Vatican City, accessible on foot from the centre of Rome, is the residence of the popes and the centre of Catholic power in the world. Its main attractions are St. Peter's Basilica with its Dome, St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel.
If you want to avoid the queues, which are literally the longest queues in Rome, make sure you buy your ticket in advance. Here are the types of tickets available to buy in advance:
Your ticket to the Vatican with a guided tour in small groups
Enjoy a more intimate experience visiting the Vatican with an expert guide in a small group.
With this option you will be paying for your access to the Vatican Museums, where you will be able to contemplate, among thousands of other works of art, the marvellous Sistine Chapel. The advantage? It includes a ticket that saves you endless queues at the door and you'll be accompanied by an expert guide who will help you contextualise everything you see.
Believe me: in a place with so many works, so much history and so much symbolism, you will appreciate having some information about the main galleries, the main artists and the essential works so as not to be overwhelmed by the great amount of stimuli, corridors and art that you will find inside the Vatican Museums. With this tour you will go through the main rooms and galleries of the Museums, learning the most relevant details of the most significant works of the Vatican Museums. In this case, the difference is that for a slightly higher price, you will be able to enjoy the guided tour in a small group.
If you are one of those who do not enjoy tours in large organised groups, consider this option because it will allow you to be closer to the guide's explanations, have a lighter pace during the visit and have more freedom to ask questions, ask for recommendations, connect better with the guide, etc.
Why I like this option: this is a good option to visit the Vatican Museums with a guide in a small group, which will allow you to enjoy a more intimate experience.
Recommended if... you want to visit the Museum with a guide but without having to join a large group.
Your ticket to visit the Vatican early in the morning to avoid crowds.
This is undoubtedly the most exclusive way to visit the Vatican Museums: you can enter the Sistine Chapel before it opens to the general public and enjoy the art without too many tourists around, with an expert guide in a small group.
Among all the Premium tickets you can find for the Vatican, if you have to seriously consider one it is this early entrance with preferential access to the Sistine Chapel. I particularly like to enjoy a certain serenity and calmness in museums and I am not lying if I say that in the Vatican Museums in general and in the Sistine Chapel in particular I found it particularly difficult.
This option allows you to visit the Sistine Chapel with a smaller capacity (before it opens to the general public and other tours) and, undoubtedly, this allows you to enjoy it much better.
The difference between seeing this place in a small group, in detail, in silence and without hundreds of flashbulbs around you will definitely make a difference in how you live the experience. This type of ticket guarantees that you will be able to see the Vatican Museums in general and the Sistine Chapel in particular an hour and a half before the crowds flood the corridors. If you have to treat yourself on your trip, I advise you to take this one very seriously.
Why I like this option: First of all, because on a normal visit, the Sistine Chapel is usually crowded with tourists, which makes it lose a lot of its charm. If you visit it first thing in the morning, with an expert guide to help you contextualise everything you see and accompanied by a small group, the experience really takes on a whole new level.
Recommended if... you believe that visiting the Vatican Museums is something you have to do once in a lifetime and you have to enjoy it to the fullest, believe me, this is your option.
Tickets to the best of Rome, in one day and at the best price
You can't leave Rome without visiting the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. With this option you can take a guided tour of both at the best price.
Another highly recommended option is to combine the visit to the Vatican Museums in the morning with the visit to the Colosseum in the afternoon. As you may already know, a visit to the Colosseum is a must on your trip to Rome (no matter how many times you have seen its façade, you can't imagine all that is inside until you visit it).
If you want to save time and money when buying tickets to the two most emblematic places in Rome, this combined ticket and guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum is the best option in my opinion. In this article on How to buy tickets for the Colosseum and the Vatican I have described what this combined guided tour consists of, what it includes, how you can organise it, etc.
Why I like this option: If you are planning your trip to Rome, you should already know that both the Colosseum and the Vatican are two must-sees in the city. And the best way to visit them is to combine access to both places, to save some money and also to be able to visit them with an expert guide who will make sure you don't miss anything.
Recommended if... you are planning to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, this is the best way to book both guided tours - enjoy the tour with a local guide and don't worry about organising anything!
