Considered one of the most sacred locations in the world by Christians across the globe, Vatican city is home to many iconic landmarks that attract millions of tourists every year. Visiting the Vatican is an experience you will never forget and there are a plethora of museums that await your arrival. Despite being the smallest country in the world with an area of 44 hectares, it’s home to various religious and cultural sites, treasures immense priceless collections of artistic and historical masterpieces by the world’s greatest artists across the famed Vatican Museums. Make a checklist of what you should not forget to see or do on your visit with the help of this guide.
Vatican Museum Information
Vatican Museums - Things to know
Best time to visit - Early morning or early afternoon
Suggested duration - 2.5 Hours
Starting Vatican Museum ticket price - €14.5
Founded in - 1506 by Pope Julius II
Closest metro station - Ottaviano-S. Pietro - Line A
Vatican Museums Opening Hours
• Monday - Saturday: 09:00 AM to 06:00 PM (Ticket office closes at 04:00 PM)
• Sunday - Closed
• Last Sunday of each month: 09:00 AM to 02:00 PM. (Ticket office closes at midday, 12:30 PM)
Must-see at Vatican Museums
The Spiral Staircase
Vatican Museums Address
00165 Rome, Italy
Vatican Museum History
The Vatican Museum is one of the oldest and most frequented complexes in the world. The complex of the museum includes the Galleries, Gardens, chapels, and the decorated spaces such as Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms. The construction began in the early 16th century by the orders of Pope Julius Ⅱ.
At its inception, Pope Julius Ⅱ had established a state collection of classical sculptures at the Octagonal Courtyard. Pope Clement XIV and Pope Pius VI ordered the building of the first museum which structured the exhibition of artworks for the public in the later 18th century which is now called the Pius-Clementine Museum. This is the story of how the museum came to be with additions of various other collections of art in the later stages.
Vatican Museum Architecture & Design
The Vatican Museum is the epitome of Roman, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture. It is home to one of the greatest masterpieces of history - Michelangelo’s fresco at the Sistine Chapel, which also marks the end of the Museum. The Chapel is 134 ft long and 44 ft wide, designed by two architects named Baccio Pontelli and Giovannino de Dolci.
Other notable structures here are The Etruscan Museum, the Egyptian Museum, and Raphael Rooms. The Egyptian museum features art pieces from Ancient Egypt mostly brought to Rome during the Roman Empire and encompasses 9 rooms arranged around the so-called hemicycle. Etruscan Museum includes artifacts coming from archaeological sites located in the Etruria, a region comprising modern Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria. One of the people’s favorites is the Bramante Staircase Popularly known as the spiral staircase. It consists of two staircases, one built during the 1500s and the modern equivalent of it built during the 1900s. The ceilings throughout the Vatican Museum are decorated extraordinarily with mosaic details.
Vatican Museum Entrances
There are two ways of entering Vatican City - via St Peter’s Square or Vatican Museums. Although the Vatican Museum is located in Vatican City, the nearest entrance is via Rome. You will see a sign for Musei Vaticani across the small street from Viale Vaticano, 100, Roma 00192. If you are buying tickets online to skip the long queues for entering the Vatican Museum, you can stand near the yellow signboard. In case you have booked a guided tour of the Vatican, you need to meet your guide at the meeting point provided to you. Check out the best Vatican entrances to your plan and the fastest way to reach them.
Vatican Museum Collection
The Vatican Museum consists of 54 museums and their collections housed in the Vatican Palaces. The compilation in the museum is art produced in a span of 800 years. Many famous artists of this time including Giotto, Fra Angelico, Perugino, Melozzo da Forlì, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, and Caravaggio have contributed to the museum's collection. If you are interested in Classical Sculptures, you must visit Museums of Classical Antiquities, the Pio-Clementine Museum, the Museo Chiaramonti, the Braccio Nuovo Gallery, and the Gregorian Profane Museum. Their gatherings include statues, sculptural groups, reliefs, friezes, urns, and mosaics. Here are some of the other prominent ones you cannot miss:
Vatican Museum Paintings and Top Exhibits
The collection of contemporary art is a compilation of 800 works of art by over 250 international artists. This collection is dated from late 19th century to early 20th century. It took over 10 years for Paul Ⅵ’s personal secretary, Msgr. Pasquale Macchi to compile them. It includes important figures from artists such as Van Gogh, Bacon, and provides perspective about how religious art has evolved over the centuries
Marking the High Renaissance period in Rome, the four Raphael rooms, known as the Stanze of Raphael give you an experience of a lifetime. Famed for their stunning pictorial decoration frescoes, painted by Raphael and his school, these rooms situated on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace are a must-see.
