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The lofty dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is the great towering symbol of the minuscule Vatican state and a towering artistic statement of the Late Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The history of this site incorporates a great deal of Christian mythology. The story goes that, after the crucifixion of Jesus, one of his 12 disciples, Peter from Galilee, embarked on a long trek to Rome where he was martyred by Emperor Nero. The location where he died, close to the Egyptian obelisk in the Circus (which still stands today), was initially marked by a red rock, and then by a shrine, followed by the first (Old) St. Peter’s Basilica in 360. This wooden structure stood for more than a millennium until it fell into disrepair in the 15th century. In 1506, Pope Julius II broke ground on the basilica and a series of Renaissance masters began an immense century-long construction project.
Officially opened on November 18, 1626, the last 400 years have seen St. Peter’s Basilica become one of the most sacred sites of Catholicism and one of the world’s top tourist attractions. The beautiful exterior is a cross-generational collaboration between Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo, and includes an enormous nave and the high, iconic dome. It’s what stands inside, however, that really impresses.
Once inside, you’ll find frescoes and mosaics by the likes of Bernini and Giotto and a host of other treasures. Michelangelo’s Pietà and Arnolfo di Cambio’s Saint Peter sculptures, Vico Consorti’s Holy Door and Bernini’s famous altar are in good company with the treasures buried below the ground, such as the beautiful tombs of significant Vatican figures, from St. Peter to Pope John Paul II. Whether you’re a Catholic, an art aficionado or just a lover of beauty, St. Peter’s Basilica is a must-see.
The basilica is in central Rome and is open daily, although opening times vary according to the season. If you are planning to visit the Vatican Museums at the same time, be aware it is closed on Sundays with the exception of the last Sunday of the month.
You can walk to the basilica from the city center; the most direct route is to cross the Tiber and walk straight up Via della Conciliazione. The Metro train station Ottaviano is a short walk away along Via Ottaviano.
There are heaps of cool ways to get a feel for St. Peter's Basilica. Here are some of some of the top ones:
Take a look at our Rome things to do page to find many more activities in the area.
Located in Repubblica, this family-friendly Rome hotel is steps from Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Via Nazionale, and Via XX Settembre. Via Veneto and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore are also within 10 minutes. Repubblica - Opera House Station is only a 2-minute walk and Barberini Station is 8 minutes.
Located in Rome City Centre, this guesthouse is within a 5-minute walk of Villa Borghese, Via del Corso, and Piazza del Popolo. National Gallery of Modern Art and Piazza di Spagna are also within 15 minutes. Flaminio - Piazza del Popolo Station and Rome Piazzale Flaminio Station are within a 2-minute walk.
Located in Rome City Centre, this guesthouse is steps from Via del Babuino, Via del Corso, and Piazza del Popolo. Piazza di Spagna and Villa Borghese are also within 10 minutes. Flaminio - Piazza del Popolo Station is 5 minutes by foot and Spagna Station is 8 minutes.
Located in Vatican, this family-friendly Rome hotel is within a 10-minute walk of St. Peter's Square, St. Peter's Basilica, and Sistine Chapel. Castel Sant'Angelo and Vatican Museums are also within 1 mi (2 km). Rome S. Pietro Station and Rome San Pietro Station are within a 5-minute walk.
This romantic hotel is located in Rome (Vatican), close to Vatican Gardens, Vatican Museums, and Sistine Chapel. Also nearby are St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square. Rome Appiano Station is only a 5-minute walk and Cipro Station is 15 minutes.
Located in the center of Rome, this family-friendly hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Vatican Museums and Vatican Gardens. St. Peter's Square and Monte Mario are also within 15 minutes. Cipro Station is 6 minutes by foot and Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 8 minutes.
Located in Vatican, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Via Cola di Rienzo and Castel Sant'Angelo. St. Peter's Square and Vatican Museums are also within 15 minutes. Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 7 minutes by foot and Lepanto Station is 13 minutes.
Located in Vatican, this property is steps from St. Peter's Square, Paul VI Audience Hall, and St. Peter's Basilica. Sistine Chapel and Apostolic Palace (Palace of the Vatican) are also within 10 minutes. Rome S. Pietro Station is 9 minutes by foot and Rome San Pietro Station is 9 minutes.