The Vatican City, accessible on foot from the center of Rome, is the residence of the pontiffs and the center of Catholic power in the world. Its main attractions are St. Peter's Basilica with its Dome, St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel.
If you want to avoid the queues, which are literally the longest queues in Rome, make sure you buy your ticket in advance. Here are the types of tickets available for advance purchase:
With this option you will be paying for your access to the Vatican Museums, where you will be able to contemplate, among thousands of other works of art, the wonderful Sistine Chapel. The advantage? It includes a ticket that saves you endless queues at the door and you will be accompanied by an expert guide who will help you contextualize everything you see.
Believe me: in a place with so many works, so much history and so much symbolism, you will appreciate having some information about the main galleries, the main artists and the essential works so as not to be overwhelmed by the great amount of stimuli, corridors and art that you will find inside the Vatican Museums. With this tour you will visit the main halls and galleries of the Museums, learning the most relevant details of the most significant works of the Vatican Museums. In this case the difference is that for a slightly higher price, you can enjoy the guided tour in a small group.
If you are one of those who do not enjoy tours in large organized groups, consider this option because it will allow you to be closer to the explanations of the guide, have a lighter pace during the visit and have more freedom to ask questions, ask for recommendations, connect better with the guide, etc..
Why I like this option: this is a good option to visit the Vatican Museums with a guide in a small group, which will allow you to enjoy a more intimate experience.
Recommended if... you want to visit the Museum with a guide but without having to join a large group.
Your ticket to visit the Vatican early in the morning to avoid crowds.
This is undoubtedly the most exclusive way to visit the Vatican Museums: you can enter the Sistine Chapel before it opens to the general public and enjoy the art without too many tourists around, with an expert guide in a small group.
Among all the premium tickets you can find for the Vatican, if you have to seriously consider any of them it is this early entrance with preferential access to the Sistine Chapel. Particularly, I like to enjoy some serenity and calm in museums and I am not lying if I say that in the Vatican Museums in general and the Sistine Chapel in particular I found it particularly difficult.
This option allows you to visit the Sistine Chapel with a smaller capacity (before it opens to the general public and other tours) and, undoubtedly, that allows you to enjoy it much better.
The difference between seeing this place in a small group, in detail, in silence and without hundreds of flashes around you will definitely mark how you live the experience. This type of ticket guarantees that you will be able to see the Vatican Museums in general and the Sistine Chapel in particular an hour and a half before the crowds flood the corridors. If you have to give yourself a treat on your trip, I advise you to take this one very seriously.
Why I like this option: first of all, because on a normal visit, the Sistine Chapel is usually crowded with tourists, which makes it lose a lot of charm. If you visit it first thing in the morning, with an expert guide to help you contextualize everything you see and accompanied by a small group, the experience really takes on another level.
Recommended if... you believe that visiting the Vatican Museums is something you have to do once in a lifetime and you have to do it enjoying it to the fullest, believe me, this is your choice.
Tickets for the best of Rome, in one day and at the best price
You can't leave Rome without visiting the Colosseum inside and the Vatican Museums. With this option you can take a guided tour of both at the best price.
Another highly recommended option is to combine the visit to the Vatican Museums in the morning with a visit to the Colosseum in the afternoon. As you may already know, a visit to the Colosseum is a must on your trip to Rome (no matter how many times you have seen its façade, you can't imagine all that is inside until you visit it).
If you want to save time and money when buying tickets to the two most emblematic spots in Rome, this combined ticket with guided tour to the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum is the best option in my opinion. In this article on How to Buy Tickets for the Colosseum and the Vatican I have described what this combined guided tour consists of, what it includes, how you can organize it, etc.
Why I like this option: if you are planning your trip to Rome you should already know that both the Colosseum and the Vatican are two must-see stops in the city. And the best way to visit them is to combine the access to both places, to save some money and also to be able to visit them with an expert guide who will make sure you don't miss anything.
Recommended if... you are planning to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, this is the most recommended way to hire both guided tours, enjoy the tour with a local guide and don't worry about organizing anything!
