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How to climb St. Peter's dome in Rome

One of the great attractions of the Vatican City is the immensity of St. Peter's dome and of course, its views. I tell you everything you need to know -times, price, tickets- to go up and contemplate the spectacular view of Rome.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

10 min read

How to climb St. Peter's dome in Rome

San Pedro at night, illuminated | Karim Ben Van

We have seen it hundreds of times in postcards, movies, photos... but not everyone who comes to St. Peter's Basilica climbs the Dome, located inside the temple. The experience without climbing to the top of Vatican City is not complete.

In all the rankings of best things to do in Rome you will always have this plan in the top and from there you will see the incredible view of St. Peter's Square from the heights with the rest of the city at your feet. Although entering the Basilica is free, going up to the dome requires a special ticket. I'll tell you the best way to get tickets.

The best option

Guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and access to the dome

Avoid the long lines at St. Peter's Basilica and get access with this guided tour that includes a climb to the dome.

Do not miss anything of the great Christian temple of the Vatican and let yourself be guided by an expert who will take you inside the Basilica and exclusively to the terrace of St. Peter's dome.

During the approximately two hours of this visit you will have the opportunity to tour the great Basilica of St. Peter and discover all the works of art housed inside thanks to the art expert guide who will tell you every detail.

All this in addition to climbing up to its imposing dome, something that doing it on your own can be a great waste of time and energy due to the famous queues that form around the monument. And believe me you will need both to climb up to it.

Contemplating the panoramic views from the top of the Vatican will be one of your favorite moments in Rome and making it easier with this guided tour to the dome is something you will appreciate.

Recommended if... You want to have an in-depth visit of the Catholic temple of the Vatican without missing the climb to the highest Christian dome in the world.

How is the guided tour with access to St. Peter's Dome?

The tour with access to the area of St. Peter's Dome is in small groups, which will bring you closer to the environment. Thanks to the specialized guide, you will learn about the historical and artistic value of the works of Michelangelo and Bernini housed in the Basilica and you will also visit St. Peter's Square to appreciate the famous Colonnade.

On the other hand, it is important to know that until recently, the only way to get tickets to go up to St. Peter's Dome was to queue inside the temple, as they were not sold online. Today that has changed and you can now book a guided tour to the Dome. This way you will avoid long waits at the ticket office.

Book a tour to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

Is it worth buying tickets online for St. Peter's and the Dome?

St. Peter's Dome| ©Aldo Loya
St. Peter's Dome| ©Aldo Loya

Entering the Basilica is free, but to go up to the Dome you will need a special ticket that you could only buy at the Basilica itself. To save unnecessary queues (the capacity is limited and the wait is very long) there is a pack that combines the guided tour with the entrance without queues to St. Peter's Basilica and access to the Dome.

All this is done in a small group tour accompanied by an expert guide and I assure you that it is worth it: the Basilica is full of details and history and the crowds of people waiting to buy tickets in the Basilica itself will make you have to go up to the Dome already tired.

This also saves you the entrance queues to the temple itself, which can last for hours. All in all, for a very reasonable price you have included the guided tour, skip-the-line access and exclusive entrance to the Dome, something that is not easy to find online.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

Ticket prices for the Dome

To access the Dome you will have to pay 8€ if you want to walk all the way up or 10€ if you want to combine it with an elevator ride. This price does not include a guided tour nor will you avoid the queues. If you choose to secure your ticket in advance and buy the pack that includes the guided tour of the temple and tickets to the Dome, the price amounts to about 42 euros.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

How to buy tickets to the Dome in the Basilica

If you prefer to improvise and buy tickets for the Dome "on the spot", you can also do that. Once you get inside the Basilica, you will immediately see the signs that lead you to the Dome ticket office.

But once you have passed the queues in St. Peter's Square to enter the Basilica you run the risk of missing the climb to the dome as again the queues for the ticket office will take away your desire. Or there may simply be no tickets available.

Although the entrance to the Basilica is free and you don't need any special ticket, you can skip the queues by buying on the official Hellotickets website and in advance the skip the line tickets for St. Peter's Basilica.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the dome

Opening hours of St. Peter's Dome

Timetables for the visit of St. Peter's Dome| ©Alexander Schimmeck
Timetables for the visit of St. Peter's Dome| ©Alexander Schimmeck

St. Peter's Dome is open all year round. Normally, you can access it from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. between October and March, and from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from April to September.

But I say normally because these hours can be modified in case there is a holiday or religious celebration that requires that St. Peter's Basilica is closed to the general public for safety. Therefore, I recommend that when you plan your trip to Rome, you should be aware that the Basilica may be closed on some days.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

Best time to climb St. Peter's Dome

Detail of St. Peter's Dome| ©Briana Tozour
Detail of St. Peter's Dome| ©Briana Tozour

In general, as in any tourist spot in the city, the fewer people you come across, the better. And this usually happens first thing in the morning. Besides, at that time the city is still quiet and the faint colors of the morning are beautiful.

The tranquility and silence from the top of St. Peter's is also highly valued, so I encourage you to get up early. In general, it is a good time to also see St. Peter's Basilica and even the Vatican Museums.

How is the ascent to St. Peter's Dome?

Vatican Stairs| ©UnSplash
Vatican Stairs| ©UnSplash

I'm not going to lie to you: the climb is not easy, there is elevator only in one section and it's surely not suitable for claustrophobics. But if you take it with calm and energy, I assure you that you will not regret it.

Elevator vs. stairs

If you decide to walk the entire climb, you should know that 551 steps await you ahead (if you go up by elevator you save a good part and "only" have to climb 320). You should know that even if you pay the elevator fare you will also have to climb stairs.

