St Peter’s Square Rome Vatican Architecture, Fountains & Restaurants
The fabulous St Peter’s Square, Vatican City is something you must see when visiting Rome. It’s also a great free attraction, so being on a budget is no excuse not to visit! Read on to discover all about the history, obelisk, and architecture.
- 1 Welcome to the Entrance to St Peter's Square Vatican and Basilica
- 2 Everything about St Peter's Square Rome history
- 3 Astonishing details about St Peter's Square Architecture
- 4 St Peter's Square facts most people don’t know
- 5 What’s on The Square?
- 6 Getting St Peter's Square tickets
- 7 All the info about St Peter's Square Hours
- 8 Details about Location & Map – how to get there
- 9 Nicest Hotels near St Peter's Square Rome
- 10 The most visited restaurants
- 11 FAQs
- 12 Conclusion
Welcome to the Entrance to St Peter's Square Vatican and Basilica
The square meets you head-on at the entrance to the St Peter’s Basilica. Designed by Bernini in the 17th century around the St Peter’s Square Obelisk, the view as you enter is truly awe-inspiring.
The main aim of the square was to deliver the faithful to the Basilica. But it is also a place where you can simply stare in awe at the fabulous Cathedral. The unique shape of the square gives a unique view to visitors entering the square from the Basilica. From here, you get an amazing look out to the surrounding buildings, including the Papal Apartments. Plus, the 142 massive columns make it a sight to behold.
The best way to get that first WOW impression of the square is to approach the entrance to the Square from the Via Del Conciliazione.
Everything about St Peter's Square Rome history
The Obelisk already stood on the site of Vatican Square. Pope Alexander VII asked Bernini in the 1650s to design the square around the Basilica.
The instructions were that the square should give the best visibility possible to the Pope when he gives his address. Despite this, Bernini had to work around the already existing buildings, including the Vatican palace. This gives the square its unique shape today.
Bernini and his students got to work also on 90 statues. From former Popes to the saints and martyrs, the statues look down on everyone who visits the square.
Astonishing details about St Peter's Square Architecture
Let’s check out all the interesting facts about St Peter’s Square Rome, Italy that you must know before you visit!
St Peter's Square Obelisk and Colonnade
In the Vatican Square, you cannot help but notice the massive Obelisk standing tall and proud. It’s an over four-thousand-year-old structure that was brought to Rome from Egypt (among several others). It is understood that Gaius Caligula brought the Obelisk to Rome in 37 AD.
However, there is little detail to its origins. The structure now stands at over 25 meters high and dominates the square. Originally installed elsewhere, it took workers over one year to move it to the current position.
- Aside from the Obelisk, there are 2 fountains also: Maderno’s fountain is apparently on the site of a different, older water feature. Original parts of the fountain can still be seen. In these, new designs were incorporated by Maderno. These included an eight-sided base, as well as updating the fountain with Pope Paul V’s details. This meant removing the details of the previous Pope’s names from the fountain. It was rumored at the time to be the most gorgeous fountain in all of Europe!
- Bernini’s fountain in St Peter’s Square was completed in 1677. It filled the empty space in the south of the square. The design of the Bernini fountain is based on that of Maderno’s.
Angels and Demons in St Peter’s Square
Tom Hanks stars in the Hollywood Blockbuster Angels and Demons, which has multiple scenes set there. Look out for the drunk homeless man (actually a cardinal) scene filmed on the fountain between the Square and Basilica.
Bronze door St Peter's Square
In 1445 a magnificent bronze door was built by Antonio di Pietro Averlino. This beautiful door has 6 engraved images on its door. Here you can see Jesus, Mary, St Paul, St Paul’s execution, St Peter’s Crucifixion, and Pope Eugenius IV. The Bronze Door can be easily missed – don't make a mistake and miss it.
St Peter's Square statues
Bernini and his students sculpted a whopping 90statues atop the columns in the square. Looking over the square you can see St Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, and many many more saints and popes. They occupy positions on top of the St Peter’s Square Colonnades.
St Peter's Basilica
Of course, one of the main purposes of the square is to allow the faithful a prominent entry into the stunning St Peter’s Basilica. We have plenty of information about the Basilica on our dedicated page.
