It’s home to the world’s largest Dome, not to mention Renaissance artworks and sculptures to rival any gallery on the planet. This grand chapel is a feat of engineering and architecture that the modern world could only dream of.
Fortunately for us, St Peter’s Basilica has been preserved in its entirety, and no trip to Rome is complete without calling by it.
Getting to St Peter’s Basilica by train
St Peter’s Basilica is pretty hard to miss, given it’s right at the heart of the Italian capital, within the walls of the Vatican. Vatican City is actually its own state, being the smallest and least populated country on the planet!
You’ll find this microstate on the western side of the Tiber, just a short stroll from the river and near other attractions like Castel Sant’Angelo. There’s so much to see in Rome, which means walking is one of the best ways to get around.
No matter which route you choose, you’re bound to come across beautiful architecture, graceful statues and charming little piazzas. But if you have a much longer journey on your hands, Rome’s speedy and efficient transport network has got you covered.
Which station is nearest to St Peter’s Basilica?
You can easily reach St Peter’s Basilica by train from any major Italian city. St Peter’s Square has its own train station, Roma San Pietro, which is served by Trenitalia’s regional trains running in a loop around Rome from Roma Termini station. From San Pietro, it’s about a 10-minute walk to St Peter’s Basilica.
Metro, trams and bus services in Rome
If you’re already in Rome and plan on using the metro, then you’ll need to plan your journey towards the Ottaviano stop. This stop sits on Line A, also known as the orange line. Once you get off, you’ll just need to walk 11 minutes directly south along Via Ottaviano, until you reach St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro), off which the Basilica sits.
Incidentally, the Ottaviano transport interchange is where you’ll also find the nearest tram stop to the Sistine Chapel, which is served by number 19 route tram services. There are also buses stopping here, including the number 32, 590 and 982 services.
As for the trams, you’ll also need to head for the Ottaviano transport interchange to get as close as possible to St Peter’s Basilica. This is an end of the line stop, which is served only by the number 19 route. However, you can connect to this line from many different stops across the city.
As for buses, you can also hop off these at the Ottaviano interchange, with lines including the number 32, 590 and 982 services stopping here. There are some stops even closer to St Peter’s Basilica, with one along the river being served by 34, 40, 46, 62 and 64 route buses.
Whatever way you choose to travel when in Rome, you’ll find the transport here is very reasonably priced and easy to use.
What to see at St Peter’s Basilica
The construction of the spectacular St Peter’s Basilica took the best part of a century, and it won’t be hard to see why when you visit. A succession of Rome’s finest architects and artists applied their expertise to the Basilica over time, with the end product being one of the grandest buildings in all of the world.
There’s so much to see at the Basilica it can be hard to keep track. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for.
St Peter’s Basilica Dome remains one of the largest in the world today. Its extraordinary design is credited to Michelangelo, but it wasn’t completed until after his time in 1590. It features 16 segments of windows, busts and frescoes, along with almost 100 unique figures.
The best part? You can climb 231 steps all the way to the top of the Dome, and take in spectacular skyline views over Rome.
Being a site of such religious importance, the Basilica is the final resting place of many popes and historical figures. These graves can be found in an underground area known as the Vatican Grottoes, where you’ll find over 100 tombs and chapels dedicated to important figures of Roman, Italian and Catholic life.
Created by renaissance icon Michelangelo, the Pietà is one of the most famous statues in the world. Its name roughly translates to Pity in English, and the marble sculpture depicts Jesus after his crucifixion, laid in the lap of his Mother Mary.
Standing six feet tall, the sculpture has an incredible presence despite the vastness of the building it sits within. It’s the only sculpture that was signed by Michelangelo and was created in the late 15th century. You can spot it in the first chapel on the right, as soon as you enter St Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s Basilica History and Facts
The history of St Peter’s begins in 64 A.D. with the crucifixion of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples. This took place three months after the disastrous fire which laid waste to much of the city, a catastrophe for which the unpredictable Emperor Nero blamed the Christians.
As a devout follower, Peter was crucified near where the Basilica now stands, then buried on Vatican Hill.
The conversion to Christianity
Fast forward 250 years and Emperor Constantine would break with custom and convert to Christianity, eventually bringing the empire with him.
To honour Peter and position Christianity at the heart of Roman life, Constantine would order the construction of the Old St Peter’s Basilica, which took around 40 years to build from 319 A.D. onwards.
This grand structure was designed specifically around the placement of St Peter’s grave and contained beautiful mosaics throughout. It stood proud over the city of Rome for more than a millennium, until the Basilica experienced a period of decline and neglect, leading to the drawing up of much bigger plans.
A new Basilica
The Basilica of today was constructed in the 16th century, at the demand of Pope Julius II. St Peter’s architects include Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It’s the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and remains the largest church in the world today.
The Basilica today
St. Peter’s is now a Papal Basilica. It’s a site of enormous religious importance as the home of Peter’s Tomb and the Chair of St Peter, which confers a spiritual authority to the Pope.
