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Navigating the Vatican

Hello all. We'll be in Rome in a month and I'm currently planning our itinerary - deciding which tourist pass to purchase (or if it's worth buying one at all) and thinking we should do a guided tour of the colosseum vs self-guided, so that we can see the hypogeum. But my main questions are about the Vatican.

As I understand it, there's two ways to enter Vatican city - via the Vatican Museum entrance to the north, or via St. Peter's square to the east. If we enter through St. Peters, will we also then be able to enter the Museums from that side, or do we have to go back out and walk around the wall to the Museum entrance on Viale Vaticano street? And vise versa, if we come through the Museums/Sistine Chapel first, is there an exit inside Vatican City from where one could go straight to St. Peter's Basilica?

Also, is it worth looking into skip-the-line tickets or guided tours for the Basilica? I know entrance is free but I read that people can wait in line for a half hour or more.

Thanks all, and keep on traveling!

Posted by
14925 posts

There is only one entrance to the Vatican Museums. There is an exit from the Sistine Chapel that avoids the line to enter St. Peter's Basilica. In the past only guided tour groups were allowed to use it, though the guards sometimes were lenient with individual visitors. I was there last month and that exit was closed to all. I doubt anyone knows if it will be reopened in the near future. There is a more-or-less one way route through the main museum building, that forms a square with an inner courtyard. The entrance/exit and the Sistine Chapel are across from each other. So once you've taken the route with all the interestng exhibits to get to the Sistine Chapel, you then have a fairly long walk through a lot of rooms with very little to see to arrive at the exit.

The line to enter the basilica is a security line. There is no way to avoid it unless the exit from the Sistine Chapel is reopened. It's about a 15 minute walk from the entrance/exit of the museums to the entrance to the basilica.

Posted by
21086 posts

It has been reported here on the forum just within the last few days that the exit for tour groups from the Sistine Chapel into St. Peter's is open again. It was pointed out, however, that (as of at the time of that posting), the major tour companies had not yet resumed advertising the combo tours that depend on that access route. Therefore, there was a bit of uncertainty about counting on being able to use the shortcut until some documentation of the policy is available.

Posted by
19 posts

We were at the Vatican last week. We had bought museum tickets ahead of time. We arrived at about 10:30 am and entered the basilica after waiting in the security line for about 20 minutes. The line looked enormous but moved quickly. We did the Rick Steves app audio tour which suited our needs perfectly. We the took the walk around the walls to the museum side and had lunch a few blocks away. Easy walk back to the museum and back through another security line. Again we followed the RS audio tour which kept us organized, educated and entertained. We did have to walk past the walls and through St Peter’s Square again to get back to our hotel but we love to walk. All in all this plan worked well for us and we were able to move at our own pace. I doubt a “skip the line” tour would have been an advantage.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you, that clears things up. What we might do then is start at the Vatican on two separate mornings, devoting each one to either the museums/chapel or St. Peter's. That way we avoid both the noon crowds and the walk around the walls.

Or we could still decide to do them at once since we're in that area anyway, depending on how we feel that day and where we would go next after the Vatican. It doesn't seem like the line to the Basilica is that bad, not does it sound like there's a way to avoid other than possibly a tour, but we're not interested in that anyway.