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The 12 Best Vatican Tours and Tips for Visiting the Holy City (2024)

Are you looking for an immersive day trip to the holy city? We have gathered some of the best Vatican tours available to help you make the most of your visit to one of Italy’s most famous attractions.

Exploring the Vatican is an incredible experience and an essential thing to do on any Rome Itinerary. From the magnificent artworks in the Vatican Museums to the stunning Apostolic Palace in the scenic Castel Gandolfo, a guided tour can be an unforgettable journey into history and culture.

The exterior of St Peter's Basilica bathed in a light pink glow at sunrise.

We had an incredible experience on a guided day tour of the Vatican Museum, including the Vatican Gardens, and on the Vatican train to the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. It was a unique experience that cemented the value of pre-booking a tour of such a complex and vast attraction as the Vatican.

From learning about Michelangelo’s frescoes in St Peter’s Basilica to discovering ancient artifacts in the Vatican Museums and seeing the Sistine Chapel in person- there is something for everyone on a Vatican tour. And you don’t have to battle the crowds to enjoy one of Italy’s most famous sites.

You Might Also Like: Discover Rome’s culinary heritage on one of these incredible Roman Food Tours or a Cooking Class in Rome. Rome is also a fantastic base for exploring more of Italy – see our top pick for day trips from Rome, from Tuscan villages to islands, palaces, and fascinating archeological sites.

12 Best Tours of the Vatican

Here are our top 12 picks for Vatican tours that will give you a unique insight into one of Italy’s most iconic destinations.

This diverse selection of tours has been chosen based on our experience visiting the Vatican and where we believe the tour offers good value for money, a quality or unique experience.

Vatican Tour Tip: Tickets for the various Vatican attractions can book out weeks in advance. We recommend booking as early as possible to avoid missing the days or times you want – even for skip the line entry. Some booking calendars will only show 2 or 3-month blocks of availability, so keep checking for your dates if they don’t show yet.

Two guards in traditional uniform stand guard outside the Vatican.

1. Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket

This Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Ticket is an entry ticket only. It enables you to skip the line and visit the highlights of the Vatican at your own pace.

No tour is included with this ticket but is a worthwhile time saver if you plan to visit the Vatican independently.

See the priceless Papal art collections in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Learn about the magnificent masterpieces from antiquity and Michelangelo’s legendary frescoes.

The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket is the best way to explore one of the world’s busiest museums at your own pace and skip waiting in line.

This ticket provides skip-the-ticket-line entry to museums and chapels with a dedicated ticket collection and entry and optional audio guides. A 20% discount on items from the Vatican online store and the option to add a 45-minute bus tour of the Vatican Gardens.

This skip-the-line ticket will give you an unforgettable experience of learning about the history and culture within the Vatican while visiting at your own pace.

See Full Details for This Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel Ticket or Reserve Your Ticket

Inside St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican looking up at the ornate dome covered with frescoes and gilded decoration.

2. Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica, including the Papal Tombs

Duration 3 – 3.5 hours

For a unique and unforgettable Vatican highlights experience, look no further than the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Papal Tombs Tour.

The Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Papal Tombs are some of the most famous cultural sites within the walls of Vatican City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These attractions provide visitors with a look into centuries-old history and artistry.

This informative guided tour will take you through all three locations, giving you unparalleled access to what the holy city offers.

You’ll get fast-track, skip-the-line access to masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and many more. You’ll also explore one of the holiest places on Earth – The Sistine Chapel – where Pope Francis himself goes to pray. You’ll also have an exclusive chance to visit the Papal Tombs – the final resting place of many popes and royals throughout history.


  • Skip-the-ticket-line entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Guided tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Papal Tombs
  • Headsets
  • Wi-Fi at the meeting point with a recharging station for your mobile devices

Note: Entrance to the Papal Tombs is not included in the evening tour option.

See Full Details for this Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Papal Tombs Tour or Reserve.

A view over St Pater's Square from the top of the Basilica dome.

3. St Peters Basilica Dome and Underground Grottoes Tour

Duration 105 minutes

Explore the beauty of Rome’s Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica on this St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, and Underground Grottoes guided walking tour. A highlight of this tour is visiting the top of the majestic ST Peter’s Basilica Dome for extraordinary views of the Roman skyline.

With a professional guide, you can admire an array of impressive marble and mosaic artwork in the Basilica, then visit St. Peter’s tomb and explore underground grottoes and ancient frescoes.

Entry fees to the top of the Dome by elevator are included in this 105-minute tour, making it an excellent choice for those interested in learning more about one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks and the city of Rome.

