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Afternoon Vatican VIP Tour

  • Group Size:
    Group Size: Max 12
  • Language:
    Language: English
  • Duration:
    Duration: 3 hrs
  • Start:
    Start: 2:00 PM
  • Price:
    Price: From 89 €
  • Cancelation:
    Cancellation: Free Cancellation*

Tour Overview

Get front row seats on over 500 years of history as you explore the Vatican Museums, Raphael Rooms, and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel with one of our passionate tour guides in a small group of just 12 guests or fewer. This is the definitive afternoon skip-the-line Vatican tour for your trip to Rome, topped by a personal guided exploration of St. Peter’s Basilica.


Tour Highlights

  • Pinecone Courtyard
  • Belvedere Apollo
  • Laocoön and His Sons
  • Belvedere Torso
  • Round Room
  • Greek Cross Hall
  • Gallery of Candelabra
  • Gallery of Maps
  • Gallery of Tapestries
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Sistine Chapel
  • St. Peter’s Square
  • St. Peter’s Basilica

What's included

  • Skip-the-line access to Vatican Museums
  • Skip-the-line access to St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Expert English-speaking tour guide
  • A small group of 12 or fewer
  • All tickets and reservations
  • Headsets to hear the guide clearly

What you’ll See Along the Way

Pinecone Courtyard

When entering the Vatican Museums, one of the first vistas the visitors come across is the stupendous “Cortile della Pigna”. The court was designed by Renaissance genius Bramante and its architecture became a model for garden design in Western Europe for centuries to follow. This grass covered patio is the perfect place to escape the buzzing galleries for a moment and soak up the magnificent view of St. Peter’s dome, which appears to be only a stone's throw away. The courtyard also serves as a mini-museum, boasting both antique sculptures and a highly contemporary piece in the form of a cracked metallic globe.

Belvedere Apollo

The Apollo Belvedere is a perfect example of a sculpture from the Classical period. The marble wonder was rediscovered in the late 1400s and takes its “surname” from the Belvedere Palace, where it has resided since 1511. Apollo is portrayed as a slender young man with a flawlessly proportioned physique. The body is in perfect harmony in a counterpoise, with the weight on the right leg. The left arm is stretched out, and the draped clothing falls in soft folds over his arm. What makes the piece so remarkable is that the sculptor has captured Apollo’s spirit of light, which seems to radiate from within the vigorous figure.

Laocoön and His Sons

Although it’s a mere copy of 2nd century AD bronze original, this sculpture is amongst the most admired and influential pieces in all of Western art. For centuries, it lay buried in a Roman vineyard until unearthed by chance in 1506. Upon its rediscovery, Michelangelo praised the sculpture as a "miracle of art" and the German scholar Winckelmann hailed it as the model of the classicist ideal of "noble simplicity and quiet grandeur”. The Laocoön became the quintessence of ancient art and to this day, the scene of the Trojan priest and his sons, desperately struggling for their lives, is a theme frequently parroted by artists.

Belvedere Torso

This fragmented sculpture from the 1st century AD is one of the most enigmatic artifacts in the Vatican – both the author and the identity of the man portrayed is unknown. Differing opinions about who the sculpture is meant to depict have inspired many attempts to reconstruct the original appearance of the figure to thus provide a clue for its interpretation. Some have suggested that it may be Hercules, sitting on an animal skin, while others are convinced that it’s Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. In recent years, however, most specialists agree that it’s a representation of Ajax the Great, contemplating his suicide.

Round Room

The illustrious Round Room is a stunning example of neoclassical interior design, built on the request of Pius VI in the late 1800s. The architect, Michelangelo Simonetti, had already been entrusted to design several other rooms in the Apostolic Palace, but this hall would become one of his most celebrated accomplishments. The oculus in the towering dome shines a light on the ancient artworks on display. Look out for the antique Hercules statue in gilded bronze and the marine themed 3rd century mosaic on the floor, which perfectly enfolds Emperor Nero’s massive porphyry basin at the center of the room.

