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Early Access Vatican Tour

Vatican Early Access Tour at Opening

  • Group Size:
    Group Size: Max 12
  • Language:
    Language: English
  • Duration:
    Duration: 3.5 hrs
  • Start:
    Start: 8:00 AM
  • Price:
    Price: From: 104 €
  • Cancelation:
    Including: Skip the line tickets

Tour Overview

Join our exclusive small group Vatican tour in the early morning with a top-notch tour guide. Get early entrance to the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums & Raphael Rooms. Book now and beat the crowds! In a small group, you will be able to discover with no rush the extraordinary abundance of history and art and you’re guaranteed to have personal attention that is hard to come by at this venue. We have worked many years to achieve this goal and we are proud to say our visitors are ecstatic once out of the Vatican!


**The Fabbrica di San Pietro has begun the replacement of the glass diaphragm protecting the marble group of Michelangelo’s Pietà with a new pane of glass to guarantee adequate parameters of visibility and safety. The renovation works are expected to go on until the end of September 2024 and during this time, Pietà will not be visible.**

Tour Highlights

  • Sistine Chapel
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Belvedere Apollo
  • Laocoön and His Sons
  • Belvedere Torso
  • Gallery of Maps
  • Gallery of Tapestries
  • Gallery of Tapestries
  • Gallery of Candelabra
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Michelangelo’s Pietà
  • Bernini’s Baldachin

What's included

  • Skip-the-line access
  • Expert English-speaking tour guide
  • A small group
  • All tickets and reservations
  • Headsets to hear the guide clearly

What you’ll See Along the Way

Gallery of Maps

The Gallery of Maps is a stupendous hallway where geography and history are perfectly intertwined. Created at the end of the 16th century, the entire room is dedicated to customized maps, which display the whole of Italy. On one side of the 393-foot long gallery are two representations of the country: one from the Imperial Roman Era and the other from the 1500s. Each map shows political happenings, religious roles, and major battles. The ceiling is no less remarkable, with frescoed scenes displaying episodes and miraculous events of apostles, saints and martyrs, which are linked to the geographical maps below..

Raphael Rooms

Raphael’s most famous frescoes can be seen in four rooms in Pope Julius II’s and Leo X’s apartment. The first of the Raphael Rooms (1508-1524) to be frescoed – Pope Julius II’s study – reflects the themes of theology, philosophy, poetry and justice. Raphael’s most noted painting the School of Athens highlights the degrees of knowledge acquired through reason. The largest of the rooms the Hall of Constantine represents the victory of Christianity over Paganism, the Room of Fire is dedicated to Pope Leo IV, and the Room of Heliodorus represents the liberation of St. Peter. A real highlight on our Vatican tour!

Belvedere Apollo

This world-renowned sculpture from the 1st century AD portrays Apollo, the Greco-Roman god of light and the arts, immediately after having fired his bow. Apollo’s gaze follows the arrow volley towards its goal, believed to be the serpent Python. Throughout history, art authorities from around the globe have praised the sculpture, hailing it as the most sublime, subtle and engaging piece from ancient times. In the centuries following its unearthing, it had an enormous impact on both Renaissance artists and Neoclassical sculptors, who flocked to the Vatican to witness the charm of the sculpture firsthand.

Laocoön and His Sons

Out of all the invaluable masterpieces housed in the Vatican Museums, this may just be the most precious of them all. When the sculpture was rediscovered in 1506, it caused a contemporary sensation. Everyone who laid eyes on the marble wonder was stunned by its beauty, including Michelangelo himself. In fact, the Renaissance virtuoso was so smitten with the sculpture that he convinced Julius II to purchase the masterpiece and bring it to the Vatican. The acquisition of the Laocoön would set off centuries of future art accumulation within the Vatican Museums, to which we owe the magnificent collection found there today.

Gallery of Tapestries

The world-renowned tapestries adorning the walls of this breathtaking gallery used to hang in the Sistine Chapel until they were moved to their present-day location. The most esteemed pieces of the collection are the carpets based on Raphael’s drawings, depicting crucial scenes from the life of Jesus. Out of these 9 tapestries, we recommend paying some special attention to The Resurrection of Christ, which is woven in many layers, creating a surprising optical illusion as you walk by. It took the weavers 4 years to finalize the masterpiece and they cleverly used materials of different density in order to obtain the eye-deceiving effect.