You can choose between a small group or a private tour with this tour.

Things to Note: This tour is unsuitable for people with claustrophobia or vertigo due to its height and enclosed spaces.

The meeting point is outside the Basilica before entering St. Peter’s square. Do not go through the metal detectors before meeting the guide.


  • Professional guide
  • Entry fees to the top of the Dome by elevator
  • Headsets to hear your guide better

Not Included

  • Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, or Vatican Necropolis entry

See Full Details for this St. Peter’s Basilica Dome and Underground Grottoes Tour or Make a Reservation.

A line of statues on a roof against a blue sky in the Vatican.

4. Entire Vatican Tour and St Peters Dome Climb

Duration 5 hours

The Entire Vatican Tour and St. Peter’s Dome Climb Tour is a 5-hour tour that provides an immersive experience of the culture and history within Vatican City.

Start your day with an awe-inspiring morning experience in Vatican City by climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome for unparalleled views of Rome, then return for a fully immersive guided tour of the Basilica, the Papal Crypts, and the Catacombs.

Then enjoy a live guided tour around the Vatican’s renowned museums and Sistine Chapel on this exciting morning Vatican City experience.

This tour includes fast-track skip-the-line access to masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and many more within the Vatican Museums and exclusive access to the Papal Tombs in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The highlight of this tour is a climb up Michelangelo’s Cupola for breathtaking views over Rome from atop one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks.

Note: this tour is not suitable for people with mobility problems, vertigo, or claustrophobia due to the nature of the St Peter’s Dome climb.


  • Skip-the-line entry to St. Peter’s Basilica Dome elevator ride part-way to the summit.
  • Live guided tour around St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Skip-the-line entry to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel entry
  • Live guided tour around the Vatican Museums

Get Full Details of This Entire Vatican Tour & St. Peter’s Dome Climb Tour, or Make a Reservation.

People walking down the ornate halls of the Vatican Museums.

5. Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Basilica

Duration 3 hrs

Explore the beauty and history of Vatican City on this guided tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica.

See art by Renaissance masters like Botticelli, Perugino, and Raphael, marvel at Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel, and learn more about the legendary works from an expert guide.

Enjoy skip-the-line access to some of Italy’s most iconic landmarks on this 3-hour tour – a great half-day tour for those interested in learning more about one of Europe’s most important religious sites.

Tours leave morning and afternoon.

Note: Rafael Rooms will be visited instead if St. Peter’s Basilica is closed. Tours starting from 15:30 will not visit St. Peter’s Basilica.

Tour Tip: Try to catch the morning tour to explore the Vatican further on your own. After the Guided tour, you can spend more time inside St. Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s Square.


  • Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Guided Tour
  • St. Peter’s Basilica Guided Tour
  • Skip the Line Tickets

See Full Details of This Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Basilica Tour or Make a Reservation

People walk down the black and grey spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum.

6. Vatican Museums, Gardens and Castel Gandolfo Papal Summer Residence Day Trip

Duration 11 hours – Starts at 7.30 am

Are you looking for an unforgettable experience in Rome? Follow the footsteps of Pope Francis and discover the best of both worlds – Vatican City and Castel Gandolfo. It’s the Vatican and a day trip from Rome in one tour.

This all-inclusive Early Vatican and Sistine Chapel with Castel Gandolfo group tour with a professional guide is perfect for those who want to visit two important sites in one day and enjoy a mix of a guided tour and free time. This tour is one of our most incredible experiences in Rome – one we have recommended without hesitation many times.

Enjoy skip-the-line early admission to the Vatican Museum – 45 minutes before the general public. Explore the Sistine Chapel before the crowds, and take an exclusive guided walking tour through the beautiful Vatican Gardens – only special groups are allowed to visit the Vatican Gardens.

You will board the train from Vatican City’s only train station to the town of Castel Gandolfo, overlooking the immaculate Lake Albano. Train tickets are included in the price.

Take a self-guided tour of the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, and a ride through the marvelous Barberini Gardens. Enjoy a buffet lunch at the Pope’s summer village made with locally sourced ingredients before exploring the picturesque town of Castel Gandolfo and returning by train to Rome.

This is an incredible all-inclusive, exclusive access tour of Vatican City and the papal residences. Enjoy access to parts of the Vatican often missed by the general public.

Note: This tour is only available from early spring to late autumn and has a maximum of 15 people.


