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Exploring St. Peter’s Basilica: 5 Practical Commandments

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world. A feat of architectural brilliance. A staggering culmination of resources, manpower, and vision.

With over 2,000 years of history settled in one lofty spot, visitors are keen to gobble up as much information as they can.

However, there are pragmatic elements that are crucial to enjoying the actual process of visiting the basilica.

If left unanswered, questions about time, dress code, and pricing can you leave you stranded outside of its imposing doors.

Weary from searching for a logistical low-down on one of the most visited monuments in the world?

Then seek no further.

Explore the below five practical commandments to visiting the one and only, the majestically-marbled, St. Peter’s Basilica.

1. Thou shalt get there yesterday

Okay, so time-travel is a tall order.

However, millions from all over the world flock to see St. Peter’s Basilica. The queues are not a joke, people (gasp at image below). In high season they frequently snake around the square, also one of the largest in the world.

To plan accordingly, keep in mind that in April to September the basilica is open from 7.00 to 19.00. In October to March the hours are from 7.00 to 18.00.

You don’t need the Queues Blues. Gulp down an espresso, and get there as early as possible.

If you do miss your alarm and end up queueing with throngs of other sleepy heads, make sure you stay hydrated.

Bring water with you, or an empty container that you can fill up from the fountains in the square.

2. Thou shalt cover up

One of the most important churches in Christendom, the basilica is very much considered a holy place. As such, a strict drsesscode is enforced for anyone aiming to worship or be wowed. Stick to the following:

  • No shorts, miniskirts, bare shoulders, or hats
  • Men should wear long pants
  • Women must cover their knees

Regardless of gender orientation, it’s best to adhere to the above. In the summer months some guards may be more relaxed than others, but they’re the exception, and not the rule.

Unfortunately, air conditioning is not common in Rome, and that includes inside monuments and museums. 

If you’re visiting in the sweltering summer months then carry a shawl, scarf, or extra pair of appropriate pants that you can change into.

Here’s a nice picture to sum things up:

How to dress to visit the St Peter's Basilica

3. Thou shalt not skip the line

Other locations in Rome offer a ‘skip-the-line’ service, where you can access a particular site with little queueing.

This option is not available for St. Peter’s Basilica.

It’s a holy location and a separate entity from the Vatican Museums. Furthermore, it has a security check similar to that of an airport.

The only way to surpass the line is to travel through the Vatican Museums. One of the popular exits leads from the Sistine Chapel directly to the church. With a fee of only 2 euros per person extra to be added on top of the tour fee, you can use a special short cut to skip the line and enter the church with your guide.

Intrigued and inspired? Check out Joy of Rome’s Vatican Museums tours to explore this solution.

4. Thou shalt put your wallet away

Entering the basilica is free of charge. Pretty straightforward. The only fee you pay is during a tour to skip the line from the sistine chapel to the church with your guide (2 euros each) but if you want to go there by yourself… Well! It’s free.

However, there are extra experiences on the grounds of the basilica that you can discover before or after a Vatican tour.

If you’re keen to witness a breathtaking view from the dome, then prepare for a breathtaking climb (up to 551 stairs). Tickets are found in a reception area near the base of the basilica, and are fairly cheap (around €7).

Visiting the grotto where 91 popes are laid to rest is accessible from the interior of the basilica, and free.

For those of who you want to visit the Tomb of St. Peter, pay attention and take note. Access to this site is only provided through special permission from St. Peter’s Excavations Office. To request and pay for the visit you have to email them directly as far ahead of time as possible.

There’s  great news, however! If you land a slot then Joy of Rome will try to coordinate a Vatican Museums tour around the details awarded to you.

5. Thou shalt give your taxi driver the right address

Keep in mind that the Vatican is not synonymous with St. Peter’s Basilica.

While they rub shoulder to shoulder, they both have their own separate entryways. Visitors access the Vatican Museums via the entrance on Viale Vaticano, on the north of the city state.

Located on the southeastern side of the city, the basilica is at the end of Via della Conciliazione.

6. Bonus! Thou shalt keep learning about St. Peter’s Basilica

Now that you’ve obeyed the practical commandments to experiencing St. Peter’s Basilica you can relax and enjoy your time there.

As previously mentioned, however, the basilica is not a museum. Without any plaques explaining the interior, there’s lots you can miss.

After waking up at the crack of dawn, going through security, and climbing the cupola, you need to know what you’re gawking at.

Discover more about the basilica’s impressive history and architecture through Joy of Rome’s expert guides! Book your St. Peter’s Basilica Guided Tour.

Explore the bigger picture about one of the world’s biggest churches through any of the six Vatican Tours on offer. Whether traveling with kids, wanting a general overview, or ready for an in depth adventure, Joy of Rome has you covered.