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St. Peter’s Basilica Dome Climb – ticket, what to expect, guidance

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, known as the ‘cupola,’ reaches around 448 feet (137 meters) from the ground to the top of the outer cross. It’s about 136 feet (41 meters) wide, slightly smaller than the Pantheon.

Most tourists visiting the Basilica climb the dome for its amazing views and incredible architecture. 

From the top of the massive dome, you can see Vatican City and much of Rome spread below you. 

Designed by Michelangelo, it’s both a work of art and a marvel of engineering, so tourists also go to see the intricate details.

This article shares everything you must know before climbing the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.

Visiting the Dome

Buying a St. Peter’s Basilica Dome Climb ticket is the easiest way to reach the dome.

This ticket includes a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and Dome, entry fees to the Dome by elevator, and sterilized headsets.

You can select either a group, semi-private, or private tour of the Dome.

You can select the guide’s language from Italian, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, or English.

Check out more combo tours
# Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Museum
# St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel
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What to expect from Dome Climb

Climbing the St. Peter’s Basilica dome is a unique and memorable experience.

Before you climb, look up; you will likely notice an inscription around the Dome’s base.

The inscription, which is in Latin, translates to: ‘”You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’”

Even though most tourists go for the dome climb, it isn’t easy – especially if you choose the stairs. 

The path will undoubtedly get narrow and twisty as you near the top, but the view above is amazing and worth it. 

There are two ways to get to the dome: Climb all 551 steps, take the elevator partway, and climb the remaining 320 steps. 

Before you reach the very top, you can look down into St. Peter’s Basilica, which is nothing short of breathtaking. 

From the top of the dome, you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of the Vatican City, the gardens, and the surrounding areas of Rome. 

This is a shutterbug’s paradise, so carry your camera with you. The sights are so beautiful that they’re worth capturing. 

The climb lets you see the inside of the dome up close, allowing you to truly appreciate Michelangelo’s work and the engineering genius behind it.

Is it worth going up to St. Peter’s dome?

If you are undecided about ascending the dome, you need to keep two things in mind: the effort you need to make while climbing and the amazing view awaiting you at the top.

Climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica is like achieving something big. It’s not just about the climb; it’s also about connecting with history and feeling closer to the significance of Vatican City.

If you enjoy taking photos or capturing beautiful city views, the sight from the dome is unmatched.

People interested in Renaissance architecture and the Vatican’s history will enjoy the climb.

Tourists seeking a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience will probably feel the climb is worth it.

St. Peter’s Dome is an enriching experience for those who appreciate breathtaking views, architectural genius, and the challenge of a physical ascent.

Read more: Is St. Peter’s Basilica Worth it?

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
Image: basilicasanpietro.va

How to Climb the Dome

We would like you to know that planning and preparation are required before you start your journey to the top of St. Peter’s Dome.

Here is a helpful guide on how to do it:

Step 1: Buy the tickets

Since the Basilica is always crowded, it’s smarter to buy tickets online instead of waiting in long lines for hours.

The guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome Climb allows you to explore the Basilica with an expert art historian. 

You can also climb to the top of the dome and enjoy stunning views of Rome. 

Step 2: Start to climb

Once you enter St. Peter’s Square, head to the right side of the basilica’s facade to start the climb.

If you’ve opted for the elevator, it will take you to the roof level, where you can enjoy the views from the terrace before climbing the dome on foot. 

This choice cuts down on the number of steps you have to take.

If you take the stairs, you can immediately begin your journey upward.

The narrow staircase spirals in certain sections, providing a unique experience.

Step 3: Go up to the terrace

You’ll arrive at the terrace level after taking the elevator or climbing the stairs. 

You can take a break, visit the gift shop, and use the restroom here. 

You can also visit the coffee shop, which provides a welcome rest stop for those ascending to or descending from the dome.

It’s a perfect chance to rest, catch your breath, and prepare for the next climb phase.

Step 4: Continue to the Dome

The next phase of the climb, from the terrace to the dome, requires you to navigate more stairs. 

This part can be narrow and steep, so it’s important to take your time and be careful with your steps. 

As you approach the top, you’ll see an interior balcony that provides a breathtaking view of the basilica below—which is also a great chance to capture some memorable photos.

Step 5: Reach the top

Once you’ve reached the terrace, pause to take in the panoramic views of Vatican City and the surrounding areas.

It’s a fulfilling moment and an excellent opportunity to capture stunning photos.

How long does it take to climb the dome?

The duration of the climb up St. Peter’s Dome can fluctuate based on several factors.

These include the method chosen to ascend (stairs or elevator), your physical fitness, crowd levels, and how frequently you pause to rest or admire the scenery.

If you take the elevator and climb the rest of the steps, you will need 15 to 20 minutes to reach the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.  

If you decide to climb all of the 551 steps, you will need at least 40 to 45 minutes. 

Recommended Reading
# St. Peter’s Basilica facts
# What’s inside St. Peter’s Basilica

Best time to visit the Dome

You can visit the dome early morning when it opens at 8 am to avoid the crowd.

The morning light is really nice for taking pictures.

If you can’t make it in the morning, the next best time to visit the St Peter’s Basilica dome is around 3 pm as the crowds thin out later in the day.

The dome usually closes at 6 pm in the summer and 5 pm in the winter. 

They usually stop letting people in about 45 minutes to an hour before the closing hour.

Tips to climb the Dome

Wear tough, comfy shoes with good grip. Some stairs can be steep and uneven, and good shoes will prevent you from slipping and getting tired.

Drink water before climbing, especially when it’s hot. You can’t buy water when climbing, so bring a small bottle.

The stairs are small, so take breaks now and then to rest and catch your breath. There are also places where you can move aside to let other people pass you.

Hold the handrails, especially in the spiral staircases and narrower parts, to help you keep your balance.

The path gets narrower as you near the top. If you’re afraid of small spaces, prepare mentally for this part of the climb or consider whether it’s the right choice.

Remember to bring a camera or smartphone. The view from the top is amazing, and you’ll probably want to take pictures.

Check out all the things to do in Rome

This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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