How to tour the Vatican Museum – part 1 (the access)

An astonishing 6 million people visit the Vatican Museum every year. If you’re going to be one of them, keen to experience one of the greatest art collections in the world, here’s what you need to know in advance.

Entering the Vatican Museum: arrival and tickets

Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum entrance gate

The museum is easily accessible by public transport, as it’s less than 10 minutes from Ottaviano metro station. If you choose to take a taxi, make sure you specify the museum entrance (“ingresso dei musei”) or the address (Viale Vaticano 100). Asking your taxi driver to take you to “the Vatican” might result in you being dropped off at St Peter’s Basilica, a 20 minute walk from the museum entrance.

The earliest possible entrance to the Vatican Museum is at 8am, but this is only possible if you book through a tour company. For example, Roads to Rome Private Tours offer the Good Morning Vatican Tour and the Sistine Chapel Express Tour. It’s the perfect way to beat the crowds, enjoying the museum in peace before it’s opened to the general public at 9am.

If you visit the Vatican Museum without a tour guide, these are your best options:

  • Arrive by 7.45am and wait in line to enter at 9am and buy your ticket inside the museum. The ticket costs €17 for adults, and €8 for students and children.
  • Arrive at 3pm. The line tends to be shorter in the afternoon. However, if the line is already long when you arrive, there’s always a risk that you’ll miss the last admission at 4pm.
  • Buy your ticket online in advance, booking through the official website. The ticket costs €21 for adults and €12 for students and children. You can book tickets up to two months before your visit. Although you’ll still have to queue to enter, the line is much, much shorter. This is the best option of the three.


Vatican Museum
What to expect if you don’t buy the tickets in advance

If you’ve bought your ticket online, after passing through the metal detectors you’ll need to exchange your online ticket for a voucher at the desks on the ground floor. If you need to buy your ticket inside the museum, after passing through the metal detectors you should head up to the first floor, where you’ll find the ticket office.

Finally, a note on the discounted tickets. These are available to under 18s (who may be requested to show proof of age), and to students up to the age of 25 (who will have to show their student card).

What to bring (and what not to bring!)

Wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be walking a lot! – and appropriate clothes. The Sistine Chapel is located inside the Vatican Museum, and the usual dress code applies. Avoid shorts, short skirts, low cut shirts and bare shoulders. A bottle of water is a must.

You can store suitcases and backpacks in the cloakroom, but we would advise against using the cloakroom unless it’s absolutely necessary. Vatican tours end near St Peter’s Basilica, which is a 20 minute walk from the museum entrance and cloakroom. You’ll enjoy your Vatican Museum tour much more if you “travel light”, bringing just the necessities.

Choosing a time and day to visit the Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum
The crowd situation during the Early Morning Vatican tour

The early morning Vatican Museum tour is the best option for avoiding the crowds, while 10am is the worst time, as this is when the large tour groups arrive. From 12pm onwards, the museum tends to be less crowded. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the museum is enormous, and if you arrive too late, you won’t have time to see it all before closing time at 6pm.

The Vatican Museum is closed on Sunday, which means that Saturday and Monday are especially busy. Plan your visit on another weekday, either with the early morning tour or arriving after 12pm, ideally having booked your ticket online in advance. A final word of warning – avoid the “free Sunday” (the final Sunday of each month, when entrance is free in the morning). Yes, you’ll save money, but the crowds and the stress just aren’t worth it.

Some tour companies add a supplementary charge for the museum ticket, but Roads to Rome Private Tours won’t add any extra charges. For more information about planning your visit to the Vatican, get in touch!

 Read more: Top 10 things to see inside the Vatican Museums (The Wander Blogger)