In summary, we compare the three options:
Small group guided tour of the Vatican Museums
Perfect for touring the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica with an expert guide in a small group size to enjoy the experience more. Plus, you'll skip the lines to enter the Museums.
Visit the Vatican Museums early in the morning to avoid crowds
The most exclusive way to visit the Vatican Museums: you can enter the Sistine Chapel before it opens to the general public and enjoy the art without too many tourists around with an expert guide.
The best of Rome in one day at the best price
If you are planning to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, this is the most economical way to book both guided tours. You will see both attractions in one day with an expert guide.
How much do tickets to the Vatican cost?
The most recommended is to buy the ticket that includes a guided tour in Spanish in group and it will cost you only 38 Euros. But as you have seen, depending on the type of ticket you want to buy, the price will be totally different. The good thing is that there are options for all budgets. If you want to have more details about the ticket prices to access the Vatican you can check my article about it here: Vatican Tickets Price 2022.
For a more premium option, with which you will manage to avoid crowds, there is the possibility of entering the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums before they open to the general public. This comes at a slightly higher price, but if you want to squeeze the most out of the experience, you won't regret it. It costs a little over 100 Euros. At all times you will be accompanied by an expert guide and the silence that reigns in the galleries at that time of the morning is well worth the extra cost.
Save by getting tickets
Finally, there are also packs that will allow you to save when visiting the Vatican and other attractions in the city. For example, in Hellotickets you can get the combined Colosseum + Vatican. In one day you visit both attractions with a specialized guide and the cost is about 90 Euros, which makes it a cheaper option than if you buy both visits separately.
Check out also the Omnia Card and the Roma Pass, tourist cards of the city, which will allow you to access other museums and monuments in addition to the Vatican at a reduced price.
Where to buy tickets for the Vatican without queues
The best option is to buy tickets in advance and online and make sure that the option you buy includes access to the Vatican skipping the queues. All the options you find in Hellotickets include it and it will be your great advantage when you visit the Vatican.
The long queues that form at the Vatican gates go around the walls flanking the Museums and are literally the longest queues in Rome. Waiting several hours in the sun to access the Museums, Basilica and Sistine Chapel can become your worst nightmare if you get there without tickets and have to go through the ticket office.
If you want to read some other tips and tricks to make the most of your Vatican experience check out my practical guide on: 10 Tips to visit the Vatican.
How to get Vatican tickets with the Roma Pass and Omnia Card
Being such a touristy city and with sooooo many wonders to see in Rome, you can choose to buy the tourist card of the city, which will serve you to visit the Vatican Museums because it has the entrance tickets included in its price.
Omnia Vatican and Roma Pass
Also known as Omnia card Roma, this card is usually combined with the Roma Pass tourist card and is the best option for visiting the Vatican as it includes entrance to the museums and other attractions. If you are going to visit the area in depth and you are going to do some sightseeing in the rest of Rome I recommend you to take a look at this other article about the Roma Pass, where I tell you how to use it and all its advantages.
Rome City Pass
It is the VIP pass of Rome and with it you can enter for free to the Vatican Museums and other places like the Colosseum. You can purchase the card for a period of 1 to 7 days and include transportation or airport transfer for a supplement.
Buy cheap Vatican and Colosseum tickets combined
If you are thinking about visiting the Colosseum (actually it is a must-see), you should know that there is the possibility to buy a combined ticket for the Vatican and the Colosseum with which you will save time and money, so it is really convenient. The price is more affordable than if you buy both tickets separately and you will skip the queues at both attractions, which makes the visit much more enjoyable.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to visit the two monuments accompanied by an expert guide at all times who will make sure you do not miss anything of these two jewels in the Eternal City.
How to buy tickets for the Vatican at the ticket office
From experience, I can assure you that the two-hour queues outside (with long stretches in the sun) will take a lot of energy away from seeing the Vatican Museums. Keep in mind that, depending on what time you go, you may run the risk of being sold out, so I advise you to go first thing in the morning.
The first thing you need to know is that when we talk about general admission without queues to the Vatican we are referring to the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Vatican City is free to enter (you don't need a ticket; it's like visiting another area of Rome) and access to St. Peter's Basilica is free.
