20 tips on Visiting the Vatican Museums

The Vatican MuseumsMusei Vaticani – are among the greatest museums in the world. The site is actually a collection of museums, all inter-connected. The museums display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries. The Vatican Museums were begun by Pope Julius II in the early 1500’s. The Museums include the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Classical Antiquities (Greek and Roman), Pio Christian Museum, Pinacoteca Wing, and the Missionary-Ethnological Museum and then there’s the Palace!

As you can see, it can be a full day! Visiting the Vatican is an incredible experience… but if you’re not prepared it can be overwhelming, exhausting, and even frustrating. The following twenty tips are based on my experiences in the Museums and will help you better enjoy your visit!

1 – The Vatican Museums DO accept credit cards AT THE TICKET OFFICE… but often these booths are limited to one or two and sometimes not even open. Thus, this is one of the spots in Rome where I would take cash! The entrance fee is €15 (eff. Jan 2010) and if you have students, their fee is €8. They are pretty open to giving you the student fee, unlike anywhere else in Rome where you have to be an EU citizen or your country has an agreement with Italy. But then again, this is a different country!

You can pre-purchase tickets to skip-the-line for €19 at the Vatican Online Ticket Office . Recently for online ordering, they created a student or child option – make sure you bring a student ID (if you look “older” than college age) or you may be forced to pay full price upon arrival. So if you are going on a Holiday week, a Saturday or Monday, or early morning, you might want to pay extra to avoid the longer lines. For more info on the “line strategy” at the Vatican, see my post on Vatican Museums – Do I Pre-Book or Not?

2 – As you near the Vatican and St. Peter’s, you will be set upon by young, English-speaking kids proclaiming, “Do you speak English? English-speaking tours starting in a few minutes.” Often times they will tell you that the lines are 1 1/2 – 2 hours longs and they can help you “skip the line.” Frankly, since the inception of the new extended hours in 2007, the lines are no where near what they used to be. So be forewarned… I just avoid these folks because they often make false or misleading claims… The tours they give tend to be inconsistent depending on which guide you get. Some ARE quite good… others not so much.

3 – Dress Appropriately. Rules in Italy are inconsistently and randomly enforced (Have you seen how we drive here? ). But if there is a place where the DRESS RULES are enforced, it’s at the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. You do not want to pre-purchase tickets, or wait in line, only to be told at the the door you cannot enter! The guidelines are fairly the same FOR MEN AND WOMEN: Shoulders and knees must be covered. If you wear a sun dress bring a shawl or scarf to cover your shoulders. Tights seem to be okay. But don’t wear a tank top and shorts and expect to get in. They are adamant about enforcing these rules!

Many websites will tell you that the “rules” are different for the Vatican Museums than they are for St. Peter’s Basilica. Yes and No! If you are going from the Museum to the Basilica the “back way” then you will have to dress correctly, as the rules are MORE adamantly enforced at the Basilica. In addition, if you plan on entering the Sistine Chapel, they often monitor guests entering. Don’t make this mistake and NOT dress correctly. Like most rules in Italy, it depends on who is enforcing them at the door … and once you’ve been “told NO,” they will not back down. Debating will not work!

IMG 6043

4 – There are some “differences” between the Basilica and the Museums. First, the Museums cost money (€15) and St. Peter’s Basilica is free… The Vatican Museum entrance is on the north side of the “city”, on Viale Vaticano . The Entrance to the Basilica is through St. Peter’s Square, which is on the EAST side of the “Vatican city.” This Google Map might make it easier to understand. Use the “+” or “-” keys to zoom in and out, or your mouse to “pull” the map as necessary. The red marker represent bus stops for buses headed AWAY from the Centro area of town… and the yellow markers are buses head back downtown.

For a larger Google map you can print out, Click Here!

