Make sure to buy your skip-the-line tickets online before your visit!
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The Vatican Museums
Located within the boundaries of the Vatican state, the museums occupy a significant part of its territory and comprise 54 galleries. The most famous ones, included in every guided visit, is the Pio-Clementino (museum of classic antiquities); Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian museums; the Raphael Rooms; the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of Maps, Gallery of Tapestries and of course the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican is very crowded throughout almost the entire year: not only will you have to wait in the longest line in Rome if you don’t purchase your tickets in advance, but it will also be difficult to admire the different pieces of art inside the museums, when you can hardly breathe squashed between other tourists. Plan your visit attentively, and follow our tips below!
The Gallery of Maps in low and in high season:
Tips for a few days in Rome
This page will give you many tips to avoid crowds in Rome as well as crowd schedules for top tourist attractions in order to plan your visits.
During high season (May-July, September-October, Christmas holidays) you will lose more than 3 hours in the waiting line!
It’s possible, however, to skip this whole line by booking your tickets online. There are many types of tickets to choose from, including (but not necessarily) guided tours, different sections of the museum, excursions in different languages and so on. You’ll have to queue however a little bit for the standard security check but it’s nothing compared to waiting lines for the tickets at the location. Don’t even consider not purchasing your tickets before arriving. The queue there for buying your tickets is honestly one of the worst worldwide!
If you think coming half an hour before museums’ opening is a smart solution to become the first person standing in the waiting line - forget it! During high season people start gathering at St. Peter’s Square 1h-1,5h before the opening time, especially on Saturdays. The longest waiting line to the Vatican museums are in the morning.
If you didn’t manage to get your ticket online - then the best solution would be to come at lunchtime or a bit later. The museums are open until 18:00 but some rooms and sections start closing at 17:30. For the general visit (museums, the Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica) you’ll need about 3-4 hours, that’s the average time one needs for visiting the Vatican. Thus the best way to avoid losing time would be to come to the Vatican at about 13:30 on a weekday. On Monday it is usually more crowded (as Vatican is closed for visitors on Sundays). However, every last Sunday of the month (unless it falls on an important religious holiday) the Vatican is free to visit and the Monday after would be a great option giving you the possibility to discover the site without its usual crowds.
On Wednesdays the Pope is usually at the Vatican, speaking with pilgrims and blessing believers. When the weather allows it, this takes place in St.Peter’s Square. A huge number of people are usually waiting for the Pope’s appearance, but don’t let the crowds scare you: that’s THE MOMENT to easily get into the Vatican Museum (10:00-11:00). If you’re booking the ticket online and wondering which time slot is better to avoid crowds inside - Wednesday at opening time is the best option.
The last Sunday of every month, the Vatican is free to visit. Consider spending about 4 hours in the queue if you choose this day to go to the Vatican without tickets! Even with tickets, we don’t recommend it as the crowds inside are so big, that the visit is not very comfortable.
During the low season (from the end of November to the end of February, excluding the holiday period: December-January) the queues won’t consume much of your time and they can hardly be found after 12:00 on weekdays! This is the best period to visit the Vatican.
You can’t avoid the museums, to visit only the Sistine Chapel, even if it’s the only place you want to visit. You can only access it by passing through the Vatican museums and paying the museums’ entrance ticket.
There’s a direct passage from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica: you can find a “secret door” by observing group tours (guides often take this way as it’s much shorter than the normal workaround route). You can try to join discreetly one of the groups at the place to discover this passage but then you risk missing the famous spiral staircase.
Leave more time for the Vatican Pinacoteca: it has a unique collection of Italian paintings, including works of Fra Angelico, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian.
The Sistine Chapel is always overcrowded. If you arrive in the morning - start your visit from the Chapel (yes, you’ll have to run through most museum sections, but then you can come back to them). If you plan to go to the museums in the afternoon - leave it for the end of your visit, when there will be fewer tourists left. Remember: some rooms start closing half an hour early, leaving the Sistine Chapel for the end doesn’t mean leaving it for the very last minute!
Rules and instructions
- There’s a strict dress-code at the Vatican: shoulders and knees should be covered. Nobody will let you enter in shorts or short skirts, even if you’ve been standing in the line for hours.
- Put on your most comfortable shoes: you’ll have to walk a lot!
- It’s forbidden to take photos in the Sistine Chapel.
- Don’t take big bags, rucksacks and umbrellas with you: you will be asked to leave them in the storage.
Planning your visit
If you travel just for a weekend - remember that the Vatican is closed on Sundays (unless it’s the last Sunday of the month) so you should plan your visit for Saturday. If your trip includes Friday - it would be better to visit on Friday when it’s less crowded. On Saturday, when most museums are packed with tourists, you can see the Borghese Gallery (only with reservation, think to book your ticket 2 weeks in advance): the number of visitors is limited, thus the attendance inside won’t be higher than on weekdays.
Don’t leave the Vatican for the last day: the Basilica may be closed to visitors without prior announcement if the Pope decides to visit it or if there’s a big event held in the Vatican that day. Have a day of backup, and if this happens - you’ll be able to come back the next day without missing one of the most important basilicas in the Christian world.
In case you drop your luggage at KiPoint in Termini station (to take the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino airport after) be prepared for a waiting line to get your luggage back in the evening. It takes quite a long time (you need to pay and collect your bag), add half an hour while planning your route to the airport, just to be sure that you won’t miss your flight because of this queue!
Our tips for Saint Peter's Basilica
Another roman must-see, the Basilica has her tricky tips to know to avoid hours of waiting. Choose your day and hour of visit wisely thanks to our dedicated tips here.
Vatican Museums highlights tour
- While planning your visit, keep in mind that ticket offices usually close 2 hours before museums’ closing time.
Full price: €27
Students and children over 6: €8
Children under 6: free
If booking online, you’ll have to pay a commission (€4 per ticket).
All tours and excursions can be consulted here (at the bottom of the page, you have different options).