If historical fortresses are your thing, head to Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome for a day you’ll never forget. The ‘Castle of the Holy Angel’ is a striking landmark which sits at the centre of Parco Adriana, a beautiful park on the banks of the Tiber.
A stone’s throw from Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and other Roman landmarks, visiting this unique spot is a must while you’re in the Italian capital. And, because Rome is served by a fast and convenient public transport system, getting there couldn’t be easier. Let’s take a look at the logistics of your visit, so you can spend less time planning and more getting excited about your trip!
Getting to Castel Sant’Angelo by Train
If you’re based a little further away from Castel Sant’Angelo, you might like to take public transport to get there. Still, if you can, we recommend walking to this beautiful part of the city. It’s just ten minutes from Piazza Navona, one of the main squares in the historical centre, or only five from Piazza San Pietro. When you walk, you’ll have the chance to see lots of picturesque streets and discover new spots you might otherwise miss.
The nearest Metro stations to Castel Sant’Angelo are called Lepanto and Ottaviano. Both these stops are line A. If you’re travelling by bus, the best place to get off is Piazza Pia, which is just a couple of minutes stroll from your destination.
Rome’s public transport is owned and operated by the same company, which means you can use most services with the same ticket. For tourists looking for fuss-free transport, a multi-day pass is the best option. Pick up a Roma Pass, a Rome Public Transport Card, or something similar, and use it to get around for the duration of your trip.
The most popular choice for locals and visitors is the 100 minutes ticket. This gives you 100 minutes on buses, Metros, and trams, starting from when you validate the ticket. It should be enough time to get wherever you’re going in the city centre, including transfers and waiting. You can pick up a 100 minutes ticket from one of the city’s many tobacco shops for just €1.50.
Opening Times and Ticket Prices
Arranging a trip to Castel Sant’Angelo is simple. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 09:00 to 19:30. If you arrange your visit for a Friday, you can enjoy extended opening hours of up to 22:00!
Or, admire the vast exterior of the building from the street at any time of the day or night. The Castel Sant’Angelo is illuminated in the evening, which makes it look even more impressive from the outside.
How much does it cost to visit Castel Sant’Angelo?
These are the most recent ticket prices for Castel Sant’Angelo, but check online before your visit to be sure. You can also reserve your tickets online to save time when you get there.
EU Citizens ages 18-25
Child (under 18)
If you’re travelling on a budget, time your trip for the start of the month. Lots of attractions, including the Castel Sant’Angelo, are free for visitors on the first Sunday of every month, making this a great time to explore the city.
Exploring Castel Sant’Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo is a beautiful place for visitors to discover the city’s past. The building is split over five floors, which you’ll explore using a sizeable spiral ramp that runs from bottom to top. Let’s run through some of the many things you can expect to see when you visit.
National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo
Because of its historical significance, architectural beauty, and the many valuable paintings and sculptures it contains, Castel Sant’Angelo can be considered a landmark, an archaeological site, and a museum. Visitors can explore diverse collections of paintings, sculptures, ancient objects, and more during a trip. There’s something to pique every interest. Some of the masterpieces you can see include:
- Portrait of Prospero Farinacci by Cavalier d’Arpino
- The Bathroom by Dosso Dossi
- Cardinal Gozzadini Receives James III Stuart by Antonio Gionima
- Young Woman with Unicorn by Luca Longhi
- San Girolamo by Lorenzo Lotto
- Madonna and Child with Saints by Luca Signorelli
- Cupid and Psyche by Perin del Vaga
- Perseus by Perin del Vaga
As well as these unique and impressive paintings, there are lots of bronze and marble sculptures on display as you walk around. These include Archangel Michael by Raffaello da Montelupo as well as a bust of Emperor Hadrian, a giant sculpture of Hadrian, and lots more fragments from other statues. Art lovers are sure to be delighted by a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo! Let’s explore each level in a little more detail.
The first floor is home to the Ambulacrum of Boniface IX, the Chapel of the Damned, and the Courtyard of the Shootings. As the name suggests, the courtyard was once the location for capital punishments that weren’t to be made public. This lower part of Castel Sant’Angelo also contains a high-vaulted corridor called the Dromos, and the Atrium, where a giant statue of Emperor Napolean once stood.
2nd floor and the secret passageway
Head up the ramp to the second floor, and you’ll find the famous secret passageway to the Vatican. The Passetto di Borgo is about 800 metres long. It was built in 852 when Niccolò III Orsini had a walled walkway covered over to provide safe passage from the religious residence the fortress. The escape was used by Clement VII Medici during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
The second floor is also home to the Hall of Urns, the most sacred part of the lower Castel. The remains of the imperial family were kept here until the rule of Emperor Caracalla in 217 AD.
The historical prisons
On the third floor, historic prisons are made up of a series of dingy underground rooms and cells. The last chamber in the arrangement is the most famous. It held Benvenuto Cellini, an influential Roman artist, for around a year.
There are lots of things to see on the fourth floor of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Start with the Courtyard of the Angel, home to a statue of St. Michael the Archangel. The old mausoleum was dedicated to the saint after Pope Gregory’s legendary vision of the figure atop the building. The statue today is bronze, a replica added in the 1700s, but the original was carved from marble.
