on the first viewing platform, that is on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica – where the statues are – ends and then no elevator exists. So you have to do the second part of the ascent on foot.

With fear of heights on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

On the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the lift ends, you can already enjoy a beautiful view. Directly to the end of the viewing platform you can not approach, as it is closed off just before the statues.

Dome of St. Peter's Visit

From this level below the Basilica’s dome you have access to a tour of the dome, but you can only do half of it. Here you have an impressive view into the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Dome view inside St. Peter's Basilica

The corridor is perhaps two meters wide in memory and separated by a narrow grid, perhaps two and a half meters high. You can go in there, look down into St. Peter’s Basilica and then go out the same way again. People who are afraid of heights, should not necessarily look into the interior of St. Peter’s, because you are very high here. I saw people walking trembling with their backs on the wall!

Access to the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral for wheelchair users

Even wheelchair users can take the elevator to the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica, but unfortunately they can not visit the passage in the dome because there are several steps. A ticket without queuing for the dome is currently not available.

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica Height: How high is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome?

There is no exact information about the height of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I’ve calculated something around: the height of the basilica to the roof is about 46 meters, and that fits in with the 231 steps, if each step is about 20cm high. As there are 320 steps to the viewing platform, the height of the viewing platform above the roof would have to be around 64 meters. Above the observation deck, the lantern rises with the cross. The total height of the basilica is given as 133 meters. This means that it goes up another 20 meters from the viewing platform.

Dome view of St. Peter's Basilica

The dome rises above the Pope altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope altar is 28.5 meters high. On the inside of the dome, you are about 18 meters above the Pope altar and 46 meters above the basilica floor.

St. Peter's Dome above

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome has an inside diameter of about 42 meters and an outside diameter of about 59 meters. The inner shell of the dome is the supporting shell and has a thickness of 2 meters, the outer shell serves as protection (thickness 1 meter). Between the two bowls there are staircase and descent to the viewing platform. The weight of the dome is estimated at around 14,000 tons.

The dome was designed by Michelangelo. He had taken the dome of the Pantheon in Rome as a model, which has a slightly larger inside diameter of 43 meters.

St. Peter’s Dome Staircase: Information about Staircase in St. Peter’s Dome

You should not take the ascent to the dome of St. Peter’s Dome lightly. All those who struggle with claustrophobia or are not physically fit should consider in advance whether they want to climb further up the inside of the St. Peter’s dome after the lift. I’m trying to explain why.

With claustrophobia on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

The staircase to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the wall of the dome and thus follows its semicircular shape, means that the higher you go, the higher the gears become. On one side the stairs leads up and on the other side down again. The staircase, which is located inside the dome, is very narrow, in the beginning you could go next to each other for two, but it becomes so narrow at the spiral staircase that you can only go ahead and not back. Within the dome there are small openings from which you can look out.

Narrow spiral staircase St. Peter's dome

At the very narrow spiral staircase, it is possible that it goes slowly due to large crowds, for people with claustrophobia an extra horror! So if you decide to take the path, you have no choice, you have to go until the end, because you can not turn around. Only one person has space here, the crowds of people and the lack of space make reversing impossible! I do not want to dramatize this, but for those who are claustrophobic I do not think it’s advisable to climb up in the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Take the elevator to the first observation deck and look at Rome from this height!

St. Peter’s Dome Lift: Information about the elevator in the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

The elevator to the dome of St. Peter’s brings you quickly to the first viewing platform, the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica. To the lift I can say that he is relatively tall and a lift guide is always on board.

Visit the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica Rome

On the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica it is very pleasant and there is plenty of space. There are also toilets and a souvenir shop with a snack bar run by sisters. For the ride down there is another elevator on the other side of the roof of the basilica. There are also the stairs, which leads down again. The exit of the lift and the stairs are located inside the basilica.

Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: when is the best time to visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica?

The best time to visit the dome is in the morning, when there are hardly any waiting times. In the summer it is also cooler in the morning than during the day. BUT: If you want to photograph the city of Rome, you have backlight in the morning.

Dome St. Peter’s Basilica Opening Hours: When does the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica open?

The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome opens at 8am. It closes at 5pm from October to March and at 6pm from April to September. St. Peter’s Dome is closed when St. Peter’s Basilica is closed. This is always the case when the papal audience takes place on Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square, as well as during the Pope’s Mass and other high celebrations in the Vatican.

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