Make sure to buy your skip-the-line tickets online before your visit!
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When to visit St. Peter's Basilica
Try to avoid Wednesday mornings: it’s the day of the Papal audience. If the audience is held in St. Peter’s Basilica or in St.Peter’s Square - then it’s closed for visitors until 12:00 or even further.
Be aware that the Pope can decide at anytime to have the Basilica for himself and apparently it’s is not uncommon: in this case it will be closed for tourists. We advise therefore not to plan your Vatican visit for the last day of your stay, have at least a day of backup.
The best time to go to the Basilica is either early in the morning, before 09:00, or in the afternoon, after 16:00. About an hour before the closing time, you will most likely never see a waiting line, even in high season.
On Sunday the Vatican Museums are closed, but the Basilica is open: it will be less crowded than on Saturday. Still the attendance will be higher than on weekdays: lots of tourists arrive at St. Peter’s Place without knowing the museums are closed , and they all head to the Basilica. Sunday afternoon/evening would be a good option for the visit if you’re coming just for a weekend.
Mondays and Wednesdays tend to be more crowded than other weekdays. Saturday is the busiest day.
Avoid holidays and important religious dates, they attract more visitors to Vatican. During Christmas holidays Vatican is overcrowded the same way as it is during the peak months (April-May, August-October).
Planning your visit
You can do both the museums and the Basilica the same day. The question is more about which one to start from?
- If you’re coming without a pre-purchased ticket - it depends on the time of the day. The morning is when the line for the museums is the longest, so it makes sense to visit the Basilica first.
- If you arrive with a ticket - consider that crowds disturb much more in the museums, than in Basilica, so it’s better to choose time when there are less people in the museums.
- If you’re taking a tour - no worries then, the groups usually take a “secret passage” leading from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica. If you didn’t book a tour - you can try to follow one of these groups to avoid a twenty minute walk between the two attractions. Another reason to do first the Museums and then the Basilica - is that after your visit you’ll find yourself closer to the historic city.
However, it’s not mandatory to see both the museums and St.Peter’s Basilica the same day. You can easily split the visit in two days!
The entry to St. Peter’s Basilica is free for all visitors and can’t be booked in advance.
Consider that on Sundays when the entrance to the Vatican Museums is free (the last Sunday of the month) the Basilica also sees a huge increase in visitors, try to avoid this date.
There’s a strict dress-code in Vatican: shoulders and knees shouldn’t be naked. Nobody will let you enter in shorts or miniskirt, even if you’d been standing in the line for hours.
While in Rome
In case you drop your luggage at KiPoint in Termini station (to take the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino airport after) be prepared for a waiting line to get your luggage back in the evening. It takes quite long time (you need to pay and get your bag), add half an hour while planning your route to the airport, just to be secure you won’t miss your flight because of this queue!
Tips for a few days in Rome
This page will give you many tips to avoid crowds in Rome as well as crowd schedules for top tourist attractions in order to plan your visits.