This post may contain affiliate links, which help us generate revenue so that we can keep producing awesome content for you. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for using our links and giving us the opportunity to share a sliver of this great big world with you.
Vatican City is one place that seems to make every ‘ultimate bucket list,’ and it’s easy to see why. Even if you aren’t religious, Vatican City holds so much historical significance, and many of Rome’s must-see sites are found here. Here’s how you can avoid the lines and tour Vatican City as a VIP with The Roman Guy.
Brief Overview of Vatican City
Vatican City is formally under the rule of the Pope and is considered a sovereign country. The Holy See is essentially the central governing force for Catholicism and also acts as a government for Vatican City. The city covers only 100 acres, approximately the size of the Mall of America or twice the size of Grand Central Station in New York City. The population of Vatican City is a bit over 800 (although half of these citizens live abroad due to their occupations in diplomacy), making it the smallest country in the world by both population and area.
For our Vatican City tour with The Roman Guy, we chose the 3.5 hour “Privileged Entrance” Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel. This tour allowed us to enter Vatican City an hour before it officially opened to the public, which helped us see more of it before the massive tourist crowds arrived. There are many other options for Vatican City tours on The Roman Guy’s website, but a few examples are the afternoon Vatican tour with Sistine Chapel, the express Vatican tour with skip the line tickets, the Vatican “under the stars” evening small group tour (all of which range between $60-$80), or for extreme Vatican enthusiasts, The Roman Guy offers a V.I.P. Vatican museums after hours private tour with Sistine Chapel (this one has a heftier price tag of $3,595).
“Privileged Entrance” Vatican Tour With Sistine Chapel
We met with our group and tour guide, Maria, at 7:30 AM outside the walls of the Vatican. We waited here for around half an hour as Maria gave us information about what we would be seeing inside the Vatican and some brief history about it. At 8 AM, the doors to the Vatican opened to us (official opening is at 9 AM), and we were able to go into Vatican City quickly and smoothly.
**One important thing to note before going into Vatican City is to be respectful of their culture and to keep your knees and shoulders covered. This isn’t strictly enforced until you enter the Sistine Chapel, so a few people in our group wore shorts and brought light scarves to tie around their waists before entering. You can and most likely will be denied entry if you fail to comply with this policy!**
Our tour began in the Vatican Museums. We walked through corridors and corridors of Roman sculptures in the Belvedere Court, through the Gallery of Maps, which contained maps of changes made to Italy’s territory, language, and structure throughout the years, and through other gorgeous rooms of art such as the Gallery of Tapestries.
Maria regularly made stops throughout to explain significant works of art to us and to answer any questions that we had. After making our way through many rooms of the museum, we arrived at the Sistine Chapel. Maria gave us an overview of the Sistine Chapel before we went in because talking is not permitted once inside (there is a man who belts ‘silence’ into a microphone every so often). She told us about its functionality as the Papal Chapel’s official chapel, and about the paintings on the walls and ceiling of the chapel. She taught us how to read them and highlighted a few significant works to keep an eye out for (e.g. Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgment’). Here, we had around half an hour to walk around the chapel and ‘read’ the paintings. The chapel was truly an artistic masterpiece and walking around the room felt like flipping through the pages of an invigorating storybook.
We left the Sistine Chapel and walked outside into a courtyard with a great view of St. Peter’s Basilica. We had some time here to take photos and then continued on our tour back into the Vatican museums.
We walked into more rooms, but at this point, the museum was beginning to become very hot and crowded. We went through these rooms fairly quickly and finally made it out of the crowds to our last stop, St. Peter’s Basilica. The walk to the basilica was filled with classic Roman architecture, and Maria made sure to point out special columns and designs to us. Once inside the basilica, Maria talked to us about the history and usage of it. The basilica was consecrated in 326 AD and completed in 349 AD, and it is believed to lie on top of where St. Peter was buried. The church was poorly maintained, and starting from the fifteenth century, plans were made to restore and eventually rebuild the entire church. Today’s St. Peter’s Basilica (also called New St. Peter’s Basilica) is the product of the work of many architects, including the famous Michelangelo. It took over 100 years after Julius II’s initial plan to restore the church for construction to be completed.
After Maria walked us through the history of St. Peter’s Basilica, the tour officially came to a close. She encouraged us to take our time in the basilica after she left, as well as to take advantage of having already gained access to Vatican City to explore the area further. We gladly complied and walked around outside some more.
