Things to do in Rome

What To Know About Vatican Museums Before Your Visit: The Complete Travelogue

Last Updated:

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 Rome
Vatican Museums Rome
Vatican Museums Rome

Vatican Museums - Things to know

⏰ Suggested duration:2.5 hours
☀️ Best Time to Visit:Early morning or early afternoon
🎟️ Vatican Museum ticket: €14.5
🚇 Closest Train Station: Ottaviano-S. Pietro - Line A

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)


The Spiral Staircase
Raphael's Transfiguration
Pinecone Courtyard
Apollo Belvedere

Vatican Museums Address

Viale Vaticano,
00165 Rome, Italy
Get Directions

A Short History Of The Vatican Museums

vatican museums

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.

The Vatican Museum Architecture & Design

vatican museums

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.

What To See Inside The Vatican Museums?

Vatican Museum Collection 2022

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

Gallery of Contemporary Art

vatican museums

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

The Raphael Rooms

vatican museums

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.

Gallery of Maps

vatican museums

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.

Gallery of Statues

vatican museums - hall of statues

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.

The Spiral Staircase

vatican museums

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.

Gregorian & Egyptian Museum

Vatican Necropolis tickets

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.

Choosing the Right 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.
Guided Tours
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.
Private Tours
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.

Best Vatican Museum 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.

Best Safety
vatican museums and sistine chapel tickets
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel Small-Group Tour
upto 10% off
  • 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
Best Safety
vatican museums tickets
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
Semi-Private Guided Tour - Vatican Museums & Sistine 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
Best Safety
vatican museums tickets
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
Entire Vatican City Guided Tour with St Peter's Basilica Dome Climb
  • Learn the inside out of the Vatican City - its history, secrets, and famous landmarks with an expert local guide
  • Climb the cupola of the St Peter's Basilica and enjoy panoramic views of the city
  • Visit the Papal Sarcophagi, the final resting place of the popes from the 15th to 16th centuries
Best Safety
vatican museums tickets
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
Exclusive Early Access Tickets - Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
upto 10% off
  • 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
Best Safety
vatican museums tickets
Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel
Skip the Line Guided Tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel
  • 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

The Sistine Chapel

vatican museums- sistine chapel
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.

All About The Vatican Gardens

vatican museums - vatican gardens
Vatican Gardens

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.

st marks basilica skip the line
Vatican City Attractions

Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are a sprawling 50 acres of lush greenery, dotted with statues and fountains, and boasting some breathtaking views of St. Peter's Basilica and the city skyline. Read more about these gorgeous gardens on our Vatican City Gardens.

Is The Vatican Necropolis Worth A Visit?

vatican musuems- necropolis
Vatican Necropolis

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.

st marks basilica skip the line
Vatican City Attractions

The Vatican Necropolis

The Vatican Necropolis is located beneath the Vatican City, and it serves as the final resting place for many of the Popes throughout history. It was discovered in the late 19th century and has been a source of fascination ever since. Read our blog on the Necropolis to learn more!

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 The 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.

Essential Information

Vatican Museum Opening Hours


  • Monday to Saturday - 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Final entry is at 4 PM
  • Guests are expected to exit the museums by 5.30 PM
  • Free entry on every last Sunday of the month, from 9 AM to 2 PM, last entry at 12. 30. Exception to this is if the last Sunday coincides with Easter Sunday, 29 June Sts. Peter & Paul, Christmas Day, Feast of Stephen and Feast of Sylvester.

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

Where in Rome?

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

Vatican Entrances Explained

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 Map

Download this map and keep it handy to navigate around the city. To take a virtual tour of Vatican Museum click here.

This is an interactive map. Click on the icons for more detials.

Insider Tips

  • 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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. Not only Vatican Museums but a whole Vatican city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
  7. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century.
  8. Vatican City is worth between $10 and $15 billion, making it one of the richest, tax-exempt organizations in the world.
  9. The Pope does not get paid. Pope Francis has taken a vow of poverty.
  10. 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!

vatican museums
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.

vatican tickets
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.

vatican tickets
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.

vatican tickets
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.

vatican tickets

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.

vatican tickets
Castel Angelo

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.

vatican tickets
Apostolic Palace

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.

vatican tickets
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?

When was the Vatican Museum built?

What time do the Vatican Museums open?

How much time do you need in Vatican City?

How long does the Vatican Museum take?

What is the best time of day to visit the Vatican?

What are the Sistine chapel mass timings?

What days is the Vatican closed?

Are there any free days to enter the Vatican Museum? 

What day is the Vatican Museum closed?

Can you wear jeans to the Vatican?

What can you not miss at the Vatican Museum?

What famous paintings are in the Vatican Museum?

Where is the spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum?

Did Leonardo Da Vinci paint in the Vatican?

Do I need my passport to visit the Vatican?

Where to buy Vatican museum tickets?

Can you buy Vatican museum tickets at the door?

Should I buy Vatican museum tickets in advance?

How much is a ticket to the Vatican?

How much does it cost to get into the Vatican Museums?

How do I get tickets to the Vatican Museum?

Can you do the Colosseum and Vatican in one day?

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.

Vatican Museums Guide