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U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
The Vatican receives millions of visitors annually. Tourists come from all over the world to see the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and other Vatican highlights. This section contains useful information for make visiting the Vatican easier and has been updated with Covid-19 health measures put in place by the Holy See for visiting places in Vatican City. Please refer to official Vatican websites when possible for the most current information.
Due to health concerns regarding Covid-19, participation of the general public in Masses celebrated by Pope Francis have been temporarily suspended. They will be live-streamed on www.vaticannews.va .
Pope Francis’s General Audience on Wednesdays is open to the public. A Green Pass Covid vaccine certification, or equivalent certificate, is not required. Masks and social distancing are required. Tickets are free and can be obtained by contacting the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household.
The audiences are livestreamed with English translation starting at 9:15 A.M. (CET) on www.vaticannews.va .
The Sunday Angelus, held at noon on St. Peter’s Square and presided over by Pope Francis, is open to the public. It is also live-streamed with English translation on www.vaticanews.va .
*Please note that private audiences with the Pope are reserved for heads of state and other high-ranking officials.
No shorts, short skirts or sleeveless shirts when entering St. Peter’s Basilica or when attending a Papal event on St. Peter’s Square.
Museums and Tourism
The Vatican Museums requires all visitors to present the ‘Green Pass’ covid certification, or equivalent certificate, until further notice.
The Green Pass, which comes in digital or paper versions, shows that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19. The Italian Ministry of Health issued an ordinance on July 29, 2021 stating that an Anti-COVID-19 vaccination certificate for an European Medicines Agency (EMA) recognized vaccine from competent U.S. health authorities (CDC “white cards”) will be considered the equivalent of the Italian Green Pass where this requirement exists.
In addition to showing the Green Pass, visitors to the Vatican Museums may be asked to present an identification document “in order to verify actual ownership.”
For more information on the Vatican Museums, visit their website .
For information on the Scavi, visit the Excavation Office’s website .
Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica does not require the ‘Green Pass’ Covid vaccine certification, or equivalent certificate.
Journalists coming from the United States who wish to cover Vatican events will need to be accredited to the Holy See Press Office. Full details and application may be found on the Media Accreditation page .
Please call: 06-46741
Outside of Office Hours, contact: 06-46741
Outside of Italy: 011-39-06-46741
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How to Visit the Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica in 2023
Julie Last updated: November 19, 2023 Italy 19 Comments
If you are planning your first trip to Rome, then most likely a visit to Vatican City is on your to-do list. In this guide, we cover what you need to know about how to visit the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, including what to do when you are here, the best time of day to plan your visit, and whether or not it is worth it to take a tour.
Planning a visit to the Vatican may sound complicated. With multiple places to visit within Vatican City, multiple tickets to purchase, and tales of long lines and massive crowds, you may be wondering what is the best way to visit Vatican City and actually enjoy your visit.
With proper planning, you can avoid the long ticket lines and have a great experience at the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We will also let you know about several “secret” rooms within the Vatican Museums . These special rooms are pricey additions to a standard tour of the Vatican but worth it for those who want to go deeper into the Vatican Museums and see some places that other visitors skip (and most likely don’t even know about).
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Interesting Facts about Vatican City
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. In 1929, it became independent from Italy by the signing of the Lateran Treaty. It is only 49 hectares (121 acres) with a population of just under 500 people. This city state is ruled by the Pope.
Note: Even though Vatican City is a separate country, you do not need to bring your passport.
There are three big sites to visit in Vatican City: the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
On a visit to Vatican City, you will visit these sites as two different sections. The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are visited on one ticket. You will enter the Sistine Chapel through the Vatican Museums, so if you only want to see the Sistine Chapel, you will have to walk through the Vatican Museums first.
St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square is the second area you will visit. It is free to enter St. Peter’s Basilica but there is a line to get through security, and from mid-morning through mid-afternoon, this line can be enormous.
In St. Peter’s Basilica, you have the option to climb to the dome for an additional fee. This is worth it and you get one of the best views of Rome from the top of the dome.
How to Visit Vatican City
We are breaking up Vatican City into two different sections: the Vatican Museums (which includes the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica. These each have their own entrance ticket and security line. You can visit them together on the same day or on two separate days. It may sound odd to break them up into two different days, but there are some advantages to doing this, which we will get to later.
Before diving into things to do at each area, there are a few important things to know first:
Audience with the Pope: Every Wednesday morning, if the Pope is in town, he will hold an audience in St. Peter’s Square, starting at 9:30 am. On Wednesdays, St. Peter’s Basilica does not open until 12:30 pm. The Vatican Museums tend to be less crowded on Wednesday mornings as well, according to our guide.
St. Peter’s Basilica: It is free to enter St. Peter’s Basilica so you do not need a ticket. However, you will go through security to enter the basilica and this queue can be very long, with waiting times over an hour. Go early in the morning or late in the day to avoid this long wait.
Getting from Vatican City to St. Peter’s Basilica: To get from Vatican City to St. Peter’s Basilica, you will have to exit the Vatican Museums and walk 20 minutes to St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a short cut from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, but this is reserved for select tour groups. If you take one of these select tours, it can save you a LOT of time (you will avoid the 20 minute walk plus the wait in line, which can be an hour or longer on some days).
Below is a map of Vatican City with the walking route from the Vatican Museums to St. Peter’s Basilica.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest. If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Things to Do in the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are enormous. These museums display the massive collection of art that was amassed by the Catholic Church. There are 70,000 works of art on display in roughly 2,000 rooms of this maze of a museum. It would take years to see everything here.
On a visit to the Vatican Museums, there are a few notable rooms and statues to see, as well as the Sistine Chapel.
For the best experience, we recommend taking a tour. On our first visit here, we wandered around on our own and got very little out of the experience. More recently, we took a tour and it was well worth it.
Tim and I took an early morning tour, which allows you to see at least some of the rooms with low crowds. Plus, with a knowledgeable guide, you learn a lot about the history and artwork.
We will get into recommended tours later in this guide, but first, here are the main things to see in the Vatican Museums, plus a few “secret” rooms you can add on to your visit.
Entry into the Vatican Museums
The entrance into the Vatican Museums is on the north side of the museums, on Viale Vaticano. Here is the spot on Google Maps.
Some tours meet across the street from this spot, but you should double check this when you book your tour.
Make sure you book your tickets in advance or are on some sort of tour. The ticket line to enter the Vatican Museums can be enormous…up to a 3 hour wait at the busiest times. If you can’t make your reservation in advance, for example tickets are sold out on the day you want to visit, then you can purchase an entry ticket on GetYourGuide.
You will enter the Vatican Museums, go through security, and if you have a large bag or backpack, you will have to put it in a locker. Show your ticket and then enter the museums. You will ride an escalator or walk the top of the spiral walkway to the main level.
This list of things to do in Vatican Museum is located in order, as you will see them on the one-way walking route through the museums. You will follow the signs from room to room until you reach the Sistine Chapel.
In its 18 rooms, the Pinacoteca displays artworks by Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio, and Perugino and many other artists. It is accessible from the hallway at the top of the escalator and the Pinecone Courtyard.
This is optional. Some tours include it, some don’t. There is so much to see in the Vatican Museums and this section of the museum is only worth it for those with lots of time and a big interest in art.
Pinecone Courtyard (Pigna Courtyard)
The entrance to the Pinecone Courtyard is near the top of the escalator. There are a few things to see here, including the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the sculpture of the “Sphere with Sphere” by Arnaldo Pomodoro, and the bronze pinecone that gives this courtyard its name. Michelangelo designed the steps that lead up to the pinecone.
Pinecone Courtyard | How to visit the Vatican Museums
“Sphere with Sphere” by Arnaldo Pomodoro
The bronze pinecone
Hall of Statues
From the Pinecone Courtyard, enter the museums. If you are looking at the bronze pinecone, the entrance into the museums is up the stairs to your right. Once inside, look to your right down the very long hall filled with statues and busts. Don’t spend too much time here because there are many better things to see.
Hall of Statues | How to visit the Vatican Museums
In this open courtyard sits some of the most important sculptures in the Vatican Museums.
The Laocoön Group is a sculpture of a Trojan priest and his two sons that were attacked by serpents. This artwork dates back to the first century AD.
More statues sit around the courtyard as well as one of the baths from ancient times.
Ancient bath in the Octagonal Courtyard | How to visit the Vatican Museums
Room of the Animals
This room is usually closed off, but you can still see the artwork from behind the rope. The name gives it away, but the Room of the Animals is filled with exquisitely carved statues of various animals.
Room of the Animals | How to visit the Vatican Museums
Cabinet of Masks
The Cabinet of Masks is an add-on to a standard ticket into the Vatican Museums and can only be visited with a guide. Sometimes it is referred to as the Vatican’s “secret chamber.”
To get here, you will walk through the Room of the Animals and past the Gallery of Statues.
The Cabinet of Masks is a small room that contains several very important sculptures and historic pieces. On the floor is a tiled mosaic from the villa of Emperor Hadrian in Tripoli. You can see the painting of the “Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne” and sculptures of Paris and Venus.
Cabinet of Masks | How to visit the Vatican Museums
The mosaic floor from Hadrian’s Villa
It may seem a little out of place, but you can also see what is called the “Dung Chair.” This rose marble chair has a hole in the center of it. Legend has it that it was used to assess whether the newly elected pope was male or female. The pope would sit on this chair and undergo an examination.
The Dung Chair
Before you go, take a look outside through the window. You look out to a terrace and can see a portion of the Rome skyline.
Cabinet of Masks Terrace
Gallery of Statues
This beautiful room is another “secret room” in the Vatican. It is filled with sculptures, baths from ancient times, and has an elaborately painted ceiling. You can see this room as you walk from the Room of the Animals to the Cabinet of Masks, if you included the Cabinet of Masks on your tour of the Vatican.
Gallery of Statues | How to visit the Vatican Museums
The Belvedere Torso
The Belvedere Torso is in the Room of the Muses, which you will enter after walking past the Room of the Animals. This statue is important in that it had a big influence on Michelangelo’s art and the muscularity of the men in his statues and paintings.
Belvedere Torso | How to visit the Vatican Museums
The Round Room
Sitting in the center of the Round Room is Nero’s bathtub, which stood in his golden house, also called the Domus Aurea. The Domus Aurea is in Rome and can be visited on a tour.
Galleria della Candelabra
After passing through a few more rooms, you will walk up a flight of stairs and come to the Galleria della Candelabra. This was once an open terrace that was lit with candles. It was enclosed in the 18th century. The floor and ceiling are beautiful.
Galleria della Candelabra | How to visit the Vatican Museums
Gallery of the Tapestries
Galleria della Candelabra leads into the Gallery of the Tapestries, a long hallway where the walls are covered with tapestries that tell the story about the life of Urban VIII, the birth of Jesus, the Transfiguration, the Resurrection, and the massacre of the innocents. These tapestries date back to the 1500’s and it took 9 years to complete one tapestry.
