4 Secrets to the Vatican City: Tips to ensure getting the most out of your visit

Rome is a magically historic city, and no trip is complete without at least one day in the Vatican City. When planning your Vatican excursion, take these four tips into consideration.

1. Taking photos in and around Vatican City

The Vatican City is a location full of spiritual essence and tradition. The architecture is magnificent; the murals, tapestries, and sculptures are highly detailed; and the expansive views from atop of the city are remarkable.

Sistine Chapel Restrictions

Photography (and video) inside of the Sistine Chapel is prohibited and taken quite seriously. You will hear security guards reminding visitors and addressing any guests not adhering to the rules while in the chapel.

The chapel is a massive art filled scene that truly invites contemplation, appreciation, and true wonder. As you roam about the space taking in the mighty array of Michelangelo’s work you are encouraged to keep your voices low.

Note there are no seats in the chapel, nor do they allow you to sit on the floor. The surrounding gift shops sell professional photographs and postcards of the ornate paintings that cover the walls and ceiling of the chapel as a way to remember your visit. The collection of stories and biblical events are illustrated and arranged to walk you through history (from Christ’s Baptism to Resurrection). You will be amazed by this visual depiction.

2. Advantages of taking a tour

The Vatican Museum offers tours, however, by purchasing a tour through a 3rd-party resource you meet up at an external location and walk into the city together learning about who lives, works, and is allowed to remain inside the Vatican walls.

Less time waiting in lines

Spending two or more hours in the ticketing line during the peak season of summer is very common. To minimize your time waiting, purchase a tour from a reputable external tour guide company. This way you will gain more information than wandering through the city alone, capturing cultural tidbits from locals, and insightful history about the Popes will be shared.

Additional Tips

  • Planning your activities and purchasing your tickets at least one to two days in advance will help eliminate frustrations and sell out disappointments.
  • You may think visiting the Vatican on a Monday is a good idea, however, since the museums are closed on Sundays, Mondays can be rather busy.
  • Visiting after 3 p.m. does provide some reprieve from the crowds with the final entry at 4 p.m., however, limits your overall time spent.


Related: Essential Rome Travel Tips for First-Timers

3. Seasons to bear in mind

It’s important to investigate public holidays prior to your trip; major attractions will be affected by religious and secular holidays. Europe observes holidays that Americans may not be aware of and with Italy being predominately Catholic, educate your self on their celebrated dates.

Visiting the Vatican during December can be a lovely experience. In general, the crowds are less, the grounds and piazza are wonderfully decorated with tall white-lit Christmas trees and a life-sized nativity scene with the spirit of Christmas.

A few example holidays

Religious: Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Easter Monday, etc.

Secular: New Year’s Eve, Rome’s Birthday, Labor Day, etc.

The Embassy is a good resource to use for holiday research.


4. Extra time

Reserving extra time in your day to visit the multiple museums, gardens, galleries, and designated rooms will not disappoint. The artworks and displays are extensive, and it’s a privilege to view the many halls of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts.


The Vatican City hosts a variety of styles from Egyptian, Jewish, Christian, and Contemporary, and is one of the largest museums in the world. There are more than 50 galleries onsite, and multiple famous Renaissance pieces that the Popes aided in collecting.


St. Peter’s Basilica is a massive structure, known as the largest church in the world. Your camera is welcome in this magnificently adorned space, stop off to offer a prayer in the side chapels, admire the marble statues and altar, and learn about construction and reconstruction of this inspiring space.


Trinket and souvenir shops surround the piazza with plenty of options for mementos of your visit. You will find stores selling ceremonial robes, rosaries, and other Catholic centered items. Don’t forget to stop by a local shop at the end of your day to grab a postcard/ photograph of the Sistine Chapel paintings as a way to remember Michelangelo’s masterpieces.


Each day in Italy is a good day to sample gelato; treat yourself while venturing off to the separate small state of the Vatican City.

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