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Visiting Vatican Museums: Everything You Need to Know

What’s a trip to Rome without a visit to the home of some of its most renowned and historic artworks? Nestled in the heart of Vatican City, the Vatican Museums are a must-see for art lovers, history enthusiasts, and keen tourists alike – but what should you expect when you get there? In the following blog post, we’re going to go over everything you can expect during your visit, from the strict dress codes and safety guidelines to the breathtaking masterpieces that await you. Let’s take a look!


What are the Vatican Museums?

The Vatican Museums are a collection of world-renowned art museums located within the Vatican City. Established by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, they contain priceless masterpieces of art, sculpture, and historical artifacts accumulated by the Roman Catholic Church throughout its history. The Vatican Museums are home to many Roman must-sees, including the famous Sistine Chapel decorated by Michelangelo, as well as the Raphael Rooms, frescoed by Raphael Santi himself.


What do I need to know before going to the Vatican Museum?

You need to follow the dress code

When visiting the Vatican Museums, it’s important to remember that you’re entering into a space of both religious and cultural importance, and as a visitor you will be expected to adhere to a strict dress code. Both men and women need to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knee, so sleeveless tops, shorts, and skirts above the knee are not permitted. Shoes must also be worn at all times, so no flip-flops or sandals. It’s a good idea to bring a scarf or shawl to cover up if needed, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months and wearing light clothing.

Safety and security is a priority

Safety is a priority at the Vatican Museums, and several measures are in place to ensure a secure environment for visitors. All guests must pass through a security checkpoint, similar to airport security, which includes a metal detector and X-ray machine for bags. Do note that you will need to leave any large bags or suitcases at your hotel or in a nearby luggage storage facility, as these won’t be allowed inside the museums for security reasons. Additionally, be mindful of pickpockets, as the Vatican Museums are a popular tourist destination – wear bum bags, keep your valuables at home where necessary, and don’t leave any handbags or valuables lying around unattended.

You should book tickets in advance

To avoid long waiting lines and ensure a smoother visit, we highly recommend booking your tickets in advance. Our private Vatican tours are incredibly popular – especially during peak season – so it’s a good idea to get your tickets reserved as soon as possible. Turning up without a ticket can mean waiting in the queue for hours with other tourists, wasting precious holiday time that could be spent visiting other sites, eating pizza and gelato, or soaking up Rome’s rich and vibrant city life.

Even better, opt for a guided tour

To make the most of your visit to the Vatican Museums, consider taking a guided tour. There are many tour options available, from private tours to group tours, which are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides. These tours can offer valuable insights into the history and significance of the artworks and help bring the experience to life. Additionally, guided tours – such as those offered by us at What a Life Tour – often include skip-the-line privileges, allowing you to bypass the long queues.


What can I expect to see at the Vatican Museums?

The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, perhaps the most famous attraction within the Vatican Museums, is a must-see. The chapel’s ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, features an awe-inspiring depiction of scenes from the Bible. Michelangelo’s iconic fresco, “The Last Judgment,” also adorns the altar wall. Visitors should note that photography and videography are strictly prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel, and talking should be kept to a minimum.

The Raphael Rooms

Another highlight of the Vatican Museums is the series of rooms known as the Raphael Rooms. These four rooms, which served as the private apartments of Pope Julius II, are adorned with magnificent frescoes painted by the renowned artist Raphael and his workshop. The fourth room was also recently restored in 2020 by Fabio Piacentini. 

The Gallery of Maps

The Gallery of Maps is a stunning 120-meter-long corridor featuring detailed maps of Italy painted on the walls. These maps, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1580, showcase the geographical knowledge of the time and are notable for their artistry and accuracy and attention to detail. As you walk along the gallery, you’ll be able to admire the beautifully painted topographical representations of Italy’s regions and cities, as well as the ornate ceiling adorned with frescoes depicting allegorical and mythological scenes. 


Is it worth visiting the Vatican Museums? 

We certainly think so! A visit to the Vatican Museums is an essential part of any trip to Rome, especially if you’ve come to the Italian capital with the specific aim of sightseeing. Just remember to plan your visit well in advance and adhere to the dress code and safety guidelines to ensure a fuss-free and enjoyable experience. 



Do I need tickets for the Vatican Museums?

While tourists are permitted to enter into Vatican City without a ticket, you will need to pay if you’re looking to enter into the Vatican Museums. If you book a private guided tour, your admission fee will be covered as part of the price.

How long does a Vatican Museum tour take? 

It’s recommended to allocate at least 3 to 4 hours for your visit to the Vatican Museums. However, if you’re an art or history enthusiast, you may want to spend even more time exploring the vast collection. Keep in mind that the museums can be quite crowded during peak tourist seasons, which is why we’d always recommend opting for one of our private tours – there’ll be no time wasted waiting in line! 

Are the Vatican Museums wheelchair accessible? 

Yes, the Vatican Museums are wheelchair accessible, and there are ramps and elevators available to assist visitors with limited mobility. If you require a wheelchair, you can reserve one in advance through the Vatican Museums’ Special Permits and Services Office.

Can I bring food or drink into the Vatican Museums?

Food and drink are not permitted inside the Vatican Museums, except for water in a plastic bottle. There is a cafeteria within the museum complex where you can purchase food and drinks during your visit.

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