Visit the Vatican in Rome: tickets, prices, opening hours

Visiter le Vatican à Rome, guide complet

How to visit the Vatican, what to do and what to see in this city-state known as the Holy See? Follow our guide to the Vatican!

No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Vatican. The world’s smallest state lies just west of the Tiber and is visited by millions of pilgrims and tourists every year. While most travelers visit the city’s must-see sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, there’s much more to see and do when you visit the Vatican.

Our complete dossier on the Vatican will help you organize your visit in the best possible way. Follow the guide step by step!

Tickets, Prices, Schedule

Our 4 ways to visit the Vatican:

Book a combined ticket:

Generation voyage Editorial opinion
« The ticket including the 3 monuments Vatican + Mount Palatine + Colosseum is the best value for a first trip to Rome ».

Vatican timetable

  • 🕛 St Peter’s Basilica: From April 1 to September 30, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. From October 1 to March 31, it is open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • 🕛 B asilica dome: Winter opening hours (October to March): daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Summer opening hours (April to September): 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • 🕛 S istine Chapel & Vatican Museums: open Monday to Thursday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (last admission 5:45 pm). Friday and Saturday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (last entry at 7:45 pm).

Getting to the Vatican

Metro: Line A, Ottaviano or Cipro stop

By bus: lines 492, 49, 23 and 81.

What to see and do in the Vatican

1. The Vatican Museums

Escaliers en spirale au Vatican

The spiral staircase in the museum – Photo credit: Flickr – Rene Cunningham

The Vatican Museums, of which there are 11, are considered among the finest museums in the world, housing many of the most famous masterpieces of painting, sculpture and art collected by popes over the centuries. Single admission for an adult is €16. You might consider booking your ticket online (€4 extra, on the official website) to avoid long queues. Please note that the entrance to the museum is not in St. Peter’s Square, but a 10-15 minute walk to the right of it. Check this map. Also check the website for closing days, of which there are many throughout the year.

How to visit the Vatican Museums without queuing?

– You can buy tickets for the Vatican Museums in advance via the official Vatican website. This means you won’t have to queue on site to buy tickets. You will, however, have to wait in a short queue for others like you, who have booked tickets in advance and need to collect them. You’ll also have to go through security, just like everyone else.

– You can purchase theOmnia Card. This pass also entitles you to a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, as above. The Omnia Card also offers entry to other monuments in the Vatican and Rome. If you’re visiting Rome for 3 days, the ideal solution is to take the Rome Pass.

– You can also book a guided tour of the Vatican Museums. Several packages are available. Your guide buys tickets for you in advance, and you enter the Vatican Museums with your guide without having to wait in line.

– If you book a visit to the Vatican Gardens, your ticket to the Vatican Museums is included!

The main attractions that most travelers want to see when visiting the Vatican are St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. To be precise, Michelangelo’s Pietà is inside St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (whose ceiling Michelangelo painted) is inside the Vatican Museums.

You can see either one or the other. However, it’s very easy to visit both in a single day. Just try not to plan another big visit (like another museum, or the Colosseum) for that day, as you’ll be pretty exhausted afterwards.

2. The Sistine Chapel

Chapelle Sixtine, visite du Vatican

Photo credit: Flickr – BriYYZ

After visiting the Vatican Museums, you can go and see the Sistine Chapel. This chapel is very famous and the interior is constantly crowded, as the chapel is not very big and once people are inside, they tend not to want to leave.

The Sistine Chapel is definitely a must-see at the Vatican. The famous scenes on Michelangelo’s ceiling, featuring Genesis (such as The Creation of Adam), and the Last Judgment on the back wall, are superb. Admire the side walls decorated with frescoes by Botticelli, Perugino, Rosselli and Raphael. Please note that photography inside the church is prohibited.

It’s not possible to visit the Sistine Chapel alone. To see the Sistine Chapel, you need to visit all the Vatican Museums, which will take you at least 2 hours. The Sistine Chapel is at the very end. However, if you’re interested in an « express visit » to the Sistine Chapel, you can book an exclusive tour, which avoids the queues at the Sistine Chapel and ends with a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica.