The red pin, located in the bottom center of the map is the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. It sits in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. The green pin, located above and slightly to the left on this map (NORTH) is the entrance to the Vatican Museums. It’s about a 12-15 minute walk, around the city walls, from one entrance to the other. The odd-shaped, grey outline you see in the center of the map is the wall of Vatican city. So the entire country, the smallest in the world, fits in a few blocks in Rome!

Also on this map… the “man ” figures are public rest rooms. Outside St. Peter’s there are three – one on either side of the Square, one on the lower level of the Basilica, and the last (top right) is outside the city next to Il Passetto. There are also rest rooms at the entrance in the Museums and a few select spots through the Museum (at the entrance, just off Pine Cone Courtyard, down below the Pinacoteca Wing, off the Raphael rooms, and just below Sistine Chapel for example…)

The bus markers denote where the closest buses stop are. I’m not going to try and get into all the bus routes… but here are the easiest. Starting bottom right, you can click on the numbers for details, is the #64 bus (Red #9 and #10 – yellow #8). You can catch this bus starting at Termini but BE CAREFUL. This is the infamous pickpocket bus! Ride at your own risk!

Just above that, the bus with the #9 red marker in it is the bus which will drop you closest to the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the #62 bus stop, which is adjacent to Il Passetto. When riding this bus, you’ll drive directly TOWARD the St. Peter’s (great view). Push the button when you see it and get off at the next stop.

There are many markers representing stops for buses #23 and #492. These are two buses that are GREAT to get to the Vatican area from many parts of town. Other buses do stop at these stops, but these are the easiest! I’d check at the ATAC site for more info. There is also a bus stop just outside the vatican Museum entrance, but the bus that stops there, #49 (#8 red), will only help you if you’re coming from Piazza Cavour, or the WEST side of town.

You can also see the two metro stops that are near the Vatican. The Vatican Museums are located about centrally between the Cipro and Ottaviano stations. If I was headed to the Vatican Museums, I’d probably get off at Cipro. Go up the stairs of the station, turn RIGHT at the top of the stairs, turn RIGHT again immediately, and now you’re walking southeast on Via Fra Albenzio. Follow this road, pass in front of a church (on your right). Cross the street, Via Angelo Emo, and you’ll see a HUGE staircase in front of you (You’ll see the Vatican walls directly in front of you also!). Climb these stairs and once you’re at the top, you’re on Viale Vaticano – the street the Museum entrance is on. TURN LEFT and walk down the hill … the entrance to the Vatican Museums will be on the right side of the street as you approach.

IMG 6013This is the staircase (on the right as you exit the station) leaving the CIPRO Metro. Go up these stairs!
IMG 6011At the top of these stairs, TURN RIGHT (See the brown Museo Vaticani sign!)…
and then make ANOTHER immediate right!
IMG 6007Follow this sidewalk after you make the immediate right…
head towards the Church you see on the top right side of this picture!
IMG 6004As you approach the Church (on your right) you’ll see this apartment building in front of you. Head to the opening on the LEFT side of this apartment buidling. (The crosswalk is to your right in this picture)
IMG 6001On the left side of the building above is this staircase. Walk to the top and you are on Viale Vaticano! TURN LEFT to head to the entrance of the Museums. The walls you see at the top of this staircase are the walls of Vatican City.

If you’re headed to the Basilica from the Metro, better to get off at Ottaviano, and head south on Via Ottaviano, directly to the Square. You’ll see the heads and shoulders of statues on top of a wall in the distance. This is St. Peter’s Square… just keep walking south and you’ll hit St. Peter’s Square.

IMG 6015Here’s a picture of the sign in the Ottaviano metro station.
IMG 6017Here’s the view once you exit the Ottaviano metro. In the FAR distance, you ca n see the whites of the statues that flank St. Peter’s Square. Head south towards them!

If you’re not into public transportation, there is a taxi stand just outside the entrance to the Vatican Museum and also one just across from St. Peter’s Square. The taxis will queue up in both locations.

