During Roman holiday, visit to the Vatican City museum and Sistine Chapel is one of the most important things in the list of any traveler. The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are Christian and art museums based inside the Vatican City. There are masterpieces from the impressive collection gathered by popes throughout the centuries. Moreover, the collection includes Roman sculptures and worldwide known works of Renaissance art.
The museums contain almost 70.000 works, where 20.000 of them are on display
The entry to the historical museum costs 17 euro (+4 euro for the reservation if you book tickets online). It is always a good idea to plan your trip in advance and reserve tickets online because there are thousands of visitors daily who want to visit the art museum. Usually, queues to ticket desks are endless. Also, there are 640 people who work in 40 different departments as administrative, scholarly, and restoration ones.
The museum exhibits 54 galleries (sale), including the Sistine Chapel, and is one of the largest museums in the world
Note that the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica and to the Vatican Museums located in two different parts of the smallest government in the world. It is better to come earlier to the Vatican to explore it without crowds of tourists, since there are many things to see. You can plan your visit to the Vatican by booking our private guided tour to pass through queues and discover the museums with maximum comfort.
- 1 Tickets
- 2 Pontifical Residence of Castel Gandolfo
- 3 Hours
- 4 Tour
- 5 Where to Enter
- 6 Dress Code
- 7 History
- 8 Collection – What to See?
- 8.1 Belvedere Courtyard
- 8.2 The Museum of Pio Clement
- 8.3 Gregorian Egyptian Museums
- 8.4 The Court of the Pigna
- 8.5 Apostolic Palace
- 8.6 Raphael Rooms
- 8.7 Borgia Apartments
- 8.8 Gregorian Etruscan Museum
- 8.9 Vatican Apostolic Library
- 8.10 The Chiaramonti Museum
- 8.11 Vatican Historical Museum
- 8.12 Carriage Pavilion
- 9 Highlights from the Painting Collection
- 10 Papal Throne
- 11 Collection of Modern Religious Art
- 12 Pinacoteca Vaticana
- 13 Gallery of Maps
- 14 Sistine Chapel
- 15 Online shop
When you plan visit to the Vatican Museums, you should better avoid ticket offices in high seasons and choose admission tickets online with a reservation fee. However, if you decide to buy tickets offline in any ticket office, you can pay an additional price for the audio guide, guide book or get a group tour. If you use online service, the languages for the online ticket office are Italian and English. During the reservation online process, you have to choose a particular ticket time, when you want to enter the museums. The Vatican Museums official site only accepts Visa and Mastercard. The website is here
If you purchase tickets online in advance, the entrance fee cost is 17 euro + booking fee is 4 euro, which helps you to skip the line. Don’t forget to take your passport!
Once you have completed the online purchase, you will receive two emails: one to confirm your payment and the second one which contains your voucher for the Vatican Museums ticket. Print out the first page of the voucher. On the day of your visit, come to the museums 15-30 minutes earlier. Once you pass through security, go to the left, where the “cassa” is located and turn your voucher for an actual ticket.
Read instructions on how to buy tickets here
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There are many types of tickets with various prices, reduction or special free entry reserved to different visitors. Moreover, tickets cannot be refunded. The ticket is valid only on the day on which it is issued.
You should better buy Vatican Museum tickets in advance
Friday Night Openings is a unique opportunity to visit the Vatican Museums after sunset. Every Friday from April 20th to October 26th, the museums host visitors from 7 pm to 11 pm with the last entrance at 9.30 pm. Night tickets have the same price as regular admission tickets.
Booking online for night openings is mandatory. Also, you have to exit from the galleries 20-30 minutes before the closing time
Breakfast at the Museums
Breakfast at the Museums is available with guided tour or audio guide. The reservation includes an American buffet breakfast and the entrance to the Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Importantly, tickets can be reserved up to 60 days prior to the date of the intended visit. You can enter the Museums at 7.15 am, before the official opening time and enjoy the breakfast. Full price is 68 euro, while reduced price is 59 euro. Identity cards of all participants are needed for the purchase online and before the entrance.
