Visit the Vatican – A Comprehensive Guide

The Vatican Museums – three words that spark squeals of delight from Romans and tourists alike. In a nutshell, the Vatican Museums are a haven of priceless artwork and religious artifacts in Rome, Italy. In fact, it is the biggest collection of art in the world. So, what is the best way to visit the Vatican? If you’re getting stressed about planning your trip to the Vatican, you’re in luck.  We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide of tips for to make your visit a breeze. If you have additional questions, get in touch! We’d love to help you plan your trip to Rome.



The Best Time of Day to Visit the Vatican

The Vatican Museums don’t wait for anyone. It’s get up and go if you want to beat the crowds. The lines start winding around the block before 8am, so get in line by 7:30am – 7:45am to make sure you’re one of the first members of the general public to get in when the museums open at 9am. Your other option is booking  a Vatican tour with skip the line tickets. If you select a early access Vatican tour, get inside the museums an entire hour before the general public. Our early access Vatican tours start at 7:30 am, so rise and shine for an unforgettable day of sightseeing in Rome.  Remember to abide by the Vatican dress code. Cover your shoulders and avoid shorts and short dresses/skirts. Take a light scarf to wrap around yourself if needed. As long as you wear modest clothes and behave respectfully, you’ll be fine.

St. Peter’s Basilica

There are around 900 churches in Rome but nothing comes close to St. Peter’s Basilica. Saint Peter’s Basilica is built atopLa Pieta Michelangelo masterpies sculpture saint peters basilica Vatican tour a 4th century church and was completed in 1626 after 120 years of construction. The basilica boasts many impressive pieces of art, but Michelangelo’s La Piet , St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome and Bernini’s 29m-high Baldacchino are the most celebrated.

The interior of St. Peter’s Basilica is nothing short of majestic. 187 meters long, the interior covers more than 15,000 square meters. Michelangelo’s Piet , sculpted when he was just 25, stands at the head of the right nave. Next up is Bernini’s famous Baldacchino. Supported by four spiral columns and constructed from bronze ‘borrowed’ from the mighty Pantheon. The sculpture stands over the high altar. The only priest allowed to serve at this magnificent spot is the pope himself.

From the dome entrance on the right of the basilica’s main portico, take the 551 steps to the top. Alternatively, there is a small lift that takes you halfway and you can walk up the last part. Whichever way you choose to go up, it is definitely a steep climb. The stunning rooftop views of Rome are worth it though – we promise! Climbing St. Peter’s Basilica dome is recommended as your final Vatican activity of the day.

The Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes (1508-1512) and Last Judgment (1535-1541) are what every visitor to the Vatican wants to Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museumssee. On a busy day, the room receives about 2,000 people. On our early access Vatican tour, beat the teeming masses to the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s work is literally breathtaking – but don’t take your camera out! Taking pictures inside the Sistine Chapel is forbidden. What’s more, the Vatican security guards insist that visitors keep silent. The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is best viewed from the main entrance, situated on the far east wall. Depicted in the art are biblical scenes that include the story of Adam and Eve and the plight of Noah,

Rafael Rooms

The four frescoed chambers are another highlight of the Vatican. The chambers were part of Pope Julius II’s private apartments. Raphael painted the Room of the Segnature (1508-11) and the Room of Heliodorus (1512-14). The Room of the Fire in the Borgo (1514-17) and the Hall of Constantine (1517-24) were decorated by students following Raphael’s designs after his death in 1520. The best route to take through the Raphael Rooms is through the Hall of Constantine, The Room of Heliodorus, The Room of the Segnature and The Room of the Fire in that order. As you tour the Raphael Rooms, admire frescoes that feature the Battle of Constantine against Maxentius, the School of Athens and much more.

Gallery of the Candelabra

The Gallery of the Candelabra was originally opened as a loggia (a gallery or room with one or more open sides).  Built in 1761, it was walled up towards the end of the 18th century. The gallery features Roman copies of Hellenistic originals (2nd-3rd century BC) and some great 2nd century candelabra from Otricoli. The magnificent ceiling was painted in 1883-1887.

Gallery of the Tapestries

Some of the Flemish tapestries featured in the Gallery of Tapestries were designed in Brussels by Pieter van Aelst’s School from cartoons drawn by Raphael’s pupils. These delicate pieces were originally displayed in the Sistine Chapel in 1531, but later moved to the Gallery of Tapestries in 1838.

Gallery of the Maps

Many visitors say their favorite place in the Vatican Museums is the Gallery of Maps. When you step through the doors, it’s easy to understand why! The amount of detail, precision and care taken to create each masterpiece is astounding. Each of the 40 maps frescoed on the walls represents regions of Italy and the papal properties of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585). Based on drawings by famous geographer Ignazio Danti, the maps were painted between 1580 and 1585.

Where to Eat Near the Vatican

After exploring the Vatican Museums, some tasty local food is a necessity. There’s an overpriced cafe inside Dino e Toni restaurant in the Vatican neighborhoodthe Vatican Museums, Located one floor down from the Atrium of the Four Gates. Go down the stairs near the Picture Gallery, or at the top of the escalators turn right and follow the signs.  There is also The ‘Sistina’ coffee bar on the stairs leading to the Sistine Chapel entrance.

We recommend a trip to our favorite restaurant near the Vatican, a trattoria owned by two friends named Dino & Tony. Located just around the corner from the Vatican, the friendly restaurant is the perfect spot for a hearty Roman lunch. There is no menu, just plate after plate of the best antipasto, pasta, meat, dessert and wine. We guarantee you won’t leave hungry.

Papal Audience

 Every Wednesday at 11am, the pope addresses crowds at the Vatican. In June and August, the papal address takes place in Castel Gandolfo near Rome. When the pope is in Rome, he blesses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday at noon. For tickets, go to the Vatican website or read more about how to get tickets for the papal audience.


Discover More!

The Roman Guy offers a Vatican Tour that gives you access to The Sistine Chapel an entire hour before it opens to the general public. On our guided group and private tours, we cover all the highlights of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica mentioned above. Our tour guides are art history experts who bring the masterpieces inside the Vatican Museums to life.

Looking for more Vatican information? Check out the links below.

We’d love to see pictures of your Vatican adventures. Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #TheRomanGuy and @theromanguy for a chance to be featured!

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