15 Best Vatican Tours – Discover the Vatican Art and History

With so much to see and do, exploring the landmarks of the Holy See can take quite a lot of time. This is why we sourced the top private Vatican tours and gathered them in this article. This will make it easier for you to decide how much you can visit as well as how much time you will have for the rest of Rome’s attractions.

Some of the most exclusive private tours of the Vatican Museums are the Key Master’s tour run by Take Walks and Alone in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums by LivTours. But other VIP tours also allow you to enter the famous Vatican galleries before the big crowds and enjoy the masterpieces with fewer people and more silence.

Find the best Vatican and Sistine Chapel tours for your needs so that you don’t miss anything, enjoy knowledgeable, expert explanations and save time with fast-track VIP access. In this guide, you will find Vatican tours for every preference and budget!

The Statues Courtyard vatican museums
The Statues Courtyard at the entrance of the Vatican Museums

Top Vatican Private Tours For Every Budget and Traveler

Whether you are looking for a group tour or a more private experience, we are sure we have found the perfect Vatican guided tour for you. These Vatican tours are great whether you are an independent traveler or you like organized holidays and whatever your budget is.

Vatican Museums After-Hours VIP Tour Experience with Sistine Chapel and Skip-the-Line Tickets

Do you want to tour the Vatican Museums alone with only your expert guide? Then you need to enter before anyone else. Even before the standard VIP tours. If you are ready to do that, expect to have to show up at 6.30 am and see the museums’ doors open. Or at 5.30 pm and enter after closing time.

This is one of the gem tours by Context Travel and is led by an art historian and you will have the chance to enjoy and stare at the wonderful collection of masterpieces just like the Pope does: alone and in silence.

This is a very exclusive tour and you will be asked to show up on time to be able to enjoy the Vatican Museums truly crowd-free.

Click here to check the price and book

VIP Key Master’s Tour: Open The Sistine Chapel, top Vatican private tour

This is one of the best Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel private tours because you will enter before anyone else. You will actually enter before they are even open and walk together with the Key Master as he performs his daily ritual of opening the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

The tour takes two hours and has a limited number of 20 participants. You will be visiting all the most famous landmarks of the galleries including Raphael’s Rooms, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Gallery of Maps and of the Tapestries, and the Octagonal Courtyard all in complete silence with your guide and an official Vatican guide.

Once at the Sistine Chapel, the Key Master will allow guests to turn the key to open the famous monument.

Click here to check the price and to book

Alone in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, one of the best private Vatican tours

Hands down, the best private Vatican tour I took was the one offered by LivTours. Alone in the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums delivers exactly what it promises: it will be only you and your guide.

This is a great experience because you can visit the galleries at your own pace, you can actually hear your guide and you can ask all the questions you want.

Read everything about my private Vatican tour experience

Image: Angela Corrias of Rome Actually enjoying a crowd-free private tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

The Complete Vatican Tour with St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Skip-the-Line Tickets

This fantastic tour by Context Travel has a duration of 4 hours and is possibly the most comprehensive among the Vatican tours available. Thanks to an expert local guide, you will gain a great deal of knowledge on the history, art, politics, and religion of the Vatican.

Context Travel is known for employing very knowledgeable guides as their tours are always led by academics, historians, art historians, or archaeologists. This is why taking this tour you will have no doubt you are going to have a deeper understanding of all the aspects regarding the life and history behind the Vatican Walls and three of its most famous landmarks, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

You have the option to book it privately or join it as a group tour of no more than 6 participants. If you manage, I suggest booking the slot of 8 am for an experience with fewer crowds!

Click here to check the price and book

Vatican Tour for Kids with the Sistine Chapel and Skip-the-Line Tickets

Are you traveling with your kids and not sure how to convince them to visit the Vatican Museums that you really don’t want to skip? Context Travel runs a 3-hour tour led by a Vatican expert who will entertain the family’s youngest members with stories and anecdotes.

Your children will be touring the Vatican Museums like explorers with your guide ready to unlock the secrets of cool artists, brave knights, and wicked popes. This will be an unforgettable adventure where your young family will learn everything about the Vatican Museums while having fun.

Click here to check the price and book

Complete Vatican Tour, one of the most popular Vatican tours

Among the Vatican City tours, this lasting 3 and a half hours is also one of the most complete.

The experience starts with an in-depth Vatican Museums private tour where an expert will give you the chance to observe the most famous sculptures, tell you the stories behind the place and obviously take you on a fascinating tour of the Sistine Chapel.

With an average of some 20,000 visitors per day, the Museums are no doubt among the most popular not-to-miss experiences for whoever travels to Rome.