Pontifical Residence of Castel Gandolfo
Official pontifical residence located in Castel Gandolfo, 24 kilometers southeast of Rome. It provides multi-lingual tours to the botanical garden and architectural gems that belong to the Vatican. Also, there are special tariffs for families. Note that you can make a reservation up to 60 days before the needed date and change it up to 72 hours prior to the date of the visit. If you book a walking tour to the Barberini Gardens and to the Antiquarium of Villa (both individual and group guided tours available), on your day of the visit, an admission ticket for the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo will have a reduced cost of 7 euro per person.
The Vatican Museums working hours are from Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm with the final entry at 4 pm. Every last Sunday of the month from 9 am to 2 pm (final entry at 12.30 pm) is free entry (if it is not coincided with Easter Sunday, 29 June Sts. Peter and Paul, 25 December Christmas day, and 26 December Feast of St. Stephen)
- Below you can see the opening days and hours schedule of the Vatican Museums for 2019:
According to the timings indicated above, the Vatican Museums will have extended opening time on 18, 19,20,23,24, 25, 27, 29, and 30th of April, 2nd and 4th of May, and 2nd of November, until 7 pm (final entry at 5 pm). Closure days are: Sundays, except the last Sunday of each month and 1st of January, 11th of February, 19th of March, 22nd of April, 1st of May, 29th of June, 14th and 15th of August, 1st of November, 25th and 26th of December.
The Vatican Museums offer group tours which you can book on its official website for an additional payment. Another option is to get an audio guide. Moreover, for visitors in a wheelchair there is a specific itinerary not compatible with the guided tours. Pay attention that it is better to visit the museums with a tour guide, who will explain everything, since there are many things to see inside. Plan your trip in advance and consider the option to visit the Vatican right before its opening to save your time and not to stand in long queues.
If you want to make the most of your visit, guided tour is an amazing option
Where to Enter
- Location: Viale Vaticano, 00165 Rome
There are different entrances to the Vatican Museums and to St. Peter’s Basilica. Plan your root in advance. St. Peter’s Basilica is not included in the Vatican Museums ticket, it is a church. However, there is no fee to go inside. It is closed on Wednesday mornings during the Papal Audience and reopens around 12-1 pm on that day. If you are on a group tour, there is a privileged passage directly from the Sistine Chapel to the basilica.
How to Get to the Vatican Museums?
- Rome Metro: There is a station just outside the Vatican walls at Ottaviano – S. Pietro. It is a 5-minute walk from the Metro to both St Peter’s Square and The Vatican Museums
- Train: St Pietro train station located in a 10-minute walk to St Peter’s Square
- Public Bus: Buses 40 and 64 function frequently between Termini station and the Vatican via the City Centre, including Piazza Venezia. Also, you can reach the Vatican by buses 62 or 81
- Walking distance: The Vatican is not that far from the city center of the Eternal City. For instance, walking from Piazza Navona will take around 20 minutes
The dress code for visiting the Vatican is the same that spreads to visit of any church in Italy. Both males and females have to cover their knees and shoulders. Moreover, it is better to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts. It is mandatory to follow the dress code of the museums.
In the 15th century in the Vatican, the famous Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) was built. Architect Giovannino de Dolci created a modest church, which was decorated from the inside by the greatest masters of Renaissance painting: Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli and Pietro Perugino. A gem of the chapel became a fresco by Michelangelo di Lodovico – “The Last Judgment”.
In the late 15th – early 16th centuries, another monument of architecture and art – the Borgia Tower (Torre dei Borgia) appears in the Vatican. The tradition of fine items collecting was founded by Pope Julius II. In the 16th century, he actively began to collect copies of ancient Roman sculptures and arranged a suitable space for their exhibit.
According to the statistics, the Vatican Museums are the 5th most visited art museum in the world. There were 6 million visitors in 2017
The Museums trace their origin to the marble sculpture, purchased in the 16th century: Laocoon and His Sons. It was discovered in 1506, in a vineyard near the Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) in the Eternal City. Pope Julius II asked Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarotti to examine the sculpture and thanks to their recommendation, the pope purchased the sculpture from its owner and put it on public display at the Vatican one month later after its discovery. Lately, Benedict XIV founded the Museum Christianum, where some of the Vatican collections gave birth to the Lateran Museum, which Pope Pius IX founded by decree in 1854.
