St. Peter’s Square Overview

Saint Peter’s Square is not only one of the most important tourist spots in Rome but it is also one of the most beautiful and largest squares in the entire wide world. This square is particularly renowned for its sheer size and is believed that during more noticeable events, this square has managed to hold more than 300,000 people at once.

St. Peter's Square, also known as the "Piazza San Pietro" is the gateway to the Vatican and is located in the heart of the city. The St. Peter's Basilica, the world's second-largest Catholic church is right in front of the square.

The Basilica and the Square, are both named after "Saint Peter", an apostle of Jesus, considered to be the first Pope. The Vatican City and St. Peter's square holds much importance to the pilgrims of the Catholic faith.

The Vatican became the primary papal (Pope's) residence in 1378. It is one of the highlights of the square since visitors can see the papal apartments and the place from where the pontiff addresses the crowd. If you are in the city, you may also see the Pope's weekly blessing at the square.

The design of the square resembles that of a keyhole. The square measures around 320 by 240m and has double-colonnaded wings; the design represents the 'motherly/maternal arms of the church' embracing and protecting the brethren.

An ancient Egyptian obelisk (tapered monolithic pillar) is at the center of the square. The entire square is abundant with its splendid architecture, including the Basilica. It also has a rich history that goes back a thousand years, making it one of the most visited places.

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• Saint Peter’s Square dates back to almost 400 years back, making it not only one of the most historical sites in Rome but a beautiful one at that too.
• Although the most striking thing about Saint Peter’s Square is its size, the construction and architecture will also blow your minds away.
• There are as many as 84 pilasters that flank the square and not only this, there are 140 statues of saints of yesteryears that hold a place inside the columns.
• In the center of the square, one can easily spot and marvel at the obelisk and the two fountains. It is believed that the obelisk was transported from Egypt to Rome in 1586.
• Don’t miss out on the panoramic and aerial views of Saint Peter’s Square from atop the dome.

How To Reach

Once you are at either of the two airports, you will have to get to Termini station. The airport provides drop services, check those out.

Now that you are at Termini, you have two options:

1. Metro directions: Ottaviano and Cipro are two metro stations near the Vatican Museum entrance. You can take the A-line (orange line) from the Spanish Steps or Termini Train Station, going towards Battistini to get off at either of these stops.

2. Bus directions: If you plan to take a bus, go outside the Termini train station and get on bus #64. The last stop on the bus is Stazione S. Pietro bus station and takes about 20 minutes. From here, it's another fifteen-minute walk to the Vatican Museum entrance.

Another option is to get on bus #81 from the Colosseum area (the bus stop is right outside the metro station – B line). The end stop for this bus is in Piazza Risorgimento. The Vatican Museum entrance is a five-minute walk from here.

If you want to take a taxi/ rental, you can either arrange it at the airport or from any other place (tourist attraction) for booking. A taxi ride shouldn't cost more than 20-25 euros.

When you get in a taxi, ask the driver to take you to the Vatican Museums entrance correctly, or else they'll take you to St. Peter's Basilica.

You also have the option of booking an Uber. *charges would vary and depend upon the location.

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Best Time To Visit

The best time to go to the Basilica is either early in the morning, between 7 am to 9 am, or in the evening, 1-2 hours before closing (6:00 pm winters/7:00pm all year). You should also check the Saint Peter's Basilica website for current hours and other information to plan the visit accordingly.

That being said, you can visit the square at any time of the day and all year round. You can visit the Vatican city during its peak months May - August or From October- April which is comparatively considered off-season.

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Other Essential Information

1. Location: Piazza San Pietro Città del Vaticano, Vatican City

2. Opening Hours: You can visit St. Peter's Square anytime unless the Piazza is closed for a ceremony. However, the Basilica has fixed visiting hours From 7:00 am to 7:00 pm every day and until 6:00 pm during winters. (except on Wednesdays; during the papal audience; if any, the Basilica remains closed until noon).

3. Entry fee: The entrance to the square is free of cost all year round.

The Basilica’s dome can also be visited and has a fee attached(from October to March every day from 8:00 am to 4:45 pm and until 5:45 pm from April to September); for which entrance fee is charged. There is a fee charged for the tour of the museum as well.

4. Distance from Nearest Airport: Rome has two airports. The major airlines use Leonardo da Vinci Airport (at Fiumicino), while Ciampino Airport handles budget airlines. You can get to St. Peter's square depending on which flight and which airport you are at.

Ciampino is the closest airport from Rome and is attached to the city. It is well connected by trains, buses, and taxis from the city centre. The distance to the Piazza is around 24km.

5. Rome Airport: Leonardo Da Vinci International (FOC) is also well connected by all means of transportation. It is around 30km from the Piazza San Pietro and will take approximately 30-35 minutes to get there.

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History of St. Peter's Square

The "Piazza San Pietro" was designed by sculptor and architect "Gian Lorenzo Bernini", per the directions of Pope Alexander VII in the year 1656. The construction of the square was carried out between 1656 and 1667.

The square was made to compliment the worth of St. Peter's Basilica. The design of the Piazza is an elliptical which is embraced by four rows of Doric columns arranged in a colonnade on two sides. These double colonnades are a symbol of welcoming arms of St. Peter's Basilica, Christianity's Mother Church.

These colonnades have 140 statues of saints, martyrs, popes atop which were created in 1670 by the disciples of Bernini. The square was designed around a 385-tonne Egyptian obelisk, it was brought to Rome by Caligula around 37 BC and was placed in (now the square) in 1586.

