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.
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.
About half the of the Vatican is open to the public.
These areas are: the Vatican Museums, the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, the Papal Tombs, the Dome of St. Peter's, the Vatican Gardens and Necropolis.
To visit the inside of the Vatican Gardens or the Necropolis you have to book an official Vatican tour with the Vatican themselves. These are hard to get on to, particularly the Necropolis. The rest of the things above are open to the public and tour guides like myself directly (you can go in when they are open). Very few people see the gardens or Necropolis; most people just go in to the Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica and that's what people mean when they say "we saw the Vatican".
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 Museums are how one accesses the:
My Tour reviews:
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 made the whole foot pounding experience very interesting with a touch of humour thrown in for good measure. Without him pointing out things on the way we would have missed a lot. My teenage daughter was not looking forward to the tour, but afterwards she commented on how much she got out of it and found it very funny.
5.0 Stars Mr Parlour
The tour was very good and Dara had the perfect combination of knowledge, respect and humour! It was good he had this as the tour is long but we knew it would be. The only aspect of the tour which saddened me and my friends (this has no reflection on Dara) when we entered the Sistine Chapel I could believe the noise, flash photography and uncovered arms!!) This is obviously a sign of the times but the Vatican should Not allow it. Vatican Tour was amazing and of course I will be recommending it.
5.0 Stars Anna Baker
The Tour was Great
The tour was great. Dara was a great combination of knowledge and humor. Good pace. I would use your tour company again.
5.0 Stars Mike Marotta
Our tour guide was very informative and knew the history of all the statues and art paintings and frescoes on the walls and ceilings. We are very glad we took this guided tour. We would not have known what we were looking at. Excellent work to Vatican tour and guide. Thanks!
5.0 Stars Katherine R. Yazzie
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
Dara was very informative
5.0 Stars Jeff Kennedy
Spoke excellent English. Loved the headphones. Did not have to keep up to enjoy the tour. Have two teenagers with us and they enjoyed it too!
5.0 Stars Toni Elizabeth Stanek
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
Thoroughly pleased with the entire experience.
5.0 Stars Christy Turner
|Where is Vatican City|
|Vatican City Map|
|Parts of the Vatican|
|St. Peter's Basilica|
|St. Peter's Square|
|St. Peter's Dome|
|My Vatican Tour Details|
|Skip the Line Tickets|
|Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's|
|Bathroom & Coffee Breaks|
|English Speaking Guides|