One of the tapestries in the Gallery of the Tapestries
Gallery of the Tapestries | How to visit the Vatican Museums
Gallery of the Maps
This is one of the most famous rooms in the Vatican Museums. On the walls are maps commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in the late 1500’s. There are 40 maps on the walls, all maps of Italy with a small portion of southern France. The ceiling was painted in the 1600’s by Giralamo Muziano and Cesare Nebbia.
Gallery of the Maps | How to visit the Vatican Museums
Raphael Rooms or Sistine Chapel?
Once you exit the Gallery of Maps, you have a choice to make. You can go left to visit the Raphael Rooms and then visit the Sistine Chapel. Or you can turn right and immediately go to the Sistine Chapel. But once you visit the Sistine Chapel, you will not be allowed to enter the Raphael Rooms.
The Raphael Rooms are gorgeous and well worth the few extra minutes. These rooms are one of our favorite things to see in the Vatican Museums.
Room of the Immaculate Conception
If you choose to go to the Raphael Rooms, you will first walk through the Room of the Immaculate Conception. The frescoes that cover the walls and ceiling in this room are rather recent, painted in the 19th century by Francesco Podesti. These frescoes portray scenes from the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX.
Room of the Immaculate Conception | How to visit the Vatican Museums
The Raphael Rooms
The Raphael Rooms were the apartments of Julius II. It took Raphael 16 years to paint these rooms, from 1508 to 1520. He died before they were completed, so the paintings were finished by his students.
There are several rooms filled with frescoes, the most famous being the Room of the Segnatura (Stanza della Segnatura). This room eventually became the place where Papal documents were signed, which gives this room its name ( segnatura means signing).
The most important fresco is The School of Athens. Plato and Aristotle are searching for truth. Plato, the man with the orange robe who is carrying a book, was painted with the face of Leonardo da Vinci.
The School of Athens | How to visit the Vatican Museums
As you walk through the remaining rooms, you will see more paintings, including The Fire in the Borgo and The Battle of Ostia.
The Fire in the Borgo | How to visit the Vatican Museums
The Sistine Chapel
To get from the Raphael Rooms to the Sistine Chapel, you will walk through the Borgio Apartments and the Museum of Modern Art.
The Sistine Chapel was built between 1473 and 1481. It gets its name because it was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV. When it was completed, the ceiling was painted blue and covered with stars.
The frescoes on the walls were painted by Botticelli, Perugino, and other famous artists. They are Renaissance masterpieces, but Michelangelo would later come and steal the show by painting the ceiling.
In 1508, Michelangelo began painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Until this time, he had only been a sculptor with no real experience painting frescoes. It took him four years to complete the ceiling and has become one of the most important Renaissance artworks. He also returned to paint The Last Judgement, a fresco on the wall behind the altar.
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel | Sergii Figurnyi/shutterstock.com
Photos are not allowed inside of the Sistine Chapel (we purchased the photo above from shutterstock.com ). This is strictly enforced. You are also not permitted to speak while in this room. It can be hot and crowded. If you take an early morning tour, you will get this experience with fewer people, which makes it much more pleasant (we’ve been here when it was wall to wall people and with just a few other visitors).
PRO TRAVEL TIP: On our most recent visit, we took an early morning tour of the Vatican Museums. We had the option to go right to the Sistine Chapel first, to see it with just a few people. Our guide said that wasn’t worth it…it’s better to tour the other rooms with lower crowds than to see the Sistine Chapel right at opening time. In the Sistine Chapel, most of the time you are looking up, and since you can’t take photos, there’s no rush to get here from a photography standpoint. We visited the Sistine Chapel at 10 pm and there were a handful of people here, but it did not feel overly crowded.
Exiting the Sistine Chapel
There is a door that leads to a passageway that connects the Sistine Chapel directly to St. Peter’s Basilica. Only certain tour groups are allowed to take this exit.
The main exit leads you to a long hallway that takes you back towards the entrance of the Vatican Museums. You will collect your things, if you put anything into storage, and then exit the Vatican Museums. You will walk down the modern Bramante Staircase, which is a double helix ramp and one of the most photographed places within the Vatican Museums.
Our photo was taken first thing in the morning, at the start of our early morning Vatican tour.
The modern Bramante Staircase
The Bramante Staircase
The original Bramante Staircase was built in 1505 by Donato Bramante as a double helix. Its purpose was to allow people and animals to ascend to the Belvedere palace of Pope Innocent VIII.
The design of the modern staircase, which is also a double helix and how visitors exit the museum, was inspired by the original Bramante Staircase.
It is believed that Michelangelo lived in the room at the top of the these stairs.
The original Bramante Staircase
Seeing the Bramante Staircase can only be done with a guide and is limited to just a few people per day. It’s also a very pricey add-on to the Vatican Museums (about €350 per person).
We did this to get the full experience of the Vatican Museums, and to be able to write this guide. Paying that kind of money to see just one sight within the Vatican Museums is not something many people would consider doing. However, it is one of the most interesting things that we saw in the Vatican, we were the only ones here, and could walk up and down the ramp and take as many photos as we liked.
Here are a few more photos.
You also get a nice view of Rome while visiting the Bramante Staircase.
About the Tour We Took
We booked the Private Morning Vatican Tour with Secret Room by LivItaly Tours (€500) and added on the Bramante Staircase (€350). To do this, we spent a huge amount of money, €850, and prices have gone up since we did this in 2022 (I believe now it costs about €925). We also paid full price for this tour. We don’t ask for discounts and don’t make it known that we run this travel website, so we can get the same experience as everyone else.
Most people wouldn’t consider spending this amount of money to tour the Vatican. Mainly we did it so we could write this guide to the Vatican Museums.
And for most people, I don’t think it’s worth it. You really have to have an interest in the Bramante Staircase and the Cabinet of Masks for this to be worth what you pay.
This tour only included the Vatican Museums and it lasted about 4 hours (from 7:30 am to 11:30 am).
However, an early morning tour is absolutely worth it. Our first visit to the Vatican Museums was midday in July. This place was mobbed. We couldn’t wait to get out of the museums and did not enjoy our visit. On an early morning tour there are far fewer people and you get a much better experience.
LivItaly runs awesome tours in Rome. If you like the idea of adding on the Cabinet of Masks, take a look at their Morning Vatican Tour with Secret Room that costs €140 per person.
If you want to take an early morning tour, but without the secret rooms, this tour with LivItaly uses the tunnel between the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, which saves you a lot of time.
Getting from the Vatican Museums to St. Peter’s Square
From the exit of the Vatican Museums to St. Peter’s Square, it is a 1 km walk that takes about 15 minutes. You will walk around the outskirts of Vatican City and then enter St. Peter’s Square.
If you are hungry, Alice Pizza is just a very short detour off of this walking route. You can get pizza al taglio. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and the pizza is great. Our Vatican Museums guide recommended this restaurant to us and it was a perfect, quick lunch spot. For more recommendations on where to eat in the area, check out our Rome Restaurant Guide. These restaurants are also marked on the map above.
Things to Do at St. Peter’s Basilica
St. peter’s square.
This is the square that sits in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was designed by Bernini between 1656 and 1667.
Sitting in the center of St. Peter’s Square is the Vatican Obelisk, which is an Egyptian obelisk made of red granite, as well as two fountains, the Maderno Fountain and the Bernini Fountain. Flanking the square are 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters.
For the grandest entrance into St. Peter’s Square, walk up Via della Conciliazione.
St. Peter’s Square | How to visit the Vatican
The entrance into St. Peter’s Basilica is located on this square (to the right of the basilica). You can enter the basilica as early as 7 am. The line generally forms starting at 8 am and by 9 am snakes its way across St. Peter’s Square.
Entering St. Peter’s Basilica
The entrance into St. Peter’s Basilica is on the right side of the square, near the Maderno Fountain. You will go through security, similar to what you do at an airport, at this location.
There is no fast-track or skip-the-line ticket to bypass the security line. Everyone must go through the security check to enter the basilica, whether you are visiting independently or are on a guided tour. However, there are a few select tours that take an underground tunnel from the Vatican Museums directly into St. Peter’s Basilica, like this one, which skips the security line.
St. Peter’s Basilica is open from 7 am to 7 pm. For the shortest wait in line, get here by 8:30 am.
On our visit in September 2022, at 7:30 am, there was a 10-minute wait to get through security and enter the basilica. When we left, at 8:30 am, there was no line and no waiting time. We returned to the area on the same day at 10:30 am. The line was massive and I estimate that people were waiting at least 45 minutes to get through the security check.
Once past the security check, you will walk right into the basilica. Since it is free to visit and you do not need a ticket, there is no line to enter the basilica once past security.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. The inside is awe inspiring. Michelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Donato Bramante all played a part in designing and decorating the basilica. Once inside, there are a few things to make sure you see.
The dome. Modeled after the dome of the Pantheon and Brunelleschi’s dome of the Florence Cathedral , the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Michelangelo. You can climb the dome for views over Rome, and we’ll get to this soon.
The dome and the top of the Baldacchino
The Papal Altar & the Baldacchino. The Papal altar sits below the dome. The Baldacchino is the four-legged structure that covers the Papal altar. It was designed by Bernini. The columns are bronze and then decorated with gold accents.
The Baldacchino | How to visit the Vatican
St. Peter’s Chair. St. Peter’s Chair, also called the Throne of Saint Peter, is a wooden throne that was used by Saint Peter. Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted the ornate bronze casing that surrounds it.
St Peter’s Chair
La Pietà. Michelangelo was only 23 years old when he carved this statue. It is one of the most famous statues in the world and bears his signature across Maria’s chest.
La Pietà | PhotoFires/shutterstock.com
Graves of the Popes. There are several popes that are buried on the main level of the basilica and you can see their graves, including John XXIII and St. John Paul II.
Vatican Grottoes. The grottoes are the Papal tombs that sit underneath of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the final resting place for over 90 popes and dignitaries. You can visit the grottoes independently or on a tour. The grottoes do not open until 9:30 am, but you can enter earlier on special tours. Note: Multiple online sources list the opening at 7 am, even the official website. During our visit here in 2022, the staff member at the entry to the grottoes told us that they do not open until 9:30 am. Keep this in mind if you plan to enter the basilica early in the morning.
Vatican Grottoes Entrance
The Treasury Museum. This museum, which is located inside of the basilica, contains artifacts collected over the centuries, including a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Photos inside of the museum are not allowed and there is a small fee to enter. We did this but only think it is worthwhile for those with an interest in the history of the basilica and Catholic Church.
List of the popes near the entrance into the Treasury Museum
The Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
For one of the most iconic views of Rome, climb to the top of the dome. There are two ways to do this.
