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Visiting the Vatican City; EVERYTHING You Need To Know

Here’s one for the county counters (me included!). When you’re visiting the Vatican City in Rome, you’re visiting the World’s smallest country (yes The Vatican is a country!). But there are some great ways to visit the Vatican, and some not-so-smart ways to visit. I’ve visited the Vatican City three times now, so I hope I can help you guys make the right choices on your visit!

The Vatican city has a population of only 800 and a land area of 0.44sq km. The Vatican is home to the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, and it’s the undisputed center of the Catholic faith so expect big crowds when you arrive. Especially during Easter.

Don’t worry though. Although the Vatican City is a sovereign state you don’t need your passport to enter. There’s no passport stamp and no ‘border’ between Rome and the Vatican.

So let’s have a look at visiting the Vatican city, and everything you need to know before you go:

Do you need a visa for the vatican city
Do you need a visa for the Vatican city? No!

When you are visiting the Vatican City, here are a few things to remember:

Should you book a tour of the Vatican City?

The golden question. And the short answer is yes, absolutely. And you should 100% book online in advance.

As I mentioned, I’ve been here 3 times. At different stages of my life. As a broke backpacker traveling around Europe. Then older with friends, and finally with my wife on holiday. The first time I came, I didn’t book a tour. The 2nd time I booked a normal Vatican city tour. And the 3rd, most recent time, I booked an ‘early-bird’ tour which gave us access to the Sistine Chapel BEFORE the crowds!

So should you book a tour? Yes. Unless you’re on a super tight budget, much like visiting the Colosseum, booking a Vatican City tour is better. You get to skip the queue, you get an expert guide, you don’t miss out on any of the highlights, and it’s much more efficient with your time.

Which tour should you book? 100% you want the early (or late)access without the crowds. Then the tour that also gives you fast track to the museums with Vatican museum tickets, a tour there, and climbing the Dome. That’s perfect.

Vatican City Dress Code:

GIRLS:

No shoulders, cleavage, or knees. It’s obviously a religious center, so even if we don’t follow the religion, we should respect those that do.

GUYS:

No knee caps, long shorts are ok, no vest tops either. If need be, bring something to cover up just for your Vatican visit. If you’re visiting the Vatican during the summer, Rome gets super hot but that doesn’t mean you can be in a vest and short-shorts!

What is the Vatican City
What is the Vatican City

WHAT TO SEE AT THE VATICAN:

There are essentially 3 main things to see at the Vatican, that you can’t miss:

1) St Peter’s Basilica:

This is THE church of the Vatican. It’s the biggest in Italy and after you’ve been here, you won’t feel the need to visit too many more churches in your lifetime, at least not as a tourist! It’s the center of the Catholic Church and an Icon of Catholicism.

St Peter’s Basilica Ticket Entry price:

What’s more, is that it’s FREE! Michelangelo’s (not the turtle) handy work is all over the place. I’d recommend you download some audio guides for your smartphone to distinguish the pieces.

TOP-TIP: THIS TOUR INCLUDES THE VATICAN AND ST PETER’S BASILICA!

Do you need a visa for the vatican
Do you need a visa for the vatican

2) St Peter’s Dome

If you’re dying to see the ‘key shape’ that the Pope’s balcony famously opens onto, then you need to get up St Peter’s Dome.

St Peter’s Dome Ticket Entry Price:

It’s 5 euros ($6) for the steps or 7 euros ($8.50) for the lift (which only takes you halfway anyway). Once up the top, the views of Rome are spectacular. And you get a proper look at the famous Vatican Courtyard, St Peter’s Square

TOP-TIP: Free 90-minute tours leave daily from the Tourist Information at 2:15 PM each day!

Visiting the Vatican City
Visiting the Vatican City

3) The Sistine Chapel:

Wow, just wow. World-famous and rightly so. It doesn’t quite make the list of new World Wonders but it can’t be far behind. No pics allowed unfortunately although I managed a sneaky one (no flash) on my iPhone. This place will take your breath away. It’s located in the Vatican Museum and although the entire complex is full of interesting artwork, the big draw is clearly the Chapel.

Sistine Chapel Ticket Entry Price:

It costs 16 Euro/$20 to enter (half price for students). It may be steep but these guys no they’re holding on to a real winner. Enjoy Michelangelo at his finest.

visiting the Sistine Chapel
visiting the Sistine Chapel
Is vatican city a country
Is Vatican city a country

Bonus Stops

  1. You can also visit the Vatican gardens (12 Euro). But this MUST be booked in advance.
  2. And the Vatican Museums are on-site and open every day too (€17/$20ish).

TIPS FOR VISITING THE VATICAN CITY

  • Visiting the Vatican City isn’t a whole day affair. In fact, it can be done even in less than half-a-day. So allocated either morning, or afternoon, for your visit the Vatican.
  • If you want to avoid big queues try to get there before 10am, or after 3pm. Earlier is generally better.
  • Around lunchtime, in peak season, you’ll be waiting more than an hour to get through security and there’s very little shade, be warned!
  • Bring an (empty) water bottle, there are fountains everywhere.
Vatican city tour
Vatican city tour

Interesting Facts about the Vatican City

  • Did you know the Vatican has the highest crime rate of any country in the world?! It’s a bit misleading though, because due to the low population, and the high rate of pickpockets, the crime rate is through the roof based on a per-capita basis. It’s more of a statistical technicality to be honest. I don’t think you’ll be claiming anything on your travel insurance, don’t worry!
  • The Vatican City is the only country in the world where you can use an ATM in Latin.
  • Vatican City Euros are more valuable than their actual worth (know what I mean?) due to their rarity. Keep them!
visiting the Vatican City

FAQS about visiting the Vatican City

How to book a vatican city tour?

