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A Budget-Friendly Explore Trip to the Vatican!

Introduction

Located in the center of Rome, the Vatican City is a treasure trove of art, culture, and spirituality waiting to be explored. 

But did you know that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to experience the magnificence of this small sovereign state? 

If you want to discover the wonders of the Vatican without breaking the bank, you’re in the right place. 

This guide will show you how to enjoy the best of the Vatican’s breathtaking sights and rich history on a budget. 

From free attractions to cost-effective tips, get ready to explore the Vatican’s most beloved spots without compromising the experience. 

Join us as we reveal the secrets to having a budget-friendly adventure in the Vatican City!

Things to do in Vatican City for free

It is a misconception that you need to spend a lot of money to dive into the rich religious and cultural practices at Vatican City.

Here are some of the best free experiences the city has to offer!

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica vatican
Image: Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and one of the most popular attractions in the Vatican City.

The Basilica is a free site to enter and houses a massive burial site for Popes, with around 91 graves.

Yes, you can see the grave of the first Pope, St. Peter, at the Basilica as well!

Visitors can also have a look at the preserved bodies of Pope John XXIII and more in the Basilica for free. 

Take a tour of the Dome and Papal Tombs at St. Peter’s Basilica for the best experience! 

The St. Peter’s Basilica opens from 7 am to 7 pm all seven days of the week, giving ample time to every visitor to admire its architectural beauty.

The Basilica is a great place for art and architecture lovers to visit because of its La Pieta statue by Michelangelo. 

The beautiful dome, with its delicate lantern and more, was also designed by Michelangelo before he died in 1564. 

You might have to wait in long queues to enter the Basilica, but seeing the largest church in the world from the inside is worth the wait!  

If you purchase a Vatican Guided tour, you can visit Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica without waiting in long lines. 

2. Vatican Museum- Enter for free on the last Sunday!

Yes, you read correctly;  The Vatican Museum offers free entry to all its visitors on the last Sunday of every month!

The Vatican Museum is the major highlight of the city, taking visitors on a deep dive through the history of religious art, famous sculptures, and more. 

You can also visit the Vatican Museum for free on 27th September, which is World Tourism Day.

The Sistine Chapel, a haven for admirers of Michelangelo’s work in the Vatican, is also accessible for free on the last Sunday!

The Museum and Chapel is open from 9 am to 2 pm on this day, with the last entry being at 12.30 pm.

It is very important to time your visit so that you can spend enough time in the museum on this day, despite the long queues. 

Check out our article on How to explore the Vatican Museum in 2 hours to ensure you visit all the highlights on the last Sunday! 

Please note: The Vatican Museum will be closed to the public if the last Sunday falls on Easter, Christmas, June 29th, or December 26th. 

3. St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Square vatican
Image: Melissa Cronin on Unsplash

St. Peter’s Square, located directly outside the Basilica, was crafted by famous architect Lorenzo Bernini. 

This beautiful Square is a great photography spot, as it has rows of giant columns and stunning statues.

You can see an ancient Egyptian obelisk standing at the center, with two marvelous fountains standing like guards on either side. 

You can also visit the Vatican Post Office and send a letter or souvenir package to your relatives from Vatican City. 

The Square is known to be the second-best piazza in Rome, and is a must-see! 

4. The Papal Audience

Visitors traveling to the Vatican City can see the Pope and attend a sermon by him for free!

Thousands of seats are set up outside the St. Peter’s Basilica every Wednesday for an audience with the Pope.

The papal audience are held from 9 am to 11.30 pm. 

These sermons are not given during the Summer season, as the Pope is on travels.

Tickets are required to attend the Papal Audience, but the good news is that they are completely free! 

You can collect your tickets from the Bronze door of St. Peter’s Basilica between 3 pm and 7 pm day before the audience.

You can also collect them at 7 am on the same day as the audience.

Visitors who want to avoid the huge crowd and find the best seats with the help of a local tour guide should buy an escorted Papal Audience experience ticket!  

Translation summaries of the sermon in many languages are given to the public after the audience, ensuring all tourists or those who don’t understand Italian can also enjoy this holy experience. 

We recommend you arrive at St. Peter’s Square at least 30 minutes before to have enough time to pass through security and find good seating. 

You can hear the Angelus given by the Pope at the Square every Sunday. 

Check out our Vatican Papal Audience article to learn more about booking a seat for this special event! 

5. Chiesa di Santo Stefano degli Abissini

Chiesa di Santo Stefano degli Abissini
Image: Wikipedia.org

The Chiesa di Santo Stefano degli Abissini Church in the Vatican City is another free spot to hop in for a visit. 

