The Vatican Museum in Rome contains paintings, sculptures and other artworks collected by the Popes through the centuries.
The Vatican Museum has 70,000 artifacts, out of which 20,000 are on display in 54 different galleries, with Sistine Chapel being the last gallery.
That’s why to visit the Sistine Chapel one needs to go through the Museums.
1. How to reach
2. Vatican Museum entrance
3. Which line to stand in
4. Opening hours
5. Best time to visit
6. Tour duration
7. Tickets FAQs
8. Vatican Museum tickets
9. Same day tickets
10. Guided tours
11. Private tours
12. Visiting at night
13. Dress Code
14. What to see?
15. Vatican Museum’s map
16. Vatican Gardens
Where is Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum is in Vatican City, just North of the city center of Rome.
The Vatican is the World’s smallest country, and the city of Rome surrounds it on all sides.
It is only 44 hectares (108 acres) and shares a 3.2 Kms (2 Mile) border with Italy.
The Vatican has four of the major attractions of Rome –
1. Vatican Museums
2. Sistine Chapel
3. Saint Peter’s Square
4. Saint Peter’s Basilica
These four attractions are close to each other because of which tourists visit them all on the same day or explore them over two days.
Location of Vatican Museum in Vatican City
On the Vatican map above, a big, red ‘E’ marks the Museum’s entrance.
How to get to Vatican Museums
There is no barrier or check when you move between the Vatican and the city of Rome.
Roman public and private transport go in and out of the Vatican, all through the day.
By Rome Metro
To reach the Vatican Museums by Rome Metro, you need to board Line A.
There is a train every few minutes, so you won’t have to wait long.
Most tourists get down at Ottaviano metro stop because thats the first to come, while travelling from Rome.
As the day progresses, the lines at the entrance of Vatican Museum stretch for up to 500 meters (0.3 Mile), in the direction of Ottaviano metro station.
That’s why we highly recommend you get down at Ottaviano to reach the Vatican Museums.
Both Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Square are a brisk seven minutes walk from the Metro station.
If you can’t figure out where to go, follow the crowd or click here for directions to reach the Vatican Museum entrance.
Important: You can skip these long lines at the entrance, by purchasing Vatican Museum tickets online, much before your visit.
By Public Bus
Unlike the Termini station for Rome Metro, there is no Central bus stop that every bus route goes through.
However, Rome’s bus network is quite extensive, and there are many buses which pass or terminate near the Vatican.
The most commonly used bus routes to reach the Vatican are Bus No. 40 and 64.
They start from right in front of the Termini Train station and end at the Vatican.
These buses are also popular with tourists going to the Colosseum, because they pass through Piazza Venezia.
You can also board bus No 61 and 81 to get to the Vatican.
Warning: Buses in Rome are notorious for their pickpockets. Keep your belongings safe.
If you have time on your hands, and you are in Central Rome, we recommend walking it to the Vatican Museums.
Vatican Museum is 2.2 Kms (1.4 Miles) from Piazza Navona, the center of Rome.
It is a pleasant walk, over the River Tiber and you also get to see Castel Sant Angelo from outside.
Vatican Museum entrance
The Vatican Museums entrance is on Viale Vaticano (that’s Vaticano Avenue). Directions
It is on the Northern side of the Vatican.
The Museum’s entrance is an arched doorway with sculptured figures on top and MUSEI VATICANI written just below the sculptures.
Vatican Museum queues explained
“In which Vatican Museum queue should I stand?” is a question most visitors have.
At the place for Vatican Museum entry, you will spot three lines, and it is very reasonable to get confused.
In this section, we explain each of the three lines at the Museum entrance.
Line 1: For tourists with no tickets
Tourists who didn’t buy their Vatican Museum tickets much in advance (yes, you can buy them online!) stand in this line.
In the Vatican city map above, you will see a black, dotted line starting from the Museum entrance – that’s how far this queue of tourists without tickets stretches.
Depending on the season and time of the day, this line can even be 500 meters (0.3 Miles) long.
