Planning a visit to the Vatican? This Vatican guide gives you the lowdown on how to get tickets to the Vatican, how to skip the line, and advice on what tours to take.
There are a lot of options and it can be confusing. Hopefully, this guide will give you all the information you need and give you ways to score Vatican tickets and tours.
The Vatican Museums are a bucket list item for most people visiting Rome. The Vatican offers stunning architecture, miles of art, and a rich history.
In fact, the Vatican holds one of the greatest art collections on the planet. And everyone wants to behold Michelangelo’s stunning Sistine Chapel frescos.
What you don’t want to do is wait in line. The Vatican is infamous for its infinite lines. Waiting in line when you’re in Vatican City is super frustrating. And it’s just a waste of valuable sightseeing time.
How To Get Vatican Tickets And Tours
Here are the various ways to buy and book Vatican tickets and tours. Working out which tickets you want can be tricky. So, I’ve laid out all your options.
1. Line Up To Buy Vatican Tickets At The Door
You can walk up and buy your Vatican ticket at the door. But this is NOT the option I would choose, unless you’re visiting in the dead of winter. Then, it may be doable.
The lines to enter the Vatican and the lines to purchase tickets at the tickets booths are typically extremely long. So winging it is not the best way to go.
The Vatican opens at 9:00 am and people start lining up at 7:30 am. If you don’t have a ticket, it’s better to go in the late afternoon.
2. Buy Vatican Tickets On The Official Website
A less stressful approach is to book tickets online. You can book timed entry tickets on the date of your choosing through the Vatican’s official website.
The cost is € 17 for a regular ticket, and € 8 for a reduced ticket (for children between the ages of 6-18). You can only book with a Visa or Mastercard.
If you are buying a reduced entry ticket for children, you must bring their official ID (passport) to prove their age. If you’re a student, you must show an internationally recognized student ID.
There’s also a € 4 surcharge for booking fees online, but that will give you skip the line access. You can bypass the queue and head straight to security.
I’ve waited in long lines at the Vatican. Trust me, it’s definitely worth it to pay more to avoid this situation at all costs.
In high season, tickets sell out quickly. So be organized and book your tickets weeks in advance.
After making your purchase, you’ll be sent a confirmation email including a PDF and a QR code. You can either print the ticket or display it on your phone when you arrive. You can add an audioguide either at the Vatican or as an add-on to your online ticket purchase.
3. What Does The Basic Vatican Ticket Include?
The basic ticket includes entry to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Entry to St. Peter’s Basilica is NOT included in a basic ticket. But it’s usually included on guided tours, which I discuss below.
The Vatican Gardens are not included in a basic ticket either. You have to book the gardens separately. Click here to book that ticket that includes the gardens.
Note that there is NO ticket just for the Sistine Chapel.
Once you exit the Sistine Chapel, you cannot reenter the Vatican Museums. So, make sure you’ve seen everything you want before you exit the museums.
Booking on the Vatican site might not be the best alternative for several reasons. First, you can only book a ticket 60 days in advance. That makes long term planning difficult.
Second, the Vatican website is clunky and slow. Sometimes your card is refused.
Third, these tickets are non-refundable. Fourth, if you’re late, you will forfeit your ticket. You’re only given a 15 minute window.
4. Buy Vatican Tickets Through An Online Reseller
A better option is to buy your Vatican Museum tickets through a reseller. I regularly use both Get Your Guide and Viator.
The sites are fast and easy to use. They accept many forms of payment that the Vatican does not, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Money.
The tickets from these resellers aren’t that much more expensive than the Vatican site itself. Plus, they’re a good option if the Vatican website is sold out or you want to book early.
Reseller tickets can usually be cancelled up to 24 hours in advance, if need be. I’ve had to cancel a couple tours recently, so this is a valuable benefit indeed.
5. Buy Vatican Tickets through A Hawker
Know in advance that there will encounter plenty of people on the street and outside the Vatican walls harassing you to buy a ticket or tour from them. They are pretty aggressive.
