Thinking about visiting Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome?
The sweeping views of the eternal city, and intriguing history are enough to draw you in, but here are sone helpful things to know when planning your visit to the “Castle of the Holy Angel”!
What is Castel Sant’Angelo?
I’d walked past the towering facade adorned with Angel statues, a few times, and always wondered what was inside.
Was it a castle? A fortress? A place of worship? Yes, yes, and also kind of!
Turns out it was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, as an opulent mausoleum for himself and his family. Basically one of the coolest places anyone could be buried in ancient Rome.
It was once the tallest building in the city, and was used by the popes as a fortress, with some pretty sick views.
Nowadays it’s one of Rome’s most iconic pieces of architecture, with a really impressive museum. It’s really a unique tribute to how much the eternal city has changed over thousands of years!
When’s The Best Time To Visit?
Like a lot of Rome’s popular hot spots, when you go can really mean a much smaller crowd. So you can leisurely enjoy your visit to Castel Sant’Angelo (and avoid rubbing elbows with like ALL the school tour groups) try to be choosy about what time you show up.
Although you can visit anytime during opening hours (generally 9am to 7:30pm, with last entry at 6:30pm), you’ll find fewer lines, and better (more photogenic) views either early in the day, or late in the day.
You can even get a discount on your admission for attending off peak hours!
For example when we visited in July there was reduced fares from 9- 11 am. Although we did our best to arrive on time, (a delayed bus and long line meant) we approached the ticket counter right at 10:58am.
You better believe it made our visit that much sweeter to get waived through just as the price more than doubled!
Cost Of Admission To The Castle
Admission is usually 15 euros, you can get a reduced fare of half price, or as low as 2 euros at certain dates and times. You can also get a discount if you’re a student, or an EU citizen under 25.
Castel Sant’ Angelo also has extended hours and discounted rates on Thursdays through Sunday, during the summer months.
According to the official site of Castel Sant’Angelo (and sorry, there isn’t an english version available) there are certain times you can visit totally free!
From October to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month. In November and December, you can also visit for free every Thursday. Check the official website for updated information, and just keep in mind that the lines will be MUCH longer on the free days!
Where To Get Tickets To Castel Sant’Angelo
Although there places to buy skip the line passes and tours online, you can easily purchase tickets to Castel Sant’Angelo on the day of your tour.
You can also snag those sweet discounts when you buy directly at their ticket office!
Is it worth downloading the Castel Sant’Angelo tour guide app?
If you want, you have access to a free tour app with your ticket. And yes, there is access to free wifi on your tour. However, even with my faster data connection it wasn’t going to finish downloading very quickly.
My husband, on the other hand did manage to download it, and honestly the app wasn’t that impressive. Save your battery and read the signs posted throughout instead. Be one less person tethered to their phone the whole tour! 😅
What To See On The Castel Sant’Angelo Tour
Castel San Angelo has something for everyone, but I have to say my favorite thing about the tour, is the beautiful views out onto Rome’s tevere river!
The Castello is divided into seven sections, so you’ll start the tour at the bottom, and work your way up to those glorious vistas at the top.
When restoration started to the building in the 1900’s, it was established as a military museum. And since the bottom of the structure was also used over the years as a prison, it has some serious game of thrones vibes about it.
You can see examples of medieval weaponry displayed throughout the castle, including inside of the jail cells.
One of the museum workers saw us curiously peeking inside, so she opened it up for us to check out. It took all of 3 seconds for me to tell – it was not somewhere you wanted to end up spending the night!
The higher levels of the castello also contain a military museum wing. It shows some really awesome examples of handcrafted weapons, spanning the past few centuries.
The craftsmanship and artsy used to create them are so impressive and beautiful, you’d almost forget they were used to kill people!
Is there a place to eat inside Castel Sant’angelo?
A hot day in Rome can really zap your energy fast, so it’s nice to visit the adorable onsite cafe.
You can pop inside to get a snack to go, or sit out on the charming patio soaking up the views
Not only that, the prices are really reasonable, unlike some other tourist sites in Rome. A nice iced tea with lemon, an espresso, and a little Italian crostata revived us for the upper floors of the tour.
What’s On The Top Of The Castle?
The upper floors are the most opulent in whole of the Castle.
They were used over the years by the Popes, and you can really get the sense that these areas were used for important meetings. The ceilings are adorned with intricate frescos and decorated with hand carved furniture.
These rooms are such a stark contrast to the tombs below. By the time these upper levels were built, the lower levels had been upgraded with military grade architectural features. Castel Sant’Angelo was now a certified fortress.
It was Pope Nicholas III who decided famously to connect Castel Sant’Angelo to St. Peter’s Basilica, with a secret escape route called the Passetto di Borgo.
The thought was that this passage may be needed one day if a Pope ever faced serious danger. During the Sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Celement VII used the tunnel, and was sure grateful for it .
As you can tell one thing for sure by the looking at the nature of the Papal chambers. The most important figures in Rome were well looked after when they took refuge inside the Castle.
The views from the upper floors, allow you to look out onto the famous arched Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge. It features 10 distinct and exquisitely carved angel statues.
Why is it called Castel Sant’ Angelo
When you approach the upper level of the Castle you can see out in all directions of Rome. The terrace shows the nearby Piazza Venezia, and The Vatican.
You’ll also notice an impressive and giant bronze statue of an angel. It almost looks as though it’s about to leap of the building, and take flight.
The name “Castel Sant’Angelo” dates back to a super dark period of Roman history. Legend says that towards the end of the plague in 590, the streets were littered with the sick, and dying.
Pope Gregory led a procession through the streets to pray that God may spare those who lived. When he looked up onto the old mausoleum of Hadrian, which had fallen into ruin, he had a vision.
Though it was decayed and in ruins, the Pope saw a radiant figure perched atop the massive tomb. Legend says it was the Archangel Michael, brightly glowing and brandishing a sword.
The angel then lowered his weapon, and returned it to it’s metal sheath. Pope Gregory announced this signified God’s wrath had been put to rest. The plague that nearly wiped Rome to the ground was finally over.
A marble statue originally adorned the castle in the 1500’s, but was replaced with this bronze version in 1753. It was meant to serve as a reminder of the legend, and of God’s mercy, even when things seem hopeless.
I hope you enjoyed this run down of what to know about visiting Castel Sant’Angelo on your Rome sightseeing trip!
If you are looking for more fun things to do in the eternal city, be sure to check out some of my other Rome Travel Guides:
- Magical Things To See In The Villa Borghese Gardens
- Where To Find The Best Carbonara in Rome
- Rome’s Hidden Palace: Galleria Doria Pamphilj
- Where To See The Best Fountains In Rome
If you have any questions about visiting Rome, feel free to shoot me a message, and enjoy your visit to one of my favorite places in the world!