Rome: visit the Vatican – all tips & information

Rome - visit the Vatican - all tips and information

A visit to the Vatican is one of the must-see sights in Rome that you shouldn’t miss. Unbelievably world-famous sights are located here in a very small space. In the smallest state in the world is the center of the Catholic Church and thus important places and buildings.

 You should  plan a whole day for your  visit to the Vatican. Because for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Peter Square and St. Peter’s Basilica with dome you need time.

The Vatican is visited by almost 5 million tourists every year. That is why you should be well prepared for the visit. I admit it: we weren’t there on our first visit to the Vatican.

So that you are well prepared for your visit to the Vatican, you will find all the important information and tips here. Everything about opening times, entrance fees and avoiding queues.

This saves you time and money and allows you to relax and enjoy the tour.

Have fun with our tips for visiting the Vatican!

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My tip for a sustainable account is Tomorrow Bank . I like to use this credit card in Germany and Europe (Apple Pay also works with it).

More Rome tips:

  1. My experience with the Roma Pass – save money with the CityPass? (+ Alternatives)
  2. All my Rome tips (accommodation, tickets, activities, …)
  3. Visiting the Colosseum: this is how it works without long lines!
  4. The tour of Rome for the Illuminati film on your own through Rome
  5. Eating out in Rome – tips for restaurants in Rome
  6. How to get from the airport to the city in Rome

Tickets for the Vatican

RomeThe entrance fee for the Vatican (Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel) is currently 21 euros for adults. 12 euros reduced for children.

You can buy the tickets on site, but then you have to deal with very long queues on site. With us it was several hundred meters long and went around several corners of the walls (waiting time at least three hours). Therefore, you should definitely reserve your tickets before you  travel !

The tickets cost a little more on the Internet, but you save yourself pointless standing around in the sun.

There are different tickets for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel:

  • Ticket on the official website for 21 euros
  • Skip-the-line ticket for 21 euros  (simple ordering process from a German provider)
  • Ticket with guided tour including St. Peter’s Basilica for 41 euros

My tip:  With the  Rome City Pass  , entry to the Vatican, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel is free. Without queuing and queuing. These Rome Passes bring you further valuable and time-saving advantages. This gives you more time to discover Rome.

Tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica:

visit the VaticanIn principle, entry to St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica is free. Nevertheless, there are long queues at the entrance on public holidays, bridging days or during the main season. Because the security controls are very strict here. The waiting time is shorter than at the Vatican Museums, but it is clever to avoid it.

If you plan to visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you can buy a ticket in advance for faster admission.

Here you can find a detailed  experience report on the Roma Pass with alternatives for sightseeing passes .

Tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica:

In principle, entry to St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica is free. Nevertheless, there are long queues at the entrance on public holidays, bridging days or during the main season. Because the security controls are very strict here. The waiting time is shorter than at the Vatican Museums, but it is clever to avoid it.

If you plan to visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you can buy a ticket in advance for faster admission.

Entrance to the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica:

  • Entrance to the dome on foot to the top ( buy on site , long line): 8 euros
  • Entrance to the dome with elevator: 10 euros ( buy on site)
    Note: 
     Not worth it in our eyes
  • Priority admission ticket and audio guide : 19.80 euros
  • Ticket for the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica with Vatican Museums and Sistine Museum

Is it worth buying tickets for the Vatican visit online in advance?

An absolute must for us. Because we don’t feel like queuing for three hours. If you visit Rome on Christian holidays, long weekends with bridging days or in summer, it is worth buying the tickets in advance.

Alternatively, I advise you to use one of the  sightseeing passes for Rome  . Bypassing the queues is often included.

Rome Travel TipsWhat sights are there in the Vatican?

The main attractions in the Vatican are:

  • Peter’s Basilica  with its  impressive dome  from which you have a  360 degree view of Rome  and the  Vatican  .
  • St. Peter’s Square , right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Particularly known for the proclamation of the  “Urbi et Orbi”  by the Pope at Easter and Christmas.
  • Vatican Museum with the Sistine Chapel  and the famous  “Michelangelo” painting .
  • Vatican gardens

All around you will find some  pizzerias  and  cafés where you can relax in between.

Order to visit Vatican City

Here are tips and information to explore the more than 2000 year old center of the Roman Catholic Church without stress and long queues.

In the following order we visited the Vatican in one day. I would do it again next time:

  1. Vatican Museums (and Sistine Chapel)
  2. St. Peter’s Square
  3. Climbing the dome
  4. St. Peter’s Basilica
  5. Castel Sant’Angelo

Best time to visit: Vatican Museum and Vatican

We were in Vatican City on a long weekend (Wednesday – Monday) in June.