Try to ignore them and move on. This is the worst option for getting tickets.
These would-be guides typically overcharge for tickets. Some of them are scam artists and scalpers.
Plus, they’re not always truthful. For example, they may tell you that, if you don’t buy their pricey ticket or tour, you will face long lines at both the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The first part may be true. But the second part isn’t.
If you’re on a tour, you enter St. Peter’s Basilica directly from a door in the Sistine Chapel. So, you will not have to go through security a second time for the basilica.
Now, if everything else is sold out and you must see the Vatican, then you may have to pony up the outrageous sums these hawkers are charging for tickets.
6. What To See At The Vatican
So what is the Vatican exactly and what is in the Vatican Museums? Here’s what you can expect.
The Vatican Museums are the public art and sculpture museums in the Vatican City complex. They’re housed in former wings of the Vatican Palace. The Vatican Museums are one of the world’s most visited attractions, attracting millions of visitors annually.
There’s a museum path that takes you through the long corridors and wings of the Vatican Museums.
On the first floor, you’ll find the Vatican Pinacoteca, the Pio-Clementine Museum, the Chiaramonte Museum, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, and the Gregorian Etruscan Museum.
On the second floor, you’ll find the Tapestries Hall, the Gallery of Maps, and the Raphael Rooms. The Raphael Rooms are four rooms, which were the pope’s personal apartments in the time of Julius II.
The finale is the Sistine Chapel, with the world famous Michelangelo frescos. The chapel boasts some of the most famous paintings in the history of art. It’s a room of unrivaled artistic creation.
7. What Tour To Book For The Vatican?
Should you book a tour for the Vatican? It’s a completely personal decision.
You can DIY the Vatican with an audioguide or have an expert show you around. I’ve done it both ways many times.
But you may get a deeper understanding of the history and significance of the place with an expert guide. The guides lead you through and point out and describe famous masterpieces.
The standard tour is generally 3 hours and covers the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
But the tours are widely variable. Make sure you pick one that covers everything you want to see.
You don’t want to be there, at the Vatican, and not see something that’s important to you.
That happened to me once when I inadvertently failed to book a tour that included the Raphael Rooms. I was disappointed.
You should also know that the Vatican Pinacoteca, or painting gallery, is not on most tours. This is despite the fact that it’s one of the world’s best small museums with masterpieces by Raphael and Caravaggio.
There’s even an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, which you can inspect up close. You can’t do that in St. Peter’s Basilica because the famous sculpture is set back behind bullet proof glass.
If you’re an art lover, you can’t miss the pinacoteca.
Here are your Vatican tour options.
You can pick a tour specifically tailored to your own interests, time frame, and museum going tastes. In general, I think the longer the better.
- a 2.5 hour overview on a skip the line small group guided tour
- a 3 hour no wait tour that also includes the Raphael Rooms
- a 3 hour tour that includes the Cabinet of Masks
- a 3.5 hour tour Vatican visit with a guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica
- a 3 hour Friday night tour of the Vatican
- a 3 hour tour of the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Gardens
- a Vatican tour that includes a climb of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
- a small group Sistine Chapel first entry experience (7:30 am) with Vatican Museums
- a 4 hour early entry that includes a breakfast buffet
If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, you may want to book a private tour. For example, I think the Vatican Pinacoteca is fabulous. But isn’t included on the tours listed above.
Here are some private tour options:
- a 2-3 hour private tour of the Vatican
- a 3 hour private early entrance tour
- a 3.5 hour private tour that includes the Pinacoteca
- a 5 hour tour that includes the Vatican Gardens
If you’re taking a guided tour, you’ll access St. Peter’s Basilica from the back left corner of the Sistine Chapel. Once inside the basilica, you cannot re-enter the Vatican Museums.
So make sure you’ve seen everything you want to see at the Vatican before venturing into the basilica.
You can also book a guided tour of St. Peter’s. Or book a guided tour that includes the basilica, a dome climb, and the underground grottos.