Either use all those links I linked to above, or check out this:

Where is the Vatican City?

The Vatican City (also known as the Holy See) is a city-state. It’s an independent country WITHIN Rome, Italy. It’s the temporal seat of the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is also officially the world’s smallest country (not to be mistaken with Nauru, the world’s LEAST VISITED country). The nation was officially formed in 1929 by the new Kingdom of Italy.

Where is the Vatican City?

The Vatican City is within downtown Rome. You can see on the map below, it’s about an hour’s walk from the Colosseum of Rome, one of the seven wonders of the world.

What’s the population of the Vatican City?

The population of Vatican City is just 821! Although with staff etc, each day there are around 3000 people fixtures there.

How big is the Vatican City?

The world’s smallest country, remember? It has a landmass of just 0.44 sq km, smaller than some modern shopping malls!

vatican city Rome

Is the Vatican part of the EU, or part of Italy?

The Vatican city is NOT part of the EU. And, being an independent country, is also not part of Italy although it is surrounded by Italy. The border with Italy is open, and it acts as part of Schengen. No visas are necessary.

Vatican City Opening Hours

The Vatican City, as a country, doesn’t really close. However, the tourist attractions do:

  • St Peter’s Basillica and Dome: 7.00am to 19.00
  • The Vatican Museums: 7am to 16.00. Closed on Sundays
visiting the Vatican
visiting the Vatican

How To Get To from Rome to The Vatican City?

Being in downtown Rome, it’s very easy to access. Personally, I love to walk in cities when I arrive, so I do just that. The walk from Piazza Venezia is particularly beautiful.

However, taxis, bus, and the metro will all bring you right to the Vatican itself.

  • Hop on Metro line A to ‘Ottaviano, S. Pietro, Musei Vaticani’ for the Museums and St. Peter’s.
  • Or by tram #19 to ‘piazza del Risorgimento
  • Or by bus #64 from Central Rome
  • NOTE: The best, easiest and cheapest way is definitely by Metro.

Entering the Vatican City will be through 1 of 2 places, either through the Vatican Museums, or St Peter’s Basilica, both are fine. Don’t worry.

visiting the Vatican

Can I see the Pope when I visit the Vatican?

Maybe. If you’re lucky. Or if you plan well. He offers a blessing from his apartment in the Vatican each Sunday at noon (expect crowds).

Although in Summer he does the same thing but not in the Vatican. That’s at his summer abode in Castel Gandolfo (20 minutes outside Rome). He also does something similar on Wednesdays at 10.30am. You do need a (free) ticket for this though. Bookable either at St Peter’s the day before (on Tuesdays) or ask your hotel for help.

visit vatican city
Crowds to see the Pope!

Best Time to Visit Vatican City?

All year round is fine. Summer in Europe is high season so expect SERIOUS crowds, especially on the days when the Pope is around.

The best thing you can do is get up at 5.30am, and be at the Vatican Gates at 7am when they open.

How Much Does It Cost To Enter The Vatican City

To enter the Vatican city itself, free.

And also FREE to enter St Peter’s basilica.

But for the Sistine Chapel ($20) and the Dome ($6), there are fees. The same for the museums (€17/$20ish) and the gardens. As there are with longer guided tours (30 Euro).

Total price for one person to visit the Vatican see the Sistine Chapel, climb the Dome, and visit the Museums WITHOUT a guided tour? About $50.

Besy way to do it? Book a tour, come early and don’t get stuck in a 2-hour-long queue! YOU CAN BOOK IT HERE.

How Long Should You Spend in Vatican City?

I have a short attention span, so 2 hours or so was enough for me, without the guided tour. Some people, much more cultured than me, can spend the whole day 7am to 7pm. I’m not a Museum kinda guy. Sorry, not sorry.

visiting the Vatican City

Do I need To Book A Vatican City Tour?

You don’t need to, no. But to be honest, it is better. And you can jump the queue!

If you go solo, you can enter, buy your tickets to the highlight, and take your pics. However, you can join a short free guided tour, or pay for a longer guided tour.

Personally, I think for sure booking a tour in advance with a queue jump and guide is the best way to do it.

Does the Pope Live in Vatican City?

Yes, he has an apartment here. But is often away on State Visits. And in the summers, in another place just outside Rome.

Can I spend the Night at the Vatican?

No. Quite simple, right?!

visiting the Vatican City
visiting the Vatican City

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Also, if you want to start a blog, and start to change your life, I'd love to help you! Email me on johnny@onestep4ward.com. In the meantime, check out my super easy blog post on how to start a travel blog in under 30 minutes, here! And if you just want to get cracking, use BlueHost at a discount, through me.

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6 thoughts on “Visiting the Vatican City; EVERYTHING You Need To Know

  1. Some great information shared in a nutshell. I am a native of Italy and I can say that these facts and information will work great for the visiting lots.

  2. Bearing in mind that Italy was a fascist dictatorship at the time, it would be a bit difficult for the Vatican to have got its status as a state from a non fascist dictatorship. Duh!!

  3. How the Vatican got its status as a state?
    Through a treaty with Italy during the Fascist dictatorship in 1929.

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