Located on the west side of the Belvedere Courtyard, the Gallery of Maps contains a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by famous geographer Ignazio Danti. The 40 panels of the 120m long gallery, map the entire Italian peninsula in large-scale frescoes with almost 80% accuracy.
This is one of 54 galleries in the Pio-Clementino Museums, filled with masterpieces of Greek and Roman sculptures. The walls were once covered with frescoes showing landscapes and cities. Small cupids painted by Pinturicchio and his assistants still visible are worth a watch. The walls carry a series of niches displaying massive statues, interspersed with columns supporting outsize busts.
This iconic staircase was designed by Bramante and later in 1932, by architect Giuseppe Momo who was inspired by the original one. It is 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 an excellent photo op. Make sure you pay a visit before you exit the museum to the Sistine Chapel.
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.
The Sistine Chapel
The most fabulous chapel ever built (and painted) has to be the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums. The chapel is located on the right of the Vatican Museum’s exit and is an experience most people combine with their visit to the museums.
It was initially the Pope’s private chapel and still takes on many private masses and gatherings for the official body. It has come to be one of the most recognized places of worship thanks to the popularity of the frescoes painted over its vast ceilings by Michelangelo. You must have heard more about the man who painted the chapel’s 12000 sq meters ceilings than the chapel itself. But did you know that Michelangelo refused to take up the job when requested by Pope Julius Ⅱ? He considered himself more of a sculptor than a painter but ended up surpassing his doubts as a painter. So, when at the Vatican Museums, look out for the ceilings.
More than two-thirds of Vatican City is covered with the Vatican Gardens that lie behind the Leonine walls. The Vatican Gardens were groomed to provide the Vatican City with exorbitant beauty and for the travelers to a restorative refuge since the middle ages. This is because Rome experiences very hot summers. The landscape of these gardens is a combination of the characteristics of Italian, English, and French gardens. During the 1590s the Gardens were adorned with many cascades and fountains. Out of these 100s of fountains, the Galea fountain (Fontana Della Galera) is an impressive one that is often overlooked. The massive water-filled basin carrying the modern warship is located at the left of the Bramante Staircase.
Burial sites offer insight into the cultural practices, society, and history of the place. Little do people know that these sites also spill tea about their best-kept secrets. The Vatican Necropolis is one such site that tells a lot about the past of the Vatican, its various traditions and mysteries. Located beneath the St. Peter's Basilica, over 2,000 years of Roman history lies buried in the Vatican Necropolis. It is considered to be the final resting place of St Peter, the Apostle. Also, it is an ancient pagan and Christian cemetery from the 1st century. Due to its historical, religious, and cultural importance, great measures are taken to preserve this holy place and protect its integrity.
Vatican At Night
The Vatican Museum is visited by over 18,000 visitors every day according to Statistica. There is but one way to get out of the crowds - to visit the Vatican at night. The Vatican city allows people to visit it at night from April through October on Fridays. This is only allowed for less than 4 times the visitors during the day. This allows you to see and experience the Vatican Museums with a closer look at the famous collections which would otherwise be difficult. Better photo ops are a bonus.
The best time to walk in would be 7 PM, so you have enough time to pay attention to the details of the art and architecture at the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. You can book the tickets from the official website.
Vatican Secret Archives
The Vatican Secret Archives holds 53 miles of shelving, 35 thousand volumes of catalog, and 12 centuries’ worth of documents. All these stored in a country of only 121 acres of land is astonishing. And if you already have not realized, the Vatican is full of wonders. The history and legacy of a religion being scripted and stored so safely for centuries is something you have to see to believe.
