Are you asking yourself, "Is Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting?"
Yes, it's worth visiting Castel Sant'Angelo. I consider it one of Rome's must-sees, not just for the beauty of the monument and what's inside, but for how you can get a real sense of how Rome has changed over the last 2,000 years.
People ask me this a lot, along with "what's inside?"
I am here to tell you, visiting Castel Sant'Angelo should be on your list of Rome must-sees. Here's why.
Why Castel Sant Angelo Rome is so worth a visit
What if I told you that you could visit the tomb of a Roman emperor, see Raphael-inspired art, check out the site of fierce centuries-old battles with leftover cannons and cannonballs, and have a spritz with a stunning view of Saint Peter’s basilica, all in one place?
And that’s not all! You can admire a piece of Michelangelo architecture, see where popes lived when they were hiding from their enemies, and walk around a real castle-moat.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see a bit of Michelangelo's handiwork?. Here is his decoration of the chapel of Pope Leo X (Medici).
If you’re lucky, you can even cross the secret passageway between a castle and the Vatican, check out a Raphael-designed toilet specially designed for a pope, and visit the cells of one of the most feared dungeons in Roman history.
Are you convinced? If not, how about this view:
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting for views like this? But there is also so much more!
Finally, a great reason to visit Castel Sant’Angelo is because you can see with your own eyes the progression of its architecture that reflects the transformation of Rome itself over the last 1,900 years.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to get a sense of centuries of architecture that defines not only the castle but Rome itself?
Brief history of Castel Sant'Angelo
Mausoleum - The building began as the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century. Many emperors were buried here over the following 100 years or so.
Part of the Roman defensive walls - As the Roman Empire began its decline, walls went up around the city, encompassing this huge structure. The mausoleum was no longer used for burials and instead became a fortress.
Fortress - Since its inception in 8th century BCE, Rome was sacked many times over, usually by tribes from the north. During these attacks, people hid out in the castle. The imperial burial urns were destroyed. At times the Romans used some of the decorative pieces like statues as weapons, throwing them down at the enemy.
Site of a miracle - In 590 CE, Pope Gregory the Great was leading a procession in hopes of driving away the plague that had been raging for decades. Just as the procession passed the castle, the pope saw an image of the Archangel Michael sheathing his sword, in effect signifying the end of the plague. And in fact, right after this event, the plague did subside. This is why the monument is called "Castel Sant'Angelo" and why there is an angel on the roof.
Prison - Over the next few centuries, it was used more and more as a fortress and a prison.
In Castel Sant’Angelo’s interior, you will find architecture and artefacts from imperial Rome, weapons and architecture from medieval Rome, and masterpieces from the Renaissance.
Yes, Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see what's inside!
You will see the last two angels made for the castle: one by Raffaello da Montelupo in the 16th century, and the one now on the roof (throughout history there were 4 others, long destroyed.)
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see this Renaissance Angel.
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see this rooftop angel up close!
Throughout the upper floors of the castle where the popes lived, you will see what is called grotesque painting.
The word and the style were inspired by the Domus Aurea, which in turn was inspired by paintings found in Pompeii. Raphael used this style and his influence is felt here.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see this stunning room? It's the library, where you will see gorgeous Renaissance-era grotesque art on the ceiling and along the top of the walls.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting also to see rooms like this one with arms and armory on display?
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see this beautiful hall?, Called the Paolina room (for Pope Paul III Farense who had it decorated this way), it's full of Renaissance-era art, including a rendering of Emperor Hadrian on one wall.
In the papal apartments you will also find paintings by Luca Signorelli, Giulio Romano, Perin del Vaga and others of Raphael’s school.
There are six (or seven, depending how you count them) levels:
This is the architectural plan of Castel Sant'Angelo from its official website. They list the 3rd floor as its own floor but you won't see that on a normal visit, so for the most part, we consider the monument to have 6 floors including the ground floor.
At the first level you’ll find the mausoleum, where the tombs are located. You’ll see the winding Ancient Roman 400-foot long winding ramp, and the Courtyard of the Executions. The first floor also contains a hospital and the Chapel of the Condemned (neither of which is open to the public.)
