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:
Thank you for providing a wonderful tour of the Vatican - with special thanks to Dara who was an outstanding guide!
5.0 Stars Simon Harris
It was a great tour except it was too long without being able to sit down or take breaks. (This is a criticism of the Vatican many people have - there should be more benches - Dara).
5.0 Stars Sheila Picard
Dara was very informative
5.0 Stars Jeff Kennedy
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
Dara was Very Funny
Dara was very funny and gave great information. Truly enjoyed this!
5.0 Stars Susan Kiner
Throughly Enjoyed the Tour
Dara was excellent I throughly enjoyed the tour as did my family. I would do it again when I return.
5.0 Stars Olga Corapi
Dara was Great
Dara was great. We had to leave the tour early because our ship changed the departure time from the port city - move it up 1 hour. Dara gave us great directions on where to go to see what we wanted to see since we couldn't stay with the tour. He also was very informative while the hour or so we were with the tour.
5.0 Stars Jerry Parche
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 an excellent guide, knowledgeable and added a nice touch of humour to the tour. We really enjoyed ourselves on the tour.
5.0 Stars Kevin Hall
Dara was Fantastic!
Dara was fantastic! Not only very informative but funny as well. He kept the group together well, he frequently asked if everyone was okay and we stopped for toilet breaks. The tour was so interesting and well paced. It was also great that Dara was able to talk and walk at the same time unlike the guide the following day at the colosseum who hurried us past everything then ushered us into the shade to talk for 20-30 minutes at a time(I'll rate that one next)!
5.0 Stars Natasha Thomas
|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|