On 1st of January 2017, Barbarra Jatta became new Director of the Vatican Museums, replacing Antonio Paolucci
Collection – What to See?
One of the richest art collections in the world represents worldwide known masterpieces from most notable artists. Read about the best things to see in the Vatican:
The Belvedere Courtyard (Cortile del Belvedere) considered as a major architectural work of the High Renaissance at the Vatican Palace. Donato Bramante designed it from 1506. Its concept and details were taken for architectural planning of courtyards, squares, and gardens throughout Western Europe for centuries. The long Belvedere Court is a open space, which connects the Vatican Palace and the Villa Belvedere with many terraces connected by stairs. Unfortunately, Bramante did not see his work completed. Moreover, by the end of the sixteenth century, the artwork had been altered by a building across the court, which separated it into two courtyards.
The Museum of Pio Clement
The Museum of Pio Clement (Museo Pio-Clementino) was commissioned by Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI to collect Greek and Roman significant artifacts in the Vatican. Visitors have first pass through a square vestibule and a small room with marble cup to enter the Cabinet of Apoxyomenos, named after a Roman copy of an original Greek bronze masterpiece by Lysippos in 320 BC. In the next room stands Bramante’s Staircase, which was commissioned by Julius II in 1512. The Staircase connects the Palace of Innocent VIII and the city of Rome. In addition, the Museum of Pio Clement contains the Octagonal Courtyard (1772), named after its shape. Next to the courtyard is the Room of the Animals, with a collection of Roman statues and animals. Also, there is a Gallery of Statues, Room of Busts, Room of Muses, Round Room, Greek-cross Room, and Cabinet of Masks, where visitors can find art masterpieces from different epochs.
Gregorian Egyptian Museums
The Gregorian Egyptian Museum (Museo Gregoriano Egizio) was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. It occupies nine rooms and a terrace of the “Niche of the Pinecone”, where different sculptures are located. The collection of the museums contains material from Roman Egypt and from Egyptian-influenced Rome. However, there are many masterpieces of Roman production. They serve as an embodiment of important moment in the history of pharaonic culture.
The Court of the Pigna
The Court of the Pigna (Cortile Della Pigna) forms the northern end of the Belvedere Courtyard. The Court takes its name from the large bronze pine cone, which is bounded by the Braccio Nuovo on the south side, on the east by the Chiaromonti Gallery, on the north by Innocent VIII’s Palazzetto and on the west side by the galleries of the Apostolic Library. Publius Cincius Salvius cast the bronze statue in the 1st or 2nd century. Originally, the pinecone situated in the Campus Martius and served as a fountain. However, in the 8th century it was moved to the entrance hall of the medieval of St. Peter’s and in 1608, the giant pinecone fountain was dismantled and moved to the place where you can find it today.
Apostolic Palace (Palazzo Apostolico) is the official residence of the Roman Catholic Pope and Bishop of Rome. Moreover, it is known as the Papal Palace or the Vatican Palace, while the Vatican refers to the building as the Palace of Sixtus V. Inside, there are the Papal Apartments, offices of the Catholic Church, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Library, Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartment.
The four Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello) are famous for its frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Along with Michelangelo’s ceiling art in the Sistine Chapel, these frescoes mark the High Renaissance in Rome. Originally, the rooms were intended as apartments for Pope Julius II, who commissioned the work to Raphael. The Raphael Rooms locate on the third floor in the Palace of the Vatican.
The Borgia Apartments (Appartamento Borgia) are a suite of rooms in the Apostolic Palace, constructed for private use by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo de Borgia). In the late 15th century, the representative of Borgia family commissioned the work to the Italian painter Bernardio di Betto (Pinturcchio) to decorate apartments with frescoes. The paintings were executed from 1492 and 1494. The masterpieces are connected to themes from encyclopedias, including an eschatological layer of meaning.
