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

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

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

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.

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

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

Skipped the hours long line; 100 worth it.

I was simply looking for a way to avoid standing in line in the hot sun. Tons of guides around we're trying to sell me tickets but the lowest I was able to negotiate down to was €30. Found some WiFi nearby and booked a ticket through here. At first I was a little skeptical; it's free to get in and I was afraid I would still have to wait in the long line. But I found the reserved entrance spot easily and was quickly guided through the short security line. Without this reservation, I would have waited in line for at least 2-3 hours. All in all I waiting about 5 minutes. Without a doubt, this was worth it. I did not use the audio guide that came with the reservation since I had a Rick Steves tour downloaded already (highly recommend). Also, note that this is only for getting into the basilica. The Sistine chapel and other Vatican museums are not included.

Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. Dresda, Francesca

Dresda, Francesca was an excellent tour guide! She was very knowledgeable and engaging in her presentations which made the tour phenomenal!!! Loved it!!!

Great, awesome company with great service and tours.

The Roman Guy tour service was great and even called us when I was late due to a mistake that I made and waited a few minutes so we could make it to the tour of a life time at the Roman Coliseum. Thank you for a perfect day.

Vatican City Behind the Scenes Highlights Tour Reviewed by Rocky, 08/13/2018

Patrizzia provided a very informative and efficient tour. Very funny !

We were very pleased with our well spoken and humorous guide. Easy to recommend this tour.

What an experience with a fantastic guide.

It’s well worth going to the Vatican early to experience it before the crowds appear

Exclusive Early Morning Vatican Tour Reviewed by a GetYourGuide customer, 08/11/2018

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