Everything you need to know about exploring Vatican City
Vatican City, one of the most sacred place to visit for Roman Catholics. Actually, religious or not, it surely is worth the visit when you find yourself in Rome due to its beautiful architecture, museum, and history. It also inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1984 and the only one that consist of an entire state.
So, what do you get to see when you visit Vatican City?
First on the list is the St. Peter’s Square or Piazza San Pietro (in Italian). You can’t miss this as it’s what will be welcoming you once you enter the gates of Vatican City. This large plaza located directly in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica. This is one of the picturistique places in Vatican where most tourists take their #instagrammable photos.
You wouldn’t want to miss seeing what’s inside your backdrop when you took that photo at St. Peter’s Square don’t you?! St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the holiest holiest sites of Christianity and Catholic Tradition. Traditionally, it is the burual site of its titular, St. Peter, the head of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. Aside from St. Peter, the Basilica is also where 91 popes are buried.
It is also the world’s largest church where you’ll be amazed to see impressive works of art and gigantic dome, pillars, and statues. Even my 8-year old was impressed and whispered to me while we’re wandering inside, “Mommy, this is the most beautiful church we’ve ever been”. A big contrary to what she said when we’re in Athens and visited the Acropolis where she said, “We came here to see rocks?!” Kids clearly don’t know how to filter their words yet.🤪
Oh! And did I mention, going in the St. Peter’s Basilica is for FREE. There’s a fee though if you’d like to climb up the dome on foot (that’s 551 steps up) or you have an option to ride the lift. You just need to queue and have your bags check. Don’t be intimidated by the long queue you see as the lines move really fast. Once you’re cleared from the initial checks, you can enter either the St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museum.
Which leads us to the next place you can see inside Vatican City, the Vatican Museum. We didn’t get a chance to visit the museum as we started our day very late and the queue to the museum was quite long that time. That’s also the reason why we chose to just go inside the basilica instead.
The Vatican Museum holds an immense collection of the of art amassed by the Roman Catholic and papacy throughout the centuries.The museums contain roughly 70,000 works of art though only 20,000 of them are on display. These artworks are the most renowned Roman sculptures and the most important masterpieces of the Renaissance art in the world.
That being said, it’s no wonder one of the most visited museums in the world (garner about 1 million people annually) and with 24 galleries with the Sistine Chapel, notably being the last room visited within the Museum, you’ll surely need a whole day to splurge looking into these artworks beauty. I’d surely want to visit this the next time we go to Rome and would make sure to plan our day early so we can make our money worth of those tickets. haha..
Lastly is the Sistine Chapel. Aside from the fact that this is the official residence of the Pope, this room is a truly special one. Why? Because not only one, but two of one of the most notable artists in the Renaissance have their artworks inside this room. I’m talking about Michelangelo who painted the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512 and covered the wall altar of his world known, “The Last Judgement” artwork.
Here’s how to get there:
TRAVEL BY METRO: The quickest way is to take the Metro. Rome is quite easy to navigate especially if you’re going to start your journey from their main terminal, Roma Termini. You’ll need to buy a ticket on their Metro and ride the orange line to Ottaviano on line A. Note that finding this platform can be a bit tricky (despite all the signs) so if it’s your first time here, it’s better you ask one of their kind and helpful train staff to avoid riding the wrong train.
It’s a short walk from the Metro to the walls of Vatican City (about 5 mins walk). You can just follow fellow tourists as you can’t miss to see the walls of Vatican where you just need to walk around to the entrance.
TRAVEL BY BUS: Alternatively, you can take bus #64 (takes around 20 minutes), from Termini train station where you need to get out at the last stop of the route – Piazza Stazione S. Pietro. From there, you’ll need to walk 15-20 minutes to reach the Vatican City.
What to wear:
Remember that Vatican City may be considered as a tourist destination but its still a Holy place so avoid wearing revealing clothes, like short skirts, dresses, and shorts. However, if you happen to visit during summer and the weather seems too hot, it is advisable to bring a scarf to cover-up. As for the footwear, wearing sandals is okay, but please try to skip those flip flops. And like any Holy place, hats should be removed upon entering the buildings in the Vatican. Lastly, food (you can as long as you don’t eat it inside) and metal tools ( scissors and knives) are not allowed.
Best time to visit:
It’s best to allot a whole day to be able to let yourself immerse on the beauty of each part of the Vatican City. As per our experience, we arrived around 12nn and all were able to do is take photos at St. Peter’s Square and go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Our original plan includes the Sistine Chapel but it was too late already when we reached there (it closes at 4pm) so it is really recommended to plan your time wisely if you want to make the most from your trip.
Here’s what you’ll get for FREE: entrance to the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’ Basilica, Tombs of Popes (under St. Peter’s Basilica)
What you need to buy a ticket: Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel (located inside the Vatican Museum, guided tours, St. Peter’s Cupola (dome) or if you have that extra $$$ and would want to have the privilege to skip the line, all of those you can buy from here.
So there you have it! I hope you find the information on this blog post valuable. We’ve visited Greece(Athens), the Netherlands(Papendrecht, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam), travelled via EuRail to France (Paris), then took the EuRail again to Italy(Rome). Let me know in the comments below which one do want me to make a blog post next.
If you have kids and feel daunted by the thought of travelling with them while they are young, I hope you get to read my other article about the Reasons why you should travel with your kids.