- Climb 551 steps to the top of the dome: €8
- Take the elevator to the terrace, climb 320 steps to the top: €10
You can purchase your tickets inside of St. Peter’s Basilica at the ticket kiosk. The dome is open from 8 am to 6 pm April through September and 8 am to 4:45 pm October through March. There can be a line for this as well, so get here early to save time.
The view from the dome | How to visit the Vatican
Audience with the Pope
On Wednesdays at 9:30 am, the Pope holds a general audience in St. Peter’s Square (if he is in Rome). Tickets are free but need to be reserved in advance. Click here for full details.
How to Get to Vatican City
If you have plans to tour the Vatican Museums, take the metro to the Ottaviano station and from here it is a 5-minute walk to the entrance into the museums. You can also take a taxi or Uber to the Vatican Museums entrance.
If you are going to St. Peter’s Square first, take the metro to the Ottaviano station and from here it is a 12-minute walk to St. Peter’s Square. For a more dramatic entrance, take a taxi or Uber to Piazza Pia and walk up Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s Square (about a 10-minute walk).
How Much Does it Cost to visit Vatican City?
Vatican Museums: €17 plus €4 reservation fee
Tours to add on the Cabinet of Masks and the original Bramante Staircase are extra and this exact cost depends on the tour that you take.
There is free entry into the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month (expect larger than normal crowds).
St. Peter’s Basilica: Free
Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: €8 – €10
When are the Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica Open?
Vatican Museums: Monday to Saturday 9 am to 6 pm; Sunday 9 am to 2 pm; the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel can close for special events so check the official website before you go.
St. Peter’s Basilica: October through March 7 am to 6:30 pm; April through September 7 am to 7 pm; on Wednesdays when the Pope is in town, St. Peter’s Basilica does not open until 12:30 pm
Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: October through March 8 am to 4:45 pm; April through September 8 am to 6 pm
Best Time of Day to Visit the Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica
The best time of day to visit the Vatican Museums is early in the morning, ideally on an early morning tour. These early morning tour groups enter the Vatican Museums at 8 am, one hour before general entry begins. This gives you enough time to explore some of the rooms with low crowds and get to the Sistine Chapel before it gets very crowded. Just be aware that there are quite a few early morning tours, so you won’t have the museums all to yourself.
Wednesday mornings are another great time to visit the Vatican Museums. If the Pope is holding an audience in St. Peter’s Square, visitation tends to be lower at the Vatican Museums.
The best time of day to visit St. Peter’s Basilica is in the morning, arriving by 8 am. This avoids the long line to get through security, plus you can be one of the first people to the top of the dome. Late afternoon is another nice time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, but you could have limited time, depending on how late you arrive.
Tours of Vatican City
There are a lot of tours of Vatican City. Some just include the Vatican Museums and others include both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you only need an entrance ticket into the Vatican Museums, you can buy one via GetYourGuide. This has the advantage of being able to cancel your reservation up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund.
This early morning small group tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica gets great reviews and uses the same tour group we used (LivItaly Tours).
LivItaly also offers an exclusive nighttime tour of the Vatican Museums.
This very highly rated tour includes the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica.
On this tour, visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
What We Did
We have visited Vatican City three times.
The first time was during the month of July. We had tickets to enter the Vatican Museums, so we skipped the line, but inside, we faced the largest crowds we have probably seen in a museum. It was wall-to-wall people. Tyler and Kara were kids at the time and counting down the minutes until we could exit the museums. That afternoon, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica, and since it was later in the day, had low crowds and a fantastic experience.
Our second visit was in September 2022. On one morning, Tim and I visited St. Peter’s Basilica, getting here at 7:30 am. Crowds were very low and again, we had a great experience at the Basilica.
On the following day, we took an early morning private tour of the Vatican Museums. It was awesome, not only to have lighter crowds this time of day, but to also tour the museums with a guide. There is a lot to see and you won’t get much out of your visit if you wander around without a guide. At least consider getting the audio guide but a tour guide is even better.
We split our visit into two separate days, to visit both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica early in the morning. It may seem like a hassle to get to this area twice, but it’s the best way to tour both places with fewer people.
St Peter’s Basilica
Helpful Tips for Visiting the Vatican Museums
Purchase your Vatican Museums ticket online in advance. To avoid waiting in an extremely long ticket line, purchase your ticket online in advance . If tickets are sold out, then purchase your ticket though GetYourGuide.
Beware of people selling skip-the-line tickets into St. Peter’s Basilica. You’ll see these guys in St. Peter’s Square and along Via della Conciliazione. These are just overpriced tours of the Vatican Museum that also include St. Peter’s Basilica.
Dress Code. Cover your knees and shoulders. This goes for men and for women. You could get turned away if you are not wearing appropriate clothing.
Beware of pickpockets. With big crowds comes the possibility of pickpocketing. While walking through the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, beware of pickpockets.
Wednesdays can be good or bad, depending on what you want to get out of this experience. Crowds are light in the Vatican Museums when the Pope holds an audience. But you will not be able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica until 12:30 pm, so it could make your visit to Vatican City longer.
Consider splitting your visit into two separate days. To visit both St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums first thing in the morning, split your visit into two days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a guide for the Vatican Museums?
No, you do not need a guide and you do not need to take a tour of the Vatican Museums. You can visit the museums independently and have the option to use the audio guide.
Should you take a tour of Vatican City?
Tours offer several advantages over visiting Vatican City on your own. With a guide, you will learn about the various rooms, artwork, and the history of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica with a knowledgeable guide. Some tours give you early morning access, to stay ahead of the crowds, or include secret rooms within the Vatican Museums. To get the most out of your visit, a tour of Vatican City is worth it.
What is the best day of the week to visit the Vatican Museums?
Wednesday mornings, when the Pope holds an audience in St. Peter’s Square, is the best time to tour the Vatican Museums, since they are less crowded during this time.
Can you go directly from the Vatican Museums into St. Peter’s Basilica?
There is a tunnel between the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica but only select tours can do this. If you are not on a tour, you will have to exit the museums and walk about 20 minutes to St. Peter’s Square.
Is the Sistine Chapel worth it?
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most important pieces of Renaissance artwork. The ceiling was painted by Michelangelo and the frescoes that cover the walls were painted by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rosselli, and other famous Renaissance painters. A visit to the Sistine Chapel is worth it, even if you aren’t a big art aficionado. Just be prepared for large crowds, because this is one of the most popular places to visit in Vatican City.
More Information for Your Trip to Rome
For a full list of things to do in Rome, check out our article Best Things to Do in Rome. For the best viewpoints of Rome’s famous landmarks, take a look at our article Best Views of Rome.
Learn how to plan your time with our One Day in Rome Itinerary , 2 Day Rome Itinerary, 3 Day Rome Itinerary and 4 Day Rome Itinerary.
In our article How to Visit the Colosseum, we cover everything you need to know, from ticket types, things to do at the Colosseum, if a guided tour is worth it, how much it will cost and how to have the best experience.
For advice on where to eat, read our guide about Where to Eat in Rome, that has restaurant recommendations near the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the historic heart of Rome, plus some great rooftop restaurants. We also have a guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.
Get recommendations on where to stay in Rome in our Rome Hotel Guide.
If you have any questions about how to visit the Vatican Museums or St. Peter’s Basilica, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice and a 10 day southern Italy itinerary that includes the Amalfi Coast, Matera and Puglia.
VENICE: Learn more about Venice in our article Best Things to Do in Venice. We also have guides about How to Visit St. Mark’s Basilica, where to get the Best Views of Venice, and how to spend Two Days in Venice.
FLORENCE: If you are planning your first visit to Florence, don’t miss our guide to the 10 Best Things to Do in Florence. We also have a guide about how to visit the Florence Cathedral and related sites, the best rooftop bars in Florence and the best viewpoints in Florence.
TUSCAN HILL TOWNS: Check out our detailed guides to Siena , Montepulciano , Pienza , Montalcino , San Quirico d’Orcia , San Gimignano , Monteriggioni , Lucca , Volterra , Arezzo, and Cortona. For a full list of things to do, read our article Best Things to Do in Tuscany.
PUGLIA: Read about 15 beautiful places to visit in Puglia and the best things to do in Alberobello. We also have a guide to the best things to do on the Gargano Peninsula and how to spend one day in Vieste.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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I have a photography lighting question for the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome. It seems like the standard advice is to do the dome climb early in the morning, but wouldn’t the view of Rome be very backlit in the morning? It seems like your “The view from the dome” photo was taken in the afternoon. Do you have a photo from your morning visit? I’m going in November, so I don’t think the sun will be very high by 8:30am-ish. Thank you!
Yes, you are correct, our photo was taken mid-afternoon in July, from our first visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. In the morning, you will be looking towards the sun (you will be facing directly east). On our most recent visit, we did not climb the dome, since we had already done that in the past. But having been to St. Peter’s Basilica and Square in the morning, the sun is shining from the east, so I don’t think the morning would be a good time for photos from the dome. Later that morning (about 10 am) I took photos from Castel Sant’Angelo and my east facing photos were terrible. Cheers, Julie
Thank you for your insight! I have one more question about doing the St. Peter’s dome climb on a Sunday. I previously assumed that Sunday would be a bad time to visit due to religious events/crowds, but now that I think about it, I only hear about avoiding Wednesday mornings. Do you see any issues with attempting to visit St. Peter’s on a Sunday morning?
To add to my confusion, the official website for the Basilica does not mention the Basilica nor the dome being closed on Wednesday mornings. I wouldn’t have known to avoid Wednesdays if I just looked at the official website.
As far as I know, and from everything I’ve read online, St. Peter’s Basilica remains open on Sunday mornings (our visits were on weekdays), so I don’t see any potential issues visiting at this time. But yes, Wednesdays can be bad, but only when the Pope holds mass and is in town, and that schedule may be released for the next month or two, just to double check if it will have an impact on your visit. Cheers, Julie
Thank you for sharing such valuable information with the online world! I’m building our whole visit on your itineraries and tips. What I wonder, however, are the links to GetYourGuide website. Each link brings me to the general page for Rome, but nothing specific. I would really like to book a tour that you did! Thank you!
The tour that we did was a private tour through LivItaly and we added on the Cabinet of Masks and the Bramante Staircase. It cost us about 975 euros per person, which is a huge fee, but we paid that in order to visit the “secret rooms” of the Vatican to write this guide. I don’t think that’s worth it for most people, but you can look around on the LivItaly website or use this GetYourGuide link to a small group early morning tour with LivItaly which is a similar experience at a much more reasonable price, just without the special rooms. Cheers, Julie
We want to see the Vatican Museums, Sistene Chapel and St Peter’s on a tour BUT want to make sure we end up at the Vatican gift shop before exiting.
Any suggestions? Thank you!
