Heading to Rome? The Vatican Museums will be on your list for sure! Trouble is, getting tickets might be a hassle, if you don’t know how to arrange them in advance. Here we’ll share 8 clever ways to get Vatican Museums tickets, helping you enjoy your visit at the fullest!
The Vatican Museums are definitely one of the most unmissable attractions in Rome, on the list of pretty much every first-time traveller to the Eternal City.
Even though, to be exact, the Vatican Museums are not actually in Rome – they’re located in Vatican City, a tiny independent state right in the heart of Rome, hope to the Pope and the upper echelons of the Catholic Church.
The Vatican Museums and nearby St. Peter’s Basilica can be freely visited by tourists – you can easily get there on foot, by bus or underground from pretty much anywhere in Rome.
Unsurprisingly, these two places are right at the top of the list of many travellers willing to check ‘Vatican City’ from their list of visited countries.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky to visit the Vatican Museums several times – and every single time, I had unpleasant queue-related experiences. In occasion of my first visit in 2007, I lined up for FOUR AND A HALF hours outside the Vatican walls, and more recently, my friends and I were hassled by freelance ‘guides’ to buy skip-the-line tickets on the spot.
Yes, crowds and lines in front of the Vatican Museums have been legendary for a long time, until March 2020 when the museums were closed for three months due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
The museums were reopened on June 1st, with a series of new measures to allow visits while promoting social distancing – first and foremost, it is compulsory to book your tickets before you visit. Tickets are limited, and allow entrance at a specific time.
Keep reading to find out what to see at the Vatican Museums, and discover 8 hassle-free ways to get your tickets!
No time to read it all? Get your ticket for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel here!
What to See at the Vatican Museums
The first destination of most people visiting the Vatican Museums is its greatest treasure, the Sistine Chapel. The frescos on the vault of the Chapel are Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece, depicting scenes from the book of Genesis and keeping him busy for over 10 years, until his death.
The best-known scenes are probably the Last Judgement and the Creation of Adam, where God held aloft by angels grazes Adam with his finger, giving him life. Besides these individual scenes, the harmony of the frescos with the surrounding architecture are what makes the Sistine Chapel truly breathtaking.
The Sistine Chapel is where the conclave is held, the gathering of cardinals from all over the world that leads to the election of a new Pope.
After the conclave meets each day, they communicate their decision to the world via a plume of smoke – is the smoke is black, no pope has been chosen, whereas white is followed by the traditional announcement habemus Papam (we have a Pope).
Yet, there’s a lot more to see besides the Sistine Chapel. The most-photographed place in the Museum is the Bramante Staircase, the modern rendition of the helicoidal staircase built by Bramante in 1505.
Other things to see in the Vatican Museums are Raphael’s Rooms, part of Julius II’s private apartments. The best known frescos are the ones depicting the four main themes of knowledge – Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (Theology), The Parnassus (Poetry), The Cardinal Virtues (Law), and The School of Athens (Philosophy).
Also, make sure you don’t miss the Pio Clementino section of the Museum, housing masterpieces of Greco-Roman sculpture including the famous Laocoön sculpted group.
This doesn’t even come close to covering all there is to see and do at the Vatican Museums. There’s only one issue about the place – signage is terrible, and finding specific artworks can be a hassle.
I found myself lost in the museum corridors more than once – to prevent this from happening, consider visiting the Vatican Museums with a guided tour!
Can’t travel to Italy right now? Fear not, you can visit from your home with these 18 wonderful virtual tours of Italy!
How to Get Vatican Museum Tickets
1) Buy Vatican Museum Tickets on the Official Website
As of August 2020, it’s compulsory to buy tickets online before visiting the Vatican Museums. Tickets are timed, with staggered entrances every 15 minutes – you must be on time, if you are late your ticket will be lost!
You can book tickets through the official website, at a cost of €17 for a regular ticket, and €8 for a reduced ticket (for children between the ages of 6 and 18). Normally, there’s a €4 surcharge for booking fees, but this is currently not applied.
After proceeding with your purchase, you’ll be sent a confirmation email including a PDF and a QR code, which can either be printed or displayed on your phone.
It sounds easy at first, but there are two main issues with buying through the official website. First of all, it’s really clunky and slow, and second, tickets are nor refundable. For this reason, we recommend buying your Vatican Museum tickets through a reseller!
2) Buy Vatican Museum Tickets Through GetYourGuide
GetYourGuide is our favourite way to get tickets for tours and attractions from all over the world! The site is fast and easy to use, and there are multiple payment options available – including PayPal, Apple and Google Money, not accepted on the Vatican Museums website.
GetYourGuide also offers greater flexibility, with free cancellation up to 24 hours before your visit. You can easily access your tickets on the go with GYG’s app, and manage your bookings all from the same place.
Vatican Museums tickets on GetYourGuide are only marginally more expensive than the official site, at €19.90 per person. Trust me, it’s worth it!
3) Book an Early Access Tour
Do you really, really want to get away from the crowds? The best way to do is booking a semi-private early morning tour of the Vatican Museums, starting as early as 7.30 am, when the museum doors are still closed to regular visits.
During this exclusive tour, you’ll see all the highlights of the museums – including Raphael’s Rooms, the Maps Room, and naturally the Sistine Chapel, with only a handful of other early risers in sight.