More rooms around the fourth level include the Halls of Clement VII and VIII, the Hall of Apollo, and the Hall of Justice. There are lots of paintings and sculptures to discover throughout these rooms, so spend a little time exploring and see what you can find.
By the time you reach level five, you’re coming to the top of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Stroll around the walk and rooms of Pius IV, a covered archway with several marble busts, and explore some more halls and the armoury.
6th and 7th floors
The sixth and seventh floors contain several attractive rooms and more masterpieces to enjoy. The Hall of Columns is particularly beautiful, although the highlight of these top levels is the Terrace of the Angel.
The Terrace of the Angel provides some of the best views in Rome and is the highest accessible part of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The terrace is home to another statue of the Archangel Michael, this one by Flemish sculptor and architect Peter Anton von Verschaffelt.
Look towards St. Peter’s Basilica and spot the Passetto di Borgo. This famous secret passageway connects the fortress with the Vatican.
With so many floors to discover and lots of masterpieces, halls, and unbeatable views, you’ll need a couple of hours to get the most out of your visit to Castel Sant’Angelo. Set an entire morning or afternoon aside and enjoy the captivating history of this one-off attraction.
Castel Sant’Angelo History and Facts
Throughout the centuries, the Castel has been used in many ways. From mausoleum to prison, and finally as a museum today. Let’s take a look through the building’s history.
Castel Sant’Angelo was built between 135 and 139 AD. It was initially commissioned by Emperor Hadrian, as a large mausoleum for his family. The Emperor took inspiration for its design from the nearby shrine of Augustus, which was also a cylindrical shape.
Hadrian’s ashes were kept in the tomb after his death in 138. The remains of his wife and their first adopted son were also held there for many years. More emperors were buried at Hadrian’s mausoleum over the next decades, with the last one being Emperor Caracalla, who died in 217.
The old mausoleum was converted into a fortress in the 5th century, guarding one of the city’s first bridges, Ponte Sant’Angelo. Architectural updates were made during this time to improve the endurance of the building. Most notable of these was the addition of the secret passageway between the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican. This has only been used once when Pope Clement VII sought refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
As well as a mausoleum and a fortress, Castel Sant’Angelo has been used as a prison. Visitors today can see the dark cells where prisoners were kept and the inner courtyard where executions were carried out. Several famous Italians were held in jail at Castel Sant’Angelo, including Benvenuto Cellini and Giordano Bruno.
After the Castel Sant’Angelo was officially decommissioned as a military fortress in 1901, it was restored and turned into a public museum. It’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in Roman military history, religion, or architecture, not to mention the beautiful views that can be enjoyed from the upper terrace. Don’t miss the chance to explore this unique spot during your time in Rome.
Restaurants, Bars, and Shops near Castel Sant'Angelo
If all that history has worked up an appetite, you’re in luck! There are lots of great places to grab a bite or a drink near the Castel Sant’Angelo. And, plenty of spots for shopping and browsing too.
Fancy some refreshment without leaving the fortress? There’s a great little café inside the Castel Sant’Angelo, so you can enjoy a delicious coffee with views of Rome below. For a quick pick-me-up after your visit, stroll through Parco Adriana and grab a slice of pizza from Scialla, where there’s a flavour to suit every taste.
When you visit the Castel Sant’Angelo, you’re right in the heart of Rome. Explore! You’re sure to find a spot to suit your wishes, whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a scoop of gelato, or you’re in the mood for a more substantial meal. Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Rome for more inspiration to get you started.
The best bars near Castel Sant’Angelo
There’s no better way to finish off a day’s sightseeing than with a glass of chilled wine or an Aperol spritz in hand. And, thanks to Europe’s al fresco dining and drinking culture, finding a perfect place couldn’t be easier. You’ll never need to walk far before you find a tempting street-side table. Take a seat, check out the menu, and order something to make you feel great.
Some of our favourite bars near Castel Sant’Angelo include Bar Latteria Giuliani, Wine Bar De’ Penitenzieri, and Apollinare Wine & Cocktail Bar.
Shopping near Castel Sant’Angelo
The best shops near Castel Sant’Angelo include Calzoleria Petrocchi, a shoemaker who’s hand-crafted leather goods have been worn by Audrey Hepburn and Robert De Niro. Another favourite spot nearby is Enoteca Costantini, a wonderfully stocked wine shop with an 800 square-metre basement to explore.
Travelling to Rome by train
Italy is blessed with a fantastic high-speed railway network, making it easy to travel to Rome by train. Roma Termini is the main railway station in the capital and it's served by several speedy services, including Trenitalia's Frecciarossa ("Red Arrow") services and Italo trains. Thanks to high-speed trains, you can get from Florence or Naples to Rome in under 1h 20m, Milan to Rome in 3h 10m and Venice to Rome in 3h 26m.
And if you're travelling onwards from Rome, why not continue by train? The capital has links to Venice, Florence, Milan, Verona and Genoa - to name but a few places you can reach by rail! So why not hop on a train and say arrivederci to Rome!