An Insider’s Guide To Rome’s Most Famous Church: St. Peter’s Basilica

Are you overwhelmed by the many options available in Vatican City? We understand. Once you have toured the Vatican Museums using our handy guide, it is time to visit the huge church that dominates the small Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica. This basilica, which dates back to 2,000 years ago, is the site of most of the Catholic Church’s key ceremonies. It is also a symbol of Vatican City. However, it can be difficult to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in high season. This guide will show you how to get inside, below, and above the church so that you can experience the history and secrets it holds.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Basilica is open to all visitors for free. However, the long lines can often be as impressive as the building. The Basilica is open daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm April through September, and October through March from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. It is best to get there as soon as possible to avoid the crowds at St. Peter’s Basilica. It may seem obvious but it is important to arrive as early as possible.

It is an amazing place to visit, especially for the first time. To learn more about the Basilica, check out our post 6 Surprising facts about St. Peter’s Basilica. You can make the most of your visit by renting an audio guide at the kiosk or by taking one of our expert-guided tours.

You can also combine your visit with a Papal Audience to meet the Pope and receive a Papal blessing. Audiences take place every Wednesday when the Pope is in Rome. To learn more, read our article about the Papal Audiences.

The Cupola

To get a new perspective on St Peter’s Basilica visit, look up to the cupola. It is 452 feet high and was designed by Michelangelo. The Vatican City State Website states that you can visit St Peter’s Basilica dome every day between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. from April through September, and October through March from 8:00 to 5:00. The Basilica’s portico is the entrance. You can take the elevator for 7 euros, which will save you some of the climbing. You can also take the stairs for 5 euros if you feel like some exercise. The stairs are more strenuous than an elevator, and you won’t have many views while climbing them.

The Scavi

The mysterious Scavi or excavating are located beneath the church. The site, also known as the Vatican Necropolis or Tomb of the Dead or St. Peter’s Tomb is a burial ground that dates back to the fourth century. These are believed to be St. Peter’s burial ground. They also house the temple of Emperor Constantine and underground fountains. There are buildings, graffiti, and even ancient graffiti that reads ‘Peter’s here.

In order to protect the site’s ancient sites, 250 people are permitted daily to enter in small groups of 12. Admission costs 13 euros. It can be difficult to apply so prepare well or use our tour that will arrange tickets and times for you. You will need to contact the Excavations Office via email with the names and dates of your personal tour. The demand for personal tours is high so it’s best to start the process at least 2 months before you actually travel. The Office will eventually contact you to let you know that you have made it and give you the date and time of your tour. It’s a sacred site so you should arrive 10 minutes early.

Vatican Grottoes

The Vatican Grottoes are a part of the Scavi complex. It’s a large crypt network under St. Peter’s Basilica. They are found between the present-day ground level of the Basilica and the floor of the Vatican Necropolis (Scavi). You will find the tombs and remains of many popes here, as well as the tomb of John Paul 2. The Grottoes can be accessed daily from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm April through September, and October through March from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. The entrance can be found in the transept of St. Peter’s Basilica. You can visit the Excavations Office by calling +39.06698853 18

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