St. Peter’s Dome, one of Italy’s most famous monuments, doesn't technically stand on Italian soil—it sits atop St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Michelangelo’s architectural masterpiece is a symbol for Catholics around the globe and, as the highest dome in the world, offers spectacular views across St. Peter’s Square and Rome.
St. Peter’s Dome is one of the most popular sights in Rome, so booking a skip-the-line St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) tour is essential to avoid waiting in long lines, especially in the busy summer months. Tours of the dome and basilica are also included in most Vatican tours, which typically include access to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican gardens. The entrance to the dome is at the portico of the basilica, and views are both internal over the basilica’s main altar and external over the city of Rome.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You must pass through a security check to access the dome—banned items include pocketknives, corkscrews, and umbrellas.
- The dress code in the basilica and dome requires that shoulders and knees are covered.
- The dome is partially accessible to wheelchair users. There is an elevator to the roof level (or you can climb the 320 steps), but only a spiral staircase provides access to the cupola at the highest point of the dome (another 200 steps).
- Views are dizzying from the top of St. Peter’s Dome, so visiting the top is not recommended for anyone afraid of heights.
- Kids especially enjoy the invigorating climb and views, so consider joining a small-group tour tailored to families if traveling with children.
How to Get There
St. Peter’s Basilica is located on St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) in Vatican City. The closest metro station is Ottaviano.
When to Get There
The dome is open to the public daily. Early morning is the best time to visit, both to beat the crowds and to catch the optimal light for photographing the view.
St. Peter’s Dome History
Like Rome, St. Peter’s Dome wasn’t built in a day. Work began on the basilica in 1506, initially overseen by Roman architect Donato Bramante and later passed on to successors such as Raphael and Bernini. Yet it was Michelangelo who took on the task of completing the dome, proposing a design based on those of previous architects. After his death, his assistants continued the work and, in the end, it was Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana, under the appointment of Pope Sixtus V, who saw the completion of the dome in 1590.