How to visit the Vatican in 2024: everything you need to know

Vatikán Řím / jak navštívit Vatikán

If you’re planning a trip to Rome, you probably have the Vatican on your “Things to see in Rome” list. In this article, we’ll look at what to see in the Vatican (St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums and more), what the entrance fee is, how to skip the lines and other useful tips.

Vatican City

Vatican City is the smallest country in the world in terms of size and population. It covers an area of only 0.44 km² and has approximately 800 inhabitants. It is an independent walled city-state, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and home to the Pope, who is the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church and head of state of the Vatican City.

The Vatican has its own radio station, newspaper and television station, which broadcasts to more than 100 countries in 27 different languages. It even has its own post office and mailboxes. Vatican stamps are highly collectible and often feature religious motifs or works of art.

The security of the Pope and the Vatican is provided by the Swiss Guard. The uniform of the Swiss Guard is very easy to recognize thanks to the colourful stripes and the Renaissance-style clothing.

The Vatican is one of the richest institutions in the world, with assets estimated at more than $15 billion. Most of its wealth comes from investments and donations from Catholics around the world.

View from the Vatican Museums of the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica
View from the Vatican Museums of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

HOW TO GET FROM THE FIUMICINO AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTRE: Private transfer from the airport is the most convenient way to get to Rome. Buses are the most popular mode of transfer – there are several carriers to choose from, with buses being the most reliable SIT Bus-Shuttle. They stop near the Vatican and Termini Station. Just show your ticket on your mobile phone on the spot. The advantage is that if you miss the original connection, you can take the next one without any problems. The third and fastest option is Leonardo Express trains.

How to get to the Vatican?

How to get to the Vatican depends on what you plan to visit. A tour of the Vatican needs to be planned. It is not possible to walk freely within the walls of the Vatican.

There are two main entrances to the Vatican: via St Peter’s Square and from Viale Vaticano. The two entrances are located about 10-15 minutes apart along the outside walls of the Vatican.

In this article, we will tell you how to get to each place in the Vatican.

What to see and visit in the Vatican?

Among the most beautiful places to visit in the Vatican are:

  • Piazza San Pietro
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Vatican Museums
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Vatican Gardens

If you plan to visit them all, make a full day for the Vatican. It will be a breathtaking but challenging visit.

Moreover, the Vatican is one of the most popular places to see when visiting Rome.

What does that imply? The queues here are often quite crazy at the beginning of the season (March, April).

For all the sites in the Vatican, we’ll cover all the practical information, including how to visit them, what not to miss and how to avoid the queues. Our goal is to make sure you enjoy your visit to the Vatican as much as possible.

Saint Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro)

Piazza San Pietro feels like an open embrace that literally draws you in. A beautiful, spacious square flanked by colonnades with striking columns and statues. In the centre is an Egyptian obelisk with the papal coat of arms and a Bernini fountain.

Piazza San Pietro Vatican City
Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City

Piazza San Pietro was the first place where the Romans used paving stones. That is why the paving stones in Rome are called Sanpietrini.

If you walk to the Vatican from the historic centre like many other people, you will see St Peter’s Square from the Castle of the Angels. You can also safely recognize it by the protruding dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Via della Conciliazione connects the Castle of Angels with Piazza San Pietro.

The dome of St Peter's Basilica as seen from the Bridge of Angels Rome
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as seen from the Bridge of Angels

Please note: The square is beautifully lit in the evening, but drunk homeless people may be present. You don’t have to worry because police cars are patrolling the square.

St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most famous and most visited monuments in the Vatican, where the Pope presides over many liturgies throughout the year. Due to its size, which can accommodate up to 60,000 worshippers, it is considered the largest church in the world.

It is an important pilgrimage site, built on the site of the original church directly above the tomb of St. Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. You can see the tomb of St Peter in the Vatican grottoes below the basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

St Peter’s Basilica took more than 120 years to build. And no wonder with its magnificent dome, intricate facade and beautiful interiors. Famous artists and architects, including Michelangelo and Bernini, were involved in the construction. Inside, don’t miss Michelangelo’s famous sculptures “Pieta” and Bernini’s “Cathedra Petri”.

