Santa Maria Maggiore: A Guide to Entry Details, Special Offers, Church’s Charm

Santa Maria Maggiore, located on the Esquiline Hill in Rome, Italy, is a prominent basilica built nearly 1,500 years ago. Get Directions.

It is one of the four major basilicas in Rome and stands as a symbol of religious significance.

Santa Maria Maggiore is among Rome’s most beautiful churches and receives more than two million visitors annually.

Different styles from various times blend together, making the basilica captivating for visitors.

Once you are inside Santa Maria Maggiore, you’ll be surrounded by mosaics, paintings, and sculptures telling stories from the Bible.

The ceiling, covered in gold leaf, adds a special feeling, making your time in the basilica a truly spiritual experience.

The grand architecture and deep history have made Santa Maria Maggiore an integral part of the Vatican, contributing to the UNESCO World Heritage site.


Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am to 6.45 pm

Last Entry: 6 pm

Time Needed: Approximately 1-2 hours

Best Time: Early morning to avoid crowds and during spring for warmer, pleasant weather.

Location: On the Esquiline Hill, one of the famed Seven Hills of Rome.

Address: Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, 42, 00187 Rome, Italy. Get Directions!

Nearest Station: Termini Station.

About Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore, also known as the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, was built in 432 AD by Pope Sixtus III.

This basilica was built to honor the Virgin Mary.

🎗️Fun Fact!
One warm night, Pope Liberius dreamt of the Virgin Mary instructing him to build a church where they’d find snow the next morning.
Surprisingly, in the August heat, Esquiline Hill was covered in soft, pure snow as Mary had foretold.
Thus, Esquiline Hill was the chosen place to build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Santa Maria Maggiore’s exterior is a mix of different architectural styles.

It has Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque influences, making it special and reflecting changes in art and religion over time.

When you get close, you’ll see the detailed and sculpted façade of Santa Maria Maggiore, giving a sneak peek of the beauty inside.

Today, it stands as a symbol of love for the Virgin Mary, and pilgrims worldwide are drawn to Santa Maria Maggiore to seek blessings.

Cultural Significance of Santa Maria Maggiore

Every year, Santa Maria Maggiore attracts visitors to celebrate various events and celebrations.

The basilica is a lively hub of devotion and festivity from Easter to Christmas.

One notable celebration is the Feast of the Assumption on 15 August every year. It’s a big event, drawing both locals and tourists.

The papal mass, solemn procession, and the symbolic “snowfall” of white flower petals make it visually stunning and spiritually uplifting.

What to Expect Inside Santa Maria Maggiore

Begin your journey through the basilica’s main entrance and admire the grandeur of the nave.

The block ceiling adorned with gold leaf sets the tone for the artistic treasures that lie ahead.

  • Fifth-Century Mosaics:

As you enter the Basilica, the first sight is of the fifth-century mosaics that narrate biblical stories.

Admire the craftsmanship that has preserved these intricate artworks for centuries.

  • Borghese Chapel:

Enter the Borghese Chapel to witness Arnolfo di Cambio’s Nativity sculpture.

  • Ancient Icon of Virgin Mary:

Pay homage to the ancient icon of the Virgin Mary, a symbol of devotion and grace.

  • Chapels and Side Altars:

Explore the various chapels and side altars, each adorned with unique sculptures and artworks.

These smaller spaces offer moments of quiet contemplation amid the grandeur of the basilica.

  • Tombs of St. Jerome and Gian Lorenzo Bernini:

Visit the tombs of notable figures like St. Jerome and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

  • Baptistry:

Visit the baptistry, an integral part of the basilica’s structure, and learn more about the religious rituals conducted within these sacred walls.

  • Museum Exploration:

Extend your journey by exploring the basilica’s museum during its open hours. Witness the historical artifacts and art collections of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Conclude your tour by exiting the basilica and taking a moment to appreciate its exterior.

Additionally, consider exploring the surrounding Esquiline Hill.

Santa Maria Maggiore Ticket Options

The basilica offers free entry, allowing visitors to explore the main Cathedral without any cost.

While entry to Santa Maria Maggiore is free, certain areas are restricted for access.

You can opt to book guided or special tours to access these sections. Booking tours in advance also allows you to skip long lines and avoid crowds at peak times.

Here are the top ticket choices for a more tailored and efficient experience at the basilica.

Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica Guided Tour

Santa Maria Maggiore Guided tour
Image: Getyourguide.com

Choose the Santa Maria Maggiore guided tour for an expert-led adventure.

With the ticket, you can explore Rome’s largest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the relics, mosaics, and scenes from Christ’s childhood.

The guide shares stories and secrets, making your visit more enjoyable and educational.

Plus, your ticket lets you skip lines, ensuring you save time and can spend more time admiring the basilica’s beauty.

You can upgrade your ticket to access secret rooms or Santa Prassede, adding more to your Roman adventure.

The guided tour is designed for solo travelers, couples, and groups wanting to explore Santa Maria Maggiore’s wonders.

The guided tour prices start at €11 per person, making it quite affordable.

Rome Hop-On Hop-Off Panoramic Open Bus Ticket

Rome Hop-On Hop-Off Panoramic Open Bus Ticket
Image: Getyourguide.com

The hop-on hop-off bus tour grants you unlimited access to three circuits, allowing you to explore the city’s key landmarks at your own pace.

It takes you to the Colosseum, Forum, Circus Maximus, St. Peter’s, Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and many more.

You can learn more with a fascinating audio guide available in 16 languages.

Choose from various ticket durations – 1 day, 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours – based on your travel itinerary and preferences.

It is ideal for travelers who want the flexibility to explore Rome at their own pace.

The Ticket prices vary based on the duration selected:

Ticket TypePrice
1-Day Bus Ticket€18
1-Day Ticket Unlimited Access€24
24-Hour Ticket€27
48-Hour Ticket€34
72-Hour Ticket€39

Why Book Santa Maria Maggiore Ticket Online?

Why Book Santa Maria Maggiore Ticket Online
Image: Getyourguide.com

Booking Santa Maria Maggiore tickets online offers the convenience of skipping lines, planning visits in advance, and securing entry on your preferred dates.

It ensures access to limited daily entries, potentially provides cost savings, and offers additional information about the attraction.

Online bookings present discounted rates and package deals, promoting efficient, contactless transactions.

Confirmation emails and e-tickets enhance the ease of entry.

Overall, booking Santa Maria Maggiore tickets online is a hassle-free and reliable experience for visitors to this historic basilica in Rome.

Santa Maria Maggiore Hours and Mass Schedule

To plan your visit effectively, familiarize yourself with the operating hours of Santa Maria Maggiore:

  • Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica Hours:

Opens daily from 7 am to 6.45 pm, providing visitors ample time to explore its architecture and spiritual ambiance.

  • Holy Masses Schedule:

Attend one of the daily masses held at 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm and 6 pm.

  • Museum Hours:

The museum is open from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, offering a comprehensive insight into the basilica’s rich heritage.

How Long to Spend in Santa Maria Maggiore

On average, allocate one to two hours for a comprehensive visit to Santa Maria Maggiore.

Explore the main basilica’s mosaics and sculptures, including the Borghese Chapel’s Nativity.

You can extend your exploration to nearby attractions if time permits.

Best Time to Visit Santa Maria Maggiore

The best time to visit Santa Maria Maggiore is on weekdays or early morning when it opens.

This is when fewer people are around, making it peaceful to enjoy the beautiful mosaics and architecture.

The morning light streaming through the windows adds a magical touch.

Seasonal Considerations:

Spring and autumn provide pleasant weather for exploring the basilica’s interior and exterior.

Mild temperatures make these seasons ideal for a comfortable and immersive experience.

Religious Celebrations:

Consider visiting during significant religious celebrations like the Feast of the Assumption, which adds a layer of cultural richness to the visit.

How to Reach Santa Maria Maggiore

Roma Termini
Image: Rometoolkit.com

Santa Maria Maggiore is centrally located on Esquiline Hill in Rome.

The basilica’s address is Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, 42, 00185 Roma RM, Italy.

Get Directions!

The central location of Santa Maria Maggiore makes it easily accessible by various means of public transportation.

Buses, metro, and even walking from the nearby Termini Station provide convenient options for reaching the basilica.

By Car:

If you’re traveling by car, the closest parking lot is Stephenson Parking.

A four-hour parking session is available for €13, providing a convenient option for those opting for personal transportation.

By Bus:

The nearest bus stop is S. Maria Maggiore, facilitating easy access for visitors.

Several bus routes connect to Santa Maria Maggiore, including 16, 70, 71, 75, 117, 360, 590, 649, 714, and F20.

