Visiting the Vatican City is on many bucket lists – and if it isn’t on yours, then it should be! The Vatican is full of cultural, historical, architectural, and artistic significance. But for some travelers, visiting the Vatican is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That’s why it is so important to make the most of your visit to this incredible city-state.
Here are our top tips on how to visit the Vatican like a pro:
1. Plan in advance
Nothing is worse than getting to the Vatican just to find that the lines are too long, the tickets are sold out, or the attraction ticket office is already closed! Unfortunately, those things happen all the time, which is why it is best to always do your research and planning in advance. Make sure you look up the opening hours for sites like the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica (including the ticket office hours). Buy tickets in advance when you can, in case they sell out.
Most importantly, make a plan for how many sites you’re going to try to see on the same day. This can be tricky when you’re on your own; you may want to consider booking a guided tour – they’re totally worth it!
2. Visit at the right times
Dealing with crazy crowds can ruin any travel experience. And at popular attractions like the Vatican City, you’re going to run into some crowds no matter what. But visiting during off season or outside of peak hours can really make a difference! Try visiting the Vatican during the winter months (summer is tourist season), or try to book tickets to visit specific sites in either the early morning or night.
Some attractions offer special entrance times to certain tour groups before opening to the public, so try to book the best early morning Vatican tours. On the other hand, the Vatican museums are open late (until 11:00 pm) in the months between April and October - and nothing beats a beautiful tour of the Sistine Chapel at night.
3. Skip the lines to see more sites
Much like Disneyland, visiting the Vatican City involves waiting in lots of long lines. It’s worth including extra room in your budget for skip-the-line passes to some of the most popular experiences. You’ll be able to save time and see much more at a relaxed pace. Definitely look into a Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica, or Sistine Chapel skip-the-line tour – or save the most money with a combo of all three!
4. Dive in with a guided tour
Okay, here’s a definitive answer to a big question about visiting the Vatican City: yes, a guided tour of the Vatican is definitely worth it. Not only do they usually offer special features like skip-the-line access or early morning entry, but the best guides are extremely experienced locals with extensive knowledge of the Vatican. A private tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel is even better, because you have a virtually one-on-one connection with your guide. You’ll learn more than you ever expected to!
Quick tip: only some tour companies are official Vatican Tour Partners. Luckily, Gray Line I Love Rome has the official Vatican seal of approval! This means we can offer privileges other companies can’t – such as out-of-hours access to the Vatican and tours of areas that are normally off-limits to the general public.
5. Make sure you see the Pope himself!
One of the most popular experiences in the Vatican is getting to see the Pope in person. Whether you attend a Papal Audience (on Wednesdays), or watch the Pope give his blessing from his window (on Sundays), both options are free. The Papal Audience is ticketed, however, and getting tickets can be difficult. Save yourself some stress and purchase a Papal Audience and Vatican Tour ahead of time!
Do you feel prepared to plan your trip to the Vatican? If you’re on a tight schedule, you can see all of the most important sites in less than a day; but if you have more time, you may want to take a more relaxed approach to exploring this incredible place. Regardless, we’re here to help you make the most of your visit. Learn more below!
Gray Line I Love Rome is the largest provider of sightseeing bus tours in Rome, delivering the best travel experiences in Rome for over 90 years. With over 80 unique tours and over 10 language options, we can help you get the most out of your trip to Italy. Learn why our Rome day tours won the 2019 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence and book your rome tour tickets with us today.