St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City
Michelangelo’s Pieta

Although St Peter’s Basilica is the most visited church in Rome and at the Vatican, it is not the most important church building. The official seat of the Pope is the Lateran Basilica, which makes it the only cathedral in Rome.

View from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica

Climbing the dome of St Peter’s Basilica is one of the best things to do in the Vatican and in the whole of Rome. The view is definitely worth it – you can see St Peter’s Square in all its glory, and if you turn around, you can also see the Vatican Gardens.

View from St. Peter’s Basilica

Even when you go up, you can see the beautiful mosaics that line the dome up close (you can also take the elevator, but you won’t see the mosaics).

On the first level is the entrance to the roof, where you can see the statues of the apostles up close. From there, you will climb the narrow stairs up to the dome (for this reason, it is not recommended for children under 7 years of age and those who suffer from claustrophobia or dizziness).

How to get to St. Peter’s Basilica

The entrance to St Peter’s Basilica is through Piazza San Pietro – it is on the right side of the basilica. It takes about 20 minutes to get here from the centre, across the Angel Bridge and past the Angel Castle.

The other option is to take the metro line A to the Ottaviano stop and from there walk along the Vatican walls for about 15 minutes (the walls will be on your right).

A note on transport in Rome: You can pay for the metro in Rome simply by putting your contactless card on the turnstile. This will deduct the price of the ticket. For more information on transport, see the article with tips for travelling to Rome (opens in a new window).

If you then plan to visit the Vatican Museums, you must leave the Basilica beforehand and walk around the walls of the Vatican in about 10 minutes before you reach the entrance to the Vatican Museums. It is not possible to go through St. Peter’s Basilica to the Vatican Museums (only with some tours).

Admission to St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

Admission to the basilica is free. There is an entrance fee to the Dome – lift to the terrace and then 320 steps on foot for €10, or just walk the 551 steps without lift for €8.

Payment is only possible in cash. You will see the kiosk on the right hand side shortly after you enter the basilica.

Opening hours of St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica is open from April to September from 7:00-19:10 and from October to March from 7:00-18:30. The dome opens between 7:30-8:00 and closes from April to September at 18:00 and from October to March at 17:00.

Please note: On Wednesdays the Pope has an audience and the Basilica does not open until 12:30-13:00. If you are planning to see the Pope, book your place here.

Queues across St Peter's Square to St Peter's Basilica
Queues across St Peter’s Square to St Peter’s Basilica

How to skip the queues for St Peter’s Basilica

The queues to St Peter’s Basilica wind along the entire St Peter’s Square.

I’ve seen them with my own eyes and believe me, you wouldn’t want to expect them. Already in March and April, there are queues of several hours. In addition, there are no covered places, so especially in summer, waiting in the sun is even more difficult.

I enclose two recommendations on how to avoid the queues in St Peter’s Basilica:

  1. Get up and come early in the morning. Feel free to arrive at 7am when the basilica opens – you won’t be completely alone this early in the morning either. You can take a leisurely tour of the entire basilica and then head to the dome, which opens at 8am at the most. The other option is to come before closing time, when the biggest crowds leave.
  2. Join a guided tour – most popular tour includes the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. But you can also choose to be alone tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, including the crypt and dome . The guide will pull you through with quick entries so you don’t wait in any lines.

Vatican Museums – what to visit in the Vatican

A 500-year-old collection in 54 galleries and more than 1,400 rooms sounds like a good reason to put the Vatican Museums on your list of places to visit in Rome and the Vatican.

And you don’t have to be an art lover at all.

The buildings that house the Vatican Museums are architectural gems in themselves – magnificent courtyards, galleries and chapels with intricate details and elaborate craftsmanship.

