Vatican City is a special place. It may not be the biggest in size but what it holds within its walls is truly unrivalled in scale and importance - whether its the 54 galleries in the Vatican Museums, the walls of the Sistine Chapel, or the mysteries of St. Peter's Basilica. Home to various religious and cultural sites, the city also treasures an immense priceless collection of artistic and historical masterpieces by the world’s greatest artists. As most attractions across Italy start to open up, this is among the top landmarks to visit. Guided Vatican tours are the best way to experience the center of Roman Catholicism in the world.
Not only are these tours rich with information that individual Vatican ticket experiences don't provide, but also give you the benefits of priority entrances, audioguides in multiple languages and breakfast within the Vatican walls.
Why go on a Vatican Guided Tour?
So why does a guided tour of the Vatican make more sense than say, Vatican tickets?
Scale - The Vatican may be the smallest country in the world, but everything that is open to public within the 44 hectares that it covers is a tourists delight. From the vast collection of classical artworks and Renaissance masterpieces of the Vatican Museums to the biggest church in the world, St. Peter's Basilica. In the company of an expert Vatican guide, you will not only see and enjoy these ancient landmarks, but also listen to amazing stories that make them the most poplar attraction in Italy.
Priority Access - Over 7 million people visit the Vatican every year. That's a a daily average of 20,000 people! That’s a huge number for a surprisingly small country. Often, this leads to tourist queues that go on & on. Standing in them under the Mediterranean sun is not a pleasant feeling, trust me. If you're on a guided tour, you will get to bypass this line and head straight to the Vatican entrance, without having to bother about standing in line and getting a ticket. Priority access in Rome is truly a godsend.
Hear Incredible Stories - Official Vatican guides, and most guides throughout Rome are incredibly passionate about showing off their city to outsiders. With such vested interests and pride, you are guaranteed to have a good time in their company. You get to hear stories & anecdotes that you otherwise wouldn't have and listen to the rich history of these old landmarks.
Bonus Activities - Now some of this is truly special and simply not possible if you aren't on a tour. How about having breakfast on the grounds of the Vatican Museums? Or visiting secret underground tunnels under St. Peter's Basilcia? Apart from the usual touristy stuff, some guided tours also offer these bonus activities which will top your day off perfectly.
Top Recommended Vatican Guided Tours
Vatican Attractions You Just Can't Miss
Here are the top Vatican City attractions that you cannot miss on your Vatican guided tour.
The Vatican Museums are renowned for the classical artworks and Renaissance masterpieces that they hold, accumulated by the Popes over 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 Renaissance works, the Sistine Chapel. What makes the Sistine Chapel special are the frescos that decorate its interior walls. Designed by Raphael, the ceiling was painted by Michelangelo. This famous frescoe on the ceiling is known as the Last Judgment. Sistine Chapel is one of the most prominent artistic achievements of Europe. Over 10 million people visit this art museum each year, making it one of the most visited museums world over.
St. Peter's Basilica
This Italian Renaissance Church, designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is the largest church in the world. Besides its obvious historical and artistic significance, St. Peter's Basilica has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". Seeing over 80,000 visitors per year, St. Peter’s Basilica is the perfect spot for history-lovers, artists, pilgrims and tourists alike.
Located at a depth of five floors under the most visited church in the world, the Vatican Necropolis is one of the best kept Vatican secrets. A network of underground graves and mausoleums, the Vatican Necropolis is the site of many famous final resting places, including that of St. Peter the Apostle. In order to preserve this delicately balanced archaeological from decay, visits to the Necropolis is limited to around 250 visitors per day, in groups of not more than 12-15 people.
The Vatican Gardens date back to the 6th century and spread over 57 acres. Embedded with statues, impressive fountains, and buildings, the gardens imitate Renaissance and Baroque style structures. Stone walls bound the lush gardens in the north, south, and west and left them to face the Vatican to their east, the direction the sun rises. Whether or not this was intentional and if they figuratively imply a deeper meaning can only be known by talking a tour of the Vatican Gardens.