Most of the rooms are now used for the Vatican Collection of Modern Religious Art, inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1973
Gregorian Etruscan Museum
Pope Gregory XVI founded the Gregorian Etruscan Museum (Museo Gregoriano Etrusco) in 1837. One of the first museums dedicated to Etruscan antiques contains the artefacts from excavations carried out during the preceding years in the sites of the most important cities of ancient Etruria. There are collections of Falconi (1898), Benedetti Guglielmi (1935), Mario Astarita (1967) and Giacinto Guglielmi (1987). In addition, the museum contains the section dedicated to Roman antiquities (Antiquarium Romanum) with artefacts from the end of the Western Empire (5th century A.D.), where works are made of bronze, glass, terracotta and ceramics from Rome and Latium. The section dedicated to Greek collection of figurative vases allows visitors to observe the history of ancient painting.
Vatican Apostolic Library
The Vatican Apostolic Library (Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana) or the Vatican Library (the Vat) is the library of the Holy See, which was established in 1475. It is one of the world oldest libraries with one of the most important collections of historical texts. There are 75 thousand codices and 1.1 million printed books. Moreover, it is considered as a research library for history, law, philosophy, science, and theology.
Photocopies from the library for private study of pages from books published between 1801 and 1990 can be requested in person or by mail in digital version. The library contains online manuscripts catalog.
The Chiaramonti Museum
The Chiaramonti Museum (Museo Chiaramonti) is set among the small Palace of the Belvedere and the Vatican Palaces. The museum is called after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823). In 1797, under the terms of the Treaty of Tolentino, Napoleon ordered the Papal States to transfer the major part of the artworks in the Pio Clementino Pio Museum to France. The museum contains over one thousand examples of antique sculpture on display and represents one of the most important collections of Roman portrait busts. Moreover, there you will find masterpieces of idealistic and funerary sculpture.
Vatican Historical Museum
The Vatican Historical Museum (Museo Storico Vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI. Later, in 1987, it was moved to the main floor of the Apostolic Palace and opened in 1991. There is an impressive collection of portraits of all the Popes, important items of the Papal Military Corps of 16-17th centuries and religious paraphernalia connected to rituals of the papacy. The floor plan contains Popemobiles, carriages and motorcars of Popes and Cardianls.
Pope Paul VI inaugurated carriage Pavilion in 1973. The Papal Carriages Museum of carts has an exciting history of the movement of pontiffs: dozens of carriages, 12 cars, the steering wheel of a racing Ferrari, palanquins, harness, saddles, aircraft model, locomotive, and even a ship.
Highlights from the Painting Collection
The Vatican Museums encompass some of the most important and famous art in the world, from Roman and Egyptian antiquities to paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
St Jerome in the Wilderness
St Jerome in the Wilderness is an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which depicts Saint Jerome during his retreat to the Syrian Desert. The painting represents him kneeling in a rocky landscape, looking toward a crucifix with a rock in his right hand. The lion, the stone and a cardinal’s hat serve as the traditional features of the saint.
The Stefaneschi Altarpiece is a triptych by the Italian medieval painter Giotto, commissioned by Cardinal Giacomo Gaetani Stefaneschi to present as an altarpiece for one of the altars of St. Peter’s Basilica. Nowadays the triptych is at the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
Lament Over the Dead Christ
Lament over the dead Christ by Giovanni Bellini formed the upper part of the altarpiece that the painter created in Pesaro for the high altar of S. Francesco between 1473 and 1476. The Lament sees Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea around the dead body of Christ. The composition has a sorrowful tone and binds the protagonists with intimate emotional connection.
The Oddi Altarpiece is an altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin created in 1502-1504 by Raphael for the altar of the Oddi family chapel. Today, it is moved from the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia to the Vatican Pinacoteca.
The Transfiguration is the last masterpiece made by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raphael. Cardinal Giulio de Medici (Pope Clement VII) commissioned the painting. Moreover, it represents the culmination of Raphael’s career and locates in the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
Madonna of Foligno
The Madonna of Foligno artwork by Raphael was first painted in wood panel, but later transferred to canvas. The painting previously located on a high altar of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Today, one can find the masterpiece in the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
The Entombment of Christ
The Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio was created in 1603-1604 for Santa Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova), but now it is in the Vatican Pinacoteca. Moreover, artists as Rubens and Fragonard have copied the painting.
