Visiting the Vatican is one of the things to do on a trip to Rome. On the other hand, for us, it was a real hassle. So, I’m going to share here what we learned from this visit, and how we managed to visit St. Peter’s Basilica with skip-the-line tickets. In this blog article, find our advice and tips for visiting the Vatican without a guide:
- The Must-sees in the Vatican 🤩
- Best days to visit, and days to avoid 🗓
- Skip-the-line tickets 🎟
- Practical advice: lunch, walk, how to get there 💫
1. The must-sees of the Vatican: what to visit in Vatican?
The Vatican is not a place that can be visited “in one block”. There are several places that are open to visit without a guide, but others are only dedicated to guided tours.
1.1 St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sacred Grottoes and the panorama from the dome
If you have little time, this is clearly the place to visit first. St. Peter’s Basilica is exceptional inside! We also climbed on the dome of the Basilica, it was cool! I added the photos at the bottom of the article.
The visit to the Sacred Caves is accessible with tickets for the Basilica. On the other hand, tickets for the panorama from the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica are sold separately.
Panorama from the dome. We bought these tickets for the Basilica, then, once the controls passed, we bought the tickets to go up on the dome. There is a special counter for this with more expensive (with elevator) and cheaper (stairs) tickets.
1.2 Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are remarkable for its collections, but also for its interiors! It is a very interesting place to visit, as the Vatican has one of the largest, beautiful and rich art collections in the world.
1.3 Tours with guide only
It is not possible to visit the Vatican Gardens, nor the Vatican Necropolis (or Scavi) without a guide. You can therefore visit these places only in the context of a guided tour.
2. When to visit the Vatican: times, tips, best day
To avoid. There is one day to absolutely avoid unless you want to see the Pope, it’s Wednesday! We arrived like flowers on Wednesday of Easter week and it was a huge mistake. On this day, access to the Basilica is closed. Same for Sunday when the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are also closed.
Best time? Clearly, in winter there are far fewer people and queues. But if you come at other times of the year, prefer Monday, Tuesday or Thursday. Otherwise, opt for skip-the-line tickets to avoid the wait, which can take up to 2-3 hours…
Check the timetables and all the exceptional closures on the official Vatican website, so as not to be surprised at the last moment.
3. Skip-the-line tickets for visiting Vatican
There are several skip-the-line tickets available to visit the Vatican, depending on what you want to see. Click to see the availability according to your dates:
- St. Peter’s Basilica: without an individual guide, just the visit of the Basilica avoiding the queue and an audio guide. Once the checks have been passed, you will be able to buy tickets for the dome.
- Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel: Skip-the-Line Tickets
- Guided tour: Vatican Museum + Sistine Chapel
Good to know! If you can’t find any more tickets to visit the Vatican without a guide (yes, it’s possible in high season at the last moment…), you can then take a guided group tour. There are often last minute guided tours for group visits.
4. Practical advice for visiting the Vatican
Here are some handy tips for visiting the Vatican on a trip to Rome.
4.1 How to go to the Vatican?
From the heart of downtown Rome, you can walk to the Vatican. It can also be a nice walk! In order to better locate yourself, look at the map of Rome in the article: In which area of Rome to stay?
You can also take a bus. On the other hand, there will always be some walking to do, and in terms of time you will not necessarily be winners. If the weather is nice, we recommend taking a walk instead, especially since there are other things to see in the area!
5.2 What to wear in Vatican?
Quoting the official website:
“Entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens is only permitted to visitors dressed in a respectful manner. High-cut and/or low-cut clothing, shorts above the knees, mini-skirts and hats are not permitted.
5.3 What else to see in the area?
Very close to the Vatican, 10 minutes on foot, there is of course the Castel Sant’Angelo. It is a Roman monument which was built (in 125!) first to be a mausoleum, but was later used for military purposes.
In order to know more about other places to visit in Rome, you can read our blog article: Visit Rome in 2, 3 or 4 days.
5.4 Where to eat during the visits?
There are no really nice places to have lunch near the Vatican. In any case, we did not see restaurants that made us want. If you know of any good ones, we’re all ears! One of the solutions is to have sandwiches or to go to another neighborhood after the visit.
The main places to see in the Vatican are:
– St. Peter’s Basilica, including the Sacred Grottoes and the panorama from the dome
– Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
– Vatican Gardens
– Vatican Necropolis (or Scavi)
The best day to visit the Vatican more quietly is Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, and especially in winter.
Tickets can be purchased on the official Vatican website. However, if there are no more tickets available, tickets can be found on other platforms (example).
Visiting the Vatican City is visiting one of the best places while traveling in Italy.