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There’s only one way you should approach the Piazza San Pietro: head directly up the Via della Conciliazione to come face-to-face with the majestic dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Once you are standing in the piazza, better known as St. Peter’s Square, you will be in no doubt that you are at the very center of the smallest state in the world.
The piazza as it is today is the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Baroque architect was appointed in the mid-17th century to create a space that would allow the greatest number of people to see the pope as he made public addresses from the Vatican Palace. Every Easter Day, the Piazza San Pietro is still thronged by pilgrims who turn out to witness the pope deliver his annual message. In reality, there is rarely a quiet day at the piazza.
The key is to take your time to pick out the points of interest you wish to see. Positioned right at the core of the piazza is the Egyptian obelisk, more than 82-feet (25-meter) tall and crafted out of red granite. It’s claimed that the obelisk was moved by Caligula in the year 37 from Alexandria to the Circus of Nero, a brutal theater of death games and crucifixions, which stood on the current site of the piazza. This is also the spot where St. Peter’s life ended at the hands of the Romans. There’s a striking painting of his martyrdom by Caravaggio in the Cerasi Chapel.
Forming the elliptical shape of the piazza are the towering, four-deep colonnades, which are ingeniously positioned to create an optical illusion. Looking just above the colonnades, you will see a multitude of statues, a collection of saintly figures including St. John the Baptist and Christ the Redeemer. St. Peter himself occupies a position to the right-hand side of the steps leading to the basilica, and was sculpted by Giuseppe De Fabris. He is faced on the other side by St. Paul.
St. Peter's Square is in central Rome. You can walk there 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 so many ways to get the most out of this attraction. We've put together a list of things you can do at St. Peter's Square:
If you're seeking even more options, check out our Rome things to do page.
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 bed & breakfast is within a 10-minute walk of Castel Sant'Angelo, St. Peter's Square, and St. Peter's Basilica. Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums are also within 15 minutes. Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 12 minutes by foot and Lepanto Station is 17 minutes.