This tour lasts just 90 minutes and does not include a visit to the rest of the Vatican Museums. You will pass through the museums, but the guide will concentrate on the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

3. Saint Peter’s Basilica

Intérieur de la Basilique Saint-Pierre, Vatican

Photo credit: Flickr – Mzximvs VdB

St. Peter’s Basilica is open to the public free of charge. Before entering, you must pass through a security check. Dress respectfully. The first thing you’ll notice before entering the Basilica is just how huge it is! Take your time to see it all here: Bernini’s bronze baldachin above the high altar, where only the Pope celebrates mass, is magnificent and dominates the center of the basilica. This altar, which is directly beneath the dome, was built over St. Peter’s ancient tomb. Before leaving the basilica, don’t forget to stop and see Michelangelo’s Pietà, the only sculpture Michelangelo ever made, and considered one of his greatest masterpieces.

4. Saint Peter’s Square

Just opposite St. Peter’s Basilica is the monumental Piazza di San Pietro, designed by Lorenzo Bernini (« Bernini »). This is the Vatican’s must-see square. It’s a gathering place from which to admire the colonnade of 284 columns arranged in 4 rows, with their 140 statues. At the center of the square is the Vatican obelisk. There are also a number of fountains, but it’s mainly from here that you can catch a glimpse of the Pope on mass days and Holy Days.

5. Attend a papal audience

audience pontificale, audience papale, Vatican

Papal audiences take place on Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m., either in St. Peter’s Square or in the Paul VI Audience Hall (or both, depending on the number of people present). To attend an audience with the Pope, you’ll need to make a request in writing or by fax to the Prefecture of the Papal Household. Tickets are free, but must be collected the day before or early on Wednesday morning. If you’re a believer, this is a not-to-be-missed event, given the joy and excitement it brings. You can also book your place for a papal audience online, which will give you access to the Vatican Museums afterwards.

6. Attend mass in St. Peter’s Basilica

There are many masses every day, and attending one of them is another great experience for believers. Remember, this is a mass, not a photo opportunity for tourists, so please respect the place and the mass. For daily mass times in St. Peter’s Basilica and other Basilicas, visit the official website.

7. The dome of St Peter’s Basilica

Coupole de la basilique Saint-Pierre au Vatican

Photo credit: Flickr – jrredondo

If you’re looking for a magnificent view of St. Peter’s Square and Rome, then the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica is the place to be. As the highest point in Rome, the dome offers breathtaking views in all directions. Climbing to the top of the Cupola costs 7 euros by elevator and 6 euros by taking the 320 steps. Note that you may want to avoid climbing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica if you suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia.

8. The Vatican’s Sacred Grottoes

Grottes Sacrées Vatican

Photo credit: Flickr – shettelbus

After visiting the Basilica, pay a visit to the sacred grottoes (or crypt) where the tombs of many popes and other dignitaries are buried. The crypt lies beneath the church and contained the tomb of John Paul II until his beatification in May 2011. At the far end of the crypt is a glass wall offering a bird’s-eye view of St. Peter’s tomb, which lies directly beneath the Basilica’s papal altar.

9. Visit the Vatican Necropolis (Scavi)

The « Scavi Tour » is a tour that takes you below the crypt, a place known as the Vatican Necropolis (not to be confused with the Sacred Grottoes), and which is the supposed site of St. Peter’s tomb. However, if you want to explore this Necropolis, you’ll need to book well in advance (sometimes months in advance), as only 200 people are allowed inside each day. To book, send an e-mail to scavi@fsp.va, indicating the number of people in your group, each person’s first and last name (the organizer must give his or her address), the language you speak (for the guide), the day or period you would like to visit (give a broad period), and the address at which you are staying in Rome (name and telephone number). Visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sundays and public holidays.

10. The Vatican Gardens

Jardins du Vatican

Photo credit: Flickr – Chris Hood

The Vatican Gardens cover more than half the space occupied by Vatican City, and are located behind St. Peter’s Basilica. The only way to see the gardens is to arrange a guided tour through the Vatican, as you can’t wander around the gardens unsupervised. The cost of this tour is 31 euros and includes a guided tour of the gardens, entry to the Vatican Museums without a guide, and the rental of audio guides.

How do I get to the Vatican?

If you want to visit the Vatican, you have several options. But the most important factor to consider is what you visit first.

Getting to the Vatican Museums first

The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano. If you’re taking a cab, just tell the driver « Musei Vaticani » in Italian or « Vatican Museums » in English.

