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Vatican Under the Stars Tour

  • Group Size:
    Group Size: Max 12
  • Language:
    Language: English
  • Duration:
    Duration: 2.5 hrs
  • Start:
    Start: 5:30 PM
  • Price:
    Price: From 89 €
  • Cancelation:
    Cancellation: Free Cancellation*

Tour Overview

Indulge in the truly unique atmosphere of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel as night falls on our VIP Vatican after-hours tour. This intimate journey features all of the must-sees you would expect in the company an expert insider guide and a small group of only 12 guests or fewer when the doors have been closed to the general public.


Tour Highlights

  • Pinecone Courtyard
  • Belvedere Apollo
  • Laocoön and His Sons
  • Belvedere Torso
  • Round Room
  • Greek Cross Hall
  • Gallery of Candelabra
  • Gallery of Tapestries
  • Gallery of Maps
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Sistine Chapel

What's included

  • Skip-the-line access to Vatican Museums
  • Expert English-speaking guide
  • Small groups of 12 or fewer
  • All tickets and reservations
  • Headsets to hear the guide clearly

What you’ll See Along the Way

Greek Cross Hall

When entering this hall, one is immediately struck by the unmissable pair of ornate sarcophagi, which Emperor Constantine had custom-made in precious red marble for the burial of his mother and daughter. The central flooring of the room is dominated by wonderful 3rd century mosaic, exquisitely representing the four phases of the moon with the head of Medusa in the center. Other must-sees include the two Egyptian telamones (man-shaped pillars) flanking the entrance and a number of marble sculptures portraying some of history’s most famous characters, including Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.

Gallery of Candelabra

This 262-foot long gallery is more dazzling than ever and no wonder – its ceiling frescoes recently underwent a thorough restoration process costing the very grand total of one million US dollars. Though it was quite a splurge, the refurbishment was worth every cent as the richly decorated vault is now so stunning that it almost steals the attention from the marble sculptures below. The ceiling is more than just beautiful, though. It’s also a great example of mind-bending “tromp l'œil”. The masters who created frescoes used illusionistic painting techniques, making the images appear convincingly three-dimensional.

Gallery of Tapestries

As you enter the Gallery of Tapestries, you will be fascinated by the wall hangings from the Scuola Nuova (New School), mostly woven in Brussels, which display several important episodes from the life of Jesus, including the Last Supper and the resurrection, as well as a depiction of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Although the tapestries are stunning to behold, they originally served as more than mere decoration. In fact, in the first centuries after their installation, the carpets also functioned as added insulation to the walls, keeping the Apostolic Palace warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Gallery of Maps

This absolute stunner of a gallery was inaugurated in the late 16th century. Pope Gregory XIII commissioned two of his favorite artists to fresco the 120-foot long walls with maps of all the regions of Italy which were under the papal power at the time. In only three years, 40 mural paintings were finalized, displaying the whole of the Apennine peninsula, complete with an exact coastal line and the most important cities of the period. The maps are decorated with historical events, monuments and particularities of the places depicted, as well as with ships, sea monsters and mythological figures.

Raphael Rooms

This world-famous suite of rooms was painted by Raphael in the early 1500s by the commission of Pope Julius II. Raphael’s frescoes perfectly expressed the Renaissance’s religious and philosophical ideals and made the artist one of the most beloved and influential masters of art history. Out of all the incredible frescoes found in the papal apartment, The School of Athens remains the most celebrated. Curiously, Raphael chose to depict a number of his most esteemed contemporary colleagues in the gigantic painting – Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and even Raphael himself can be found amongst the vibrant frescoes.

Sistine Chapel

In 1508 Pope Julius II summoned Michelangelo to Rome, asking him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo, who considered himself a sculptor and not a painter, respectfully declined the commission. Unsurprisingly, the pontifex did not take the artist’s “no” for an answer (they didn’t call him the “Warrior Pope” for nothing) and thus Michelangelo was forced to spend the next 4 years of his life unwillingly frescoing the chapel’s enormous vault. But, as much as Michelangelo loathed his neckbreaking chore, the fruit of his labor was spectacular, perhaps one of the greatest pictorial decorations in all of Western art.

Pinecone Courtyard

The Pinecone Courtyard is somewhat of an outdoor gallery, filled with curious works of art. Apart from the over-sized bronze pinecone statue that gave this patio its name, the most famous piece found here is the cutting-edge chef-d'oeuvre at its center, a generous gift to Pope John Paul II from the artist himself, Arnaldo Pomodoro, in 1990. If you think the spherical work of art looks somewhat familiar; it could be because you have seen it before. In fact, different sized versions of Arnoldo’s futuristic-looking metal ball exist in numerous cities all over the world.

Belvedere Apollo

This exquisite marble sculpture is one of the most famous works in Western art history. It was found just outside Rome in the late 1400s and became a papal possession shortly thereafter thanks to Pope Julius II, who brought it to the Belvedere Palace (where it still resides to this day). The statue instantly became one of the Vatican collection’s most coveted showpieces and it would take many years before anyone realized that the sculpture was merely a Roman marble copy of a long lost Greek original in bronze. The identity of the creator is still held in mystery, but most experts believe it was the Greek sculptor Leochares.

