Visiting the Vatican - What to See and Do

Visits to the dome of St. Peter’s

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St peters dome

Tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

Once you pass the security control and access the Basilica, you will finally see its architecture and magnificent works of art. From all the things you can do, we recommend one: climb up to the dome in St Peter’s, the work of the genius, Michelangelo.

Short historical outline

The dome is the symbol of the Church of Rome and the “beacon” that draws thousands of pilgrims and visitors to the heart of Christianity.
It was created by Michelangelo starting in 1546, during the papacy of Paul III, but it was interrupted upon Michelangelo’s death, at the height of the work.

15 years later, with Sixtus V, Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana were ordered to continue with the work for which they were given a lot of resources. As a result, after only 22 months, the work was finished, an event which was celebrated with a solemn mass and fireworks. In the following years, the facing and the lead lining were completed, and the golden bronze sphere, culminating in a cross, was placed.

What you will find – How to climb up St Peter’s Basilica’s dome

Once you enter the Basilica, walk forward a little and then look right: you will see the sign “Cupola”. Follow the sign until you reach the ticket office, together with a lift which goes up to the dome.

You have 2 options:

1. Climb all the way by foot (551 steps)
2. Take the lift and then climb the rest on foot (320 steps)

The decision is yours. Many consider that the small difference in price is worth it to avoid the initial exhausting section. In addition, there is not much to see.

If you take the lift, you will reach an interior balcony which is actually the base of the dome. Here you can stop calmly and look at the great dome, the beautiful mosaics or the beautiful perspectives of the inside of the Basilica from above.

From here, you can start to climb the spiral staircase which leads up to the upper area, or go down a few steps to a terrace where you will find bathrooms, water fountain, a souvenir shop and a café. From the terrace, you can see the Piazza and the upper statues.

If you climb the spiral staircase, hold your breath and prepare for a climb through a narrow space only livened up by some small windows which provide views of the outside.
The climb takes around 10 minutes.

Once at the top, the icing on the cake: the spectacular 360º views of St Peter’s Square, the Vatican Gardens and the city of Rome.

There is another staircase for the way back down. The experience can be done in an hour.

Practical information


From October 1st to March 31st – from 8:00 to 17:00
From April 1st to September 30th – from 8:00 to 18:00


Tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica Dome

 More tours & tickets – The dome of St. Peter’s

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The Best Vatican Tours & Tickets

The Vatican is the most popular attraction in Rome, hosting millions of visitors each year. Booking a small-group guided tour or skip-the-line access in advance is highly recommended.

Related links

Vatican museums guide
The tomb of John Paul II

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