Belvedere Torso

This torso one of the world’s most well-renowned examples of a ”disjecta membra", a fancier term for a fragmented statue. The exquisite anatomical delineation of the statue's remnants has made the piece a source of inspiration for numerous artists of different periods; especially during the Baroque and Renaissance eras. The sculpture has even been called "The Torso of Michelangelo", because of the profound impact it made on the master. The sculpture was the foundation of Michelangelo’s anatomy studies when designing many of his world-famous creations; including the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

Gallery of Candelabra

This gallery is one of the most visited in the Museums and world-renowned for the marble sculptures on display. Each of its six sections holds exquisite classical Greek and Roman sculptures creatively arranged around the gallery like furnishings. One of the more unusual pieces is the sculpture featuring Bacchus, the God of Wine, being carried on the shoulders of a young man. What makes this statue special is that Bacchus still has his original glass eyes - something incredibly rare for a 3rd century statue (most of them were robbed by vandals who thought the shiny eye-balls were made out of precious stones)!

Sistine Chapel

Upon entering the chapel, the visual cues are spellbinding. Covering 12,000 square feet, biblical stories inhabit almost every centimeter of space. Gaze upwards at Michelangelo’s ceiling, a masterful tour de force and cornerstone of High Renaissance art, to behold nine mystical depictions of stories from the Book of Genesis. His other masterpiece on the altar wall, The Last Judgment, foreshadows the Second Coming of Christ and the final eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Our early entry Vatican guided tours afford our customers the opportunity to experience this iconic chapel without the chaos and crowds.

St. Peter's Basilica

If you thought the size of the Vatican Museums was overwhelmingly spectacular, St. Peter’s Basilica takes the “wow factor” to another level. The sheer capacity of the interiors is enough to leave any visitor searching for words to describe its vastness. At 613 feet long, 85 feet wide and 147 feet high, it took an incredible 120 years to build, starting from 1506. Admire Michelangelo’s unparalleled Pietà masterpiece and stroll towards the center right nave to observe Bernini’s 30-foot high bronze Baldachin, which sits directly atop the site of St. Peter’s tomb.

Bernini's Baldachin

Directly above the pope’s altar sits a huge bronze canopy, which was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the early 1600s. The Renaissance wunderkind was commissioned the prestigious task at the tender age of 25 and it was his first artistic contribution to the Basilica, where he would continue to work for the rest of his life. Bernini’s patron, Pope Urban VIII, became infamous amongst the Romans when he allowed the artist to melt the bronze beams of the Pantheon’s portico to complete the construction. In total, 120 tons of metal were required to make the baldachin, which stands at a whopping 95 feet.

Michelangelo's Pietà

Michelangelo was only 23 years old when French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères commissioned him to carve "the most beautiful works in marble that Rome has ever seen". While the bar was set high, Michelangelo surprised everyone when the masterpiece was unveiled – none of the onlookers could comprehend how such a young sculptor was able to create something as flawless as the Pietà. Sadly, the perfection was temporarily spoilt in 1972, when a vandal attacked the sculpture with a hammer and damaged it severely. The masterpiece was quickly repaired, but visitors now have to admire it from behind bullet-proof glass.

Tour Summary Get in the Know

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel: all in one tour

Want to ensure your Vatican experience is a memorable one? We’ve done all the legwork for you on our Vatican Early Morning Tour! First, you’ll enter to see the Vatican Museums’ breathtaking masterpieces just as the doors swing open to the public. On one of our early Vatican tours, you’ll be one of just 12 other guests, so you’ll have more than the mic and earphones in common with your guide, getting real personalized attention and connecting with the charms of one of the most visited art collections on Earth.

After you enter into this stupendous site which safeguards thousands of masterpieces, silent testimony of the millenniums of history and art locked in here, you will admire the rich statue collection which started the Museums in the days of Pope Julius II, Raphael’s Rooms, and the Sistine Chapel.

Your guide will tour you through these corridors and halls, pointing out the exhibits on display. Once through, the Sistine Chapel awaits you. This wonderful chapel, frescoed by the great Florentine artist Michelangelo, stands proud facing 25,000 or more visitors a day with its rich and detailed stories and symbolisms, such as the Creation of Adam on the ceiling and Last Judgment on the altar wall. Gaze upon Michelangelo’s stupefying ceiling, Creation of Adam, and the Last Judgment in awe, take your time – and savor each moment – because this is an experience you’ll never want to forget, as you nearly reach out and touch one of humankind’s most astounding creative achievements.

