The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are one of the few artistic ensembles that seem out of time and space: when you look up to admire them you have the sensation of seeing something both ancient and modern at the same time, and the awe is so great that you can only wonder how something so impressive could have been created.
It is part of the Vatican Museums, so to visit it you will have to buy a ticket or take a guided tour of the museum. Read on to find out what options you have to visit one of the world's greatest artistic treasures and some tips to make the most of your visit.
With your tickets to the Vatican Museums you can also enter the Sistine Chapel without waiting.
Forget the queues at the ticket office and secure your entry to the Sistine Chapel at the best price with these tickets that give you priority access to the inside of the Vatican Museums.
Discover the hidden value of the Sistine Chapel with your skip-the-line tickets to the Vatican Museums. With all there is to see inside Rome's main attraction, you'll regret wasting time queuing for tickets at the ticket office. That's why my first recommendation is to book them in advance.
If you prefer to go at your own pace so that you can spend as much time as you need at each of the artistic wonders of the Vatican Museums, it's best to buy tickets without guides or groups. Once you get to the Sistine Chapel, inside the museum, you will be able to contemplate the impressive frescoes of Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" without rushing.
Recommended if... Your stay in Rome is not very long, as the skip-the-line entrance will save you a lot of time that you can spend visiting other emblematic sites.
How to buy tickets to visit the Sistine Chapel
As I indicated, to access the Sistine Chapel you will need to have a ticket to the Vatican Museums: it is best to book online and in advance, to avoid queues and make sure you get availability at the best price. In Hellotickets you will find the cheapest guided tours in English and you will have the option to cancel the ticket or the tour if you have an unforeseen event.
Is it possible to buy tickets for the Sistine Chapel at the ticket office?
Tickets can be purchased at the Vatican Museums ticket office, but I do not recommend this at all. The queue is so long that it literally goes around the Vatican walls (you'll see it if you ever walk around and you'll be really surprised to see such a long queue). My advice is to buy them online and in advance to ensure you have a place on the day and time of your choice.
Free visit to the Vatican Museums
For a self-guided visit, buying your tickets online for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is the best option. You will avoid queuing to enter this busy tourist attraction, whose crowds are the only thing that can spoil your experience.
You will have priority access to the Vatican Museums, at the entrance you will receive a map and a short orientation on the recommended route, and you will be able to enter the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms.
With these tickets, you can stay in the Vatican Museums for as long as you want to visit the rooms at your own pace.
I recommend it if... you want to avoid the crowds and don't need a guide to visit the Vatican Museums.
Visit the Vatican with an Early Access Premium Ticket
If you're looking for the premium experience to visit the Sistine Chapel, this is it. This is a private tour of Vatican City, with the added bonus of entering the Vatican at dawn, avoiding the crowds and exploring this stunning site in the exclusive company of your group.
As you can imagine, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, so avoiding the crowds and admiring it in peace will totally change your experience.
I recommend it if... you are looking for the perfect Sistine Chapel experience, to avoid the crowds of tourists and tour the Vatican at first light.
How to skip the queues to enter the Sistine Chapel
The queues to enter the Vatican Museums and the popular Sistine Chapel can last several hours, which can make it difficult to enjoy the experience. That's why it's best to buy your tickets online, avoid going to the ticket office and, when booking, choose an option that guarantees you'll skip the queues. For example, with this guided tour of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's you will have direct access without having to wait.
Sistine Chapel opening hours and best time to visit the Sistine Chapel
Here is all the information you need to know about opening times for your visit.
- Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm.
- The last entrance is at 16:30 hours and at around 17:30 all visitors to the Vatican will begin to leave.
- The best time to visit the Sistine Chapel is early in the morning, either with an Early Bird tour or at the first entrance after opening.
- It tends to be less crowded on Thursdays and Fridays.
- You can also visit the Vatican Museums just before closing time to avoid the crowds, but you risk being closed before completing your visit.
- On the last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are open from 9am to 2:30pm, with last entry at 12pm. On this day, entry to the Sistine Chapel is free, so it can be a good option if you're on a tight budget, but I don't recommend it as the queues and crowds are monstrous.
- A very nice experience is to visit the Vatican Museums at night. They are open Fridays from 7pm to 11pm, from mid-April to the end of October.
