Located within Rome, the Vatican City is a sovereign state, and the smallest country in the world. Within the city are some of the most important cultural and religious landmarks like the St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. The only country in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Vatican City is a popular tourist destination, having been visited by over 6 million people in 2016. Spread over just 44 hectares, with 800 residents, Vatican City attractions have the highest tourist to resident ratio in the world.
Here, we list the top Vatican City attractions you cannot miss out on:
The Gardens of Vatican City, more popularly known as the Vatican Gardens, are a series of gardens and parks which cover nearly half of the state. Spread over 23 hectares, the gardens feature medieval fortifications, and monuments and buildings from the 9th century to present day. You will get to see opulent fountains, incredible winding paths, vibrant colored flowers, and magnificent oaks. You will also get to see amazing sculptures and artificial grottoes dedicated to the Madonna.
Also known as the Vatican Scavi, the Vatican Necropolis lies beneath St. Peter's Basilica. The Necropolis, a Roman cemetery with elaborate tombs, was excavated between 1940-49 under the orders of Pope Pius XII, to find the burial site of St. Peter. The first centry necropolis has corridors where once the first Christians walked, and you can too. You will see at least fifteen mausoleums. Mausoleums usually house tombs, and the ones you see here are ornate and beautiful, indicating those tht were buried here were of high social status. St. Peter was one of the Twelve Disciples of Jesus, and is known as the first Bishop of Rome. It is believed that he was crucified under the rule of Nero, and was famously crucified upside down, as he did not deem himself worthy to be crucified the same way as Jesus. Today, his remains are under the St. Peter's Basilica, within the Vatican Necropolis.
Raphael's Rooms, or Stanze di Rafaello, were part of the second floor of the Pontifical Palace. The rooms, originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II, were painted by Raphael and his workshop. There are four "rooms" within the apartment: Room of Constantine, Room of Heliodorus, Room of Segnatura, and the Room of the Fire in the Borgo. The Room of Constantine was intended to be used for receptions and official ceremonies. The Room of Heliodorus was originally used for the private audiences of the Pope. The four scenes from the Old Testament on the ceiling were done by Raphael. The Room of Segnatura was used by the pontiff, and has some of Raphael's most famous frescoes. The Room of the Fire in the Borgo was used for the meetings of the highest court of the Holy See.
Visited by over 6 million people every year, the Vatican Museums consist of 54 galleries and have one of the largest collections of Renaissance and Medieval art in the world. The museums are home to a number of classical sculptures and paintings by the Renaissance greats such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Famous rooms and galleries in the Vatican Museums include Raphael Rooms, the Gallery of Maps, the Sala Rotunda and the Gallery of Statues and the Hall of Busts.
One of the most important of the Vatican City attractions, the Sistine Chapel is a monument that everyone must visit at least onec in their lifetime. Its walls and ceilings are covered by some of the most opulent frescoes ever produced. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, covering over 800 sq. m., is especially famous. Painted by Michelangelo over a span of 4 years, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are considered to be a cornerstone of High Renaissance art. The chapel also contains some of the most remarkable pieces of art, such as Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam and Botticelli's Temptation of Christ. But the chapel isn't just of artistic importance. Nestled in the holy Vatican City, it serves a distinct purpose - it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected.
1St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is the world's largest basilica of Christianity, and a remarkable example of Renaissance architecture. Primarily designed by by Bramante, Bernini, Michelangelo, and Maderno, this church is a must-see for those visiting Rome. Apart from being a center of religion, St. Peter's Basilica is also home to numerous works of Renaissance art. Some of the most popular works of art in the basilica are Michelangelo’s La Pietà sculpture, Bernini’s Baldachin, and the statue of St. Peter. Its main dome is a stunning piece of architecture, which is a dominant feature in the city's skyline.