Top 11 Tips on How to Visit the Vatican

Visiting the Vatican is an incredible experience, but it can also be overwhelming if you don’t plan ahead. 

Whether you’re interested in art, history, or religion, there’s something for everyone in the Vatican. 

With so much to see and do, it’s important to have a strategy in place to make the most of your time and have a memorable experience.

In this article, we’ll provide 11 best tips on how to visit the Vatican that will help you navigate your way around the Vatican and get the most out of your visit. 

From planning your itinerary to understanding the dress code, we’ve got you all covered. 

So let’s dive in and explore the wonders of the Vatican together!

1. Book your Vatican Tour Online

Book your Vatican Tour Online
Image: Anyaberkut / getty images (Canva)

Instead of waiting in the famously long lines outside the Vatican ticket counters for up to three hours, we recommend you purchase your Vatican ticket online.

You will appreciate the convenience of bypassing the extensive queues with your skip the line ticket.

Additionally, buying tickets directly at the attraction can be risky as well; you need to be cautious of unauthorized individuals selling tickets and tours to tourists on their way to the Vatican. 

These sellers may claim to offer skip-the-line passes and expert tours, but they are often fraudsters who target unsuspecting travelers, potentially ruining their Vatican experience.

So, in order to avoid any such inconvenience, it’s best to Book Your Vatican Tickets Online.

2. Booking a guided tour

Booking a guided tour
Image: Giselleflissak / Getty image Signature (Canva)

Taking a guided tour while visiting the Vatican Museums will significantly enhance your understanding of the artworks and their historical context. 

You will have an expert guide who will walk you through the museums and exhibitions showcasing centuries-old art and artifacts.

Moreover, it can make your visit to the Vatican less stressful and more knowledgeable.

A guided Vatican tour will provide valuable insights into the art and history of the museums, making it a worthwhile investment.

3. Plan your visiting time – Go early or late

To avoid the large crowds at the Vatican Museums, it is advisable to schedule your tour during the early morning or late evening. 

As approximately 20,000 individuals visit the Vatican each day, choosing to visit outside of peak times will allow you to appreciate the beauty of the Museums with more room to move.

It’s usually the best time to visit the Vatican, as you will be able to explore the Vatican with peace in a less crowded environment.

4. Avoid hastening to Sistine Chapel

On their trip to the Vatican Museums, most individuals eagerly look forward to seeing the Sistine Chapel and always try to reach the chapel soon. 

However, it is crucial to note that it is one of the final attractions; the Sistine Chapel comes at the last of the Vatican Museum’s 24 galleries.

So, Instead of trying to make it to the Chapel soon, we advise you to see the museum slowly, admiring all the artifacts before you make it into the Sistine Chapel.

It’s important to admire all the other exhibits on the way there.

5. Consider spending at least two hours inside the museums

Vatican Museum is known as the Museum of Museums, housing centuries old art and history.

Considering the 24 great art galleries, the Vatican Museum is a large area to cover.

We suggest you spend at least 2 hours exploring the museum to have a fine experience of a Vatican visit.

Although three hours would be ideal, exploring the Vatican Museums in less than two hours is difficult without solely focusing on the Sistine Chapel and ignoring other exhibits. 

Additionally, one must account for the time it takes to reach the museums, go through security checks, and potentially queue up for entry. 

If visitors plan on seeing St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square as well, it’s recommended to allocate at least half a day for the Vatican visit.

6. Avoid visiting St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday mornings

St. Peter’s Basilica is a major attraction for tourists visiting the Vatican, often topping their itinerary. 

If you plan to visit the basilica, it is important to note that it is typically closed to the public and tour groups early on Wednesday mornings for the papal audience. 

Though the Basilica reopens after the papal audience around 12 pm or 1 pm.

To avoid missing out on this architectural marvel, make sure to schedule your tour accordingly and avoid visiting on Wednesday morning.

7. Make sure to follow the Vatican dress code

It is important to dress modestly when visiting the Vatican Museums or any other site in Vatican City, such as Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel or St. Peter’s Basilica,. 

To be more specific, clothing should cover your knees and shoulders, so skirts and shorts must extend below the knees. 

If your skirt or shorts only reach the top of your knees, you run the risk of being denied entry to the attractions even after having a ticket.

Additionally, bare midriffs and shoulders are not allowed, but this can be easily addressed by carrying a light sweater or scarf to cover up when necessary.

Though the Vatican doesn’t have a rule following the footwear of Visitors, we highly recommend avoiding flip-flops or other flimsy shoes that might get uncomfortable during long tours. 

You will likely end up walking more than you anticipate, and wearing shoes that are not sturdy or comfortable will detract from your enjoyment of Rome’s attractions. 

8. It’s better to have a snack before you start your tour

To have an enriching tour of the Vatican, you need to cover a lot of areas, most by foot.

Only the Vatican Museum has 24 galleries, each with artifacts from different historical periods.

It’s better to have a meal or snacks before you start your Vatican tour as you will need a lot of energy and calories.

Also, many of the dining establishments located near the Vatican charge too much and provide unsatisfactory experiences. 

So, if you are not aware of some best restaurants near the Vatican, you might end up wasting money on the wrong eateries that won’t be able to satisfy your tastebuds.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to bring along some water and a snack in your backpack, as you’ll be covering 4.5 miles of famous artwork and captivating artifacts, which can be tiring and make you hungry.

9. Tuesday to Friday are the best days to visit

Earlier in the article, we advised against visiting the basilica on Wednesday mornings. Still, we highly recommend planning your visit between Tuesday and Friday, as long as it fits your travel plans. 

Tuesday to Friday are usually the best days to visit the Vatican.

The weekends tend to be busier, and Mondays can be quite chaotic as many tourists choose this day to visit the Vatican due to other museums in Rome being closed. 

By scheduling your visit for the middle of the week, you can avoid large crowds and have a more pleasant and serene experience at the Museums.

10. Don’t bring a large backpack

If you carry big backpacks or bags, you will be required to have them checked, and the same rule applies to large umbrellas. 

We recommend not carrying large backpacks and other luggage because they will eventually create complications and will lead to delays in the tour.

However, wheelchairs are allowed inside the Vatican Museums. 

To see a comprehensive list of prohibited and allowed items within the Vatican Museums, please click here.

11. Don’t come on the free Sunday

Although it may seem like an excellent idea to take advantage of the free admission to the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month (excluding major holidays like Christmas), there are some drawbacks to consider. 

Due to the popularity of free admission, the lines can become incredibly long, and you will have to waste quite a good time standing in those long queues.

Additionally, the museums have limited hours on this day, closing at 2 PM, with the last entry being allowed at 12:30 PM. 

Therefore, you will not have as much time to explore the museums as you would on a regular day. 

We strongly advise against visiting the Vatican Museums on the free Sunday unless it is your only opportunity to do so, or if you are on a tight budget. 

Suggested Articles

Featured Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!