Vatican City is the temporal seat of the Pope. As an independent country, Vatican City is one of the most popular attractions in the world.
Surrounded by Rome, the city has numerous attractions including St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. In total, Vatican City has more artwork and history than many cities around the world.
Visiting Vatican City is probably on your bucket list and that’s great. What you need to know is that you can spend your time exploring the 54 museums and Michelangelo’s frescoed Sistine Chapel. Apart from the imposing St Peter’s Basilica, the bronze sculpted Baldachin, and the Pieta sculpture, more than a million visitors visit these attractions.
What this means is long queues when purchasing tickets. The good news is there are ways to beat the queues and have a hassle-free visit.
Want to know how?
Here are 4 ways how to avoid the massive queues for a Vatican visit.
1. Book your tickets online for the Vatican
At Vatican City, you have a chance of touring landmarks of history and art thanks to a fully independent visit. Buying tickets at the site means queuing with other visitors. To skip the line, book your tickets online here for visits to the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
There are a few requirements required if you will be booking your tickets online:
● You must be 18 or older
● You must give one of the names of the participants
When booking online, you can enjoy reduced prices if you have children aged 6 to 18 years.
When you apply online, you will be making a reservation request. Once the application is confirmed, an email will be sent to your inbox. The email will contain a voucher with the tour information and reservation code. Print the voucher and present it at the meeting point. You can also show the ticket/voucher on your smartphone or tablet.
Apart from the Museum and the Sistine Chapel, visit the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo by train, visit the Villa Barberini and its gardens. Other attractions include the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo and the Hidden Pontifical Villas.
To visit the attractions, book your ticket online.
2. Time your Vatican visit
Let’s face it. There is no best day to visit Vatican City but, there are certain days or hours when you will find fewer people at the ticketing queues.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are some of the days when you will find fewer people lining up.
Weekends are the worst because everyone - from the locals to tourists will be lining up to visit the attractions.
On Wednesdays, you have the Papal Audience. What is a Papal Audience? This is a private audience with the Pope. During this period, the Pope addresses the crowd in different languages. The themed speech is usually followed by a homily, prayers, and singing. The Papal Audience usually lasts for 1 ½ hour.
What you need to keep in mind is that the Papal Audience is not a one on one session with the Pope. The session is normally held from 10.00 AM when the Pope is in Rome and so, this is not the best time to beat the crowd but it’s a moment to behold.
Back to skipping the lines. April to October experiences fewer crowds especially if you book Friday night tours.
You can also try the afternoon as many people arrive early in the morning to beat the crowd so, it will be less crowded.
Winter low season months are also the best time to visit as fewer people visit during this period. As such, your tour will be more relaxed.
3. Purchase the OMNIA Vatican & Roma Pass
If you want to fast track your entry into numerous attractions in Vatican City and Rome itself, you need to purchase the OMNIA Vatican and Roma Pass.
What are the OMNIA Vatican and Rome pass?
This is a sightseeing package that allows the holder to gain free entry into top attractions in the Vatican and Rome. The card offers fast track entry which saves you more than 4 hours.
Some of the attractions you can gain entry into at the Vatican City with the OMNIA Vatican and Rome card include:
● St Peter’s Basilica
● Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums
In Rome, you can gain fast entry into the following sites with the OMNIA Vatican and Rome Card:
● The Colosseum
● Roman Forum
● Palatine Hill
● St. John in the Lateran
● National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
● Capitoline Museums
● Borghese Gallery
Want to know how the OMNIA Vatican and Rome card works?
Start by purchasing the OMNIA Vatican and Rome card. There are two options available:
● 72 Hour OMNIA Adult card for 133,00 Euros per adult
● 72 Hour OMNIA Child card for 80,00 Euros per child. The Child card is valid for children between 6 to 9 years old.
With the card at hand, visit eligible Vatican City attractions and show your card. You don’t have to wait in the queue. As such, you save over 4 hours.
Other benefits of having the card include:
● Access to a free Wi-Fi downloadable audio guide for St Peter’s Basilica
● Free hop on hop off bus tour ticket for Rome. The ticket is valid for 3 days
● Free detailed guidebook
● Free travel card to access Rome’s public transport system
● Discounted entry to other 30+ museums and attractions in Rome.
● Map of the City
Remember, free entry is offered for the first two attractions. The rest are available at a discounted rate.
So, if you use the free entries at the St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, you save 15,00 Euros and 30,00 Euros respectively.
4. Buy Vatican Skip the line tickets
A lot of tour companies in Rome offer guided skip the line tours in Vatican City. These tours allow visitors to skip the line and sightsee without the hassle of queuing for a ticket.
The small group tour is a 2-hour tour of the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. In the tour, you get to see remarkable architecture and art including galleries such as the Raphael Rooms and the Julius II Apartments.
It offers an individual experience from a professional guide. In the tour, all entrance fees, and entry tickets are included and so, you don’t have to queue for tickets. What is not included in the tour is food, drinks, hotel pickup and drop off.
It is important to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the start of the tour otherwise, you will inconvenience other people in the group.
As a small group, not only will you have an intimate experience of the Vatican Museums, Sistine, and interior of St Peter’s Basilica, but you will get to do it at a comfortable pace. The professional guide will take you through the gardens and terraces where you will have a chance of seeing early Renaissance architecture. You will also get to see modern art pieces and a collection of Greek and Roman artifacts. These are located at the Octagonal Courtyard.
Other places you will visit include the Muses Room, Greek Cross Room, and the Round Room. Since this is the skip the line tour, the guide will take you through a tiny door into the Sistine Chapel where you will marvel at the frescos on the walls and ceiling. By choosing this route, you skip the exterior line. The tour ends at the enormous Catholic Shrine. Here, you should see numerous masterpieces that include artworks and sculptures.
There you have it. Top 4 ways how to avoid the massive queues for a Vatican visit. Taking into account the information above, you can save a lot of time (4 hours or more) and get to sightsee all attractions. In addition, you also get to save a lot of money unlike purchasing individual tickets. Remember, at the Vatican, there are certain rules you must adhere to. For starters, you have to dress in the proper attire. No miniskirts, shorts, sleeveless clothing, low cut tops or hats. You will also be required to leave your packages, rucksacks, and containers at the cloakroom. Simply put, make a point of learning the dos and don’ts before traveling to be on the safe side.