Our tip:  Avoid Christian holidays or take possible waiting times into account in your planning. We had booked our tickets in advance and were therefore able to walk past the waiting people in a good mood.

Crowds can hardly be avoided in the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Nevertheless, I have written down the best time to visit the Vatican:

What day in the Vatican?

In a nutshell: We recommend a visit to the Vatican on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.

Why these days of the week?

On Wednesdays the Pope holds his papal audience in St. Peter’s Square. Many believers then make a pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. That is why we would avoid visiting on a Wednesday.

The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays . Except on the last Sunday of the month . From 9 – 12 is then free admission .

That also means: on the  last Sunday of the month all hell breaks loose  in the Vatican Museums  .

This also means that all short trip travelers want to visit the Vatican Museums on Saturday . Then you have to expect crowds as well .

If you are in Rome for several days, you should  avoid visiting on a Saturday .

If you are only in Rome for a weekend, Friday is the ideal day for a visit to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica with St. Peter’s Square.

In summer, the museums have even Fridays from 19 – open 23:00 .

In general, there is a lot going on in the Vatican. We therefore advise you to reserve tickets in advance.

Reserve tickets for various Vatican tours here in advance and buy them online

Duration for a visit to the Vatican Museums with Sistine Chapel

It took us  about 4 hours to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel . With a short break in the garden and something to drink. We noticed that we hadn’t even seen all of the rooms (unfortunately the signs and the free map leave a lot to be desired).

In general, I recommend that you plan 3-4 hours for a visit.

Note: You can save yourself a lot of time by booking a tour of the Vatican Museums: You will then be able to use an exit in the Sistine Chapel on the right back that leads directly to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Advantage: You don’t have to go through the entire museum again, save yourself the walk around the walls from the entrance to the museum via St. Peter’s Square (approx. 20 minutes) and escape another body and luggage check (like at the airport) including a long glowing queue Heat.

Allegedly you can slip through without a group – we didn’t try that because a friend was “asked” early from the Sistine Chapel due to taking photos – back at the other exit to the museum.

You can find more information about the Vatican Museums in the article for the most important sights in Rome.

St. Peter’s Square – Museum: Via di Porta Angelica and Viale Vaticano to the museums, approx. 20 minutes

Opening times and admission to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel:

  • Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the last admission is at 4 p.m. You have to leave the halls at 5.30 p.m. at the latest.
  • The museums are closed on Sundays. The exception is the last Sunday of the month, when admission is free between 9 am and 12 noon. The museum closes at 2 p.m.
  • If you want to avoid the queue, you can reserve your ticket on the official website of the Vatican Museums or, what I recommend, book a tour with a guided tour. Here, too, you can bypass the queue and learn some details about the Sistine Chapel and its paintings. Book a ticket with a guided tour .

You have to plan that much time for visiting St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Square is huge. We spent at least 45 minutes in the square looking at the different things and taking photos.

The square is the first highlight from Via della Conciliazione that you see from Vatican City. The “border” to the city-state is marked by a simple white line. Many visitors do not even notice it.

Detailed information about St. Peter’s Square can be found in the article on the most important sights in Rome.

Visit to St. Peter’s Basilica with a dome

You should plan at least an hour to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. Of course, you can spend a few more hours in it if you want to pray or take a closer look at every chapel inside. My interests are very limited in this.

  • Tip: First visit the dome, then you will come straight into St. Peter’s Basilica and no longer have to queue there.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica Entry: Entry is free.
  • Waiting time at St. Peter’s Basilica:  The waiting times are usually limited here. You only have to expect a waiting time of 10-15 minutes at the entrance.
  • Waiting time to visit the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: We had to queue for about 30 minutes. Waiting times of up to 1.5 hours are not uncommon here, according to the guides. In the afternoon it is often emptier. Therefore, plan your visit carefully.
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican – very crowded in summer! Especially about Christian holidays! But the sun shines wonderfully inside!

Visit to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

To get to the dome you have to plan at least 1 hour. We didn’t have a queue (late afternoon) and went upstairs entirely on foot. If you can walk well, you don’t need a lift (551 steps without and 320 steps with lift).

The steps in the lower area are very, very flat, more like a slowly rising path.

Only when you get out of the elevator can it become a very sweaty affair (we had over 30 ° C that day).

Tip: To get back down faster, you shouldn’t use the elevator. Here you stand in line again. The stairs, on the other hand, are free and empty.