Until 1881 not all Christian scholars were permitted access. One of the most priceless momenta is the Vatican Secret Archive holds is the Catholic Church’s excommunication of Martin Luther, who ignited Europe by turning his back on Catholicism and sparked Protestantism. The other most treasured Item on the shelf is the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, the oldest known nearly complete manuscript of the Bible.
Visiting Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday - 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
Final entry is at 4:30 PM
Guests are expected to exit the exhibition rooms by 6 PM
The Rome Metro has a station just outside the Vatican walls 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
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.
Vatican Museum Dress Code
Dress appropriately before you enter the Vatican. Sleeveless blouses, miniskirts, shorts, and hats are not permitted.
Vatican Museum Gift Shop
There is an official Vatican Museum Gift Shop just outside the entrance. They have a collection of posters, DVDs, sculptures. Books, accessories, and home decor that you can gift and send a post if you wish.
Vatican Museum Restaurants
- Easy on the pocket - the Ristorante dei Musei offers amazing food and is located right by the Museum. The citrus rosemary chicken is a favorite of every past customer.
- There are pizzerias nearby that provide a selection of toppings for your different taste buds.
- There are Cafeterias all around the place. People’s favorites being Caffetteria Centrale, Bistrot La Pigna, Caffetteria Il Forno, and Caffetteria Le Carrozze.
Vatican Museum Map
This is an interactive map. Click on the icons for more detials.
Vatican Museum Tickets
Skip the line
With these tickets, you can move past the hour-long lines in seconds to save time and explore Vatican Museums for a little longer.
Get to know the Vatican Museums like the inside of your hand with an expert local guide giving all the deets you need to know, and a few secrets, too.
Hate crowds? Enjoy the Vatican with the help of a private guide to escort you and narrate you the tales of the small yet powerful country.
Semi-Private/Small Group Tours
Like making friends? Walk the Museums with a small group of visitors from across the globe. Exchange your stories as well as learn about the collections of art from an expert local guide.
Get your hands on the most popular and recommended Vatican Museum tickets now.
Vatican Guided Tours
Best Tours of the Vatican Museums
Visiting the Vatican is a wonderful experience. Learning about what makes this tiny city wonderful is an experience that is beyond. Here is the key information about the different guided Vatican tours you can take during your visit.
- Entry to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel along with skip the line access
- A professional English guide will spill tea about the Vatican as he helps you navigate through the key parts of Vatican City, from the Pinecone Courtyard to the Hall of Maps, past the Gallery of Tapestries, and the Gallery of Candelabra until the incredible Raphael Rooms, the public part of the papal apartments
- Highlights: The guide would have already prepared you through the use of detailed photos as to what to expect once you enter the Sistine Chapel since tours are not allowed through the chapel
- Explore the Vatican City with a cozy group of 10 people or less
- Allows you the fastest way through the Vatican with skipping the line access tickets
- Hear the story behind Michelangelo’s famous work, The Last Judgement, traverse the Gallery of Tapestries, the Gallery of Maps, and the awe-inspiring Raphael's Rooms as you listen to your guide's commentary via your headsets
- Save time and have a crowd-free experience with early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
- Early access to the Sistine Chapel to arrive 15 minutes before anyone else and 1.5 hours before the Chapel’s usual opening hours
- Enjoy the bonus of multiple audio guide commentary about the museum in over 10 languages
- Skip the hour-long queues to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with fast-track tickets
- The guided tour offers you information in 5 languages on why the Vatican is a living testament of faith and artistic excellence
- Find out where Michelangelo hid Ever's torso and the real meaning behind the Creation of Adam. Know how to make the best use of the skip-the-line tickets from here
Vatican City Tours
Angels & Demons Official Tour
Huge fan of Dan Brown novels or movie adaptation? If yes, this tour will leave you awestruck. Take the Angels and Demons Official exclusive tour that is inspired by Dan Brown’s best-selling novel - Angels and Demons. The tour is designed to take you through the many fictional characters’ footsteps to uncover the secrets and mysteries of the book. Walkthrough the sites in Rome and Vatican City that inspired the author to write the novel that is worshiped by a generation of readers.