By Subway:

The subway options include lines A, B, and B1, with the nearest subway stop being Termini.

By Train:

For those arriving by train, the nearest stop is Roma Termini, served by Trenitalia.

Insider Tips for Santa Maria Maggiore

  • Guided Tours: Opt for guided tours to better understand the basilica’s history and the stories behind its artworks.
  • Quiet Moments: Visit during weekdays or early mornings to experience a quieter, more serene atmosphere.
  • Dress Modestly: As a place of worship, it’s advisable to dress modestly to show respect for the sacred surroundings.
  • Photography Etiquette: While photography is generally allowed, be mindful of the dignity of the place.

Dress Code in Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore adheres to a dress code to maintain a respectful atmosphere as a place of worship.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees, as a sign of respect for the sacred surroundings.

It’s advisable to avoid revealing clothing and wear comfortable shoes for exploring.

Modest attire, such as long skirts, pants, or dresses, go well in a respectful atmosphere.

Read more.

Nearby Attractions to Santa Maria Maggiore

Beyond the splendor of Santa Maria Maggiore itself, the surrounding area boasts an array of attractions that enhance the visitor’s experience.

Let’s look at the nearby attractions.

Nearby AttractionsDistance from Santa Maria Maggiore
Roman National Museum0.5 km (0.3 miles)
Church of San Pietro in Vincoli0.6 km (0.4 miles)
Colosseum2.0 km (1.2 miles)
Roman Forum2.4 km (1.5 miles)
Pantheon2.9 km (1.8 miles)
Vatican City (St. Peter’s Basilica)5.6 km (3.5 miles)

Popular Experiences in Rome

Watch the Pope’s blessings in St. Peter’s Square without the hassle of the crowd, thanks to a reserved ticket and guide.

Taste delicious street food with a local guide, trying treats like pizza and gelato.

Walk around Rome’s historical places, like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, in a small group tour.

Learn to make Italian dishes and desserts in a cooking class for some hands-on cooking experience.

 See Rome’s famous spots on a double-decker bus, with stories on an audioguide. 

Enjoy these fun ways to explore the city more, and check out the top things to do in Rome!


How long does it take to see Santa Maria Maggiore?

On average, allocating one to two hours for a comprehensive visit to Santa Maria Maggiore is recommended.

This time allows for exploring the main basilica, including its mosaics and sculptures.
However, you can stay longer to explore the nearby attractions.

Is Santa Maria Maggiore worth a visit?

Absolutely. Santa Maria Maggiore is a prominent basilica with nearly 1,500 years of history, featuring a captivating blend of architectural styles and rich religious significance.

Visitors can admire intricate mosaics, paintings, and sculptures, making it a worthwhile and spiritually enriching experience.

Is there a dress code for Santa Maria Maggiore?

Yes, Santa Maria Maggiore adheres to a dress code to maintain a respectful atmosphere as a place of worship.

Visitors are advised to dress modestly, covering shoulders and knees, as a sign of respect for the sacred surroundings. It’s recommended to avoid revealing clothing.

Do you need tickets for Santa Maria Maggiore?

The basilica offers free entry, allowing visitors to explore the exterior and experience the spiritual ambiance without any cost.

However, guided tour options are available for those seeking a more in-depth experience to access the museum and special areas within the basilica.

Is Santa Maria Basilica free?

Yes, entry to Santa Maria Maggiore is free, allowing visitors to explore the exterior and main areas of the basilica without any cost.

However, ticket options are available for those interested in accessing the museum and specific areas with more detailed experiences.

What time does Santa Maria Maggiore open?

Santa Maria Maggiore opens daily at 7 am and closes at 6.45 pm.

Visitors have ample time to explore the basilica’s architecture and spiritual ambiance during these hours.

Additionally, daily masses are held at various times, providing opportunities for religious observance.

What is the largest church in Rome?

The largest church in Rome is St. Peter’s Basilica, located in Vatican City.

St. Peter’s Basilica is a major pilgrimage site and one of the most renowned examples of Renaissance architecture.

It serves as the principal church of the Catholic Church.

However, Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four major basilicas in Rome and holds significance as the largest Catholic Marian church in the city.

What are the 4 big churches in Rome?

The four major basilicas in Rome, known as the Papal Basilicas, include:

St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro)
– Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura)
Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano)
Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore)

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