If you take the tunnel from the Vatican Museums to St. Peters you might not see the gift shop. If this is the case, let your guide know at the start of the tour and maybe they can help you add this in. But if you exit the Vatican Museums at the main exit (onto the street) you will go past the gift shop, if I remember correctly. Cheers, Julie
Thank you for such an informative guide! Can you please confirm this is the tour you recommend with the tunnel b/w Vatican Museum and St. Basilica: ‘Vatican Early Entrance Skip-the-Line Small Group Tour’ (by LivItalyTour with 46 reviews). The link takes me to getyourguide Vatican tours general page, and I wanted to make sure I’ve selected the correct tour. Thank you!
That link is to the small group early morning tour of the Vatican by LivItaly that we highly recommend. However, we did a different tour, in order to be able to write this guide. We took a private early morning tour by LivItaly and included the Bramante Staircase and the Cabinet of Masks. This private tour runs about 450 euros per person and the Staircase and Cabinet of Masks are additional charges (for a total of 920 euros per person). This can only be booked on the Liv Italy website and here is the link. We did it to be able to write this guide but ordinarily wouldn’t pay that much for a tour, and most people wouldn’t either, since it is very expensive. However, the link that you are referring to is a more affordable option of what we did. It’s a small group tour, so the price is a lot cheaper, but it’s with the same tour company (which is fantastic) and you get the early entrance. But you won’t see the Bramante Staircase and Cabinet of Masks unless you pay the money for the private tour and additional rooms. Cheers, Julie
That makes a lot of sense – thank you!
Your guides are always so helpful! I’ve never used ‘ get your guide’ before… from the link you shared, from the overview I dont see ‘tunnel included’ but should I assume if it covers ” ROME: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & Basilica Tour” that it includes the tunnel? Also trying to understand, there are 2 separate lines, one for tickets and one for security check & even if you have a ticket for a tour, you still have to wait in security check line, correct? For my current itinerary I’m thinking an afternoon tour might be easier for us, but I also don’t want to waste hours in lines if possible
Hello Aimee. Yes, there will be two separate lines. If you have a ticket, you will skip the ticket line but still have to go through the security line. In general, the security line isn’t too bad in most cases. As for the tunnel, check the “Full Description” of the tour you are looking at to see if it includes the tunnel. Unfortunately, in some cases, even this isn’t clear. For example, for the early morning tour we took , there is a statement that the tunnel is not yet open. However, I reached out directly to this tour company in February and they confirmed that the tunnel is open, so the GetYourGuide text has not yet been updated. If you want to play it safe, took a look at the tours on the LivItaly website and potentially make your reservation there, plus you can send them an email with any questions you have and they tend to respond quickly. Cheers, Julie
If we plan a tour on a Wednesday it sounds as though we would have to do Vatican museums first, then St. Peter’s Basilica. Early morning is not an option on those days, correct? Or is the Pope not always doing audiences on Wednesday- would the LivItaly tour options reflect that ?
You can do an early tour of the Vatican Museums on Wednesday (that’s when we toured the Museums, as they are generally less crowded that day) but you will not be able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica until the afternoon. We returned to the area on a different morning to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s a bit of a hassle, getting there twice in one week, but this allowed us to do both the museums and the basilica in the morning. If you don’t want to do it that way, have lunch nearby after you tour the museums, and then visit St. Peter’s Basilica that afternoon. There may be a line, I’m not sure how long it would be, and that would also depend on the time of the year. And also, the Pope does not hold an audience every Wednesday, so you can check the schedule using the link we provide in this guide. Cheers, Julie
Can you tell me any of the history of the Corredor between the Sistine chapel and St. Peter’s Square? I’ve scoured the Internet and all I can find is that it used to be reserved for the use of the popes. My tour guide took us through this short cut And I wanted to know more about it but I can’t find anything on the Internet. Thank you so much!
From what I know, it was a shortcut to be used to get from the Sistine Chapel/Vatican Museums into St. Peter’s Basilica. I don’t know if it has any other historical importance other than that. The corridor wasn’t open during our visit (it closed to tourists for a few years after COVID and just reopened right after our visit) so we never heard the history about it from our guide. Cheers, Julie
This is fabulous summary with very relevant details that answered so many of my questions. I appreciate your time in putting all of this together in one place!
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Despite being a religious state, Vatican City isn’t exclusively for followers of the Catholic faith. In fact, this small country offers a treasure trove of historic buildings and a rich cultural heritage that will captivate tourists and art enthusiasts alike.
Situated right in the heart of Rome, the Vatican is a foreign state with some strict entry rules, and due to its popularity, it remains bustling with visitors all year round.
The Vatican City: the Smallest Country in The World
The Vatican isn’t just the smallest country in the world. This tiny State, with a population of less than 500 inhabitants, is renowned as the famous headquarters of the Catholic religion and the home of the Pope.
You have two options to explore the Vatican: you can visit it during a self-guided tour or join a guided tour of the Vatican. Personally, I’d recommend the latter, even if you happen to be a permanent resident of Rome. And now, let me explain why.
Are Guided Tours of the Vatican Worth it?
In a nutshell… yes. While it’s possible to explore the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica on your own, a guided tour can truly make a difference.
Why Opt for a Vatican Guided Tour
- A guided tour typically covers all the main attractions of the Vatican in a well-organised single tour of a few hours.
- The Vatican Museums are truly vast and filled with exquisite artworks. In fact, they’re so extensive that attempting to visit them independently can be overwhelming. With a guided tour, you can focus on the essential highlights without running the risk of getting tired before you’re even halfway through the visit.
- Even with a skip-the-line tour, queues for the Vatican Museums can be incredibly long. Choosing a guided tour with authorised tour operators can be a smart solution, as it grants you access through partner-exclusive entrances.
- Exploring the Vatican with professional guides allows you to discover fascinating anecdotes and insights that you wouldn’t come across during a self-guided visit.
Types of Vatican Tours
There are several options for visiting the Vatican. Let’s explore them.
Guided Tours of the Vatican
As I mentioned earlier, a guided tour is definitely the best way to make the most of your visit to the Vatican. I’ve tried visiting the Vatican on my own multiple times, and having an expert guide by your side can truly make a difference. These tours usually start at a meeting point in the area.
Group Tours of the Vatican
This is the most common type of tour. Many tour operators offer tours in small groups, so following your guide and moving around the Vatican Museums is not complicated at all. Besides, if you ever feel like breaking away from the group, you can always rejoin them and continue at your own pace.
Private Tours of the Vatican
This is a decidedly luxury option. The price of a private Vatican tour is higher than a group tour. The advantages? You’ll have the guide entirely at your disposal. Moreover, many private Vatican tours include pick-up and drop-off at your hotel or apartment.
Vatican Early Opening Tours
Among the various guided tours, both private and group, there are some that grant access to the Vatican Museums at their early opening. As I’ve mentioned before, the Vatican is one of the major tourist attractions in Rome, and there’s often a very long queue to get in.
So, if you want to see them without the typical crowd that fills them, I recommend booking one of the Vatican’s early opening tours. You’ll literally be the first to step inside the Museums and the Sistine Chapel, and your visit will have a whole different feel.
Self-guided Tours of the Vatican
If you’re on a budget, you can still visit the Vatican by purchasing an entrance ticket to the Vatican Museums without a guide. However, this option may entail waiting in line at the entrance for as long as 3 or 4 hours. The same goes if you decide to visit only St. Peter’s Basilica, which doesn’t require an entrance ticket.
Skip-The-Line Tours of the Vatican
Let me tell you: skip-the-line tickets for the Vatican are worth every penny of their price.
In the past, I worked for a tour operator, and for work-related reasons, I visited the Vatican several times with a skip-the-line service. I can assure you that if you choose the right tour operator, you won’t even wait for 5 minutes at the entrance. You’ll bypass the long queue that starts from Via Leone IV and goes all the way to the Vatican ticket office. And you’ll thank me for recommending this type of tour.
After-Hours Tours of the Vatican
From April to October, the Vatican stays open on Friday evenings. So, if you wish, you can opt for one of the enchanting evening tours of the Vatican offered by tour operators. Not only will you see the Vatican in a completely different light, but you’ll also avoid sightseeing during the hottest hours of the day.
Tours of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo is a delightful town on the shores of its namesake lake, located about 24 kilometres southeast of Rome. It’s been the summer retreat for the Pope for centuries.
And now, you have the fantastic opportunity to join a tour of the Pontifical Villas, where you can travel to Castel Gandolfo and explore the beautiful gardens and historic residences that belong to the Vatican, just outside the confines of Vatican City itself.
These tours are typically available during the summer months, and you can easily reach Castel Gandolfo by train from the Vatican Museums. Once there, you’ll be guided through the extensive gardens and the Apostolic Palace, which serves as the official residence for the Pope during his stay at Castel Gandolfo.
Major Attractions in Vatican City
There’s so much to see within Vatican City, and it’s an incredible place to explore.
What to See Inside St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica , you’ll have the chance to visit:
- Bernini ‘s stunning colonnade in St. Peter’s Square
- The magnificent Baldacchino, a work of art by both Bernini and Borromini
- Michelangelo’s breathtaking Pietà , located in the right nave of the Basilica
- The lid of Emperor Hadrian’s sarcophagus
- The tomb of Pope Alexander VII, crafted by Bernini
- Michelangelo ‘s iconic Dome
- The Vatican Grottoes: the final resting place of the Popes and St. Peter himself.
What to See Inside the Vatican Museums
Now, when you venture into the Vatican Museums, make sure you don’t miss out on these incredible sights:
- The Tapestry Room, filled with intricate and awe-inspiring tapestries
- The Pinacoteca, which houses masterpieces by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, the Perugino, and Caravaggio
- The Pio-Clementino Museum, dedicated to statuary, where you’ll find the impressive Laocoön sculpture group
- The Gallery of Maps
- Raffaello’s Rooms, including the famous ‘School of Athens’ fresco
- The magnificent Spiral Staircase
- The Sistine Chapel
- the Vatican Museum Gardens
Time Needed to Tour the Vatican
Most guided tours at the Vatican run for a standard 2 to 3 hours, giving you an overview of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica. These tours usually start early in the morning or early in the afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the place.
Of course, nothing is stopping you from entering the Museums when they first open and spending the entire day delving into the wonderful art collections they hold.
Dress Code for the Vatican
The Vatican is a religious site, and although it attracts many tourists, it does have a conservative dress code. It’s really important to respect this dress code if you want to be allowed entry. Many foreign visitors are disappointed each year when they’re turned away due to inappropriate attire, and I don’t want you to be one of these.
To enter the Vatican, it’s important to:
- Avoid short skirts and shorts
- Cover your shoulders and arms
- Steer clear of plunging necklines and cropped tops
- Remove hats before entering
- Wear anything that might offend Catholic morals or decency
- Cover any tattoos you might have
I know it gets scorching hot in Rome during the summer, but it’s crucial to adhere to these rules. My advice for the hot months is to wear a long dress or lightweight suit, or perhaps bring a light jacket to cover your arms and shoulders before entering. You can show off your sexiest outfit after you’ve completed the visit.