Full-Day Guided Tour of Vatican and Colosseum with Skip The Line Access
Are you in Rome and want to see most of it in a single day? This full-day guided tour of the Vatican and Colosseum with skip-the-line access will help you do that. Explore the two most famous attractions in Rome with this combo tour. This tour includes visits to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill with speedy tickets so you need not spend time standing in long queues. With a local guide feeding you the fascinating stories of these places and a carefully planned itinerary, you save time and energy while making the most of your day. Know more about planning a visit to Rome and Vatican City together from here.
Insider tips for visiting Vatican Museums
- St Peter’s Basilica is free to visit, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are not. Make sure to purchase a ticket in advance.
- The Spiral Staircase is only open to special tours, so make sure it is highlighted on your ticket if you wish to go there.
- It takes about 3 hours to explore the Vatican Museum. Wear comfortable footwear during your visit.
- The Vatican does have a dress code. For entry into the Vatican, shoulders, and knees must be covered for both men, women, and children.
- Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel.
- Avoid visiting the Vatican Museums during the peak seasons and keep the opening hours in mind while booking your visit.
- The Vatican Museums has 1400 rooms of art and unfortunately, you can’t see them all in a day. Hence, research the rooms and collections you want to see and visit accordingly.
10 Vatican Museum Facts You Probably Didn’t Know!
- 54 museums form what we know as the Vatican Museum which includes the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia, and the Borgia Apartment.
- Want to see all of the Vatican Museums’ collects? If you spend a minute looking at each painting in the Vatican museums, it would take you 4 years to see them all completely.
- The museum contains the largest collection of art in the world with 9 miles of pieces, which could wrap four and half times around the Vatican walls.
- The Vatican does not have taxable revenues and generates 90 percent of its revenues from Vatican Museum (admission fees, shops, and donations from devotees all around the world).
- Raphael’s rooms were the apartments of Pope Julius II. These rooms join the museum with the Papal Palace and are famous for their frescoes by Michelangelo and Raphael.
- Not only Vatican Museums but a whole Vatican city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
- Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century.
- Vatican City is worth between $10 and $15 billion, making it one of the richest, tax-exempt organizations in the world.
- The Pope does not get paid. Pope Francis has taken a vow of poverty.
- Ever noticed the Pope wearing red shoes and wondered why? The color red has been chosen to represent the blood of Catholic martyrs. The red shoes are a symbol of the submission of the Pope to the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.
Things to do around Vatican Museums
Here are the top 10 Vatican City attractions you cannot miss!
Breakfast at the Vatican
The Vatican buffet breakfast is served in either the Restaurant Area or the Pinecone Courtyard of the Vatican Museums, depending on the season. It generally begins at 7:15 a.m and once you’ve eaten your hot breakfast with up to 30 other people, you can directly head to the Vatican Museums and towards the Sistine Chapel an hour before it’s open to the public.
Attending Mass at the Vatican
Papal Mass is a special mass presided by the Pope himself. Additional tickets are required to attend any Papal Audience or Papal Mass. However, there are other opportunities to see Pope Francis that do not require tickets, such as during the Angelus. Papal Mass and Papal Audience Tickets are pretty easy to get and the form can be obtained online.
St Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church built in a Renaissance style on St Peter, the first Apostle’s burial within the enclave of Vatican City. The dome of the church is 138 feet which you are allowed to climb. It is said to be one of the greatest churches ever built and designed to make you feel the vastness and greatness of the Lord. A visit to the Vatican is incomplete without visiting the St Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s Square
The large plaza that lies right in front of the St Peter’s Basilica is the St Peter’s Square. The square covers more than 240 meters of empty space. An obelisk stands on the place where it is believed St Peter was crucified for over 1500 years. Gian Lorenzo Bernini laid it out during the pontificates of Alexander VII and of Clement IX. Make sure to see the various fountains located there.
