If you’re planning a trip to Rome, a tour of the Vatican is an absolute must. From the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican is home to some of the world’s most impressive artwork and artifacts, and a trip to Italy’s capital just isn’t complete without seeing them. Unfortunately, the Vatican can also be one of the most crowded places in the city, especially if you’re visiting during the summer or another peak period.
If you want to skip the lines and enjoy the Vatican experience without the long waiting times, here are 5 tried & tested hacks to try out during (and before!) your trip:
Book a private guided tour
Private tours might be more expensive than standard group tours, but they’re definitely worth the investment if you’re looking to skip the long lines. Aside from offering you a more intimate tour of the Vatican, private tour companies will usually also allow you to enter the site without having to wait in line, effectively skipping the queue and getting a taste of the VIP treatment. No autographs, please!
Not only will you be able to skip the waiting lines, but a private tour will also offer you an enhanced holiday experience. You’ll be able to ask your tour guide an unlimited number of questions about the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel, get through security faster, and enjoy an overall more intimate tour of the Vatican. These tours are so popular with tourists that they’re known affectionately as “skip the lines tours Vatican.”
Buy your tickets in advance
Another way to skip the lines at the Vatican is by buying your tickets in advance online. This is especially recommended if you’re visiting during the peak tourist season; tickets will sell out quickly during the summer months, and you’ll be stuck in an even longer line under the hot Italian sun – hopefully with enough SPF to last you the day!
Most ticket websites will allow you to book tickets for specific dates and times well in advance of your trip, so make sure that you plan your schedule accordingly and reserve all your sightseeing tickets in advance. You should also keep in mind that some parts of the Vatican museum are closed on certain days, so check the official website before you purchase your tickets online.
Visit during non-peak times
If you’re visiting Rome during peak season and don’t have time to book sightseeing tickets in advance, then consider making a trip to the Vatican during non-peak hours. Most visitors arrive around 10 am, so a good strategy would be to come later in the day when the lines are shorter and you can get through security a little bit quicker. (Pro tip: make things easier for you at security by ensuring that you don’t have any prohibited items on you, and ensure that you’re wearing Vatican-appropriate clothing.)
The Vatican museum is open until 6 pm, so an early evening visit would be ideal if you want to avoid the long queues. Keep in mind that most of the tour guides will have gone home by then, but you’ll still be able to explore the museum at your own pace – even if you won’t have hours to enjoy the site.
Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican is home to two main attractions: the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest sites in Christianity. While the museum can be incredibly crowded during peak hours, the queue for St. Peter’s Basilica is usually much shorter.
If you don’t have enough time to explore the entire Vatican complex, consider visiting St. Peter’s Basilica by itself. The basilica offers its own unique experience and you’ll be able to skip the long lines at the same time!
Don’t visit on the last Sunday of the month
Every last Sunday of the month, the Vatican lifts its ticket system and allows free access to all visitors, meaning that you won’t need to purchase a ticket to get in. Unfortunately, these Sundays do end up usually being the busiest of the month, and you’ll most likely have to wait in an even longer line to get inside. Security also tends to be tighter on these days, and more extensive security = longer waiting times in the line.
While it’s a great initiative to support free access to the Vatican site, the last Sunday of the month is definitely not the best time to visit if you want to skip the lines. If you’re on a budget and like the idea of a free Vatican tour, either arrive super early in the morning or around an hour before the site closes – this will help you miss the crowds.
The bottom line
If you’re looking to skip the lines at the Vatican, you can do so by one of two ways. Either book a private tour and enjoy the VIP experience at one of the most famous historic sites in the world, or make sure to visit the site during off-peak hours. Either way, we’re sure that you’ll have a great time exploring the historic Vatican museum!