The Sistine Chapel attracts millions of visitors, pilgrims, tourists and art lovers every year. Undoubtedly the quality, perfection and difficulty of elaboration of its spectacular frescoes make it a work worthy of admiration. If you are in Rome, prepare your visit to make the most of one of its major attractions. Take note!
1. Join a guided tour to get a good understanding of everything you see
Like any self-respecting work of art, the Sistine Chapel is best appreciated and enjoyed with an expert guide. In addition to escorting you through the immense corridors and giving you a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, he will explain what you will see in the Sistine Chapel and why it has become one of the most valued works of art in the history of art in the world.
You will make better use of your time and you will know where to look so as not to get lost among so many details. The difficulty of its elaboration, the history behind its creation or the relevance of the depth, the colors used and the perspective employed in the work are just some of the comments that will make you take a great memory of your visit to the Sistine Chapel.
In addition, you can take the opportunity to ask the guide all the questions you have, curiosities that you feel like revealing and recommendations to continue enjoying your visit to the Vatican.
2. How to avoid crowds during your visit
If there is something that can tarnish your visit to the Sistine Chapel is the large number of visitors that can accumulate inside. Fortunately, access and capacity are now more limited, which will allow you to enjoy its beauty with greater peace of mind (and of course, in total safety).
Even so, it is always best to avoid the central hours of the day and try to access early in the morning if you are an early riser or late in the afternoon, when many international tourists are already thinking about dinner. Keep in mind that during weekends and holidays there is usually a greater influx of people, so if you are going to be several days in Rome, try to visit the Sistine Chapel during the week.
One of the great tricks to visit the Sistine Chapel to get the most out of it is to join a Premium guided tour that takes place early in the morning, before the Chapel itself opens its doors to the general public. You'll pay a little more than the regular guided tours, but the tranquility and silence of walking through the Vatican Museums at that hour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Besides, you can always have breakfast in the Museums' cafeteria to make up for the early start.
3. Get the cheapest tickets and skip the lines
Even if you like to improvise during your travels, I encourage you to plan your visit and book your tickets to the Sistine Chapel in advance: booking your tickets well in advance and online will allow you to skip the queues, which can be miles long.
Keep in mind that currently the capacity is quite restricted, the groups of guided tours are also smaller and find tickets or guided tours for the day and time that best suits you will be much easier if you book in advance. In addition, buying online you can compare prices, schedules and rates and even have free cancellation if you have any unforeseen event during your trip.
Other options to save on your visit to the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly one of the great attractions of the city of Rome, but so is the Colosseum. And I don't think you want to leave the Eternal City without visiting either of these two key points, so there is an option for you to buy the combined ticket to the Colosseum and the Vatican and save time and money on both visits. You will be able to skip the queues to access both monuments and you will also be accompanied by a guide at all times, who will explain the most important things you should not miss in each place.
4. Sistine Chapel visiting hours
- The Sistine Chapel is open every day at 8:30 a.m.
- From Monday to Thursday it is open until 6:30 p. m. (although the last access is allowed only until 4:30 p.m.).
- On Fridays and Saturdays the hours are more extended, as it is open until 22:30 (with the last access of the day at 20:30).
When is the Sistine Chapel closed?
Although the Sistine Chapel is open every day of the week, please note that there may be religious celebrations during the year that limit access to the Chapel during certain hours or on certain days. In addition, there are certain key dates in the calendar during which the Chapel remains closed. Take note:
- St. Peter's Day (June 29)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
- December 26th**(St. Stephen's Day**)
5. Be careful with your camera
Although it is permitted to take photos without flash in practically all the galleries of the Vatican Museums, photos in the Sistine Chapel are not allowed. You should know that there are security personnel controlling that visitors do not take pictures**(with or without flash**) because the main priority is to maintain the delicacy of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Chapel.
Honestly, I don't recommend you to keep an eye on your camera or run away from the guards' gaze to take pictures. The grandeur of the place deserves your full attention and on the internet you will find thousands of high quality photos that will allow you to have a souvenir of the Chapel or see its details when you need it.
