Things to do in Rome

Explainer Guide To The Must-See Highlights At The Vatican Museums

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The Vatican Museums in Rome are a must-visit for any tourist seeking an unforgettable cultural experience. This extensive collection of museums and galleries boasts some of the world's most exquisite art and ancient artifacts, including sculptures, tapestries, paintings, and archaeological finds. Marvel at the intricate details of the Sistine Chapel, stroll through the colorful and vast Gallery of Maps, and don't miss the bizarre Gallery of the Candelabra, filled with eerie sculptures. The collections within the museum walls are estimated to be worth around €15 billion, which gives you an idea of the opulence you can expect.

But, where does one start? With 24 sections covering everything from ancient art to sculptures, bronze statues, mosaics and a stunning courtyard, it can be hard to know where to go first. Fear not, as we’ve put together a list of the top ten highlights to help guide you on your journey.

Vatican Museum Tickets

Vatican Museum Highlights - The Paintings

1. Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Michelangelo's iconic masterpiece, the Creation of Adam, housed in the Vatican Museum, is a profound depiction of divine creation. Painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it portrays the moment God breathes life into Adam, conveying a sense of divine power and human potential. The intricate details, skillful composition, and emotional intensity of this fresco continue to captivate and inspire viewers from around the world.

Sistine Chapel

2. Transfiguration by Raphael

Raphael's Transfiguration, showcased in the Vatican Museum, stands as a testament to his artistic genius. This monumental painting depicts the biblical event where Christ's divinity is revealed on Mount Tabor. The composition skillfully balances earthly and heavenly realms, with vibrant colors, intricate brushwork, and dramatic lighting. Raphael's ability to capture both physical and spiritual beauty in this masterpiece is a testament to his enduring legacy in art history.

Sistine Chapel

3. Michelangelo's Last Judgement

Michelangelo's Last Judgment, adorning the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum, is a monumental and awe-inspiring fresco. Painted in the early 16th century, it depicts the biblical scene of the final judgment, with Christ as the central figure surrounded by vividly portrayed angels, saints, and sinners. The composition, emotional intensity, and intricate details of this masterpiece continue to mesmerize and provoke contemplation among viewers to this day.

Sistine Chapel

4. Saint Jerome in the Wilderness by Leonardo da Vinci

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, is housed in the Vatican Museum. Completed in the early 16th century, this masterpiece depicts the saint in a contemplative pose, surrounded by a desolate landscape. Leonardo's meticulous attention to detail, mastery of light and shadow, and the profound expression on Jerome's face create a powerful and introspective atmosphere. The artwork showcases Leonardo's remarkable skill and his ability to convey deep human emotion.

Sistine Chapel

Vatican Museum Highlights - First Floor

1. Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum at the Vatican Museums houses ancient Egyptian artifacts and relics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. Explore the vast collection of sarcophagi, mummies, and funerary objects, including the famous 'Book of the Dead'. The museum also boasts several impressive bas-reliefs, depicting scenes from everyday life in ancient Egypt, as well as a full-scale replica of an Egyptian tomb.

Sistine Chapel

2. Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is the star attraction of the Vatican Museums. Featuring the masterpiece of Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling, it's undoubtedly a breathtaking sight to behold and a true highlight of the Vatican Museums. In addition to Michelangelo's frescoes, the Sistine Chapel also houses the famed artwork 'The Last Judgment’.

Sistine Chapel

3. Pinacoteca

The Pinacoteca is a gallery that showcases a selection of works that span the 12th to the 19th centuries. It houses masterpieces by Italian artists such as Giotto, Caravaggio, and Titian. The collection is a must-see for art lovers and historians alike. Don't miss the stunning 'Transfiguration' by Raphael, which is considered one of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance.

Sistine Chapel

4. Pio Clementino Museum

The Pio-Clementino Museum houses an extensive collection of classical sculptures, including works by Greek and Roman artists. In addition to its impressive collection, the museum's architecture and decor are themselves worthy of admiration. Don't miss the Gallery of the Busts, which is home to dozens of intricate marble busts of Roman emperors and other notable figures.

5. Chiaramonti Museum

The Chiaramonti Museum houses an extensive collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, with works that are dated from the 5th century BC to the 3rd century AD. The museum is named after Pope Pius VII, who commissioned the collection of these works. Don't miss the stunning 'Apollo Belvedere' sculpture, which is considered one of the greatest works of classical art.

Vatican Museum Highlights - Second Floor

1. Bramante Staircase

The Bramante Staircase is a beautiful architectural feat that was designed by Donato Bramante in the early 16th century. This double helix staircase was designed to allow visitors to ascend to the library without encountering those descending. The design of the staircase is said to have inspired many later artists and architects.

Sistine Chapel

2. Gallery of Tapestries

The Gallery of Tapestries is a stunning room, where visitors can admire priceless tapestries created by Flemish and Italian artists. The detailed weaving and colors of these tapestries are truly a must-see, and a testament to the skill of the 16th-century weavers. These tapestries are particularly impressive, as they're not just artistic but also have historical significance. Some of the tapestries were commissioned by Pope Leo X, and they're among the most expensive tapestries ever made.

3. Raphael's Rooms

The Raphael Rooms are a series of four decorated rooms with enormous frescoes painted by Raphael and his students. The Raphael Rooms display some of the finest examples of Renaissance art, with each room dedicated to a different theme. Admire the stunning frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible and ancient mythology, including the famous 'School of Athens'. The intricate details and vibrant colors are a testament to the artistry of Raphael and his students, and it's definitely worth taking the time to appreciate their work.

Sistine Chapel

Vatican Museum Highlights - The Outdoors

1. Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are sprawling and beautifully manicured, offering visitors a tranquil retreat from the bustle of the city. With over 57 acres of lush greenery, manicured lawns, and vibrant flowers, visitors can stroll through the gardens and admire the stunning views of St. Peter's Basilica and the city skyline. The gardens are especially beautiful in the spring when the flowers are in full bloom.

Sistine Chapel


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Vatican Museums Highlights