Vatican City, despite being the smallest country in the world with an area of 44 hectares, is home to scores of attractions that keep millions of tourists thronging to it every year. Home to various religious and cultural sites, the city also treasures an immense priceless collections of artistic and historical masterpieces by world’s greatest artists in dozens of Vatican museums. These museums fascinate millions of visitors each year with Sistine Chapel being the highlight. The Sistine Chapel located inside the Palace of the Vatican - with its ceiling and walls decorated by Michelangelo and the frescos designed by Raphael - is one of the most unique and stunning attractions of Vatican.
The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are located within the ambit of the Vatican City. They exhibit renowned classical artworks and masterpieces of Renaissance art accumulated by Popes through the centuries. With roughly 70,000 works of art, Vatican Museums can easily boast of being the world's greatest art collections. Pieces and displays ranging from Egyptian mummies and metallics from Etruria to antique chests as well as modern paintings are exhibited along 7km of halls and corridors. There are about 54 of these regally adorned halls and galleries that are part of the Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano - the official residence of the Pope of Rome.
The prominence and notability of the Vatican museums culminates into the most spectacular of all, The Sistine Chapel. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior designed by Raphael and the ceiling painted with ‘The Last Judgment’ by Michelangelo about 500 years ago. With truths of faith in Christianity speaking from all sides, Sistine Chapel is one of the most prominent artistic achievements of human civilisation that has changed the course of Western art. Over 10 million people visit this art museum each year, making it one of the most visited museums world over.
Must-see at the Vatican Museums
- The Raphael Rooms
- Sala Rotunda
- Gallery of Maps
- The Spiral Staircase
- Sistine Chapel
- The Last Judgement
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
• From Monday to Saturday - 9 AM to 6 PM (final entry 4 PM)
• Every last Sunday of the month - 9 AM to 2 PM (final entry 12.30 PM)
Viale Vaticano, 00165 Rome, Italy
Vatican Museums Skip the Line tickets
Skip the Line Tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel✪
Price - €26
Guided Tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica
Price - €46
Exclusive Early Access Tickets to Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
Price - €46
Quick Jumplinks to Navigate the Guide
- How to beat the queue at the Vatican Museums
- What to see at the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
- Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Tickets
- Vatican Museums - Top Exhibits
- All you need to know
- Insider Tips
- Vatican Museums - Reviews
How to beat the queue at the Vatican Museums
Being one of the most popular attractions of the world attracting millions of tourists makes The Vatican Museums swarm with monstrous crowds. The seemingly endless queues can take up hours of your precious time waiting just to get an entry into the museums. Here are some options to save time and have a leisurely experience of viewing inside the museums.
Skip the Line Vatican Tickets to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums: This is a sure shot way to ensure that you beat the infamous serpentine queues running around the walls of Vatican city. With this ticket you get a much easier access to the museums giving you enough time to appreciate and admire some of the finest art in the world.
Booking A Guided Tour: A guided tour gives a totally different flavour to places of historical importance. A guided tour to the Vatican Museums not only makes you explore the place with interesting facts and information but also gives you priority access to the museums. With three different options - Self-guided tour, Tour with an audio-guide and Tour with a trained official guide to choose from, one can make the most of time at hand.
Choose an appropriate time to visit: Mornings are the most crowded hours for the Vatican Museums. If you think 3-4 hours are enough to spend at the museums then reaching at around 13:30 on a weekday( other than Monday) is a good idea as you will find lesser crowds at this time. The museum is closed on Sunday other than the last Sunday of the month when the Vatican is free to visit but with a humongous waiting time. Monday after the last Sunday is generally relatively quieter.
What to see at the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
1. The Spiral Staircase: This iconic staircase designed by Bramante and later in 1932, another one designed by architect Giuseppe Momo inspired by the original one are a mesmerising piece of architectural marvel! Shaped like a double helix it is composed of two staircases designed in such a way that people while going up and down do not cross one another. This makes an excellent photo op!
