If you want your visit to Rome to be perfect, one thing you should know before you travel is that the organization of your visit to the Vatican requires some advance notice. If you want to be more flexible and get there the day you feel like it, you run the risk of encountering long lines under the sun that will make you enter the Vatican already tired.
To avoid this, it is best to buy your tickets to the Vatican online and with enough time in advance. Here's what you need to keep in mind:
Get skip-the-line tickets to the Vatican
Even though you like to be spontaneous and have the most flexibility during your travels, the best thing to do when visiting the Vatican is to buy your Vatican tickets as early as possible.
If you do it online, you will have several advantages: you will be able to compare different rates (depending on whether you want to buy a standard ticket, with audio guide or with professional guide), you will have the possibility to cancel them for free if something unexpected happens and most importantly, you will skip the entrance queues.
The prices between the web and the Vatican ticket office do not have to vary if you know where to buy and if you allow me a tip: try to avoid by all means having to wait in line at the ticket office. The long lines go all the way around the Vatican City Walls. It is an area with no shadows and waiting in the sun is often exhausting.
Skip the lines throughout the Vatican with the best value for money
If you are determined to buy your tickets in advance and online, you have two options: get the standard ticket on the official website of the Vatican for 17 ¤ (with the disadvantage that you will have to choose the exact date and you will not have the right to changes or cancellations) or complete the day with a guided tour of the Vatican with an official guide for just over 40 ¤ with Hellotickets.
With this guided tour of Hellotickets you will not only skip the queues at the Vatican Museums, but you will also have preferential access to St. Peter's Basilica and you will not need to wait again the long queues to enter the temple. Yes or yes, this is the most convenient option if you want to make a complete visit to the Vatican City.
Skip the lines to visit the Sistine Chapel on a Premium guided tour
If in addition to skipping the lines at the Vatican you want a much more premium experience, there is an Early Bird option so you can visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel first thing in the morning and before it opens to the general public.
Yes, yes, you read that right: every morning, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel open their doors so that a privileged group of visitors can access the Museums and accompanied by an expert guide, can discover the wonders of the Vatican in silence, in a much more relaxed and authentic atmosphere.
The price is obviously higher than the standard guided tour (it costs just over 100 € on Hellotickets), but believe me it is worth it. Visiting the Vatican without crowds is unique. I tell you here all the details you should take into account to organize your visit to the Sistine Chapel.
Enter St. Peter's Basilica without queuing up (yes, you can!)
St. Peter's Basilica is free to enter and you can enter without purchasing any kind of ticket beforehand, but as you can imagine, the lines are very long and there are no shady spots inside St. Peter's Square either.
So, a great option is to hire a tour of St. Peter's Basilica (it lasts about 60-90 minutes) and this will allow you to enter the Temple together with your guide, so you will have priority access and won't have to wait in the long lines.
Another option is to buy the standard guided tour of the Vatican, which in addition to including the Museums and the Sistine Chapel, also takes you to see St. Peter's Basilica and of course, without queues.
How to avoid crowds at the Vatican
It is clear that buying your tickets online and in advance, avoiding the long queues at the ticket offices, will allow you a more direct and faster access to the Museums and the Basilica. However, if you also want to enjoy a quiet visit, I recommend that you avoid weekends and holidays.
Fridays are also usually very busy days at the Vatican and on Wednesday afternoons, if the Pope holds his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square, there are also more people than usual in the Square and its surroundings. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday mornings and Thursdays are the most recommended days.
Also, if you can, avoid long weekends and religious holidays, where in addition to international tourism there are usually large groups of pilgrims, religious congregations and a lot of national tourism.
Also watch out for Christmas and Easter, when the Vatican becomes the epicenter of Catholic celebrations and in addition to finding more people than usual, some days the Vatican may close its doors to celebrate a special Mass, such as the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or Easter.
I have written a guide with these and other practical tips for visiting the Vatican that you can consult when you are organizing your visit.
Skip the lines also at the Colosseum by buying a combined Vatican + Colosseum ticket
Surely during the planning of your trip to Rome, in addition to the Vatican, you are thinking of visiting also the Colosseum (which I highly recommend). If so, you are in luck, because there is a combined ticket option for the Colosseum and the Vatican that allows you to save time and money.
The ticket includes an official guided tour of both sites and of course, priority access without having to queue at either the Colosseum or the Vatican.