A trip to Rome isn’t complete with a complete tour of Vatican City, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. After all, the Vatican is technically an entire country – even if it is the smallest country in the world!
In this guide, we’re going to go over some of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Vatican City, from the world famous St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel, as well as some lesser known yet equally fascinating places, such as the Vatican Mosaic Studio. Let’s take a look!
What is the most unique part of Vatican city?
One of the most unique and fascinating parts of Vatican City has to be the Vatican Mosaic Studio, which isn’t open to the general public (although it can be visited via one of our private Vatican tours.) The Vatican Mosaic Studio was founded in the 1550s, and was used as a space to create the mosaics that decorate the ceilings and walls of some of the most iconic buildings in Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Basilica. With an expert tour guide and a private tour, a trip to the studio offers a unique opportunity to get some insight into how these incredible works of art were created.
Places to visit in Vatican City
Aside from the Mosaic Studio, here are some of the most unmissable sights that you simply have to see throughout your trip.
Benefits of a semi private tour
So, why opt for a semi private tour instead of a larger group one? While you might be put off by the possibility of an increased price, this type of tour offers the following benefits to your trip:
St Peter’s Basilica
Perhaps one of the best known places in Vatican City is St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered to be one of the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in Italy, with its incredible frescoes, large dome and breathtakingly beautiful sculptures. It’s no wonder millions come from all over the world year after year to visit this magnificent church!
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is another must-see destination for those visiting the Vatican: originally built at the end of the 15th century, it is renowned for its ceiling and wall frescoes, which were painted by famous Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo. There’s no better place to get a feel for the Vatican’s rich cultural history – and it’s even better when you visit with an early access morning tour.
The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens are another popular attraction in the city: stretching from St Peter’s Square to the walls of the city, the gardens are full of sculptures, fountains and lush greenery. It’s a great place to take in some fresh air and enjoy the peace and serenity of the Vatican – and if you time your visit well, you might even get to witness one of the Pope’s weekly audiences!
St. Peter’s Square
Besides being an astonishingly beautiful piece of architecture, St Peter’s Square is also home to much secretive symbolism and artwork – you can only see them when you look closely enough! St. Peter’s Square is also home to the famous obelisk in the centre of the square, which was gifted to Pope Sixtus V by Emperor Caligula in AD 37.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums span 9 full miles – yes, 9 – of artwork, sculpture, tapestries and more. The Vatican Museums are the perfect place to go for those looking to explore and uncover some of the most remarkable pieces of artwork in Italian history – from classical sculpture to religious artefacts and paintings from famous Renaissance masters like Raphael.
Visiting Vatican City: tips and tricks
Before heading off on your visit to the Vatican, here are some free tips and tricks from us that’ll make the experience even better (and safer) when you arrive:
Know your dress code
The Vatican is, above all, a religious site, so it’s highly important for all visitors to respect the dress code. To be ensured entry, make sure you abide by the following dress code rules: no cleavage, no plunging necklines, no knees exposed, no obscene or offensive logos or images, shoulders covered, and all men must remove headwear when entering into the historic site. Simple!
Don’t bring prohibited times
Items such as pocket knives and glass water bottles are a no-no; bringing them with you is only going to make your security check take longer than necessary. It’s a good idea to get clued up on all prohibited items before heading to the Vatican for your trip; it’s also important to remember to leave your suitcases and any heavy baggage at your hotel; you won’t be granted entry with it.
Come with a private tour
One of the best ways to experience the Vatican is to come with a private tour guide, rather than opting for a large group tour. Large group tours can make it difficult for you to ask questions or have the time to appreciate all of the remarkable artwork, sculptures and frescoes. Private tours offer the opportunity for more in-depth discussions about the history of Vatican City, and also often come with exclusive benefits – this can include early access to some sites or special access to restricted areas.
Bring appropriate footwear
Walking around the Vatican City is no easy task, so it’s important to bring appropriate footwear – think flats or trainers, not heels! The cobblestone streets and uneven terrain in the gardens can be quite difficult to navigate in unsuitable shoes, so choose comfort over style when getting ready for your visit.
Be on the lookout for scams
Unfortunately, the Vatican is not immune to scams – so it pays to be wary of anyone offering you an ‘exclusive’ tour or deal. Some scammers even wear faux staff uniforms to feign credibility, but don’t buy tickets from anyone flogging them at the Vatican entrance – if they’re particularly insistent, threatening, or unpleasant, it’s most likely a scammer.
Protect your valuables
As Vatican City is one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, it’s no surprise that the area is plagued by thieves and pickpockets who target tourists. To protect yourself from theft, it’s important to be extra careful when it comes to protecting your valuables; make sure you keep your bags close, and keep your phone in a bumbag where possible. It’s also a good idea to leave any unnecessary items at your hotel or in a safe place before heading out for the day – this will help ensure that all of your belongings stay safe for the duration of your trip.