Vatican City
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Vatican City: Tours & Tickets

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What is the Vatican City?

Vatican City – everyone’s heard about it, but what is it exactly? Is it a part of Rome, is it independent, are only priests allowed in? There are a lot of mysteries and misconceptions surrounding Vatican City, so here are 5 fascinating facts.

The Smallest Country in the World

The Smallest Country in the World

With a tiny population of 842 and an area of 110 acres (roughly an eighth of New York’s Central Park), Vatican City is the world's smallest independent nation-state.

An Economy without Trade or Taxes

An Economy without Trade or Taxes

As a completely non-commercial economy, all of Vatican City’s money comes from donations, museum admission fees and the sale of postage stamps, books and tourist souvenirs.

A Veritable Culture Treasure Trove

A Veritable Culture Treasure Trove

Featuring the world-famous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City is a highly popular tourist destination, attracting over 4 million visitors yearly.

The Pope Has a Secret Escape Tunnel
Photo: Raja Patnaik @wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Pope Has a Secret Escape Tunnel

In 1277, a secret passageway was built between the Vatican City and the nearby fortified castle Castel Sant’Angelo, providing an escape route for the pope if the city was attacked.

Those are Not Harlequins

Those are Not Harlequins

The colorfully dressed men standing in front of the city’s entrances are the famous Swiss Guards. Former mercenaries, they are now the permanent de facto army of Vatican City.

Our insider tips

Best Time of Year to Visit

Although Vatican City is extremely popular with tourists all year around, if you’re looking for a quieter visit, your best bet is during the low season between November and February.

Give Yourself Enough Time

There is so much to see in Vatican City, make sure you’re not pressed for time. Importantly, if you want to see the Sistine Chapel, it’s essential that you enter the Vatican Museums before 3:00 PM so you can reach the chapel before it closes.

Book a Tour?

Although there is more than enough to take in as an individual visitor, those who want to learn about Vatican City’s rich history would benefit from one of the many excellent tours offered. There are public as well as private tours. Note that latter need to be booked well in advance.

See the Pope

You’re unlikely to run into the pope on your visit to Vatican City. However, every Wednesday the pope holds a public audience on St. Peter’s Square in the summer and in the Audience Hall during winter. The audience starts at 10:30 AM, but most visitors arrive earlier to secure a good seat. Security opens between 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM.

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    365 days a year!
  • Is it expensive?
    Free to look at from the outside. Admission tickets vary.
  • Will I need a guide?
    Not compulsory, but recommended.
  • How to get there
    Taxi, bus, metro, tram or by foot from Rome. Look here for more detailed directions.
  • Additional information

    • Large bags are not allowed in the museums, so pack light!

    • There is often no air conditioning in the museums so make sure to dress accordingly and bring a bottle of water.

What people are saying about Vatican City

Brilliant - Becky was a FANTASTIC guide!

We had a fantastic tour with Becky as the guide. Very informative, humourous and friendly. Skipped every queue and despite chaotic crowds in some areas it was all perfectly managed by Becky. Would highly recommend!

It was very well organized and our guide was superb!

Was very impressed with the tour from the moment we started with hot coffee and croissants! Guide was so good. She was funny, entertaining and informative. She made sure we got to the places before the crowds descended on us and kept us all together. One of the best tours I’ve been on.

Early Morning Vatican Tour Reviewed by Vivian, 10/13/2018

Great service to help you enjoy a wonderful experience in the Vatican.

Finding the meeting point was manageable, and the guides helped us through the chaotic entrance area. Skipping the line was worth every penny.

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Fast-Track Entry Reviewed by william, 10/12/2018

Guide was excellent and very knowldgeable.

Felt there was way too much to see in the short span of time and way too many people.

Really impressive and interesting tour and excellent guide

The tour itself was very interesting and really impressive, but what made it special is our guide. Pascalo was very informative and answer every question with details and patience, in addition he found a way to make it personal as much as possible referring to the relevant person when he has a related comment... I really recommend this tour, each one of the attractions visited was really interesting and like no other...

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