Greek Cross Hall

Sadly, this cross-shaped hall is often used merely as fast-track passage to the Sistine Chapel and most visitors rush through without taking the time to recognize its wonders. This is a mistake not to be made, because there are some truly interesting artifacts exhibited in this Egyptian style room. Apart from the colorful millennia-old mosaic on the floor, the main protagonists of the hall are the two magnificent sarcophagi. Both of the ancient coffins were carved from single blocks of invaluable red marble in preparation for the burial of Emperor Constantine’s mother and daughter in the 1st century AD.

Gallery of Candelabra

This spectacular gallery is part of the Profane Museum, a subdivision of the Vatican Museums, dedicated solely to pagan art. The over 250-foot long corridor is divided into six sections by arches supported by columns of colored marble. On both sides of these arches, you can behold the beautiful marbled 2nd century AD candelabras, after which the gallery is named. Along the galleries, between the arches, you can find Roman mosaics, sarcophagi, altars, urns and statues. The gallery also boasts exquisite flooring, intricately designed in geometrical shapes of different colored marble.

Gallery of Maps

After 3.5 years of restoration (significantly longer than it actually took to make the 40 panels of maps in the first place), the Gallery of Maps is finally back to its stunning 16th century appearance. It is said that Pope Gregory VIII ordered the painting of the maps because he wanted to explore every part of Italy without leaving the safety of the Apostolic Palace, and we can only assume that he must have been more than happy with the result. With vivid wall paintings featuring the peninsula’s blue sea and green mountains, and a lavish golden ceiling to top it all off, this gallery is the perfect mix of art, geography and opulence.

Gallery of Tapestries

When entering this remarkable gallery one can immediately see where it takes its name from – the 90-foot-long hallway is covered from floor to ceiling with enormous woven masterpieces. The carpets were made in the 16th century by request of Pope Clement VII and only the most accomplished craftsmen of the trade were allowed to take part in the weaving. While the tapestries are certainly astonishing works of art, the gallery’s incredible ceiling is also worthy of admiration. Its embellishments were painted using a particular technique called trompe l'œil (French for "deceive the eye"), making it appear three-dimensional.

Raphael Rooms

Raffaello Sanzio, better known simply as Raphael, was only in his 20’s when he came to Rome at the invitation of Pope Julius II. The art-loving pontifex had recently ascended the Papal throne and commissioned the relatively inexperienced artist to paint a suite of rooms in his private Vatican apartment. Sadly, Raphael died at a young age and wasn’t able to finish all four the rooms himself – but the first one he decorated would later become the most remarkable work of his career. His School of Athens fresco is a classical masterpiece, where philosophy and theology meet in perfect harmony.

Sistine Chapel

In the early 1500s, Pope Julius II, who was a famous patron and philanthropist, requested Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Incredibly, the artist created the immense fresco almost completely on his own since he feared that his apprentices would not be able to understand and implement his vision. The area of the chapel ceiling is 12,000 square feet, and the number of painted figures is in the hundreds, making the paint job a herculean task that took over 4 years to complete. Decades later, Michelangelo returned to the chapel to paint his celebrated Last Judgment on the chapel’s altar wall.

St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s square was designed by the outstanding Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini on the commission of Pope Alexander VIII in the mid-1600s. The dimensions of Bernini’s creation are so huge that it’s difficult to accurately comprehend its enormity; stretching 1115 feet long and 787 feet across, surrounded by a 284-column colonnade topped with sculptures of 140 saints, the square is comprised of truly epic proportions. The vast space serves as an important gathering place for up to 400,000 faithful at any given moment, who come here to celebrate important religious festivities or receive the papal blessing.

St. Peter’s Basilica

At the beginning of the 4th century, Rome’s first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, ordered the construction of a basilica to mark the site of the Apostle Peter's tomb. The first version of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed in 326 and quickly became universally recognized as the most notable destination for Christian pilgrimages. Over the course of the centuries, however, St. Peter's slowly started to crumble and, by the 1600s, it was in desperate need of a make-over. Pope Julius II took on the task of building the stunning Renaissance Basilica we admire today, a grandiose project that wasn’t completed until 120 years later.

