Visit the Vatican in Rome: Best time & Entry to the Vatican in Rome

A visit to the Vatican is a must do for many tourists in Rome. All important tips and information that you need to visit the Vatican are summarized on this page. The Vatican is very popular. You should therefore book your tickets in advance and carefully read my tips on “When is the best time to visit the Vatican”!

The Vatican in Rome: Important information for visiting the Vatican

General information about the Vatican in Rome

The Vatican is in the middle of Rome, only separated from the historic city center by the Tiber. The Vatican City is the smallest recognized state in the world with a size of 0,44 square meters. It is the center of the Roman Catholic church, seat of the Pope, but also a cultural, artistic and touristic hub in the heart of Rome.

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More than 5 million visitors come to the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums every year. For many visitors the Vatican embodies the highlight of their trip to Rome.

Why the Vatican is so interesting for visitors

The Vatican is of interest to Rome visitors in two regards: They can marvel at St. Peter’s Basilica and its huge square, and on the other side visit the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel.

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The Sistine Chapel houses world famous works of art. One artistic highlight is the “Creation of Adam”, an extract of the ceiling fresco made by painter Michelangelo, which depicts how God calls Adam into life with his pointed finger.

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Furthermore, a visit to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is highly recommended when you come to the Vatican!

Vatican tickets without queuing up

There is always a rush in the Vatican. You can save a lot of time and book fast track tickets, Vatican tickets or private tours in advance online on GetYourGuide!

Best time to visit the Vatican in Rome

Best season to visit the Vatican

It’s not easy to say what the best season is to visit the Vatican. The last time I was in Rome was in August. Despite my fear of endless queues, it did not take very long to enter the Vatican after all.

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I can highly recommend a visit to the Vatican in the winter. The waiting time is rather short from November to February, except during Christmas and New Year’s Day – these are peak times in the Vatican.

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In the summer the Vatican is so congested that you don’t have time to look at all the details in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. You are pretty much carried along by the crowd and stopping is not really tolerated.

Best day to visit the Vatican in Rome

It’s best to visit the Vatican during the week because weekends are generally very busy. A good day to visit the Vatican is Friday. If you come to Rome in the summer you should use this day as the museums are open late from 7 to 11 pm. But keep in mind to register beforehand, regardless of the season!

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Wednesday is a rather bad day to visit the Vatican. If the Pope is in Rome, a general audience is held on Wednesdays at 10:30 am. This event attracts many believers.

Best daytime to visit the Vatican in Rome

exit-gate-vatican-romeMost tourists in Rome begin their sightseeing tours early in the morning. Tour groups start very early, too, in order to cover their full program. Therefore I would advise you to visit the Vatican in the afternoon. Normally, it will be less busy. However, it remains important to book tickets for the Vatican in advance. In the afternoon you may try to enter the Vatican Museums without reserved tickets. Ticket counters operate until 4 pm, which gives you two hours to visit the galleries before they close at 6 pm. It’s always a good idea to start with the Sistine Chapel!

Duration of a visit in the Vatican in Rome

The visit duration in the Vatican depends on different factors. It may be more lengthy on busy days. Then, it also depends on your interests. Someone who inspects every detail will spend of course more time in the Vatican than someone who just wants to walk through St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums and stop every now and then.

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I think that a visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel will take 3 to 4 hours. Expect about one hour for St. Peter’s Basilica.

Dress code for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums in Rome

If you visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Rome, you should cover your shoulders and knees. This is the dress code if you don’t want to get rejected at the entrance. In addition, you should take off any cap before entering the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica like you would in any other church.

St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church in the Catholic Church and second to the Notre-Dame de la Paix basilica on the Ivory Coast in Africa in terms of size. St. Peter’s Basilica which embodies the center of the independent state of the Vatican City was built in the 15th century and consecrated after 150 years of construction. Today it is home to famous works of art such as the Pietà by Michelangelo, the Baldachin by Bernini, and one of the largest self-supporting domes in the world. St. Peter’s Basilica offers space for 20000 people.

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You should plan about an hour to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. It is best to visit the dome first because it will give you direct access to the basilica without waiting.

Vatican grottoes and the Vatican Necropolis

Underneath St. Peter’s Basilica are the Vatican grottoes and the Vatican Necropolis. Some popes are buried in the grottoes, but also men who played an important role in the Vatican. The Vatican Necropolis is an ancient Roman burial site where the tomb of apostle Peter is supposed to be found. The gravesite has been accessible again since the 1950s. To visit the Necropolis you need to book as soon as possible because entry is limited to 250 persons per day only. Visitors to the Necropolis must be at least 15 years of age.

St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome

Another highlight of St. Peter’s Basilica is the dome. It is accessible for visitors and offers a great view over the Vatican and Rome. Light conditions are especially good in the afternoon to watch over the city. You should plan at least one hour in the queue to visit the dome.

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The waiting time depends on the weekday and daytime. Perhaps you are lucky and can avoid long queues. There are 551 stairs to climb by foot. With the elevator it’s only 320. For the way down you can either use the elevator or the stairs which are usually less busy.

Entry fees for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

Entry to St. Peter’s Basilica is free like in all other churches in Rome. If you want to climb the dome, it’s 7 euro with the elevator and 5 euro by foot. Entry to the Vatican grottoes is free. The Vatican Necropolis offers tours for 13 euro per person for a duration of 1.5 hour.

Opening hours of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

  • St. Peter’s Basilica is open from April to September from 7 am to 7 pm, and from October to March from 7 am to 6:30 pm.
  • The dome is accessible from April to September from 8 am to 8 pm, and from October to March from 8 am to 5 pm. Access is not allowed during ceremonies.

How to get to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome

You can reach St. Peter’s Basilica via metro line A at “Lepanto” or “Ottaviano”, or by using the tramway 19 at “Piazza Risorgimento”.

The Vatican Museums in Rome

vatican-museum-exit-romeThe Vatican Museums offer a large collection of art and architecture. For a long period of time they were reserved for the popes only. Today the Vatican Museums comprise 11 different museums with five galleries and 1400 exhibitions halls. It is one of the biggest and most significant art collection in the world. Among the masterpieces you will find the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, the Raphael Rooms, the Vatican Library and many more. The art collection offers everything from ancient art (Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire), art from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the 19th century to contemporary art. On top of that, you can visit different gardens, inner courtyards and parks. You will need many hours and days to admire the whole art treasure.

Opening hours & entry to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm. However, last entry is at 4 pm. The museums are closed on Sundays, but open for free from 9 am to 12 pm on every last Sunday of a month.

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Many visitors are ready to wait for hours to get into the Vatican Museums. On days with high demand the queue may take up to 3 hours. Especially on Monday it can be very busy because it is the resting day for many museums in Rome. Wednesday is also very crowded because of the Pope’s audience. Saturday is another busy day. The best days to visit the Vatican and the Vatican Museums are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The museums are closed on Sundays, except on every first Sunday of a month: opening times are then from 9 am to 2 pm and entry is free.

Entry fees to the Vatican Museums in Rome

The entry fee for adults is 16 euro. Children between 6 and 18 years pay 8 euro and children under 6 years have free entry.

Vatican Museums in Rome without queuing up

To avoid long waiting lines, it is worth booking your tickets in advance. For a surcharge of 4 euro, you can buy tickets on the website of the Vatican Museums. Entry to the Vatican Museums is also included in the OMNIA pass as well as the Rome City pass by Turbopass.

How to get to the Vatican Museums in Rome

You can reach the Vatican Museums via metro line A at “Ottaviano” or by using the tramway to “Piazza Risorgimento”.

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