Getting Into the Vatican Museums

It’s getting ever more difficult to get into the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani), home to some of the world’s most precious and recognizable Western art including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The Vatican recently raised prices to €13 (ca. $17) for a non-guided visit and, according to the New York Times, the Museums are reducing visiting times for individual travelers not part of a tour group. The average tourist must now wait until 10 a.m. to get in (as opposed to 8:45 a.m. for tour group members) and the ticket office stays open only until 3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. in the low season).

So what’s the solo traveler to do?

One way to avoid the lines is to pay a bit more for an official guided tour. For €23.50 (about $31), you can reserve a guided tour, which includes admission, the two hour guided tour, a headset, and the privilege to avoid the queues. The Vatican notes on its website that “all visitors, individuals or groups booked with this Office, are entitled to enter through the main gate of the Vatican Museums on Viale Vaticano. Facing the Vatican Museums Entrance door, the line on the right is specifically for reserved guided Vatican tours.” Unfortunately, to reserve guided tour tickets you must FAX (!) your request to 06 6988 5100. (The Vatican has never been an institution known for its early adoption of technology, but fax reservations?!?)

If you’re lucky, and your trip coincides with the last Sunday of the month, then you can get into the Museums for free. Free entry is available from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Expect heavy crowds, of course. See the Museum calendar.

There are also private ticket booking services, such as Select Italy and tickitaly.com, that assist with reservations to the Vatican Museums as well as to other Italy attractions (e.g., the Uffizi Museums, Campo dei Miracoli, etc.). While these services can take the guesswork (and legwork) out of securing tickets, the mark-up can be astronomical.

A visit to the Vatican Museums should be on the itinerary of every first timer’s trip to Rome. But if your time is limited, say to a weekend, you’d be better off checking out Rome’s other showstoppers. A religious itinerary could include a visit to one or all of the four Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome. And, fantastic art is on view at the Capitoline Museums and in many minor churches around the city.

Your final option for checking out the Vatican Museums collection without spending a lot of money or time? Take an online tour.

For in-depth information about the Vatican Museums’ new entrance policies, see Vatican Takes Steps to Control Overcrowding by Elisabetta Povoledo.

Photo by Malouette

One comment

  1. Don’t forget the shorts! Despite the mention of a dress code, I wore shorts to the Museums and had to drag them dangerously low to, strangely, avoid being immodest.

    Also, while waiting patiently in the queue, look out for dodgy guides, pushing through with “special clearance.”

    I’ve written a travel story on the visit, if you’re interested.

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