Despite all that, it isn’t technically the official Basilica of the Pope. Still, the sheer scale and importance of St Peter’s Basilica mean that the most significant Papal functions and events are always conducted here.
Even with all that modern architecture can achieve, St Peter’s Basilica retains records including the largest church building in the world, the second tallest building in Rome, and the tallest dome in the world. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one that shouldn’t be missed on any and every visit to the Italian capital.
Restaurants, Bars, and Stores near St Peter’s Basilica
You’ll find St Peter’s Basilica within the Vatican. This walled city-within-a-city serves as the global administrative centre of the Catholic Church. This means that the area directly surrounding the Basilica contains only sites of religious importance. You’ll need to head back outside the walls of Vatican City if you’d like to grab a coffee or a bite to eat.
Thankfully, you won’t need to go too far. There are loads of incredible options in the surroundings, from fresh, authentic pizza joints to rustic wine cellars for a tipple of the region’s finest products.
The best restaurants near St Peter’s Basilica
You couldn’t be more central if you’re looking to sample some of Rome’s finest cuisine. Here are some of the best restaurants near St Peter’s Basilica.
- Beef Bazaar – Some of the best steaks in town, matched by a chic setting and almost endless wine list
- Panino Divino – one for sandwich lovers, serving up some of the freshest paninis and melts in the city
- Passaguai – a tiny and traditional haunt, with rustic Roman dishes and a superb selection of meats and cheeses
- Bacio di Puglia – fresh pizza and pastries served from the counter, which you can enjoy in the al fresco seating area or on the go
- Makasar Bistrot – some of the best antipasti around, with bread, continental meats, regional cheeses and olives
- La Cucaracha – a break from the local cuisine, with colourful Mexican dishes served until late.
The best bars near St Peter’s Basilica
If you’ve decided to see the Basilica in all its softly-lit glory (and why wouldn’t you?), wrap up the night with a crisp glass of white in a cobbled side street or cellar, somewhere nearby. And if that sounds just the thing, you’ve got plenty of options.
- Enoteca Costantini – a cosy, cellar-like wine bar with an astounding selection of wines from the region, country and across the globe
- Wine Bar De’ Penitenzieri – Wine bottles line the walls in this secluded, candle-lit spot, where local vintages are offered up alongside delicious bar snacks
- Bukowski’s Bar – a charming little bistro bar with a superb selection of cocktails for you to sample
- Fonclea – Rome meets London in this Anglo-Italian fusion bar, with a fantastic selection of beers from both nations
- El Mojito Cocktail Bar – a lively spot for when you’re not ready to call it a night, with colourful combinations served by the glass or pitcher.
Shopping near St Peter’s Basilica
Being a site of religious importance, you won’t exactly find much of a retail scene in the Vatican itself. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel far to stumble across some of the city’s swishiest spots.
These include nearby Via Cola di Rienzo, where you can find names such as Tiffany & Co, Subdued, Tommy Hilfiger and Pandora. A short walk further down the street and you’ll find a cluster of fab shoe shops, with Guja Calzature and Lonigro Calzature being spots worth calling in at.
If you really want to experience the best Rome has to offer though, then walking 1.5 kilometres east of the Basilica will surely be worth it. This walk will take you over the Tiber and towards Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna. In the streets between the two, you can shop top names like Hermes, Chanel, and Michael Kors to your heart’s content.
Opening Times and Prices
The good news is that St Peter’s Basilica is open all year round. It’s highly likely you’ll be able to visit on at least one day if you’re in the city for a long weekend.
The Basilica is open from Thursday to Tuesday, often closing on Wednesdays if there is a papal mass. In some cases, it may re-open on Wednesdays from 12:30 onwards, but this can be difficult to plan a trip around, so the advice is to choose another day of the week if you can.
Opening times vary slightly throughout the year, depending on the season. In the high season from 1st April to 30th September, St Peter’s Basilica hours are from 07:00 to 19:00, while in the low season from 1st October to 31st March, opening times are from 07:00 to 18:00.
If you’d like to pay to visit the Dome, these times are from 07:30 to 18:30 in the high season and from 07:30 to 17:00 in the low season.
The great news is that, as a place of worship, you can visit the Basilica entirely for free, and you won’t need St Peter’s Basilica tickets. Of course, you may wish to pay for a guided tour provided by a third-party company if you’d like a more educational experience as you move around the Basilica.
You can also pay to skip the security queues outside the Basilica, which might be worth doing if you’re pushed for time and want to fit lots more into your Rome trip.
One thing you must take note of is the dress code that’s enforced when you visit the Vatican. As a site of enormous religious importance, men are required to wear long trousers (no shorts) and cover their shoulders. At the same time, women must not have either bare shoulders or skirts shorter than knee length.
One of the grandest places of worship in all of human history, top off your trip to Rome at the spectacular St Peter’s Basilica.
Taking the train to Rome?
You can easily reach Rome by train from any major Italian city thanks to the frequent high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. The most popular routes are from Venice to Rome (3h 15m), Milan to Rome (3h 10m), Florence to Rome (1h 18m) and Naples to Rome (1h 08m).
Need more information about travelling to Rome by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Rome.