Please sign in to post.

Vatican museums- lines and itinerary

I have now heard conflicting things about avoiding Vatican museum crowds. Some say be there 45 minutes before it opens, others say it's less crowded in the afternoon. I am going to be there the last Sunday in July (free day). What would be best?

As a bonus question, if anyone can suggest a good plan of attack once you've reached Vatican city, I'm getting confused about what you do first, etc. There's the Basilica, the Dome, the Sistine Chapel, etc. So much info just says "Vatican Museums," and is not more specific. I'd appreciate anyone who could be.

Posted by
73 posts

I am sorry to tell you that the most crowded day each month is probably the free Sunday and especially in Summer. My suggestion to you is if you have no choice get there as early as you can. Getting there late in the afternoon does not apply to free days and the day after holidays.
Next as to what to see, that would depend on your taste. I would definitely suggest doing the Pinacoteca first. It will be to the right after you get the ticket. But ask one of the museum personnel, there will be signs too. The sculptures such as the Apollo Belvedere, Laocoon and Belvedere torso, the fake 3D paintings on the ceilings, the Borgia apts., the Rapahael rooms and the Sistine chapel are the main highlights. Rick suggests taking a short cut thru the modern art to reach the Sistine and hopefully avoid some of the crowds. Once you are done with Sistine take the short cut described by Rick in his book so you can duck out to the St. Peters' cathedral and avoid the long trek back to the entance

Posted by
73 posts

Sorry I forgot to tell you to go to the Vatican museum first. Once you get out of the museum from the Sistine see if you can get into the line for the cathedral. You will be joining them after they have cleared security which you will already have done as you eneter the museum. Once you are in the church try to see the Pieta, there will be big crowd. But as the museum is free that day hopefully most people will be there! Then walk around the church and then if you wish get in the line to climb up to the dome and the view from the dome.

Posted by
18 posts

Yeah, when I realized that we were arriving into Rome around 11am Saturday and leaving Sunday night I thought I'd really blown it and wasn't going to get to see the Vatican at all. At least I'll get to go, even though it will be crowded.

Here's what I'm understanding your advice to be: Stand in line as early as possible for the Vatican museum (this is 1 thing?). Go to the Vatican museum first, then the Sistine chapel (is the Sistine actually IN the Vatican museum? Is all that other stuff, the Pinacoteca, and the sculpture you mentioned, Raphael room, etc, are all those IN the Vatican Museum, or separate?), after the Sistine chapel, get in line for the cathedral. Once in the cathedral, see the Pieta. Then climb the dome if I'm not too exhausted to stand.

Thank you so much for responding.

Posted by
91 posts

You are correct Tamara. Get to the museum early, stand in line and once in the museum you will see the Raphael Room, etc and the museum leads you to the Sistine Chapel. I cannot comment on exactly how you get from the Sistine Chapel and into St Peters as I visited the museum and St Peters on seperate days. good travels!

Posted by
73 posts

The Vatican museum has a separate entrance and is a long walk from the Cathedral. The museum houses the Pinacoteca, the sculptures, paintings, maps, Asian and Egyptian art, modern Christian art, the Raphael Stanza, the Borgia apts and the Sistine chapel. Use the following web site to browse and get a feel for the museum. The Sistine chapel is at one end and the Pinacoteca at the other end. As the Pinacoteca is close to the entrance it is easier to do this first so you can exit from the Sistine. Otherwise you will have a long trek thru crowded corridors and then will have to walk around the museum on the outside to the Cathedral.
I would advise you to look at Rick Steves' book on Rome or Italy to see the layout of the museum and the cathedral. Also get a map of Rome, Rick's planning map of Italy will have all the main attractions.
The Cathedral houses a lot of mosaic art, the various chapels, the main altar, the Pieta and of course the cathedral is crowned by Michelangelo's dome.

Posted by
191 posts

Just wanted to add the Vatican closes early on the free day around 1:45pm, I went last year on free day in May, and I was in line at 8am and the line was about 1/2 a kilometer long but it took about 2 hours to get in, so defiently go early!!

Posted by
4 posts

Tamara, do yourself a favor and line up by 6 a.m. with a cup of coffee in hand. Even then it will take you up to 20 minutes or so. Our first time we went around 10 on a Saturday and the line was literally a mile long. Thanks to a Korean group tht let us in near the head of the line, must to the consternation of those behind us. Do the Vatican Museum first and the Sistine Chapel comes with it. From parts of the unguided tour you will get close to the dome. The Basilica is a free for all where there is no much waiting as you approach the gates. Don't be in a hurry and do as the Italians do, you'll live longer. Arriverderci Tamara and bona fortuna.

Posted by
3 posts

Any update on avoiding Vatican long lines? Can you get a reservation/ticket in advance??


Posted by
283 posts

This is a handy topic for me because coincidentally I will be going the last weekend of the month and 27 Sept is World Tourism Day which means the museum us free on that day.

From what I gather from the calendar, the museum will be free on Saturday 27 Sept and the Sistine Chapel will be free on Sunday 28 Sept.

It also seems like since the Museum is free on Saturday it won't be open on Sunday but the Sistine Chapel will be.

Hmm, very interesting weekend!

Posted by
1708 posts got favorable reviews on Tripadvisor. They offer a 3 hour guided tour for about 53 euro per person or a timed-admission, no wait ticket (but no tour either) for about 29 euro. We chose the latter as it seems well worth the few extra euros for the convenience. Their website is easily navigated to show what tour options are available for your chosen dates. Good luck

Posted by
110 posts

We just back from a trip to Italy and there were only really long line at three places (1) colosseum (2) Uffizi (3) Vatican Museum. We were lucky in that we had tickets already for all 3. I would suggest buying a bypass the line ticket or a tour ticket so you won't have to wait, but you will probably need to be on the 9:30 tour. The Sistine chapel is part of the Vatican Musuem so you can't see one without the other. Once you have seen the Sistine chapel there is a door on the right that you can take that will lead you to St. Peter's, therefore you don't have to exit take the lengthy walk and go through security again. We did the following though:

We arrived super early (around 8:00 am) and toured St. Peters, went up the cupolo, and did the Scavi tour on one day. There were no lines for anything. On the following day we had a bypass the line ticket and got in around 9:45 saw everything exited at St. Peter's picked up our luggage (we dropped it off early because we were taking a train to the port to catch our cruise) and went to the train station near the vatican.

Posted by
39 posts

Tamara, it seems really confusing but it's not that bad when you actually get there. My husband and I just got back from 2 months in Europe and had no clue when we got to Vatican City and totally figured it out. Get there as early as possible and check out the square from the line and then go through the Basilica first. Once you are done in there, you go back out of the walls of vatican city and follow the wall to the Vatican Museum. Its maybe a 8-10 minute walk at a good pace. Go through the vatican Museum. It is huge! You would never have time to look at everything period. My suggestion would be to wonder through that and stop at what intrests you. There are sings EVERYWHERE and the museum leads you directly into the Sistine Chapel. If you have an ipod or MP3, download Rick's audio tour guides for the Bascillca, Square and Sistine Chapel. Trust me, you will love it. We spent about 3 hours there not including lines. Hope that helps. Safe travels!