Opening times and admission to St. Peter’s Basilica and the dome:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in winter until 6 p.m.
  • The dome can be visited daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., in winter until 5 p.m. While
  • For ceremonies, visiting the dome is prohibited.
  • Entrance to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on foot: 8 euros
  • Entrance to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica with elevator: 10 euros
  • Note: Credit cards and EC cards are not accepted here. You have to pay cash.

Excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica

You can visit the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica (necropolis and Peter’s tomb). However, only 250 visitors are allowed per day. (More details under the item “Opening times St. Peter’s Basilica”.

Access to the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica

You can visit the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica (necropolis and Peter’s tomb) as part of a guided tour. However, only 250 visitors are allowed per day. A reservation a few months in advance is necessary

Duration approx. 1.5 hours and costs 13 € per person (tip: save money with one of the Rome Passes )
Note: Visitors must be at least 15 years old.

Inquiries and registrations via scavi@fsp.va with the following information:

  1. Number of participants;
  2. Names of the participants. For a group, the person responsible and a list of all participants including their origins.
  3. The desired language of the tour
  4. The date or the period in which the Ufficio Scavi can schedule the tour. The exact time of the visit is determined by the Ufficio.
  5. The way in which the Ufficio’s answer should be. Always give your e-mail address and fax number (if available) or the full address.
  6. The Ufficio Scavi then checks the period for availability and suggests a date for the tour. This then only has to be confirmed.

Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo: You need that much time

Castel Sant’Angelo is located just before Vatican City on the right bank of the Tiber. Therefore, I recommend that you visit Castel Sant’Angelo as part of a visit to the Vatican. The way to the castle over the Angel’s Bridge is lined with statues of Peter, Paul and the angels. The best way to see them is from above in the castle.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time left to visit Castel Sant’Angelo as the opening hours were coming to an end. I advise you to plan at least an hour for visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Did you know that Castel Sant’Angelo was also the filming location for Illuminati (the film for the bestseller by Dan Brown)? This is where the secret meeting of the brotherhood took place.

You can read about my Illuminiati tour on your own through Rome here .

We were in the castle for about 1.5 hours. Nevertheless, we took enough time to look at the Passetto (brick escape route into St. Peter’s Basilica) from above and enjoy the view of Rome from the roof of the Castel Sant’Angelo. By the possession of the Roma Card entry was even free.

Skip the line tickets for Castel Sant’Angelo, Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square tour.

Opening times Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome:

Opening times: The Castel Sant’Angelo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., in October and March until 2 p.m. Castel Sant’Angelo is closed on December 25th and January 1st. The last admission is at 6.30 p.m., one hour before closing.

Entrance to Castel Sant’Angelo: adults 14 euros; Young people (18-25 years) 7 euros; Seniors over 65 years of age and children under 18 years of age can visit Castel Sant’Angelo for free. Also payable with credit cards.

Castel Sant’Angelo is part of the Roma Pass and various other Rome Passes (see overview here). All you have to do is present the passport at the cash desk.

Still an insider tip for the Vatican as a German

Thanks Gerhard for the tip: Do you have a German passport? Then you can visit the German cemetery (Campo Santo Teutonico) on the grounds of the Vatican. The entrance to it is to the left of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Talk to one of the Swiss guardsmen and ask him to enter. This is usually not a problem in the morning until noon. It is then a great feeling to be immersed in such a quiet environment after the overcrowded St. Peter’s Square.

This is how you get to the Vatican

In Rome and the Vatican, the historical sights are very close to the center, so that everything can be reached on foot. Despite the hot temperatures, we walked and did not use public transport (buses are even hotter).

If you have one of the Rome Passes , travel on public transport is included for free. Then you can choose the following options:

  • Arriving by metro: “Ottaviano” stop, approx. 5 minutes’ walk from the entrance to the Vatican.
  • Arriving by bus: You have many options here, as several bus lines stop near the Vatican. For example: Risorgimento stop: lines 23, 49, 492, 982, 32, 81, 590. Largo di Porta Cavallegeri stop: lines 34, 46, 64, 98, 881, 916. Depending on where you are coming from, the bus line could 64 (from Termini station via Piazza Venezia and the historical center to the Vatican) mean the fastest option.

FAQ – Questions and answers about Vatican City

Is there a dress code for visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel?

The Vatican asks all visitors to cover their shoulders and knees when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica (including the dome) and the Sistine Chapel.
When I visited I was wearing a top and my long-sleeved shirt slung loosely over my shoulders. That was completely sufficient. You should take off hats and caps at the said places.

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