The Pope is the bishop of Rome and the head of the Catholic Church, the largest Christian community in the world. Whether you are a religious person or not, seeing the Vatican and the Holy Father is an experience not to be missed during your visit to Rome and Vatican City.
But how to see the Pope up close? Except in the case of VIPs, authorities or other people who may have the honour of greeting the Holy Father personally, most pilgrims and tourists who visit the Vatican have two options to see the Pope in person: the Sunday Angelus (no ticket required, just be in St. Peter's Square at noon) and the Wednesday Papal Audiences, for which tickets are required. Here's how to get a ticket:
Secure your ticket to the Papal Audience the easy way!
If during your trip to Rome you want to attend the weekly Papal Audience at the Vatican but you don't want to waste time queuing, make sure you get a seat by buying your ticket online in advance.
If the Pope is in Rome, a public Papal Audience takes place every Wednesday at 9am in St. Peter's Square. This is not a mass but a series of readings and hymns by the Holy Father in various languages in the company of the cardinals. It ends with a prayer in Latin and with the Pope walking around the square to impart his blessing on the faithful.
The Wednesday papal audience is free of charge, but in order to attend it is necessary to obtain a ticket from the Vatican and collect it in person in Rome. As places are limited and demand is very high, it is very difficult to get a ticket and unfortunately many people are left out due to lack of space.
When you arrive at St. Peter's Square you will be given a tour guide who will help you get a good spot just before the papal audience begins.
Why Ilike this option: It's the easiest way to secure your ticket and get a seat in St. Peter's Square at a reasonable price.
Recommended if... you want an exclusive Vatican experience and don't want to worry about finding your own tickets and risk not getting them in time for your trip.
Advantages of booking your Papal Audience ticket in advance
Firstly, because places are limited and demand is very high. By booking your Papal Audience ticket in advance you will be guaranteed access to St. Peter's Square to see the Pope up close during the Wednesday audience.
Secondly, because during this activity you will be accompanied by a local guide who will take care of all the details so that you can have the best possible view and enjoy this experience at your leisure.
Thirdly because this ticket includes a headset so you won't miss anything the Pope says during the audience.
Why do I recommend this activity?
Having the opportunity to be just a few metres away from the Pope and even, with a bit of luck, to shake his hand and pray with him in the heart of Rome, is an unforgettable memory for every believing Christian and a highly recommendable experience.
I have fond memories of that day not only because I had the opportunity to see the Pope in person during such a special celebration, but also because we had a great time thanks to our guide who was always very attentive to us and helped the people in our group to get a good seat during the papal audience.
I think that if I had gone to the papal audience on my own, the experience would have been more chaotic when it came to booking once in Rome because of the high demand and the shortage of seats for the event. Not to mention the long queues to get into St Peter's Square and the difficulty of finding a good spot in the crowds.
We, thanks to the guide, were fortunately able to see him up close and take lots of photos - everything went great!
Frequently asked questions
How long does it last?
The Papal Audience ceremony as such lasts approximately 90 minutes.
In which languages is this activity available?
In Spanish, English and French.
Is there a dress code to see the Pope?
Yes, there is. In order to access certain places of worship, dress etiquette is required and strictly applies to both men and women. Clothing that exposes shoulders and knees is not allowed, so if you do not comply with this dress code you could risk being refused entry to the papal audience or the Angelus.
It is not necessary to dress extremely formally, but since you are going to see such a distinguished personality and perhaps have a souvenir photo taken with him, I recommend that you choose an elegant look.
Is it possible to bring an object for the Pope to bless?
Yes, it is possible. I advise you to bring a small object such as a rosary, a crucifix or a holy card. For security reasons, it is best not to bring large objects, bags or backpacks.
Is this activity accessible to wheelchair users?
Yes, this tour is suitable for wheelchair users as long as they travel with a companion who can help them get on and off the bus. The tour operator states that wheelchairs will be stored in the luggage compartment of the bus.
Is it possible to take pushchairs?
Yes, pushchairs can be taken during the activity but children must be seated on their parents' laps on the bus.
What happens if it rains?
If the weather conditions do not allow the Wednesday Papal Audience to be held outdoors, it will be held inside St. Peter's Basilica or in the Audience Hall (Paul VI Hall or Nervi Hall) depending on the number of people attending, for which purpose they will be divided into groups in order to accommodate them properly.
Do I have to queue to get in?
Some people queue from early in the morning, but it is not necessary to be there so early, just enough time to get through the security checks and try to get a good seat, which is taken care of by the activity guide, who has everything under control.
Will we have reserved seats?
It is important to bear in mind that tickets do not include reserved seating, as seats are taken as people arrive at the venue. Seats are not numbered. If you don't get a seat in the best positions, don't worry because the venue is huge and you will be able to stand on the sides or in the back. In fact, the event can be heard well from all locations.
How long does the ceremony last?
The Pope makes his appearance in St Peter's Square at 9am in the Popemobile to greet the faithful personally and the papal audience begins at around 9:30am. The start of the event can be a little delayed because greeting the people in the front rows takes the most time, especially when it comes to the sick, children and newlyweds to whom he devotes special attention.
The Papal Audience lasts approximately 90 minutes and at the end the Holy Father returns to walk around the square to give his blessing to those present before leaving.
Other options to see the Pope
The Sunday Angelus
Another great opportunity to see the Pope in person is during the celebration of the Angelus on Sundays at noon, whenever His Holiness is in the Vatican.
Unlike the papal audiences on Wednesdays, it is not necessary to buy a ticket to attend the Angelus ceremony. It is a simple event and it is enough to get to St. Peter's Square before 12 PM to get a good seat.
In this Sunday ceremony which lasts about 20 minutes, the Pope looks out of the window of his room in the Apostolic Palace (to the right of the façade of St. Peter's Basilica) to greet the faithful gathered in the square. He then gives a short homily to those present, prays the Angelus with them and ends with a general blessing.
On this occasion you will see the Pope from afar, at the window of the papal flats, but attending the Angelus in Rome and praying with the Holy Father is also a unique and unforgettable experience for any Christian.
The Pope's daily Mass at Santa Marta
Every day His Holiness celebrates Mass at his residence in Santa Marta. If for some special reason you would like to participate in this celebration in the company of the Holy Father, you can request permission from the Prefecture of the Papal Household by fax, by filling in the form on the Prefecture's website.
However, as is logical, this type of permission is granted in a very restricted way due to the size of the Pope's chapel and the characteristics of this type of ceremony.
A private audience with the Pope
The dream of many people is to have a private audience with the Holy Father. Due to his busy schedule this is often complicated but not impossible.
If this is your case, all you have to do is write a letter to the Vatican requesting a private audience with the Pope and express the reasons why you would like to have a personal meeting with him. Who knows, you might get lucky - nothing to lose by trying!
If you like the papal audience in Rome, you might also be interested in
After seeing the Pope in person you may want to visit the interior of St. Peter's Basilica, the seat of Christianity. You can read more about this experience here: Tickets to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
If you visit Rome you can't miss the Vatican Museums, one of its great treasures where you can also see the spectacular Sistine Chapel. Everything you need to know you will find in the articles Where to buy tickets for the Vatican and Tickets for the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
And although it is not as famous as the Vatican's exhibition rooms, the Capitoline Museums are a highly recommended visit that is not usually included in the most typical tourist circuits. If you want to know more about this museum, don't miss the article: Tickets for the Capitoline Museums.