If you’re planning a trip to Italy, the Vatican City should be at the top of your must-visit list. As it is home to various historical sights and some of the most famous works of art in the world. This guide to visiting the Vatican City will help you figure out the best way to visit while navigating the vast amounts of tourists and the strict dress code.
We have compiled the perfect guide for everything you will need to know to have the best trip to the Vatican.
What to See When Visiting the Vatican
Here are the parts of Vatican City to consider when planning your visit.
St. Peter’s Square is beautiful and very easy to visit, you simply just walk in like any other square and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Basilica and square. No advanced planning or waiting in lines needed.
Right inside the square is St. Peter’s Basilica, known to be the largest church in the world, and is filled with amazing pieces of Renaissance architecture.
The basilica is free to enter, however in order to go in, you must pass a security checkpoint, and the lines for that can get very long.
If you decide not to visit St. Peter’s Basilica with a tour, we recommend arriving right when it opens at 7 am (unless it’s Wednesday) or before it closes in the evening as crowds tend to die down a couple of hours before closing.
Visiting The Dome
Another cool thing to do that is right in the square as well is to visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, where you can look at the incredible views of St. Peter’s Square. The view overlooking the square from the cupola is amazing and the views of the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica from above are definitely worth the climb.
Climbing the dome for the views when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is a must, however, know that you might have to climb around 300 or so steps and that there are some tight spaces on the way up.
The only catch with the dome is you do need to purchase tickets. You can get these tickets inside St. Peter’s Basilica, for 10 Euro a ticket with a partial elevator ride, or you can opt for the 8 Euro ticket if you’re willing to climb all 500+ steps.
With the cheaper ticket, you are not only paying less but also it typically is a much shorter line than the elevator.
The Vatican Necropolis is below St. Peter’s Basilica and even deeper below than the grotto that is also under St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Necropolis was a cemetery from the first century, it is presumed to be the resting place of St. Peter himself.
In order to view the cemetery, you have to take a tour and you must book the tour in advance. You can book a tour directly with the Vatican by emailing them here.
Another option is to use a group tour that will allow you to visit the Vatican Necropolis and is simpler to arrange.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are full of incredible masterpieces from various artists one of the most famous pieces is Raphael’s frescoes and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum is truly a sight to see!
In order to admire the incredible art, you need a ticket or tour to visit. The line to enter the museum is famous for being extremely long. During our trip to see the museum, we made the mistake of not getting a tour or tickets ahead of time and waited 4 hours to not even come close to the front of the line. In the end, we ended up purchasing skip-the-line tickets, just to even be able to see it that day.
The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens are stunning and only accept a few reservations per day, but the upside is that it is never crowded.
As the Vatican Gardens must also be seen by a tour, you can book your tickets ahead of time.
Important Tips for Visiting the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museum is home to the largest private collection of art in the entire world! It’s crazy to think that even though it has a vast amount of art, visitors are still only seeing a very small portion of the collection that the Vatican owns.
As the Vatican is one of the most popular museums to visit, it can be very overwhelming to navigate the whole experience.
Here’s what to know before you go.
Give plenty of time to see everything
You should expect to spend two-three hours visiting and viewing all of the artwork in the museum. Some people only care to see the Sistine Chapel and forget that the Vatican museum is filled with amazing works of art throughout the whole museum.
It’s best to plan for a least a half-day while at the Vatican to give time for potential lines, seeing the St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square and the Dome if you choose, and lastly, the museum. You don’t want to rush any part of this experience, so it’s best to plan in advance!
Guided tours are a great option!
Guided tours allow for so many added benefits than going alone. You can learn a lot about the history of the art and the museum itself. Not only do you learn a lot on a guided tour, but it also makes visiting the Vatican a lot less stressful than trying to navigate it on your own.
When we visited the Vatican Museums, we did it with a guided tour and loved it!
If you are interested in booking a tour, I suggest this tour that is highly rated.
If you decide that a guided tour just isn’t for you, then you should buy skip-the-line tickets such as these early-access ones. This ticket lets you enter before the museum opens at 9 am, they typically start around 730 am. Or you can purchase the general admission skip-the-line tickets for the normal operating hours from 9 am – 6 pm, with the last entry time at 4 pm.
There is a required dress code
To visit the Vatican museum, you must adhere to the dress code, meaning you cannot wear shorts, show bare shoulders, show cleavage, or wear hats.
It is best to follow the dress code out of respect and to avoid the risk of being denied entry. It is best to wear clothes that are light and loose, that allow you to stay both covered and cool.
No photos in the Sistine Chapel
We get it, the Sistine Chapel is widely famous and gorgeous, but there is a strict rule that there should be no pictures taken of the Sistine Chapel. While there, you will hear numerous announcements being made reminding visitors to not take photos.
Don’t eat inside the museum
While touring the museum, there is a cafeteria that sells food and snacks, however, we recommend planning to eat before or after visiting the museum as there are amazing places to eat nearby!
How to Get to the Vatican City
Vatican City is right in the heart of Rome and is easy to get to by either foot or metro.
We love walking through Rome, and the Vatican is absolutely accessible by foot!
You can go from the Trevi Fountain to St. Peter’s Square with a 35-minute walk, or it is a 25-minute walk from the Pantheon.
From St. Peter’s Square to the Vatican museum, it is about a 15-minute walk.
If you opt for the metro, two metro stops are around the Vatican: Ottaviano and Cipro. Both are a short walk to the Vatican Museums’ entrance.
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