Guide to managing the Vatican in a day

Guide to the Vatican in a Day

Best Secrets to Visiting the Vatican

When visiting Rome for only a few days, adding the Vatican to the schedule can seem a bit daunting, since there is so much art, beauty and religion to see in only one day. Yet, there is a way to manage your time and make the most of this special area of the Eternal City. It just takes a bit of preparation. Here’s how to navigate the Vatican in one day (or less):

 

The Vatican Museums

One of the most crucial mistakes tourists make is when to line up and go to the Vatican Museums. Lines start wrapping around the Vatican walls even as early as 8am, so it’s best to get up and make your way over before they get too long. From March until October, the museum is open from 9am – 4pm everyday except Sunday. From November until February, they are open from 10am – 1.45 pm, the best advice is to go early!

Vatican Museums

Once inside, it’s best to plan for around three-four hours to see everything. There is so much, including the Pio Clementino Museum, Gallery of the Tapestries and Geographical Maps, Raphael’s Rooms and the most famous: the Sistine Chapel. This map displays where amenities are in the museums, including the cafeteria, bathrooms and each of the Museum’s Collections.  

Tour Options: If you are interested in doing a tour of the Vatican Museums or even one of the Vatican Gardens, there are many options:

Vatican Tour - Private & Skip the Line

€250 per group (1-7 people)

Vatican Museums Tickets & Tours

From €27

Tip: There also will be many small companies who will try to sell tours on the street or while you are waiting in line. If you decide you want to participate in one of these, just make sure they charge a fair price and are with a real company. Some offer “Skip the Line” Access or “After Hour” Tours, providing a different experience than you might otherwise have had.

Food

After working up an appetite walking around the Vatican Museums, there is a one-stop street to grab a bite to eat, Borgo Pio! This street is precisely on your way from the Vatican Museums to St. Peter’s Basilica. There is everything from hotels to cafe’s, gelateria’s to gluten-free fast food and sit-down restaurants. With more than 20 options for places to eat jetting off from this little street, there is something for everyone.  Check out our guide to Borgo Pio for information on all restaurant and bars. 

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica, located in the heart of the lively St. Peter’s Square, is the perfect stop after the Vatican Museums. It is open around 7am everyday and closes around 6.30pm. While there is no entrance fee, to enter, you must go through security and be properly dressed, with knees and shoulders covered. Lines are longest during the summer, when there are more tourists in the city. Also, the hours of 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4 pm. are especially busy.

Guide to managing the Vatican in a Day

*Hint: Opening times are also dependent on Church holidays, such as Easter or Christmas, which could affect opening hours.

Tip: Along with the inside of St. Peter’s, it can be explored from other angles. First, one can climb to the top of the dome for a view of the city of Rome. Cost is €8 if you take the elevator, or €6 if you climb 551 steps in a narrow staircase. The dome opens at 8 am and closes around 5pm.

The second way to see it, is by going underground in the ancient ruins and doing a Scavi Tour. This tour includes a specialized guide and costs €13 for around a 2-3 hour experience in your native language. Pilgrims receive up-close views of where St. Peter is buried and walk through the necropolis under the basilica. 

Tours: Many tours with the Vatican Museums will also include a part of the basilica. If not, there are countless companies and private individuals who offer these services. The basilica is not as large as the Vatican Museums, so the tour does not take as long. Carve out about an hour and a half to make sure you see all the details and art inside.

Vatican Tour - Private & Skip the Line

€250 per group (1-7 people)

Vatican Museums Tickets & Tours

From €27

Tip: There also will be many small companies who will try to sell tours on the street or while you are waiting in line. If you decide you want to participate in one of these, just make sure they charge a fair price and are with a real company. Some offer “Skip the Line” Access or “After Hour” Tours, providing a different experience than you might otherwise have had.

Basilica services: For any Catholics, St. Peter’s Basilica also offers services throughout the day. For example, they have adoration in the third small side chapel on the right until about 4pm – 5pm daily. Around 5.30pm they also have daily Mass at the back of the basilica at the Cathedral Petri. Confessions are available in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Chinese, among others each day, just to the right of St. Jerome’s altar.

After exiting St. Peter’s Basilica, and taking the mandatory pictures of the Swiss Guards near the basilica and jumping in St. Peter’s Square, your tour of the Vatican in less than a day has concluded. However, it always pays to be a bit more prepared and plan out any tours you would like to do in advance. That way, it’s smooth sailing all through this area of the Eternal City.

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