If you reach the Vatican Museum entrance without entry tickets in hand, you will join this line at the very end, and end up waiting and wasting up to two hours.
Vatican last minute tickets
Many visitors realize the importance of buying Vatican Museum tickets online, at the last minute – once they see the long lines at the ticket counter.
Vatican does offer same day tickets. To buy, click here
Line 2: For tourists with online tickets
If you have already bought your tickets online, you get a real quick entry because your queue starts from near the entry gate.
Look for a yellow signboard, as shown in the photo below.
Thus you end up saving up to two hours of waiting time in peak summer.
If you are traveling with kids and elders, it makes even more sense to buy Vatican Museum tickets online, much in advance.
Line 3: For tourists with guided tour tickets
This is the fastest moving queue in the Vatican Museum.
When you book a guided tour of the Vatican, you are required to meet your guide and group at a specific meeting point near the entrance.
Once all members of the group arrive, the guide gives you markers (similar colored pins, etc.) so that they can identify you.
The guide then quickly briefs you and takes you inside the Vatican Museums through the third line – the fastest.
Vatican Museum hours
Monday to Saturday, the Vatican Museum open at 9 am and close at 6 pm.
The last entry is at 4 pm and the Vatican Museum’s ticket counter also closes at the same time.
Note: Since you need to go through the Vatican Museums to visit Sistine Chapel, the Chapel’s hours are also the same.
When is the Vatican Museum closed
Vatican Museums remain closed on Sundays.
The Vatican Museums also remain closed on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29th June), the Christmas Day and The Feast of Saint Stephen (26th December).
Last Sunday of the Month
On the last Sunday of every month, the Museums open for five hours.
On such Sundays, the Vatican Museum’s timings are from 9 am to 2 pm, and visitors can enter for free.
On these Sundays, the last entry is at 12.30 pm.
Best time to visit Vatican Museums
If you have already bought your tickets online, the best time to visit Vatican Museums is as soon as they open at 9 am.
If you plan to buy your tickets at the venue, late afternoon (1.30 to 3.30 pm) is a much better time to visit the Museums because by then the legendary queues are gone.
Longest lines at the Vatican Museums
Ticketing counter queues at the Vatican are legendary, and every tourist has heard about them.
And almost every visitor assumes that reaching the Vatican Museums as soon as they open will help avoid the long lines and as a result, everybody lands up early.
Thus the Vatican Museum queues are long and packed during the opening hours of the day.
If you have already bought your Vatican Museum tickets online, you need not be worried about these long lines. Buy tickets now!
Visiting Sistine Chapel & Saint Peter’s Basilica
If you intend to visit Vatican Museums post lunch, be mindful of your pace because Sistine Chapel closes at 5.30 pm.
If you are planning to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, you can take the secret passageway from the Sistine Chapel to avoid queues.
This passageway closes at 5 pm, which means that you will have till 4.45 pm to finish your tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
Best time of the year
The slowest months in the Vatican are the colder ones excluding Christmas and New Years.
Therefore late November to early December and mid-January to late February is ideal for a quiet and peaceful visit to the Museums.
From April to October, the Museums open on Friday nights from 7 pm to 11 pm.
We detail these night tours later in this article.
Best day of the week
Since the Vatican Museum is closed on Sundays, all weekend travelers end up visiting on a Saturday resulting in the longest queues.
However, on the last Sunday of the month, the Museums are open.
Unless you are on a tight budget last Sunday of the month should be avoided because that’s when it is open to the public for free.
There might be more crowd on Mondays and Saturdays than Tuesdays and Thursdays because of them being closer to weekends.
How long does the Vatican Museum take
The time taken to visit the Vatican depends on two factors:
1. Where you buy your Vatican Museum tickets
2. What do you want to see
Let’s help you understand this better –
Where you buy the tickets
When you buy your Vatican Museum tickets in advance, you don’t wait in long lines at the ticket counter.