2. The Raphael Room: Marking the High Renaissance period in Rome, the four Raphael rooms known as the Stanze of Raphael give you an experience of a lifetime. Famed for their stunning pictorial decoration frescoes, painted by Raphael and his school, these rooms situated on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace are a must see!
3. Gallery of Maps: Located on the west side of the Belvedere Courtyard, Gallery of Maps contains a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by famous geographer Ignazio Danti. The 40 panels of the 120m long gallery, map the entire Italian peninsula in large-scale frescoes with almost 80% accuracy.
4. Gallery of the Statues & Hall of Busts: This is one of 54 galleries in the Pio-Clementio Museum, filled with masterpieces of Greek and Roman sculptures. The walls were once covered with frescoes showing landscapes and cities. Small cupids painted by Pinturicchio and his assistants still visible are worth a watch. The walls carry a series of niches displaying massive statues, interspersed with columns supporting outsize busts.
5. Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian Museum: The Gregorian Etruscan Museums is dedicated to Etruscan antiques and conserves the rare artefacts unearthed in the excavations carried out in the prominent cities of ancient Etruria as well as other works collected over centuries held in the Vatican. The Egyptain Museum on the other hand brings to light the Egyptian-influenced Rome, history of pharaonic culture and splendid setting of Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli amongst others.
Ceiling: The famous Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo among the other masters is something that has been captivating the visitors all along. Painting of twelve apostles in the pendentives and ornamental motifs, the central part of the ceiling showing nine stories of the Genesis, the base of the architectural structure with twelve Prophets and Sibyls seated on monumental thrones and many such amazing illustrations adorn the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The Last Judgement: The mighty composition is a fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo covering the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. It illustrates the Christ surrounded by prominent saints, captured in the moment preceding the verdict of the Last Judgement. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. There are over 300 figures
The Walls: Unlike the drab outside, the inside of the walls of Sistine Chapel are beautifully adorned with frescoes. The north wall of Sistine Chapel has frescoes depicting events from the life of Christ. They have been painted by famous florentine Renaissance masters like Perugino, Pinturicchio, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli. The south wall on the left of the altar in the Sistine Chapel contains scenes from the life of Moses. The panels have been painted by artists like Perugino, Botticelli, Rosselli and others. The Entrance wall has two episodes, The Resurrection of Jesus by Domenici Ghirlandaio and Luca Signorelli's fresco of the discussions on Moses’. These were replaced by works on the same subjects by Hendrick van den Broeck and Matteo da Lecce.
Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums Tickets
1. Skip the Line Tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
- Skip the long ticket lines and gain priority access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
- Check out the ancient halls of the Vatican Museums and witness multitudes of classical sculptures, tapestries, and paintings of greats artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini and Leonardo da Vinci etc. of Renaissance era as well as some Modern art.
- Visit the Sistine Chapel famed for its walls and ceilings that are covered by some of the most astounding frescoes painted by Michelangelo.
2. Guided Tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica
- This option gives you a dedicated entry so that you can skip the long serpentine queues for ticket purchase.
- With an experienced guide you will be exposed to some of the most important works of art that the museums store with factual information and historical context behind each one of them.
- Explore the world's largest Catholic church, St. Peter's Basilica, home to the Pope.
- Discover priceless collections of artistic and historical masterpieces by world’s greatest artists in Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel.
3. Exclusive Early Access Tickets to Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
- Gain access to the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel more than an hour before the scheduled opening time and enjoy the exclusive viewing experience of these amazing treasures of artworks, otherwise known to be notorious for monstrous crowds.
- Beginning at 7:20am, more than an hour before the scheduled opening time of 9:00 AM, you will be able to explore the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel in complete solitude in the exclusive company of your group and guide.
4. Breakfast at Vatican Museums with Skip The Line Entrance
- Enjoy the unique experience of a sumptuous buffet breakfast right inside the Vatican Museums, by the side of beautiful Pinecone Courtyard.
- Your skip the line early access pass ensures a leisurely tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel without having to wait in long queues.