Tour Summary Get in the Know

An In-Depth Look at the Vatican Beyond the Facts

Though small in size, Vatican City is impressively big on sights, boasting both the world’s largest Christian church, as well as one of the finest art collections on the planet. And with a past as compelling as it is long – it’s a dreamland for the history buff and culture vulture alike. On this Vatican VIP tour, we’ll piece together the complex puzzle which makes up the Vatican’s millennia-long existence and get you acquainted with some of the larger-than-life popes, artists, and martyrs that made this fascinating holy country what it is today.

We are able to grant fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums, which gives us more time to enjoy what’s inside. So while other groups blaze through the Vatican galleries and head straight for the Sistine Chapel, we’ll take the scenic route and savor the world-class art on display. Among the multitude of masterpieces adorning the Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, we’ll lead you on a carefully planned path to only the most curious and jaw-dropping attractions. From cornerstone classics to tucked-away gems most visitors never notice – this afternoon stroll is an in-depth exploration of the best the Vatican has to offer.

Feast your Eyes on Works of Art & Ears on the Guide

We have a dynamic team of only the most passionate, fun, and engaging guides in the business, and though we may be biased, thousands of 5-star reviews from our customers certainly are not. From power-hungry popes to moody artists (and all the enthralling drama between them), our animated raconteurs will spell-bind you with stories that make the museums and their treasures come to life right before your eyes. With a group size limited to 12 guests or fewer, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick your guide’s brain with your piqued curiosity.

As you explore all the nooks and crannies of the Papal Palaces, new surprises will be revealed at every turn. See the vivid frescoes in the Raphael Rooms, trace the amazingly accurate 16th-century renderings of Italy in the Gallery of Maps, and be astonished by optical illusions in the Gallery of Tapestries. Of course, the main attraction remains the Sistine Chapel, with its iconic Creation of Adam centerpiece and the breathtaking Last Judgment. Get the inside scoop on the years of literally backbreaking work it took Michelangelo to transform this once blandly decorated vault into the magnificent showpiece it is today.

Explore St. Peter’s Basilica In-Depth & Line-Free

Breezing into St. Peter’s Basilica through a special ‘groups only’ backdoor, you won’t even see the queue snaking around the square outside. Your guide will provide you with a thorough orientation inside the greatest church of all time, from its inception to final embellishment. Adorned from top to bottom with intricate mosaics, massive marble sculptures, and hundreds of gilded ornaments – you’re sure to realize that we have saved the best for last.

Unsurprisingly, it took some 120 years to create the incredible basilica and a number of the most important Renaissance artists left their own illustrious marks on the church along the way. Bramante made the first draft of its layout, Bernini chipped in with his gargantuan bronze Baldachin over the main altar and Michelangelo wrapped everything up – crowning the sanctuary with his massive, 138-feet wide dome. Most impressive of all, however, is yet another of Michelangelo’s masterpieces – the Pietà. With all of these astounding works in one place, you’re sure to leave with a newfound appreciation for all that the Vatican is, was, and will be!

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REVIEWS

Vatican Museums Afternoon Semi-Private Tour Reviews

What our Customers say...

Interesting and Entertaining!

We greatly enjoyed our tour through the Vatican with Mario and What a Life Tours. Mario is incredibly knowledgeable and very polished with his delivery. He is part historian, part story teller and part entertainer all wrapped into one. With perfect English he helped us understand what we were witnessing while efficiently navigating what could be an overwhelming place otherwise. Mario even talked with my wife and I for quite a while after the tour about all sorts of things, which proved to be so interesting and entertaining. Without reservation I would recommend this tour and Mario to others wanting to truly enjoy and appreciate the Vatican! Thanks again!”

Very informative

My mom and I joined a tour with Elaine. She was very knowledgeable and energetic. She also showed us extra things that she found in her spare time too! We totally recommend her!”

Amazing

Ana was beyond amazing, she gave us so much insight and history. It was a fantastic 3 hrs - the Vatican is beyond description. I doubt that there is anyone that had more knowledge than Ana about the Vatican. The tour was much more than we could have expected. My wife and I learned so much from Ana. She is an amazing guide and a fun person to be with. The tour was like walking with a friend.”

Exceptional Vatican Tour

All the staff at 'What a Life Tours' were pleasant and helpful. Mario our guide was exceptional,his knowledge,enthusiasm and humour enhanced an excellent tour. Highly recommended!”

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