Once you reach the second floor by the ramp, you will see the Hall of the Urns. The remains of some emperors and their family members may have been kept here, but it’s most likely that Hadrian’s urn was kept in what became the Vatican Treasury. The second floor also contains prison cells and warehouses for grains and oil. (You can only visit these on a Secret Tour. The official website of Castel Sant'Angelo states that these last two things are on the 3rd floor.)
The third floor you will visit, but technically the 4th floor according to the official website of Castel Sant'Angelo, was used for military purposes, complete with barracks and two courtyards where some executions took place. In the Cortile dell’Angelo (Court of the Angel) you’ll find the last statue of the archangel Michael before the one you see now on the roof. On this floor you can access the museums where you will see papal apartments, weapons, and paintings.
Level four/five consists of the exquisitely decorated papal apartments and the rooms of Popes Paul III, Clement VII, and Leo X. You’ll find stunning frescoes by artists of the school of Raphael.
The fifth/sixth floor contains the Treasury - Sala del Tesoro - where the papacy’s treasures were stored and the Hadrian’s urn was probably kept. This floor also contains the library, Castellano’s apartment built in the 18th century above the loggia, and Cagliostro’s Room.
On the terrace at the top level you can stunning views of Rome and Saint Peter's Basilica.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting for views like this? I think so!
Why Dan Brown included Castel Sant’Angelo in Angels and Demons
Have you read the book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, or seen the movie with Tom Hanks, based on the book?
In the book and movie, Castel Sant’Angelo was the setting for the mysterious location of the Chapel of the Illuminati, not to mention the Passetto di Borgo that allowed the pope to escape danger.
There were and still are many hidden secret rooms in the castle, making it a perfect backdrop for a thriller like Angels and Demons. The Passetto di Borgo is romantic enough in real life, with its history of popes fleeing marauding hordes. And it fit perfectly with the story of Vatican-related intrigue in Angels and Demons.
Before Dan Brown came along, there was Puccini. In Puccini’s opera, Tosca, the roof terrace is where the main character leaps to her death in the third act.
If you are a gaming fan, you can climb to the top of Castel Sant’Angelo in Assassin’s Creed II, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
My personal favorite reference to Castel Sant’Angelo in film is with the classic Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck movie Roman Holiday. I love to see the two of them dancing underneath, and all that follows, both hilarious and romantic, in this iconic scene (you can see Castel Sant'Angelo in the below clip, which is dubbed in Italian.)
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting to see the site of so much fictional drama?
The best way to visit Castel Sant’Angelo Rome
The first thing you may be asking yourself is whether Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting. I addressed this at the top of this page.
If you want to fit in a visit to this fabulous monument, here are my tips:
Give yourself about 3 hours total. This can include a visit to the bridge, the park outside, the inside, the terrace and the café. Even if you don’t do all that, still give yourself plenty of cushion time between this and another site or monument so you don’t overdo it.
You may want to consider visiting Castel Sant'Angelo the same day you visit the Vatican Museums or Saint Peter’s Basilica. Yes, that is a lot of museum-visiting. But since they are close to each other, if you want to fit this in, that could be a good time to do it. Just give yourself a break in between.
You might also include a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo on the day you visit Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and/or The Jewish Ghetto. These are all nearby.
Be prepared to walk a lot more than you might think. There are about 6 floors to visit and it’s all climbing. Most of the walking is in bits and pieces, and not steep, but you will have to contend with long, inclined ramps, steps, and sometimes narrow staircases.
About halfway through the visit, you will find yourself in the courtyard with one of the angels that used to be on the roof. There are places to sit along the wall but they are few and you may have to wait for others to get up.
The monument is not very wheelchair-friendly, but there are some shortcuts including ramps and an elevator. The elevator is only for those who need and request it. By taking the elevator, you will miss a lot of the castle, but you can still visit some of the floors. You can also access the café with a wheelchair.
Be aware access to the rooftop terrace with the angel and the best views is strictly via a rather narrow, somewhat curved staircase.
The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome
Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.
If you visit on your own, i.e. without a tour, consider using their well-made audio-guide. You can pick this up when you enter the monument.
Even if you don’t use any guide at all, the route is well-marked and you will find some signage as you go, so you’ll know what you’re looking at.
Castel Sant’Angelo Tours
I am a big fan of taking tours, especially when it comes to such a complex monument as Castel Sant’Angelo. You can easily go on your own, using an audio-guide or not, and take your time. But for me, Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting with a tour.
