A Visit to the Vatican City Museums and St Peter’s Basilica

(Last Updated On: October 13, 2018)

A visit to the Vatican City was a part of Rome city sightseeing. The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world surrounded by the city of Rome. Visiting the Vatican City is easy, there are plenty of buses to the Vatican City from the Rome city center which drops you at the St. Peter’s Square or to the Vatican Museums. The main points of attraction in Vatican City are the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Garden, St. Peter’s Basilica and the St. Peter’s Square.

How to Reach Vatican City?

Getting to Vatican City is easy and convenient from most part of Rome for the well connected public transport. Piazza Venezia is one of the prominent squares in Rome some 10 minutes walk from Colosseum. From Piazza Venezia, there are many buses to Vatican City with a stop at either St. Peter’s Square or Vatican Museums.

Metro – The Line A of the Metro serves the station Ottaviano-San Pietro which is close to St Peter’s Square and Cipro-Musei Vaticani walkable to the Vatican Museums.

If you are walking into Vatican City from Rome side then walk the Ponte St. Angelo bridge across the Castel St. Angelo.

The Vatican City Interesting Facts

The Vatican City is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, a popular pilgrimage site and home of the Pope since 14th-century. The papal court moved to the city of Avignon in France from 1309 to 1377.

There are some interesting facts around the Vatican City which is the smallest country in the world with the smallest population still it has its own post office, stamps, own flag, anthem and even a national football team.

The Vatican City is the only country in the world which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Vatican Museums

Rome and the Vatican City was a family trip accompanied by parents and our year old kid. We are not really a museum enthusiast and the Vatican Museums are really huge with lots to see and explore, we hurried through the exhibits only because we got exhausted and not bored. We really wished we had opted for a guided Vatican tour which didn’t because we weren’t sure if we could manage to keep up with the guide with our lil one.

Our advance ticket booking gave us direct entry into the Vatican Museums, we collected the audio guides from counters and started the tour of the incredible priceless collection.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The Vatican City museum has an outstanding collection with over 20000 exhibits comprising of sculptures, paintings and remarkable works of Renaissance art collected by the popes through the centuries. The Vatican museums is a complex of different museums and galleries founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The Pio Clementino Museum is the most important part of the Vatican museums and houses some of the remarkable collection of classical sculptures from the original collection of Pope Julius II which is displayed in the Octagon Courtyard including the Apollo of Belvedere and Laocoon.

The Red Round Room in the Pio Clementino Museum exhibits large statues of several god and goddesses in wall niches including a bronze statue of Hercules from the 2nd century.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Also not to miss is the magnificent dome of the room modeled after the Pantheon in Rome and the colorful floor mosaic with mythological figures dating from 3rd century A.D.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Probably the interesting part of the Pio Clementino Museum especially for the kids would be the Hall of the Animals which has statues of numerous animals displayed in two rooms.

The ‘Raphael Rooms’ are famous for their frescoes painted by Raphael especially ‘The Room of the Segnatura’ containing some of the famous works of Raphael. Raphael rooms were part of apartments of Pope Julius II inside papal apartments.

The two most important galleries are the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps. The Gallery of Tapestries displays 18 Flemish tapestries dating back to 15th and 17th-centuries. Interesting about the tapestries is the optical illusion which makes you feel that the eyes and the body of the figures are following you as walk past them.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

The Gallery of Maps displays a series of 40 painted topographical maps of Italy, the ornate ceiling of the gallery is painted with events that occurred in the locations depicted in the maps of the wall.

The Courtyard of the Pinecone is dominated by a large bronze named ‘Sphere within Sphere‘ the courtyard also has an ancient bronze fountain in shape of pinecone originally a Roman fountain from the 2nd-century A.D which was unearthed near the Pantheon in Rome.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

One of the interesting parts of the Vatican museum tours is the Gregorian Egyptian Museum founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839 which exhibits antiquities from Roman Egypt and various parts of Rome across nine rooms including wooden sarcophagus dating back to 1000 BC and a 3000-year-old mummified Egyptian female.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Sistine Chapel

At the end of the Vatican museum tour is the main highlight of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel tickets are included with Vatican Museum tickets. The frescoes of Sistine Chapel are sure to leave you spellbound with paintings all over the room. The chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment decorated by Michelangelo are stunning with its outstanding work of art.

The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned the restoration of the old Cappella Magna in the late 15th-century. The Sistine Chapel also serves as the site of the Papal conclave, the venue for the election of the successive pope by cardinals of the Catholic Church.

Taking pictures is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel and it is required to maintain absolute silence.

The ‘Christian Museum’ exhibits Christian antiquities and art collections like silverware, ivories, crosses and other religious items, terracotta works displayed in decorative cabins spanning several centuries of artwork. The ceilings of the rooms are decorated with rich paintings.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Our visit ended at the iconic Bramante Staircase, a double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo. The design on the balustrade of the ramp is a remarkable work of metal art.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

We would highly recommend you hire a guide to explore the museums.

Exploring each and every part of the museum practically impossible, you will probably need years to explore each and every exhibit. The guided tours help you walk through the most important parts of the museum exhibits as per your interests or even as per the time limit. Guided tours help you explore better backed by history and facts and the guide won’t let you get lost in the maze of the museum rooms.

Vatican Gardens

Vatican gardens are lush green spaces covering more than half of the country. The garden is decorated with several fountains, sculptures and 16 images of Blessed Virgin Mary enshrined across the Vatican Gardens. The garden is not open to the public but guided tours of the garden are available seated in an open bus with an audio-guide or with a guided walking tour.

Also Read: One Day in Rome – Top Things to Do and See in the Eternal City!

St. Peter’s Basilica

The St. Peter’s Square was jam-packed with visitors running to join the km long queue waiting for the entry to St. Peter’s Basilica. The St. Peter’s Basilica is an exemplary Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed on the location of an old basilica which is said to be built on the tomb of St Peter who was one of Jesus’s Apostles considered as first Pope. The church has an opulent interior with rich baroque artwork decorated with several important monuments, paintings, and artworks, including Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s Baldachin.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Though the entrance to St.Peter’s Basilica is free one can access the dome of the basilica for an entrance fee, the dome can be reached either by stairs or by elevator. While the inside gallery of the dome offers a wonderful vista of the basilica interior, the gallery on the outer side offers an incredible panorama of the city of Rome across the St Peter’s Square.

It is also possible to take a tour of the Vatican Necropolis also known as Scavi which is located beneath St Peter’s Basilica which the houses the tomb of St Peter and several other papal tombs. You can book a tour of Vatican Necropolis on this website.

St. Peter’s Square

The majestic St Peter’s Square was designed by Roman artist Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1656. The sides of the elliptical square are bedecked with four rows of imposing Doric columns arranged in a stunning colonnade topped by 140 statues. The St Peter’s Square is the venue for regular Papal General Audiences held on Wednesday mornings.

Things to do and see in the Vatican City

Know Before You Go

Visitors to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens need to be dressed appropriately or you won’t be allowed to enter. You need to cover your shoulders and knees and no hats are allowed.

It is recommended to book your tickets to Vatican museums in advance for ‘Skip the Line’ tickets. Best would be to book guided Vatican tours of the museums and the St Peter’s Basilica for a hassle-free tour.

Visitors are required to leave their luggage and backpacks in the cloakroom of Vatican Museums which is free of charge.

The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays except for the last Sunday of the month when the entry is free and usually crowded.

The entry to the Papal Audience held on Wednesdays is free but tickets are mandatory.

For the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica Open Times and Tickets check here.

Recommended Vatican Tours

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