After visiting the Vatican Museums, we headed for St. Peter’s Basilica. Before and after our visit to the Basilica, we were able to walk, admire and relax in the Vatican’s most famous square: St. Peter’s Square.
What is Saint Peter’s Square?
St. Peter’s Square is a very large square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Built in 1656 and 1667 by Bernini, this baroque piazza is as impressive for its buildings as for its size.
It is 340 meters long and 240 meters wide. For the biggest Catholic events, it can accommodate up to 300,000 worshippers.
The square is the venue for the Pope’s religious celebrations.
Where is St Peter’s Square?
St. Peter’s Square is in the eastern part of Vatican City. If you exit to the east of the square towards Castel Sant’ Angelo, you’ll find yourself back in Rome, not in the Vatican.
Rome’s tourist attractions are all practically next door to each other. From the Colosseum, it’s a 3.5 km walk to this square. We did a similar walk on our way back from the Vatican to the Amalfi Hotel.
On the outward journey, we preferred to take the metro to Ottaviano station, less than a kilometer from the square. Whether on foot, by metro, bus or cab, access to the square is easy.
Do I have to pay to enter St Peter’s Square?
No, admission is free. In fact, it’s uncontrolled. It’s a public square like any other.
Access to St. Peter’s Basilica is also free (unless you take the stairs or elevator to the dome). But you’ll have to pass a security check, and the queue can be very long.
Nevertheless, if you’ve never seen the inside of the basilica and are in St. Peter’s Square, don’t skip the basilica to avoid an hour’s wait. This basilica is exceptionally beautiful and I consider it the most beautiful thing to see in Rome.
How to dress for St. Peter’s Square?
The Vatican is a Catholic holy site, and you must respect a few rules when visiting it. Theoretically, you shouldn’t show your shoulders or knees, nor tattoos that offend the Catholic religion.
However, as the square is accessible without controls, many visitors do not follow these instructions.
How safe is St Peter’s Square?
Like any tourist destination in the world, you’re not safe from a pickpocket or a bad encounter. However, Italians are not stingy with police or military forces in busy areas. So the place is safe.
The only hassles seen or experienced are those of street vendors.
What to see and do in St Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is very large and, above all, functional. In fact, you’ll soon realize when you look at the layout that its main use is to welcome Catholics for major feasts: Easter, Christmas, the feast of St. Peter’s pulpit…
If you’re a believer, taking Communion in the company of tens of thousands of Catholics during these religious ceremonies must be a memorable moment.
St. Peter’s Square is often a stopover on a day’s sightseeing. Visit the Vatican Museums or the Basilica, then cross the square on the way.
However, if you take the time to really observe it, you’ll soon discover that it deserves your undivided attention.
Even if you’re not an art or culture enthusiast, take the time to admire :
- Details of the exterior façade of St. Peter’s Basilica.
- The great Doric colonnades around the square: 284 columns and 88 pillars.
- The Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square: brought here by Pope Sixtus V in 1586, this obelisk dates from the period of Emperor Augustus (early CE).
- The square’s two fountains: one was built by Carlo Maderno in 1614 and the second by Le Bernin in 1675. They are similar in style.
- The statues of St. Peter’s Square: 140 statues stand above the colonnades, nearly 20 meters high.
Amélie and I sat down and looked at some of the statues. Most are the work of Lorenzo Morelli, commissioned by Pope Alexander VII.
Take all the photos you want of the square. There’s so much to see, it’s hard to capture it all.
At the bottom of the colonnades, there are steps. We took a break on these steps. The day was hot and sunny, so hydrating and resting your legs for a few minutes in the shade did you a world of good.
If you have time, we recommend you then take the Via della Conciliazione to Castel Sant’ Angelo.
From here, you have a different and equally beautiful view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Benito Mussolini demolished all the buildings that partly obscured the view of the basilica.
St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica are must-sees for every tourist to Rome.