In summary, we compare the three options:
Small group guided tour of the Vatican Museums
Perfect for touring the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica with an expert guide in a small group size for a more enjoyable experience. Plus, you'll skip the line to enter the Museums.
Visit the Vatican Museums early in the morning to avoid the crowds
The most exclusive way to visit the Vatican Museums: you can enter the Sistine Chapel before it opens to the general public and enjoy the art without too many tourists around, with an expert guide.
The best of Rome in one day at the best price
If you are planning to visit the Colosseum and the Vatican, this is the cheapest way to book both guided tours. You will see both attractions in one day with an expert guide.
How much do tickets to the Vatican cost?
The most recommended option is to buy the ticket that includes a guided tour in Spanish in a group and it will cost you only 38 Euros. But as you can see, depending on the type of ticket you want to buy, the price will be totally different. The good thing is that there are options for all budgets. If you want to have more details about the ticket prices to access the Vatican you can check my article about it here: Vatican Tickets Price 2022.
For a more premium option, where you can avoid the crowds, there is the possibility to enter the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums before they open to the general public. This comes at a slightly higher price, but if you want to get the most out of the experience, you won't regret it. It costs just over 100 Euros. You will be accompanied at all times by an expert guide and the silence that reigns in the galleries at that time of day is well worth the extra cost.
Save by getting tickets
Finally, there are also packs that will allow you to save money when visiting the Vatican and other attractions in the city. For example, in Hellotickets you can get the combined Colosseum + Vatican package. In one day you visit both attractions with a specialised guide and the cost is about 90 Euros, which makes it a cheaper option than if you buy both visits separately.
Also check out the Omnia Card and the Roma Pass, the city's tourist cards, which will give you access to other museums and monuments in addition to the Vatican at a reduced price.
Where to buy tickets for the Vatican without queues
The best option is to buy your tickets in advance and online and make sure that the option you buy includes skip the line access to the Vatican. All the options you find in Hellotickets include it and it will be your great advantage when you visit the Vatican.
The long queues that can form at the Vatican gates go around the walls flanking the Museums and are literally the longest queues in Rome. Waiting for hours in the sun to get into the Museums, Basilica and Sistine Chapel can be your worst nightmare if you get there without tickets and have to go through the ticket office.
If you want to read some other tips and tricks to get the most out of your Vatican experience check out my practical guide to the Vatican: 10 Tips to visit the Vatican.
How to get Vatican tickets with the Roma Pass and Omnia Card
Being such a touristy city and with so many wonders to see in Rome, you can opt to buy the city's tourist card, which will be useful to visit the Vatican Museums because the entrance tickets are included in the price.
Omnia Vatican and Roma Pass
Also known as the Omnia card Roma, this card is often combined with the Roma Pass and is the best option for visiting the Vatican as it includes entrance to the museums and other attractions. If you are going to visit the area in depth and you are going to do some sightseeing in the rest of Rome, I recommend you to take a look at this other article about the Roma Pass, where I tell you how to use it and all its advantages.
Rome City Pass
It's Rome's VIP pass and with it you can get free entry to the Vatican Museums and other places like the Colosseum. You can buy the card for a period of 1 to 7 days and include transport or airport transfer for a supplement.
Buy cheap tickets to the Vatican and Colosseum combined
If you are thinking about visiting the Colosseum (it is actually a must-see), you should know that there is the possibility to buy a combined ticket for the Vatican and the Colosseum which will save you time and money, so it is really convenient. The price is cheaper than if you buy both tickets separately and you will skip the queues at both attractions, which makes the visit much more enjoyable.
Plus, you'll have the opportunity to visit both monuments accompanied by an expert guide at all times who will make sure you don't miss a thing about these two gems in the Eternal City.
How to buy tickets for the Vatican at the box office
From experience, I can assure you that the two-hour queues outside (with long stretches in the sun) will take a lot of energy away from seeing the Vatican Museums. Bear in mind that, depending on what time you go, you may run the risk of being sold out, so I advise you to go first thing in the morning.