And since you don’t waste up to two hours waiting in ticketing lines, the duration of your trip to the Vatican gets cut short by two hours.
What you plan to see
There are four main attractions in the Vatican – the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.
Some visitors explore Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel on the first day and St Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square on the second.
Most tourists try and visit all the four attractions on the same day.
Here is a slightly rough breakup of the time taken to explore –
|Attraction||Time it takes|
|Vatican Museums||2 hours|
|Sistine Chapel||30 minutes|
|St. Peter’s Square||30 minutes|
|St Peter’s Basilica||1 hour|
If you plan to visit all the four attractions in one day, you will need four to five hours.
Things to keep in mind
– To explore the Vatican Museums entirely, you will have to walk 7.5 Kms (4.7 Miles). Wear comfortable walking shoes for a better experience.
– Since it is so massive, visitors who are worried that they may miss some of the masterpieces book a guided tour.
– Sistine Chapel is at the end of the Vatican Museums, and you must enter the Museum to visit the Chapel.
– From the Sistine Chapel, a direct passage leads to St. Peter’s Basilica. As a result, you don’t have to stand in the lines again, to get to the Basilica.
Vatican tickets FAQs
Here are a few questions on Vatican Museum tickets, which almost every visitor asks.
On the last on the Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museums are open and free for everyone.
On such free entry days, the Vatican Museums open at 9 am and close at 2 pm. The last entry is at 12:30 pm.
On free entry Sundays you can’t pre-book Vatican tour tickets and lines can be very long.
Vatican Museum is free to enter on World Tourism Day as well, which falls on 27 September every year.
Some of the exceptions include Easter Sunday, as well as June 29, December 25, or December 26 if they fall on a Sunday.
When you buy Vatican Museum tickets in advance, they are called Skip the Line tickets because they help skip the long lines at the Museum entrance.
These online tickets may be a few Euros costlier, but considering they help you save up to 2 hours of waiting in the sun they are worth it.
You can buy Vatican Museum tickets from either –
Vatican Museum’s official ticket counter, which is at the attraction
Online ticket offices which sell Vatican Museums tickets
If you decide to buy at the official ticket counter, you will have to stand in lines as long as 500 meters (0.3 Miles), and the waiting time can go up to 2 hours.
That’s why we recommend you buy Vatican Museum tickets online.
While booking a Vatican Museum ticket, you must opt for a time slot.
On the day of your visit, you get 30 minutes grace time on either side of the time mentioned on your ticket.
For instance, if the time on your ticket is 2 pm, you can visit the Vatican Museum anytime between 1.30 pm and 2.30 pm.
The biggest discounts are available at the Vatican Museum’s ticketing office.
But by buying the tickets online, you save yourself up to two hours of waiting in the sun.
You can buy your Vatican ticket at a discounted rate if you qualify any of the following conditions:
– Kids between the ages of 6 and 18 years
– Priests and Seminarians
– Holy See or Vatican State employees
Disabled visitors with certified invalidity of more than 74% qualify for 100% discount and enter the Vatican Museums for free.
Their companion can also accompany them inside for free.
Important: To claim the reduced price, you must show valid documentation during your visit. If you can’t, you must buy a full-price ticket to get in. The discounted ticket won’t be refunded.
Unfortunately, the Vatican doesn’t offer any discounts for senior citizens.
A regular Vatican Museum ticket gets you access to all the exhibits in the Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica.
Once you enter the Museum, you can stay inside for as long as you want.
However, if for some reason you exit the Museum, you can’t re-enter.
St. Peter’s Basilica has no entry fee, and you can walk in for free.
However, if you line up in the front of the St. Peter’s Basilica, you may end up wasting a lot of time in the long lines.
We recommend that you first see the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel and then follow the crowd as they move towards the St Peter’s Basilica through an indoor route.
St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesday mornings because the Pope meets the people.
No, access to the Vatican Gardens is not part of the Vatican Museum tickets.
To visit the Gardens, you need to buy the Vatican Gardens ticket, which besides the Gardens also gets you access to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Find out more
No, you don’t have to.
