Basilica di San Pietro – St. Peter’s Basilica

Country: Italy City: Rome Name of Site: San Pietro – St. Peter’s Basilica
General Info: 

The most important Catholic church in the world. According to Catholic tradition, the basilica is built above the burial site of St. Peter.

Official Website: Saint Peter’s Basilica
Address/Location: Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City


How to Get There:

Metro: Line A, Ottaviano – followed by a 10 minute walk south

Foot: Walking distance from downtown Rome. For example, it’s about 20 minutes from Piazza Navona. Most of the major sites of Rome are walkable – it’s about an hour walk from the Colosseum, which is one of the most eastern sites, to the Vatican, one of the most western sites, so depending on your hotel location it might be best to walk here. However, most people will find it easier to take the Metro.

Days / Hours: Exterior – All the Time!

Interior – Daily Apr – Sep, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM; Oct – Mar, 7:00 AM – 6:30 PM.

Cupola/Dome – Daily Apr – Sep,8:00 AM – 5:00 PM; Oct – Mar, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

Adult Cost: Exterior and Interior – FREE!!! Enjoy the ambience of one of the most famous sites in the world.

Cupola – Climbing to the top of the dome costs €6 if you take all 551 stairs, €8 cuts out 231 of the stairs by elevator.

Child Cost: Exterior – FREE!!!! Interior – FREE!!!! See above for information on climbing to the dome, the prices are the same, no special discount for children L
Tips – Admission/Free Days: Keep in mind as this is an active catholic church and the most holy place in Catholicism, there is a strictly enforced dress code. No uncovered shoulders, no shorts, skirts at the knee. They won’t let you in otherwise.
Tips – Line: The line stretching to get into St. Peter’s can seem really really long, especially during Holy Week or elsewhere in the summer tourist season. A couple of tips to save time: 1. Visiting before 10 AM or after 4 PM really cuts down on the line. If you show up and the line looks like it’s 4 hours long….come back later. At the very least, go get some gelato.
Free Wifi? Not yet.
Bathrooms- Free? Baby changing stations? There’s a number of free bathrooms around the church, including outside both to the right and the left of the basilica. There’s one at the end of the cupola tour as well.
Strollers- parking? Ease of use? Allowed inside?

Strollers are not allowed inside – there is stroller storage right next to the church so you can use it in for the line.

Outside food allowed inside? Nearby food options: There is a coffee shop inside St. Peter’s.

But here’s what you do. My favorite gelateria in Rome is Old Bridge gelateria. It’s delicious and gives you the most per euro, especially if you have cute girls with you. (My newlywed wife’s gelato was like twice as big as mine for the same price, and I thought mine was huge. J) Get some gelato and eat it while watching the people move around along the outside of the Vatican. The nearby Piazza – Piazza del Risorgimento – is a good place to picnic – the guards won’t let you picnic on the piazza in front of St. Peter’s.

Is it Worth It?

Yes, yes, and yes! The building is amazing. More importantly, I think the faith of the people that they were building something to honor their God imbues the building with an aura of holiness and sacrifice. (I feel that way in pretty much any old European church, but this one is definitely special.). This is one of the main reasons you go to Rome.

If your kids are old enough to climb 551 stairs without complaining every step, I would take them to the cupola as well. There’s all sorts of neat parts – my personal favorite is the part where you come out at a gallery inside the dome looking down at the inside of the church with a view of the main altar. The views of Rome from the top are fantastic as well – no building in the historic center of Rome is taller than St. Peter’s. Again – this will depend on the age / physical ability of your kids.

How to Get Kids Excited (books/movies/activities):

I had this puzzle book growing up called “The Eleventh Hour” for a 10 year old who loved puzzles, it was a really really really cool book. Anyway one of the scenes is based on St. Peter’s Basilica.

There’s a 13th century statue of Peter (with his keys) that everyone always touches. So bring your hand sanitizer, but kids (and most adults) love it.

💡 Things to mention so your family thinks you’re smart:
The letters around the side of the dome? They are really big. Like 8 feet tall. You can see them better if you go up the cupola. They are written in Latin, and they quote Matthew 19:16-19  where Jesus Christ informs Peter that he will be the head of the church after Christ “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock shall I build my church…”; Catholics claim their divine authority from St. Peter, and claim he was the first pope. Peter is usually depicted with keys, to denote this authority.

The statue to the immediate right when you walk into the Basilica is Michalengelo’s Pieta; it depicts Mary holding the dead body of her son, Jesus, after his crucifixion. It’s breathtaking, take some time to stop and examine this masterpiece.

Michelangelo’s fingerprints are all over this basilica, he was one of the chief designers (the man could do everything!) of the cathedral, especially the dome.


Be Careful of:

Pickpockets – All of Rome you need to be wary, but especially among the tourist throngs around St. Peter’s.