The first thing you need to know is that when we talk about general admission to the Vatican, we are referring to the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Vatican City is free to enter (you don't need a ticket; it's like visiting another part of Rome) and access to St. Peter's Basilica is free.
But the Sistine Chapel and all the works and galleries of the Vatican Museums with some of the most famous works in the world are fee-paying and require entrance and, very importantly, sell out quickly as seating is limited and there are thousands of people who want to go every day.
Is the Sistine Chapel included in the Vatican tickets?
Yes, all tickets to the Vatican include a visit to the famous Sistine Chapel. In fact, despite the sheer size of the Vatican Museums, you'll quickly realise that the Sistine Chapel attracts the most visitors, as almost everyone stops there to see it.
To enjoy it at your leisure, you can always buy the entrance ticket with early morning access and avoid the crowds. To prepare your visit and make the most of it, you can read my article on how to buy tickets for the Sistine Chapel or how to visit the Sistine Chapel.
Is St. Peter's Basilica included in the Vatican tickets?
Not always, but entry to St. Peter's Basilica is free, so you won't have to pay if you don't want to. However, the queues are very long, so there is the option of paying to go inside (with or without a guided tour) and skip the queues. Once inside, you'll marvel at its size and the quality of some of the works.
Is the ascent to the Dome included in the Vatican tickets?
If you want to go up to the Dome of St. Peter's you will have to pay for a separate ticket, but you can buy it on the spot without needing to make a reservation and there are usually no long waits to get in. If you are hesitating between paying or not to go up to the dome, my advice is to take a breath of fresh air and go up.
Halfway up you'll probably regret it (the narrow, spiral staircase is quite a challenge), but when you get to the top the views will be worth it and you can file the experience away as one of the highlights of your trip. If you're interested in finding out more, you can read my article on how to climb St Peter's Dome.
Are the Necropolis and the Catacombs included in the Vatican ticket?
No. The Vatican Necropolis, located in the basement of St. Peter's Basilica, requires a separate entrance. It is quite an interesting visit and will allow you to see the crypts and tombs of some historical Popes and St. Peter the Apostle. If you want to organise a visit, I recommend that you do it in advance, as the capacity is quite limited and the demand is very high. I tell you all about it in my article on Vatican Crypts and Catacombs.
Are there any discounts on Vatican tickets?
Admission to the Vatican is free or at a special rate for students under 25 and university students, members of religious schools or accredited pilgrims, the disabled, journalists and children under six years of age. If you are interested in visiting the Vatican at the best price, here is a guide on how to get cheap, free or discounted tickets to the Vatican.
The opening hours of the Vatican Museums are, with few exceptions, from 9am to 4pm. Please note that on Sundays the museum is closed all day for the Papal Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square and on some holidays as well. The best time to visit is usually, as is common for all tourist attractions, early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
I tell you all about it in this detailed guide with all the opening hours of the Vatican (the Museums, the Basilica, the ascent to the Dome...etc).
Duration of the visit to the Vatican
Depending on what you want to visit in the Vatican, you will need at least three hours (two if you are rushing, but it is not worth it). I personally prefer to spend three hours on a leisurely tour of the Museums with a few things left to see from the collection rather than seeing the entire museums in two hours to get the "check" of having "seen" everything.
If you also want to stop at St. Peter's Basilica, go up to the Dome or enjoy walking around St. Peter's Square with its colonnade, the visit will take up to a whole day. I leave you with this detailed guide to the Duration of the Vatican visits so you can calculate how much time you need depending on what you want to enjoy during your visit.
Is it worth buying tickets for the Vatican with guided tour?
Yes, a guided tour is 100% recommendable: a collection with so much symbolism and historical context is much more enjoyable with an expert who can tell you anecdotes about its creator, its style or the reason for its historical relevance. There are different options for guided tours of the Vatican, depending on the time and budget you have available.
For example, the most comprehensive and best value for money tour costs 38 Euros and will allow you to see the best of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can always choose the premium option to enter the Sistine Chapel first thing in the morning, before it opens to the general public, so you can enjoy the Sistine Chapel in peace and quiet in a very small privileged group.
