The Vatican is a small state on the territory of Rome, a temple state, a museum state and, by the way, a garden city! Inside the Vatican there is one of the largest museum complexes in the world, as well as the most important Catholic church, St. Peter's Cathedral (Basilica di San Pietro).
Every inch of the Vatican is a landmark. In this article we will tell you how to effectively visit the Vatican, which ticket is more profitable to buy (the best way is here) and when it is better to plan a trip.
What to see in the Vatican?
- St. Peter’s Square
- St. Peter’s Basilica and the view from under its dome
- Vatican grottoes, St. Peter’s Basilica crypt
- Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo
- Vatican museums, 54 galleries, among which are the Paintings Gallery, Raphael’s Rooms, Egyptian and Etruscan museums, as well as many other priceless treasures.
- Gardens of Vatican City
Tickets to Vatican: which and how to buy?
First of all the Vatican is a cult religious place. That is why entering St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica is free.
Every pilgrim has the right to enter, admire the beauty of the structure, and pray. If your interest is not so much religious as cultural, take the guided tour to see all the most significant spots. Here is the link to purchase.
All other attractions of the city-state are paid but still very popular. When tickets were not sold online yet, there were hours of queues at the box office. Yes, this is not a joke, standing for 2–3 hours in the heat was an absolutely normal situation. Now all tickets and excursions are sold online with the date and time interval for visiting. And there are still queues at the box office, and tickets for the desired time may not be available at all.
Book your tickets to the Vatican a month before your trip, thus you will see more available dates and time slots. You can also immediately find out about possible non-working days in the Vatican. If you made a mistake with the date, and the ticket has already been paid for, you can always correct it by contacting the support service.
Ticket to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is a part of the Vatican Museums, so there is always one entrance ticket to both. The ticket allows you to be in the museums all day, so we recommend choosing a visit in the morning when there are fewer people. The Vatican Museums have a truly colossal collection of works of art by the most famous creators, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Giotto, Perugino, Lippi, as well as paintings by Caravaggio and significant works by Michelangelo.
Ticket prices for the Vatican Museums on the official website, taking into account the reservation fee (€4 for each ticket):
- full ticket costs €21
- discounted ticket costs €12 (for children 6–18 years old with a document confirming their age, and students under 25 years old with an international student ID card)
- audio guide costs €7
You can issue a ticket at this link or right here, select a date in the calendar:
Every last Sunday of the month, you can visit the Vatican Museums for free. But keep in mind that on this day there will be a huge stream of tourists, and the museum will be open only until 2:00 p.m.
In order not to miss the main masterpieces of the countless Vatican Museums, we still recommend taking a tour. With this link you can sign up for a tour guide. By the way, skip-the-line tickets are already included in the price.
» READ MORE – Save time in Rome: which attractions to book in advance
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel after closing
You can visit the Vatican Museums in the evening, when all daytime tourists have already gone to restaurants. Evening tickets are only available on Fridays and Saturdays from April to October. You can visit the museum from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and walk through the half-empty halls until 10 p.m. This is truly a great offer! Book these tickets here.
Since you can see everything, the excursion in the evening will be as effective as possible! Book a guided evening tour of the Vatican Museums here. The ticket price is included in the price of the tour.
Ascent to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
You cannot buy a ticket to ascend under the dome of the cathedral online. You will have to stand in a queue to get it.
- €8, if you are ready to walk all 551 stairs
- €10, if you want to take the elevator and shorten the path to 320 steps
- Free for kids under 12 y.o.
An ascent under the dome of St. Peter’s is included in this guided tour of the cathedral (guided by a certified art historian).
Descent to the Vatican Grottoes
Kings, princes and 22 popes are buried in this sacred place under St. Peter’s Basilica. Of course, you can enter there only with a guide. An excellent guided tour can be booked at this link. The price also includes an ascent to the dome of the cathedral.
Visiting the Vatican Gardens
Amazing but true: most of the Vatican is occupied by the park. This is a very beautiful green area, which was kept secret from tourists for a long time. Now anyone can visit it, but only as part of an organized tour.
We recommend you to check out this offer: bus tour of the gardens with audio guide and a ticket to the Vatican Museums (book here).
To explore the gardens on foot, you can choose this option.
» READ MORE – Christmas at the Vatican: Feast, Mass, tickets
Tips and life hacks for visiting the Vatican
Whatever your itinerary for visiting the Vatican, these tips will be useful for everyone:
- Observe the dress code. Shoulders and knees should be covered.
- Don’t miss your entry time slot. Latecomers may not be allowed.
- Take water with you.
- You can take pictures without a flash, but not in the Sistine Chapel.
- The opening hours of the Vatican Museums are from Monday to Saturday: 9 a.m. — 6 p.m. Entrance to the museum is available until 4 p.m.
- Sunday is a day off, the most visited days are Monday and Saturday. On Wednesdays, the Pope holds an audience in St. Peter’s Square, so you can’t get inside the cathedral. Means the best days to visit all the sights of the Vatican at once are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
- The best time to come to museums is either in the morning or in the afternoon (around 2:30 p.m.). Many tourists plan to visit the sights in the morning, and therefore around noon the Vatican is most crowded.
The Sistine Chapel
- Perhaps the most important part of the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. It is also the final point of the official route, so in any case you should enjoy all the main halls.
- You can’t stay in the Sistine Chapel for long. Approximately 15 minutes are allotted for inspection, after which everyone will be asked to leave the room to let the next group in. It is impossible to examine every fresco during this time. An audio guide will be especially useful here, or rather a guide who will show you where exactly to look. Use this link to book a private tour of the Vatican Museums and Chapels.
- Taking photos is not allowed!
- From the Sistine Chapel, we advise you to exit through the right door, this will allow you to immediately be at the entrance to the cathedral. Exit through the left door leads back to the Vatican Museums.
St. Peter’s Basilica
- St. Peter’s Basilica is open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and from April 1 to September 30 until 7 p.m.
- If you have booked a visit to the necropolis in the grottoes of the Vatican, please bring warm clothes with you. In the cellars of the cathedral there is high humidity and low temperatures, it feels like being in a cave.
- You can climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from April 1 to September 30 until 6 p.m. An hour before closing, new visitors are no longer allowed.
- To avoid the queue, you can start your visit to the Vatican from the ascent to the dome. Please note that visiting the observation deck will take you at least an hour.
- The climb is quite difficult, so we recommend you take special care of children and the elderly. In Rome, there are enough other more accessible observation platforms that offer no less magical views of the Eternal City.
- We recommend planning a walk to the Vatican at the end of the trip, because it is much more interesting to look at familiar buildings and streets among which you have walked more than one kilometer from above.
We wish you an unforgettable experience!