Laocoön and His Sons

This touching 2nd century AD sculpture portrays the priest Laocoön and his two sons as they struggle to escape the grasp of enormous sea serpents which had been sent by Poseidon as a punishment for leaking the secret of the Trojan horse. The father desperately tries to save himself and his children, but his efforts are all in vain; the younger son has already suffocated in the fatal grip of the serpent, while the elder is fruitlessly begs his father for help. The sculptor has skillfully captured the immense pain and mourning of the father, who cannot save his children from death.

Belvedere Torso

This world-renowned sculpture is carved in white marble and dated to Greek antiquity, around the 1st century AD. While it’s only a fragment of the original figure, this torso has had a huge influence on the history of art. Upon its arrival in the Vatican in 1523, it gained immediate popularity and Michelangelo, who had always been fascinated with classical sculptures, distinguished himself as its most avid admirer. He was known to spend hours examining the broken sculpture in detail and drew hundreds of sketches of it from every angle. For many years, the Renaissance master even referred to himself as a “pupil of the torso”.

Round Room

This circular room boasts several interesting pieces, including a sculpture of Emperor Claudius portrayed as the god Jupiter, a stunning bronze rendering of Hercules, and a giant porphyry basin recovered from Emperor Nero’s private estate. But even with all of these curious masterpieces on display, the exquisite flooring remains one of the most notable parts of the entire hall. These intricate mosaics adorned an ancient bathhouse on the outskirts of Rome until Pope Pius VI brought them to the Vatican in the 1800s. Incredibly, the delicate fragments were transported here piece by piece, like a spectacular 3rd century puzzle.

Tour Summary Get in the Know

Vatican Museums at Night Behind the Scenes

When sightseeing in the Eternal City, it’s not unusual to find yourself wishing the day wouldn’t end, and luckily – it doesn’t have to! Seize this unique chance to see the Vatican’s world-famous art and architecture in the special ambiance that few visitors ever get to experience. Our Vatican After Hours Tour gives you the opportunity to take advantage of exclusive evening opening hours, so you’ll avoid the massive day-time crowds, making this starlit adventure inside its enchanting halls one of the most appealing ways to experience the masterpieces.

The Vatican will have already closed its general admission entrance a full three hours by the time you meet for your tour, and any stragglers are shown out more than an hour before. All this ensures that seeing globally acclaimed artwork like Raphael’s School of Athens, as well as the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s iconic Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment will be undisturbed. So, go beyond checking the Vatican off your ‘travel to’ list, and see the colorful mosaics shimmer, sculptures in realistic shadow, and romantic moonlit courtyards glow, while your guide provides a detailed narrative of these historic walls. From the Gallery of Maps to the Gallery of Tapestries, the Laocoön to the Belvedere Apollo we’ll ensure your night tour of the Vatican is nothing less than spectacular.

Unveil “Shiver-Down-the-Spine” Inducing Sights

The brightest star on this evening tour is, without doubt, the Sistine Chapel, and entering it at a time that was once reserved for popes or the papal conclave is as inspiring as it gets. You will also see the brilliantly frescoed walls and ceiling under perfect viewing conditions with lighting that is designed to highlight every vibrant detail. Learn about all of Michelangelo’s trials and tribulations in creating one of humanity’s greatest creative achievements, as you gaze into the biblical and revelationary scenes. You will also be delighted to know that under the layers of paint lies the original star-studded ceiling, proof that the Pontiff’s private chapel was often used at night.

Our guides will offer you a fascinating glimpse into the rivalry and drama that unfolded between the creators of the Vatican’s most esteemed jewels. But aside from learning about the artists’ lives, you’ll also get insightful explanations on the processes behind the works themselves. We’ll witness and examine some of the most forward-thinking art techniques of the times, such as the speed at which frescos had to be painted, the innovative use of shadows in “chiaroscuro”, and the hidden messages and personalities that abound where you least expect it.

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REVIEWS

Vatican under the Stars Tour

What our Customers say...

Amazing Tour!!!

What an interesting tour! So glad we decided to book a tour instead of doing it ourselves. Our guide was very knowledgeable, passionate about the tour and managed to keep us all together. Would definitely recommend this tour company as well as Mateo our tour guide.”

The Sistine Chapel Brought to Life!

Phenomenal tour! We had been pushed like cattle through the Sistine Chapel with another tour the day before, but this special night was the complete opposite experience. Our guide Mateo was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate - he truly brought the Vatican and the Chapel to life for us in a much more personal and relaxed way!”

Awesome!

Matteo was awesome! He was very passionate, very knowledgeable he made sure our visit to the museum and the Sistine Chapel was incredible. You’re lucky to have such a valuable employee, he represents your company very well!”

Great quality tour!

I had a fantastic time visiting the Vatican museums for the first time. Our tour guide Mateo was incredibly passionate about the history of the museums and everything inside. I would highly recommend this tour, it’s clear they love their job!”

Favourite Tour

The timing is perfect! The experience perfect! The smaller group makes a big diff, Everything perfect! We had Giuliano and he was very knowledgeable and kind. Loved this tour.”

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