While climbing the dome (cupola) of St Peter's is a great experience, it would be even be more enriching if you get a chance to view the interior of the cupola within the basilica. The best chance of getting up close to it would be before your climb to the dome (after the brief elevator ride).
After getting off the elevator, don't rush to the staircase, but take a few moments to absorb the astonishing beauty of the cupola from within - and look down - the main altar. It's one of those moments where the cliche "thank god for religion" is most true - and real.
There are two choices when it comes to getting to the top of the Cupola or Dome of St Peter's.
You can get a lift/elevator up to the roof level and climb the remaining steps to the top of the Dome or you can climb all the steps from the ground up (312 in all). Whichever way you choose to go the effort expended will be deemed well worth it. The views are spectacular.
You can see clear out to the sea and to the Alban Hills, Frascati and the Sabbine Mountains. Closer to hand of course are the rooftops of Rome laid out like a carpet for all to see.
If you're with someone who doesn't want to climb the 320 steps to the top of the dome, they can still take the elevator to the roof, enjoy the view from the gallery inside the dome looking down into the basilica, and then hang out at the gift shop and coffee bar, while the others make the climb. If you're overly energetic, you can take the stairs that winds around the elevator to reach the roof.
As you exit the interior gallery at the base of the dome, you have the option of going up the dome or down to the roof level. If you make the climb, you'll pass several small windows that provide a view. At the top you receive the views so often seen in photographs. See if you can spot Rome's other great dome, the Pantheon.
Back on the roof, you have access to restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop and a new coffee bar. Take a walk to the front of the basilica to look into the Square and observe the huge statues on the facade. When you're ready to depart, there is again the option of elevator or stairs. Along the walls of the stairs are inscriptions listing some famous people who visited St. Peter's Basilica.
At the entrance to the basilica, there is a sign that directs you to the far right of the portico (past the Holy Door) and to the kiosk for the elevator. This area can sometimes be entered from the stairs in the baggage check room at the lower right of the basilica.
The cost to take the elevator to the roof is 7 euros. It is 6 euros to walk up the stairs around the elevator. I highly recommend the elevator, as there is nothing to see along the stairs, and it's a strenuous walk.
But at the other exit elevator, consider taking the stairs down, as this area contains marble plaques of all the famous who have visited the dome over the years.
Hours 8:00 - 18:00 (Apr - Sep) 8:00 - 16:45 (Oct - Mar)
Cost 7 Euros for elevator, 6 Euros for stairs
When you are in Vatican, there are many must-see's and must-do's. Going to the top of the Cuppola is one of them. You have two options to go up : You can pay 5 Euros to use the stairs and climb up; or you pay 7 Euros to take the lift upto a certain level and then climb up by the stairs. Definitely it is not worth saving 2 Euros unless you want to become a pilgrim and you need to put some suffering flavour in the process. The only disadvantage of the lift is the long queues. The exit of Vatican Museum directly connects to the lift queue and you may get an advantage if you first visit Vatican Museum, then take the lift to Cuppola and finally visit St Peter's Basilica. When you are up, you can have a 360 view of Vatican and Rome, really amazing!!! You can stay as much as you want to take pictures and enjoy the panaromic view. Watching St Peter's Square from the Cuppola is one of my favorites.
If you're doesn't want to climb more than 300 steps to the top of the dome, you can take the elevator to the roof. If you're overly energetic, you can take the stairs that winds around the elevator to reach the roof.
From the cupola there is a great view to all Rome.
Climbing the Cupola
Hours 8:00 - 18:00 (Apr - Sep) 8:00 - 16:45 (Oct - Mar)
Cost 7 Euros for elevator, 6 Euros for stairs
After we did the Sistine Chapel, we went to the cupola (lift AND 320 steps). The queue for this was much shorter by now (1600). The stairs are up the sides of the dome (inside of course), but the walls slope, like you would expect the dome to. Our son was thinking he would be hanging over some edge somewhere and was complaining about how he was scared. We pressed on. There are 2-3 vantage points, the first is inside the dome just off the lift - one can see down into the church and can really see how large the mosaics are in the dome. The second is from the roof of the main church - good pictures of the outside of the dome, etc. The third is from the cupola (after 320 stairs). Fabulous views of Rome. Our son wasn't scared after he saw where we were going - wacky child
The cupola viewed from the roof level of Basilica looks less imposing than when viewed from St Peter Square, where it towers over the huge facade of the church and doubles its height. Or is it only my impression? If you're not comfortable with climbing a narrow staircase (see next tip) it's better to turn back here, you can still enjoy the view of the Piazza from behind the huge figures of the Apostles decorating the facade.