  • Skip the line Vatican tour
  • Vatican Gardens tour
  • Buffet lunch at the Pope’s summer village
  • Train to and from Castel Gandolfo
  • Bus transfer from the train station to Castel Gandolfo
  • Headsets to hear the guide clearly
  • English-speaking professional guide

See Full Details of this Early Vatican and Sistine Chapel with Castel Gandolfo group tour or Make a Reservation.

Out side the Popes summer residence people walk through the small town with a fountain in the centre of the sqaure.

7. Vatican Early Entrance

Duration 2-3 hrs 08.00 Start

On this exclusive before-hours Vatican Early Entrance Tour, be amongst the day’s first visitors beating the crowds to enjoy exclusive early-morning entry to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel before public opening hours. (We had the privilege of being the first people in the Sistine Chapel using early entry tour tickets, it was the highlight of our visit to the Vatican – worth getting up early for).

You’ll be welcomed with a tranquil atmosphere where you can discover the museum’s masterpieces with your private expert guide before the crowds.

You’ll learn interesting facts about some of the greatest artists in history, such as in the Raphael Rooms and the breathtaking experiences of Michelangelo’s acclaimed ceiling. The best part is the unique ambiance of early morning serenity without standing in a long line for tickets.

If you crave a unique experience combining culture and tranquility, the Vatican Early Entrance Tour is the perfect experience.


  • Before opening Skip-the-ticket-line entry to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
  • Tour Guide and headsets
  • Small group tour

See Full Details for This Vatican Early Entrance Tour or make a Reservation.

Statues above the Vatican Museum sign written in Latin on stone on a tall wall with trees rising above the wall.

8. Vatican, St Peters, and Colosseum Full-Day Tour

Duration 7 hours

Take a full-day Italian adventure and cross the top Rome attractions off your bucket list on this Vatican, St. Peter’s, and Colosseum Full-Day Tour. See the Colosseum and Roman Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican, St. Peter’s, and Colosseum Full-Day Tour is a great value combo tour of the highlights of Rome and the Vatican. Perfect if you are short on time.

Visit the iconic sights of Vatican City, the Colosseum, and Rome’s historic heart with no fuss – skip the ticket lines and benefit from priority access.

Start your day by crossing into Vatican City and heading to the exclusive Partner Entrance to the Vatican Museums. Your guide will take you on an exciting journey around the historically significant Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

After exploring the stunning sights of Vatican City, you’ll head to the Colosseum and Roman Forum (Palatine Hill) for even more incredible views and stories about ancient Roman culture & history.

This tour offers an intimate environment that allows for maximum sightseeing pleasure. You won’t waste precious time with small groups of 24 people max. From Ancient Rome to Religious Rome, this tour will surely be an unforgettable highlight of your Italy itinerary.


  • Skip-the-ticket-line entrance to the Vatican Museums
  • Access to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica
  • Skip-the-ticket-line access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill
  • Expert English-speaking guide

Get All the Details for this Vatican, St. Peter’s, and Colosseum Full-Day Tour or Book Your Spot.

A group of tourists standing in the sun looking into the Colosseum in Rome.

9. Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour and Vatican Museums Ticket

Valid for 1 Day

See a different side of the Vatican that many visitors miss on an eco-friendly open bus tour of the gorgeous Vatican Gardens. The Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour & Vatican Museums Ticket is a great value combo ticket to see the highlights of the Vatican and enjoy the stunning, historical Vatican Gardens on a 45-minute tour.

Admire the greenery of the private urban gardens and parks, which cover more than half of the Vatican country. You can learn about how the gardens and parks were established, see the Vatican Gardens fountains and sculptures, and pass Radio Vatican and the Governor’s Palace for stunning photo opportunities.

After your Vatican gardens tour, explore the stunning works of art on display inside the renowned Vatican Museums and behold Michelangelo’s majestic Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings.

A perfect way to spend an afternoon in Rome – enriching your cultural knowledge while taking in one of the world’s most beautiful and historical gardens.


  • Vatican Gardens on Minibus with audioguide
  • Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel entrance ticket

Get Details for the Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour & Vatican Museums Ticket or Reserve Your Spot.

A large decorative urn on a stand at the end of a path lined with shady trees in the Vatican Gardens.

10. Leonardo Da Vinci Experience Entry Ticket

Valid one day

Take a journey through 500 years of history and discover the genius of Leonardo da Vinci at the fantastic Leonardo da Vinci Experience. Connect with the iconic man – artist, engineer, sculptor, architect, and scientist in the five interactive exhibition halls.

Get a close-up view of The Last Supper and discover the mystery behind this incredibly controversial painting featured in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Marvel at over 50 distinctive inventions by Da Vinci – ideas that seemed impossible, such as flying machines, robots, submarines, and underwater breathing equipment, solved by this Renaissance Man centuries ago.