But the Sistine Chapel and all the works and galleries of the Vatican Museums with some of the most famous works in the world are fee-based and require entrance and, very importantly, sell out quickly as seating is limited and there are thousands of people who want to go every day.
Is the Sistine Chapel included in the Vatican tickets?
Yes, all tickets to the Vatican include a visit to the famous Sistine Chapel. In fact, despite the magnitude of the size of the Vatican Museums, you will immediately notice that the Sistine Chapel accumulates the largest number of visitors, since almost everyone stops in that room to contemplate it.
To enjoy it with more tranquility, you can always buy the entrance ticket with early morning access and avoid crowds. To prepare your visit and make the most of it, you can read my article on how to buy tickets for the Sistine Chapel or how to visit the Sistine Chapel.
Is St. Peter's Basilica included in the Vatican tickets?
Not always, but the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica is free so you won't have to pay if you don't want to. Of course, the queues are very long, so there is the option to pay to enter (with or without a guided tour) and skip the queues. Once inside, you will marvel at its size and the quality of some of its works.
Is the ascent to the Dome included in the Vatican tickets?
If you want to go up to the Dome of St. Peter you will have to pay a separate ticket, but you can buy it right there without reservation and there are usually no long waits to access. If you hesitate between paying or not to go up to the dome my advice is to take a breath and go up.
Halfway up you will probably regret it (the narrow spiral staircase is quite a challenge), but when you get to the top the views will be worth it and you can file the experience as one of the highlights of your trip. If you're interested in learning more, you can read my article on how to climb St. Peter's Dome.
Are the Necropolis and the Catacombs included in the Vatican entrance ticket?
No. The Vatican Necropolis, located in the basement of St. Peter's Basilica, requires a separate entrance. It is quite an interesting visit and will allow you to see the crypts and tombs of some historical Popes and St. Peter the Apostle. If you feel like organizing the visit, I recommend that you do it in advance, as the capacity is quite limited and the demand is very high. I tell you all about it in my article on Vatican Crypts and Catacombs.
Are there any discounts for Vatican tickets?
Admission to the Vatican is free or at a special rate for students under 25 and university students, members of religious schools or accredited pilgrims, the disabled, journalists and children under six years of age. If you are interested in visiting the Vatican at the best price, here is a guide on how to get cheap, free or discounted Vatican tickets.
The opening hours of the Vatican Museums are, with some exceptions, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Please note that on Sundays the museum is closed all day for the Papal Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square and on some holidays as well. The best time to visit is usually, as is common with all tourist attractions, early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
I tell you everything in this detailed guide with all the schedules of the Vatican (the Museums, the Basilica, the ascent to the Dome...etc).
Duration of the visit to the Vatican
Depending on what you want to visit in the Vatican, you will need at least three hours (two, if you are rushing, but it is not worth it). I personally prefer to spend three hours on a leisurely tour of the Museums where I have a few things left to see from the collection rather than seeing the entire museums in two hours to get the "check" of having "seen" everything.
If you also want to stop at St. Peter's Basilica, climb the Dome or enjoy walking around St. Peter's Square with its colonnade, the visit is hopelessly lengthened and you could need up to a whole day. I leave you this detailed guide about the Duration of the Vatican visits so you can calculate how much time you need depending on what you want to enjoy during your visit.
Is it worth buying tickets for the Vatican with guided tour?
Yes, a guided tour is 100% recommended: a collection with so much symbolism and historical context is much more enjoyable with an expert who can tell you anecdotes about its creator, its style or the reason for its historical relevance. There are different options for guided tours of the Vatican, depending on the time and budget you have available.
For example, the most complete and best value for money tour costs 38 Euros and will allow you to see the best of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. If you want to avoid crowds, you can always choose the premium option to enter the Sistine Chapel first thing in the morning, before it opens to the general public, so you can enjoy the Sistine Chapel in peace and quiet in a very small privileged group.
How to get to the Vatican
Vatican City is far from the center of Rome, but that does not mean it is difficult to reach.