Queues for the Dome

Regarding the queues, in both options you will have to wait your turn -there are usually quite many people- but as you can imagine, the queues to take the elevator are longer if possible.

Another thing you should know is that the queue to go up is different from the one to go down, so you can not turn back if you regret it in the middle of the climb (I doubt that you will regret it, but if you do not like very small or narrow spaces, think carefully before going up).

My recommendation

In general, I recommend that you take it easy, enjoy the immensity of the Dome inside and don't be in a hurry to get to the top. The views from the top will make you forget your tiredness.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

Why it's worth climbing St. Peter's Dome

Views from the Dome| ©Michele Francioso
Views from the Dome| ©Michele Francioso

The view, the view and the view. Without a doubt, one of the best panoramic views of the city. From the top of the Dome you will have a totally different perspective of the city and many of its details. I'll tell you what are the things you have to look out for to get the most out of your visit.

Bernini's sculptures on the colonnade

From the top you will be able to contemplate, in the foreground, the 140 sculptures that top Bernini's colonnade in St. Peter's Square. From above, these figures take on another dimension and open up to the skyline of the impressive Piazza.

The perfection of St. Peter's Square

If the Piazza from below is impressive, the sensation of seeing it from the sky is unparalleled. You will be able to realize its majestic size, the perfection of its ellipsis and the optical effect of this marvel of architecture.

St. Angelo's Castle and its passages

On the horizon, the profile of Castel St'Angelo and the walls (or "pasetto") linking the Vatican to the Castle stand out in the foreground. The immensity of this fortification is hard to imagine when we see it walking along the streets around it, but from the heights it takes your breath away.

The rooftops of the city

Rome's skyline is a myriad of orange rooftops, stone domes crowning every street and an infinity of terraces and penthouses full of flowers and life. The best skyline of the city can be seen from the top of the Dome and it is worth stopping to see it at leisure.

The interior of the Dome

The way to the top can also be enjoyed: between steps, don't forget to take a look at the sky from the Dome to enjoy its immensity and its details.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the dome

Other things to see in St. Peter's Basilica

Views of Vatican City| ©Jedi Equester
Views of Vatican City| ©Jedi Equester

Tour St. Peter's Basilica at your own pace: it is huge and its interior is loaded with worthwhile works: from Michelangelo's Pietà, you will recognize it right away because there are always visitors admiring the image to the central canopy. Take your time and enjoy it because it is full of details.

Moreover, if you choose the guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica you will not miss any detail and you will be able to understand the historical, artistic and religious importance of the largest Catholic church in the world.

The Pietà

Michelangelo gave life to this spectacular marble sculpture of almost two meters between 1498 and 1499 to represent the Virgin Mary picking up the body of her son Jesus who died on the cross. The quality of the details, the dimensions and the perfect proportions soon made it one of Michelangelo's most admired works. It is currently located in the first chapel on the right, very close to the entrance of the Basilica.

The Crypts

Although the last Popes have not been buried in these crypts, if you decide to descend into the bowels of St. Peter's Basilica, you can see the tombs and mausoleums of more than 100 Popes and the necropolis of St. Peter. You can buy the entrance ticket inside the temple itself, since to access the crypts you need a specific ticket that costs about 13 euros.

The Baldachin

This colossal structure designed by Bernini to cover the altar of the Basilica stars inside the temple capturing all eyes from almost every corner. It is made of bronze and is almost 30 meters high (you will have to stand far away for it to appear completely in a photograph).

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Dome

Other things to do in the Vatican

Angelus of Pope Francis| ©Unsplash
Angelus of Pope Francis| ©Unsplash

Join a guided tour of the Vatican Museums

So that you can organize your visit to the Museums well, the first thing you should know is that, in general, when talking about tickets to the Vatican, we are talking about tickets that give access to the Vatican Museums, where thousands of works are housed and of course, the popular Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican City itself, is free to move around and you can walk around its square and even to the Basilica without having to buy any tickets or pay anything at all. More or less long, more or less early and more or less exclusive (you can choose to do it in a large or small group), taking a tour of the Vatican Museums is practically mandatory. Walking past so much history and symbolism without understanding much is a shame.

Turn around the colonnade in St. Peter's Square

Vatican City would not be the same without the wonderful circular colonnade that makes it up. If you also like photography, you will enjoy playing with the perspectives of this work of art.

Take the opportunity to see the Pope live

Whether you are religious or not, seeing the Pope live is something you can easily do when you visit the Vatican. You will have to stick to specific days and times (Wednesday mass or the Angelus on Sundays) but you can.

Don't leave the Vatican without eating well

Eating well near the Vatican is possible. This touristy area has some hidden restaurants that are well worth a stop. Whatever you're looking for (pizza, pasta, a sweet snack or an amazing sandwich), you'll find great places around the Vatican.

Book a visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the dome

Frequently asked questions

  • How many stairs does St. Peter's Dome have?

    To access the dome you will have to climb 551 steps, although you can take the elevator and "only" have to climb 320.

  • Do I have to be in good physical shape to climb St. Peter's Dome?

    You don't need to be in great shape, but you should know that the space is narrow and not suitable for claustrophobics. Otherwise, if you climb calmly, you will get to the top without any problems.

  • Do I have to be covered to go up to the Dome?

    Yes, please note that to access the Dome you will have to enter St. Peter's Basilica, where you will have to cover your shoulders, knees and neckline. Avoid suspenders and excessively short skirts or pants.

  • How much does it cost to climb St. Peter's Dome?

    8 euros if you choose the option to walk up or 10 euros if you want to use the elevator. You can buy the entrance ticket inside the temple itself.