Travel Tips

How to Climb St. Peter’s Dome in Rome

Tue 05 Mar 2024

How to Climb St. Peter’s Dome in Rome

One question we are often asked by visitors coming to Rome for the first time is whether it’s worthwhile to make the climb up to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. The short answer is a resounding yes! I have climbed the dome of St. Peter's dozens of times since I moved to Rome back in 2010, and I never tire of the experience.

The cupola of St. Peter’s is the highest point in the Eternal City, and the experience of climbing the dome offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Vatican City and all of Rome - providing a unique perspective of the city's iconic landmarks that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. As you ascend the dome, you'll also get to appreciate the intricate architecture and artwork of St. Peter's Basilica up close, including Michelangelo's famous dome design and stunning mosaic artworks.

We think that climbing St. Peter’s dome is a must-do on a Vatican tour or visit to Rome, but there are some things that you should to bear in mind before deciding to make the climb. Read on to find out everything you need to know about climbing the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome! 


St. Peter's Dome Climb Tour 


St. Peter’s Dome Opening Hours



Before you make a beeline for the Basilica, you’ll need to know when to go! The opening hours for the dome climb are slightly shorter than those for the church itself, and depend on the season.

  • Summer Hours (April 1 - September 30): Every day from 7.30am and to 6pm
  • Winter Hours (October 1 - March 31) : Every day from 7.30am and to 5pm

Please note that in busy periods the queue to climb the dome may be closed half an hour before the stated time.

On some Wednesday mornings the Basilica and the Dome Climb will be closed due to Papal Audiences. On these occasions the Basilica, as well as the Dome, will open at 12.30pm. The schedule of Papal audiences varies through the year, so on some Wednesday mornings the Basilica is open. Nonetheless, we recommend avoiding this time when planning your visit.


Getting your tickets for St. Peter’s Dome




You cannot buy tickets to climb St. Peter's dome online, and must do so on site. Once you have passed through the security controls at the front of the entrance lines for the church (remember not to bring any glass bottles with you and to respect the dress code), climb the steps onto the church's portico and follow the signs for "Entrata Cupola."

The ticket office is located at the far left hand side of the basilica's portico, beneath a statue of the Emperor Charlemagne on horseback. Most online sources will tell you to turn right when you reach the portico to find the ticket office: ignore them, as this is outdated information.

Again, ignore online sources that tell you that you can only pay with cash - St. Peter's now accepts card payments as well. Of course, it's always a good idea to have some euros on you just in case! There are two different ticket options available:

  • If you would like to make the climb on foot all the way, the ticket costs €8. It's a sweat-inducing 551 steps all told if you choose to go this route, but if you're young and fit and want to save a couple of euros - or you simply don't like elevators - this is a sound option.
  • For those of us not in peak physical condition, or who don't have time to waste, the second ticket option includes an elevator ride part-way up the dome, to the level of a walkway that rings the dome's interior. This option costs €10. As there is not much to see on the first portion of the climb, we think this is the better option and worth the extra €2.


How to Climb St. Peter’s Dome 



Even if you plump for the ticket option with elevator ride included, the remainder of the climb from the walkway level is another 320 steps, which must be completed on foot. This is also the most challenging part of the ascent, as the stairwell becomes narrower and steeper as you make your way upwards, culminating in a narrow spiral staircase where a rope bannister is on hand to help you haul yourself up.

The route is one-way, so once you embark on the final portion of the climb there is no going backwards. The narrow staircase and limited space can make the climb challenging for those with claustrophobia or mobility issues, so it’s a good idea to re-assess whether you want to continue to the top from the tranquility of the dome walkway.

If you don’t want to or aren’t able to make the climb to the top of the cupola, it’s still well worth taking the elevator to the panoramic viewing platform inside the dome, where a cafe and gift shop will occupy you whilst you wait for your travelling companions to complete the climb.

If you are up to the challenge, however, the prize at the end of the journey is worth every step!


Is a St. Peter's Tour Including a Dome Climb Worth It?



To take the hassle out of planning the practical details of your visit to the dome of St. Peter's, it can be a worthwhile option to consider a tour that includes the dome climb on its itinerary. These tours are often optimised to take place at the best time of the day, meaning you'll spend less time queueing and more time enjoying St. Peter's! The expert commentary of a qualified guide can also hugely enhance your experience, giving context to what you're looking at. 


St. Peter's Dome Climb Tour


Do I Need to Be Fit to Climb St. Peter's Dome?


Climbing St. Peter's Dome is somewhat challenging, and you will be sure to be somewhat out of breath when you reach the top. We think that anyone with a moderate level of physical fitness and no serious medical conditions should be able to manage it, however. As you climb you are actually walking in the narrow space between the two shells of the Michelangelo-designed dome, giving you a great sense of the engineering idea that underpins the construction. 


Tips for Climbing St. Peter’s Dome



  • Go early. You can’t skip the lines to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, and you can’t skip the line to buy your ticket for the dome climb either. To avoid having to queue for a long time, we really recommend that you aim to be at St. Peter’s around 8 am or earlier, not long after the ticket office for the dome climb opens. At this time of the morning things are usually quiet, meaning you can enjoy the climb in relative peace. In summer, going at this time comes with the added advantage of avoiding the Roman sun - it’s also the time that we visit climb the dome on our tour of St. Peter’s basilica. 
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes. It should go without saying that you need to wear appropriate footwear when facing a climb of hundreds of steps across uneven surfaces, but you’d be surprised at some of the shoe-decisions we’ve seen over the years. Please, for everyone’s sake, choose function over fashion on your St. Peter’s dome climb!
  • Bring a Water Bottle. No matter how fit you are, climbing a 450 dome can be thirsty work. Bring a water bottle (plastic only - glass bottles and containers are not allowed through security, so leave them at home) or buy one from the cafe at the walkway level before the final ascent.
  • Do Your Research. Unless you know what to look out for, you will miss plenty of fascinating details when making the dome climb. To learn more about the fabulous mosaics that await you on the interior of the dome, as well as what to look out for from the viewing platforms at the top of the cupola, read our guide to what to see on a climb of St. Peter’s dome.
  • Consider a tour of St. Peter’s that includes the dome climb. Whilst climbing the dome is a fun thing to do in itself, doing so as part of an expert-led guided tour of St. Peter’s can improve the experience immeasurably. Take advantage of local know-how to navigate the crowds, get valuable historical context, and make sure you don’t miss a thing on your way up the dome by trusting in one of our experienced experts! This Spring, Through Eternity Tours will be inaugurating our St. Peter’s Basilica tour with dome climb. We’ll be going live in March, so check this space! Or get in touch with our team of travel experts to find out more.  

Now you’ve read our guide to climbing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you’re ready to visit yourself. Through Eternity Tours offer a range of guided tours of St. Peter’s and the Vatican museums, including a special early-morning tour that includes climbing the dome at the best time of the day. To book your dome climb tour, click the link below!


St. Peter's Dome Climb Tour




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