Vatican Highlights Tour with Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's Basilica
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.
What you get with this tour
What you will see on this tour
- Skip the Line Vatican Tickets
- Vatican Museums Tour
- Gallery of the Candelabra
- Gallery of the Tapestries
- Gallery of Maps
- Sistine Chapel Tour
- Michelangelo's Masterpieces
- St. Peter's Basilica
- La Pietà by Michelangelo
- Baldacchino by Bernini
- Papal Tombs
- Laocoön and His Sons
- Nero's Bath
- Belvedere Torso
- Continue Exploring the Vatican State
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
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to meet?
Between Hotel Alimandi and Caffé Vaticano, at the top of the big staircase (Viale Vaticano, 100). A representative will be there holding a sign with our company name on it.
What to bring?
Entrance into any religious site requires a strict dress code. Knees and shoulders MUST be covered for both men and women. We understand the summers in Rome are hot - a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. Also, comfortable shoes are always recommended for walking tours. We kindly ask that you leave any large backpacks or tripods at your accommodation as they are not permitted inside the museums.
Q: Is there a dress code to enter the religious sites on this tour?
A: We ask both men and women to cover knees and shoulders, otherwise you may be refused entry to religious sites and miss out on a portion of your tour. We understand the summers in Rome can be hot, so a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.
Q: Does this tour always include St. Peter's Basilica?
A: St. Peter's Basilica is closed on Wednesday's in the morning due to the papal audience. We still run the tour because it might be your only day in Rome! Instead, we visit some of the most iconic statues in the world and Emperor Nero's enormous marble bathtub.
Q: Does the tour go inside at 7:30 am without waiting in any lines?
A: As an accredited tour operator we do not have to wait in the regular ticket line, but we still have to wait in a security line. For this reason, we leave the meeting point as early as possible and get in the security line reserved for tour operators. The doors open for us at 8 am, an hour before the general public.
Q: What are the chances my tour will be canceled or the Vatican will close something.
A: We run the tour rain or shine all year round. Although it is rare, sometimes part of the Vatican City closes for special religious events. If an area normally covered on a tour is closed, our guide will still provide explanations of the closed areas from outside. Plus, we will show you an extra site or gallery to compensate.
Q: I have some doubts about my mobility. Is this tour right for me?
A: If you have any doubts about your mobility, we strongly suggest you take a Private Vatican Tour.
See what people are saying
57 total reviewsLeave a review
colosseum and vatican
We had two days in Roma. Colosseum tour and the Vatican tour. Elaine was a very pleasant guide and made our tour interesting and informative. Answering all questions and making sure all were given time to view all the sites. We also needed transportation. Very professional. It was so nice to make arrangements in the US before entering Rome.
The Roman Guy early morning Vatican express tour
This tour was perfect for us with only 2 days in Rome. They get you to meet at the stairs across from the entrance at 7:30. They say get there 10 minutes early which of fine as I just grabbed some breakfast from the cafe next door. 7:30 is an early start when on holidays but we were all done by 11 so got the chance to enjoy the remainder of our day in Rome. Once we were all there we headed over to the Vatican to que with the other groups. While waiting in the que our tour Guide Elaine was amazing giving us a info all about the Sistine chapel and all the other info we needed to know before the entry opens at 8am. Once inside the Vatican it’s was roughly a 2 hour tour, it covers everything that we wanted to see and a more that we hadn’t thought of and didn’t know about previously, Elaine gave some very good insight on the exhibits as well as the buildings and rooms themselves. I would highly recommend the tour and thanks again Elaine.
Elaine is the best!!
Elaine is a fabulous guide - I highly recommend her tour!