It is an Ethiopian Catholic Church and is the oldest church to stand in the Vatican City. 

The main attraction is the beautiful door of the Church, with the Lamb and the Cross, which has been preserved since the 12th century. 

There is a famous fresco, Madonna and her Child, from the 15th century drawn on the interior of the Church. 

Sadly, the Chiesa di Santo Stefano degli Abissini is not open to visit for the public, but you can admire its facade from out. 

6. Pose with the Vatican Swiss Guards

The Vatican Swiss Guards look like they have emerged from the Renaissance era with their colorful red, blue, yellow, and orange outfits.

They provide a great opportunity for tourists to click some lively pictures in the Vatican City!

They are the world’s smallest army and act as guards of the Vatican City. 

You can find these guards standing in attention at the gates of St. Peter’s Square. 

They may not be allowed to click a selfie with you, but you can capture beautiful photos of their bright-colored outfits in front of the plain colors of the Vatican City. 

Budget-friendly Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets

tickets for vatican musueum
Image: Babak Habibi on Unsplash

Yes, you can visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel for free on the last Sunday of every month.

But for visitors who have planned their trips on another day, or for those who cannot stand in long lines because of a time crunch, the Vatican Museum tickets are the best!

The standard Vatican Museum entry skip-the-line ticket allows visitors to explore the entire museum and the Sistine Chapel for an entire day for €31.

Children between 6 and 18 years old receive a discounted entry ticket rate of €20!

Infants 5 years and younger can visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel for free! 

Public transport details of the Vatican City

The Vatican City does not have any public transport facilities, as tourists can walk for a short 20 minutes.

It is mostly made up of St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museum.

You can easily get to the Vatican Museum directly from Rome by using the following transport options:

Metro Line A:

  • Stations: Ottaviano-S. Pietro, Cipro Musei Vaticani
  • Timings:
    • Sunday to Thursday: 5.30 am – 11.30 pm
    • Fridays and Saturdays: 5.30 am – 1.30 am

Train:

  • Station: St. Pietro
  • Timings:
    • First train from Roma Termini at 5.35 am
    • Last train at 10.35 pm
    • Frequency: Every 30 minutes

Bus:

  • Stop: V.Le Vaticano/ Musei Vaticani
  • Regular Bus Timings: 5.30 am – 12 am
  • Night Bus Timings: 12 am – 5.30 am

Tram:

  • Stop: Piazza del Risorgimento (7-minute walk to the Vatican Museum)
  • Timings: 5.30 am – 12 am

A Vatican City Heliport is also available for emergency services and for the use of authorities. 

Please note: Private vehicles are not allowed inside the Vatican City. Only important officials and the Pope can get their cars inside. 

Best months to visit the Vatican to save money!

The Vatican attracts over five million visitors yearly and can be extremely crowded. 

You can expect to find the least crowd during the winter months from September to February, making it the best time to visit the Vatican.

When the crowds are less, you can get more value for the money spent on tickets and explore the Vatican Museum for longer.

Visitors can also spend more time in the St. Peter’s Basilica and find guaranteed seating for the Papal audience. 

FAQs for visiting the Vatican under budget

1. How much does it cost to visit the Vatican?

The standard Vatican Musem skip-the-line ticket with access to the Sistine Chapel costs €31. Children 6 to 18 years old receive a discount of €20.

Infants below the age of 6 can visit the museum for free. 

2. Are private Vatican tours worth it?

Yes, a private tour of the Vatican ensures you see all the highlights of the Museum. History buffs and art lovers will enjoy the Vatican tour experience.

3. How can I visit the Vatican Museum for free?

To explore the Vatican Museum for free, you must plan your trip for the last Sunday of the month.

The Vatican Museum offers free entry for all, from 9 am to 2 pm on the Last Sunday.

4. What are the top 2 must-sees if you come to the city of the Vatican?

You must see the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The Sistine Chapel is also a must-visit!

5. Can I visit St. Peter’s Basilica for free?

Yes, you can visit St. Peter’s Basilica for free.

6. Where can I have cheap meals in the Vatican?

You can have a small snack, including pizza, sandwiches,  and more with a cup of coffee from the Vatican Museum Caffetteria Centrale.

There are no other restaurants in the Vatican City.

7. Can I enter the Vatican Gardens for free?

No, you must have a Vatican Museum ticket to enter the Vatican Gardens.

8. What day to avoid the Vatican?

Avoid visiting the Vatican on Saturdays, as they are the most crowded. 

9. Is it better to go to the Vatican in the morning or afternoon?

We recommend visiting the Vatican in the morning for less crowd and to avoid the heat of the sun.

Featured Image: Briana Tozour on Unsplash

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