Rome, the capital city of Italy, is one of the most popular destinations in the entire world with over 7.6 million visitors every year. The city is known for its antiquity of culture, architecture, and defiant history. It is filled with much historical importance for its various landmarks and once such is the Vatican City. The city is a holy sight and is often referred to as the Holy See. If you are traveling to or are in Rome, Vatican City is a no-miss. Here we provide you with all info you need to make the best of your time and money in the holy country.
Vatican City Tickets
Why Visit the Vatican City
The city’s art and architecture need no introduction. The monuments, landmarks, and paintings have been created by some of the best artists the world has seen. Witness the Roman, Baroque, and Gothic characteristics of design represented by many of the landmarks. The Vatican Library and the Sistine Chapel are a symbol of the Roman Renaissance. The Vatican City is also a sovereign territory of the Holy See.
The Holy See is the last absolute monarchy and the governing body of the Catholic Church which is recognized as the judicial entity under international law. Vatican City is not only home to spectacular art and architecture, but also of the permanent seat of the Pope.
Vatican City: A History
Vatican City, the center of the catholic faith, home to the Pope and interesting collections of art, is the smallest country in the world. It is fascinating how this small country is packed with so much historical relevance, power, art, and beauty. It is surrounded by the city of Rome and lies west of the Tiber River.
With a land area of only about 0.44s square kilometers, the state holds a population of only 800 individuals. Although the Vatican city was officially founded on 11th February 1929, it has long been a land of power, faith, and neoclassical charm. It is made of several famous landmarks such as St. Peter's Basilica, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican Museums, and the Gardens of Vatican City.
There are several stories about Michelangelo initially refusing to create his most famous art, The Last Judgement. What is more interesting is Michelangelo’s insertion of himself into the fresco (your tour guide would elaborate on both incidents). Today, the area is developed into a popular pilgrimage site and a commercial district. Although it is the smallest of the countries, the Vatican's GDP per capita of $21,198, which makes Vatican City the 18th wealthiest nation in the world per capita. Such strong history and present status of the Vatican City is what sets it apart from any other attraction you will ever visit.
Vatican City Attractions
The Vatican Museum Consists of over 54 galleries including the Sistine Chapel, is one of the largest in the world and has the ability to display more then 20,000 pieces in its seven kilometres of halls and corridors. This would be one of the grandest and longest halls you will ever walk. The macro and micro details will overwhelm you with awe and admiration to the various artists who have created these masterpieces of art. One thing not to forget if you are up for visiting the museums is a good pair of walking shoes, because, oh my, there’s a lot to see as well as walk.
Popularly known as the greatest of all churches of Christendom, St Peter’s Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter (Simon), the chief of Jesus's apostles and the first Bishop of Rome (Pope). The church was first constructed by Emperor Constantine I in 319 Ad. The reconstruction of the present church began on 18th April 1506 by Pope Julius II. The Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the world and is the sovereign jurisdiction of the Vatican city. Check out our guide to choosing the right St. Peter's Basilica guided tour if you fancy a guided tour.
Sistine Chapel is a marvel to look up to, literally! The first thing anyone would notice when they enter Sistine Chapel is its phenomenal ceiling. It is located in the Apostolic Palace and is the official residence of the pope. The famous frescoes, The Last Judgement, were painted by Michelangelo which has not been outdone since. The frescoes are a narration of the old testament and are divided into three scenes - the creation of the heavens and earth; the creation of Adam and Eve, and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and thirdly, the story of Noah and the great flood. The Chapel is 500 years of legacy left by Michelangelo to inspire us.
The Gregorian Etruscan Museums is dedicated to Etruscan antiques and conserves the rare artifacts 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 Egyptian 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.
This iconic staircase was designed by Bramante and later in 1932, by architect Giuseppe Momo who was inspired by the original one. It is a mesmerizing architectural marvel; shaped like a double helix with two sets of staircases designed in such a way that those guests going up do not cross paths with those descending. This makes for an excellent photo op.
The Gardens of Vatican City, known as the Vatican Gardens, are a series of gardens and parks which cover nearly half of Vatican City. Covering over 23 hectares, the gardens feature medieval fortifications, monuments, and buildings from the 9th century to the 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 Madonna.
Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, also known as the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, since 1596 after seizing it from the Savelli family over debts to the church. Until October 2016, it was the summer residence and vacation retreat of the Pope for centuries. Pope Francis opened the palace’s doors to the general public in Spring 2014 for garden visits and in October 2016 for the Apostolic Palace. The Palace is 43.3 km Kilometers from the Vatican and takes about 45 minutes. You can board the metro: LINEA A, train: FL4, or bus: COTRAL to get there.
