Guide to travel to the Vatican City

by Ale Werner
Sistine Chapel - Vatican City - Rome - Italy

In this post, you will find our complete guide to travel to the Vatican City in Rome. We have gathered here all the information that can be relevant so you can enjoy your visit to the Vatican City without problems, in summary, and easy to read. What to see in the Vatican, schedules, purchase of tickets and more.

A little about the Vatican.

Inside Rome we can find a small independent state, which is also the smallest country in the world; we are talking about the Vatican City. To visit the Vatican City you will need at least one full morning or afternoon.

Being a Holy Place and the maximum institution of the Catholic Church, its history and architecture are impressive and deserve time to be seeing and enjoyed. The Vatican City began to exist in 1929 after signing the Letran’s Pact. It is so small, that the territory in total consists of 44 hectares and the population is estimated at 800 inhabitants. It is the most urbanized country in the world, with its 20% occupied by the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Peter’s Square.

We have decided to dedicate a full post to this small but important country, the Vatican City. We hope you enjoy it!

You can access the map here.

What to see in the Vatican City.

1. St. Peter’s Basilica, Dome, St. Peter’s Square and Vatican Grottoes.

  • Opening hours (Dome opens one hour later and closes an hour before):
    • October to March: 07:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
    • April to September: 07:00 to 19:00
  • Price:
    • Basilica of St. Peter: Free
    • Dome: 6 euros (551 steps) or 8 euros (elevator + 320 steps).
  • Clothing for entering the Basilica of St. Peter:
    • Shoulders and knees covered for men and women. They are strict with this.

Visit the Basilica of Saint Peter

When you travel to the Vatican, start the day very early visiting the Basilica of Saint Peter so that you do not get involved in long hours of waiting later in the day. To enter you will have to go through machines that review all your belongings before entering.

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We recommend you first make the ascent to the Dome of the Basilica of Saint Peter, the highest in the world with 137 meters of hight. Head to the right of the basilica and you will find the signs to the entrance to the Dome, be aware that you can find a long line in the high season.

You must climb a long way of 551 steps, or only 320 paying 2 euros more (the steps you will not see are in a closed space, so there is no view that is worth the climb if you can pay more).

The last ones are quite small and narrow corridors so if you are claustrophobic you should take the necessary precautions or avoid it. When you arrive you will forget the fatigue, the view of the whole city of 360º and Saint Peter Square is simply spectacular.

When going down, enter the Basilica of Saint Peter and marvel at this huge and opulent ship, full of art and sculptures in all the corners of its 187 meters long building. It is the largest church in Rome, whose construction began in 1506 and ended only in 1626. You can not miss the famous sculpture of the Madonna (Pieta) by Michelangelo, the tomb of Pope John Paul II, the Altar of Bernini built on top of what is believed to be the tomb of Saint Peter, the dome of Miguel Angelo and the bronze statue of Saint Peter. You can not miss them on your trip to the Vatican.

Visit the Vatican Grottoes

Inside the basilica is the access to the Vatican Grottos, a place under the basilica where the tombs of many popes are located and you can also see the original columns of the basilica as they were in the 4th century. There is also a museum of relics to the left of the basilica (inside it), but you should know that there are only several objects such as chalice and reliquaries filled with diamonds and gold… we left more disappointed with the opulence and how many people of scarce resources could eat if they sold those objects to the museums instead of having them there only to charge you more money to see them.

Visit Saint Peter’s Square

When you finish your visit, go to Saint Peter Square and visit its beautiful Doric columns that surround it. It was built between 1656 and 1667, according to a project carried out by Bernini. In its center, you can find a 25 meter high obelisk that Caligula brought to Rome after one of his visits to Egypt.

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2. Vatican Museum

Schedule

  • Admission Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (close at 6:00 p.m.)
  • Last Sunday of each month: 09:00 to 12:30 (closes at 2:00 p.m.). Free access only this day.
  • Closed: Sundays. January 1 and 6, February 11, February 22, March 19 and 28, June 29, August 15, November 1, December 8 and 26.

Price.

  • General admission: 16 euros (includes visit to Sistine Chapel) + 4 euros (reservation in advance) = 20 euros
  • Reduced ticket (students, young people, children, pilgrimages): 8 euros + 4 euros (reservation) = 12 euros.
  • Audio guide: 7 euros.
  • Free admission last Sunday of each month.

To visit the Vatican Museums during your trip to the Vatican, do not forget to buy your ticket in advance so you can save time by avoiding long waiting lines. The best time to visit it is early in the morning, so if you have more days in Rome we recommend you come again one day early. If not, you can go in after the visit to the Basilica. We buy our tickets on this page without problems, we recommend it.

Here you will find a huge museum with 7 kilometers of exhibitions and works by the best artists in the world, dating back to centuries ago. It is one of the most important museums in the world.

The route is quite logical but you can easily get lost in its infinite corners. Just follow the map that you will be given and you will be fine.

We recommend you to have the audio guide to understand better what you are looking at when visiting the Vatican Museums. Undoubtedly the most impressive room is the Sistine Chapel (you can not take pictures here and if you do so you risk being expelled from the Vatican Museum. The one we show you here is from one of our visits in 2010 when you could still take photographs) and Rafael’s stays and rooms. Many tourists decide to travel to the Vatican just to get to know these famous and impressive paintings of enormous historical and artistic importance.

Regarding the necessary time to visit the Vatican Museum, we spent a little more than two hours walking around and we think it was enough to get a big picture of the place.

3. Vatican Necropolis

A fascinating visit to the basement of the Vatican and to the tomb of the Apostle Saint Peter. The importance of its conservation means that only 250 people are admitted per day in groups of maximum 12 people. The visit lasts 1:30 hrs approximately and is done only with a guide and with a previous reservation.

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How to book a tour of the Vatican Necropolis.

Send an email with at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance to [email protected], with the following information:

  • Number of participants
  • Names of the participants and their relationship to each other. Also, you must indicate a group leader.
  • Preferred language for the guided visit.
  • Period of days you would be able to visit the Vatican Necropolis: They will give you schedule options according to the availability for those days. The wider, the better chances you have to get a book.
  • Your e-mail.

Price for visiting the Vatican Necropolis

13 euros, paying in advance according to the instructions in the confirmation email.

Important information for your trip to the Vatican

Best time to travel to the Vatican

The best time to travel to the Vatican City is during the fall or spring of this country. Ideally in spring, between March and June, when there is not much rain and temperatures are pleasant. Please see our post in Rome here for more information.

How to get to the Vatican

The Vatican City will always be visited during the visit to Rome, the city that hosts this small country. It is located near the Castle of Saint Angelo, crossing the Neva river.

Where to sleep when visiting the Vatican City

The surroundings of the Vatican are one of the best places to stay in Rome in relation quality/price. Even many have put at the disposal of tourists apartments on lease through platforms such as Airbnb. Please see our post in Rome here for more information.

Where to eat near the Vatican

In the streets of Borgo Vittorio and Borgo Pio, you will find a great offer of places to have lunch with prices similar to the rest of the city.

Shopping in the Vatican

It is not surprising that the prices in stores inside the Vatican are overflowing and much higher than those found in the city. If you are looking for a nice souvenir, you can find rosaries of all qualities and colors. Always remember to ask if they have already been blessed. Otherwise, and if you are lucky enough to run into one, you can ask a priest or bishop to do so.

In general, if they are not in a hurry, they will be happy to do so. The same with the figures and other elements of the Catholic religion that you may buy inside the Vatican City.

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