The Vatican Museums in Rome contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other artworks collected by the Popes through the centuries.
The Vatican Museums include both artefacts on display and monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms etc.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know before your visit to the Vatican Museum.
Vatican Museums’ location
The Vatican Museums are situated on the west side of the River Tiber.
It is one of the two main entrances into Vatican City accessible through Viale Vaticano on the northern edge of Vatican City.
How to get to Vatican Museums
Here are some of the most affordable and easily available options to reach the Vatican Museums.
Subway: The ‘A’ Line has two stations close to the Vatican Museums.
Cipro Station is best for early mornings and Ottaviano Station is suitable for arriving in the late mornings or mid-day.
Tram: Depending on where you are starting from, Tram #19 can be taken to reach the St. Peter’s stop.
It might be difficult to reach the Tram from the city center and it is advisable to check the Map for a better idea.
Hop-On and Hop-Off Bus tours: There are many tour bus services that have stops only a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square.
The Vatican and Rome Bus Tours is the only bus tour with ties to the Vatican.
Vatican Museum hours
Opening days: Monday to Saturday
Opening time: 9 am to 6 pm
Last Entry: 4 pm
The Vatican Museums open on the last Sunday of every month free of cost (except the Easter Sunday)
Opening time: 9 am to 2 pm
Last Entry: 12.30 pm
The Vatican Museums remain closed on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29th June), the Christmas Day and The Feast of Saint Stephen (26th December).
Best time to visit Vatican Museums
It is hard to avoid crowds 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 online.
Depending on the time of the day and the season, buying online tickets in advance can help you save 30 minutes to 180 minutes (yes, that’s 3 hours!) in the ticketing counter line.
Best time of the year to visit Vatican Museums
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.
However, you have to reserve for late-night Museum tours and should check the online official website prior to your visit.
Best day of the week to visit Vatican Museums
The Museums are open from Monday to Saturday. They are also open on the last Sundays of each month.
On Wednesdays, the Saint Peter’s Basilica remains closed till noon which you must factor into your itinerary.
So if you want to combine your visit to Vatican Museums along with a visit to Saint Peter’s Basilica, Wednesday post lunch timings would be best.
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.
Having said that, in high season, it is difficult to find a day when the Vatican Museums isn’t crowded.
Best time of the day to visit the Vatican Museums
If you plan a trip in the off-season then avoiding crowds and lines will not be difficult.
If, however, you plan a trip in the high season or the mid-season, it is possible you will see crowds all day long.
It is assumed that going early will make a difference but that a not true.
Since everybody wants to avoid the crowd, they land up early.
Thus the lines are long and packed during the opening hours of the day.
Therefore, 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 and priorities considering that the 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.
When NOT to visit the Vatican Museums
The city of Rome gets a lot of visitors from mid-March to early November.
During high season months – May, June, July, September, and October – the wait in the line for buying tickets can even go up to 3 hours.
That’s all the precious time you can actually spend exploring the Vatican Museums.
We suggest that you stay away from Vatican Museums on popular weekends like Valentine’s Day or Six Nation Rugby matches as well.
Or for that matter rare events such as beautification or canonization of a popular figure.
Interested in free entry to the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, St Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel? Buy the Omnia Card
How long is waiting line at Vatican Museums?
The queues are long in the high-season and can vary throughout the day.
The lines are longest in the mornings on all days as well as on the last Sundays.
However, if you buy Vatican Museum tickets in advance, you don’t need to worry. You can skip these queues and walk right in.
Note: You do have to spend some time waiting at the security check, but that will be a maximum of 15-20 minutes.
How long do the Vatican Museums take?
You will have to walk 7.5 Kms (4.7 Miles) if you want to explore the Vatican Museums entirely.
This is why comfortable shoes are recommended for a visit to this Vatican masterpiece.
This is also why guided tours of Vatican Museums are quite popular.
Before we tell you the approximate duration of your Vatican Museums tour, you should know that that Sistine Chapel can only be accessed from the Vatican Museums (you will have to enter the Museum to visit the Chapel).
Also, there is a direct passage from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica.
This is why most tourists visiting Vatican Museums also visit the other two attractions.
Tours of the Vatican Museums mostly stretch for three to four hours. This duration also includes a visit to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
Here is a rather rough breakup of the time taken:
Vatican Museums – 2 hours
Sistine Chapel – 30 minutes
St Peter’s Basilica – 1 hour
St. Peter’s Square – 30 minutes
*If you intend to climb the Dome of St Peter’s Basilica, add another 90 minutes
Vatican Museums’ 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.
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 Museums with Roma Pass
Many tourists believe that having a Roma Pass will help them gain them access to the Vatican Museums. However, this is NOT the case.
The Roma Pass is used mostly to gain entry to the Colosseum and the Galleria Borghese. You also get unlimited use of buses and the metro (in the city).
However, the Roma Pass does not provide entry to the Vatican Museums. For access to the Vatican Museums, you need to purchase the All Access Rome City Pass (more about this Pass below).
If you still want to buy Roma Pass, be aware that it costs 38.50 Euros for a 3-day validity period. A two-day validity costs 28 Euros.
Vatican Museum with Rome All Access Pass
The All-Access Pass provides uninterrupted entry into the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter’s Basilica.
It also provides a free audio guide for the St. Peter’s Basilica.
It gives entrance to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill along with a free audio guide of Rome and free Wi-Fi at the meeting point.
The All Access Pass for an adult (18+ years) costs 75 Euros and a discounted pass for children aged 6 to 17 years of age (with valid ID proof) costs 60 Euros.
Dress code for Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums has a strict dress code within its premises. Despite these restrictions, it is the No 3 attraction in Rome.
Sleeveless or low cut clothing along with shorts, skirts and hats are not allowed.
While visiting the Vatican Museums, you have to wear clothes to cover your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect.
Entry can be otherwise refused even if you have online paid tickets.
There are plastic cloaks available to purchase for those who come unprepared. However, wearing such cloaks could be uncomfortable in hot weather.
So plan ahead and dress up accordingly.