Planning to visit Vatican City and not sure if a guided tour is worth it? In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of a guided Vatican tour so you can decide if it’s worth it and which one’s right for you!
Pro Tip: Planning your visit to the Vatican in Rome? Bookmark this post in your browser so you can easily find it when you’re in the city. See our guide to Vatican City for more planning resources, our top Vatican tours for a memorable trip, and how to visit the Vatican.
What Does it Mean to “See The Vatican”?
The Vatican City is many things, but here are three important things to know about it:
- It’s the home of Catholicism—a form of Christianity, the world’s most popular religion.
- It’s an independent country and the smallest country in the world.
- It receives over 6 million visitors every year.
The Vatican is Rome’s most popular destination that, despite being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, you can visit regardless of your religious affiliation. It’s located in the center of Rome, which makes it easy to get to and adds to its allure.
So, what does it mean to see the Vatican? When people say, “I visited the Vatican” it means they purchased a ticket or tour for the Vatican Museums (which is where you’ll find the Sistine Chapel) and they probably also visited St. Peter’s Basilica.
Areas of Interest
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are a series of galleries housing some of the world’s most famous artwork produced by high-Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo, Raphael, and more. It culminates in the Sistine Chapel, which is arguably the most famous work of art on Earth completed by Michelangelo and others.
Read detailed info about each of the main galleries below:
- The Pinacoteca
- Pio Clementino Gallery
- Gallery of the Maps
- Candelabra Gallery
- Gallery of the Tapestries
- Raphael Rooms
- The Sistine Chapel
St. Peter’s Basilica
The Basilica of St. Peter was built and added onto by just about every famous artist in the 16th and 17th centuries. Designs and various elements were created by Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and many others. Michelangelo famously designed the dome, which you can climb to the top of in our tours—the views are incredible!
You don’t have to pay to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, and it can normally be reached from the Vatican Museums.
Not ready to book a tour? Read more on the Vatican to understand what everyone is talking about!
Is a Vatican Tour Worth It?
Short Answer: Yes, if you have a great guide and small group. Here are a few of the benefits that may make taking a Vatican tour worth it for you.
Skip the Lines
We have a special collaboration with the Vatican, so all of our tours skip the lines for tickets. We also have expedited security lines, which vastly decrease wait times to enter. Both St. Peter’s and the Vatican have notoriously long lines that can take hours to enter. Why waste your precious vacation time waiting when you could enter early, before the crowds, with skip-the-line access?
Great Tour Guides
The key to a great tour is a great tour guide—the best can bring the old to life again by sharing the historical context and interesting stories behind incredible monuments like the Vatican City. With a great guide, you can have one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
At Vatican City, we’re talking about an attraction that was literally built and decorated by the world’s greatest artists. You’ll find sculptures created by the ancient Romans, frescoes by Michelangelo himself, and paintings by Raphael, Guido Reni, Da Vinci, and others. The right tour guide will illuminate all of this with endless stories, anecdotes, and history! It’s a special way to see a place like this.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our best Vatican tours to take and why.
A massive part of having a great experience at the Vatican City is entering before or after the crowds—getting special access. We call this “privileged access” because it truly is a privilege to visit Vatican City the way we do. What are some of the benefits?
- 8 am Access
Many of our Vatican tours enter the Museums around 8 am when it opens to tour operators who have a special accord with the Vatican Museums. We have this agreement and more! Our Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel (3 hours) enters at 8 am and is our most popular Vatican Tour.
- First Entry at 7:30 am
The 7:30 am entry, which we call First Entry, gets you inside the Vatican Museums just a bit earlier than most other tour operators. It’s an added benefit that we’ve been afforded after over a decade of positive relations with the Vatican Museums. See our First Entry Vatican Prime Tour (4 hours), which is a great first-entry option.
- Vatican Gardens and Castel Gandolfo
Despite being very difficult to gain access to, we also have amazing tours that visit the Vatican Gardens. They are especially beautiful, so if you’re a garden lover, be sure to check out our Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens, and Pope’s Summer Home Day Trip (11 hours).
Have you ever heard the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel lying on his back? Well, it’s not true. He stood straight up and painted the ceiling for years, which must have been agonizing.
While there is a ton of history packed into the Vatican, there are also so many stories and anecdotes that you would never hear any other way. Guides understand that in order for you to stay engaged in a tour they have to weave in scandals and anecdotes to keep things exciting—and they’ve got all the details!
The Benefit of Small Groups
I have given hundreds of tours to a variety of group sizes, from a single person to groups of 50, and the experience is vastly different.
The smaller the group, the better it is. Why? Imagine giving a presentation to 50 people vs 15 people, and how different the experience would be. With 50 people, you speak to everyone and interact with very few individuals.
On the contrary, a group of 15 ensures more individual interaction with each person, guides make more eye contact, and ideally become familiar with many people in the group. While both could be positive, the smaller group will give you a more intimate experience and a greater chance for you to have your questions answered and come away with a meaningful connection with what you’ve seen.
The Most Popular Vatican Tours
To decide between our tours, take a look at our different Vatican tours and read our guide about what the best Vatican tours are and why. There are lots of different options and ways to experience the Vatican Here are a few of our most popular tours.
This is our most popular Vatican tour. It covers all the must-see sights for visitors including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s good for art lovers and anyone who wants to see a ton but doesn’t want to be too mentally exhausted by the end of the visit. A major benefit of this tour is that we have an 8 am entrance time, which is an hour prior to general admission and gets you in when it’s less crowded.
This tour is for the art-history buff, visiting the majority of the Vatican Museums including the Pinacoteca, Sistine Chapel, and more. You’ll even have time to see the Cabinet of Masks, which is an area reserved specifically for guided tours. Your guide will share plenty of stories and information to engage and inspire even novice art lovers.
If you want more available entry times throughout the day, then opt for this tour. It’s a great low-price Vatican tour that covers most of the main attractions including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. With multiple start times, you can fit your visit into the rest of your plans in Rome. The price is also hard to beat from a top-quality tour company.
If crowds aren’t your thing, and you’re also an early bird, then opt for this first-entry tour to the Vatican. The public is allowed to enter at 9 am, and most tours enter at 8:30 am. On this early morning Vatican tour, you’ll enter the museums with your guide and small group at 7:30 am!
That means you’ll see the top galleries, Raphael Rooms, and Sistine Chapel at their quietest! Enjoy time in the Sistine Chapel where your guide can quietly describe what you’re seeing. They’re not allowed to speak when the general public arrives, so this is truly an exclusive opportunity. Then, top it all off with breakfast in the beautiful Pinecone Courtyard.
If you want to see the main sites and understand them but don’t want to get caught up in every detail, this is for you. We have an 8 am option that beats the crowds, along with other start times. It’s a small group tour and great value that’s also our fastest way to see the best of the Vatican Museums.
This unique experience takes place when most visitors have gone back into the city center for the night, so it’s perfect for evening adventurers and art lovers who want to share the Vatican with fewer people. You’ll join your expert guide for a VIP tour of the top galleries, the Pio-Clementino, Raphael Rooms, Borgia Apartments, and Sistine Chapel. You’ll then have the luxury of exploring the Vatican Museums further on your own until it closes.
Not ready to book a tour? Check out our best Vatican tours to take and why.