5 – Yes, you can go from the Vatican Museums directly to St. Peter’s Basilica. Okay, you can and you can’t! Once you walk through the Museums 1+ mile, you come to the end of the line… the Sistine Chapel. After you’ve spent your time in the Chapel you can leave through two doors. As you walk, with the Last Judgment BEHIND you , the door on the LEFT takes you back through the Museum and BACK to the entrance you came in on Viale Vaticano. And back to Cipro or Ottaviano Metro Stations. You would be walking back through the Library section of the Vatican Museums.


But if you want to go to the Basilica (and save yourself about 30-40 minutes of walking), take the RIGHT door. Now, honestly… you’re breaking the rules. The RIGHT door is reserved for “guided tour groups.” As of late, there has been a guard on the door and, by the rules, only tour groups are allowed to depart through this door. The guided tour group companies – that pay the Vatican fees – are unhappy that everyone (including you!) will try to use this door. So, in the past, while there has been a half-hearted attempt to prevent abuse of this door, the climate has changed as of late. Frankly, I’ve been in the Vatican Museums 100+ times and been turned away twice. So in the past, the odds WERE in your favor. Half the time the guard is no where NEAR the door. And other times, they could care less. But now, there seems to be more pressure by the tour groups and thus more presence and enforcement by the guards.

Here’s why it’s such a GREAT deal to cut through these doors. This Sistine Chapel EXIT door is less than 200 yards from St. Peter’s Basilica entrance. 200 yards! If you cannot go this way, you have to go ALL THE WAY BACK THROUGH THE MUSEUMS (about 3/4 mile), exit the Museums on Viale Vaticano , and then walk AROUND the walls of the city… add another 2/3 mile… then you have to WAIT IN LINE in St. Peter’s Square and go through X-Ray security again. So 200 yards vs. almost 1.5 miles and a security line… You will save about 40-45 minutes if you go through the RIGHT door. There’s no doubt why EVERYONE wants to cut through these doors if they are headed to St. Peter’s Basilica (see the map below)!

Vatican-line Sistine ChapelThe picture above is taken just after you exit the hallway below the Sistine Chapel… that’s St. Peter’s Basilica on the right side of the picture – it’s that close! The people in the line on the right side of the picture are headed to the tombs, the lower level of the Basilica.

Here’s a map of the trip you’ll have to make if you cannot go through the group tour exit… This is from an older Vatican site map.

On this map, you start at #22, the entrance to the Vatican Museums. You’ll eventually work your way through the Museums maze to the Sistine Chapel, #9 circled in purple on the map. You can see how FAR you’ve come and how CLOSE you are to St. Peter’s Basilica. The photo of the exit, captioned above, is just to the LEFT of the #9 on this map. But if you cannot get through this door….. you have to turn around, exit the left side door of the Sistine Chapel … and walk all the way back to #22 on the map. Yes, the only exit (other than this tour group door) is back at the entrance! Then, as you can see on the map, you have to walk all the way around the walls, following the purple arrows, to St. Peter’s Square – where you get to wait in line to go through security (AGAIN).

If you plan to take the “secret” doorway to St. Peter’s from the Sistine Chapel, I would offer this advice. One of the most famous objects in the Vatican Museums is the Spiral Staircase (pictured below). The Spiral Staircase IS NOW the exit ramp OUT OF the Vatican Museums, but only if you’ve come back through the LEFT door in the Sistine Chapel and walked through the museum. If you DO NOT plan to take this door, then here is what I would suggest you do so you get to the see this famous staircase.

vatican stairs

After you leave the ticket booth area at the entrance, go through the turn stiles and enter the Museums, you will go up a very long escalator. At the top of this escalator EVERYONE heads straight. Don’t! Go immediately to your right and head north (back in the opposite direction of the escalator). You’ll come into an “open area” and directly to your LEFT will be the famous staircase. Walk over to it, stand at the top, and get your pictures and your view of the staircase…. then head back the way you came – back to the staircase and head into the Museums! Don’t go down it as it’s one way and this IS THE EXIT!

