11 Things to Know Before Visiting the Vatican - 2021 Vatican City Guide
Whether you are religious or not, you can’t deny that a visit to the Vatican City while in Rome is something worth your time. Beautiful architecture and the art of Vatican museums should be on top of your list of things to do in Rome. And in this post, you will learn everything you need to know before visiting Vatican City.
What is the Vatican City famous for?
Vatican City State is a roman-catholic religious and cultural center. Sites within the Vatican, like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel, feature some of the world’s most famous sculptures and paintings. The Vatican has been the center of Christianity since the 4th century, since the foundation of St. Peter’s Basilica, and it later became the permanent base of the Popes.
1. How to get to Vatican City?
Vatican city is easily approachable by public transportation – train, metro or bus. If you decide to go by train, the station you need to get out on is St Pietro, St. Peter’s Square is a 10-minute walk from the train station. You also have the option of taking a taxi or simply taking a walk if you are nearby.
GETTING TO THE VATICAN BY METRO
To get to the Vatican by metro, you need to hop on the A Line. There are two stops near the Vatican city – Ottaviano and Cipro. Both of these metro stops are about a 5-minute walk from the Vatican Museum. You need to buy your metro tickets at the corner shops or metro stations, but you can not buy them from the driver.
You can also use the Metro line to see other famous sites around Rome quickly. For example, you can change to the B line at Termini station for an easy and quick visit to the Colosseum.
GETTING TO THE VATICAN BY BUS
Taking the bus #64 from the Termini train station, the bus ride will take around 20 minutes, and you will get out on the last stop of the route – Piazza Stazione S. Pietro. From the bus stop, it will take you about a 15-minute walk to get to the Vatican Museum entrance.
If your starting point is around the Colosseum area, you will have to take the bus #81. The bus stop is just outside of the B line metro station. The end of the bus route #81 is Piazza Risorgimento, located only a 5 minute walk away from the Vatican Museum entrance.
2. Vatican Dress Code
There is a particular dress code you need to follow when visiting the Vatican. You should avoid wearing revealing clothes, like short skirts, dresses, and shorts. You should also have your shoulders covered, so it is advisable to bring a scarf to cover up if you are wearing revealing summer clothes. When it comes to footwear, having sandals on is okay, but wearing flip flops are considered too informal and casual to enter the Vatican wearing them. If you have a hat on, you should remove it when entering the buildings in the Vatican. Food and metal tools ( scissors and knives) are not allowed.
3. What is the best time of day to visit the Vatican?
The recommended best time to visit the Vatican is very early in the morning or after 16:00 h. Lines outside the Vatican Museum start forming as soon as 7:30h, even though the museum opens at 9:00h. So we would recommend coming there as early in the morning if you can. There are usually more visitors to the Vatican Museums during the morning, so we would advise you to visit the chapel first. If you decide to go in the afternoon, keep in mind that the museum closes at 18:00h, and make sure you have enough time for your visit.
If it’s possible to visit the Vatican between Tuesday and Friday, that way, you will avoid crowds on the weekend. Also, other museums in Rome are closed on Mondays, so visitors flock to the Vatican Museum, which is open.
4. Take it easy and pace yourself
The museums in the Vatican take at least about three hours in total to visit, with over 7 kilometres of its art galleries. Keep in mind that you should set aside enough time to see the extensive art collections and monuments of the Vatican city. Check out the map of the museums in order to know where you want to spend more time during your visit. We would also recommend dedicating a full day for the Vatican visit so you can have the complete experience.
5. Have a plan and a booked tour guide!
6. What should I not miss at the Vatican?
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE
The spiral staircase became one of the most photographed things in the Vatican Museum, and deservedly so. The staircase is composed of two staircases which take the shape of a double helix – like DNA.
Raphael’s masterpiece, the Transfiguration depicts stories of the Gospel of Matthew, showing the story of the duel between human and divine nature of Jesus Christ.
THE TAPESTRIES HALL
It’s impossible to miss the Tapestries Hall, or the Galleria degli Arazzi, while visiting the Vatican Museum. Since you have to walk through it to get to the Sistine Chapel.
THE MAP GALLERY
After going through the tapestries hall, you will pass the Maps gallery (Galleria delle Carte Geografiche). It’s inevitable to notice the ceiling of the Maps gallery. Besides Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it’s one of the most photographed ceilings in a museum.
THE PINE CONE COURTYARD
The pine cone courtyard (Cortile della Pigna) is named after a nearly 4 meters high pinecone located at its one end. The huge pine cone made out of bronze was originally found in the area near Pantheon in Rome, and it is said to date to the 1st century BCE.
7. Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museums are in fact made up of multiple museums, and your purchased ticket gets you into all of them. Also, the Sistine Chapel is located inside of the museum so your ticket includes the entrance to the chapel as well. If you want to avoid long lines and writing among the crowd purchasing a Skip the Line Vatican Museum Ticket is something worth checking out.
Vatican Museum Working Hours
- Monday – Saturday: 9:00 – 18:00
- The Vatican Museums do not work on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month. On this day,the entrance to the Vatican museum is free, and the ticket office closes at 12:30 p.m.
- You may spend as much time as possible inside, regardless of when you arrive
8. Sistine Chapel
No visit to the Vatican City would be complete without visiting the Sistine Chapel. Often the very reason people decide to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel is located at the very end of it. So you will definitely not miss this cherry on top of your Vatican Museum visit.
If you have a booked guided tour of the museum, your guide will give you an explanation of the site before going in. That’s because you have to be silent while in the chapel.
Once you’re inside the Sistine Chapel be sure to soak in all of the world’s most famous masterpieces and take your time looking around.
9. Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica
Visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica is free, although you will have to go through big crowds and wait in long lines to get inside of the basilica. That’s why we would recommend booking a guided Tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing the St. Peter’s Dome. That way you will make sure to have enough time to properly visit the site and learn a bit about its history along the way.
Saint Peter’s Basilica working hours
October 1 – March 31: 7:00 – 18:30
April 1 – September 30: 7:00 – 19:00
10. Visiting St. Peter’s Cupola
One of the things you definitely need to take the time to visit, while in the Vatican, is the St. Peter’s Dome. Once you are up there, a truly breathtaking view of Rome will reveal itself to you.
St. Peter’s Cupola Entrance Price
If you decide to visit St. Peter’s Cupola you will have to pay an entrance fee, unlike for the entrance to the basilica alone – which is free. The St. Peter’s Dome entrance fee is 10 euros if you decide to take the elevator and only walk a bit less than half-way through. If you are determined to walk 551 steps in addition to the last 320, you will pay the entrance fee of 8 euros.
Saint Peter’s Cupola working hours
October 1 – March 31: 8:00 – 17:00
April 1 – September 30: 8:00 – 18:00
11. Papal Audience
The Papal Audience is a chance for the Vatican visitors to see The Pope, and receive his blessing. It is held on Wednesdays, when The Pope is in the Vatican. The papal Audience consists of readings and small lessons preached by The Pope, they are usually held in Italian, but also in English and many other languages. The Audience with the Pope ends with a joint prayer held in latin.
What not to do when visiting the Vatican!
Here is just a quick list of mistakes you should avoid making while visiting the Vatican:
- Visiting Vatican at mid-day
- Visiting Vatican on Sunday or Monday
- Not buying your tickets in advance
- Not following Vatican’s dress code
- Not booking a guided tour
More of Rome…
If you liked our Vatican Visiting Guide, and you found it useful, check out some of our other posts. After a long day of visiting the Vatican you will be hungry, so there is no harm in checking our Best Roman Foods Guide.