What’s inside the Vatican Museums?The Popes and other members of the Catholic Church have been some of the most dedicated patrons of the arts, and the Vatican Museums are home to their extensive collection. The museums are made up of several smaller galleries and rooms, some of which house paintings and sculpture, and some of which are works of art in their own right. From ancient Roman sculptures and mosaics to modern art with religious themes, the Vatican Museums display about 20,000 diverse works. Famous names to watch out for include Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. Visitors should also take the time to visit the Raphael Rooms, which were commissioned as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II and feature beautiful fresco scenes in a High Renaissance style. And, of course, you should make sure not to miss the Sistine Chapel, which includes the famous ceiling and The Last Judgement by Michelangelo, in addition to frescos by Botticelli, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, and Rosselli.
Do I need a separate ticket to see the Sistine Chapel? Can I only visit the Sistine Chapel?The Sistine Chapel can only be accessed via the Vatican Museums, so there is no ticket option that exclusively includes entry to the chapel. Access to the chapel is included in all tickets to the Vatican Museums, and the chapel is one of the last rooms you’ll visit if you follow the recommended itineraries offered by the museum. If you’ve booked a guided tour, your guide will give you all the information about the chapel before you enter, as it is considered a deeply sacred place and guests are asked to remain silent while inside.
Should I take a guided tour of the Vatican Museums?The Vatican Museums are huge and maze-like, with many different galleries dedicated to different eras. If you’re interested in the highlights and getting more information about the most important pieces of art, then a guided tour is an excellent choice. Your guide will help you to navigate the hallways while keeping you informed about the most important pieces, guiding you safely to the Sistine Chapel at the end. Official guided tours take at least 2 hours, tours with private guides may take longer. If you’d rather wander by yourself, without the pressure of keeping up with a group, then an audio guide is probably a good idea. While there is some text available next to certain artworks, the audio guide can provide far more information about the pieces you’re seeing.
How long will it take to visit the Vatican Museums?First of all, you’ll need to factor in whether or not you’ve booked your ticket in advance. If not, then you’ll need to arrive before the museum opens, as lines for tickets can be up to two hours long during the busiest times of the year. Once inside, you’re free to explore all day if you’d like. Most people spend between two and three hours inside, which is enough time to see the highlights, including the Sistine Chapel, and that’s also how long most of the guided tours take. However, if you’re an art-lover who wants to linger in all the galleries, you can easily make a day trip out of your visit. There are courtyards to rest in, plus a café, restaurant, and pizzeria where you can find lunch and snack options, so take as much time as you need!
Can I see the Vatican Gardens?The Vatican Gardens - those close to the Vatican Museums - can only be visited with an authorized guide on certain dates. With limited numbers of tickets available, the tour can be difficult to book but is highly recommended as the gardens contain a stunning series of fountains, carefully maintained plantlife from around the world, and even a reconstruction of the grotto in Lourdes. You’ll also get great views of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. There are other papal gardens available to visit at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence. The Barberini Gardens there used to be reserved for the private use of the Pope, but Pope Francis opened them to the public in 2014. Tickets are available for the gardens only or the gardens and the Apostolic Palace, and there’s even a VIP ticket that includes the Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, Barberini Gardens, and Castel Gandolfo.
Is a trip to the museum suitable for children?The Vatican welcomes families with children, and staff members are on hand to assist with strollers when you’re traveling between floors of the museum. There are also baby changing facilities and a nursing room for those with very small children, and the restaurant and pizzeria provide high chairs. There is a child-friendly audio guide that follows a slightly shorter itinerary. While the museum has all of these facilities, parents should consider that the art is mostly serious and religious in nature and that the corridors and galleries can be extremely crowded with large groups. Older children and teenagers will probably enjoy the visit far more than younger children.
Can I take photographs in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel?Photography for personal use only is permitted throughout the museums, although visitors are asked not to take photographs using flash, tripods, selfie sticks, or any other kind of equipment. Photography or filming of any kind is forbidden inside the Sistine Chapel.