The Vatican is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. An entire complex, it is about 0.5 km² or 0.2 miles² in area, and is contained within huge walls on the left or west bank of the Tiber in Rome, Italy. You can click here to see a map.
What is the Vatican
The Vatican is the offical residence of the Pope and is where the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica and other attractions are. Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus, was killed on this hill whilst preaching in Rome in the 60s A.D. and the largest church in the world was built over his grave two hundred and fifty years later by the Roman Emperor Constantine. The Catholic Church regards Peter as the first Pope or human leader of the Christians. Saint Peter's grave is believed to be beneath the church.
Expanding in power and influence, the Vatican became its own country, the Papal States, controlling coast to coast of central Italy and as far north as Bologna for over 1000 years. Since the Unification of Italy in the 1860s, it has been reduced back to its original hill property. It became a state again in the 1930s in an agreement with Mussolini's Italy and since then has been known as Vatican City. It is independent of Italy and is one of the smallest countries in the world.
Vatican Museum Hours
The Vatican is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm (last entrance is about 4pm) during the winter months
(October to April), and from 9am to 6.00pm during the summer months (May to September) each year.
May to October are busy, particularly in the mornings; after that it gets quiet.
Between 10 and 25,000 visitors go through there everyday. It is closed on Catholic Holy days such as Christmas, Easter Sunday and three Sundays of every month in general. The last Sunday of every month the Vatican is open to the public for free. However, it is so busy I would not recommend going on this day. If you book a tour with me, I will know the Vatican is open on that day (I have the timetable). One of the mistakes people make is to think it is not busy and just show up. Be prepared to potentially spend hours in line if this is the case. I book skip-the-line tickets for my clients to avoid the usual queues at the Vatican.
To see the Sistine Chapel, or the Raphael Rooms you have to go through the Vatican Museums. There is no other way. This has been the case since the year 2000 when a new entrance was opened. Inside it is a one-way system, although there are options along the way. For instance the Raphael Rooms are not compulsory and not all the museums are compulsory.
There are two lines or queues for the Vatican.
One is to get in to the Vatican Museums (to see the Sistine Chapel) and the other line is for St. Peter's Basilica.
They are two separate buildings which are beside each other. The Museums open at 9am and there is a line or queue with about 2,000 people or more in it who have been waiting since 7am. You can skip the line by booking a tour with a tour guide like me or by buying skip the line tickets online with the Vatican themselves and doing it by yourself. You do not need to book a tour to skip the lines.
If your book a tour with me, we skip all lines. There is no waiting.
The Vatican Museums are one of the largest privately owned museums in the world.
They contain thousands of pieces of sculpture and paintings collected by various Popes over the last 500 years.You have to go through the Museums to see the Sistine Chapel or the Raphael Rooms. In the afternoon, the sheer size of the museums will exhaust you. Until about noon the Vatican has two ways of going through the Museums; the short and long itinerary.
After about 11.30/12 noon they close off the short itinerary and you have to go the long way. This baffles me, but it is the way things are. The Museums are one way and have been so for over the last fiftenn years. There is little or nowhere to sit down inside the Museums (except for 2 cafe's and a set of benches in two rooms) and there are only four bathrooms in the entire complex (one at the entrance, one in the downstairs cafe, one in the Raphael Rooms, and one near Sistine Chapel). I give stops for bathrooms and coffee on my tours. Information about the museums with pictures is here.
The Vatican City
The Vatican Museums are how one accesses the:
- Sistine Chapel
- the Raphael Rooms
- the Pinacoteca
- the Vatican Gardens (once you book a tour with them)
The Vatican is a large 0.5m² complex in Rome. It is open to the public 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. You can skip the line by booking tickets with the Vatican or by booking a tour with a guide like me. You have to go through the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel and to skip the line for St. Peter's. The Museums are huge and are one way system. It is best to do a tour in the morning. It is best not to bring children on the tour. You can take photos everywhere except the Sistine Chapel and it takes almost an hour to walk through the museums to the Sistine Chapel. There are very few bathrooms inside and hardly anywhere to sit down. The Vatican is popular and usually crowded. St. Peter's is free but there's a slight chance it maybe closed when you visit. You will be tired at the end of your visit but it is worth it. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Updated by Dara McCarthy on . Scroll to Top
My Tour reviews:
The tour was good and Dara did a fine job explaining everything.
5.0 Stars Tom Johnson
Our guide was fantastic, really bought everything alive!
5.0 Stars Sacha Hitchings
Perfect Balance of Wit and Knowledge
He was the perfect balance of wit and knowledge - was amazed at the depth of his knowledge and he has ability to communicate the facts in an interesting manner - also gave us a good selection of the things worth seeing - I have recommended the tour on our expedia review of Rome
5.0 Stars David Garwood
Dara's Tour was Fantastic.
Dara's tour was fantastic. He made 2000 years of history much more fun than expected. I would certainly take his tour again when I next visit Rome. I learned so much and had a great time. Thanks!
5.0 Stars Melinda
Highlights of My Trip
Most professional tour that I had on Rome. One of the highlights of my trip. Thank you!
5.0 Stars Marti Panikkar
The Most Enjoyable Tour
This was the most enjoyable tour of our entire two week vacation to Italy. The guide was quite knowledgeable and interjected fun facts and humor which made it even more engaging for our children - ages 20, 17 & 15. He was always respectful of the faith and reminded us of the rules - which from the noise level in the cathedral, other tour guides must not have been as informative.
5.0 Stars Mike Howard
A Wonderful Experience
A wonderful experience. Well worth the price. Excellent knowledge shown by Dara and any questions quickly answered. Would recommend strongly.
5.0 Stars Steven Trickitt
This Irish tour guide was excellent. Very knowledgeable and delivered information in a thorough manner with a clear voice. By far the best guide I had on the trip.
5.0 Stars Russell Lau
Very Knowledgeable and Spirited
He was very knowledgeable and spirited. Plus, what with the Obamas in town, we had to walk the entire way around to get to the Vatican when the tour was over. As an aside, my daughter and I waited in the Vatican for almost an hour as there was a rumor that Mrs. Obama was expected, but in the end, what with only 1 1/2 days in Rome, we left. Since we continued on to Florence, Bologna, and Venice, we never did find out if we had missed seeing her. But was there ever a lot of excitement in that area
5.0 Stars Dr Donna Ferrara
Very Informative and Interesting
Dara was very informative and interesting. He made the tour very successful. We recommended that some collegues we were later meeting book their tour with you company.
5.0 Stars Steven Hardin
|Did you know?|
|The Vatican is not air-conditioned|
|There are very few seats|
|and few cafes|
|Tickets or Tour Booked|
|Knees & Shoulders Covered|
|Flash turned off Camera|
|Bottle of Water|
|Rested & Relaxed|