Guide to Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo

Caslel Sant'Angelo
Caslel Sant'Angelo

By Vicky · Published Mar. 27th, 2024

Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the top sights in Rome, read our guide to visiting the castle for a map, how to buy tickets and what to see.

Getting to Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo is located next to the Tiber River in central Rome. It’s only 10 minutes walk from the Vatican or Piazza Navona. If you’re coming by bus, one of the nearest stops is the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele Bus Stop. From here, walk across the St. Angelo Bridge to reach the castle.

Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo Map

How to Buy Tickets for Castel Sant’Angelo

There are several options for buying tickets to Castel Sant’Angelo. The castle is open Tue-Sun 9am-7:30pm, and whichever option you choose, getting there earlier is a great idea for a less crowded visit.

  1. Buy tickets at the castle (€16). This is the simplest option, however there can be a long queue to buy tickets. If you arrive when the castle opens at 9am the queue will be short to non-existent, but if you want to visit in the afternoon, especially on weekends or in summer, you may have to queue for a while.
  2. Buy tickets from the official website in advance (€17). This website is in Italian, but you can translate by right-clicking and choosing ‘Translate to English’. Scroll down to Acquista il biglietto, or Buy the ticket, and it will take you to another website. Again, click Buy Ticket. You’ll have to create an account with TicketOne before paying by card. If you don’t have a Travel Card already (a debit card that can be used in multiple currencies without high bank conversion fees), I’d highly recommend a Wise Card* to conveniently pay for things when abroad.
  3. Buy tickets from GetYourGuide*. These are often more expensive than buying from the official website, though occasionally they have discounts and the ticket-buying process is easier. It’s not really worth it unless they have a good reduction.
  4. Go on a guided tour*. These 2-hour tours are a great way to explore the castle and you get to see parts of the castle the general public can’t access. The tour includes a ticket so you can enter the castle without queuing.

What to do when Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo

1. Admire the Castle from the Bridges

View of Castel Sant'Angelo from a bridge over the River Tiber

When Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo, make sure you check out the views of the castle from the nearby bridges across the River Tiber. The Ponte Sant’Angelo (Bridge of Angels) is the bridge leading from central Rome directly to the front of the castle. It’s lined by ten angel sculptures designed by Bernini, creating a majestic approach to the castle. It’s least crowded first thing in the morning.

The second bridge with great castle views is Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. This is on the Vatican side of the Bridge of Angels, to the left when facing the castle across the river. You can also walk along the water’s edge between the two bridges for some great reflections.

2. Walk around the outside of the Castle

Walking around the outside of the papal castle in Rome, Italy

There’s a geometric, tree-filled park surrounding the castle, between the castle itself and the tall outer walls of the castle. It’s slightly below ground level, in what could be considered a wide moat. The park is open from 7am until sunset. There are good views of the castle from here, and it’s very pleasant and peaceful among the trees. On your way around, you’ll pass underneath the Passetto di Borgo. This is the brick and stone raised passageway between the Vatican and the Castle. The Pope could use this ‘secret’ yet obvious passage as an escape route to the castle refuge in times of danger.

3. Explore the inside of the Castle

Exploring the inside of the castle with a sloping stone ramp

There’s lots to see inside the Castel Sant’Angelo. You start at the base where the castle’s origins as Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoleum are most evident. There’s an atmospheric, wide spiral ramp, which brings you upwards. There are several exhibits about the castle’s history, lovely courtyards, Papel Apartments and much more inside. At the entrance, you’ll receive a leaflet that tells you what you’re seeing, or you can rent an audioguide for a bit extra.

4. Visit Cafe Ristorante Le Terazze

Views from Cafe Ristorante Le Terazze in Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome, Italy

When you feel you need a rest, head to the Cafe Ristorante Le Terazze, located on the second floor. This cafe is a wonderful stop since you can sit outside on the parapet with great views over the castle, surrounding park and Vatican. The food is decent, and while slightly expensive it’s not super over-priced.

5. Check the view from the Terrace of the Angels

View from the Terrace of the Angels in Castel Sant'Angelo

As your walk through the castle continues, you head up and up and eventually end up right on the roof. On this rooftop is the Terrace of the Angels, and you’ll see the bronze statue of Saint Michael the Archangel just above you. From here you get a fantastic view over the rooftops of central Rome, stretching all the way to the hills in the distance.

History of Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a towering cylindrical building located on the banks of the Tiber River. Its history spans almost two millennia, from around 135 AD, and it has served various purposes throughout its existence.

First a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family, then converted into a fortress by the Goths and strengthened by the Byzantines after the 5th century. In the Middle Ages, it was connected to the Vatican by a fortified corridor known as the Passetto di Borgo, which allowed the pope to escape to safety in times of danger.

In the Renaissance time, the castle’s interior was transformed into sumptuous apartments and ceremonial halls. Builders also constructed the famous spiral ramp leading to the top of the castle during this period. In the 20th century, Castel Sant’Angelo was converted into a museum, showcasing its rich history and housing a collection of art and artefacts.

Best Guidebooks for Exploring Rome

Lonely Planet Rome*

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Rome*

Lonely Planet Italy*

To explore Rome further, check out the nearby Piazza Navona Walking Tour, Top Things to see in Vatican City, or our Rome Ancient Centre Walking Tour.

For some great walks slightly further from the centre, walk along Via Appia Antica, check out Ostia Antica, discover the Park of the Aqueducts, or for more walking tours and hikes see our Italy page.


Do you need a guided tour of Castel Sant’Angelo?

You do not need a guided tour of Castel Sant’Angelo but can walk around by yourself.

Is it worth going into Castel Sant’Angelo?

Although you can see the impressive castle from the outside, it’s definitely worth going inside if you have time to see the exhibits, learn about the history of the castle, and admire the wonderful view from the top.

Can you enter Castel Sant’Angelo for free?

You can walk around the outside of the castle for free, but you have to pay for a ticket to enter the castle itself. Inside are exhibits about the castle’s history, battlements you can walk around and much more.

How much time do you need at Castel Sant’Angelo?

Allow at least one hour to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. You could easily spend two hours if you read everything in the exhibits, and an extra 30 minutes if you visit the lovely cafe.

Does Castel Sant’Angelo have a dress code?

Castel Sant’Angelo is not a religious site so there isn’t a dress code. However, comfortable shoes are recommended since there’s a bit of walking.

Do you need to book Castel Sant’Angelo in advance?

You don’t need to book tickets to the castle in advance, but they may save you time. The queue to buy tickets onsite can be long, though first thing in the morning there’s no onsite queue.

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