At the Vatican Museum entrance, you can show the voucher in the email and go through the security check.
Once you pass security, at a desk you need to show your voucher again and get a physical ticket.
For this, you must wait in a small line of people like you who had pre-purchased their tickets.
Vatican Museums tickets
These are also known as Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets because they get you access to both the attractions.
After you have seen both, you can also go and explore St Peter’s Basilica.
You can book these tickets with or without the audio guide.
Ticket Price (without audio guide)
Adult ticket (18+ years): 29 Euros
Kids ticket (6 to 17 years): 19 Euros
Student ticket (18 to 25 years): 19 Euros
Ticket Price (with audio guide)
Adult ticket (18+ years): 35 Euros
Kids ticket (6 to 17 years): 26 Euros
Student ticket (18 to 25 years): 26 Euros
*For availing the student discount, you must have a student ID.
Last minute Vatican Museum tickets
Many visitors end up searching for last-minute Vatican tickets because they forgot to book them well in advance.
Some tourists even search for online tickets at the eleventh hour, after seeing the long lines at the Vatican Museum entrance.
Either way, you need not worry.
Popular travel websites buy Vatican Museum tickets in advance and sell them as last minute tickets.
These same day tickets cost 4 Euros more than the regular tickets, but most visitors don’t care as long as they get to visit the Vatican Museum.
Adult ticket (18+ years): 33 Euros
Child ticket (6 to 17 years): 23 Euros
Vatican Museum guided tour
If you can afford it, we highly recommend a guided tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
With a local expert to guide you, you are sure to have a much more memorable tour of the Vatican.
This guided tour starts at 11 am and goes on for three hours.
Guided tour price
Adult ticket (18+ years): 44 Euros
Child ticket (6 to 17 years): 35 Euros
If you want to keep it short and don’t want to visit St Peter’s Basilica, check out this two-hour tour of the Museums and Sistine Chapel
Vatican Museum private tour
When you book a private tour of the Vatican, you get to maximize your time with the guide and customize your itinerary to your interests.
Since these private tours are booked in advance, you get to avoid the notoriously long lines at the ticket counter.
This private tour of the Vatican is the most popular amongst visitors.
If you want something cheaper, you can check out this semi-private tour of the Vatican.
If you are a group of friends or a large family, this ultimate VIP Private tour will work out best.
Vatican Museum night tour
From April to October, every Friday the Vatican Museums are open from 7 pm to 11 pm.
During this guided 3-hour night tour, you also get to explore Sistine Chapel.
The last entry for the night tour is at 9.30 pm.
This exclusive tour is limited to 18 people per group.
Vatican Museum dress code
The Vatican City is both a major tourist attraction and a holy site for the Catholic religion.
As a result, the guards enforce strict dress code at all attractions within the Vatican, including the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens.
The Vatican has a list of items you must avoid during your visit:
– Sleeveless tops
– Lowcut tops exposing the midriff
– Shorts above the knee
This Vatican dress code applies to both women and men, and the core objective is not to have your shoulders and knees exposed.
When your dress is NOT appropriate
If you reach the Vatican Museum in clothes that break the Vatican City’s dress code, don’t worry.
You can purchase plastic cloaks (poncho) which cover your shoulders and knee.
However, wearing such cloaks can be uncomfortable in hot weather.
If you refuse to comply with the Vatican dress code, you will be refused entry even if you already have Vatican Museum entry tickets.
Vatican Museum highlights
The Vatican Museum collection has 70,000 paintings, sculptures, statues, and other artifacts out of which 20,000 are on display.
The easiest way to see the best of Vatican Museum is to hire a Vatican Museum guide and let them show you the masterpieces.
Here are the must-see items in the Vatican Museum which we recommend –
1. The Bramante Staircase
There are two Bramante Staircases in the Vatican – the original, designed by Donato Bramante in 1505, and the modern version designed by architect Giuseppe Momo in 1932.
