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:
Great Tour Guide
What a funny guy! Truly enjoyed the commentary whether it was related or not! He is a great tour guide, super personality!
5.0 Stars Melissa Laycock
Excellent tour. Our guide was wonderful and really cared about everything.
5.0 Stars Peggy Collias
Brilliant Irish Wit
Dara was so knowledgeable about all aspects of the history, architecture and general elements of the Vatican. What we really appreciated were the background stories he shared about why things were done the way that they were as it really aided our understanding and appreciation. Our group included 2 teenagers, and all of us were pleased. There was so much to cover and he did it brilliantly. His brilliant Irish wit was greatly appreciated too! I can't imagine trying to do the Vatican on our own.
5.0 Stars Carrie
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
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
An easy and Fun Experience
The tour was everything and more than we expected. Thanks for making it an easy and fun experience for the whole family.
5.0 Stars Sarah Morel
Informative and Interesting
Our tour was most informative and interesting. The guide kept the family entertained with facts of the origins to the many statues and artwork. Well worth the cost to cover such a magnificent papal residence.
5.0 Stars Gilbert & Luisa Rigon
Dara was AWESOME!
Dara was AWESOME!
5.0 Stars Maz
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
Tour was good
Tour was good. Dara was informative and accomodating
5.0 Stars Nancy Stanton
|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|