Guided Vatican Tours - A Typical Experience
A typical guided Vatican tour begins at the Vatican Museums, and follows a route through its galleries and the Sistine Chapel until it culminates at St. Peter's Basilica.
Once you book your tickets, your tickets will be emailed to you. The ticket contains all the details regarding the meeting point and where and how you'll meet the guide so you don't face any issues on the big day.
On the day of the tour, you will head to the meeting point (just outside the walls of the Vatican Museums and meet your guide. After a brief acquaintance with the guide and the group, your guide will lead the group to the Vatican Museums. Guided tours usually benefit from the privilege of being able to bypass the ticket line, thus cutting down your waiting time by over an hour. After a brief mandatory security check, the group will then head inside.
Your guide will first show you around the absolutely incredible Vatican Museums, a series of old halls and galleries that store more than 70,000 works of some of the greatest art ever produced. Some of the major highlights of the Vatican Museums are the Gallery of Maps, the Spiral Staircase, The Pinacoteca, The Pio-Clementino Museum, Greogarian Egyptian Museum, The Pavillion of the Coaches and much more. But none are more speical than the Sistine Chapel, the last highlight of the Vatican Museums complex. Michelangelo's magnus opus, the Sistine Chapel is a sight to behold.
The guide will then lead you through a dedicated passage way that goes directly from Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica. This also helps you avoid a queue that you would have otherwise faced at the entrance of the basilica. Once at St. Peter's Basilica, your guide will show you all the major highlights of the church. Note that sections like the Necropolis and the dome of St. Peter's Basilica require additional tickets to be bought separately.
Are Vatican Guided Tours Really Worth It?
Absolutely! Exploring the many galleries of Vatican with an expert historian guide is a far better experience than walking the galleries by yourself and/or armed with an audio guide. Follow your expert tour guide and learn all about the rich culture and history of the Vatican. Signing up for a guided tour also ensures priority access which saves a lot of time.
Visiting The Vatican - Practical Information
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 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
St. Peter's Basilica
• April to September - 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
• October to March - 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
• Monday to Saturday - 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
• Monday to Friday: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
• Saturday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Rules & Regulations
- Bags or luggage of any sorts measuring more than 40*35*15 centimetres is not allowed inside the 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.
Mass Schedule for St. Peter's Basilica
8:30 AM- Blessed Sacrament Chapel In Italian
9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM - Altar of St. Joseph (Left Transept), In Italian
5:00 PM - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) In Latin, with singing, homily in Italian
Sunday and Holy Days
9:00 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - Mass for the Parish, in Italian
10:30 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - Solemn Mass in Latin, with singing, homily in Italian
11:30 - Blessed Sacrament Chapel - In Italian
12:15 - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
1:00pm - Altar of St. Joseph - (Left Transept), In Italian
4:00pm - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
5:45pm - Altar of the Chair (Cattedra) - In Italian
- Since you will be entering a holy and sacred place, please make sure you wear appropriate clothing. For both men and women, knees and shoulders must be covered.
- 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.
- In order to visit the Vatican Necropolis, you will need to make your reservation online. Ensure that you make your booking at least 3-4 weeks in advance in order to secure your place. The tickets for the Necropolis are high in demand and may get sold out if you book last minute. For a private tour, you will need to email the Fabric of Saint Peter directly.
- Avoid travelling during the high season! During the months of June - August, the entire city gets very crowded and the lines to enter could go on forever. Try visiting during the off season to make the most out of your limited time.
- Give yourself at least 1.5 hours for the entire tour. You do not want to rush past all the attractions and find yourself regretting it later. Take your time and enjoy this exclusive visit.
- 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.
Ready to explore Rome?
While the Vatican Museums are a must-see, there are many other things to do in Rome that cannot be missed! Check out more about the culture, things to do, day trips, budgeting and more with our Rome Travel Guide.