- Walking: depending on where you are staying, it is quite possible that you can reach the Vatican on foot. If, for example, your accommodation is close to Piazza Navona and you feel like taking a walk, you can cross the Tiber and in about half an hour you will reach St. Peter's Square; if you make a detour you can even pass by Castel Sant'Angelo first. No walk in Rome is a waste of time, but if you choose this option remember to leave early to get there at a good time.
- By public transport: the fastest way to get to the Vatican by public transport is to take metro line A to Ottaviano S Pietro. If the subway is not convenient for you, there are also buses that go there and leave from Piazza dei Cinquecento or Termini station.
If you want more detailed information, I have put together a guide on how to get to the Vatican.
How to buy tickets on the Vatican Official Website
If you are going to buy the tickets on the official Vatican website, keep in mind that they are non-refundable and are valid only for the day you choose. If you like to improvise during your trips, I recommend this Hellotickets option, as it allows free cancellation; this way you will not lose your money if any mishap arises during your trip.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you book your ticket in advance you will avoid queues of more than two hours.
Practical tips for visiting the Vatican
Visiting the Vatican is a must on your trip to Rome, but to get the most out of the day, it is advisable to plan a little the visit. Here is a list of tips for visiting the Vatican and I summarize below the most relevant ones:
Cover up when visiting the Vatican
You can learn from mistakes and I'm sure you know someone who after planning their visit has had to turn back without visiting the museums or basilica. In these two places you must wear covered legs and shoulders. No sleeveless, low-cut clothing, shorts, miniskirts or hats are allowed.
Do you have to cover up in the middle of summer? Let's see, common sense: carry a scarf or long foulard in your backpack that you can wear to enter these places and that you don't have to wear all day. I assure you that prevention is better than cure.
How to avoid crowds when visiting the Vatican
To avoid queues, you already know that you have to buy the entrance to the Vatican Museums in advance, but the crowds will not be so easy to avoid them... The only way to reduce them is to choose the first or the last schedule and not to go before or after a holiday and, if you can, avoid the high season.
What to do with backpacks and luggage when visiting the Vatican
They are not allowed and queues can form again at the ticket office. I recommend that you make your visit with the bare minimum because after so many hours on your feet even the packet of tissues ends up weighing you down.
Is it worth paying for the audio guide for children?
If you visit the Vatican Museums with children, I recommend that you ask for an audio guide especially for them (recommended for ages 6 to 12). This way the visit will be less tiring for them and they will enjoy the works of art more.
Where to eat near the Vatican
This area, being quite touristic, may not seem a priori the best part of Rome where to stop for lunch or dinner. Therefore, I have prepared this article with the best places to eat near the Vatican and avoid a displeasure.
Prepare your palate and enjoy the Roman gastronomy!
Ana's Traveller Tip
Carry a scarf in your backpack to cover your shoulders when entering the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica.
Frequently asked questions
What part of Vatican City can be visited?
On your visit to the Vatican you will see: St. Peter's Square, St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museum. There is also the Vatican Library, whose access is reserved for researchers, who must provide a certificate of their research and qualifications to enter.
Is there a possibility of seeing the Pope during my visit to Vatican City?
While it is unlikely to see the Pope walking around the city, he usually offers his Papal Audience on Wednesdays in St. Peter's Square and celebrates the Angelus (or benediction) on Sundays at 12 noon. Our advice is to arrive earlier to avoid the crowds and get a seat. The Pope also offers some Papal Masses, and if you want to attend one you should check his schedule to find out in which churches and when they take place.
Are there a lot of crowds at the Vatican Museums?
Inside the museum there are very crowded galleries and chapels (especially the Sistine Chapel). If you take a guided tour, the guide will take care to avoid coinciding with other groups to make the visit more enjoyable. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the capacity is much more controlled and it is difficult to see crowds.
How many galleries are there in the Vatican Museums?
The Vatican Museums consist of 54 different galleries, the last of which is the Sistine Chapel. Among them, the Gallery of the Maps, the Rooms of Raphael, the Borgia Apartment and the Vatican Picture Gallery stand out.