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

Staff were courteous and did a good job explaining the drill.

You might consider putting into the confirmation the google map coordinates to assist those using electronics to find the gathering point.

Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Fast-Track Entry Reviewed by Melvin, 09/18/2018

Loved Christina!! She had so much personality and gave so much insight

Christina was wonderful! She gave all the deep details and happily answered all questions. Her personality really brought all the stories to life! My boyfriend and I were on a two week trip around Europe and took numerous guided tours. We both agreed this one was hands down the best.

Skip the Line: Vatican Highlights Tour Reviewed by a GetYourGuide customer, 09/17/2018

Our tour guide Vasco was fantastic. Very informative!

The meeting place however is called “enjoy Rome” and not “nicom” which was slightly confusing. The tour itself though was amazing.

such a great way to learn about Rome - Roberto a great story teller

No idea what to expect. Roberto made the experience. So animated and knowledgeable. We learnt about a lot. Roberto brought each place alive abd learning history that way was great. He seperated Dan Browns fiction from reality in an entertaining way. Like the book love the tour.

Highly worthwhile. Excellent tour guide.

Alessandra was excellent. Her knowledge of everything we saw was phenomenal and she made it fun for the kids aged 10 and 7. She was informative and engaging with stories that took us back to ancient times. We asked lots of questions and she knew the answers. Her props and games made learning fun so the kids learnt without feeling like they were learning! I highly recommend this tour. It made the most of being there.

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