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.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know before your visit Vatican Museum.
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 has 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.
It is also known as the ‘Red line’ and has two stops equidistant from the entrance of Vatican Museums – Ottaviano and Cipro.
Since Ottaviano metro stop is the first to come when you are traveling from the center of Rome, most tourists get down at Ottaviano.
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.
If you have time on your hands, you can also get down at Lepanto stop (just before Ottaviano) and take Via Cola di Rienzo to reach the Vatican.
It cuts through Rome’s commercial Prati neighborhood and is one of the best streets for leisurely shopping.
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 Termini and end at the Vatican and pass through Piazza Venezia for tourists going to the Colosseum.
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).
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 (.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 in advance, at the last minute – once they see the long lines at the ticket counter.
And yes, the 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, 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
The Vatican Museum’s opening hours are 9 am to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday.
The last entry is at 4 pm.
Vatican Museum’s ticket counter also closes at 4 pm.
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 don’t entertain visitors 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
It is hard to avoid the crowd while visiting the Vatican Museums, but with a little bit of planning, it is not entirely impossible.
Any time can be the best time to visit Vatican Museums if you have already bought your Vatican Museum tickets in advance.
Depending on the time of the day and the season, buying online tickets in advance can help you save 30 minutes to two hours in the ticketing counter queue.
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.
On Wednesdays, the Saint Peter’s Basilica remains closed till noon which you must factor into your itinerary.
So if you want to explore both Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica on a Wednesday, you must plan your visit post-lunch.
There might be more crowd on Mondays and Saturdays than Tuesdays and Thursdays because of them being closer to weekends.
Best time of the day
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.
However, that’s not true because everybody land 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.
But if you plan to purchase them at the venue, late afternoon – around 1.30 to 3.30 pm – is a much better time to visit the Museums.
However, if you do decide to go late, you have to 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.
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.
Most visitors explore Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel on the first day and St Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square on the second.
Some tourists 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 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
Vatican Museums tickets
Most of the tourist attractions in Vatican City are close to each other.
Sistine Chapel is only 100 meters away from the Vatican Museums and the Saint Peter’s Basilica only 1 Km (0.62 Mile) away.
A little farther, at 2.9 Kms (1.8 Miles) from the Museums are the beautiful Vatican Gardens.
This is the reason why most of the Vatican Museums tickets are sold and bought in combination with other places.
Note: All the tickets mentioned below are delivered to your inbox (and SMSed) within five minutes of purchase. These are smartphone tickets, which means you don’t need to take a print out. When you visit the Vatican Museums, show your ticket on your smartphone and walk in.
1. Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets
There are two kinds of Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets you can buy –
a) ‘Skip the Line’ Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets
This ticket gives you access to both Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel. Being an online ticket it helps you avoid the infamous long queues that the Vatican is notorious for.
Since this is a timed ticket, you need to be at the Vatican Museum entrance 15 minutes before the time mentioned on your ticket. You can choose the time suitable for you while booking the ticket.
These Vatican Museum tickets allow you unlimited time for exploration.
To upgrade your Vatican Museum experience, while booking you can opt for the audio guide.
Adult ticket (for 18+): 27 Euros
Discounted ticket (for 6-17 years & students up to 25 years with valid ID card): 19 Euros
Adult ticket with Audio Guide (for 18+): 35 Euros
Discounted ticket with an audio guide (for 6-17 years & students up to 25 years with valid ID card): 26 Euros
Kids five and below enter for free.
b) ‘Last Minute’ Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets
This ticket gives you priority entrance to both the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel. You can choose the time slot suitable for your visit.
You will be provided with an escort to help with the check-in procedure as well as free Wi-Fi at the meeting point.
The Vatican Museums audio guide is not part of this tour ticket. However, you can buy them at the venue if you so wish.
Adult ticket (for 18+): 30 Euros
Discounted ticket (for 6-17 years with valid ID): 27 Euros
Kids 5 years and below, disabled visitors and their carers enter for free.
c) Sistine Chapel + Vatican Museum + Hop on Hop Off Bus
This ticket allows you skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel along with 48 hours of hop-on hop-off bus privileges.
The hop-on and hop-off, double-decker red buses of City Sightseeing Rome are a great way to explore the eternal city.
Free Wi-Fi and Audio guide will be provided on the bus.
However, Vatican Museums audio guide is not part of this ticket. If you want it, you can purchase the audio guide at the venue.
Adult ticket (for 18+): 63 Euros
Discounted ticket (for 6-17 years with valid ID): 38 Euros
Kids 5 years enter for free.
2. Vatican Museums and Vatican Garden tickets
This ticket allows you immediate access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel along with a 45-minute tour of the Vatican Gardens in an eco-friendly open bus.
The audio guide will be provided on the tour bus.
If you want the Vatican Museum’s audio guide as well, you can purchase it at the venue.
Adult ticket (for 18+): 38 Euros
Discounted ticket (for 6-17 years & students up to 25 years with valid ID card): 29 Euros
Note: The tour isn’t available for kids under 6 years of age. No exceptions will be made.
3. St Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Museums guided tour
This ticket gets you a 3-hour, in-depth tour of the St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums with an expert guide.
Please ensure you are available at the pre-designated meeting place 15 minutes prior to your booked time-slot. Since the group can’t be kept waiting, the tour will start on time.
Adult ticket (for 19+): 44 Euros
Discounted ticket (for 6-17 years & students up to 25 years with valid ID card): 35 Euros
Kids under five can join this tour for free.
This tour is not suitable for visitors using wheelchairs.
4. Tickets for Vatican Museums and Gardens, Sistine Chapel and Pontifical Villas
These tickets give the maximum bang for your buck – and you skip the line everywhere.
However, before you book this be ready to slug it out because this is a 11-hour long tour and takes you around everything that’s there in the Vatican area.
It provides you entrance to the Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel and the Pontifical Villas.
This highly exclusive tour gives early morning access to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel before opening time. This is followed by an audio-guided walking tour of the Vatican Gardens.
The tour then takes you on a train ride to Castel Gandolfo from where you proceed to Pontifical Villas on an audio-guided bus.
The tour ends at the Apostolic Palace.
This tour is only available on Saturdays and starts at 7.45 am sharp.
Entrance ticket (for 6+): 56 Euros
Kids under 6 and disabled visitors and their carers get in free.
Vatican Museum night tour
From April to October, every Friday the Vatican Museums are open from 7 pm to 11 pm.
The last entry for the night tour is at 9.30 pm.
This Vatican Museum night tour also includes a concert, which further enhances the experience.
However, since the concert seats don’t have a number on them, they can’t be reserved in advance.
The tickets for this night tour of Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are available with or without audio guides. Find out more
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.