But as well as a must, they can also be overwhelming and it’s easy to miss important masterpieces. This is why the Vatican Museums’ guided tours are so important.

This is a fully skip-the-line Vatican tour as you will enjoy a fast-track entrance to both the museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, one of Rome’s most famous churches, saving you a huge deal of time.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Image: Entering the Vatican Museums
Entering the Vatican Museums

Vatican Highlights: Guided Tour of Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

This Vatican Museum private tour lasts five hours and leads a maximum of 20 people.

One of the most complete Vatican tours, it kicks off in St. Peter’s Square visiting the Basilica and climbing its majestic dome. Once you take in all the art and history behind these immortal places, you are next to the Vatican Museums.

This skip-the-line Vatican tour allows you fast-track access to one of Rome’s top museums and busiest landmarks. It starts in the afternoon when the crowd is not as big as in the morning so you will also be able to enjoy the Sistine Chapel more relaxed.

You will go past sculptures of the likes of the Laocoon, found in 1506 in Esquilino Hill and now kept in the Statues Courtyard (Cortile delle Statue) after Pope Julius II bought it. Identified as one of the masterpieces of the sculptors of Rhodes as described by Pliny the Elder, this beautiful statue represents the death of Apollo’s priest, Laocoon. He tried to warn the Trojans from taking in the wooden horse left by the Greeks, before being killed by the gods Athena and Poseidon. They, instead, were favoring the Greeks. Which caused the fall of Troy, the fleeing of Aeneas and the following founding of Rome.

You will explore famous areas such as the Gallery of the Tapestries, of the Maps, of the Candelabra, and Raphael Rooms for his beautiful frescoes. You will also stop at famed sculptures and learn stories and anecdotes behind the creation of the masterpieces and the life of the artists.

The journey will end at the most famous attraction of the whole museum, the Sistine Chapel.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Laocoon sculpture vatican museums
The famous Laocoon sculpture

St. Peter’s Basilica Tour With Dome Climb and Crypt

All you wanted to know about St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome’s largest church and one of the main landmarks of the Holy See, is included in this excursion entitled to be considered one of the best Vatican tours.

This comprehensive St. Peter’s Basilica tour by Walks lasts 2 and a half hours and reveals all the secrets behind the art and history of one of the world’s most famous Catholic churches.

This Vatican guided tour starts in Saint Peter’s Square early morning. After learning about the Swiss Guards and some tips on what is to see from the dome, you will take the elevator and climb some 320 steps to reach the top.

Once back down, your St. Peter’s Basilica tour carries on inside the basilica itself. You will learn about the history, the symbols, and the incredible artwork, including Bernini‘s canopy altarpiece and Michelangelo’s La Pietà sculpture.

That’s not all. Your early-morning Vatican tour will take you also to the Crypt where the Popes are buried.

Since you will be accompanied by an expert Vatican tour guide, this will save you plenty of time to discover other parts of the Holy See as well as the other attractions in Rome’s city center.

Click here to check the price and to book.

VIP Early-Access Vatican Tour With Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica

In this early-morning Vatican tour, you will enjoy the Sistine Chapel an hour before everyone else so you will skip the line at the beginning and also within the service as you will use a restricted door between sites.

I’ve been to the Vatican Museums three times, and the first two I got swept by a crowd of thousands of tourists. Of course, I liked it and stared in awe at the immortal masterpieces all the way, but one of my strongest memories was that no minute would go by without me stepping over someone or the other way around. This is why a tour when the museums are still closed to the public.

Before opening times you will also go through other important monuments of the Vatican Museums, such as the Gallery of Maps, of Tapestries and Raphael Rooms. When the general public starts entering, you will finish off the tour of the Vatican Museums and get to St. Peter’s Basilica through special access.

This Vatican small group tour is for a maximum of 14 people to give you a better opportunity to view the artwork in silence and tranquility.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
Detail of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

Early-morning Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica Express Tour

If you still want to enter earlier but prefer a shorter tour, this is for you. It lasts two hours and you access the Museums with a fast-track entrance 30 minutes before opening hours.

With your group of a maximum of 20 people, you will enjoy a silent visit to the Vatican Museums and then access St. Peter’s Basilica through a restricted-access door.

This is much faster than the tour mentioned above. Yet, it still allows you to visit the two main landmarks of the Vatican and learn the art and history behind them. Perfect if you are short in time or for families with small children.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Sistine Chapel The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The main fresco of the Sistine Chapel on the altar wall, The Last Judgement, by Michelangelo

Vatican Night Tour of the Vatican Museums With Sistine Chapel

One of the favorite Vatican evening tours, your experience will start after closing time and will include only 15 people.

