It's always a good reason to visit the Dome, before or after your Vatican Museums tour !
In the morning, you will skip probably long lines, but in the afternoon you will be surprised by a charming romantic light that caresses the facades of Palaces and Basilicas ... and suddenly you will be inspired by "La Bella Vita" !
- If you visit the Vatican Museums, after the Sistine Chapel take the direct access to St Peters Basilica. Once below the stairs before to enter in St Peters Basilica, you have the box office to the dome on your right. Since the Dome closes 90 minutes earlier than the Basilica, probably is better if you climb first on the Dome, since when you come down, you will be inside the Basilica anyway. Then you can take your time enjoying the Basilica itself.
- If you only visit the Basilica, be sure to choose the right times, since specially during the peak season, there are long queues at the metal detectors on the squares. For me the right times are early in the morning 7.00 - 8.00 and late in the afternoon 15.30 - 16.00. The Basilica will close at 19.00 from April to September but the Dome will close 1.5 hour earlier.
- If you are a morning person, like me, visit St Peter's basilica at 7am, my favorite time. The dome will open at 8.00, so you will be by yourselves in the hieratic silence of the basilica first and then you will climb the Dome !
- If you are visiting the basilica during the middle of the day, you will probably have plenty of time for visiting the dome, then I suggest visiting the dome after the basilica, in the afternoon, so as not to have the sun directly overhead. Moreover, you will have nicer photos if the sun is behind you.
- If you are visiting the Basilica later afternoon, don't forget that the dome will close before the basilica. Visit the dome first, then you will enter directly in the Basilica or you risk not getting in before it closes.
Stairway to Heaven
To visit the Dome, there are two parts: the first part, above, can be reached by elevator (and a small staircase) or by 231 steps, you will see, it's NOT strenuous, exhausting or claustrophobic.
See the pictures above, from here you will see not only the Interior of the Basilica but even tieback of the Apostles and Saints. There is also a bathroom, a very small refreshment stand, and a gift shop.
The second part is optional. It means taking the next 320 stairs to the tippy top, since there is not an elevator.
You will find a narrow single-file staircase that slowly spirals up, with the roof sort of slanting in towards you as you go. And at the very end, as it gets narrower and narrower, you will have a corkscrew staircase, with a rope to hang onto! Don't worry, there are windows along the way, although seems a little bit claustrophobic.
The stairs to go down are in another part so you will not run into people on your way up.
There is always a good reason to visit the Dome, before or after your Vatican Museums tour !