Rome is a very special city with a direct relation to the birth of modern civilization. Its historical legacy is priceless, and in the heart of the Italian capital is the Holy See of the Catholic Church, the Vatican. It would take you several lifetimes to see all the sights of the eternal city, but tourists tend to try to see Rome in 2-3 days. Here we offer travelers a selection of the 10 most interesting churches that must be visited in Rome.
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St. Peter’s Cathedral
The main Catholic temple is located on the territory of the Vatican State. Rafael, Michelangelo, and other Renaissance geniuses were involved in its creation. Among the masterpieces are the magnificent marble “Pieta,” the statue and throne of St. Peter. The cathedral is huge, with its facades and interior decorated with images of Christ and saints. The top of the dome overlooks the square and the panorama of Rome.
The Cathedral (Basilica di San Pietro) is open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm in winter and until 7:00 pm in summer. Ascent to the observation deck is available from 8:00 to 16:45 in winter and to 17:45 in summer.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, and there is usually a large queue that moves quickly. At the entrance, visitors go through a metal detector and bag check. You should not bring large backpacks. Basic rules that apply in any Christian church should be followed: cover arms and legs, men should remove their hats, and women should cover their heads with headscarves. If you’re in shorts, t-shirts or miniskirts you simply will not be allowed inside – it’s the Vatican!
Entrance tickets to the dome costs €8 if you want to climb the 551 steps on foot, or €10 take an elevator about halfway. The ascent is very difficult, so it’s not recommended for elderly people and tourists with small children (you can’t turn back because the stairs are very narrow).
Do not leave the Vatican without seeing the Sistine Chapel.
Address: Piazza di San Pietro, 00120, Città del Vaticano. Metro stations: Ottaviano and Cipro.
Sistine Chapel of the Vatican
The Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) is the “jewel box” of the Vatican, the former house church. The room is decorated with frescoes by Botticelli and Pinturicchio, and the vault is of course painted by Michelangelo. At present, the Sistine Chapel is among the Vatican museums. In the luxurious room, the Vatican Conclaves gather to select the Supreme Pontiff.
The hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:00 to 18:00 (with entrance no later than 16:00), and the last Sunday of each month from 9:00 to 14:00 (with entrance no later than 12:30). To book a tour of the Chapel and the other Vatican museums, please follow this link.
Admission €17. Photography is forbidden.
Address: Citta del Vaticano 1, 00120. Metro station Ottaviano.
The Pantheon was originally a unique temple dedicated to all the Roman deities. It was later transferred to the Christian Church and consecrated in the name of Santa Maria (Saint Mary) and Martires (Martyrs). The building was built without windows; in the dome there is a hole a diameter of 9 meters, symbolizing the unity of all the saints. Through this single “window” a giant ray of light enters. In the Roman Pantheon Raphael is buried.
Access to the temple is free, and it’s open from 9:00 to 16:00 in winter and to 18:00 in summer, and on Sundays until 13:00.
Address: Piazza della Rotonda, 00186. Metro station Barberini.
Santa Maria Maggiore
This early Christian temple is located near Termini station, on the Esquiline hill. It is one of the four great Roman basilicas and one of the seven Catholic pilgrim churches. The ancient structure is perfectly preserved. The interior of the temple has beautiful 5th century mosaics, and the ceiling is covered with gold from Columbus’ ships. The original manger of the Child Jesus is preserved in the cathedral.
The Basilica (Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore) is open daily from 7:00 to 19:00. Entrance is free.
At the entrance, tickets are sold for guided tours of the papal halls and the history museum (€ 4), which is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore 42 | Via Liberiana, 27, 00185. Metro station Termini.
Santa Maria della Concezione
The small church of the Capuchins is next to the Trevi Fountain. Behind the modest brick façade are paintings by Caravaggio and Guido Rini. The main attraction of the temple is the crypt, which includes 6 small rooms. The walls are decorated with fanciful Baroque patterns made of the bones of four thousand monks, the ceilings are decorated with chandeliers made of human vertebrae, and alcoves for skeletons are made of skulls. The remains of the monks were transferred from the old Capuchin cemetery and used to decorate the crypt in the 18th century. The place is rightly considered one of the most mysterious and mystical places in Rome.
