If you have never been to Rome or the Vatican, the idea seems simple: buy a ticket to the Vatican Museums and make your way into the Sistine Chapel so you can check it off your list. In reality, the options are many and how you actually see the Sistine Chapel will make a difference if you remember this experience in a positive way or a negative way. In this guide, find out why you should take our Early Access Vatican Tour and what all of the hype is about.
How Many People Visit the Vatican Per Day?
While the exact numbers are not revealed by the Vatican as to how many people visit per year, according to the Ministry of Cultural arts of Italy, over 7 million people visited the Colosseum in 2018 and since most people visit both the Colosseum and Vatican, we can safely say that the average attendance per day of the Vatican Museums is around 20,000 people per day. As an official tour guide of Rome and the Vatican, I have been present on days when the actual number topped 30,000 people in one day. Therefore, the chance of you getting into the Sistine Chapel without crowds is almost impossible…or is it?
What’s the hype over the Early Access Vatican Gold Tour?
The Vatican has hand-picked a select number of tour operators (including us) who have been awarded a special privilege, allowing them to enter the Vatican Museums at 7:30 a.m. All other skip the line Vatican tours enter the Vatican at 8 a.m. While this 8 a.m. entrance is still an hour before the general public can enter, entering at 7:30 a.m. provides you with an extremely exclusive experience.
As one of the first groups to enter the Vatican Museums for the entire day, you will get to admire the iconic works of art inside of the Vatican without having to field other tour groups. You will also be one of the first to enter the Sistine Chapel, the main highlight of your tour. This means that you will be able to experience the Chapel in the way it was meant to be experienced: in a quiet and spiritual manner without the noise and crowds.
Let’s break it down even further, so that you understand just how exclusive our Early Access Vatican Gold Tour really is. There are 3 entrances to the Vatican Museums, and the one you use is contingent upon a few factors explained below:
Lines to Enter the Vatican Museums
This is the entrance you will use if you haven’t bought a ticket in advance. This entrance doesn’t open until 9 a.m. so you won’t be permitted entry until then. This is the notoriously long line that people take photos of. In high season, it is possible to wait in this line for up to 3 hours to enter.
Vatican Accredited Line
Tour Operators who are accredited by the Vatican Museums are allowed to purchase tickets that allow them to enter from a different line in front of the museums. We call this the “privileged entrance,” since visitors don’t have to wait in the individual line, only in a security line. This tour is another great Vatican tour option if you’re looking to see more of the Vatican Museums, rather than a primary focus on the Sistine Chapel, which is what our Early Access Vatican Gold Tour offers.
This entrance opens at 8 a.m., meaning that tour operators, and therefore group tours, are allowed to enter the museums one full hour before the main crowds. This is a great way to skip crowds in the early morning and by the time you get to the Sistine Chapel with an 8 a.m. entrance, you might find around 500 people in the Sistine Chapel which is much fewer than an hour or 2 hours later.
The Gold Entrance
By entering the museums 1.5 hours before the main crowds are allowed inside, you get the ultimate experience to visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums with no crowds at all. At this hour, there is also no security line, so you literally enter immediately.
There will be moments on this visit when you won’t see any other groups, and it is completely possible to have entire galleries to yourself. You are literally visiting the museums the way the pope does—empty.
Depending on the season, you could see the Sistine Chapel almost entirely empty and even in high season, there won’t be more than 200 people in the Chapel, which considering the size, you will almost feel alone anyway. If your dream is to see the Sistine Chapel really without crowds and still get the pricing of a small group tour (versus a private tour), then this is the only way to go.
I Want More Italy!
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- Check out our YouTube video and step-by-step guide about how to visit the Vatican. If you’d rather let us guide you, check out our Vatican tours.
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