The obelisk has two fountains on either side, within the Piazza. Carlo Maderno built one of the fountains in the year 1614, and in the year 1675 Bernini erected another similar looking fountain. The construction of the square was carried out between 1656 and 1667.

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Architecture of St. Peter's Square

The Piazza was built in the year 1656 in line with the Basilica. The design of the square is what one must say, a proportional masterpiece. The entire square was built around the Egyptian obelisk in the middle. The square has these simple yet majestic Doric columns made of Roman travertine, in colonnades on two sides, making it appear like a semi-circle.

These colonnades have statues on them, representing saints. There are two identical-looking fountains on either side of the obelisk. On the other hand, The Basilica's making took place in the year 1506, under Pope Julius II and got completed in the year 1626.

The Basilica's design was a combination of Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles; it also has Renaissance sculptures that are well admired by art enthusiasts and history lovers alike. The design, construction and decoration of Saint Peter's is an endowment of some of the greatest artists of the day, including the likes of Alberti, Raphael, Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini.

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Tips for visiting St. Peter's Square

1. It is always a good idea to book the tickets in advance and here is no exception. You should book tickets online for the museum tour and well in advance, to avoid standing in the queue. You can do it for any other activity as well; it is just a hassle-free option.

2. Spend time on the internet and do plenty of research about the Piazza and the places around.

3. It is a more convenient and pocket-friendly option to use public transportation to get to places.

4. If you want to avoid big crowds, refrain from going to the Basilica at peak hours, instead choose to go either earlier (morning) or late (evening- before closing).

5. Visit the Vatican city, in the off-season. It is a good option since there would be less to almost no crowds, comparatively cheaper rates and enough time to explore the city is a bonus.

6. Look for short-cuts, like from the Sistine Chapel you can enter the Basilica without taking a long route. It is especially helpful during peak hours.

7. Be well fed before you commence your exploration because you may or may not get time to eat throughout the day. Also, since food, metal tools like knives and scissors etc. are also not allowed.

*Vatican Dress Code: Remember to follow and respect the Vatican dress code. Cover your shoulders, avoid wearing short clothes and hats; all these are not allowed as it is a holy place. It gets hot in Rome during summers (may-august); we recommend wearing summer-appropriate clothes and carry scarves to wrap around.

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Point of Interest for St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Basilica-

St. Peter’s Basilica-

Situated in St. Peter’s Square, the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica is counted among the world’s most charming basilicas. Constructed between the year 1506 and 1626, this church was developed using the baroque architecture.

St. Peter’s Basilica happens to be an important pilgrimage spot for the Catholics as it is positioned on the site where the very first Pope, Pope Peter is believed to have been buried. Most of the important speeches of the Pope are delivered in the square, right before the basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica can be visited from 7 AM to 6 PM, on all days. There is no entry fee to visit the place, unless one wishes to pay a visit to the dome.

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The Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens

Vatican City has got over half of its area covered with beautiful parks and lush green gardens. The Vatican Gardens are positioned right behind Saint Peter’s Basilica and the iconic Vatican Museums and have an area of near about 23 hectares. 

The Vatican Gardens can be visited from Monday to Saturday and the place remains closed on Catholic holidays and Sundays. In order to pay a visit to these beautiful gardens, you need to make an advance booking. Tourists tour the gardens in electric buses and each tour lasts till 45 minutes. Vatican City has got over half of its area covered with beautiful parks and lush green gardens. The Vatican Gardens are positioned right behind Saint Peter’s Basilica and the iconic Vatican Museums and have an area of near about 23 hectares. 

The Vatican Gardens can be visited from Monday to Saturday and the place remains closed on Catholic holidays and Sundays. In order to pay a visit to these beautiful gardens, you need to make an advance booking. Tourists tour the gardens in electric buses and each tour lasts till 45 minutes.

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The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel

The majestic Sistine Chapel is popular all over the world owing to the incredibly mesmerizing ceiling architecture of Michelangelo. Forming an important highlight of the tour of the Vatican Museums, this iconic Chapel is counted among the most crucial artistic treasures of the world. 

The Sistine Chapel can be visited from 9 AM to 6 PM, from Monday to Saturday. The Chapel remains closed on Sundays, except on the month’s last Sunday when visitors are welcomed from 9 AM to 2 PM. It is important to note that no pictures can be taken inside the Sistine Chapel and silence should be maintained in its premises. It is suggested to head towards the perimeter and grab a seat as it is of course a much more comfortable way of marveling the wall and ceiling murals.

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The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums

The world-famous Vatican Museums is home to many of the world’s most popular and beautiful art pieces, including the mesmerizing works of Michelangelo and Raphael. The museum also shelters artifacts and arts from the Roman Empire, ancient Greece, and ancient Egypt, most of which happen to be collections of popes over the ages.

The important highlights of the Vatican Museums include the Gallery of Maps, the Raphael Rooms, and the Etruscan sculptures. The Vatican Museums can be visited from 9 AM to 6 PM, on all days of the week except on Sunday. The last entry to the museum is at 4 PM. It is recommended to make advance bookings if you do not want to be a part of the long entry queues.

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Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant Angelo

Constructed along river Tiber’s shore in the 2nd century, Castel Sant Angelo happens to be a popular museum of the Vatican. Built as a mausoleum by the Rome Emperor Hadrian, the structure was transformed into a strong military fort in the fourteenth century.Tourists can book guided tours and visit the five floors of the museum or just sit at the café on the top floor and catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing vistas of Rome.

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