Best Vatican Tours: Awesome Ways to Discover Everything About 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.
Find the best Vatican and Sistine Chapel tours for your needs so that you don’t miss anything, you enjoy knowledgeable, expert explanations and you save time with fast-track VIP access.
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.
1. Complete Vatican Tour, One of The Best Vatican Tours
Among the Vatican City tours, this lasting 3 and a half hours is one of the most complete.
The experience starts with an in-depth Vatican Museums private tour where an expert will you will give you the chance to observe the most famous sculptures, tell you the stories behind the place and obviously take you to 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 fast-track entrance to both the museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, saving you a huge deal of time.
2. Vatican Highlights: Guided Tour of Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
This Vatican Museum private tour lasts 2 and a half hours and leads a maximum of 20 people.
This skip-the-line Vatican tour allows you fast-track access to one of Rome’s 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 in more relax.
You will go past sculptures of the likes of the Laocoon, found in 1506 in the 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 life of the artists.
The journey will end at the most famous attraction of the whole museum, the Sistine Chapel. After that, you can choose to stay a bit longer in the museums or head to St. Peter’s Basilica to complete the tour of Vatican City on your own.
3. 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.
This comprehensive St. Peter’s Basilica tour by Take 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, 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 city center.
4. 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 round. This is why a tour when the museums are still closed to the public.
Before opening times you will also go through other important areas of the 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.
5. 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 maximum 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Vatican Gardens, Museums and Sistine Chapel Tour
Alongside the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, your guide will accompany you on a tour of the Vatican Gardens.
This 3-hour tour will take you to the stunning Vatican Gardens, where you will enjoy a stroll among statues and fountains, and show you the behind the scenes of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican including Pope Emerito House and the Vatican Radio Station among the other places.
After that, you will head to the Vatican Museums with your expert guide who will give you the necessary explanations about the history of the main masterpieces by artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Giotto.
9. Necropolis and St. Peter’s Basilica Guided Tour
First, in this Vatican tour, you will be visiting 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 Nero’s Circus, some 13 meters below the modern-day basilica, where Saint Peter was martyred, and see the walls of the original 4th-century basilica. Right next to it, you will visit the ancient Roman cemetery that hosts the real tomb of Saint Peter.
Included in the tour is the entrance ticket to the top of the Dome and a professional guide.
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.
10. 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.
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 visiting 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.
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