- Witness classical sculptures and paintings of Renaissance period by great artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini and Leonardo da Vinci inside the Vatican Museums. You also get a flavour of Modern Religious Art by famous artists Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.
Vatican Museums - Top Exhibits
1. Laocoön and His Sons: This group sculpture is the most iconic and distinguished statue from the ancient past. Michelangelo found the statue being unearthed in a vineyard in Rome, and it has been displayed in the Vatican ever since. It’s a profoundly moving work that depicts real human agony and struggle to escape with dignity as Trojan priest Laocoön and his young sons are attacked by sea serpents.
2. Apollo Belvedere: Rediscovered in Renaissance Italy, this Roman marble statue from the 2nd century is one of the most eminent sculptures of all time as with this piece began the entire collection in the Vatican Museums. Apollo is depicted as a classic male beauty. Since its rediscovery, the Apollo Belvedere has been viewed as the epitome of aesthetic perfection, admired for its “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur”.
3. The Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio It is one of the most admired altar pieces. Caravaggio’s Christ is more celebrated than other more spiritual portrayals, and his mourners seem genuinely grief-stricken. It reinforces Caravaggio’s power as an artist, representing human physicality and emotion within a religious context.
4. The Last Judgement by Michelangelo The Last Judgement by Michelangelo: The painting of the Last Judgement on the altar wall is arguably Michelangelo’s greatest achievement as a painter. It’s an incredibly detailed scene swarming with figures - angels, demons, and everyone in-between.
5. The Sala Rotonda: Modelled after the Pantheon but to smaller scale, it has an oculus in the ceiling and decorative rosettes in the little niches in the dome. The floor made up of tiny, intricately designed colourful mosaics from around the 2nd century is simply stunning. It also has a 40 feet giant, amazing porphyry basin made of single piece of stone!
Vatican - All You Need to Know
Getting to The Vatican
Vatican City is to the north of the city centre of Rome and is easily reached independently by public transport plus and even by Rome hop-on hop-off tourist buses which have a stop here.
The Rome Metro has a station just outside the Vatican walls at Ottaviano-S. Pietro. Line A direction Battistini, Ottaviano or Cipro stations of the Metro has trains running every few minutes. It's a 5 minute walk from the Metro to both St Peter's Square and the Vatican Museums.
49, stop in the square in front of the Vatican Museums
32, 81, 982, stop at Piazza del Risorgimento
492, 990, stop in Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni
From Monday to Saturday
9.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. (last entry at 4.00 p.m.)
Every last Sunday of the month ( other than public holidays)
9.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m. (last entry at12.30 p.m.) Free entry
- 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.
- 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.
- Buying skip the line tickets is a very good idea as the museums are known for notoriously long queues.
- Choose an appropriate time to visit when there are chances of lesser crowds like exclusive early morning guided tours with breakfast or entering in the afternoon when the crowds have already moved in.
- 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.
- 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.
- A comfortable pair of shoes go a long way in enjoying walking through the huge galleries of the museums and the connecting areas.
- Avoid carrying a backpack as you will have to check it in upon entering the museum.
- You need to dress appropriately not showing too much bare skin or else you may be turned away.
- Ideally, do not plan to go on a free entry Sunday as it is inordinately crowded.
One of the most impressive museums in Europe if not the world. Try and get your ticket before you go, otherwise get ready for long queues, especially in Summer. There are lots of people outside selling tickets or queue hopper tickets, no idea if it works but try and book before you go it saves a lot of hassle. And reserve plenty of time to see the museum, there is sooooooo much to see. If stuck for time there is a short tour that gets the best bits including the Sistine Chapel and this can be done in a couple of hours. Or spend the whole day there.
We had a great time, I was interested in the large artifacts they had stollen from Egypt during the empire, and my partner was interested i the artwork so plenty to see for everyone. We went in February and it was only a 40 minute queue at 9am. It was really good and well worth the €17pp just to see the Sitine chapel so a bonus 2-3 hours looking at everything else they have to offer was very welcome.
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