The original Bramante is not open to visitors, but during your visit to the Vatican, you must try out the modern version.
The double helix design allows people to go up and down without crossing each other.
Since this staircase is not in the original path of a regular visitor, you will have to indulge in a small detour.
The moment you come into the Vatican Museum, up the escalators, you will spot a gift-shop on your right.
Once you step into the shop, you will see the staircase (you don’t need to buy anything!).
Important: Explore the Bramante staircase for as long as you want, but DO NOT go down the stairs. These stairs lead to the exit, and once you are out, you can’t re-enter.
2. Raphael’s Transfiguration
This painting by Raphael is in Vatican Pinacoteca (Art Gallery) and depicts Jesus Christ as both human and God.
The painting has two distinct parts – the light-colored top half depicts Jesus and his serenity while the dark bottom half represents Earth with all its problems.
The painting was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, who went on to become Pope Clement VII.
Raphael died before he could finish this painting.
The Laocoön is a group of statues, showing two sea serpents sent by the Gods in the process of killing Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons.
This sculpture is from 30 BC and was found in 1506 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.
This exhibit is one of the most exquisite Vatican museum statues, and hence a must-see.
4. Apollo Belvedere
The Apollo Belvedere is a marble sculpture and is a must-see because of three reasons:
– Till recently it was considered one of the most magnificent ancient sculptures ever made.
– It was the first piece in the art collection of the Vatican – even before Vatican Museums was set up
– It was Napolean Bonaparte’s favorite sculpture, and he took it with him to The Louvre. After his defeat, the statue came back to the Vatican.
5. Porphyry Basin
The Porphyry Basin is in the center of the Rotunda Room.
It is a giant basin with a diameter of 13 meters (42.6 feet), carved out of an igneous rock (a rock created from molten lava).
The word ‘Porphyry’ comes from the Greek word for ‘Purple,’ the color meant for Roman royalty.
6. The School of Athens by Raphael
The School of Athens is in the Papal Apartments and is one of the most exquisite Vatican Museum paintings.
In 1508, Raphael was hired to paint a room called Stanza della Segnatura.
He decided to come up with one painting for each wall on the themes Theology, Poetry, Philosophy, and Justice.
‘The School of Athens’ represents Philosophy and is a fantasy gathering of famous personalities from different era and locations.
Some of the personalities featured in The School of Athens are Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Heracleitus, and Raphael himself.
7. Pinecone Courtyard
Pine Courtyard gets its name from the 1st century BC gigantic bronze pinecone which sits at one end of the square.
The 13-foot high Pinecone, which was once a giant fountain, is flanked by two peacocks.
Also known as Cortile Della Pigna, this area has yet another attraction – a Gold sphere called Sfera con Sfera (Sphere within a Sphere).
8. The Rotunda Room
Sala Rotonda (Rotunda Room) resembles the Pantheon of Paris, but smaller in size.
During your visit to the Vatican Museum, do not miss out the Oculus in the ceiling and decorative rosettes in the dome.
Stunning 2nd-century mosaics decorate the floor.
Surprisingly these intricate designs are intact and haven’t lost their color.
9. The Tapestries Hall
Also known as Galleria degli Arazzi, the Tapestry Hall is an essential part of the Vatican Museum collection.
Once you are in the Hall, look up at the roof – it may seem as if the roof is in 3D, but it is a painting.
On the walls of this Hall, you will find tapestries from two different periods and regions.
On the right, you will see 17th-century tapestries made in Rome, depicting the life of Pope Urban VIII (Barberini).
On the left, tapestries woven in Brussels by Pieter van Aelst’s School are on display.
Weavers in Belgium used silk, wool, gold, and silver threads to make these tapestries during the pontification of Clement VII.
The tapestries depict the life of Jesus and were woven based on drawings by ace painter Raphael’s students.
10. The Maps Room
The Maps room is also known as Galleria delle Carte Geografiche and contains a series of painted topographical maps depicting Italy and its provinces.
This Gallery measures 120 meters (393 feet), and that’s longer than a football field.