Tip: By dressing respectfully, you’ll ensure a smooth visit to the Vatican and demonstrate your appreciation for the sacredness of the place.
Tips For a Great Vatican Experience
And here we are at the end of this guide to Vatican tours. I’ll share a few extra tips that might come in handy in addition to what’s already been mentioned.
- Make sure to visit the Vatican early in the day – you can’t imagine how crowded it can get.
- Only book guided tours from professional authorised tour operators.
- Always double-check the opening times, especially around religious dates and events throughout the year.
- Purchase your ticket several weeks in advance, as they often sell out quickly.
- Upon entering the Vatican, you’ll go through a security check with a metal detector, similar to airport security. Be sure to read the rules on the official Vatican website . Among other things, you can’t bring knives, scissors, umbrellas, or cameras with you, and even things like tripods and selfie sticks are not allowed.
- Once inside the Sistine Chapel, remember not to take any photos or videos – it’s strictly prohibited, and the security personnel may ask you to delete any shots you’ve taken in front of them.
- Accessing the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel requires payment, but on the last Sunday of each month, you can enjoy free admission to both the museums and the Vatican Gardens from opening until 12:30 PM. Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica alone is, instead, always free, so you can still marvel at its grandeur without any cost. Happy exploring.
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Vatican: Tips, Tricks + FAQ!
Planning a trip to Vatican City and not quite sure where to start? Home to several incredible sights, a strict dress code, some of the most famous works of art on the planet, and enormous crowds, visiting the Vatican for the first time can be a bit overwhelming.
In other words, visiting the Vatican packs quite the punch considering that Vatican City is the smallest country in the world!
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Vatican, from the best way to enjoy the museums to when to go to exactly what to wear.
Table of Contents
What to See When Visiting the Vatican
Important tips for visiting the vatican museums, should you take a vatican museums tour, all about visiting st. peter’s basilica, how to get to vatican city, faq about visiting vatican city.
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When visitors talk about visiting the Vatican, they’re most commonly referring to visiting the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, but visiting Vatican City can easily extend beyond those popular sights.
Here are the parts of Vatican City to consider when planning your visit, from the incredibly popular to the fairly niche.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is the easiest part of the Vatican to visit–you can simply walk in and admire the beautiful oval square and exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica without any advance planning.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are home to some of the most incredible works of art in the entire world, including Raphael’s most famous frescoes and the Sistine Chapel.
You will need a ticket or tour to visit, and when people talk about how long the lines are to get into the Vatican, they’re most commonly referring to the lines for the museums–we’ll cover more on that in the next section of this Vatican City blog post.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel, with its magnificent ceiling painted by Michelangelo, is one of the most well-known houses of worship on the planet.
It is accessed through the Vatican Museums and cannot be visited separately.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church on the planet, and a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture (Michelangelo and Bernini both contributed to its design).
It is free to visit, but you will need to pass through a security checkpoint to enter, and the lines for that can get very long.
You can also visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (unlike visiting the basilica itself, climbing the dome does require a ticket–more on that below), and from there you can admire incredible views of St. Peter’s Square.
The Vatican Necropolis (or “scavi”) lies below St. Peter’s Basilica–and even below the “grotto” area that is also under St. Peter’s Basilica.
This area was a cemetery dating back to the first century, and, most importantly to Christian history, it is the presumed resting place of St. Peter himself.
Tours are required and absolutely must be booked in advance. If you’d like to tour directly with the Vatican, there are directions for how to email them (yep, it’s done by email!) here .
Alternatively, this well-reviewed tour will allow you to visit the Vatican Necropolis and is much more straightforward to arrange.
Check availability and book your Vatican Necropolis tour today!
The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens are beautiful and exclusive–only a handful of reservations are accepted per day (so like the Necropolis, you absolutely must plan ahead), and therefore they are never crowded.
Like the Vatican Necropolis, the Vatican Gardens must be visited as part of a tour like this .
Book your Vatican Gardens tour today!
When the Pope is at home in Vatican City, he gives an audience each Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square that is open to anyone who would like to join.
Tickets are free but must be booked in advance .
The Vatican Museums house the largest private art collection in the world–and despite the enormous amount of art and historical artifacts displayed, only the tiniest sliver of the complete collection is on display to the public!
Beautiful, overwhelming, and one of the most highly sought-after art museums in the world, visiting the Vatican Museums can be a bit of an intense experience.
Here’s what to know before you go.
Don’t rush to the Sistine Chapel.
I know on our first visit to the Vatican Museums, we were highly anticipating the Sistine Chapel and always hoping it was coming up soon… but it’s one of the last things you see, so be sure to appreciate everything along the way!
Plan to spend at least two hours in the museums.
Three is even better, but it is hard to visit the Vatican Museums in less than two hours without simply making a beeline for the Sistine Chapel and not paying attention to much else.
Once you add in time to get there, security checks, potentially waiting in line, and maybe visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square, it’s best to consider visiting the Vatican at least a half-day commitment if you’re going to be touring the museums.
Strongly consider booking a guided tour.
Guided tours add so much context to a Vatican Museums visit, and offer the opportunity to learn so much about the history of the art in the museums. They also make visiting the Vatican far less stressful from start to finish.
We’ve visited the Vatican Museums both independently and with a guided tour, and after experiencing both, strongly recommend a tour.
This is the tour we took and loved, and this is another great option .
Book your Vatican Museums tour today!
… and at the very least, absolutely book skip-the-line tickets.
Absolutely don’t want to take a Vatican Museums tour, or just don’t have the budget for it?
That’s completely understandable. In that case, we recommend booking skip-the-line tickets (ideally these early-access ones , but skip-the-line tickets for the normal operating hours are very helpful as well).
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the lines to access the Vatican Museums are the worst we have ever seen at any museum in the world.
During one of our longer trips to Rome, we stayed just beyond the Vatican Museums for a solid month and walked past the line for the museums almost every day–and as mid-October turned into mid-November, the lines remained incredibly overwhelming.
Grab your first-access skip-the-line tickets or general admission skip-the-line tickets for the Vatican Museums now!
Keep in mind alternative hours.
The typical opening hours for the Vatican Museums are Monday – Saturday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (with the last entry at 4:00 PM).
However, there are a few ways to access the Vatican Museums outside these hours if you’d like to mix up your visit!
Early Morning VIP Entry
With early-morning entry, either via pre-booked tickets for an independent visit or via a tour, you can enter the Vatican Museums as early as 7:30 AM, therefore avoiding the worst of the crowds (and during warm weather, the worst of the heat).
This incredibly popular tour a tried-and-true early morning option for touring the Vatican Museums!
Book your first-access Vatican Museums tour or skip-the-line tickets today!
Friday Nights Between April and October
For seven months out of the year, the Vatican Museums are open on Friday nights until 11:00 PM (last entry at 9:30 PM), and we can personally attest that visiting the Vatican Museums at night is an incredible experience (and far less crowded than general entry hours).
We took this amazing tour on a Friday night and loved it!
Book the Friday night Vatican Museums tour we loved today!
Last Sunday of the Month
The Vatican Museums are typically (and unsurprisingly) closed on Sundays, but on the last Sunday of the month, the museums are open until 2:00 PM (last entry at 12:30 PM).
Like many free museum days around the world, the general rule of thumb with visiting the Vatican Museums on a free Sunday is that it’s a great option for those on a strict budget, and a terrible one for those who want to avoid extremely heavy crowds.
Make sure to follow the dress code!
There is a dress code for visiting the Vatican Museums. Essentially, no shorts, no bare shoulders, no cleavage, and no hats.
In our experience, this is most strongly enforced in the Sistine Chapel, but as a gesture of respect and to avoid the risk of being denied entry, you should absolutely follow the Vatican Museums’ dress code.
We recommend light, loose clothing that will allow you to stay both covered and cool, because the museums can get very warm.
With limited exceptions, there is no air-conditioning in the museums.
Only a few rooms are air-conditioned, so as you can imagine, during Rome’s hot summer months it can be a bit blistering inside the Vatican Museums.
Avoiding the heat (which is, of course, made even worse due to the heavy crowds that are normally visiting the Vatican) is another good reason to book an early morning or Friday night Vatican tour–not only will there be fewer crowds, the museums will be much cooler!
Don’t take photos in the Sistine Chapel.
Despite this being obviously and clearly banned, complete with repeated announcements every few minutes from the security officers and strict enforcement, you’ll still see people trying to snap photos of the Sistine Chapel. Don’t be one of them!
The photos of the Sistine Chapel I’ve used in this Vatican blog post are stock photos for that reason.
Don’t plan to eat at the Vatican Museums if possible.
There is a cafeteria inside the museums selling basic meals and snacks if you get hungry, but with so much incredible food to eat in Rome, it’s best to plan your meals for before or after your Vatican Museums visit if at all possible.
You won’t see the famous spiral staircase isn’t until the very end of your visit.
It’s one of the absolute last things you’ll see in the Vatican Museums–even after the Sistine Chapel–so don’t expect to see it early on!
We think the Vatican Museums are one of the best places to splurge on a tour in Rome–even more than at the Colosseum.
The context gained is incredible, and having a tour guide also makes visiting the enormous museums much less stressful and overwhelming.
We’ve visited the Vatican both independently and with a tour, and absolutely preferred our visit with a tour.
We took this Friday evening tour and loved it, but this tour is another phenomenal option.
Shop excellent, well-reviewed Vatican Museums tours today!
Sprawling and stunning, St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and an absolute must-see sight when visiting the Vatican.
St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter.
You do not need a ticket to enter St. Peter’s Basilica–it is completely free to visit!
… but you do have to go through a security line first.
This line follows the curve of St. Peter’s Square and tends to grow throughout the day, and is in place for security. You’ll pass through a metal detector and have your bags checked when you reach the front.
The line can get excruciatingly long–if you’re not visiting St. Peter’s Basilica as part of a longer tour, we recommend arriving either very early in the morning (it opens at 7:00 AM every day except Wednesday) or in the early evening–the crowds often start to die off a couple hours before closing (6:00 PM or 7:00 PM depending on the time of year).
You should absolutely visit the dome.
The view overlooking St. Peter’s Square from the cupola is one of our favorite views in all of Rome–and the views of the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica from above are pretty phenomenal, too.
We absolutely recommend climbing the dome when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica unless 1) you have difficulty climbing large amounts of stairs (you must climb a minimum of 320 steps to access the dome), or 2) you’re uncomfortable in tight spaces–there are some very closed-in areas on the way up.
You can buy tickets inside St. Peter’s Basilica, and they’re currently 10 Euro for a ticket that involves a partial elevator ride, or 8 Euro if you’re willing to climb all 551 steps (the elevator ticket lets you bypass 200 or so steps).
The biggest benefit to the cheaper ticket, though, is not the lower price but the fact that it normally has a much shorter line than the elevator option!
