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advice for touring the Vatican

Help! I'm so confused about how to best tour the Vatican. I've checked into the Rick-approved Vatican tours and they are pricey for a family of five. Has anybody done the tour alone, and does it work ok without a guided tour? Or is that a mistake? I'm concerned about both the long wait (without being part of a tour group) and wasting time figuring out where to go w/o a guide. Thanks!

Posted by
800 posts

Nancy - we visited the Vatican a few years ago without a tour. It was in July and the line was very long. We had gotten up really early so that we could go to St. Peters before the crowds and that was a good idea. When we came back down from the top I couldn't believe the number of people. From there we stood in line for the Vatican - can't really remember how long it took, but that was defintely the worst part. Depending on how many days you are there maybe you could do the Vatican tour very early one day and St. Peters another day. The museum is truly overwhelming - there is SO much to see. Maybe a guide would have been better but we still would not have seen everything. I am almost worse than my kids in that I can only take a museum for at most two hours at a time.

Bottom line - I would not do pay for a tour of the Vatican, but I would also realize that I would not see everything there was to see.

Posted by
334 posts

We toured on our own in November. The wait in line will exist anytime (and off-season, the museum was only open until 13:00). I'd advise going as early as possible and do St. Peter's afterwards or on another day. Rick's book has suggestions, though we varied a bit. There are side galleries that are not quite as crowded if you need a break from wall-to-wall people. The Sistine Chapel is kind of like a sardine can, but people move in and out all the time. Don't try to do anything else that day, however, it's more than enough to see the museum and St. Peter's in one day.

Posted by
29 posts

Have you read Rick's recent blog on this topic? It was posted sometime in early to mid-April, I think. He indicates that the situation has recently gotten considerably worse. I read something online earlier today indicating changes were made in January 2007 to both ticket prices and entrance times making it even worse for non-group travelers to get in.

I'll be in Rome in mid-July and definitely plan to purchase a tour group ticket as my time is so limited I can't afford to waste much of it standing in lines, but if I weren't traveling alone I'd probably rethink that decision.

Posted by
4 posts

Karen, You mentioned "Rick's blog" on this subject. Could you (or anyone else that knows) point me to where that blog is located? Also, which group tour are you thinking of booking? Thank you kindly.

Posted by
46 posts

from the home page, click on "Blog on Europe". It's really great!

Posted by
25 posts

The wait to get into the Basilica is not that long, though the line may appear daunting. I was through it in 30 minutes. You certainly don't need a guide to tour the Basilica, and I would almost discourage having one, because I believe it is a place one should be able to tour at his or her own place and not rush around. In terms of knowing what you are actually looking at, I suggest visiting the site

before you go. I printed the pages and took them with me when I explored St. Peter's. Hope that helps!

Posted by
32 posts

The first time I was in Rome, we did it on our own. At that time, about 10 years ago, the museum and Sistine chapel had headsets you could use to tell you about the different paintings, etc. The second time we went was with a tour. It was a horrible experience. the guide talked for 20 minutes on just one painting. And when we got to the chapel, we had 15 minutes. I enjoyed it much better on our own. But then, I'm not a big museum person wanting to know all the details.

Posted by
705 posts

I am not a 'tour' type person but did book one to do the Vatican museum as I had heard all the horror stories about queues, changes of admission times etc. So I booked Angel tours and they were great. About half the price of any other tour and they use young art history students or similar who really know their stuff and make the tour really interesting. They pick the eyes out of the museum so you get to see the worthwhile things. Wouldn't hesitate to do another of their tours. Web site is