Visiting the Vatican can be an overwhelming experience — mostly because there is so much to do, and you don’t want to miss anything. From the Sistine Chapel to the Vatican Museums to climbing St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, you could spend days there soaking it all in. Here are some tips to seeing everything you want to next time you visit Vatican City.
Click the links below to skip to any of the following sections:
How to Dress at the Vatican
St. Peter’s Square
Vatican Museums & Skip the Line tickets
Sistine Chapel & Sistine Chapel Tickets
St. Peter’s Basilica
Climb to the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
St. Peter’s Catacomb / Ufficio Scavi / Office of Excavations
The Vatican is a holy place for many people. No matter what you believe, it’s important to show respect in any holy place — plus, The Vatican will actually deny you entry if you do not dress appropriately.
Rome can be very hot in the summer, and this isn’t always the easiest thing. The Vatican’s rules are pretty simple, including men and women covering their knees and arms. You can do this in a number of ways.
If you are short on time, St. Peter’s Square is the most important thing you can do while you are visiting the Vatican. This is because it is both free and without a line. Spend some time soaking in the view, sitting in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica. If you have no interest in visiting any of the other Vatican locations, St. Peter’s Square is a nice compromise to see the Vatican without spending time on the ticketed locations.
The first thing to know about the Vatican Museums is that the line is long — always. Make sure to take the time out of your day to stand in line, or plan to purchase Skip the Line tickets (which are completely worth it).
The second thing to know about the Vatican Museums is that it is truly a museum. It’s not just a look into Vatican or Christian history, it really is a collection of some of the world’s most historic antiquities. The museums have thousands year old artifacts from Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Christian eras, as well as many more.
You can spend hours in the museum so make sure you have allotted the time to really appreciate everything the Vatican has collected and its significance to world history.
Skip the Line
Skip the Line tickets to The Vatican and Sistine Chapel may be the best money you can spend in Rome, Italy. It can save you valuable hours. There are a lot of tours you can take, as well as skip the line passes, but we would suggest booking through GetYourGuide. This company operates all over Rome at different attractions, and our experience was a great one.
GetYourGuide has an easy-to-find meeting location, wonderful tour guides, and detailed instructions. They whisk you through to a security area and then set you off to see the museum — all while skipping what could be a four-hour line. This purchase also includes your tickets, so no need to worry about that separately.
As you walk through the Vatican Museums, it becomes apparent that the end goal is to reach the Sistine Chapel. Please be aware that you cannot take photos at the Sistine Chapel, but it’s worth spending some time in there to just appreciate the masterpiece the room is.
Nearly five million people see the Sistine Chapel each year, so be prepared for a very busy room.
Can I visit the Sistine Chapel without visiting the Vatican Museum?
No. The Sistine Chapel is the end of the Vatican Museums route, and you cannot buy tickets for only the Sistine Chapel. You may run into people outside the Vatican trying to sell you a separate Sistine Chapel tickets , but be assured that you do not need to purchase a separate ticket to see Michaelangelo’s — you will reach the Sistine Chapel by making your way through the Vatican Museums.
No matter what else you decide to do on your trip to Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica is something you just cannot skip. The history and ornateness of the building are worth the trip, as well as any lines you have ti wait in. However, you can also purchase a Skip The Line pass for St. Peter’s Basilica, which is also a worthwhile investment.
Purchasing an audio guide the basilica can help you sort through what you really want to see and what you can probably skip. Take some time to really appreciate the areas of the church you’d like to see, and immerse yourself in the history and artwork.
Skip the Line
Skip the Line to St. Peter’s Basilica here. You will meet your GetYourGuide guides just before the security line, and you will skip through the line to enter right into the basilica.
You can climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, or you can take an elevator halfway up and climb the rest of the way.
Because this is such an important process, we wrote an entire article about it. Click below to learn exactly how to get your tickets for climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.
Learn more about everything you need to know about climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Cupola.
When you are making your way down from the dome, you can either take the stairs or the elevator. If you take the stairs, you will have the privilege of seeing (and climbing down) Bernini’s Staircase.
The Scavi Tour is incredibly exclusive, because only around 250 people a day are allowed. To compare: more than 30,000 visit the Vatican each day. This tour will take you through the old streets of Rome when early Christians made their way to the area. You will be hosted by an incredibly informative tour guide, and will see the mausoleums of some of the most famous Christians from this era — including St. Peter.
You will also be given a look into some of the bones of what the Vatican believes are St. Peter’s.
To take the tour, you will need to follow a pretty specific set of instructions, and you will need to follow up when you receive a reply. But make sure you book early, because these spots fill up months in advance.
Your Vatican experience
No matter your religion, Rick Steves says to leave any religious baggage at the door when visiting the Vatican — which is such great advice. The Vatican is an amazing piece of world history, and no matter your beliefs, the art and history of the entire city is so worthwhile to go see.
We suggest planning an entire day if you want to see everything. You may get done much earlier, but this is a location you definitely don’t want to rush through. Take the time to soak in the city, and let us know if you have any additional tips for Vatican City!