This Vatican VIP tour includes the Papal Palaces, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. You won’t be heading to St. Peter’s Basilica because by this time it will be already closed for the night.

This is a Vatican Museum tour only, so you will visit and learn everything about its history and art with the perk of not being disturbed by the crowds.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Painting vatican museums
Painting representing the triumph of Christianity over Paganism in the Vatican Museums

Fast Entrance Vatican Tour With Sistine Chapel

The Roman Guy tour company, too, runs a late tour of the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel. You will enter after closing time when the crowd is gone so that you can admire peacefully and in silence the huge collection of treasures on the path leading to the Sistine Chapel.

Among the other rooms, on the way, you will stop at the Gallery of the Maps, Raphael Rooms, just to appreciate his talent along with the rivalry with Michelangelo, and the Gallery of the Candelabra, a feast of marble artwork. In the end, the room everyone looks forward to, where the tour ends, the Sistine Chapel.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour with Vatican Museums Entry

Alongside the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, this tour will give you entrance to the Vatican Gardens. By booking this experience, you will have skip-the-line entrances included as well as audioguides, but not a live tour guide showing you around, so you will be quite independent.

You will tour the Vatican Gardens by minibus and the audioguide available in all languages will explain all the marvels you will be seeing, from the Renaissance and Baroque artwork to the English gardens.

After that, you can end your tour at the Vatican Museums which you will also tour on your own.

Click here to check the price and to book.

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome to Underground Grottoes Tour

First, in this Vatican tour, you will be climbing St. Peter’s Dome and the Basilica where your guide will help you spot all the artwork and ornaments, from the marble decorations to the bas-reliefs, sculptures, mosaics and gilded stucco work.

This is a truly fascinating Vatican tour as you will see the walls of the original 4th-century basilica. Right next to it, there is a fantastic archaeological site, the ancient Roman necropolis that hosts the real tomb of Saint Peter, which I doubt is included in this tour.

Included in the tour is the entrance ticket to the top of the Dome and a professional guide.

Click here to check the price and to book.

READ MORE: Do you want to know more about the Vatican’s main church and its fascinating history? Check out our post on the interesting facts behind St. Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Fast-Track Ticket Options

While I always suggest a guided Vatican tour to fully comprehend the huge wealth of artwork as well as the history behind those buildings, some might just prefer a more independent experience.

If you prefer, from the Get Your Guide website you can purchase only Vatican skip-the-line tickets to enter without having to queue for hours.

Once inside, you won’t have a guide but it will be a self-guided tour. When booking, you can choose the option of including an audio guide.

Click here to check the price and to book.

Pinterest image with a photo of the Vatican Museums and a caption reading "Memorable experiences. The best Vatican Tours"

FAQ about the Best Vatican Tours

Is the Vatican skip-the-line worth it?

If you ask me, definitely. A Vatican skip-the-line ticket can save you plenty of time that you can use to visit some other Rome landmarks. If you are staying for only one day or two days in Rome, this time will be particularly precious since especially in the high season (summer and around Christmas) queues can last for several hours.

What is the best day of the week to visit the Vatican?

The Vatican is quite busy every day, but if you have the chance to pick a day of the week, I would probably skip Saturday and Sunday. Also, on the last Sunday of each month, the entrance to the Vatican Museums is free, so it’s a great time to visit if you are sure to arrive early in the morning and if you have enough time to queue because the line can get very long.

Do I need to buy Vatican tickets in advance?

Buying your Vatican tickets online in advance is always a good idea as often these include also a fast-track entrance.

How long does a Vatican tour take?

Two hours is enough for a basic tour of the Vatican Museums to see the main landmarks, while if you want to visit more, you might need an extra hour. For a more complete Vatican tour, some 4 to 5 hours might be necessary even if you are with a professional guide, also depending on how many places you will visit. For St. Peter’s Basilica, you should carve out at least an hour and another hour to climb the Dome.

Is there a dress code for the Vatican?

Yes, to enter the Vatican you need to follow a modest dress code. Women can’t enter wearing shorts or mini-skirts and both men and women can’t wear sleeveless t-shirts.

Can you bring a backpack to the Vatican?

Yes, but to enter the Vatican Museums you will need to leave your backpack in their cloakroom.

Don’t miss our guide to eating near the Vatican!


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About The Author: Angela Corrias

Hi, my name is Angela Corrias! I am an Italian journalist, photographer, and blogger living in Rome. After over ten years of living abroad, I finally came to the conclusion that in order to better organize my future adventures, I needed a base. Since I know and love Rome so much, I moved back to the Eternal City. This is how Rome Actually was born. Here, I cover everything about Rome, from the local food to the culture to Roman history.

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