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St Peter's Basilica Tickets

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

May 14, 2021 • 10 min read

St Peter's Basilica Tickets

© Gabriela Clare Marino

With the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Square and dome as main landmarks, the Vatican is a must-see. The history behind its walls is not read in textbooks and that, for me, is one of the main reasons to visit.

1. The best guided tours of the Vatican Museums

Guided tour of the Sistine Chapel | ©Unsplah
Guided tour of the Sistine Chapel | ©Unsplah

The experience of visiting the Vatican Museums on your own is totally different from visiting with a specialized guide who explains and contextualizes the centuries of art in these museums. Choosing a tour among the many options can be overwhelming, so I'll make it easy for you. These are the main ones:

2. Three-hour guided tour of the Vatican

Sistine Chapel frescoes | ©Unsplah
Sistine Chapel frescoes | ©Unsplah

In terms of value for money, I have to admit that this guided tour is probably the most complete. In about three hours, you will tour the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. All this, without queues at the entrance, which makes it much more pleasant and bearable. A specialized guide will explain the stories and curiosities behind the main works of art that you will find on this guided tour.

This three-hour guided tour focuses mainly on the Vatican Museums (I assure you that with everything inside there is plenty of content). In collections as large as this it is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything there is to see, not knowing where to start, fearing to miss "the most important".... All these doubts are solved by a guided tour.

Why I like this option

In addition to the tour of the Museums, you will access the Saint Peter's Basilica without having to queue and, although it may seem something insignificant, for me it is a way of not breaking "the magic" of the visit. This, believe me, is a real luxury, and you will prove me right when you see the queues that usually form at the door every day!

The selection of works explained is made by a professional, so you will see the most representative works of each period in particular and of the Vatican Museums in general (I insist that its art collection is among the largest in the world). Having a specialized guide, in addition, you are free to ask him all kinds of questions about a period or a particular work.

3. Guided tour of the Vatican in small groups

Interior of St. Peter's Basilica | ©Unsplah
Interior of St. Peter's Basilica | ©Unsplah

When selecting the best guided tours of the Vatican, I suggest that you consider options such as the small group Vatican tour includes practically the same as the general tour and does not differ much in price. The difference is that you will go in a group of 12-14 people maximum.

Why I like this option

In other places it is not so important, but the Vatican Museums are crowded (unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks of the place is the noise that can form despite being in a museum) and the guide can not raise his voice, so if he addresses a small group it will be much better. This also allows you to be closer to the guide, which will make it easier for you to ask him all your questions.

4. Private guided tour of the Vatican

Vatican Gardens | ©Unsplah
Vatican Gardens | ©Unsplah

This option of private tour of the Vatican gives you the option to further adapt the tour according to the areas of the museums that most interest you (most of the time the guides have no problem in modifying the tour and are even grateful to leave the official tour) and, of course, to receive personalized explanations from which you will get much more out of it.

The time in the Sistine Chapel (the star of the Vatican Museums) will be enough to explain the frescoes perfectly and not to get lost in the amount of information behind the paintings.

Why I like this option

In addition to explanations about specific works, this private tour of the Vatican also includes interesting information about the architecture of the area, the political and religious life of the Vatican (worthy of a series and in fact there are several) and anecdotes that most tourists do not know.

Having a private guide for you and your group is a real luxury. You will be able to ask him all your questions and curiosities and of course, he will put more emphasis on the explanations of the points that interest you the most.

5. What you need to know about guided tours of the Vatican

Columnata of St. Peter's Square ©Patrick Schneider
Columnata of St. Peter's Square ©Patrick Schneider

By hiring a guided tour (and this works in virtually all cases) you can stop worrying about times, routes and waiting (the vast majority of visits to the Vatican are without queues). Personally, and although it may seem paradoxical, I feel less of a "tourist" when I do this type of visit because my only concern is to immerse myself in the stories they are telling me.

Free cancellation

There are options that refund the money if you cancel 24 hours in advance. This allows you, in case of unforeseen circumstances, to adapt your plans without losing your money. When making your reservation, make sure that tickets are included and ensure queue-free access: although it may seem basic, nothing should be taken for granted.

In your language, much better

Make sure before booking that the guide speaks the language and does not have to translate each of the explanations into five different languages (you will lose time during the visit and you will not get the most out of it). Spanish, French, German and Portuguese are the most common languages apart from English and Italian. Both the guided tour that I recommend at the beginning of this post and the private tour are in Spanish.

6. Organize your guided tour of the Vatican

Vatican Museums | ©Ana Rey
Vatican Museums | ©Ana Rey

Schedules

Make sure you have availability in the morning and afternoon. This way you can choose according to your plans, although I recommend that you choose early in the morning to avoid coinciding with the peak hours at the Vatican Museums.

What to bring

Since you are not going to wait in line you do not need sun protection, what you do need is to wear a jacket or a scarf to cover your shoulders and necklines at the entrance and during the visit since the Vatican is very strict with the dress code. As for the receipt of the visit, you can present it to the guide from your cell phone and he will provide you with the tickets if they have not been previously sent to you in digital format.

