Vatican Travel Guide. The world’s smallest country and the holder of some of the world’s most famous art and rarest treasures. The epicenter of the Catholic faith, the long history of the Church is found around every corner.
- What to See and Do
- Best Tours
- Typical Costs & Budget
- How to Get There
- General Tips for The Vatican
- Other Places to Visit in Italy
The Vatican is right in the thick of things in Rome, but manages to impress even with the hoards of tourists! Check out the details in the Vatican Travel Guide.
Top 5 Things to Do
1. Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel does not allow photos so we’ll have to make due with this poorly list public domain image. For sure, this doesn’t come even close to doing the Sistine Chapel justice. Yes, this place is hyped up immensely, but it is truly a stunning, almost overwhelming sight. Artwork adorns every square inch, painted in vivid, awe-inspiring shades and shapes. It truly is a masterpiece.
2. St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is hard to miss and is one of the many gems the Vatican has to offer. It is the largest church in the world – in fact, they even mark out the churches closest to the Basilica’s record and they don’t come close! It also has the tallest dome in the world – which may appear deceiving from the ground. Honestly, it doesn’t appear that tall, and needs to be seen from above to be truly appreciated. But more on that later! And of course, Michaelangelo’s stunning Pieta is also housed here.
3. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are Insane. The museum displays around 20,000 works of art but even more are hidden away. The long history and collections of the church are viewable in any of the 54 galleries. Even if you saw nothing but the museums, you would come away feeling fulfilled. The map room, the porphyry marble giant bowl, even the ceilings are crowded with an overwhelming amount of art. In all honesty, a day could be dedicated to the museums if you have the time, and the other portions of the Vatican another day.
4. Vatican Crypt + Necropolis (13 Euros)
This is attached to the Basilica, but it’s easy to miss unless you’re looking for it. Stairs head downwards to where many popes are buried. Pictures felt wrong so enjoy this misty view of St. Peter’s! The first level to view the pope tombs is easy and free to access. However, if you’re interested in even more you can look for a ticket with access to the Scavi Excavations, or the Necropolis. Here, you can find St. Peter’s suspected burial place as well as other excavations under the Vatican. In order to access this tour, which is an hour and a half for an additional 13 euros, go to the Excavation Office Webpage.
5. Climb The Vatican! (8-10 Euros)
The Dome is definitely worth the climb – at least to the first section. If you’re only going to the first part, don’t bother with the 10Euro for the elevator and instead choose the 8Euro option that’s only on foot. However, if you are wishing to go to the very top, where this photo was taken, save yourself some energy with the elevator. The first section takes you part way up, giving you an incredible view from above of the interior of the Basilica. It’s truly stunning and the only way to fully appreciate the size of the church. Now you can see how each letter in the dome is at least 10 feet high!
You can then continue upwards to the top of the church on the outside if you wish. In this Vatican Travel Guide’s opinion the views were not worth the dizzying climb through increasingly claustrophobic turns crowded with people. There are many other places in Rome to get great views. It’s up to you!
This Vatican Travel Guide cannot recommend any other tour simply because this company offers some of the best. Their guides are truly excellent and knowledgeable, and the prices are worth it. For your first time visiting the Vatican, I recommend you take an Early Morning Tour, where you will be able to enter ahead of the crowds. It was absolutely mind-blowing to have the halls of the museum almost to ourselves.
The Early Morning Tour costs 94 Euros and includes the museum entrance fee.
Vatican Travel Guide Budgets
The Euro exchange rate is currently around .95euro to 1usd. Prices are in Euros. You can actually buy some food in the Vatican, in a small shop after climbing the first part of the Dome. They offer a selection of pastries, sandwiches, and coffee. The “Sleep” section just gives you ideas of accommodation prices in Rome as you cannot sleep in the Vatican.
How to Get There
Most people will already be in Rome and it will depend where you’re staying. If you’re in the Vatican City area already it may be under a 20 minute walk. If you’re near the Coliseum you will have to consider a taxi or public transport.