Vatican City is located in the heart of Rome and is easily accessed by either foot, metro, or bus.
Keep in mind that unless you’re on a special tour that gives you a workaround (more on that in the FAQ section), it’s a 15-minute walk around the edge of the Vatican from St. Peter’s Square to the entrance to the Vatican Museums.
St. Peter’s Square is closer to Centro Storico, so if you’re approaching by foot, you’ll likely come across it first.
We absolutely love walking through Rome, and one of our favorite walks winds from Centro Storico all the way to St. Peter’s Square–in other words, the Vatican is absolutely accessible by foot!
For example, St. Peter’s Square is a 35-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain and a 25-minute walk from the Pantheon.
Those times might sound long, but in addition to all the general beauty of Centro Storico, you’ll find some interesting highlights along the way such as Piazza Navona and Castel Sant’Angelo.
From St. Peter’s Square, it’s another 15 minutes by foot to the entrance to the Vatican Museums.
There are two metro stops close-ish to the Vatican: Ottaviano and Cipro, which are each a short walk from the Vatican Museums entrance.
There are several bus lines that stop near Vatican City, with the most frequent being 40 and 64.
Have more questions about visiting the Vatican?
Here are the answers to some of the most common Vatican City FAQs!
Can you reach St. Peter’s Basilica from inside the Vatican Museums?
Yes… but only on a tour.
There is a semi-infamous door between the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica links the two together and makes it possible to go right from the museums into the basilica without taking a (long) walk and waiting in line again, but independent visitors cannot use it.
Some guided tours, though, like this one , do give you the opportunity to use this door.
Otherwise, you’ll need to wait in line to enter St. Peter’s .
What is the Vatican City dress code?
When in the Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, St. Peter’s Basilica, or Sistine Chapel, you’ll want to avoid wearing anything sleeveless, any shorts, or showing cleavage.
Hats are also not allowed.
If you’re just visiting St. Peter’s Square, you don’t need to subscribe to the dress code.
You can see the official language of the dress code here .
Is Vatican City a country?
Yes, it is–it’s the smallest country in the world, covering only 0.2 miles of land area.
It’s also one of the only absolute monarchies in the world, with the Pope ruling it both as the Pope (overseeing The Holy See, aka the Catholic Church), and the King (overseeing the country of Vatican City).
Vatican City is not part of the UN, but The Holy See (aka the Catholic Church) is a permanent observer of the UN.
Do you need your passport to enter the Vatican?
Even though it is a country, there’s no need to bring your passport when visiting the Vatican.
Can you visit Vatican City for free?
If your goal is only to step inside the country of Vatican City, you can enter St. Peter’s Square (for free, and without waiting in line) and St. Peter’s Basilica (for free, but after waiting in line) to pay a quick visit to the country.
Can you get a Vatican City passport stamp?
No, Vatican City doesn’t offer passport stamps.
However, you can buy a postcard in the gift shop and mail it home from Vatican City!
It will be processed through the Vatican’s mail system, and many people use it as a unique souvenir from their visit to the Vatican in lieu of a stamp.
Can you see the Pope when visiting the Vatican?
We covered this a bit above, but essentially, every Wednesday morning that the Pope is in Vatican City, he’ll give an audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Can you just visit the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City?
No, you can’t.
The Sistine Chapel is one of the final stops when touring the Vatican Museums and can’t be seen without visiting the museums.
Is St. Peter’s Basilica part of the Vatican Museums?
No, it’s not.
You can visit St. Peter’s Basilica separately from the museums.
Should you visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica on the same day?
You can, but be prepared for a long day, as you’ll have to enter both areas separately… unless you book a tour that includes both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, that is.
In that case, you’ll be able to seamlessly visit both without exiting the Vatican Museums and waiting in an additional line to access St. Peter’s Basilica.
This tour is a popular option that includes both!
Book your Vatican Museums + St. Peter’s Basilica tour today!
About Kate Storm
In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.
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The Vatican City is a sovereign nation within the city of Rome. The Vatican Museums are inside the Vatican City, and the Sistine Chapel within the museums. The Sistine Chapel is connected to the St. Peter's Basilica by a "guide only" corridor, saving you from a long walk and waiting in line twice. The Vatican Gardens are also accessible to the public and can be enjoyed by visitors purchasing our Castel Gandolfo day trip. Every Vatican tour includes the Sistine Chapel in varied degrees. The more costly tours visit during specific times when there are fewer visitors--permission we pay extra for and value we pass onto our guests. Our Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour is the most popular and our first product. It enters at 8:00 or 8:30 am depending on your start time which is an hour to 30 minutes before general admission. The most exclusive Sistine Chapel tour is our "Exclusive After Hours Sistine Chapel Tour with Aperitivo," which not only visits the chapel with max 99 other guests but includes a cocktail in the pinecone courtyard! The St. Peter's Basilica is in the Vatican City but not included in your admission to the Vatican Museums. Luckily, there is no cost to enter as all churches in Rome are free. If you want to climb the Dome, there is a charge, and we highly recommend doing it if you are in decent physical shape. For a few extra euros, you can take the elevator which will remove much of the toll on your legs. We run a St. Peter's Dome Climb and Sistine Chapel Combo Tour which includes climbing the dome and a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. For an extra special experience, why not book a private tour of the Vatican? With your own private guide, you can tour the Vatican Museums, St. Peters Basilica and Sistene Chapel at your own pace. Throughout the length of your tour, your guide will be able to answer any questions you have. There will be no waiting on others in the group or being rushed to the next gallery. If you fall in love with a specific work by Raphael, feel free to bask in awe.
The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is the most visited attraction in Rome. Even if you buy tickets in advance you may face long lines, crowds, and confusion. We've worked closely with the Vatican for over a decade, so you'll appreciate our first-entry access before the public and our skip-the-line entry to the Vatican—not to mention our top-rated guides. We started at the Vatican and our experience shows in our 1000s of positive verified reviews. The Vatican City is a sovereign nation within the city of Rome. The Vatican Museums are inside the Vatican City, and the Sistine Chapel within the museums. The Sistine Chapel is connected to the St. Peter's Basilica by a "guide only" corridor, saving you from a long walk and waiting in line twice. The Vatican Gardens are also accessible to the public and can be enjoyed by visitors purchasing our Castel Gandolfo day trip. Every Vatican tour includes the Sistine Chapel in varied degrees. The more costly tours visit during specific times when there are fewer visitors--permission we pay extra for and value we pass onto our guests. Our Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour is the most popular and our first product. It enters at 8:00 or 8:30 am depending on your start time which is an hour to 30 minutes before general admission. The most exclusive Sistine Chapel tour is our "Exclusive After Hours Sistine Chapel Tour with Aperitivo," which not only visits the chapel with max 99 other guests but includes a cocktail in the pinecone courtyard! The St. Peter's Basilica is in the Vatican City but not included in your admission to the Vatican Museums. Luckily, there is no cost to enter as all churches in Rome are free. If you want to climb the Dome, there is a charge, and we highly recommend doing it if you are in decent physical shape. For a few extra euros, you can take the elevator which will remove much of the toll on your legs. We run a St. Peter's Dome Climb and Sistine Chapel Combo Tour which includes climbing the dome and a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. For an extra special experience, why not book a private tour of the Vatican? With your own private guide, you can tour the Vatican Museums, St. Peters Basilica and Sistene Chapel at your own pace. Throughout the length of your tour, your guide will be able to answer any questions you have. There will be no waiting on others in the group or being rushed to the next gallery. If you fall in love with a specific work by Raphael, feel free to bask in awe.
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Skip the Line
Rome in a Day Tour with Colosseum and Vatican Museums
Explore the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and more!
( 1245 ) as low as $164.03
Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel
Enjoy early access to see the Raphael Rooms, Creation of Man, St. Peter's Basilica, and more
( 1032 ) as low as $94.42
St. Peter's Dome Climb and Sistine Chapel Combo Tour
Save money while seeing Rome from above, the Papal Crypts below, and the Vatican museums nearby
( 383 ) as low as $102.37
Skip the Line Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel
See the bucket-list Vatican attractions and St. Peter's Basilica with start times throughout the day
( 1093 ) as low as $71.55
Private Skip the Line Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter's Basilica Tour
Enjoy a tailored VIP Vatican experience with early entrance and a dedicated private guide
( 125 ) From: $456.52
Rome Shore Excursion from Civitavecchia
Book a private Rome tour and see the Colosseum, Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and more in just one day!
( 24 ) From: $2,033.95
Private Rome in a Day Tour with Colosseum & Vatican Museums
See the best of Rome your way with a private guide at the Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain, and more!
( 50 ) From: $1,059.94
Skip the Line Vatican Tour with Local Trastevere Food Tour Combo
Book these two top-rated tours together for great savings and a truly unforgettable day in Rome!
( 16 ) From: $172.84
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The 5 best vatican tours of 2023.
Guided Vatican tours can make the experience less overwhelming and more enjoyable.
The Best Vatican Tours
See the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica and more on an organized Vatican tour. (Getty Images)
One of the most famous landmarks in the world, Vatican City draws more than 5 million people each year, which means that no matter when you visit, you can expect massive crowds. Along with the crowds, the sheer size of this sovereign city-state in Rome can make a visit to Vatican City feel overwhelming.
If you're feeling intimidated by the experience, consider one of the following small-group Vatican tours, guided by local experts who can both explain the history of the Eternal City and help you navigate the crowds.
As you browse the best options, be sure to keep the following in mind (and also visit the Frequently Asked Questions section at the botton of this page):
- Many tours offer early-entry or after-hours access to the Vatican, so you should anticipate crowds regardless.
- Any visit to Vatican City requires a lot of walking. Comfortable walking shoes are necessary, and strollers are allowed.
- Traffic in Rome can be brutal, especially during the summer. Give yourself enough time to get to your tour at least 10 to 15 minutes before it departs.
What a Life Tours – Skip the Line Vatican Small Group Tour
Price: Adults from $90; kids from $83 Duration: 3 hours
One of the best tours in Rome , this small-group option includes skip-the-line tickets to all the museums as well as St. Peter's Basilica. Tourgoers are also given headsets so they can better hear their guide. Recent visitors praise the knowledgeable tour guides for helping them maneuver the museums, as well as ensuring guests are comfortable (finding a shady reprieve on a hot summer day, for example).
Tours, which last about three hours, depart from the What a Life Tours office (Via Santamaura 14B) at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Tickets start around $90 for adults and $83 for kids ages 6 to 17. There is no cost for children ages 5 and younger.
What a Life Tours also offers skip-the-line access that omits the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, as well as local food tours and tours of the Colosseum .