6 – Many people say I do not want to see the Museums, just the Sistine Chapel. As you can see from above, that’s really not possible. In order TO GET to the Sistine Chapel you have to walk through the museums . But you can use another “shortcut.” After you’ve walked, and walked, and walked… you’ll go through the Gallery of Maps (the Map Room), and after exiting, you will go through another room of Tapestries… then you’ll come to a dead end…

Directly in front of you is an doorway with an undecorated hallway. This is the DIRECT path to the Sistine Chapel. Most other folks will be turning LEFT and heading to the Raphael Rooms from which they will take a seemingly endless trek back to the Sistine Chapel. But if you GO STRAIGHT from the Gallery of Maps room, through the Tapestry room, and into this doorway, you’ll go through an unspectacular hallway and end up just outside the Sistine Chapel… so if you’re looking for the fastest path, this is the way!

On the other hand, if you want to see the Raphael Rooms (which I recommend) then take a left at in this tapestry room and follow the crowd. You will walk through the incredibly beautiful paintings of Raphael (probably packed with people…) and then you will take a circuitous route and end up at a set of stairs BELOW the Sistine Chapel. Be warned. The Raphael Rooms are GREAT but you will have to walk , and walk, and walk up and down stairs through the modern art wing of the Palace if you take this route. This walk takes 8-10 minutes AFTER you leave the Raphael Rooms.

7 – Yes, you can go DIRECTLY to the Sistine Chapel and then double back to see the Museums. Okay, but it’s a little tricky as the Museums are primarily ONE-WAY traffic. Once you are in the Sistine Chapel, exit through the Left Door and head back through the Library towards the front entrance. Eventually you will go down a flight of stairs, bear to the left and come to the LAST Gift Shop. Once you go through this Gift Shop, try and GO RIGHT. They may have this blocked by a rope (they have been re-directing folks for a couple of months while they do work)… But if you get stopped just ask, “Where is the Post Office?” Once back at the post office, you’re directly over the entrance and by the famous spiral staircase — WHICH IS THE EXIT. Do not GO DOWN the staircase as that is the point of NO RETURN, just head back into the Museums!!! I’ve done it many times – and actually have never been stopped.

8. Take food and water. Okay, it’s not quite that long a trek, but it can seem like it. There are very limited places to get food or water in the Museums. Outside a few of the bathrooms there are drink vending machines but the selections are limited, the areas are crowded, and often the machines are not full. Don’t take any chances. Take water/drink with you and some snacks. Now, don’t plan on spreading out a picnic on the floor of the Sistine Chapel with wine and cheese… but do take something as you’ll be here a few hours! Also, be discrete.

9. Conversely, you will be going through an X-ray machine, so don’t bring any weapons with you. Along these same lines, if you come with a VERY large backpack into the Museums you will have to check it – right here at this entrance. This IS NOT good news if you plan to use the “St. Peter’s Basilica” door in the Sistine Chapel. Once you check your backpack or oversized bag… you will have to walk all the way back to the entrance to retrieve it. So folks carrying EXTRA-Large camera gear and large backpacks, you’ve been warned. You will not be able to use the shortcut to St. Peter’s Basilica if you have to return to retrieve your large bag. Leave those at your hotel/B&B!

And if it’s raining and you take a large umbrella (or probably anything but a portable) they will make you check it. We found this out the hard way as one of our friends had a long, standard umbrella. We had to check it, walk back through the museums, and then over to the Basilica. So only bring a portable umbrella you can stick in your purse or bag…

On the other hand, the cloakroom is quite convenenient for checking your luggage. Yes, if you’re in a rush from the airport, or you’ve had to check out of your apartment, you can store you luggage here while you tour the Museums. (The Basilica also has a storage area.) They tend to frown on really large pieces but they will take them. A friend of ours stored his guitar there while he toured the museums.

