Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums

Visiting Tips and Tours

Updated 2022

The huge Vatican Museums complex that includes the Sistine Chapel is one of the world’s most visited museums, with more than 5 million visitors a year. It’s also one of the largest. Its immense size coupled with big crowds can make a visit seem overwhelming so I highly recommend taking a small-group or private guided tour. Tours allow you to skip the (long) ticket line and often to go through the security check more quickly. Keep reading to see a variety of visiting options.

Vatican and Sistine Chapel Small Group Tours

*Complete Vatican Tour- This 3-hour comprehensive guided tour includes the Sistine Chapel and major exhibits of the Vatican Museums.
*Pristine Sistine Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour – This 4 hour tour starts one hour before the Vatican Museums open to the public, starting with a visit to the nearly empty Sistine Chapel.
*Vatican Museums Night Tour with Sistine Chapel – Visit the Vatican Museums after they close for the evening on this 2.5 hour special access tour offered Fridays and Saturdays, May through October.
*VIP Key Master’s Tour: Open The Sistine Chapel – Follow the key master for a 2-hour exclusive before-opening-hours guided visit, then stay inside the Vatican Museums on your own as long as you wish after the tour.
*Vatican Gardens, Vatican Museums, and Sistine Chapel Tour – Visit the beautiful Vatican gardens as well as the Vatican Museums with this 3 hour guided tour.
*Rome In A Day Tour with Vatican, Colosseum & Historic Center – You’ll see highlights of Rome as well as tour both the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums (with transportation to the Vatican) on this 7 hour tour. It’s a great way to pack in the top sights in one day.

sistine chapel ceiling photo
Sistine Chapel Ceiling. Image credit James Martin

The Ultimate Way to Visit the Vatican Without the Crowd

I’ve been to the Vatican Museums twice. The first time I went on an afternoon tour. When we got inside, I was really glad to be on a tour rather than trying to navigate on my own and realized that, unlike most places I’ve been, I would never try to do it independently. I avoided going back for quite awhile until the Roman Guy invited me to visit on an exclusive after-hours tour.

Walking through the nearly deserted museum was a completely different experience from my first visit. We were able to take a close look at art works and easily concentrate on what our guide was saying. Brandon, a Vatican City accredited Tour Operator, is an amazing guide and really brought the art works and the museum to life with his educational stories. Our two hours inside flew quickly by and I was sorry to leave.

Of course the highlight of the tour was being inside the Sistine Chapel with only a small group of people. On my first visit, the Chapel was packed and it seemed tight and cramped. But on the exclusive visit I experienced its immense size and could really appreciate the stunning art work.

Taking an Exclusive After-hours Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Tour is truly a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget!

map in vatican
Vatican Museums Gallery of Maps

Museums Visiting Information

Important Information: Visitors must go through a metal detector to enter. Backpacks and large objects must be left in the cloakroom. Knees and shoulders must be covered to enter and hats are not allowed.

The museums are open Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 6PM (last entrance at 4PM) and usually on the last Sunday of the month, 9AM to 2PM, when there is no admission charge. See Vatican Museums web site for updated information, events, and transportation.

Although tours are highly recommended, if you don’t want to take one, be sure to buy skip-the-line Vatican Museum tickets in advance.

There is no admission charge to enter Saint Peter’s Basilica, however you will still need to go through security. For a guided tour, book this St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb & Crypt.

vatican museums
Vatican Museums

Plan Your Visit to Rome

Where to Stay:
JK Place is a top contemporary boutique hotel, near the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon.
Singer Palace Hotel is on Via del Corso, a top shopping street, and has a rooftop restaurant
St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome’s first deluxe hotel, has been recently remodeled and is a luxurious choice.
Starhotels Metropole is a good choice near Termini Station.
See and compare more top hotels in Rome.

Book these Rome museum and site tickets before you go
Find out how to get around the city with our Rome Transportation Map

Rome and Sistine Chapel Guide Books:

Vatican Museums Art
Sculpture in the Vatican Museums

This post may contain affiliate links to sites I believe are of benefit to travelers. There is no cost to you but the small amount of revenue helps defer the cost of bringing you this free information.


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Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums originally appeared on MarthasItaly.com , updated: Feb 11, 2022.