Here is a quick reminder on how to visit the monument:
- Fast track ticket to avoid hours in queue: here
- Audio guide to get the most of the Basilica History: here
- Or a guided tour if you want an expert guide: here
- Finally, a ticket to get up to the Dome and enjoy the amazing view: here
But before you enter this spectacular site, we really recommend you spend time just gazing in wonder at the square. It perfectly frames the Basilica – plus you might have to queue anyway to get in, so take in the sights whilst you wait.
St Peter's Square facts most people don’t know
Here are some interesting facts that you may not be aware of:
- The capacity of the Square is 300,000! That’s a lot of people!
- The Obelisk weighs over 320 tons!
- Although if you look at the map you will see it is clearly in the Vatican City, the responsibility for law and order is up to the Roman police.
- Pay attention to the shadow of the obelisk at noon. Circular stones were added in the early 19th century to make the obelisk effectively a massive sundial.
What’s on The Square?
Throughout the holy calendar, numerous events take place.
One of the most famous is the Papal Audience (book your seat ahead), held every Wednesday morning amongst the stunning St Peter’s Square architecture (check out our detailed guide here). During this time, the faithful and curious can attend to hear the Pope give a speech and some prayers. It usually lasts 90 minutes.
Note, in winter or heavy rain, the audience will be held indoors in the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Other events held include Jubilees and celebrations – such as the Jubilee for Boys and Girls, Jubilee for disabled people, and the jubilee for pilgrimage workers. The New Years Parade ends here, Easter Sunday Mass is a favourite, and the Rome Choral Festival takes place as well.
Getting St Peter's Square tickets
Good news for you, there are no tickets required for either Square or St Peter’s Basilica. But of course, you shouldn’t visit the Vatican without getting a ticket for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (get your skip the line ticket online here).
If you need help planning this check out our comprehensive guide here.
All the info about St Peter's Square Hours
There are no official opening hours. Of course, the Basilica closes, so the square will be pretty empty. Late at night or early morning is a great time to get some pictures, before the crowds arrive.
Details about Location & Map – how to get there
You’ve plenty of options to get there:
- Take the metro to San Pietro ( Ottaviano) on line A
- Take the bus line 23, 31 or 70
- Walk along the Via Del Conciliazione until you reach the square
- From Civitavecchia port, the train station is just a 15-minute walk. The train will stop in a few small towns, but the first “Roman” station it arrives at will be St Peters. Tickets cost about €5
Nicest Hotels near St Peter's Square Rome
You are really spoilt for choice for nice Vatican City hotels.
Here’s some we would certainly stay in:
- Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá – stunning outdoor pool and Vatican views just half a kilometer from the Holy Square. Book your stay here
- The Dom Hotel Roma is located in the Piazza Navona, just under a kilometer from the Square. That’s just a 15-minute walk from the sights. Breakfast here is supposed to be great. Check night prices here
- The Bio Hotel Raphael is another one on our list. This castle boasts stunning views of the Square from its gorgeous terrace. Book your night here
The most visited restaurants
Rome’s number 1 eatery on Trip Advisor is located right beside the Square.
For a quick lunch, visit Bono Bottega Nostrana for some amazing deli sandwiches. Popular too is Pizza Zizza, also just 0.2 kilometers away. And those with a sweet tooth will love Feffo, especially for the cheesecake.
There are simply too many great restaurants in Rome to mention, but if you want more information, check out our comprehensive restaurant guide near the Vatican.
Handy hints and tips you can use to impress your friends with during your visit…
How big is St Peter's Square?
The square is 240m x 320m in size. That’s huge - 2 American football fields huge.
Where is St Peter's square?
St Peter’s Square is located within the Vatican City and serves as the entrance to St Peter’s Basilica.
When was St Peter's square built?
Construction of the square began in 1656 and was completed eleven years later in 1667.
How many people fit in the Square?
You could fit the population of Mannheim, Germany, or Coventry, England into the Square. It’s capacity is a whopping 300,000 people.
How tall is the wall around the Vatican?
The protective wall around the Vatican is 12 metres tall.
Who designed St Peter's square in Vatican city?
Bernini is credited with the design of the Square, although he drew inspiration from around, including the already existing architecture.
How to get to St Peter's square from the Vatican museum?
It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Vatican Museum, although you can get to the Basilica from within the museums, then exit directly to the square from there.
We would be delighted to hear what you think of St Peter’s square if you have seen it before. And if not, why not plan your trip?
We have plenty of resources here to help you plan – check them out here!