View & Book Tickets: Viator | GetYourGuide
The Roman Guy – Exclusive After Hours Sistine Chapel Tour
Price: Adults from $184; kids from $154 Duration: 3.5 hours
Instead of early entry, this unique tour offers after-hours access to the Eternal City. Explore the museums and the Sistine Chapel with an expert guide before enjoying Italian aperitivo (a pre-meal drink) in the Pinecone Courtyard. Recent reviewers highly recommend this tour, pointing to the tour guides' breadth of knowledge and the ability to experience Vatican City with fewer crowds. They also say the wine (which was accompanied by delicious food) in the courtyard was a highlight.
This seasonal tour takes place Monday through Thursday at 3:30 p.m., though visitors are asked to arrive 10 to 15 minutes beforehand. Tours begin and end at the entrance to the Vatican and last approximately 3.5 hours. Tickets start around $184 for adults and $154 for kids ages 2 to 14.
The Roman Guy offers a number of other local tours that include visits to the Colosseum and Catacombs of Rome as well as food tours (and tours that combine some or all of the above).
View & Book Tickets: Viator
Liv Tours – Skip the Line Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's Tour
Price: Adults from $258; kids from $55 Duration: 3 hours
This intimate tour is limited to just six people, making the experience more personal and enjoyable. Your tour guide will take you to through the famous galleries, the Julius II apartments, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. Recent tourgoers say they could see a difference in this tour versus the other Vatican tours. They also note how kind the tour guides are.
Tours, which are available during a wide variety of time slots each day, start and conclude at Caffé Vaticano, right across the street from the entrance to the museums. The cost is approximately $241 for adults and $100 for kids ages 3 to 17.
Other experiences offered by Liv Tours include a Jewish Ghetto & Travestere Tour, cooking classes and tours designed for kids.
Private Tours of Rome – Skip-the-Line Private Tour of the Vatican Museums
Explore the Vatican with a professional historian on this private tour. Recent travelers say they're so glad they chose to visit the Vatican on a private tour, noting how much they enjoyed hearing the guides' personal stories about the museums and the pope.
Tours depart at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily and last about three hours. Tickets start from $258 for adults and $55 for kids ages 5 to 17.
If you're looking for a private tour of other attractions, Private Tours of Rome offers a variety of options. It also offers shore excursions, with pick up and drop-off at your ship in Civitavecchia.
Through Eternity Tours – Rome in a Day Tour with Colosseum & Sistine Chapel: Essential Experience
Price: From $426 Duration: 7 hours
If you're short on time and/or prefer to see several Rome attractions at once, this jam-packed tour is a great option. During the six-hour excursion, you'll see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum , Trevi Fountain , Piazza Novana and Pantheon before visiting the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square (and then moving on to other sites). This tour includes optional headsets and skip-the-line access at all ticketed attractions. Recent travelers say the tour guides make this experience especially fun.
This full-day tour starts at 9 a.m. in front of Restaurant Angelino and concludes in St. Peter's Square. It's typically offered Monday through Saturday. The cost starts around $426 per adult. While babies and toddlers up to age 2 are permitted free of charge, this tour is not recommended for children.
Through Eternity Tours offers a number of other guided experiences in Rome, including an Angels and Demons tour based on the bestselling book. The company also offers shore excursions and day trips to Tivoli, Florence and beyond.
View & Book Tickets : Viator | GetYourGuide
Frequently Asked Questions
The Vatican is a sovereign city-state recognized under international law. Its government includes the pope and the departments of the Roman Curia that help him exercise his responsibilities.
In short, yes. Vatican City is considered an independent nation-state and is the world's smallest such entity.
Yes, and there are a variety of ticket options you can purchase on the attraction website . However, because there's so much to see, a guided tour can help you see the highlights without feeling overwhelmed and may also include visits to other attractions in Rome.
All visitors must dress appropriately for a place of worship. Shorts, hats, miniskirts, sleeveless tops, low-cut tops and garments that show the knees are not permitted. Guests dressed inappropriately will not be allowed inside.
All visitors are required to go through a security check to enter the museums, and there are a variety of items that you may not take inside:
- Luggage: Bags, backpacks and the like must not exceed 40 x 35 x 15 centimeters (16 x 14 x 6 inches); if they're too big, they must be checked in the cloak room (free of charge).
- Umbrellas: If necessary, these can also be checked in the cloak room.
- Video cameras: Non-flash photography is permitted in all areas except the Sistine Chapel.
- Food and drink
- Weapons and firearms
The Vatican is easily accessible from different sections of Rome. You can take the metro to either the Cipro or Ottaviano stop on Line A (orange line) to be dropped near the Vatican Museums. If taking the bus, multiple routes drop off near St. Peter's Basilica. You can also opt for a taxi or walk into St. Peter's Square.
Additionally, there are parking garages outside of Vatican City if you want to drive there, though driving in Rome is generally not recommended, as there are many areas where driving is restricted and you could be fined.
The Vatican museums are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended hours until 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and 8 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 28. The museums are closed on Sundays (except the last Sunday of the month) and certain holy days throughout the year, including Christmas. Final entry to the museum is approximately two hours before closing.
St. Peter's Basilica is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Be sure to check if there are any museum closures ahead of your visit.
You might also be interested in:
- The Best Hotels Near the Vatican
- The Best Places to Visit in Italy
- The Best Italy Tours and Small Group Trips
Tags: Tours , Travel , Vacations , Vatican , Europe Vacations
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Vatican Museums Opening & Closing Hours
A trip to Rome would not be complete without visiting Vatican City . However, it is probably best to plan your trip ahead of your visit. The opening hours of Vatican Museums, the Vatican Gardens, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Sistine Chapel are different. Read on to find out about the opening times of each of these attractions.
Vatican Museums Hours
Please Note: Entry to the museums is permitted by online ticket reservation only.
From Monday to Saturday 9 AM – 6 PM The final entry is at 4 PM.
Every last Sunday of the month 9 AM to 2 PM
The final entry is at 12:30 PM.
The extraordinary openings of the last Sunday of the month are only applicable when the last Sunday of the month does not coincide with Easter Sunday, 29 June, 25 December, 26 December, or 31 December.
Extended opening hours
From 5 May to 28 October, the Museums will be open until 10.30 PM on Fridays, with final entry at 8:30 PM and until 8 PM on Saturdays, with final entry at 6 PM. Days Closed: Sundays (except the last Sunday of the month), 1 and 6 January, 11 February, 10 April, 1 May, 29 June, 15 and 16 August, 1 November, 8, 25, 26, and 31 December.
Monday to Saturday: 9 AM - 6 PM (Final entry is at 4 PM).
Days Closed: The Sistine Chapel is closed on Sundays, as well as 1 November, 8 December, and 25 December
1 Oct to 31 Mar 8 AM - 5 PM 1 Apr to 30 Sep 7 AM - 7 PM
St. Peter's Basilica Dome
October to March: 8 AM - 5 PM April to September: 8 AM - 6 PM
Days Closed: St Peter's Basilica is closed on Wednesdays as the Papal audience is held on these days. But it reopens again from around 12-1 PM.
Monday to Saturday: 9 AM – 6 PM.
Closed Days: Sundays and on December 8th, 25th and 26th, January 1st and 6th, and Easter Sunday.
Vatican Mass Timings
Papal basilica of saint peter.
- Weekdays Mass Schedule: 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 5 PM
- Sundays and Holiday Mass Schedule: 9 AM 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:15 PM, 13 PM, 16 PM, 5:30 PM
Basilica of Saint John Lateran
- Winter Schedule: 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 5 PM Sunday: 5 PM, 6 PM
- Summer Schedule: 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM
Basilica of Saint Mary Major
- Sunday: 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM
- Monday-Saturday: 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM
Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
- Weekday Winter Schedule: 6:45 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10:30 AM, 5 PM
- Summer Schedule: Public holidays: 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10:30 AM, 12 PM, 6 PM Saturday and before public holidays: 6 PM
Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
- Monday -Saturday: 8:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 4 PM, 7 PM
Best Time to Visit the Vatican
- The low visiting season in Vatican City and Rome is between November to February. However, avoid a visit during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s.
- April to October is the high season, which means that the number of tourists is significantly higher. However, if you are choosing to visit during this time, it is best to plan your visit to the Vatican around afternoon hours when the crowds would be lesser.
- The best time to visit the Vatican would be during the low season; you can expect lesser crowds, cold winter, and easier access to prime attractions.
- The best days to visit would be Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Avoid visiting on Saturday as you would see the maximum crowd then.
- The Pope holds an audience at St. Peter’s Basilica every Wednesday of the month. If you choose to visit on a Wednesday, make your way to the Vatican Museums first and then make your way to the St Peter's Basilica by the time the crowd makes their way to the Museums.
Plan Your Visit to Vatican >
All Your Questions About Vatican Museum Hours Answered
A. The Vatican Museums are open between 9 AM to 6 PM from Monday to Saturday. From 5 May to 28 October, the museums will be open until 10:30 PM on Fridays and until 8 PM on Saturdays. Every last Sunday of the month (provided this does not coincide with Easter Sunday, 29 June Sts. Peter and Paul, 25 December Christmas Day, 26 December Feast of St. Stephen and 31 December Feast of St. Sylvester), the museums will be open from 9 AM. to 2 PM.
A. Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays except the last Sunday of each month. Additionally, it is closed on 1 and 6 January, 11 February, 10 April, 1 May, 29 June, 15 and 16 August, 1 November, 8, 25, 26 and 31 December
A. Plan a visit during early mornings and late afternoons on a weekday in the months between October to March (excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s).
A. Set aside at least 3-4 hours to entirely explore the Vatican Museums and about 1.5 hours to tour St Peter's Basilica.
A. St. Peter’s Basilica is open every day except for Wednesday from 8 AM to 5 PM between October to March and 7 AM to 7 PM between April to September. If there’s a mass on a Wednesday, St. Peter’s Basilica is open from 12:00 PM onwards.
A. The St. Peter’s Basilica Dome is open from 8 AM - 5 PM from October to March and 8 AM - 6 PM between April to September. It is closed on Wednesdays.
A. On weekdays, Holy Mass is held at 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 5 PM. On weekends and public holidays, Holy Mass is held at 9 AM 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12.:5 PM, 1:16 PM, 5.30 PM
A. Yes, you can visit the Vatican on Sunday. However, the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays.
A. You don't need to pay a fee to enter Vatican City. You can even explore St Peter's Basilica and the St Peter's Square for free. However, you might have to wait in a long queue without a skip-the-line ticket to St Peter's Basilica. To visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel , you need to purchase tickets.
A. On the last Sunday of every month, visitors would be allowed free entry into the Vatican Museums. However, all extraordinary openings on the last Sunday have been suspended for the time being. You can enter the other attractions for free.
Visiting Vatican Museums
Getting to Vatican
Guided Tours of Vatican
Skip the Lines at Vatican
ENTIRE VATICAN & VATACOMBS: FLAGSHIP VATICAN TOUR
- Hour Glass Duration: 3 Hours
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Our Flagship Tour of the Vatican and Vatacombs
Meet your expert guide by the Vatican Museum entrance and after brief introductions enjoy skip-the-line entry to what is arguably the most important and largest art collection in the world.