By Public Transport:
Use Google Maps to estimate when you’re going to leave and what bus to take. Coming from the Coliseum, take bus 81. It drops you off the closest although you should still be prepared to walk for around 10 minutes. The ride itself will take around 25 minutes. A bus ticket costs 1.50euros and will allow you to transfer as much as you want within 100 minutes. You can pick up a ticket at a major bus stop or from tobacconists and bars.
Uber doesn’t work in Italy anymore but you should use IT Taxi app if you can. It works much like Uber. You can expect the taxi to take around 15 minutes and cost around 10euros.
General Italy Tips
The main app to use around Italy is definitely Google Maps. I recommend before arriving that you bookmark/save every place you’d even consider going. It’s definitely important to leave room for exploration, but if you happen to have a few hours suddenly open up in your schedule, it’s nice to have some ideas for what to do near you.
When you go to catch a bus, or the metro, Google Maps will give you some options. In this example, getting from the Colosseum to the Alter of the Fatherland will take 13 minutes by bus and the bus leaves every two minutes. While most things are incredibly accessible by walking, sometimes a bus or metro ride is most convenient. It will also keep you updated with times such as “scheduled to arrive in 1 minute” and stop names. Super helpful!
Climate/What to Pack
Italy is generally your typical Mediterranean climate. The summers will be hot and dry and the winters a bit more wet and cold – the temperature variation isn’t a whole lot. Typical temps in Summer are 17-21 C or 60-70F. In Winter you can expect around 2-5C or 35-40F. You should also consider that many sights, particularly in Rome, are of a religious nature. If you plan to bring clothing that doesn’t cover your shoulders or knees, keep a scarf handy to tie around yourself so you can enter.
- 2 pair shorts or skirts
- 2 Sundresses
- 1 pair jeans or comfortable trousers
- 1 pair leggings
- 4 shirts (It will be easiest if these cover your shoulders, i.e. not tank tops)
- 1 dress or nice shirt for going out
- 1 swimsuit (if you plan to head to the coast)
- 6 pair socks (fresh socks are the best)
- 1 pair sneakers
- 1 pair Birkenstock equivalent
- 5 pair underwear
- 2 Pair tights (winter)
- 1 travel towel
- Small lock for lockers
- Universal plug adapter
- General pain killers/common over the counter medicines – also can be a little hard to find depending on what you’re looking for. Not all pharmacists speak English and it can be very trying to attempt to communicate about medicine when you’re in pain.
Just about everything else is very easy to find, there is no need to buy shampoo, toothpaste, etc. It’s all right there in a supermarket for reasonable prices. Of course, if you have a preference, that’s something you should bring as well.
The short answer to the question, “it Italy safe,” is generally yes. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid petty crime that is fairly common in large cities across Italy.
- Don’t leave things unattended. This feels like it should go without saying, but if you’re coming from a country like Korea or Japan where theft is almost unheard of, it bears mentioning. If you leave your phone on a bench for a few minutes it will most likely be gone when you get back.
- Dress a bit nicer. If you’re coming from North America, this is more pertinent. It is generally very easy to pick out an American by what they wear. Try to avoid bright neon colors, baseball hats, and oversized and baggy clothing. These things will make you a potential target for thieves.
- Learn some of the common tricks. If you aren’t prepared to pay, don’t stop to take pictures with people dressed up as Romans, and don’t let people put bracelets or other things on your arm. They’ll want payment. Beyond that I personally have never had any of the other tricks tried on me, but here is a helpful list.
Basic Italian Guide
Good Morning: Buon Giorno (boo-on ji-or-no)
Where is: Dov’e _______ (do-vey)
I’m sorry: Mi dispiace (me dis-pi-ah-che)
Thanks: Grazie (gra-tzie)
Goodbye: Ciao (Chow)
Other Italian Cities to Visit
If you enjoyed this Vatican Travel Guide, you should check out my other guides to cities in Italy!
~Vatican Travel Guide~