10. If you need a rest room, use the one at the entrance. After you get through the X-Ray Machines, head towards the left side of the room, left of the staircase (where you go up to get your tickets) and you’ll see the hallway that leads DOWN to the bathrooms. A vending machine is also in the area if you forgot your water. There are other bathrooms – sometimes a little disguised – as you walk through the Museum, but this is certainly the most convenient! Others include, but are not limited to: the post office near the spiral staircase, the stairs to your left just after you leave the Pine Cone Courtyard, under the Pinacoteca wing, off the last Raphael Room, and outside the Sistine Chapel. There are others, but these are probably the most frequented.

11. As many locals suggest, take time to tour the Pinacoteca. This wing of the Museum is a delight. To get there, as you come up the entry escalator (or back from the spiral staircase viewing), rather than take the left that EVERYONE else takes as they get on the fast-track to the Sistine Chapel, GO RIGHT. In this gallery, you’ll see the last painting of Raphael (and in the room before it, one by his father), plus works by Da Vinci and Caravaggio. And there is one of the few reproductions of Michelangelo’s Piéta – you’ll see the original in the St. Peter’s Basilica but you can’t get as close as you can here. Due to an attack on the Piéta in 1972, the original in St. Peter’s Basilica sits behind 2 inches of bullet proof glass!

12. For the best info on the Vatican schedule, go to The Vatican Website. On this page you’ll find links for history of the sites, the museum hours of operation, and a link to buy tickets online. The Museums are closed on Vatican Holidays and on Sundays. The exception being the last Sunday of the month which is FREE (We’ll talk about that below). The “scheduled” dates for closure in 2012 are

  • January 1, 6
  • February 11
  • March 19
  • Easter and the Monday after Easter – April 8, 9
  • May 1
  • June 29 (St. Peter and Paul)
  • August 15, 16
  • November 1
  • December 8 (Immaculate Conception), 25, 26

The Vatican is closed on Catholic religious holidays so the remainder of Rome is often still operating. The Basilica is often open (like on Sundays) even when the Museum is closed. Here’s the calendar for 2012 (from their website).

13. The best days to go to the Vatican are…. Everyone has an opinion on this! My “best” two days are Tuesday and Thursday. This is more a process of elimination. Never go on FREE SUNDAYS unless you enjoy being herded like cattle. On a Free Sunday, the Museum is open from 9:00 AM, with last entry at 12:30 PM. The Museum then closes at 2:00 PM and starts chasing people out at 1;30 PM. I’ve seen people wait in line 2+ hours on FREE SUNDAY… only to be subjected to the BIGGEST crowds ever inside the Museum. NO THANKS!

Avoid Mondays because the Museums are usually closed on Sunday so folks with limited time in town HAVE to go on Monday. I say avoid Wednesdays if the Pope is in town and doing a Papal Audience. The Museums are LESS crowded in the AM while he is speaking, but then the 10,000 – 25,000 people at the outdoor Papal Audience head for the Museums and Basilica when he is finished, so it can get very crowded. Also, while he is doing the outdoor audience, the RIGHT side door of the Sistine Chapel is locked because you are not allowed to go to the Basilica (It’s closed while he is addressing the crowd) – security issues! Saturday is the day that many Italians come into town and they go to the Museums so that day lines tend to be longer…

So that leaves Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday… in that order! If you go in the afternoon, you’ll probably never have to wait in line. I usually plan to enter the Museums about 12 noon – 1300 (1 PM). The last entry is 1600 (4 PM) and you can stay in the Museums until 1800 (6 PM), but they will start herding you to the exits about 1730 (5:30 PM). Do make sure you get to the Sistine Chapel before 17:15 (5:15 PM) or your stay will be VERY brief!

