Visiting the Vatican – Tours, and How to Avoid the Lines

The Vatican at Night

Italy is home to the world’s smallest country, the Vatican, which is a non-permanent home to around 800 people and covers only about 0.2 square miles.

Also called The Holy See, the Vatican was once much larger – around 44,000 square miles in the mid 19th century – but has slowly been reduced by wars and the unification of Italy to its modern size.

Entrance to St. Peter’s Square – the area immediately in front of the main building with its famous columns and circle of statues of saints – is free, as is admission to the main Vatican building. It’s vital to stick to the dress code or you won’t be allowed inside the Vatican. Both men and women need to covers shoulders and knees.

Tickets are needed to view St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Both are well worth a visit. St. Peter’s Basilica is over 500 years old and includes priceless artwork from Bernini, Michelangelo and others. While you’re there, take the elevator to the roof, then the last 323 steps leading to a stunning view of Rome from the top of the famous Basilica dome.

The Vatican Museums are home to one of the most impressive art collections anywhere in the world. Among the priceless treasures you can see first hand are the ceiling and wall paintings of the Sistine Chapel, including the world famous Creation of Adam and La Pieta by Michelangelo.

While you can normally get into the free part of the Vatican quite quickly, there’s always a huge line to get into the Vatican Museums. By huge I mean wrapping round two streets so that the end of the line stretches almost back into St. Peter’s Square. That’s not much fun when it’s 9am and already in the nineties.

How To Avoid The Lines
The only way guaranteed way to skip the line is to book with an authorized Vatican tour company in advance. We recommend booking ahead of time with a reputable tour company like Viator. Not only do they have great deals on guided tours, you can also just pre-book tickets for the Vatican Museums if you’d prefer to visit without a guide and still beat the line.

Tour spaces are limited so early online booking is a good idea – details are here.