Visiting the Vatican - What to See and Do

Tips for visiting the Vatican Museums

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Tips for visiting Vatican Museums

Now it is time to provide you with some advice and recommendations so that your visit is as satisfactory as possible, without inconveniences and making the most of the time you spend there.

1. Avoid queueing

One of the problems museum visitors face is the long queues to buy entrance tickets, which often are hundreds of metres long, and force them into long waiting times.

Queues are real and they are especially long at special times and days. We can’t generalise, they depend on the month, the day of the week and the time of day.

For example we recommend avoiding free entrance days (the last Sunday of the month and on September 27th). There are also long queues on Wednesdays during the Papal audience or on Fridays and Saturdays. The rest of the days, it is likely that you will have to queue during the first hours of the day (from 9 to 12) but after these time the situation improves.

There is the chance to avoid queueing if you buy the ticket online in advance. It is a good option if you wish to avoid crowds, although they are slightly more expensive, and as we mentioned before, queues may not be long.

With the ticket already printed, go to the entrance, past the queue, show it to the security staff and walk to the ticket office to get your official entrance ticket.

The discount for students is valid for EU citizens and to all those people whose countries have an agreement with the Vatican. Have a form of identification with you.

2. Book a guided tour

There is a lot to see at the Museums, and it is a waste of time to wander round the rooms and not knowing where to go.

For this reason we advise you to book a guided tour. There are many types and for varied prices, but in all cases, they allow us to greatly enjoy the experience and make it more didactic.

Another advantage of guided tours is that it is only through them that you can directly access St Peter’s Basilica through the Sistine Chapel without queueing.

If this is of no interest to you, you may consider getting an audio guide at the entrance. The only disadvantage of this option is that you will have to leave the building through the official exist and not through the Basilica in order to return it.

3. Pick the right day.

Plan your visit well. The museums are closed on certain dates of the Catholic calendar, and most Sundays.
Details on http://mv.vatican.va/4_ES/pages/z-Info/MV_Info_Orari.html
The museum is open until 18:00, but the ticket offices close at 16:00.

4. Payment

There are several sites on the internet where it is stated that it is not possible to pay using credit card. This is not true, payment with credit or debit card is available at the ticket office.

5. Visit the sites without any luggage

You cannot access the sites with suitcases, big rucksacks or umbrellas. You will need to leave them in a cloakroom, which can be annoying since you will have to pick it up when you leave. It is not a problem to enter with small rucksacks or bags.
Be careful! You cannot enter the building with knives or other sharp objects. The access is as controlled as the airport.

6 Do you only wish to visit the Sistine Chapel?

That’s fine, but you will have to walk over 1 km inside the museum to reach it, and it is a shame to miss everything else that is available to you there. Also bear in mind that once you get past the Sistine Chapelit is almost impossible to go back, since visits to the museum are organised in a one-way pattern.

7. Go to the toilet.

We recommend that you pay a visit to the toilet once you have queued up. There are not many chances to do so afterwards.

8. Take photographs

It is allowed to take pictures and record videos inside the museums, as long as the flash is not used. In order to set-up a tripod you will need special permission.
The exception is the Sistine Chapel, where you mustn’t take photos or record any kind of video.

9 Clothing

The dress code for the Museums is a bit more relaxed compared to St Peter’s Basilica.. For example, you are allowed to show your shoulders.

10. Get ready to see crowds of people

One of the most common complaints from visitors is the large amount of people.. It is a fact that the overall experience is affected by this. It is sometimes difficult to move around the rooms, especially in the Sistine Chapel, where on busy days you cannot stop or sit, just walk and observe the work while having the guards pushing you to the exit.

11. Watch out for spontaneous tour guides.

These services are offered while queueing to enter the museum you should not trust them. Sometimes they will lie to you making the queue longer or providing false information, for example saying that you cannot pay with credit card at the ticket office. Listen to what they have to say but don’t trust everything they tell you. You cannot tell what is true or not.

12. Cloakroom

The Vatican Museums offer cloakroom services which may be useful to leave luggage or other objects if you have already left the hotel or flat.
Except for extremely large luggage they are no problems.

Related links

Guided visit of the Vatican Museums
Private visit to the Vatican at a special time

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1 Comment

  1. MattS 6 January, 2017 at 10:33 pm -  Reply

    Regarding luggage restrictions, a good solution can be to drop the bags in a luggage storage close to the Vatican. In Rome there’s a luggage storage network called Bagbnb, and there are a couple of bars close to the Vatican that joined it. The tourist can book the storage online and leave the luggage for the day. Here the link: https://bagbnb.com/luggage-storage/rome

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