Vatican City: tips for your visit

During your stay in the ancient city of Rome, you cannot miss Vatican City. In the smallest independent state in the world (but probably the most touristy) you can spend a few hours. Sounds fun a visit to this holy state, however it certainly comes with a whole manual. In this article I will explain you everything you need to know before you visit the Vatican City!

Tips prior to your visit

As mentioned before, it is not easy peasy lemon squeezy to visit Vatican City. There are queues that exists of hundreds of people, tourist traps and annoying Italians. For that reason, make sure to take these things into account:

Make sure to know what you want to see

Vatican City is incredibly large and full with tourists. It most certainly is not necessary to see everything to have a good impression of the state. Later in this article, I give a brief explanation of all the sights and I give my honest opinion on whether I thought it was worth the visit. If you want to make it your mission to see everything, make sure you are prepared in advance.

book your tickets in advance

Nothing is more terrible than standing in line for hours on a sunny day. Fortunately, we had booked our tickets online in advance so we could walk past this long line. I explain the exact process of booking tickets at the bottom of the article. This is done at the end of the article because it is important that you know what you are booking for.

wear the right clothing

The Vatican has fairly strict rules when it comes to clothing. You must of course look perfect in the unlikely event that you encounter the Pope. The rules are fairly simple and apply to both women and men: shoulders and knees must be covered. In addition, you may not wear anything on your head. If you have been stubborn and still put on shorts, no worries, the Vatican is prepared for everything: they have a beautiful plastic costume at the entrance waiting for you.

All sights in Vatican City

In total, it is possible to enter three things in the Vatican City: the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. The large square in front of the basilica is already an attraction in itself. We have only visited the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel since the queue for St. Peter’s Basilica was simply too long. Below is a detailed description per attraction.

St. Peter’s basilica

sint-petersbasiliek in vaticaanstad

In Rome they have the rule that you are not allowed to ask for money to let someone enter a church, which means that all churches can be visited for free and so can the Saint Peter’s Basilica. The disadvantage of this is that everyone wants to go inside and a line is formed very early. It is, however, possible to purchase skip-the-line tickets so that you do not have to stand in line and it is also possible to purchase tour tickets for which you do not have to wait.

Furthermore, it is possible, again for payment, to get to the top of the basilica to take the well-known photo with a view of the square and the rest of Rome. If that’s on your bucketlist, you are more than welcome to once again stand in a long line.

Tip: If you want to make your visit to Rome and especially the Vatican more exciting, it is nice to read Dan Brown’s book Angels and Demons (or the Bernini mystery) or just like me watch the movie. This mysterious thriller about murder, faith and history will certainly make your visit to Rome a lot more interesting.

Vatican Museums

The second popular attraction in Vatican City are the Vatican Museums. These are connected to the Sistine Chapel and it is therefore only possible to get to the chapel if you have tickets for the museum. We had booked these tickets in advance on the official website. More information about booking can be found at the bottom of the article.

Our taxi dropped us off just before the long line in front of the museum, we were on the taxi since public transport stopped on that day, still if there weren’t a strike, it is also very easy to get there by metro or bus. When we got out, it immediately became very pleasant because several Italians approached us and tried to sell us something. Don’t fall for this!

After we walked past the queue, great feeling by the way, our tickets were scanned, we went through security and we were actually inside. The museum has its own restaurant, but once you enter the corridors it takes a while before you can get food or drink. So make sure you have something to drink with you.

Tip: if you do not want to spend money on an audio tour but still learn more about the Vatican, then download the app from ‘Rick Steves Audio Europe’. Steves has made various audio tours of famous sights in Europe and there are also some from Rome in between. The app is completely free, nice American but certainly a cheap option!

vaticaanstad binnenplein

I’m going to be very honest by saying that I am not a fan of the Vatican museums and would definitely not visit them again. There are a number of special things to see but the museum is also full of statues to fill up the space. 

I feel it is primarily a major tourist trap where they have filled it as much as possible with images, paintings and carpets to make the experience last longer and to attract even more tourists. It is also really annoyingly busy inside.

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Sistine chapel

All these long corridors of the museums eventually take you to the Sistine Chapel. A few small steps that are not good for you if you have claustrophobia and you arrive in the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos here.

Now I’m going to be very honest again, this chapel disappointed us too. It is again a large sea full of people who are looking upwards and who therefore do not watch where they are walking. We wanted to listen to another podcast from Rick Stevens only after 5 minutes we already had the tendency to push everyone over so we went outside again. Don’t get me wrong, Michelangelo’s murals are beautiful, but that’s it.

Then we sat down in the courtyard opposite the Pinacoteca and we had to recover for about 1.5 hours, but luckily in the sun.

I was slightly disappointed that we had not yet come across the beautiful round staircase that I had seen in the pictures on Pinterest. Fortunately this staircase was the exit. 

Trap-Vaticaanstad

Conclusion

If you have read everything carefully you will see that I am fairly negative about the entire visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. That’s right. I absolutely do not recommend that you go inside. Anyway, it is such a bucket list thing, right? I totally agree. For that reason, you have to consider for yourself whether you want to visit these two sights.

If I had to do it again, I would only try to get to St. Peter’s Basilica and I would leave the museums and chapel behind. In the end, I think the square is the most special thing to see.

Tickets for Vatican city

If you now think: ‘hm I really must go there once’ then I will finally give you tips for booking tickets, which surprisingly went very smoothly. I have done a lot of research into what are the best and cheapest tickets and I actually come to the conclusion that the tickets from the own Vatican City website are the cheapest.

website Vatican city

Regular price €17,00
Price with discount €8,00
Regular price with audio tour €24,00
Price with discount with audio tour €15,00
Price with discount with audio tour for kids €13,00
Extra fee (for booking online) €4,00

You are entitled to the discount if you are 6 to 18 years old, or a student up to 25 years old. Please note, you must bring a student card! If you do not have this with you, you still have to pay the full amount. You pay the extra € 4.00 because you order online, see it as a sort of skip-the-line ticket.

Tourist card

Are you planning to visit many other museums in Rome? Then there is also the option to purchase a tourist card. The Roma pass, for example, gives you access to a museum in 48 hours, free public transport and discounts at other museums for € 28.00. Perhaps useful if you have to pay the full price for the Vatican and also want to travel by public transport. Still, it was certainly not cheaper for us.

Hopefully I was able to help you with this manual. Would you still want to visit Vatican City?

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