where is vatican city

Where is Vatican City

The Vatican is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

An entire complex, it is about 0.5 kmĀ² or 0.2 milesĀ² in area, and is contained within huge walls on the left or west bank of the Tiber in Rome, Italy.

You can click here to see a map.

What is the Vatican

The Vatican is the official residence of the Pope and is where the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and other attractions are.

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 most historians to be beneath the church.

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 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 things 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 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.


Vatican Tickets

To see the Sistine Chapel, or the Raphael Rooms you have to go through the Vatican Museums. There is no other way.

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.


Vatican Museum

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:

St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Dome, the Necropolis or Scavi can all be accessed with your guide via the Vatican Museums with no line.


Images of the Vatican

  • vatican archives online
  • san pietro
  • the dome rome
  • st peter statue vatican
  • vatican statues
  • Vatican Pinacoteca Building in the Vatican Museums
  • st peter's bones
  • what is in the vatican archives
  • st peters mall
  • things to see in vatican city

My Tour reviews:

    Italy Tour
    Dara was Great
    Dara was great. We had to leave the tour early because our ship changed the departure time from the port city – move it up 1 hour. Dara gave us great directions on where to go to see what we wanted to see since we couldn’t stay with the tour. He also was very informative while the hour or so we were with the tour.
    5.0 Stars Jerry Parche

    Vatican Tour
    A Great Tour
    The tour was great, after talking with others on our cruise we got the better deal as they went on the cruise sponsor tour. I do have 2 items to help with improvements. I know you may not be able to do this one and it may be out of your control, but benches would be great when listening to the information on the Sistine Chapel. The second, the guides need better microphone, when they turn their head the mic stays put and you lose volume. My party all agreed that it was a great tour. Debbie.
    5.0 Stars Deborah Flanders

    General Tour
    Great Tour Guide
    What a funny guy! Truly enjoyed the commentary whether it was related or not! He is a great tour guide, super personality!
    5.0 Stars Melissa Laycock

    Rome Tour
    Excellent English
    Spoke excellent English. Loved the headphones. Did not have to keep up to enjoy the tour. Have two teenagers with us and they enjoyed it too!
    5.0 Stars Toni Elizabeth Stanek

    General Tour
    Very Funny
    Dara made the whole foot pounding experience very interesting with a touch of humour thrown in for good measure. Without him pointing out things on the way we would have missed a lot. My teenage daughter was not looking forward to the tour, but afterwards she commented on how much she got out of it and found it very funny.
    5.0 Stars Mr Parlour

    General Tour
    Great Tour
    Great tour
    5.0 Stars Angela Delzotto

    General Tour
    Dara was Outstanding
    Dara was outstanding. The tour was sensational and met every expectation we had. Our two teenage boys where very impressed with the tour and thoroughly enjoyed Dara’s commentary, humor and knowledge.
    5.0 Stars Carolyn Wales

    Vatican Tour
    Incrediby Impressed
    I was incredibly impressed with Dara’s knowledge and the tour given. I have even purchased a book about the art of the Sistine Chapel in order to develop my knowledge!! Very impressed and would highly recommend.
    5.0 Stars Lisa Mcmonagle

    Vatican Tour
    Informative and Interesting
    Our tour was most informative and interesting. The guide kept the family entertained with facts of the origins to the many statues and artwork. Well worth the cost to cover such a magnificent papal residence.
    5.0 Stars Gilbert & Luisa Rigon

    Vatican Tour
    Very Enjoyable
    Dara’s knowledge was superb and was able to make the information very enjoyable. Hearing some other guides as we went round, his knowledge and expertise was a lot better and without this I think we would have skipped through a lot of the Museums and just gone to the Sistine Chapel as it was so busy.
    5.0 Stars Laura Carter