Vatican City is a must-see destination on countless bucket lists, worldwide. With an incredible collection of high art, fascinating feats of architecture, and a history that runs centuries deep, there’s no wonder pilgrims and tourists flock to the Catholic capitol at a rate of up to 20,000 visitors per day.
So, what is the best time of year to visit the Vatican?
Well, that just depends! What do you prefer? Sunny, hot summertime strolls with gelato in hand? Or crisp, cool evenings spent tucked away in wine bars? Depending on your personal preference, there may be a trick for knowing when to visit! Read on for our insider tips and you’ll know exactly what to do when it’s time to book the trip!
Enjoy the Vatican Under the Stars in Summertime
St. Peter’s Basilica becomes a sparkling diamond on the skyline at night
Yes, Rome can be pretty sweltering in the Summer, but some of us are willing to take the trade for some extra special seasonal experiences. While July can be a relatively busy time of year to stroll the streets of Rome, the Eternal City becomes pleasantly peaceful in August, as most Italians take off to their mountain cabins and seaside homes for a vacation holiday known as “Ferragosto”.
Summertime brings special opportunities at the Vatican. For example, the museums stay open late for exclusive tour groups on Friday evenings. A VIP Vatican After Hours tour is perfect for those who want to catch a break from the sun and the tourist crowds as, during this sunset exploration, the museums are closed to the general public.
Other perks of visiting Rome in the Summertime include watching the Teatro dell’ Opera perform in the ancient Baths of Caracalla and exploring the trendy summer bars that pop up along the Tiber River for the season.
Skip the Crowds on Wednesday Mornings
Book a free ticket to see the pope – or enjoy a discounted Vatican tour instead!
With the exception of special holidays and travels, the pope leads a Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square every Wednesday morning. The result? Tourists and pilgrims flock to the piazza, rather than the museums. That’s great news for anybody looking to get into the Vatican Museums early and enjoy the luxury of “elbow room” amongst the artworks. During the mass, St. Peter’s Basilica is closed to the public and, while that may initially seem like a bummer, there is a silver lining, indeed! Discounted Vatican Tours are available during this time. And, remember, entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica is always free, so you can always circle back around to see it later.
Winter holidays just have a bit of flair, don’t they?
Winter welcomes a relatively slow tourist season in the Eternal City, but that certainly doesn’t stop the festivities! Temperatures rarely fall below freezing, even at night, so the days are mild enough to spend exploring all the sites that “bella Roma” has to offer. This season is particularly special, though, at The Vatican – the Catholic capitol.
Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to argue with the beauty of twinkling lights in St. Peter’s Square, or the sound of choirs singing, or the impressive craftsmanship that goes into the “Nativity Scenes”. The good news for Vatican-goers is the Vatican Museums are open every day (apart from December 25th and 26th) and you’re likely to miss the major crowds that tend to fill the area in busier seasons.
Other advantages of visiting the Vatican in wintertime? There’s a lot of extra fun stuff going on! There are several Catholic masses led by the Pope, including the Christmas Eve Mass, Christmas Mass, and New Year’s Eve Mass. Tickets to these Papal events are absolutely free!
Join International Pilgrims for the Jubilee
Pilgrims walk through the Vatican Holy Doors to be forgiven for their sins
What is a Jubilee? Traditionally, the Jubilee is a year long period in which the Holy Doors of the Catholic Church are opened (at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, for example), and visitors are invited to walk through them. Upon crossing the threshold, they are believed to be absolved of all their sins. Needless to say, this special event brings Catholics from every corner of the world – there’s definitely a different energy in The Vatican during this rare festivity.
When will the next Jubilee Year occur? There is some debate about it. The reason? At any time, the Pope has the power to call for a special Jubilee year. Is it worth holding out for? Well, that just depends on you!
At the Vatican the Early Bird Gets the Worm…
Imagine a peaceful moment to ponder the Sistine Chapel, rather than squishing in shoulder to shoulder
In this case, the “worm” is the possibility of some tranquil time in the Sistine Chapel. A Vatican early access tour allow select groups into the Vatican Museums before they open to the general public. This means you get to beat the crowds before they swarm to major highlights like the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. The great news is, these exclusive tours are available year-round! So, no matter when you decide to visit the Vatican, exclusive early entry is always an option!
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