Things to do in Rome

A guide to exploring the ancient realm of the Vatican City

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Vatican City, nestled within Rome, attracts over 5 million visitors annually due to its profound spiritual significance and historical allure. Known as the Holy See, this country (yes, it is the smallest country in the world) boasts iconic landmarks, including St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums, housing invaluable treasures and millenia of art, from 4,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk in Saint Peter's Square to Michelangelo's masterful 16th-century frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. On your visit to Rome add Vatican City to your itinerary because it is a must-visit, for its unparalleled cultural and religious importance, offering a glimpse into centuries of art, history, and spirituality.

Recommended Vatican City tickets

Why visit Vatican City?

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The city’s art and architecture need no introduction. The monuments, landmarks, and paintings have been created by some of the best artists the world has seen. Witness the Roman, Baroque, and Gothic characteristics of design represented by many of the landmarks. The Vatican Library and the Sistine Chapel are a symbol of the Roman Renaissance. The Vatican City is also a sovereign territory of the Holy See.

The Holy See is the last absolute monarchy and the governing body of the Catholic Church which is recognized as the judicial entity under international law. Vatican City is not only home to spectacular art and architecture, but also of the permanent seat of the Pope.

Vatican City: History

vatican city

Vatican City, the center of the catholic faith, home to the Pope and interesting collections of art, is the smallest country in the world. It is fascinating how this small country is packed with so much historical relevance, power, art, and beauty. It is surrounded by the city of Rome and lies west of the Tiber River.

With a land area of only about 0.44s square kilometers, the state holds a population of only 800 individuals. Although the Vatican city was officially founded on 11th February 1929, it has long been a land of power, faith, and neoclassical charm. It is made of several famous landmarks such as St. Peter's Basilica, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican Museums, and the Gardens of Vatican City.

There are several stories about Michelangelo initially refusing to create his most famous art, The Last Judgement. What is more interesting is Michelangelo’s insertion of himself into the fresco (your tour guide would elaborate on both incidents). Today, the area is developed into a popular pilgrimage site and a commercial district. Although it is the smallest of the countries, the Vatican's GDP per capita of $21,198, which makes Vatican City the 18th wealthiest nation in the world per capita.

Vatican City: Attractions

st marks basilica skip the line
City Attractions

Vatican City Attractions

Learn more about each of the Vatican City attractions and explore more of them on your visit to the Vatican.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: To visit the Sistine Chapel you first need to visit the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel is inside the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. To get there, you need walk directly through the museums, past the Gallery of Maps, to enter the chapel. If you've purchased guided tour tickets with fast access, do note that the fast access is pertaining to entry to the Vatican Museums. Separate tickets for entry to Sistine Chapel are not sold.

Vatican City: Things to do around

Vatican City: Best time to visit

Every day 25,000 people walk past the walls of the Vatican landmarks. Hence, prepare in advance to see the museums, Basilica, Chapel, and gardens. If you do not like crowds and want to travel on a budget, visit the Vatican City during the colder months (excluding Christmas and New Year) which occurs from late November to early December and mid-January to the end of February. Try to avoid visiting on Sundays, since the museums are closed on all Sundays except the last Sunday of the month from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. Most people also rush to the Vatican in the mornings. So, do the opposite and plan your visit in the early afternoon. You can purchase the tickets online to skip the long waiting lines from here.

Vatican City: Visitor rules and regulations

  • Bags or luggage of any sorts measuring more than 40*35*15 centimetres is not allowed inside the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel. There are however cloak rooms that allow you to store your bags if you’re carrying any.
  • Use of amplified microphones and laser pointers is not allowed.
  • Dress appropriately before you enter the Vatican. Sleeveless blouses, miniskirts, shorts and hats are not permitted.
  • Use of mobile phones inside the Sistine Chapel is prohibited. Elsewhere you can use your phone, but it is preferred that you refrain from doing so if possible.
  • Absolutely refrain from touching any work of art. Alarm and surveillance systems are in place.
  • You cannot enter the Museums or the Basilica with alcoholic drinks. Any food or drink may be left at the cloakrooms.

Vatican City: Facts your probably didn't know

  • It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Country.
  • Many Popes refused to leave the Vatican for nearly 60 years during the 19th and 20th century and did not live in the Vatican until the 14th century
  • The Pope has his army from Switzerland of 135 men!
  • None of its citizens are born there and a majority of its citizens live abroad.
  • The Vatican does not have an official language.
  • It is the first carbon-neutral state in the world.

Vatican city: Visiting tips

  1. It is preferable to take a guided tour, knowing the sheer size of collections. It is quite a difficult task to go with self help guide books if you truly want to enjoy your experience.
  2. Buying skip the line tickets is a very good idea as the museums are known for notoriously long queues.
  3. Choose an appropriate time to visit when there are chances of lesser crowds like early morning guided tours with breakfast or entering in the afternoon when the crowds have already moved in.
  4. There are certain must see parts of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel which you may miss out. Make sure that you have listed out all these must see things at these places beforehand.
  5. Keep enough time for the Sistine Chapel but in a rush to reach there don't miss out some of the amazing remarkable rooms like Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms), which are just before the Sistine Chapel.
  6. A comfortable pair of shoes go a long way in enjoying walking through the huge galleries of the museums and the connecting areas.
  7. Avoid carrying a backpack as you will have to check it in upon entering the museum.
  8. You need to dress appropriately not showing too much bare skin or else you may be turned away.
  9. Ideally, do not plan to go on a free entry Sunday as it is inordinately crowded.


What is not allowed in the Vatican?

What should I see in Vatican City?

Do you need a passport to enter the Vatican?

Where does the Pope live?

When was the Vatican Church built?

Is the Vatican wheelchair accessible?

What is the Vatican City dress code?

Why is Vatican City a country?

 Is entry to the Vatican free?

Is the Vatican free on Sundays?

 Does Vatican City have an army?

Who lives in Vatican city?

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