I’ve never had to use the “skip the line” tickets as I live across the street from the Museum Entrance and walk by there often. My first time here years and years ago I did wait in line 2+ hours. That was before the extended hours and before I learned the patterns. Now I’ve waited NO MORE than 5 minutes to enter the museum. So plan accordingly and you’ll be fine. The only exception I would make on pre-buying is if there are holidays that week and the Museums will be closed (XMAS and Easter for example) , if you have extremely limited time, or you are locked into going on a Monday, Saturday, etc. Any holiday or closure usually compounds the lines for two days on either side!

14. Yes, you can take pictures in the Museums – so do bring your camera. As we said earlier, don’t bring that HUGE camera bag (larger than a backpack) or they will make you check the bag. You can take pictures ALMOST everywhere in the Museum, with the exception of the Sistine Chapel. There are places where FLASH is not allowed, and you’ll get yelled at if you do so!

sistine©Vatican Museums and Galleries, Vatican City, Italy

No pictures, No photo!” You’ll hear this mantra over and over by the security staff in the Sistine Chapel. Why can’t you take pictures in the Sistine Chapel? In the past, the copyright for the images was owned by by Nippon TV, a Japanese channel best known for its quiz shows and baseball coverage. They underwrote the cleaning and restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes in return for exclusive media rights to the restored ceiling. You might read this controversial book, Sayonara, Michelangelo: The Sistine Chapel Restored and Repackaged or see this wikipedia article for info on the resoration. The Lithurgical Office of Apostolic (Papal) Celebrations, has “control” over the the rights now. The restoration work took almost 15 years for these masterpieces. Nippon TV reportedly paid $3-4 million for the restoration. Of course, there are many different stories about the “restoration agreement.”

15. Do you need a guide? Of all the places I go, the Colosseo, Forum, Palatine Hill…. and the Vatican are places where I believe a guide will enhance your experience. There is just SO MUCH to see in the Vatican. I’ve read there are SEVEN MILES of corridors in the Palaces. No wonder people get worn out! But if you do not take a guide, at least have a podcast, a few good books, and a LOT OF TIME. You can rent headsets which, although not as good as many guides, can help you tremendously. But if you rent the headsets… you will have to leave ID (DO leave your driver’s license and NEVER your passport!) and unfortunately you will have to come back to the entrance of the Museums to drop off the headset and get your ID… thus you WILL NOT be able to take the shortcut to St. Peter’s Basilica. So plan accordingly.

16. The best Post Office in Italy… is not in Italy! It’s in Vatican City. There are actually three post offices in Vatican City which YOU can use. And trust me, the poor reputation of the Italian Postal Service is well earned. Many eBay vendors NEVER ship to Italy as the products never “get here.” Whenever we mail out things to the States, we walk over to the Vatican and use their postal service. We actually walk BY an Italian Post Office to get there. If you mail from the Vatican, you buy your stamps in the Vatican, and the articles must be mailed FROM the Vatican. The stamps are no good in Italy…

The three post offices you can go to are in primarily two locations. There are two post offices in St, Peter’s Square. Most folks are aware of the post office on the LEFT side of the Square facing the Basilica. This is the larger one and it is in the Charlemagne colonnade. The other is in the Constantine colonnade, on the right side of the Square,. It is up under the colonnade, where Il Passetto comes into the Palace (almost under the Pope’s bedroom window!). The third post office is INSIDE the Vatican Museum. It’s right before the EXIT spiral staircase… or as we told you earlier, to the immediate right as you get off the entry escalator.

Here’s a tip. Buy your postcards a day or so in advance. Write your notes, fill in your addresses, and then come prepared. Buy your stamps and drop your outgoing mail into the Vatican Post Office boxes. To mail a postcard to the USA it is currently about 80 cents. A letter runs about 85 cents. You’ll see many people buying postcards in the Vatican and sitting down and writing out postcard after postcard… and you have to because you UNLESS you’re coming back to the Vatican, you will not be able to mail these in Italy. Nothing is more frustrating to these folks than NOT having an address or zip code for someone…. so do yours in advance and save yourself some time and frustration!

