With the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Square and dome as main landmarks, the Vatican is a must-see among the things to see and do in Rome. The history behind its walls cannot be read in textbooks and that is one of the main reasons to visit them.
The experience of visiting the Vatican Museums on your own is totally different from doing it with a specialized guide who explains and contextualizes the centuries of Art of these museums. Choosing a tour among the many options can be overwhelming, but these are the best options:
Complete tour of the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica
If you want to visit in the same day the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica without missing the papal tombs, saving money and time, this is the best option.
This option of a complete visit to the Vatican with the guide of an expert is for those who wish to make the most of the day in the Vatican environment and see its main architectural gems. With this 2-hour tour you will save a lot of time queuing and you will also have exclusive access to the Papal Tombs in St. Peter's Basilica.
In addition to explanations about specific works, this complete tour of the Vatican and St. Peter's also includes interesting information such as observing the architecture of the area, learning about 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.
Recommended if... You want to complete your visit to the Vatican by discovering another of Rome's must-see sites, taking advantage of its proximity.
Other options for guided tours of the Vatican
If you want to forget about queuing and wasting time waiting, here are some other proposals for guided tours of the Vatican:
- Early guided tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel: avoid the big crowds and enjoy the tour at your leisure.
- Guided tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel for children: a different guided tour, with games and trivia to make the tour more enjoyable for the kids and more relaxed for the adults.
- Private guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel: enjoy an exclusive experience for you and your group, with an expert guide at your side throughout the visit.
What you should know about your Vatican guided tour
By booking a guided tour (and this works in virtually all cases) you can stop worrying about times, routes and waits (the vast majority of Vatican tours are queue-free). Although it may seem paradoxical, you feel less like a tourist with guided tours because the only concern is the stories the guide is telling.
There are options that refund your money if you cancel 24 hours in advance. This allows you, in case of unforeseen circumstances, to adjust your plans without losing your money. When making your reservation, make sure that entrance tickets are included and ensure queue-free access: although it may seem basic, nothing should be taken for granted.
Organize your guided tour of the Vatican
Although there are several schedules to visit the Vatican with a guided tour, it is recommended that you choose early in the morning to avoid coinciding with the peak hours of the Vatican Museums. Also, it is important to note that tours that include a visit to St. Peter's Basilica after 2:00 p.m. do not guarantee access to the Basilica.
How to get to the Vatican
Although it is a bit far away, the Vatican can be reached from the center of Rome by walking from tourist spots such as Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiori. In any case, the easiest option is to take metro line A to Ottaviano S. Pietro.
Atour of the Vatican can take about three hours, although the total time can vary and can be longer. If you want to see the most important parts of the Vatican Museums in depth, a tour of less than this time is not recommended. If you are visiting the Vatican on your own, you may be interested in this post on the duration of Vatican tours.
Eating in the area
Leave the area for lunch unless your guide gives you a specific recommendation for eating near the Vatican. Be aware that most 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.
Tour with children
It is not recommended that you take a guided tour of the Vatican Museums with children unless it is specifically adapted for them. The tour is too long for the little ones, the museums are crowded and they won't enjoy it and you won't enjoy it. As for baby strollers, they can be chaotic during rush hour.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Avoid hiring the "guides" who will approach you in St. Peter's Square. Many are unofficial and are not qualified to give a quality guided tour.
Frequently asked questions by travelers interested in a guided tour of the Vatican in Rome
How should I dress in the Vatican?
Due to the particular idiosyncrasy of the place, one of the main rules of the Vatican is to wear "decorous" clothing. To enter, it is mandatory to cover shoulders and knees. This also means no hats, suspenders, necklines, pants or short skirts.
Can I take pictures inside the Vatican?
In the Vatican Museums, flash and selfie sticks are not 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 permit).
In the case of St. Peter's Basilica, remember that you are in a place of worship; although many tourists do not respect it, the most appropriate thing is not to be taking pictures while visitors try to enjoy the seclusion that the place should transmit.
Is it worth climbing the Dome of St. Peter's?
Although the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica is free and you will surely see it during the guided tour of the Vatican, the climb to the dome of St. Peter 's is charged separately. If you are fit and do not suffer from claustrophobia it is worth doing. Otherwise from Gianicolo Hill you will have a very similar view of St. Peter's Square.
Can I visit the Vatican Museums at night?
On some Fridays of the year the Vatican Museums are open during the afternoon-evening (although there are usually no tours at this time). Find out when they are and take the opportunity to visit them if you are in Rome, as they are usually much less crowded.
What if I just want tickets to the Vatican?
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 see 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. The price of tickets to the Vatican without guided tour, however, will be lower and you can benefit from discounts on Vatican tickets if you meet certain age or profession requirements.
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 because 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 the favorite is the visit of 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, which is why there are combined tickets for the Vatican and the Colosseum.