Tips for visiting the Sistine Chapel
Here are some tips I learned on my visit to the Sistine Chapel that will help you save time and tour the vastness of the Vatican as if you had already been there.
How to find the Sistine Chapel
To get to the Sistine Chap el as soon as you enter the Vatican, go up the escalators and turn left into the courtyard of the Pineapple Courtyard. Go through the courtyard and turn left, where you will find a flight of stairs.
Go through the octagonal courtyard, and into the Round Room, where you can see Nero's bathtub. Now turn left, go through the room of Constantine's tomb, up the stairs, into the Hall of Tapestries and straight ahead to find the Sistine Chapel.
Clothing and photographs
To visit a place whose nickname is the Holy See, you know that you have to dress appropriately (as you do for so many other places of worship in Rome, so by your visit to the Sistine Chapel you'll be used to it). Knees and shoulders should be fully covered, even in summer. My advice is to wear a light jumper that you can easily put on.
And no, you can't take pictures inside the Sistine Chapel for several reasons, especially to avoid a possible flash spoiling the frescoes that decorate it. The guards are very attentive to this, and will shout at you if they see you taking photos, either with a camera or a mobile phone, and if they catch you several times they may even throw you out of the room. So you know, enjoy your visit and admire with your own eyes the breathtaking beauty in front of you.
What you should know before you book
- When you book your tickets or tour, you will receive a confirmation email at the address you have provided. My advice is to open it to check that everything is correct and keep it in prominent post, so that you have it to hand at the entrance to the Vatican or at the meeting point with your guide.
- You can get a 100% refund if you want to cancel the experience, but be careful because only if you return your tickets 24 hours before the day of the experience. To return your tickets or cancel your tour, please check the email for instructions.
- On Wednesdays you cannot enter St. Peter's Basilica because it is the day of the Papal Audience. My advice is to book for any day other than Wednesday so that you can include this visit in your tour of the Vatican.
- If you have bought or are planning to buy the Omnia Card, keep in mind that it includes entrance to the Vatican Museums, so you can save yourself from having to buy it separately. However, if you want to take a tour, you will have to book it separately.
What else to see in the Vatican Museums
Here are the rooms that impressed me the most during my visit to the Vatican Museums in no particular order, just for your reference. In total, to see everything first thing in the morning and without particular haste, it took me about 3 hours.
- Vatican Picture Gallery: This palace houses more than 400 works of art by painters such as Giotto and Fra Angelico, the greatest exponents of the early Renaissance, and Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.
- Collection of contemporary religious art: Throughout 55 rooms you will find about 800 works by artists such as Chagall, Dalí, Gauguin, Kandinsky or Van Gogh, something I definitely did not expect to find in the Vatican.
- Museo Pio-Clementino: There are several rooms dedicated to the exhibition of Greek and Roman sculptures, some of them very famous like the Apollo of Belvedere, the Apoxymene or the Aphrodite of Cnido. I highly recommend you to take a walk here.
- Gregorian Egyptian Museum: Here are kept archaeological remains and works of art from Egyptian, Assyrian, Mesopotamian and other ancient cultures, mainly from Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli.
- Raphael's Rooms: The most important visit in the Vatican Museums after the Sistine Chapel. There are 4 rooms displaying frescoes by Raphael and members of his school.
- Room of the Immaculate Conception: A room decorated entirely with frescoes dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary.
- Gallery of Maps: This houses what is probably the largest cartographic collection in the world, displayed on the walls of an impressive gallery.
- Sistine Chapel: I don't think you'll forget to visit the Sistine Chapel on your visit to the Vatican Museums, but since stranger things have been seen, I'll leave it here to close the list just in case.
Other worthwhile Rome experiences
Not everything in Rome is about visiting its monuments and historic buildings. There are many people who focus on all the places they must enter and all the must-see attractions, only to realise at the end of their trip that they have missed out on what really matters: getting to know the city. So that you don't miss anything, I leave you with an article that will guide you to choose the best tour of Rome, an experience that I highly recommend: Top 11 tours of Rome.
And although they don't have the splendour and immensity of the Vatican's exhibition halls, the Capitoline Museums are a worthwhile visit that is not usually included in the more typical tourist circuits. If you want to read more about this museum, I have written a guide that may help you when planning a visit: Rome Capitoline Museums Tickets: how to buy and what to see. Also, remember that you can also buy a ticket that allows you to visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in addition to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.