The Vatican Museums weren’t always as we know them today. For over five hundred years, celebrated Popes slowly gathered and commissioned works of art from the most talented painters, architects and sculptors in Italy and brought them to the Vatican to showcase them for their own personal enjoyment and that of a carefully chosen circle of clerics, artists, nobles, and scholars. Each new Pope sought to leave a legacy, commissioning chapels, frescoes, sculptures, libraries, paintings, courtyards – one masterpiece after another until the Papal Collection finally grew to more than 70,000 works of art spread over 1400 galleries.
In 1771 Pope Clement XIV finally opened the doors to the public, making it possible for us to enter the Holy See and walk in the footsteps of Popes and the most celebrated artists from Renaissance and Baroque Italy.
On this epic Vatican Tour you’ll walk in the footsteps of Popes and Renaissance Masters as you take in the Rooms of Raphael and of course the Sistine Chapel from its commissioning to the finishing touches by none other than Michelangelo Buonarroti. With an expert guide, learn to discern between myth, fact, and popular Hollywood fiction regarding this epic work of art.
Enjoy fast-track access to St. Peter’s Basilica to view masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini among others before descending to the Papal crypts below. We conclude on the portico with an overview of Bernini’s magnificent piazza (St. Peter’s Square), the central obelisk, and of course the Swiss Guard.
- Stand just feet away from Michelangelo’s remarkable frescoes in the Sistine Chapel
- Take in the beauty of the extraordinary rooms of Raphael
- Skip all lines with priority tour operator access
- Visit the “Vatacombs,” the eerie resting place of former Popes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica
- Expert local guide
- Skip-the-line tickets to the Vatican Museums
- Room of the Muses and Belvedere Torso
- Pinecone Courtyard
- Octagonal Courtyard
- Rooms of Raphael
- Gallery of Maps
- Laocoonte Sculpture 1st Century AD
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- Vatacombs (papal tombs beneath St. Peter’s)
- Visit to the Necropolis / Scavi
- Transport to and from meeting point
- Tour departs rain or shine
- Unfortunately, wheelchairs and strollers cannot be accommodated on this tour. Contact us for private tour options for your group.
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- Hour Glass 2.5 Hours
Vatican Ticket & St. Peter's Dome Climb
Visit St. Peter’s Dome in the Vatican. Meet your guide on St. Peter’s Square and stroll across the piazza into the Vatican City, where your climb begins.
- Hour Glass 2 Hours
Best of the Vatican Tour
See the best of the Vatican Museums, then have the rest of the day free to enjoy Rome after booking this, the ORIGINAL Vatican highlights tour!
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- Hour Glass 5 Hours
Vatican Tour & St. Peter's Dome Climb
The original all-inclusive Vatican City experience featuring a climb to the top of St. Peter’s Dome for an incredible view of Rome followed by our award-winning tour of the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.
The Holy See
Il santo padre.
The Holy Rosary
Sinod 2021-2024 For a Synodal Church
ABUSE OF MINORS THE CHURCH'S RESPONSE
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
Last videos, supreme pontiffs.
John Paul II
John Paul I
13 or 14.II.1130
13 or 14.XII.1124
13 or 20.I.1045
...VIII or IX.1032
...VI or VII.1009
...II or III.999
...XI or XII.983
4.VII.964 or 965
... V or VI.928
... XII.928 or I.929
... III or IV.914
... VII or XI.913
... VI or IX.911
... VI or VIII or X.913
..XII.897 or I.898
...XII.897 or I.898
...VII or VIII.897
...V or VI.896
...VIII or IX.885
...XI or XII.872
... IX.827, 29.III.828
... IV, 29.V.757
... I.681, 17.VIII.682
... VIII, 24.XII.640
... X.638, 28.V.640
Deusdedit or Adeodatus I
... III, 13.IX.604
20 o 22.IX.530
20 or 22.IX.530
25.II o 1.III.492
15 o 22 o 29.XII.384
Miltiades or Melchiades
... VI or VII.253
6 or 13.III.251
Anacletus or Cletus
Stato della Città del Vaticano
New York Post
Vatican unearths ancient underground cemetery — and now it’s open to the public
Posted: November 21, 2023 | Last updated: November 21, 2023
A new section of an important historic burial site beneath Vatican City is open to the public for the first time.
The Necropolis of Via Triumphalis offers visitors a look at how the ancient Romans buried their dead. Starting earlier this month, the Vatican’s museums network began offering guided tours, leaving from the Santa Rosa gate at Piazza Risorgimento, Hyperallergic reported .
From there, guests are led down into the depths, on a tour entitled “Life and Death in the Rome of the Caesars.”
The necropolis, or the “city of the dead” as it is often called, dates to the fourth century AD. It contains an array of remains from both “slaves” and “freedmen,” as well as “artisans of the city of Rome.”
Access to their graves has provided great insight into how the ancient Romans lived, explained Vatican Museums’ expert Leonardo Di Blasi, according to Euro News . Amid the graves and altars there are lifestyle clues such as funerary objects and renderings of how life once was, as well as other depictions of culture at the time.
“We begin to learn about people we did not know, particularly about rituals that seem more related to family, neighborhood, town, or personal traditions than to official religion,” Di Blasi added of the findings, which were discovered with the help of the archaeological site, which measures in at over 10,000 square feet.
Part of the burial ground was first unearthed in 1956 as a result of Vatican-related excavations, while more was accidentally uncovered in 2003 during the construction of a parking lot.
Since 2014, the public had been able to view portions of the ancient cemetery, but the addition of a new entrance and organized tour is an enormous step for access.
Il Gen Verde negli Usa: la fraternità di fronte a sfide di migrazioni e diseguaglianze
Adriana Masotti - Città del Vaticano
Due mesi negli Stati Uniti passando per 10 città: New York (NY), Philadelfia (PA), Atlanta (GA), Corpus Christi e Houston (TX), Chicago (IL), Los Angeles, Planada, San Jose e San Francisco (CA). Più di 25 mila chilometri percorsi, 9 concerti, 16 messe cantate, 5 workshop artistici, 3 laboratori di canto liturgico, oltre a numerose performance e incontri con diverse comunità locali. E' il tour americano della band internazionale Gen Verde appena rientrata in Italia.
Prime tappe nell’East Coast e poi nel Deep South
Gli inviti nell'East Coast per le prime tappe statunitensi sono arrivati dalla Famiglia Vincenziana che ha chiamato il Gen Verde a presentare il proprio concerto e i progetti artisti che la band propone, in vari eventi rivolti ai giovani. Il tour in questa parte degli Stati Uniti è cominciato dal campus della St. John’s University, nel Queens a New York, dove è stato realizzato il “Gen Verde in Concert” , e si è poi lavorato con i giovani della parrocchia vincenziana di San Giovanni Battista a Brooklyn, e animata con i canti la Messa per la Giornata Mondiale del Migrante e del Rifugiato. Altra tappa dell’East Coast, Philadelphia. Nel Deep South (sud-est degli Stati Uniti) il "Gen Verde" si è esibita ad Atlanta, in Georgia, nella scuola dei padri gesuiti "Cristo Rey" dove oltre al concerto ha sviluppato workshop con studenti dell’istituto. Forte l'impatto vissuto dalle componenti nella visita in città aI The King Center . “La testimonianza del coraggio e della dedizione di Martin Luther King Jr. per la giustizia e l'uguaglianza è stata potente e ci spronerà certamente a vivere il nostro ideale, ‘che tutti siano uno’, perché anche se c'è ancora molta strada da fare, è vero che abbiamo anche grandi esempi da imitare”, il commento di Sally McAllister, manager irlandese del Gruppo.
Nel grande Stato del Texas
A Corpus Christi, città nel sudest del Texas, le artiste hanno realizzato lo Start Now Workshop Project , con studenti provenienti da varie scuole della diocesi. “Mentre suonavo ' Tierra de Paz - Our Common Ground ’, canzone che affronta il problema delle migrazioni, non sono riuscita a trattenere le lacrime - ricorda Adriana García García, bassista del Messico -. Ho capito che ogni parola della canzone parla della realtà della 'nostra casa comune' che le persone in quella stanza vivono ogni giorno. I nostri brani, ‘ Chi piange per te’, ‘Solo la Luce - Only Light’, come ‘Tierra de Paz - Our Common Ground’ , diventano potenti quando le cantiamo a Lampedusa, ad Atlanta e qui in Texas. Siamo testimoni che ciò che viviamo in piccolo nella nostra vita quotidiana, assume una nuova dimensione quando viene condiviso con persone direttamente coinvolte". A Houston, dopo uno dei concerti, una giovane presente tra il pubblico ha detto: "Lo spettacolo è stato spiritualmente 'travolgente'. Il carisma dell'unità nella diversità che queste donne provenienti da tanti Paesi hanno condiviso con noi è bellissimo e mi ha commossa".
Nel Nord America con la Famiglia Vincenziana
La “Vincentian Family Gathering 2023”, appuntamento annuale della Famiglia Vincenziana del Nord America, è stato l'evento di punta in questo tour negli Stati Uniti. Presso la DePaul University a Chicago, ha riunito i rappresentanti di 47 rami della Famiglia Vincenziana. Al Gen Verde era affidato il programma di 3 giorni sulla tematica "Armonia nella diversità: lavorare per la giustizia sociale e creare una cultura di incontro attraverso le arti". "Stavo riflettendo che il Gen Verde non viene per esibirsi. Loro vengono per creare amicizia e costruire relazioni", ha detto una giovane suora che ha partecipato ai laboratori e alle conferenze.
Gli ultimi concerti in 4 città della California
Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose e Planada sono state le tappe conclusive della tournée. Il primo dei concerti si è tenuto nella chiesa di S. Vincenzo de Paoli nel centro di Los Angeles. Tra i bellissimi feedback ricevuti quello di una coppia: "Dopo questo incontro ci sentiamo come se fossimo su un piano spirituale più profondo e vogliamo rimanerci. È stato davvero trasformativo per noi!". A Planada, una piccola cittadina rurale al centro dello Stato, workshop artistici hanno coinvolto soprattutto i giovani: "Con questo laboratorio abbiamo imparato a non lasciare che il mondo cambi il nostro sorriso, ma che con il nostro sorriso possiamo cambiare il mondo!", le parole di una delle partecipanti. Nancy Uelmen, pianista e compositrice del Gen Verde di origini statunitensi, prova a riassumere ciò che il suo Gruppo ha vissuto in questi due mesi negli USA: “È difficile trovare le parole per descrivere questo tour che ha compreso tante sfide, impegni, dolori e difficoltà, per poi portare tantissimi frutti, scoperte e doni, al di là di ogni aspettativa! Abbiamo ricevuto tantissimi inviti per altri concerti e possiamo dire che non vediamo l’ora di tornare".
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