It took Dominican Monk and Geographer Ignazio Danzi three years to complete the 40 panels each 15 by 16 feet in size.
Tip: Don’t forget to look up to see the stunning paintings which adorn the ceiling.
11. The Papal Apartments
Back in the days, the Popes lived inside what is now the Vatican Museums.
These residences are collectively called ‘The Papal Apartments.’
The two most important ones are:
The Borgia Apartment consists of six rooms, which were decorated by Italian painter Pinturicchio, on the request of Pope Alexander VI.
Pinturicchio painted the frescos between 1492 and 1494.
The four Raphael Rooms are right above the Borgia Apartments.
Raphael started decorating these rooms in 1508, but couldn’t finish the task.
After Raphael’s death in 1520, his assistants finished Sala di Costantino, the last room.
Along with Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s work in these rooms mark High Renaissance in Rome.
12. The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is at the very end of the Vatican Museums.
If you book a guided tour, the guide explains everything outside the Chapel.
Once inside, everybody is expected to be quiet.
If you are on your own, remember to look for the following four exhibits –
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted nine scenes from the Book of Genesis on the roof of Sistine Chapel.
And the most famous painting in this series is The Creation of Adam.
In terms of popularity, it is equal to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Michelangelo’s Last Judgement
The Sistine Chapel also plays host to Michelangelo’s yet another masterpiece – The Last Judgement.
It covers the altar wall of the Chapel and is one of the most beautiful Vatican Museum paintings.
The Last Judgement was painted between 1535 and 1541 when Michelangelo was in his sixties.
The Cosmatesque floor
In all the excitement of looking up, do not miss out on the fantastic ‘Cosmatesque’ floor patterns of Sistine Chapel.
This geometric stonework technique inlaid various shapes and sizes of stones to create never-before patterns on the floor.
The Cosmati family used this style to decorate church floors in Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries hence the name ‘Cosmatesque.’
The wall panels
The walls of the Sistine Chapel have masterpieces by many Renaissance artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Pinturicchio, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
In all the excitement of seeing Michelangelo’s work, visitors tend to miss these frescos depicting the Life of Christ and the Life of Moses.
Vatican Museum map
Vatican Museums is made up of so many different Museums, galleries, and rooms that you need lots of energy and a good sense of direction to not get lost.
The easiest way is to get a guided tour of the Vatican Museums.
The cheaper option is to carry a map of the Vatican Museums.
A Vatican Museums’ map will save you precious time and also ensure you don’t miss the masterpieces.
*For a map of accessible areas of the Vatican Museum, click here
If you are in Rome, you must visit the Vatican Gardens.
They are also known as Gardens of Vatican City and cover more than half of the Vatican State.
It is popular with tourists because besides being beautiful they are exclusive too – only a limited number of Vatican Gardens tickets are sold every day.
Vatican Gardens hours
The Vatican Gardens open at 9 am and close at 6 pm from Monday to Saturday.
The Gardens remains closed on Sundays (and other Catholic holidays).
Vatican Gardens tour
All Vatican Garden tickets also include access to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
The order of the tour is always – the Gardens, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and finally St Peter’s Basilica.
There are two ways to go around the Vatican Gardens – by walk or by a tour bus.
Walking tour of the Vatican Gardens
Vatican Gardens walking tours happen in the forenoon so that you can follow them up with your visit to the other Vatican attractions.
On Wednesdays, you can’t book a walking tour of the Gardens because the Pope meets the people in Saint Peter’s Square.
There are two kinds of walking tours you can choose from:
|5 hours||8.30 am||Mon, Fri & Sat||Book Now|
|3 hours||10.30 am||Mon, Tue, Fri & Sat||Book Now|
She has a passion for both traveling and photography, which help her document her memories forever. She loves to explore city streets taking in the people, the colors, and the culture surrounding her. Occasionally she loves to step away from the hustle-bustle of urban lifestyle, and chill-out either alone or with friends. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, London, Marrakech, Venice