Take the offbeat track and visit Trastevere from the Vatican City. Trastevere is a medieval neighbourhood located across the Tiber river. It has a steady nightlife and great accommodation in case you want to spend a couple of days.
See the The Mausoleum of Hadrian, also known as Castel Angelo which is a cylindrical castle built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian during 123 - 129 AD. It was later used by the Popes as a fortress, now a museum. It was once the tallest structure in Rome. It houses some of the oldest sculptures in the Vatican and also provides great photo op.
Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. The palace is 162,000 square metres big and contains Papal Apartments, offices of the Roman Catholic Church and Holy See, chapels, Vatican Library, museums and art galleries. It is located northeast of St Peter's Basilica and adjacent to the Bastion of Nicholas V.
Pontifical Swiss Guard
The Pontifical Swiss Guards are the official guards of the Pope. There are 135 guards in total and together they form the smallest army in the world. You can spot them wearing colourful and quirky uniforms around the Vatican City. They are not allowed to take photos with you but would be happy to pose alone for a picture or two.
Vatican Museums FAQs
Where is the Vatican Museum located?
The Vatican Museums are located in the Vatican City State.
When was the Vatican Museum built?
The Vatican Museum was opened in the year 1506.
What time do the Vatican Museums open?
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are open from Monday to Saturday - 8.30 AM to 6.30 PM
How much time do you need in Vatican City?
Set aside at least 4-5 hours to tour the Vatican City.
How long does the Vatican Museum take?
The Vatican Museums easily take 2.5 - 3 hours of your time. This does not include the time taken to travel there.
What is the best time of day to visit the Vatican?
The best time to visit the Vatican is early morning or early afternoon. The Vatican Museums are open from Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is open from Monday to Saturday - 8.30 AM to 6.30 PM.
What are the Sistine chapel mass timings?
The Sistine Chapel is not open for mass. You can Attend mass Monday through Saturday inside St Peter’s Basilica at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, or 5:00 PM inside.
What days is the Vatican closed?
The Vatican is closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of the month and extraordinary days.
Are there any free days to enter the Vatican Museum?
The entrance to the Vatican Museums is free on the last Sunday of every month from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, except on Easter, St. Peter and Paul’s Day, Christmas, and St.Stephen’s Day.
What day is the Vatican Museum closed?
The Vatican is closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of the month and extraordinary days.
Can you wear jeans to the Vatican?
Please be dressed appropriately. Sleeveless blouses, miniskirts, shorts, and hats are not permitted. Knees and shoulders MUST be covered for both men and women. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
What can you not miss at the Vatican Museum?
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.
What famous paintings are in the Vatican Museum?
Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter, Jan Sobieski Vanquisher of the Turks at the Gates of Vienna are some of the finest masterpieces to see at the Vatican Museum.
Where is the spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum?
The spiral staircase is located in the Pio-Clementino Museum, this staircase marks the end of a museum visit.
Did Leonardo Da Vinci paint in the Vatican?
An unfinished painting of Leonardo da Vinci—St. Jerome in The Wilderness is housed in the Vatican Museums.
Do I need my passport to visit 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.
Can you buy Vatican museum tickets at the door?
You can purchase Vatican Museum tickets at the entrance of the Vatican Museum itself. But that comes along with long waiting lines since more than 25000 people visit the Vatican every day.
Should I buy Vatican museum tickets in advance?
It is advised to purchase your tickets in advance online to avoid long queues at the door. Make reservations before your visit to enjoy a hassle-free experience.
How much is a ticket to the Vatican?
A general entrance Vatican ticket to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel starts from €14.5 and goes upwards depending on the inclusions and tours.
How much does it cost to get into the Vatican Museums?
A general entrance ticket to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel starts from €14.5 and goes upwards depending on the inclusions and tours.
How do I get tickets to the Vatican Museum?
You can purchase your Vatican Museum tickets online if you want to skip-the-line and include guided tours.
Other top Experiences in Rome
While the Vatican Museums are a must-see in Italy, here are some other attractions that are now open to the public that cannot be missed! Check out more Rome attractions.