Vatican City Attractions
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: To visit the Sistine Chapel you first need to visit the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel is inside the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. To get there, you need walk directly through the museums, past the Gallery of Maps, to enter the chapel. If you've purchased guided tour tickets with fast access, do note that the fast access is pertaining to entry to the Vatican Museums. Separate tickets for entry to Sistine Chapel are not sold.
Things to Do Around the Vatican
Connected to the Vatican City by an ancient passway, Castel Sant’Angelo is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, just outside of Vatican City. It also goes by the name of the Mausoleum of Hadrian. What makes this spiral building so special is that it served as a fortress for the Popes and their treasury when they were under siege, not once but twice. The passage that connects the Vatican to this building is hidden and was unknown to the public for several years.
The Vatican Necropolis is located 10 meters beneath St. Peter's Basilica, below the level of the Vatican Grottoes. The word ‘Necropolis’ in Greek means city of the dead. After thorough excavation and refurbishment, the site has been made into a museum to provide information about its history and past life. Grab your tickets from here to pay respects to the dead. Note that this requires prior permission. Read more about it on our guide to the Vatican Necropolis Tour.
The most famous and biggest (room for upto 70,000 people) amphitheatre ever built is the Colosseum. It used to host events like hosted events like gladiatorial games and was built by the Flavian emperors as a gift to the Roman people. In just a shy time of it’s 400 years of legacy, it is estimated that 400,000 people died within the walls. Get your Colosseum Tickets now, and experience one of the 7 wonders of the world!
Check out the Vatican Grottoes, the vast underground cemetery beneath St Peter’s Basilica. Housed there, are the several Popes and Saints that found the religion of Christianity. These coffins date back to the 10th century and buried in them are 91 Popes. Grottoes are caves that are natural or manmade used for burial purposes.
Best Time to Visit Vatican City in Rome
Every day 25,000 people walk past the walls of the Vatican landmarks. Hence, prepare in advance to see the museums, Basilica, Chapel, and gardens. If you do not like crowds and want to travel on a budget, visit the Vatican City during the colder months (excluding Christmas and New Year) which occurs from late November to early December and mid-January to the end of February. Try to avoid visiting on Sundays, since the museums are closed on all Sundays except the last Sunday of the month from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. Most people also rush to the Vatican in the mornings. So, do the opposite and plan your visit in the early afternoon. You can purchase the tickets online to skip the long waiting lines from here.
Vatican Rules and Regulations
- 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.
Vatican City Facts You Probably Didn’t Know!
- It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Country.
- Many Popes refused to leave the Vatican for nearly 60 years during the 19th and 20th century and did not live in the Vatican until the 14th century
- The Pope has his army from Switzerland of 135 men!
- None of its citizens are born there and a majority of its citizens live abroad.
- The Vatican does not have an official language.
- It is the first carbon-neutral state in the world.
Tips for your Vatican Visit
- 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 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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Vatican City Rome
What is not allowed in the Vatican?
Huge luggage, umbrellas, camera tripods or stands, sharp and dangerous objects are not allowed inside the Vatican.
What should I see in Vatican City?
What should I see in Vatican City?
Bernini's Colonnade at Saint Peter's Square, Sistine Chapel, Traverse Castel Sant'Angelo, Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, St Peter's Basilica is a must-see at the Vatican City.
Do you need a passport to enter the Vatican?
The only way to enter the Vatican City is from Italy, and if you have a visa or the right to enter Italy, you can enter the Vatican City too.
Where does the Pope live?
The Apostolic Palace (AKA Vatican Palace) is the official residence of the Pope.
When was the Vatican Church built?
When was the Vatican Church built?
The construction of the present St. Peter's Basilica was begun by Pope Julius II in 1506 and completed in 1615 under Paul V.
Is the Vatican wheelchair accessible?
Yes, the Vatican Museums are wheelchair accessible. Vatican offers free entry to all disabled visitors with a certified invalidity of more than 74%.
What is the Vatican City dress code?
For entry into the Vatican, shoulders, and knees must be covered for both men, women, and children
Why is Vatican City a country?
Why is Vatican City a country?
The Vatican City was granted the status of a country due to the Lateran treaty to end a period of political and religious turmoil within Italy.
Is entry to the Vatican free?
It is free to walk around the Vatican City and to enter it. The landmarks such as St Peter’s Basilica are free while you have to pay to see the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and other attractions.
Is the Vatican free on Sundays?
The Vatican Museums are free to visit on the last Sunday of every month between 09:00 AM and 12:30 PM while St Peter's Basilica is free to visit on all days.
Does Vatican City have an army?
Despite being the smallest country in the world, Vatican City does have an army called the Pontifical Swiss Guard, a small army of around 135 in charge of the safety of the Pope.
Who lives in Vatican city?
The people who live in Vatican City are clergy and the Swiss Guards of Vatican City.