Unlock the secrets of Leonardo da Vinci’s groundbreaking designs, many we still use today, including excavators and hoists, sewing machines, bicycles, water skis, and even a machine gun. Step into his Room of Mirrors to see how he studied light reflection, eventually leading to photography and projection. Snap a photo beside one of his iconic inventions – like the helicopter or armored tank for an unforgettable experience.

Investigate how he created such complex pieces at a time before modern science and technology and witness his dream come true as you enter each exhibit.

See Details for the Leonardo da Vinci Experience or Book Your Ticket.

11. Papal Audience Experience Tickets with Expert Guide

Duration 3.5 hours

Are you looking for a chance to see Pope Francis up close and personal? The Papal Audience Experience Ticket is for those who want to attend the Holy Father’s audience without the stress of navigating independently and ensuring an optimal seat at an event that attracts thousands.

It is free to attend a Papal Audience by reservation. This tour offers to reserve your ticket and ensure you get in a privileged front-row seat during the ceremony to appreciate this fantastic event.

A local guide is included to help you navigate the entry and seating and to answer questions about the papacy. All guides are educated and experienced in the Catholic faith, meaning you’ll gain incredible insight into this moving ceremony regardless of your religion.

Your seating will ensure when His Holiness Pope Francis comes by on his route around St. Peter’s Square, he passes right by your specially chosen viewpoint – unique only to these Papal Audience Experience Tickets. Pope Francis is known for connecting more with his audience than any Pope before, making this experience even more personal.


  • Tour guide
  • Escorted visit and presentation
  • Ticket reservation service and ticket pick-up (Tickets are free of charge but must be reserved)
  • Headsets to hear your guide (when necessary)
  • Small groups of 20 people or less
  • Confirmed invitation and attendance to Papal Audience with Pope Francis

See Details for The Papal Audience Experience Ticket or Reserve Your Place.

The pope waving to a crowd of people as he moves though in his pope mobile.

12. Rome City Highlights, Vatican Pass, and Free Transport

Valid for 3 Days

Treat yourself to an extraordinary self-guided journey in Rome with the 3-day OMNIA Vatican Card & Roma Pass.

A city pass is a great way to explore some of the world’s most famous sights and save money, but this is two city passes wrapped up into one spectacular package.

With this fantastic combo package, you’ll get the best of both worlds – see all the historical and religious sights in Vatican City PLUS experience Rome using the 3-day hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Enjoy free entry to two of five top attractions with Roma Pass and discounts at 30 dazzling destinations. On top of that, OMNIA Vatican Card allows access to all holy sites in Vatican City for three days.

Enjoy Skip the line with free admission to the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and Michelangelo’s miraculous ceiling at the Sistine Chapel and experience the divine wonder of St. Peter’s Basilica without having to wait in line. Plus, enjoy special offers from both passes and breezy cardless access with unlimited rides on public transport included.

Some Inclusions

  • 72-hour travel card
  • Skip the line access to top attractions in Rome and Vatican City
  • Entrance to Vatican Museums
  • Open-top bus tour
  • City guide app
  • Discounts to attractions and museums
  • Entry to your choice of 2 top attractions
  • Entrance to Basilica of St. John
  • Entrance to St Peter’s Prison
  • Guidebook
  • Map

See Full Details for the Rome City Highlights, Vatican Pass, and Free Transport or Book Your Pass.

Hundreds of chairs neatly lined up in St.Peter's Square in the Vatican.

Vatican FAQs -Things to Know About Visiting the Vatican

These tips for visiting the Vatican will ensure your day runs smoothly without surprises.

Do I Need a Guide to Visit the Vatican?

No, you do not. However, I can highly recommend a guide for the museums (or a pre-booked early entry tour).
A guide will help you navigate the crowds and ensure you see the highlights (the museums are very big and insanely crowded in peak times). A guide will also give you a better understanding of the immense history and art within the Vatican.

Are Vatican Tours Worth It?

In short – Yes. The Vatican is one of the most popular things to do when visiting Rome. Whether it’s simply a pre-booked skip-the-line access with early entry to the Sistine Chapel, a guided tour of the Vatican Museum, or an extended day tour like adding a trip to the Papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, taking a guided tour of the Vatican is far superior to visiting independently.

A guided tour led by an expert guide provides visitors with greater insight and understanding into this iconic destination’s history, culture, and art. Walking through the museums and gardens of the Vatican can be overwhelming, but a knowledgeable guide can provide clear explanations that bring each area to life.