You can admire not only the rooms, but also some of the most famous and important works of art – Italian Renaissance art in the Pinacoteca, the intricately decorated rooms of Raphael or the Map Gallery, which will literally take your breath away with its golden decorations and stunning geographical maps of the whole of Italy.

How to skip the queues for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel: You can skip the queue by orderingtickets to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel online. At the venue, you will then go through the middle entrance for those who have booked a ticket in advance.

Courtyard in the Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Courtyard in the Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Vatican Museums
Gallery of maps in the Vatican Museums
The final spiral staircase in the Vatican Museums
The final spiral staircase in the Vatican Museums

You can keep coming back to the Vatican Museums and still have plenty to discover. It is literally impossible to see everything in one visit. It will already take you at least 2 hours to visit the Vatican Museums.

☞ Read more about the Vatican Museums in the previous article.

How to get to the Vatican Museums in the Vatican?

The entrance to the Vatican Museums is from Viale Vaticano. If you plan to visit St Peter’s Square with St Peter’s Basilica first, after visiting the Basilica, head towards the right colonnade and along the wall (the wall will be on your left) until you reach the entrance to the Vatican Museums (about 10-15 minutes).

If you’re planning to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel first, you can take the Metro line A to the Ottaviano stop, where the entrance is just a few minutes away.

Vatican Museums entrance
Entrance to the Vatican Museums

Admission for the Vatican Museums

Admission to the Vatican Museums varies depending on whether you buy tickets on the spot or in advance. Tickets purchased at the door are cheaper – full admission is €17 and reduced admission is €8 (children over 6 and students under 26). Children up to 6 years of age are admitted free of charge.

In pre-sale you’ll pay more, but on the other hand, you won’t be waiting in a long line. You’ll be sure to get in. There is another disadvantage to waiting in a long queue – you do a lot of walking inside and it’s good to arrive rested and not tired from a long wait.

Please note: Tickets to the Vatican Museums include entry to the Sistine Chapel.

Check the current availability of tickets for the Vatican Museums:

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Opening hours of the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are open Monday to Saturday from 8:00-19:00 (last entry at 17:00). Since March, the opening hours in the high season on Fridays and Saturdays are extended until 20:00 (last entry at 18:00).

Closed on Sundays except the last Sunday of the month when it is open 9:00-14:00 (last entry at 12:30).

How to skip the queues for the Vatican Museums?

The Vatican Museums are famous for their queues. The queue snakes around the corner along the walls, and more crowds keep streaming in from Piazza San Pietro.

the queue for tickets to the Vatican Museums in April in the middle of the week - the entrance is just around the corner on the left.
Queue for Vatican Museums tickets midweek in April – entrance is just around the corner on the left.

Bybooking your tickets in advance, you can skip the entire queue. You go through the middle entrance (there is a sign to guide you), where you show the staff your reservation. Inside, you will go through a security check (similar to airport security, but less strict).

Even at the time of the biggest queue (see photo above), we didn’t wait for a reservation at all and went straight in.

What to do if tickets to the Vatican Museums are sold out?

A frequent reality from March to October – tickets are sold out weeks in advance. If this is the case, I recommend first check current availability here.

Didn’t find a free date? In this case I recommend a guided tour. There are several to choose from and plenty of dates available. This is an increasingly popular way to visit the Vatican Museums.

Another option is to queue – arrive before opening hours to keep the queue to a minimum.

Sistine Chapel

If you look from the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, you probably won’t even recognise the Sistine Chapel from the outside. It has such an unobtrusive interior that it literally blends in with the other buildings.

But inside… that’s a different cup of coffee. There is probably no more beautiful interior than the Sistine Chapel. Many great Renaissance artists contributed to it, including Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

The most famous are the frescoes by Michelangelo Buonarroti. As you enter the chapel, you tend to turn your head upwards to the ceiling, where Michelangelo’s frescoes depict nine episodes from the book of Genesis. In addition to the ceilings, Michelangelo painted his iconic work The Last Judgement a few decades later, which you will see on the altar wall.