How to get to the Vatican
Vatican City is far from the centre of Rome, but that does not mean it is difficult to reach.
- Walking: depending on where you are staying, it is quite possible that you can walk to the Vatican. If, for example, your accommodation is close to Piazza Navona and you fancy a stroll, you can cross the Tiber and in half an hour you'll be in St Peter's Square; if you make a detour you can even walk past Castel Sant'Angelo first. No walk in Rome is a waste of time, but if you choose this option, remember to leave early to get there at the right time.
- By public transport: The quickest way to get to the Vatican by public transport is to take metro line A to Ottaviano S Pietro. If the metro is not convenient, there are also buses that run from Piazza dei Cinquecento or Termini Station.
For more detailed information, I've put together a guide on how to get to the Vatican.
How to buy tickets on the Official Vatican Website
If you are going to buy tickets on the official Vatican website, keep in mind that they are non-refundable and are valid only for the day you choose. If you like to improvise during your trips, I recommend this Hellotickets option, as it allows free cancellation; this way you will not lose your money if any mishap arises during your trip.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you book your ticket in advance you will avoid queues of more than two hours.
Practical tips for visiting the Vatican
Visiting the Vatican is an obligatory stop on your trip to Rome, but to get the most out of the day, it's a good idea to plan your visit a little. Here is a list of tips for visiting the Vatican and I'll summarise the most relevant ones below:
Cover up when visiting the Vatican
You can learn from your mistakes and I'm sure you know someone who, after planning their visit, has had to turn back without visiting the museums or the basilica. In these two places you must cover your legs and shoulders. No sleeveless, low-cut clothing, shorts, mini-skirts or hats are allowed.
Do you have to cover up in the middle of summer? Let's see, common sense: take a scarf or long foulard in your backpack that you can wear to enter these places and that you don't have to wear all day. I assure you that prevention is better than cure.
How to avoid the crowds when visiting the Vatican
To avoid the queues, you already know that you have to buy your ticket to the Vatican Museums in advance, but the crowds will not be so easy to avoid... The only way to reduce them is to choose the first or the last timetable and not to go before or after a public holiday and, if you can, avoid the high season.
What to do with backpacks and luggage when visiting the Vatican
They are not allowed and queues can build up again at the ticket offices. I recommend that you visit with the bare minimum because after so many hours on your feet, even the packet of tissues ends up weighing you down.
Is it worth paying for the audio guide for children?
If you visit the Vatican Museums with children, I recommend that you ask for an audio guide especially for them (recommended for ages 6 to 12). This way the visit will be less tiring for them and they will enjoy the works of art more.
Where to eat near the Vatican
This area, being quite touristy, may not seem at first sight the best part of Rome to stop for lunch or dinner. That's why I've put together this article with the best places to eat near the Vatican to avoid disappointment.
Get your taste buds ready and enjoy Roman gastronomy!
Ana's Traveller Tip
Carry a scarf in your backpack to cover your shoulders when entering the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica.
Frequently asked questions
What part of Vatican City can I visit?
On your visit to the Vatican you will see: St. Peter's Square, St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican Museum. There is also the Vatican Library, access to which is reserved for researchers, who must provide a certificate of their research and qualifications to gain entry.
Is there a possibility of seeing the Pope during my visit to Vatican City?
While it's unlikely you'll see the Pope walking around the city, he usually offers his Papal Audience on Wednesdays in St Peter's Square and celebrates the Angelus (or benediction) on Sundays at 12 noon. Our advice is to arrive earlier to avoid the crowds and get a seat. The Pope also offers some Papal Masses, and if you want to attend one you should check his diary to find out in which churches and when they take place.
Are there many crowds in the Vatican Museums?
Inside the Museum there are very crowded galleries and chapels (especially the Sistine Chapel). If you take a guided tour, the guide will take care to avoid overlapping with other groups to make the visit more pleasant. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the capacity is much more controlled and it is difficult to see crowds.
How many galleries are there in the Vatican Museums?
The Vatican Museums consist of 54 different galleries, the last of which is the Sistine Chapel. These include the Gallery of Maps, the Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartment and the Vatican Picture Gallery.