Vatican Tour Information
I gave tours of the Vatican from 2005 until 2012.
In that time, I took over 35,000 people through the site and can be considered
an expert on its history, art and how to navigate it.
I have a degree in History and I was an authorized tour guide for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.
As I no longer work in the Vatican I can give you real honest information about the site and how to navigate it correctly.
No other tour company will tell you what the Vatican is actually like to visit as they want you to book a tour with them.
The vast majority of people are surprised at how big the Vatican is, how badly run it is and how crowded it is.
Book a Tour Guide
I offer a book a tour guide service
where you can book one of my friends who lives
in Rome if you wish to take a tour of the Vatican. This service is cheaper than booking through a company as I do not have their
overheads, you are assured skip the line tickets to the site and a native English speaking tour guide who has positive
tour reviews and gives you breaks for bathrooms and coffee during the tour.
I can also provide you with a private car and driver
to collect you from Rome's Airport or Civitavecchia Port and
bring you to your hotel or the Vatican and return you there when you leave Rome.
The right menu contains a list of topics with details about the various parts of the Vatican so you can decide
what you would like to see on your tour or visit.
Vatican Basic Information:
The Vatican is a walled country about the size of a village or city suburb on the left bank of the Tiber in Rome.
About half of the site is open to the public such as the Sistine Chapel
St. Peter's Basilica
, the Raphael Rooms
the Vatican Museums
, the Papal Tombs
St. Peter's Dome
. The rest of the site is not open to the public
or requires special permission.
It is a one way system with choices on the way. In order to see the Sistine Chapel you have to go through the Vatican Museums
so all tours and all visitors start there.
Once inside the museums you can choose to see the Raphael Rooms, they are not compulsory, and you can decide to see
St. Peter's Basilica, the Papal Tombs and St. Peter's Dome which are all in the same building connected to the Museums.
Skip the Line Entrance Tickets:
There are two lines or queues for the Vatican.
One is for the Vatican Museums which is where the Sistine Chapel is, and
the second line is for Saint Peter's Basilica.
You can skip both lines by booking tickets on line for the Museums and then taking the right exit from the
Sistine Chapel straight in to the Basilica, or you can book a guide through
me or take a tour with a company. If you take the left exit out of the Sistine Chapel, as most people do,
you will have to walk all the way around the Vatican wall and line up in St. Peter's Square for up to 90 mins.
If you intend going in by yourself, you can book skip the line entrance tickets for the Vatican Museums
(which includes the Sistine Chapel) on line
via the Vatican Museums website.
If you book a guide through me I will book your tickets for you and most although not all tour companies will book your tickets for
you as well.
There is usually a two hour line or queue to get in to the Museums from April to mid October every year,
from 7am until about 1pm, even though the Museums open at 9am (Monday to Saturday).
After lunch time there is usually no line to go in to the Vatican, and from November to mid March of every year
there is usually no line at any time for either the Museums or Basilica.
The Vatican Museums
Once inside the Vatican Museums you have a choice as to what you want to see and thus how much time you want to
spend in there. Thirty minutes of the Vatican Museums are compulsory in order to see the Sistine Chapel;
you have to go through them. This short itinerary is only available in the mornings until 12 noon and
which point it is closed off.
After midday you have to go through 90 minutes of the museums before you can see the chapel.
This longer tour route is difficult as the Vatican is not air conditioned, is usually crowded and
Rome gets home from 11am to 4pm. I strongly recommend going to the Vatican in the morning if you can.
The Raphael Rooms are optional at all times and are at the end of the museums, they take about 30/40 minutes to do
as you have to go through the Borgia Apartments and Modern Art Gallery before you can see the chapel.
I have more detailed information on the museum walking routes here
The Vatican Museums are not designed like a modern museum complex.
It is not air conditioned, there is hardly anywhere to sit down and there are very few bathrooms or places to
get drinks or food. It is very important you manage your visit correctly or else you will have a bad time there
as most people do. You can ask your friends if they have visited the Vatican and they will tell you what it is actually like.
You should visit the Vatican in the morning on your first rested day in Rome, so the day after
I could not believe the number of people who arrived in Rome and would do an afternoon Vatican tour
that day, already jet lagged. Also make sure the Vatican is the only big cultural thing you do that day.
Many people try and do another tour in the same day. This will exhaust you.
You should have covered knees and shoulders, so shorts are fine so long as they cover all of your knees and tshirts are fine
so long as all of your shoulders are covered; as a religious state it has a conservative dress code.
You can bring water with you and it is a good idea as only three rooms in the museums are air conditioned out of fifty.
Bottled drinks are fine, cans or other open items are not allowed.
Photos are allowed everywhere except the Sistine Chapel where no photography, no filming is allowed at all.
Flash is allowed downstairs in the Museums, which is all sculpture, but forbidden upstairs, so it's just easier to turn
flash off your camera before you go in. It is bright, you won't need it anyway.