A guide will help you find the highlights (the Vatican Museum is huge) to maximize your time, and a pre-booked tour will usually give you fast-track entry.

Tours can also give you exclusive access to areas not normally open to the public.

Is An Early Morning Vatican Tour Worth It?

Again, the answer is yes. Even if you plan to visit the Vatican independently, the earlier you get there, the better.

The Vatican attracts millions of visitors each year and is notoriously busy. The earlier you get there, the better the experience and less waiting in lines – even just to clear security.

How Long do You Need to Tour the Vatican?

The time you spend in Vatican City is determined by the attractions you want to experience. If your itinerary includes visiting the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica, I highly recommend devoting a whole day to this visit.

If you only want to visit St Peter’s Square and Basilica, plan a half-day (either morning or afternoon).

Most tours run between 3 -5 hours, depending on which areas are included.

Can I Buy Tickets to the Vatican Museums at the Door?

Yes, you can. However, I don’t recommend it. The lines are notoriously long. This is why I give details on pre-booking tickets to the Vatican Museums online so you can skip the line and save time.

How Far in Advance Should I book Vatican Tickets?

As far in advance as possible, especially in peak season. It is not unusual for tickets to be sold out weeks in advance, especially if you want exclusive access or tours to other areas that only take small groups, such as the gardens or the Papal summer residence.

What Should I Wear to Visit the Vatican?

There is no dress code to enter St Peter’s Square, but a conservative dress code is required in the sacred areas, including the Basilica, Sistine Chapel, and the museums.

The dress code applies to both men and women. Shoulders and knees should be covered – long trousers and below-the-knee skirts. Avoid showing cleavage or bare backs. Hats are also not allowed in these areas.

Can I Visit the Sistine Chapel Only?

The Sistine Chapel is inside the Vatican museums, so you will require a ticket to the Museum to visit the Sistine Chapel.

The chapel is usually visited at the end of the museum visit. However, some early entry tickets allow visitors to see the chapel first, which gives an incredibly exclusive experience. Check your tour or ticket to see if this is possible. You can see recommendations for this above.

Information About Accessing the Vatican and Visiting the Basilica

  • All visitors must pass through airport-style security on arrival at the Vatican. During high season the wait at security may be up to 30 minutes or more. Factor this if you have to meet a tour within the Vatican walls. Backpacks and luggage are not allowed in the Vatican.
  • The Vatican can get very crowded all year round. June, July, and August are particularly busy. We recommend arriving as early as possible, even if you have skip-the-line tickets.
  • St Peter’s Basilica, the Papal Tombs, or the Sistine Chapel may be closed anytime – even with short notice. St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesdays: 8:00 am-12:00 pm, December 24 and 31. During these times – tours will visit other parts of the museums.
  • Parts or all of St Peter’s Square may be closed during a Papal Audience. You can check the Vatican Calendar for events, Papal Audience, and Mass information.
  • Entry to St. Peter’s Basilica is always free of charge, but access may vary due to crowd control. If you only want to visit St Peter’s Square and the Basilica, it’s one of the best free things to do in Rome. Tickets are only required to enter Vatican Museums, gardens, the Basilica Dome, etc. You can visit the Basilica and St Peter’s Square for as long as you like outside of tours.
Two of the Pope mobils jeeps parked behind a rope barrier outside the Pope's summer residence.


Whether to dodge the crowds or to get a better appreciation of the immense history, art, and architecture, anyone visiting the Vatican should seriously consider taking a tour.

As you can see, there is such a wide range of tours so you can pick which one best fits your desires and interests. Whether that’s a daytime tour with exclusive access to some of the most famous and historical areas of the Vatican or exploring at leisure with a self-guided tour, whichever you decide, be sure to leave plenty of time to fully explore the majesty of the Vatican.

So which tour will you take?

Best Vatican Tours Quick Guide

  • Museums & Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket
  • Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Papal Tombs Tour
  • St. Peter’s Basilica Dome and Underground Grottoes Tour
  • Entire Vatican Tour & St. Peter’s Dome Climb
  • Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Basilica Tour
  • Vatican Museums, Gardens & Castel Gandolfo Pope’s Summer Residence Day Trip
  • Vatican Early Entrance Tour
  • The Vatican, St. Peter’s, and Colosseum Full-Day Tour
  • Vatican Gardens Minibus Tour & Vatican Museums Ticket
  • Leonardo da Vinci Experience Museum
  • The Papal Audience Experience Ticket
  • Rome City Highlights, Vatican Pass, and Free Transport