By metro

Otherwise, the most common way to get there is by metro. Rome’s A line (red subway) has two stops, both equidistant from the museum entrances (about 10-12 minutes on foot): Ottaviano and Cipro.

The Ottaviano metro stop is the first you’ll reach if you’re coming from the center of Rome. As you leave the metro station, just follow the crowd towards the Vatican, and once you see the Vatican walls, follow them to the right and you’ll arrive at the entrance to the Vatican Museums.

If you’re coming to the Vatican from the opposite direction, or if you forget to get off at Ottaviano, or, better still, if you want to get off at the next stop to have a delicious slice of pizza at Pizzarium Bonci, then get off at the Cipro stop.

By bus

Another option for getting to the entrance of the Vatican Museums is to take a bus (or several). Many buses will take you quite close to the entrance to the Vatican Museums. These include lines 492, 49, 23 and 81.

Getting to St Peter’s Basilica first

The entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is in St. Peter’s Square. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the Vatican Museums, so if you’re not visiting the Vatican Museums (or not visiting them first), and want to go straight to the basilica, you can always take the metro, but make sure you get off at the Ottaviano stop, not Cipro.

From the Ottaviano metro stop, it’s about a 15-minute walk to St. Peter’s Square. Follow the crowds, but when you reach the Vatican walls, don’t turn right towards the museums, just keep going straight ahead.

The buses that arrive closest to St. Peter’s Square are lines 40 and 64. Bus 64 is probably the closest to St. Peter’s Square.

Going to Saint Peter’s tomb first

If you’re visiting the Vatican starting at St. Peter’s tomb, the quickest and easiest way to get there is by cab. They can drop you off right in front of the entrance you need to go to, which is on the level of the Swiss Guard, to the left of the basilica as you face it.

If you take the bus, take 64, as it drops you off a block away.

To take the metro, be sure to get off at Ottaviano, and give yourself about a 20-minute walk from there to reach the entrance to St. Peter’s tomb.

FAQ – Vatican

When is the best time to visit the Vatican?

There’s really no « best time » to visit the Vatican. The Vatican is Rome’s most popular tourist destination and is almost always crowded. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best times of the week to visit the Vatican City. Weekends (Friday to Monday) are busier, and Wednesday usually sees the papal audience, which causes long queues.

That said, from April to October, you can book a tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel on Friday evenings. And it’s much less crowded then. This night tour is perhaps one of Rome’s best-kept secrets.

In the morning, most tourist groups arrive at the Vatican entrance to try and avoid the queues. Try to visit the Vatican Museums in the afternoon, when they are less crowded.

The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, except on the last Sunday of each month, when they are free. This is the busiest day to visit the Vatican Museums, as you can imagine.

On Wednesdays (except July, when the Pope takes a break), the Pope holds an audience in St. Peter’s Basilica. In summer, this takes place in the square. In winter, it takes place in a room just to the left of the basilica. This means that the whole area will be crowded with tens of thousands of people attending the papal audience, many of whom decide to visit the Vatican Museums afterwards. If you’re visiting the Vatican on a Wednesday, when the papal audience takes place in St. Peter’s Square, be aware that St. Peter’s Basilica will be closed until the end of the papal audience (around 12-1pm).

The best time of year to visit the Vatican is winter. It’s less crowded in December (except December 8 and Christmas to Epiphany, January 6), January and February. The Vatican is as crowded between Christmas and January 6 as it is in summer.

What to wear to visit the Vatican

To visit St. Peter’s Basilica, you must be properly dressed: no bare knees, stomachs or shoulders. If you’re wearing shorts and a knee-length skirt, please note that this is at the discretion of the Vatican guards, so the level of acceptability may vary. If in doubt, there are plenty of vendors just outside the Vatican, selling T-shirts and scarves.

Are photos allowed inside the Vatican?

Photos and videos are not permitted inside the Sistine Chapel. Cameras are permitted everywhere else, but without flash.

Is there a locker where you can drop off your belongings?

A free checkroom is available at museum entrances.

Visitors must leave drinks, food, suitcases or bags larger than 40 x 35 x 15 cm, umbrellas, knives and scissors, and anything else deemed dangerous in the checkroom.

Which Vatican monuments charge a fee?

The Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica require a reservation and are subject to a charge.

Which Vatican monuments are free?

St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica are free of charge.

Main photo credit: Flickr – Christopher Lance