Decemviri Altarpiece created by Pietro Perugino in 1495-1496 is housed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. The Decemviri (Ten Men) of Perugia commissioned the artwork for the chapel in the Palazzo dei Priori.
The Vatican Museums contain the red marble papal throne taken from Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (the official seat of the Bishop in Rome). The red marble material is the representation of royalty and includes mosaics and frescoes. Moreover, there are depictions of two engraved lions.
Collection of Modern Religious Art
The Collection of Modern Religious Art of the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani Collezione Arte Religiosa Moderna) represents a collection of paintings, graphic art and notable sculptures. It includes 55 rooms with the Apartment of Alexander VI, the two floors of the Salette Borgia, several rooms under the Sistine Chapel, and other rooms on the ground floor.
The Pinacoteca Vaticana was located in the Borgia Apartment until 1932. Nowadays it houses a variety of notable paintings such as Raphael’s “Oddi Alterpiece” or Leonardo Da Vinci’s “St. Jerome in the Wilderness” mentioned above. You should definitely visit if you are a Renaissance art lover.
Gallery of Maps
The Gallery of Maps is in the west side of the Belvedere courtyard. There are many painted topographical maps. It was commissioned in 1580 to Ignazio Danzi, who completed the 40 panels within three years. Moreover, the gallery is 120m in length.
The Vatican Museums are mostly famous because of the Sistine Chapel. It was built by the architect Giovannino de’ Dolci at the end of the 15th century by order of Pope Sixtus IV. The chapel is always open for visitors, except the time when the procedure of electing new pope is in the process. Moreover, it contains famous frescoes on the ceiling by Michelangelo. In addition, it is not allowed to take photos inside and there are always crowds of tourists who are interested in visit to the chapel. It is better to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with a tour guide and get prepared for your visit in advance.
Note: you can’t visit the Sistine Chapel solely without buying ticket to the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums shop contains many interesting products connected to the smallest government in the world. For instance, you can buy accessories, jewelries, medals, watches, prints or books there. The production is unique and highly popular among all visitors of the Holy See. There is a different range of prices and one can find an unusual and perfect souvenir that matches with his preferences because of the impressive variety of the saint things. For example, the average price for watches is 60-70 euro, while prices for books start from 10 euro per book. Interestingly, one can also buy features for home décor as sculptures or busts, where the prices for artistic reproductions start from 50 euro. For visitors interested in the history of the Vatican, there is a variety of books and DVD with various historical topics. Moreover, there are also puzzles with the depiction of most notable artworks located on the territory of the city-state.
Top 5 Things to Buy
- Poster Creation – Creation of Adam (1508-1510) is a fresco located on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo created the painting, which is one of the most recognized and notable all around the world. The price is 10 euro and it can become a nice feature for your home.
- The Face of Pieta – a sculpture made from a single block of Carrara marble and commissioned from Michelangelo by Cardinal Jean de Villers de la Groslaye to Rome. The Pieta by Michelangelo is displayed in the chapel of the Basilica of St Peter. The sculpture of the head of the Virgin costs 410 euro and represents the artwork that made young artist famous.
- Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 Pieces (Sistine Chapel Ceiling) – one of the most original options for home décor. The puzzle represents famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo in 1512. The price is only 16 euro.
- Cosmatesque Style Plate – the art reproduction of Cosmatesque style floors comes from the 12th century AD. Cosmati was the name of the Roman family of marble artisans. The Sistine Chapel’s floors have floors in this style and you can buy a plate for 80 euro.
- Christmas decorations – one of the most beautiful souvenirs or present options from the Vatican. There are ornaments decorated with angels represented in the artworks of Melozzo da Forli, Raphael, Titian and others. The price is only 16 euro.
Visit to the Vatican Museums is a unique experience since it will take lots of time to explore all the notable collections that present on the territory of the smallest government in the world. Have you ever been inside the Vatican Museums? Tell us about your experience in comments!