The Last Judgment Sistine Chapel
The Last Judgement, Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel Vatican

In addition to its beautiful interior, the Sistine Chapel has historical significance. It is here that the papal conclaves are held, which are meetings of the College of Cardinals to elect a new Pope. Thanks to this long tradition, the chapel is an important place in the religious and political life of the Roman Catholic Church.

☞ Read more about the Sistine Chapel in the previous article.

Practical information for visiting the Sistine Chapel

You will visit the Sistine Chapel as part of a tour of the Vatican Museums. It cannot be visited separately (nor is there a separate entrance for visitors). The Sistine Chapel is on the main route and cannot be missed when visiting the Vatican Museums. There are information boards everywhere to guide you.

There’s even a shortcut where you skip Raphael’s rooms and go straight to the Sistine Chapel. Many people miss out on Raphael’s rooms because of the Sistine Chapel, but that would be a great pity because they are beautiful.

You can tell that you are coming to the Sistine Chapel by the even larger number of people crowding around. The staff will instruct you not to stop and to continue towards the exit. If you want to admire the interior of the Sistine Chapel for longer, you can walk to the middle of the chapel or sit on one of the benches along the walls (if there are any available).

As the Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, its opening hours are the same as those of the museums. You don’t pay anything extra – you can visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel in one ticket.

Tickets tend to sell out weeks in advance. There are a number of tours to choose from and at times it can feel confusing. Here are some of our tips:

Here you can book classic tickets without a guide. If you’d like to know some interesting facts, this tour is the best.

Vatican Gardens – the most beautiful places in the Vatican

Rome has many beautiful gardens, full of orange trees, cypresses and Roman pines. The Vatican gardens are, according to many, the most beautiful. And why are they so special?

The gardens date back to the 13th century. century and has served as a resting and contemplation place for many popes throughout history. An oasis of trees, flowers and exotic plants that is literally filled with masterpieces of art and architecture including fountains, statues, monuments and grottos.

How to visit the Vatican Gardens?

The Vatican Gardens are open daily except Sundays from 9:00-18:00. There is a minibus that will take you through the Vatican Gardens in 45 minutes. It is not possible to walk around freely without a guide.

Ticket to the Vatican Gardens can be bought together with a ticket to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Just select the option that includes the Vatican Gardens and you will then receive all the instructions in your email.

Rome & Vatican Pass – Tourist Card for Vatican City and Rome

The Rome & Vatican Pass is a popular tourist card that includes access to the Vatican and most of the monuments in Rome, as well as unlimited transport in Rome (not valid for airport buses and trains).

Depending on what you’re planning to see in the Vatican and Rome, the Rome&Vatican Pass could save you money. In case you are planning to visit only a few places, the card will not be a good choice for you.

☞ Read more about Rome&Vatican Pass in the previous article.

This was our guide to visiting the Vatican. Do you have any questions? We’ll be happy to answer them in the comments below. Have a safe journey!

Learn more about the Vatican and Rome

VATICAN CITY: What not to miss in the Sistine Chapel is covered in a separate article. We’ve also created a detailed guide to the Vatican Museums or check out our photos of the Vatican Museums.

THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN ROME: In our article on what to visit in Rome, you will find detailed descriptions of the most beautiful places, including information on admission fees and opening times. We also have special guides for the monuments of ancient Rome or the best museums in Rome.

Read the guide to the Colosseum to avoid queues on site.

ITINERARY FOR ROME: Get inspired by our itinerary for Rome in 3 days. You only have one day? The itinerary for Rome in 1 day will help you plan the perfect trip.

ACCOMMODATION IN ROME: We’ve created a detailed guide on where to stay in Rome (best neighbourhoods and accommodation on a budget, a map and how to get from your accommodation to the sights or the airport).

HOW TO ENJOY ROME: For tips on the best things to do in Rome, check out our article on what in. We also share some tips on how to save in Rome and more than 35 tips for travelling around Rome. In a separate article, you can find out about all the ways to get from Fiumicino Airport to the centre of Rome.

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