IMG 6021The Vatican Post Office under the Pope’s window (Constantine Colonnade)

17. Believe or not, there are pickpockets in the Vatican! Yes, it’s true. One of my friends is a tour guide and he was pickpocketed (unfortunately AFTER he had collected his fees) and lost his wallet and money. Another friend had his money clip “removed” from his pocket. So do be aware. It can get VERY crowded with the large tour groups shuffling through and thus bad things can happen. So do wear a money belt, neck pouch, or secure your belongings. Unbelievable…. but true.

18. Signage in the Vatican is consistent with signage on the roads of Italy – often misleading and confusing. At some points there are signs directing you to the Sistine Chapel pointing in opposite directions! It’s just that there are different ways to get there through the seemingly endless corridors. Be patient, ask a security guard or any guide giving a tour for help… and most will point you in the right direction. They’re used to dealing with tired and confused tourists.


19. The Vatican is wheelchair accessible – Well, sort of. I took a friend of a friend through the Museum who was in her eighties. We talked her into using a wheelchair and that was a WISE decision. There are elevators throughout the Museums, although sometimes we had to wait for an attendant. Thus we were able to navigate the Museums. There are many sets of stairs so we were also fortunate to be able to bypass these. Our elderly guest was treated almost reverently by the security personnel. And we were delighted that she did not have to try and walk the Museum. It made everyones’ day brighter. We “borrowed” the wheelchair from the “checked articles” counter at the entrance to the Museum. We had to leave passport info, but NOT the passport. And of course, we also had to come back to the entrance to drop off the wheelchair. Well worth it for her. Do know they have a limited amount of loaner wheelchairs as on another trip with an eldery guest they were all check out. Without the wheelchair, we did the best we could.

20. Many parts of the Vatican Museums do not have air-conditioning. In some rooms, it can get quite stuffy. Newer wings, like the Pinacoteca, have small. portable AC units. But be prepared if you go in the summer as it can quite HOT. I’d definitely wear lightweight clothing and take water in the summer.

For some popular Vatican Tour options, click on any of these links:
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Tour of Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and St Peter’s
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Half-Day Walking Tour
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Tickets
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Tour
Skip the Line Private Tour: Vatican Museums Walking Tour
Skip the Line Private Tour: Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Art History Walking Tour
Private Viewing of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums

Hopefully these tips will help you have a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience in the Vatican Museums. Another option: Let me book a private tour for you. I recently booked a private, after-hours tour for a family with a local guide. They visited St. Peter’s and then headed over to the Vatican Museums for an evening tour. They told me they had an incredible experience and were able to avoid most of the crowds! their local guide brought the Sistine Chapel to life! Contact Me for more information on using a private guide to see the Museums.

Whatever option you choose… I know you will have an incredible time – Good Luck!

Header: Piazza San Pietro at Night – Photo by SEIMA


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71 Responses to 20 tips on Visiting the Vatican Museums

  1. Ilona says:

    Hi, Ron, you are realy great! Your advice about RIGHT DOOR works perfectly! Could I make my coment. Realy there are some toilet rooms in your way through the Vatican museums but only one buffet- just befor Sistine Chapel! So catch your chance and have a little rest befor the greatest impression in your live (I meen Sistine Chapel and St Peter)! Good luck and thank you!

  2. Vladyta says:

    Best advice on Vatican! Thanks so much. We saved so much time (and our sanity) by following your instructions. I’m def passing on your post to friends who will be visiting Vatican soon. Awesome work.

  3. Ron in Rome says:


  4. Ron in Rome says:

    Anything bigger than a standard messenger bag and you will may have to check it.
    And once – I’ve been in there 150+ times doing tours – they even made my check my messenger bag (which I had the other 149 times!).
    A travel umbrella is okay, but they make you check a Standard size umbrella. But like all of Italy, the rules are open to interpreatation ny the guards… go smaller than a standard messenger bag and you’ll be fine. Anything big, bulky, or broad may get checked.