The tour ended on time and took exactly 3.5 hours, which we felt was just enough time to get a feel for everything. On our way out (around 12 PM), we saw the longest lines (that I’d personally ever seen before) of people waiting to buy their tickets to the Vatican. We were beyond thankful that we didn’t have to wait in this gargantuan line because it would’ve taken a few hours at a minimum. We are so glad we decided to see this unique and historically significant country on our trip. We highly recommend that you tour Vatican City as a VIP with The Roman Guy on your next trip to Rome, and we know that our experience definitely would not have been as smooth, enjoyable, or line-less without them.
Looking for other awesome tours in Europe? Then you might want to check out these posts:
- Immerse in Roman Culture With The Roman Guy’s Local Foodie Tour in Trastevere
- Exploring Paris and Versailles With The Paris Guy
- Cycling and Food Tour in the Heart of Slovenia
- Eat Like an Icelander: Food Tour With Wake Up Reykjavik
The Roman Guy
Phone: +1 888 290 5595
Like it? Love it? Pin it!
A big thanks to The Roman Guy for making this tour possible for us. As always, all opinions are 100% our own.
Mindblowing art work all over the walls and the roofs. Loved all these photographs! It is great to have a privileged access to such a place. Average tourist will get lost in it and will never figure out what to see on his own.
This is probably the best way to see St. Peter’s Basilica since the line is so unbearably long. With a guide, they sneak you into the back and you get a lot of information. Win-win! Thanks for sharing!
amazing pictures you took me right there! i love historical places great information thank you for sharing!
I visited many many years ago and was blown away (by Sistine Chapel + the longggggg queue omg). You’re super blessed to see it in private! 😀
I will never get over how insane the artwork is in the Vatican, your photographs capture the details beautifully. Sounds like you got to learn a lot about the history which is great. I would love to go on the private tour – but it’s a pretty big jump in prices haha.
The Gallery of Maps looks fabulous. It must be so special to walk around much history and art like that. Can’t wait to make our way to the Vatican soon as your photos is creating a HUGE fomo at the moment!
I love to travel for art, history and heritage. Vatican city is definitely on my cards. The work on the walls and the significant works from Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgment’ is priceless.
Well, the idea of VIP tour sounds good to me because I am not very fond of queues.
Its interesting that such a tiny country has so much attention of the world. I would love to visit the churches and admire the art there … the frescos are lovely. Thanks for a detailed guide… will come in handy!
I had been to Vatican a few years back. I totally love the artwork and the spiritual vibe of the place. You were so lucky to get a tour with the Roman Guy.
Hi visited Vatican last summer and that was the time I realized how chaotic it can be if the trip not well planned. Reading your blog I just went reminiscing my time there. Thanks for sharing.
I went to the Vatican with my mom a few years ago and we had the best time!
I’ve visited the Vatican and, like you, I was blown away by what I was able to experience. I walked on my own that time, but you make a nice case for joining “The Roman Guy.” Either way, the Vatican is one of the those places that is worth visiting because, quite literally, it’s like nowhere else!
I’m also taken with the Gallery of Maps. I remember leaving with my neck still tilted at the angle to see all the beautiful work up high. What a brilliant option to gain early entry too.
Vatican is so rich in the medieval art. Your post brought back nostalgia of my own trip there from few months back. There was so much to observe. Indeed it is a city in itself 🙂
Oh wow, I didn’t know you could do this! Would definitely have opted for this tour while we were there! We did love the Vatican City but I do think its one of those places that paying for a tour is of huge benefit.
Wow your pictures look amazing! Wanted to go to the Vatican for soooo long already! I LOVE Italy and for some reason never found time to visit this beautiful place. Your so lucky with your tour! Looks beautiful!!
I went to the Vatican City when I was kid. I definitely want to see it again. You blog post is wonderful especially with all the photos. Lovely !!!!!!! 🙂
Recently went to the Vatican too, didn’t like it much though! They’re just holding onto too much wealth imo
Great experience! I went there without a guide and was pretty chaotic. Great review
Amazing blog post. And specially those pictures are so beautiful. Vatican city is definitely in my list.
I didn’t get a chance to see this when I was in Rome 🙁 looks good, thanks for sharing your pictures!