Vatican Highlights Tour with St. Peter's Basilica and Sistine Chapel

Get a taste of the Vatican's top sights an hour before the general public

If you have a lot to see in Rome in a short amount of time, this Vatican Highlights Tour is one of the best Rome tours for you. See the best galleries, tour St. Peter's Basilica and see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in less time.


This is a walking tour and involves going up and down stairs.

2.5 h
max 16
from 50 reviews
1 Skip the Line Vatican Tickets
2 Vatican Museums Tour
3 Gallery of the Candelabra
4 Gallery of the Tapestries
5 Gallery of Maps
6 Sistine Chapel Tour
7 Michelangelo's Masterpieces
8 St. Peter's Basilica
9 La Pietà by Michelangelo
10 Baldacchino by Bernini
11 Papal Tombs
12 Laocoön and His Sons
13 Nero's Bath
14 Belvedere Torso
15 Continue Exploring the Vatican State


Pre-Opening Entrance
Sistine Chapel
St. Peter's Basilica
Primary Galleries
This Vatican highlights tour meets at 7:30 am for access to the Vatican Museums just after doors open for "privileged entrance" groups at 8:00 am Why is this so special? Well, the general public has to wait until 9 a.m. to enter! Skip the long general admission line and visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica in just 2.5 hours, leaving you plenty of time to explore the rest of Rome. If you're looking for a longer, more comprehensive Vatican tour, consider either the Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel or our Detailed Itinerary Vatican in a Day Tour with Privileged Entrance tour. This 2.5-hour tour includes:
  • - Skip the line Vatican tickets
  • - Meet at 7:30 am for entrance just after 8:00 am
  • - Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
  • - English-speaking guide with expertise in art history
  • - A guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica (except on Wednesdays)


Short delays at the security check may occur during the busiest months, June and July. We have a team of experts at the Vatican every morning to help our groups avoid delays as much as possible. 

The Best Vatican Galleries

Explore the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of the Tapestries and one of our favorite collections, the Gallery of the Maps. Based on painted topographical maps of Italy by Dominican Italian friar Ignazio Danti, the Gallery of Maps is both beautiful and informative. Predating a unified Italy by nearly 300 years, the Gallery of Maps shows the length and breadth of the peninsula in the late 1500s. 

The Sistine Chapel’s Ceiling

The sheer scale of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and awe-inspiring quality of the artistic work is heart-stopping. While you stand beneath the frescoes, it’s impossible not to appreciate how difficult it must have been for Michelangelo to toil away year after year at this masterpiece. The chapel is inside the museums, so entrance is included in your Vatican tour. Since the Sistine Chapel is a place of worship, speaking inside is not allowed. Since our guide cannot explain the frescoes while you are inside, we provide you with a map/handout for reference before you enter. 
The Sistine Chapel is a sacred place, so both men and women must cover their knees and shoulders. Otherwise, you may be refused entry to a portion of your Vatican tour. We understand the summers in Rome are hot - a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary. 

St. Peter's Basilica and the Papal Tombs

Except on Wednesdays
Skip the long lines to enter St. Peter’s, and access to the jaw-dropping St. Peter's Basilica directly through the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, admire masterpieces that include the Baldacchino, La Pieta, the statue of St. Peter and more. You guide will also take you underneath the basilica to visit the tombs of some special popes, as well as a Swedish Queen with a peculiar story.
Important: If you wish to stay in the Vatican Museums toward the end of your tour, you must forgo the guided visit of St. Peter’s Basilica. If you choose to do this, you’ll lose the chance to skip the line to St Peter’s with our guide, who takes you through a special door in the Sistine Chapel. If you decide to leave the tour early, remember to return your headset to the tour guide. Instead, if you follow our guide to St Peter’s and would like to stay in the basilica longer, or would like to climb St. Peter's Dome on your own, do not leave with your guide to take photos in the piazza once the tour is over. The regular security line is long and re-entry on your own is not recommended. 

Emperor Nero’s Bathtub

Wednesday's Only
Since Papal Mass takes place on Wednesday mornings - St. Peter’s Basilica is closed until the afternoon. If your Vatican Express Tour lands on a Wednesday, St. Peter’s Basilica is substituted for a visit to a collection of the most important Roman and Greek artwork, the Pio-Clementino Museum. Visit three of the world’s most iconic statues: the Apollo Belvedere, Laocoön and His Sons and the Belvedere Torso. Learn the stories behind the statues, before visiting Nero’s massive red marble bathtub. With a diameter of 25 feet, we know it’s super tempting to climb in the bathtub and pose for some incredible photos, but sadly, taking a relaxing soak is not permitted.