    Good Luck,

  5. Kim says:

    For the security check at the Vatican and St Peter’s define “large backpack”. Are you referring to the super big packs that travelers use when back packing that have all their belongings? We always travel with a normal size back pack (LL Bean) to hold water bottles, travel umbrella, etc. Would that be something they would make you check? We will also have a “purse” with us (technically a diaper bag with lots of pockets and zippers) which would be a bit more difficult to lug around, but would that be a better choice. All important items are kept in a money belt under our clothes.

  6. chiu says:

    Awesome blog! Thanks for all your tips very helpful!

  7. Herbert says:

    We went to Rome for three days in this year’s Holy Week, so it was quite crowded everywhere. Using the Roma pass for the Colosseum, buying tickets for the Vatican museums online and tip number 5 about exiting the Sistine chapel saved us lots of queuing time.
    Thank you Ron for providing lots of information to make our trip so much easier.

  8. Sanket says:

    Thank you so much for this extremely helpful info.

    Am in Rome & was searching for any kind of info and found your blog. Thank you :-)

  9. Sanket says:

    Thank you for the tips. Its extremely helpful.

  10. Nita says:

    Your blog is awesome!
    I followed what you said re: Vatican tips.
    I went on a Tuesday, 9am to St Peter’s BAsilica. NO LINE.
    I went that afternoon, around 1130-12noon to VAtican Museum. Again, NO LINE.
    I rode BUS 571 going to the Basilica and Cipro metro going back. No problems. Thanks to your map.
    Your blog is awesome! Have I told you that? 😉

  11. Jan says:

    Hello Ron

    We are 4 friends visiting Rome on 6th – 11th July this year and stumbling across your website has been excellent in preperation and tips! Thank you.

  12. Isabella Oyairo says:


    Thank you so much for this site. I followed your guide and got to the museum successful. I was also in a hurry as I was late for my booking time and your photos were a lifesaver.

  13. Donald says:

    My wife and I went to the Vatican today and I wanted to send you a sincere thank you for all of your wonderful tips; the highlight of which is the right hand door exit from the Sistine Chapel. That tip saved us an insane amount of time as the line to get in to St. Peter’s was enormous.

    Thank you!!

  14. Angelsera says:

    Hi, read your post before going to the Vatican. Was quite helpful and we took the shortcut to St.Peter’s too. We had our 1 yr old baby w us m his patience is limited esp in crowds. So your tips were v useful

  15. Suzy says:

    Just used your tips on our visit to the Vatican. Very helpful!! Thank you!

  16. Nour Elzaim says:

    Our visit to the Vatican and its museums was fabulous, thanks to your advise.
    The description was so acurate, it helped us see the best of the best and save us time.
    Thank you!

  17. roisin says:

    We followed your advice and visited the vatican museum and Sistine Chapel on Thurday afternoons..it was a delight.no queue, plenty of room to browse and meander through the museums. We had heard that often the Sistine Chapel is so busy that visitors are rushed through “herded”, whereas we had a lovely visit..time to sit and reflect ..it was beautiful. We were allowed through the door on the right hand side which greatly shortened our walk to the Basillica ..thanks for the advice.

  18. Matt K says:

    Thanks! We followed your instructions on the secret entrance from the Sistine Chapel and all worked fine, saved a lot of time…. Just follow some tour groups through or someone looking like they’ve been split up from thier group….

  19. Stephanie Moreno says:

    My husband and I are going to Rome in July for the sole purpose to tour the Vatican. Any other historical sites will just be icing on the cake. Your tips have been extremely helpful! Thank you!! :)

  20. Winnie says:

    Hi Ron,

    I will be going to Rome in May and would like to visit the Vatican Museum. I will reach at 8th May 12.30pm and leave on 10th May 1pm. That leaves me one day to visit the Vatican, which is 9th May, a Wednesday. Do you know how I can find out what are the dates that the Pope will be there?

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