This balcony going round the cupola allows you to admire the beautiful decorations and the magnificence of the inside of the cupola in a close up. I liked the play of light entering the church from the top.
This is an absolute must for a trip to the Vatican City. Tickets to the top of the cupola are very inexpensive. The tickets come in two varieties. You can either walk up the stairs (a whole lotta stairs at that) to get to the top or you can take an elevator for a few more euros. The view of the square is magnificent and should not be missed.
The St. Peter's Square and the Basilica are a must of course when in Vatican. You can go by foot or take a lift. I suggest a lift here, as you will soon need your feet.
Many go up to the Basilica's highest round to see the church from upwards - dozens of meters high; it looks great. Also nice wall paintings inside.
But don't leave it here - go to the outer part; you see interesting statues surrounding the whole Basilica. But then - note the very small and worn-out sign stating "Cupola". It means the highest place you can go - but no lift/elevator this time available. You have more than 300 steps ahead - but it's worth it. It is very narrow, so that two persons hardly can meet.
Once you are up, you can really see the whole Vatican, the hills of Rome, the whole St. Peter's Square; it is beautiful.
The way back made my feet aching....I was lucky there was the lift for the lower part.
You have to buy some entrance tickets to these places (depending on whether you go by foot or lift) but they are not expensive.
The fee to climb the cuppola will afford you two different views. One of inside the cuppola and one of the very top of Basillica di San Pietro and the beautiful area around it. Inside the cuppola, you can see Michaelangelo's amazing mosaics. You can take your time looking at the hard work that went into making the mosaic pictures all along the cuppolas. From inside the cuppola, you can also get a few ariel views of the inside of the Basillica. They only let you see one side of the cuppola, but that is OK because the pictures are repeated on the other side. What is neat is that you can see the entire picture of what you are seeing up close, if you look to the other side. After you have had your fill of the inside of the cuppola, you can make your way up the steps to the top of Basillica di San Pietro. You can explore the outside of the roof. You can even see the statues that sit atop the Basillica. After you are done on the roof, make your way up more steps to go to the very top of the Basillica (the outside of the cuppola). Walk around the top of the cuppola to get the 360degree view around the Basillica. You can down into the Vatican City (where they don't really let the public go), some ariel sites of Rome, and also down into the St. Peter's Square. The views are great, it is definitely worth your time.
If you want to go to the top of Basillica di San Pietro, you have two options, climb to the top or take the lift part way and climb the rest. My suggestion is to climb the entire way. You save a few euros by climbing. And the part of the climb that could be replaced by the lift is the easiest part of the climb anyways. For the most part, that part of the climb is barely a climb anyways. The steps are at a very mild grade and they are very wide steps. Save the euros, do the climb the entire way.
Climbing up the dome of the Basilica offers the possibility to give a closer look to the beautiful mosaics.
The pendentives carry four mosaics (8m across) representing the Evangelists, while the interior of the dome is deocrated with figures of the Popes and the Doctors of the church.
With a diameter of around 43 meters, the beautifull dome was Michelangelo's last great work.
The dome sits on four great arches that stand on four massive piers, each with a perimeter of 71 meters.
Giacomo della Porta finished the works, raising it 10 meters so it's now at 136 meters above floor level.
When you enter the Basilica, you don't know quite where to look. To the left, to the right, up or down haha. There is just so much to take in and absorb. You really need a few hours in the Basilica alone.
From the inside, the Cupola of St Peter's Basilica is reaaaaaaaaally high up and not all that clear to see form the floor. You view it in a lot more detail at the first level, and it is amazing. Hard to fathom the artists creating this masterpiece in days gone by sans modern technology! It really is amazing.
This dome is the largest dome on earth. Following this is Saint Paul's in London. The sheer beauty of it is amazing.