If you want to visit the Vatican, there are certain rules you need to follow and plenty of tips to help you out. While the idea of having to follow more sets of rules when traveling may sound intimidating, the rules are very simple and easy to follow. And, if you read up on them before your trip, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the beauty and spirituality of this remarkable sight unimpeded.
One set of restrictions can be helpful to know while you are packing, before even reaching the Vatican. There is an enforced dress code for everyone who wants to visit the Vatican, not just the people worshiping or seeing the Pope. Visitors are not allowed to wear shorts or hats, jeans and sandals are fine though. Large bags are not allowed inside the Vatican, but there are bag-check areas if you happen to have a large bag when visiting.
© Roel Driever
Your shoulders, midriff and knees must be covered. Considering it can be hot outside and cold in the museums, it’s suggested that visitors can bring a light scarf to wear over their shoulders, effectively covering them, but not making them sweat from the weight of different layers of clothing. If you forgot something to cover up with, or what you are wearing doesn’t match what the guards say, there are plenty of vendors right outside the Vatican that offer clothes that follow the dress code.
Now that you’ve packed clothing that matches the dress code, it’s time to move on to figuring out when you want to visit the Vatican. The Vatican is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every night, unless there’s a holiday or special event. There’s no entrance fee to get into the Vatican. Wednesdays are usually the busiest day of the week, because that’s when the Pope holds an audience, and on Sundays the museums are closed. There are usually not as large crowds in the early afternoon, but the Sistine Chapel does close by 3 p.m. Less people tend to visit during January, February, the end of November and early December, so you might be able to beat some lines then.
© William Pearce
There are several museums within the Vatican, and while you don’t have to pay to get into the Vatican itself, you do have to pay to get into the museums. It’s €16 to get into the museums, with the price being less for children and students. If you buy your tickets online the price is a few euros more, but it means that you don’t have to spend the majority of your time waiting on line to purchase tickets.
You can just walk through the museums at your own pace, but if you are interested in the history, as well as the art, there are different tours offered. There are group tours that span about two-hours long. They cost €32, but that includes the museum admission, so you don’t have to pay for the tour and for the museum separately.
© David Merrett
Included in the museum admission is access to the Sistine Chapel, but you cannot just go straight to the Sistine Chapel you have to go through the museums to get there. If the Chapel is the one thing you want to see, and you don’t want to spend too much time in the museums, you can take a 90-minute tour that will take you briefly through the museums, but is focused primarily on the Sistine Chapel.
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Cover photo © Ed Brambley