Michelangelo’s enigmatic frescoes are brimming with genius and symbolism, but the huge amount of details can go unnoticed, so our expert guides are here to bring the meaning of the whole pictorial scheme to life. Give yourself the chance to see it the way Michelangelo intended, with a tour company that has our TripAdvisor pedigree.

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More of the Vatican City from Raphael to St. Peter’s

Some of the most famous and timeless masterworks can be found in the Vatican’s gigantic collection, founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Get a thorough look at the Lacoöon, Belvedere Apollo, dazzling Raphael Rooms, and more with a captivating historic photograph at each stop from your expert guide.

The finale of our early entry Vatican tours culminates in St. Peter’s Basilica. Majestic and inspired, it is the perfect place to come full circle on the morning’s itinerary. Every inch of this 240,000-square-foot church is breathtaking, but our tour goes beyond the gold and splendor, revealing the true stories of fervor, innovation, faith, and power. Feast your eyes on Michelangelo’s Pietà and admire the stunning interior of the dome he designed, as well as Bernini’s massive bronze baldachin sitting over the Pope’s private alter directly above St. Peter’s tomb and other little-known details that can only be spotted when inside!

if you have any questions about the trips, see our FAQ. LEARN MORE
Is this tour of the Vatican wheelchair accessible?

While the Vatican Museums are equipped with elevators for wheelchair access, they are not conveniently located on the group tour route, and only give access to specific sections of the Museums. As a result, we cannot accommodate wheelchairs on this tour. Please note that no walking aid can be used to pass from the Sistine Chapel to the St. Peter's Basilica so also walkers etc can not be accommodated on these group tours.

What is the dress-code to enter the Vatican Museums?

A dress code is required to enter places of worship and selected museums. No shorts or sleeveless tops allowed. Knees and shoulders MUST be covered for both men and women. You may risk refused entry if you fail to comply with these dress requirements.

Can I bring a bag with me to the Vatican Museums?

Yes, you can bring a small bag with you on your tour. Bags, backpacks, or luggage measuring more than 40·35·15 centimeters are, however, not allowed into the Vatican Museums and must be checked at the cloakroom. The same applies to large umbrellas, tripods, and any other objects that could potentially be harmful to other visitors or damage works of art in the Museums. The cloakroom storage is free of charge, but please be aware that it is located approximately 20 minutes walking distance from the conclusion point of the Vatican tours.


Vatican Early Access Tour Reviews

What our Customers say...

Higly Recommended

Francesca was excellent, everything we could wish for. Impressive knowledge, great sense of humour, perfect organisation, thoughtful and caring about each of our diverse group, and btw excellent English. The visit was comprehensive, well planned, the right length and good value for money”

Excellent tour, very worthwhile!!!

Guide was very excellent, knowledgeable and informative (with years of experience). This tour would not be as interesting or worthwhile without a tour guide.”

Two wonderful tours

My husband and I took two tours - Vatican Early Access and the Colosseum Underground, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. Both tours were guided by Carlotta. She was extremely knowledgeable, kind, entertaining and funny. We really enjoyed our time with her. She offered to spend a little extra time in St. Peter's at the end of our Vatican tour and my husband and I decided to stay. By the end of the tour I felt like we were old friends. I would definitely recommend What a Life Tours. Their service was professional, prompt and courteous.”

Do not miss this!

Meet early at the What A Life tour office 200 metres from the Vatican Entrance - coffee and pastries for breakfast :-) - a nice touch. We met our tour guide Carlotta and sorted out radio headphones, then walk to the Vatican entrance ready for the earliest possible start. Carlottas commentary and knowledge were fantastic - very engaging and delivered at the perfect pace. I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. Thank-you Carlotta and What A Life tours, you made our first day in Roma something very special.”

I was stunned

This was my first time in Rome and I did a bit of looking around before deciding on the early morning tour with What a Life Tours. So glad I booked with this company!! I arrived by taxi to their office, was greeted warmly, had a delicious coffee and croissant, and then we took off to get in line at the Vatican. My guide was Mario, and he was the best guide out of all the tours and things I did while I was in italy by a long shot! He explained and revealed so many interesting things about what we were seeing, all while maintaining a really respectful and gentle attitude. Do not miss this tour!”

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