How to get to the Vatican

The Vatican is far from the historical center of Rome, but, contrary to what many people think, it can be reached on foot from tourist spots such as Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiori. In any case, the easiest way to get there is to take the metro line A to Ottaviano S. Pietro.

Once there, the guide will explain where the meeting point of the guided tour is, depending on the tour you choose: all of them are usually easy to find and the guide will bring a clearly recognizable object so you can spot it in the crowd.

Duration

The Vatican tour lasts about three hours approximately, although the total time can vary and be longer (rarely will it be less). If you want to see the most important parts of the Vatican Museums in depth, without rushing around and soaking in the guide's explanations, I do not recommend a tour of less than this time.

Eating in the area

Get out of that area to eat unless your guide gives you a specific recommendation. Places near St. Peter's Square will be expensive and some may commit the grave sin of offering you a plate of reheated pasta or pizza. If you are going to continue touring the area after your visit, it will be enough to stay away from the central areas or ask your guide for a recommendation. Fortunately, Italy is one of the easiest European countries to eat well and cheaply.

Tour with children

I do not recommend that you take a guided tour of the Vatican Museums with children unless it is specifically adapted for them. The tour is long for the little ones, the museums are crowded and they won't enjoy it and you won't enjoy the benefits of a guided tour of the Vatican. As for strollers, they can be a real chaos during rush hour.

Special options

If you have a special interest in art and painting, you may find the general tour short; after all, the Vatican has one of the largest art collections in the world. If you are an art history enthusiast, I would say don't rule out coming back another day to explore the collection in depth or book the individual private tour.

Ana's Traveller Tip

Avoid hiring the "guides" who will approach you in St. Peter's Square. Many are not official and are not qualified to give a quality guided tour.

7. Frequent questions from travelers interested in the guided tour of the Vatican in Rome

Aerial view of the Vatican Garden | ©Unsplah
Aerial view of the Vatican Garden | ©Unsplah

How should you dress at the Vatican?

Because of the particular idiosyncrasies of the place, the general rule is "decorous" dress. That means no hats, no suspenders, no cleavage, no pants or short skirts. If it is summer when you visit the Vatican you can wear a long-sleeved T-shirt or scarf for when you have to enter St. Peter's Basilica or the Vatican Museums.

Is it hot in Vatican City?

Not as much as in the Colosseum or the Forum, but yes. The museums are under cover, but in St. Peter's Square there is no shade. So, even if you are not going to stand in line to enter the Vatican Museums, since you are going on a guided tour, bring water and sunscreen.

Can I enter the Vatican Museums with a backpack?

If it is not a large backpack or luggage, yes. Otherwise, you will have to leave it at the ticket office. In any case I do not recommend you to go loaded to any of the excursions you do in Rome; this is a city to walk around and any extra weight will make it difficult for you to enjoy it.

Can I enter the Vatican Museums with food?

Eating and drinking is not allowed in the exhibition halls, so if you have provisions in your backpack or purse, do not take them out while visiting the exhibition.

Can I take pictures inside the Vatican?

In the Vatican Museums, neither flash nor selfie stick is allowed. You can take pictures with your cell phone and with a camera that does not involve professional accessories (for the latter you must ask for a special permission).

In the case of the St. Peter's Basilica, remember that you are in a place of worship; although many tourists do not respect it, it is not appropriate to be taking pictures while visitors try to enjoy the seclusion that the place should transmit. Reserve your memory card for the rest of the wonders you will see in Rome or for the views of St. Peter's Square from the dome.

Is it worth climbing St. Peter's Dome?

Although the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica is free and you will surely see it during the guided tour of the Vatican, the ascent to the dome is charged apart. If you are fit and do not suffer from claustrophobia it is worth doing. Otherwise from the Gianicolo hill you will have a very similar view of St. Peter's Square.

Is it possible to visit the Vatican Museums at night?

Some Fridays of the year the Vatican Museums are open during the afternoon-evening (although there are usually no tours at these times). I recommend you to find out when they are and take the opportunity to visit them if you are in Rome as it is usually much less crowded.

8. What if I only want tickets to the Vatican?

Staircase of Bramante, Vatican Museums | ©Lelê Breveglieri
Staircase of Bramante, Vatican Museums | ©Lelê Breveglieri

Of course, there is also the option of buying tickets to the Vatican without any kind of guided tour. It is true that this will allow you to know the whole area at your own pace without having to be attentive to the explanations of a guide, but on the other hand, you will miss the charm of knowing in detail the explanation of all the art, the way of life and the curiosities that hides the Vatican. Anyway, I made a post that you can read here about Vatican City Tickets.

9. Other guided tours in Rome

Another guided tour that may also interest you if you go to the Vatican is the visit to the Necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica. This visit requires a special permit as it gives access to the place where the apostle is buried, but there are some specialized tours that offer this visit.

As for other worthwhile guided tours in Rome, without hesitation I recommend one of my favorites: the Colosseum and the Forum of Rome. The area has nothing to do with the Vatican but it is the other must-see of the eternal city and the history it carries with it is fascinating. I made a post about :Colosseum Tours that might interest you.

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