St. Peter’s Basilica is a working church – the largest in the world – and is therefore free to enter. It’s inside the borders of the Vatican City (what’s the difference between St Peter’s and the Vatican?) but the public are allowed just walk into it from Rome’s streets.
Lines to get in to Michelangelo’s famous basilica, which snake round the grand cloisters around the outside of the square, can be extremely long, and though they move fast can appear rather daunting.
There are, however, several ways to skip the lines – none of which are free:
Key data on St Peter’s Basilica
Apr-Sep: 7am – 7pm
Oct-Mar: 7am – 6pm
Nearest Metro: Ottaviano
Dress code: knees and shoulders must be covered
Method 1: rent an audio guide
This inexpensive insider tip can get you past the hundreds of tourists and straight to the head of the line (though you will of course still have to pass through the security gate). An additional byproduct is that you have an audio guide to interpret the hundreds of incredible artifacts in the church. Support this site by renting an audio guide for €19.50 per person here.
Method 2: take a guided group tour of St Peter’s Basilica
A professional guide to St. Peter’s Basilica will meet you outside and bring you to a special, much shorter line that will whisk you past the hordes and straight in. Help this site by booking a guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica for €34 per adult. Such tours last for around 90 minutes and really bring the artworks and vast architecture to life.
Method 3: buy a ticket to climb up into the dome
To get into St Peter’s cupola you need a ticket (€19.50). This ticket also allows you to bypass the long lines into the basilica. Note there’s a lot of stairs to get up into the dome! There’s an elevator but it only goes halfway up.
Method 4: take a guided tour of the Vatican Museums (that includes St Peter’s)
Guests on a guided Vatican tour that includes St Peter’s also get privileged access to a special ceremonial Papal corridor that goes directly from the Sistine Chapel into St Peter’s Basilica. Buy here, €59 per adult. Please note that this only applies to visitors with an authorized guide: people on standard tickets to the Vatican Museums are diverted to the exit of the museums on the other side of the Vatican. The advantage of this is that you end your Vatican tour in St Peter’s with all of the expertise that this will bring. Read more about guided tours of the Vatican.
Method 5: book a private guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica
The ‘luxury’ option that includes a visit to inside the giant dome (elevator part of the way). With a private tour guide you can make your own schedule and concentrate on the things that interest you. Book a private guided tour of St Peter’s Basilica for €108 per adult. Whether you’re interested in the chapels, the cupola, the mosaics, or the mummified popes, with a private tour you call the shots.