The Crypt opens daily at 9:00 and closes at 19:00 (the latest entrance is at 18:30). Admission costs €8.
Address: Via Veneto 27, 00187. Metro station Barberini.
The main cathedral in the world, the Basilica maior, the Great Temple, was consecrated in honor of Christ the Savior in the year 324. The cathedral contains several valuable relics, and in the niches of the central nave you can see statues of the 12 apostles.
The temple is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the Basilica Museum from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; admission is free.
Address: Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, 4, 00184. Metro station S. Giovanni.
San Paolo Fuori le Mura
This is one of the four patriarchal churches of the Eternal City. The majestic basilica (Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura) is on the outskirts of the city, but close to the subway. The church attracts many pilgrims because beneath its vaults rest the relics of the Apostle Paul. In front of the facade there is a luxuriant area with a well-groomed green park. The temple is an active place of worship and not a popular tourist destination.
It is open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and admission is free.
Address: Via Ostiense, 186, 00146. Metro station Basilica di San Paolo. Buses: 23; 128; 670; 761; 766; 769; 770; C6.
It is worth walking a little distance from Piazza Venezia to see this Renaissance-era architectural masterpiece. It’s home to incredible “volumetric” ceiling paintings, frescos by Florentine masters of the 16th century, statues of the 12 apostles, and icons from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The cathedral church with its ascetic facade and colorful interior belongs to the Jesuit order.
The church is open daily from 7:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 4:00 pm to 7:45 pm and admission is free.
Address: Piazza del Gesu | Via degli Astalli, 16, 00186. Metro stations Colosseo, Cavour.
Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
The Basilica (Santa Croce in Gerusalemme) draws attention with its intricately decorated facade with the Pope’s coat of arms and many statues. The chapel of the church contains Christian relics: the remains of the Life-Giving Cross, the thorns of the Crown of Thorns, one of the nails from the crucifixion of Christ, the finger of the Apostle Thomas and the relics of Antonietta Meo, a six-year-old girl who is the youngest saint in Christendom. The church is a pilgrimage site for Christians. There are also very interesting guided tours.
The hours are from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00. Entrance is free.
Address: Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, 12, 00141. Metro stations: S. Giovanni and Manzoni.
Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli
A Renaissance architectural ensemble located on the south side of Piazza del Popolo. The twin churches are incredibly similar, but there are many differences in detail between them.
In the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli one can see magnificent frescoes, stucco, sculptures of cardinals, and on the altar a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary.
In the small basilica of Santa Maria in Montesanto, the “Church of the Artists” from the 17th century, is the “Mass of the Artists.” Be sure to take a look at the altar of the Virgin of Montesanto. The creation of the icon dates back to the 15th century, and there is a legend that it was painted by a child, a girl of just 11.
Opening hours are from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 17:00 to 20:00 (on Saturdays only from 10:00 to 12:00, on Sundays from 11:00 to 13:30). Entrance is free.
Address: Piazza del Popolo, Via del Babuino 198. Metro station Flaminio.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
The small and cozy basilica is well known to fans of Audrey Hepburn’s work in the cinematic classic “Roman Holiday.” Tourists are eager to put their hand into the “mouth of truth.” According to the belief, the dishonest person is at great risk: the deity is able to take away the liar’s fingers.
The medieval building is also interesting due to its original architecture and 11th-century frescos. In the chapel you’ll see relics of St. Valentine, the patron saint of all lovers.
The church is open to tourists from 9:00 to 17:00 in winter and to 18:00 in summer. The entrance is free. Don’t worry if you see a queue; the “mouth of truth” attracts a lot of tourists.
Address: Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18 | 00186. Metro station Circo Massimo.
Do not try to see everything interesting and beautiful in one trip! The architectural and artistic heritage of the past is a worthy excuse for a new Roman voyage.
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Enjoy your trip to Rome!