This tour also gives you the possibility to access St. Peter’s Basilica directly from the Sistine Chapel, through the passageway used by cardinals during the conclave, which is usually closed to the public.
4) Visit at Night
On Fridays and between the end of April and the end of October, it’s also possible to visit the Vatican Museums at night. The Museums are open until 10 pm, and last access is at 9.30 pm.
This is a VERY popular time to visit the Vatican Museums, and only limited tickets are available, allowing you to enjoy the museums without crowds as night falls around you.
Be warned though – tickets sell out very quickly, so make sure you book at least a couple of months before your visit. You can get tickets to visit the Vatican Museums at night here!
5) Join a Happy Hour Tour
Italians are known for their love of aperitivo, and there’s nothing better than a glass of chilled Aperol Spritz to enjoy after a day spent sightseeing around Rome.
This happy hour tour of the Vatican Museums includes a 2.5 hour tour of the museums with skip-the-line access, followed by drinks and an Italian-style buffet in the Vatican courtyard.
The tour offers great value for money at €40 including entrance, a guided tour of the museums, semi-private access to the Sistine Chapel, and naturally the buffet!
6) Visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica
A great way to make the most of your time in the Vatican is combining your Vatican Museums visit with St. Peter’s Basilica, the other big-ticket attraction in the Holy See.
Besides a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and exclusive priority access to the Basilica, this tour also includes a visit of the Pope’s private apartments in the Raphael Rooms, which are normally closed to tourists.
This is one of the best rated tours in Rome, and a great deal under €50 – book your place here!
7) Get the Vatican and Rome City Pass
Another easy way to get Vatican Museums tickets is purchasing the Vatican and Rome City Pass, which are actually two passes rolled into one!
This 3-day card allows you to enter the Vatican Museums for free, plus two more attractions from a list of museums and archaeological sights, including the Colosseum. The card also includes access to several other sights with a 20% discount.
You can also travel on all public transport, plus on an open-top tourist bus. You can book your Vatican and Rome City pass here!
8) Book a Vatican Museum Tour with Papal Audience
Would you like to meet the Pope? Well, this tour allows you to do just that! If you want what is probably the ‘ultimate Vatican experience’, consider joining a full-day tour including a Papal audience!
You’ll get the chance to see the Pope and pray with him (if this is your thing), and then you’ll proceed with having lunch, then visiting St.Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums with a guide. If you are a devout Catholic, this experience will be a highlight of your time in Rome!
Vatican Museums Visitor Information
Advance bookings are currently mandatory for everyone wishing to visit the Vatican Museums. For this reason, the €4 reservation fee is currently being waived.
Don’t forget that tickets booked through the official website are nonrefundable, and reserved for a specific time slot. If you miss your slot you won’t be able to access the museum.
To get tickets with free 24 hours cancellation, consider booking your ticket on GetYourGuide.
The Vatican Museums are open from Monday to Thursday, from 10 am to 8 pm (last access 6 pm); and on Fridays and Saturdays they open from 10 am to 10 pm (last access 8 pm).
For the rest of 2020, the Museums will be closed on Sundays, and on the following days – June 11th and 29th; August 14th and 15th; December 8th, 25th, and 26th.
How to Get to the Vatican Museums
The closest underground stations to the Vatican Museums are Ottaviano and Cipro (Linea A). Bus number 49 stops right in front of the Vatican Museums entrance, and buses number 32, 81, 492, 982, 990 and tram number 19 also stop nearby.
You can walk to the Vatican Museums in about 45 minutes from the Colosseum, and in about 30 mins from Piazza di Spagna.
How Long Should I Spend at the Vatican Museums?
On a guided tour, you’ll spend about 3 hours in the Vatican Museums. If you are planning to visit independently, we recommend allowing at least half a day, as finding the exact location of specific exhibits (including the Sistine Chapel) can take some time.
Vatican Museums Dress Code
Don’t forget to dress appropriately to visit the Vatican Museums. Shorts and miniskirts are not allowed, and neither are sleeveless shirts – in brief, keep the same dress code as you would in church.
If you are visiting in summer, we recommend bringing a sarong or scarf to cover your shoulders.
COVID-19 Related Info
All Vatican Museums entrance tickets are timed, and advance booking is required. If you miss your allocated time slot your ticket will be lost, so be sure to turn up on time!
Face masks are currently compulsory when visiting the Vatican Museums, and there are temperature checks at the entrance – anyone with a temperature above 37.5°C will not be allowed in.
Photography and Drawing
Photography in the Vatican Museums is allowed everywhere with the exception of the Sistine Chapel. Flash, tripods and selfie sticks are always prohibited.
It’s also worth noting you can’t freely sketch in the Vatican Museums. If you wish to draw any of the artworks on display, you need to contact the museum’s direction to apply for permission.
All visitors to the Vatican Museums must pass through a metal detector. Umbrellas, knives and weapons are not allowed, and neither are large backpacks, which need to be stored at the cloakroom.
Food and drinks are also not allowed in the museum.
Cloakroom and Luggage Storage
The museum offers free cloakroom service. Please note you cannot store weapons or firearms.
Facilities for Families
Families with strollers and pushchairs are welcome to visit the museum. Staff will be happy to show on a map the easiest routes to take to avoid stairs. The Vatican Museums also have baby changing facilities in the bathrooms, and a nursing room.