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Guided visit to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – organization and procedures

Many people, when they come to Rome, have the Vatican Museums on their check-list (who doesn’t?!). The Vatican Museums are part of the Vatican city, but by entering the Museums you are not going to “visit the city”.

The Vatican city is an independent country and not all of the territory is open to the public.

If you opt for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel there is a procedure to follow.

First of all, if you are part of the group you will skip the line for those who are waiting to enter and purchase their tickets inside.

By entering the Vatican Museums, with a group tour or semi private tour, you will enter from the main entrance where you will have a security check. This is the first step where you need to respect certain rules imposed by the Vatican. It is not allowed to:

  • to carry big backpacks
  • to carry weapons, knives, scissors and/or metal tools
  • to enter with medium and large umbrellas (non-telescopic umbrellas)
  • to enter with long sticks (apart from those used for walking)
  • to bring inside camera supports (like tripods) and stands for photography, banners and signs of any type
  • to bring inside alcoholic and super alcoholic beverages
  • to consume food and drinks inside the exhibition halls

Once you go through the security check, if you’re part of a group, the tour manager or the guide will redeem the Vatican Museums vouchers. You might ask why you have to wait (it can be up to 5 mins) the tour manager to give you the tickets, but the Vatican procedure requires that once inside we redeem our on-line reservations (skip-the-line tickets) purchased in advance.

In the meantime, with your guide, you will approach the desk where you will be given the headsets. The only devices allowed inside the Vatican Museums are those of the Vatican, therefore, we need to wait the personnel to provide the headset with the right frequency. You will have a sound-check with your guide in order to control that every single participant can hear the guide clearly.

Once all the participants have confirmed that their device works properly, the group and the guide will head the Galleries of the Vatican Museums and your tour will start.

All this time, from the meeting point to the entrance, the security check and during the sound check you will be assisted by your guide who will lead the group until the end of the tour.

Please be sure to give back your radio to the guide at the end of the tour (or at any other moment in case you need to leave the tour earlier). Otherwise, you can return your radio to the Postoffice of the Vatican (leaving the Basilica on the right-hand side).

 

 

When is the best time to visit the Vatican?

If you’re planning a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and you have few days available, here is short “guide” for the best day to organize your Vatican City tour.

Whether you are going to join one of the so-called “Vatican tour skip the line” or you decide to go on your own, it is always useful to know a little bit more about the crowds at the Vatican.

St Peter’s line

The time of the year:

The low season in Rome starts every year at the beginning of November until around 20th December, when the Christmas period starts, and it finishes on the 6th January. The high season every year starts around Easter and finishes at the end of October.

However, during the high season, the crowd flow can vary and it could be helpful to know when you could encounter more or less people accessing the Vatican Museums.

Days:

  • Monday is one of the busiest days for the Vatican Museums as they are closed on Sundays. A lot of people don’t know about the closure day of the Vatican Museums and they leave the Vatican City tour as (the best and) the last on the check-list. Therefore, since early morning you will find people queuing at the entrance. If you have no choice you can join one of our “beat the crowds” solutions like the Early Vatican Tour with privileged access
  • Tuesday can be a quiet day for the Vatican Museums and it can be a good choice for a visit. However, always check the Vatican calendar to see if there is any special ceremonies or Vatican City holidays when they close the Museums.
  • Wednesday is the day of the Pope’s Audience. So if you are not planning to attend the Audience at the St Peters Square, this is the perfect time to visit the Vatican Museums. You should go in the morning and you will probably have a chance to see what is like when the Vatican Museums are almost empty.
  • Thursday is not a particularly busy day for the Vatican except for the days when there is a holiday or some special ceremony in the Vatican.
  • Friday can be considered one of the busiest days for the Vatican City. At any time you go, you will find crowds accessing the Museums. This is also because of the “long-weekend” holiday travelers.
  • Saturday, together with Monday, is the busiest day at the Vatican. On Sundays the Vatican is closed and on Saturdays, at any time during the high season, you will always find a long line at the entrance.

In case you’ve already purchased or you’re planning to arrange a Vatican City tour, please keep in mind that all the guided tours organized by City Lights Tours are skip-the-line-tours. This means that you will skip the line at any time. The above-mentioned list can help you to organize your Vatican City tour better and to choose the day when there are less visitors inside the Museums.

Also in order to avoid the “big crowd” entering the Museums, you can always choose to join the Early morning Vatican tour that will allow you to enter one hour earlier than the general public.

 

 

 

 

The smallest country in the world!

With just 110 acres of land area and approximately 1,000 citizens,  Vatican City is the world’s smallest country.  The city mints its own euros, has its own army, issues passports to its citizens and has a flag of its own too!  There are no border controls or security checks to enter the city and it is just a road away from Castel Sant’Angelo.

Though small in size, Vatican City deserves one full day to explore its gems.  The main attractions are St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s square with the obelisk and Vatican Museums with Sistine Chapel.

The Museum is known for its unique art collections gathered by various Popes.  With over 54 galleries on exhibit, it would take you weeks to see it all.  If you visit, you will probably visit the highlights, such as the Raphael Rooms, The Gallery of Maps, the Rotunda Room and The Tapestries Hall. Then, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites. Set within the Vatican City and Museums, the Sistine Chapel welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry. As cameras are banned, it’s one to make sure you don’t forget!

sistine chapel

St. Peter’s Square, built in the 17th century, was designed and built by Bernini and is heavily inspired by Baroque style.  It is in the shape of an elongated Trapezoid with semi-cirlce in the middle of it.  The Obelisk stands in the center and was originally located in Heliopolis in Egypt, and brought to Rome in 37 AD.

 

The Museums will take several hours to maneuver through the crowds.  City Lights Tours can provide guided tours throughout the museum, Sistine Chapel and a secret passage into St. Peter’s Basilica.

The last Sunday of every month, entry to the Vatican Museum is free!

 

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