What is the Vatican
Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus, was killed on this hill whilst preaching in Rome in the 60s A.D. and the largest church in the world was built over his grave two hundred and fifty years later by the Roman Emperor Constantine.
The Catholic Church regards Peter as the first Pope or human leader of the Christians.
Saint Peter’s grave is believed by many historians to be beneath the church, two levels beneath the basilica floor in the papal tombs.
Expanding in power and influence, the Vatican became its own country, the Papal States, controlling coast to coast of central Italy and as far north as Bologna for over 1000 years.
Since the Unification of Italy begun in the 1860s, it has been reduced back to its original hill property. It became a state again in the 1930s in an agreement with Mussolini’s Italy and since then has been known as Vatican City.
It is independent of Italy and is one of the smallest countries in the world.
Visiting the Vatican
About half the of the Vatican is open to the public.
These areas are: the Vatican Museums, the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Papal Tombs, the Dome of St. Peter’s, the Vatican Gardens and Necropolis.
To visit the inside of the Vatican Gardens or the Necropolis you have to book an official Vatican tour with the Vatican themselves.
These are hard to get on to, particularly the Necropolis. The rest of the aspects above are open to the public and tour guides like myself directly (you can go in when they are open).
Very few people see the gardens or Necropolis; most people just go in to the Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica and that’s what people mean when they say “we saw the Vatican”.
Vatican Museum Hours
The Vatican is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm (last entrance is about 4pm) during the winter months (October to April), and from 9am to 6.00pm during the summer months (May to September) each year. May to October are busy, particularly in the mornings; after that it gets quiet.
Between 10,000 and 25,000 visitors go through there everyday, more during the summer months.
It is closed on Catholic Holy days such as Christmas, Easter Sunday and three Sundays of every month in general.
The last Sunday of every month the Vatican is open to the public for free as a Catholic charity principle. However, it is so busy I would not recommend going on this day.
If you book a tour with me, I will know the Vatican is open on that day (I have the timetable). One of the mistakes people make is to think it is not busy and just show up.
Be prepared to potentially spend hours in line if this is the case. I book skip-the-line tickets for my clients to avoid the usual lines at the Vatican.
This has been the case since the year 2000 when a new entrance was opened. Inside it is a one-way system, although there are options along the way. For instance the Raphael Rooms are not compulsory and not all the museums are compulsory.
There are two lines or queues for the Vatican. One is to get in to the Vatican Museums (to see the Sistine Chapel) and the other line is for St. Peter’s Basilica.
They are two separate buildings which are beside each other. The Museums open at 9am and there is a line or queue with about 2,000 people or more in it who have been waiting since 7am.
You can skip the line by booking a tour with a tour guide like me or by buying skip the line tickets online with the Vatican themselves and doing it by yourself.
If your book a tour with me, we skip all lines. There is no waiting.
The Vatican Museums are one of the largest privately owned museums in the world.
They contain thousands of pieces of sculpture and paintings collected by various Popes over the last 500 years. You have to go through the Museums to see the Sistine Chapel or the Raphael Rooms. In the afternoon, the sheer size of the museums will exhaust you. Until about noon the Vatican has two ways of going through the Museums; the short and long itinerary.
After about 11.30/12 noon they close off the short itinerary and you have to go the long way. This baffles me, but it is the way things are.
The Museums are one way and have been so for over the last fifteen years. There is little or nowhere to sit down inside the Museums (except for 2 cafe’s and a set of benches in two rooms) and there are only four bathrooms in the entire complex (one at the entrance, one in the downstairs cafe, one in the Raphael Rooms, and one near Sistine Chapel). I give stops for bathrooms and coffee on my tours. Information about the museums with pictures is here.
The Vatican City
The Vatican Museums are how one accesses the:
- Sistine Chapel
- the Raphael Rooms
- the Pinacoteca
- the Vatican Gardens (once you book a tour with them)
|Where is Vatican City
|Vatican City Map
|Parts of the Vatican
|St. Peters Basilica
|St. Peters Square
|St. Peters Dome
|My Vatican Tour Details
|Skip the Line Tickets
|Sistine Chapel & St. Peters
|Bathroom & Coffee Breaks
|English Speaking Guides
Rated 5.0/5 based on a selection 10 customer reviews out of thousands.
Dara was an Excellent Tour Guide
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the Vatican and felt that we obtained a lot more information than we would have done on our own. Dara was an excellent tour guide who was well informed and able to deliver the information in an enjoyable way.
Dara's Tour was Fantastic.
Dara's tour was fantastic. He made 2000 years of history much more fun than expected. I would certainly take his tour again when I next visit Rome. I learned so much and had a great time. Thanks!
By Far the Best I have Ever Experienced
Having travelled a great deal, I have been on many tours in many places, but this tour was by far the best I have ever experienced! Dara delivered a lot of information in a quick and witty way. I am so glad we didn't try to visit the Vatican without a tour. Thanks so much for a wonderful day!
Dara was excellent! Thank you for such a great tour!
Easy to Understand
Dara was a good guide and seemed to know what he was talking about, plus he was easy to understand.
It was an excellent tour. Would recommend it to anyone who was going to Rome.
Take the Tour
Take the tour, even if you will do it on your own later.
Worth every penny.
Worth every penny.
Katherine R. Yazzie
Our tour guide was very informative and knew the history of all the statues and art paintings and frescoes on the walls and ceilings. We are very glad we took this guided tour. We would not have known what we were looking at. Excellent work to Vatican tour and guide. Thanks!
Dara did a wonderful job. I wish we would have had him as our tour guide the entire time we were in Rome. He made the tour wonderfully entertaining and very educational. He placed just enough detail in the explanation to teach us but not bore us. He did an outstanding job. Thank you Dara!