Alternatively, you can just purchase an audio guide and visit on your own. The audio tour takes about 1 hour.
Want to see the pope’s summer residence too? You can book an 11 hour guided tour that induces the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Gardens, and a visit to the spectacular Castel Gandolfo (16 miles south of Rome).
8. Ticket With A Papal Audience
Would you like to see the Pope? There’s a tour on Wednesdays that allows you to do just that
You’ll get the chance to see the Pope and pray with him. Pope Francis and the Cardinals will pass through the crowd to reach the stage and then greet and bless people in different languages, with hymns and homilies.
The Audience may be celebrated in the majestic venue of St. Peter’s Square or in the dedicated Nervi Hall.
Click here to score a spot for the papal public tour.
9. Vatican Pass
If you’re in Rome for a few days, you might consider purchasing the Roma Pass. You’ll have full access to public transportation, admission to museums, and discounts on performance and exhibition tickets.
But this pass does NOT include entry to the Vatican. Vatican City is a separate country.
Thus, you may want to purchase the more comprehensive Omnia Rome and Vatican Card. It consists of the Roma Pass and an Omnia Card. It’s essentially a comprehensive pass to both Rome and Vatican City.
Most importantly, it gives you skip the line access at the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Colosseum. (Here’s my guide to the Colosseum with must know tips for visiting.)
10. When To Visit The Vatican
Try to avoid going to the Vatican in the summer. It’s oppressively hot and crowded. You may just shuffle slowly down the Vatican path without seeing much, crushed by tour groups.
The Vatican is also incredibly crowded in December, especially the last three weeks.
Try to go during shoulder season in the spring or fall. The Vatican is quietest during November, January, and February.
Arrive early at the Vatican. Or, arrive after 3:00 pm when some of the tours have finished and people have dispersed.
As you might expect, the Vatican is busiest on Saturdays. It’s best to go mid-week between Tuesday and Thursday.
Or, if you don’t mind a nighttime visit, you can opt to go during the museums’ extended hours. During high season, the Vatican Museums are open until 10:30 pm on Friday night and until 8:00 pm on Saturday night.
11. Vatican Masterpieces and Hidden Gems
If you need more information, I’ve written many articles on the Vatican. These articles tell you what to see at the Vatican, including must see masterpieces and hidden gems.
They also tell you things like how to budget your time at the Vatican, how to get to the Vatican, etc.
Here’s the list:
- Masterpieces of the Vatican
- Guide to the Vatican Pinacoteca
- Guide to the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms
- Guide to the Sistine Chapel
- Underpants in the Sistine Chapel
- Guide to St. Peter’s Basilica
- 1 Day Itinerary for Vatican City
- Hidden Gems in the Vatican
- Famous Sculptures in the Vatican
- Guide to Castle Sant’Angelo
12. Hotels Near The Vatican
If you are prioritizing the sites in Vatican City you may want to book a hotel within walking distance.
The Hotel La Rovere is a good option. It’s a pretty boutique hotel in a 19th century building with stone walls and vaulted ceilings.
For a luxe stay, check out Gran Melia Roma. It’s a resort-type hotel on a hilltop overlooking the Vatican. it’s just a 7 minute walk to the St. Peter’s.
The Eden is a beautiful hotel just a stone’s throw from the basilica. It has luxurious interiors and good views.
Finally, the Hotel de Russie has a sleek contemporary look, with a fabulous pool and spa.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to how to get Vatican tickets and tours. You may enjoy these other Rome travel guides and resources.
- 8 ways to spend 1 day in Rome
- 3 day itinerary for Rome
- 5 day itinerary for Rome
- Hidden gems in Rome
- Best museums in Rome
- Archaeological sites in Rome
- Guide to the Borghese Gallery
- Rome’s secret palace museums
- Guide to the Capitoline Museums
- Guide to Palatine Hill
- Guide to the Roman Forum
- Guide to the Colosseum
- Walking tour of central Rome
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