With 12,000 rooms and covering 4,000 years of history, the Vatican Museums (yes, there's more than one!) can be overwhelming. The best way to take in the extensive galleries, the Sistine Chapel, and St Peter's Basilica is to book a small-group or private tour. Otherwise, if you just show up, you're likely to languish in line for many hours, and by the time you get inside, you'll already be tired and you'll shuffle around the halls without having an understanding of the artwork that you're seeing.
For those reasons we always recommend joining an art historian as they guide you to the highlights and hidden secrets of one of the world's largest museum collection, rivalling the Louvre. Also note, the only way to wander the beautiful Vatican Gardens is on a guided tour. Andiamo, let's review the top tours of the Vatican Museums.
No denying, the Vatican is a busy place. That's why we love this VIP tour with access to areas normally off limits to the public. See secret locations like the Sala degli Ori (Room of Gold) or the Niccoline Chapel, adorned with gold brought back by Christopher Columbus.
But perhaps the highlight of this small-group tour is a private visit to the Sistine Chapel after closing hours. This is one of the most popular private tours in the world and it sells out, so book early!.
OMG!!! Worth every cent. This was without a doubt the highlight of my trip to Italy. First if all, our tour guide, was amazing, clearly very knowledgable about the Vatican and the artwork, but made the tour extremely entertaining with inside stories about the art/artists. The access to the private rooms, balcony, and Raphael rooms without a crowd was awesome, but the private access to the Sistine Chapel was priceless. Being in the Chapel for 1/2 hour without a crowd really gives you enough time to take in everything,"
– 5-Star Review
We like this comprehensive tour because it combines two walking tours to see the best of the Vatican.
You visit the Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of Maps, Raphael's Rooms, St Peter's Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, and St Paul's Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
This is the only tour that shows you all the Basilicas in one day. Choose from either a morning or afternoon tour.
This was a highlight of our trip to Rome. We knew we made the right choice as we approached the Vatican museums and saw the line to get in snake back around for blocks. We met our guide, who did a wonderful job. She walked us though all those lines right in. Make no mistake, the museums and St. Peter's are full of people, but the guided tour made it much easier and interesting' Honestly, it would be a challenge to navigate it all on your own. In the afternoon we met our guide Pia, who is truly a gem. She escorted us to the basilicas outside the Vatican. She was not only knowledgeable, but very engaging. This tour is worth every penny."
– 5-Star Review
Fancy exploring on your own, but without the ticket lines? See the best of Rome and Vatican City with your own secret weapon — the Rome Card and Omnia Vatican card.
The 3-day sightseeing pass gets you inside the best attractions, along with discounts & perks like skip-the-line entry to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica.
Want more perks? the card has them — a hop-on hop-off bus ticket, central Rome travelcard, guidebook, & city map.
Made travelling around Rome so easy with the hop on hop off bus and the public transport. The skip the line for the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica saved us so much time, so we had more time to enjoy Rome. Also skipped the lines at the other places we visited as well. Excellent value for money and an easy way to visit Rome"
– 5-Star Review
See the Vatican on your own terms with a private guide. A private tour makes it oh-so easy to explore all the best stuff — the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica.
From Michelangelo's The Last Judgement to St Peter's Square, this tour takes you behind the scenes to the Vatican's sacred sites. Enjoy VIP access and skip all the entrance lines — including the priority lines.
This tour of the Vatican Museums, The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica is a must for any first time visitor to Rome. Our guide was informative, personable and a pleasure to become acquainted with. Being in a private group only improved the experience as there was no waiting for stragglers, and one-on-one conversation always brings out little tidbits one would never get with a group."
– 5-Star Review
Appropriate clothing is required for you to get into the Vatican. Not our rules, but theirs.
Wear sensible shoes, not sandals. Men are advised to wear long pants. Women should wear knee-length dresses and skirts. The official dress code also states: no bare shoulders, no hats, no short shorts or minis.