6. Keep in mind that it is a place of worship: cover your neckline, shoulders and knees
The Sistine Chapel, as its name suggests, is a religious chapel and is therefore considered a place of worship. To access it you will have to comply with the appropriate dress code (shoulders, knees and necklines must always be covered during the visit).
If you are in Rome during the summer season and the heat prevents you from wearing long sleeves, I recommend that you take with you a scarf, foulard or sweatshirt that allows you to cover your shoulders - keep in mind that inside the Vatican Museums it is not as hot as in the street, so do not worry about the high temperatures of the city-.
In addition to proper attire, you will also have to keep quiet during your visit to the Chapel and, as mentioned above, photography is not allowed. In this guide full of tips for visiting the Vatican I give you some interesting recommendations.
7. What to see in the Sistine Chapel
The first thing that will catch your attention is that the Sistine Chapel is a large open room 40 meters long and 13 meters wide. Along its walls, but especially in its spectacular vault you can see more than 300 different figures represented in several frescoes that will leave you open-mouthed.
These frescoes represent different stories of the Old Testament, but undoubtedly the image that captures all eyes is that of the Creation and the Last Judgment. The best recommendation to appreciate all the details is to try to move around the room and contemplate the works from different angles of the Chapel.
The colorfulness, realism, proportion and perspective of the images, as well as the dynamism they convey, will captivate you from the first moment. Around the Chapel there are several benches but their use is not allowed to avoid crowds. Take as much time as you can to appreciate this unique work of art.
8. What security measures are taken at the Sistine Chapel during Covid 19
In addition to the fact that the use of face masks is mandatory during the entire visit to the Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel included), there are security personnel controlling the capacity inside the Sistine Chapel so that the safety distance can be maintained at all times.
When entering the Museums, you will also be able to use the hydroalcoholic gel dispensers to wash your hands and it is possible that the conditions of access to the Vatican Museums will be updated (the Italian Government is pending the approval of the obligation to show the Covid Passport or vaccination certificate for access to Museums and Attractions throughout the country).
The guided tours also have a limited number of participants, so you don't have to worry, because the organization has taken everything into account to make the visits to the Sistine Chapel as safe as possible.
9. How much time do you need to see the Sistine Chapel?
If you visit it with a group on a guided tour, you'll have about 15 to 30 minutes to wander around at your leisure and it will be enough to absorb the highlights of its works. Still, you could spend hours in the Sistine Chapel, not because of its size - it is a relatively small room compared to other galleries within the Vatican Museums - but the level of detail in its frescoes is impressive.
If you have purchased tickets to the Vatican Museums and are touring them on your own, you will be able to stop a little longer, but be aware that seating inside the Chapel is limited so it is possible that after about 30 minutes (always depending on the number of people in there) you may be asked by security personnel to move on to the next rooms.
You should know that even if you visit it with a guided tour, during the passage through the Chapel you will not be able to receive the instructions of the guide, as it is mandatory to remain silent, so before accessing you will be explained which are the details that are worth paying more attention so that you get the most out of the visit.
10. What to see after visiting the Sistine Chapel
You should definitely complete your visit to the Sistine Chapel by visiting the main galleries of the Vatican Museums. To get here you will have had to either buy the Vatican Museums ticket or join a guided tour. Take advantage of the investment and soak up the art of the main rooms, such as the Rooms of Raphael, the Gallery of Maps or the impressive Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts.
In addition, there is also a Gregorian Egyptian and Etruscan Museum if you are interested in this period of Art History. On your way through the Museums, you can also see the famous spiral staircase that welcomes you to the site, as well as a landscaped square where you will find a small kiosk with tables for a drink outdoors and to regain strength before or after the visit.
While you are in the Vatican City, you should not miss St. Peter's Basilica and the spectacular ascent to the Dome of St. Peter for the best views of Rome. If you want more, you can read my article on what to see and what to do in the Vatican to not leave a corner of this special place in Rome untouched.