Do you have to book in advance to visit Castel Sant'Angelo Rome?
I am a big fan of booking in advance. Even in what you might call low or mid season, you can come upon unexpected queues. There is only a small fee for booking in advance, and it will give you peace of mind.
Do you need to book in advance? Castel Sant'Angelo does not require it. But lately it has become a more popular monument in Rome, as people look to what they hope will be less-crowded sites like the Colosseum and Vatican.
Castel Sant’Angelo is stunning at night, even just to look at from the bridge. It's worth coming here any time of year to see it like this.
To go inside the castle at night is another matter.
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting at night, even from the outside.
In recent years, the castle has been open for various types of night visits and even concerts. There is not one consistent night visit of Castel Sant’Angelo.
By far your best chance of getting to visit Castel Sant’Angelo at night is to be in Rome in the summer months, and on a weekend (Thursday – Sunday.) Look for night tours on our trusted partner websites Get Your Guide and Viator, and if you can book one, you’re good to go!
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting even from the outside
Like the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo is a monument you can easily admire from the outside.
You can see a lot of the architecture, take plenty of great photos, and enjoy the view from below.
The park surrounding Castel Sant'Angelo is lovely and never crowded. It affords wonderful views of the monument from all sides.
Unlike the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo is surrounded by its own park.
Isn't Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting for this view? I love enjoying an Aperol spritz at the café on top of Castel Sant'Angelo.
I still feel that way but after having numerous aperitivos up there I can give you some advice:
It’s a good idea to book ahead.
Be aware of the timing. The café closes about half hour before the monument does.
Take into consideration the time of year – if it’s summer, you may not want to be right where you get that stunning view, because that is where the very strong sun pours right in onto your head and neck.
Don’t forget to keep your food protected from the cheeky pigeons and especially seagulls that have grown used to humans feeding them!
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting for the stunning views of Rome
The first time I saw the view from Castel Sant’Angelo, I was completely blown away.
I had had no idea it would be so amazing. I hesitate to use the word “amazing” as it’s overused, but I was truly amazed.
First of all, the vantage point on the curve of the Tiber and across from Rome’s center allows you a nearly 360-degree panorama of Rome.
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting for this gorgeous view of Rome.
Second of all, the height of the castle is enough to allow you rooftop views but not so high up that the rooftops get lost in a sea of buildings.
While I love to visit the castle in the late afternoon for the sunset skies, and to enjoy an apertivo, I suggest visiting in the morning if you want to see a beautiful light on Saint Peter’s basilica. In the afternoon, the sun will be in your eyes as it sets behind the basilica.
Once you are up on the terrace, take note of the bell of the condemned which sits to the left of the angel. The bell rang before each execution.
Castel Sant’Angelo opening hours, ticket price, location, and how long you’ll need
When you book via TicketOne, the orrifial Castel'Sant'Angelo ticketing agency, there is a small booking fee.
Castel Sant’Angelo participates in the Roma Pass (and other Rome City Passes), so it could be one of your free monuments, or the pass will get you a reduced entry price.
Castel Sant’Angelo location and how to get there
Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50.
Directions to Castel Sant'Angelo
The loveliest way to arrive at Castel Sant'Angelo is by walking across the Angel Bridge towards it. You can reach this bridge from Piazza Navona or the Pantheon in under 10 minutes on foot.
Castel Sant Angelo worth visiting and easy to reach!
The nearest Metro stops are both on the red line A - Ottaviano or Lepanto. Castel Sant'Angelo is about a 20 minute walk from either of these.
Depending on where you are coming from, there are many buses that stop right near Castel Sant'Angelo, including the 40, 64, 70, 62 and many others.
How much time you need to visit Castel Sant’Angelo Rome
The time needed to visit Castel Sant'Angelo depends on you - the time you have and your interest in what's inside.
You could visit Castel Sant’Angelo in about an hour if you just wanted to breeze through it and get to the roof for the views.
Of course, I would recommend you spend at least a bit of time soaking up the architecture, art, history, and ambiance. Add on at least a half hour for a drink with a view, and it could become a 3-hour experience.
So if you go on your own, you can take as much or as little time as you want.