Visiting the Vatican Museums – All the Tips and Tricks You Need
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.
The time when long queues are most likely is between March and early November. There are also times of year, outside the busiest season, when large numbers of members of the public gather such as February 14th or the days around December 6th, when there are various bank holidays close together in Spain.
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.
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Skip-the-Line Tickets
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.
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.
Best Vatican guided tours
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.
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 Chapel, it is almost impossible to go back, since visits to the museum are organised in a one-way pattern.
There are indicator signs that will guide you towards the Sistine Chapel, you won’t get lost. From the entrance, if you don’t halt along the way, you can reach the Sistine Chapel in about 30 minutes. If you want to see the Chapel and a few other things along the way, you should bear in mind that there are interesting areas (the Art Gallery) which are not along this route.
Best Sistine Chapel tour
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.
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.
The general rule throughout all of the Vatican City is to avoid exposing too much naked skin, with particular emphasis on modesty rather than elegance.
Moral reasons aside, your outfit is of key importance to the comfort of your visit. We strongly recommend wearing comfortable shoes. You will face hours and kilometres on foot wearing them. The shortest of visits usually includes two or three hours of walking, without taking into account the nearby streets and squares, all with Roman cobbled surfaces. Ideally, wear comfortable sports/casual cushioned shoes that fit well.
Do bear in mind however that on the hottest days in the summer the Museums get very hot. There is little air conditioning for conservation reasons.
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.
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.
Whatever you can store at the left luggage area will be a relief for your legs as the average visit usually lasts about 3 hours (expect to walk up to 7km) within the corridors and halls of the museums alone, without counting a visit to the Basilica, St Peter’s Square and other attractions in the area.
Tip 13. Visits with young children
The Vatican Museums boast of being a place that is open to families and they make visits easier for parents of young children by allowing prams and pushchairs. The surveillance staff can help you when it comes to choosing the best itinerary and finding the lifts you need to make your visit easier. There are special spaces all over the museum for nappy-changes or breastfeeding. There are booster seats for the smaller family members in the main cafeterias.
Tip 14. Visits with animals
Access to the Vatican Museums for animals is forbidden, regardless of their size, with the exception of guide dogs for people with eyesight problems as long as they are equipped with a lead and muzzle. Animals are also allowed access within the concept of a duly accredited therapy. In both cases, notification of the visit must be sent at least one day in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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