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The Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel Tour Planning Tools

The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are the museums of Vatican City that have works from across the globe and this guide will help with your tour planning.

vatican museums and sistine chapel - The Exit

The Long Lines Lead Here

While you certainly can visit the main museums in Vatican City in a day, the truth is that it is a short walk, bus or subway ride from anywhere in Rome and it will only take you part of the day to see everything.

The museums contain a huge collection of classical sculptures, tapestries and paintings by Renaissance artists like Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini, and da Vinci. The museums also have a collection of modern religious art, with works of artists like Van Gogh, Gauguin, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.

Visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is a unique experience that must be experienced at least once in your life. The visit is a long and interesting trip that will carry you through more than twenty centuries of history and art. The Sistine Chapel, the rooms of Raphael and the art gallery (Pinacoteca) are only a small part of the larger collections.

vatican museums and sistine chapel - Rodin

The Thinker was Cast Multiple Times

3 Things To See In The Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums are enormous and can take hours to fully digest. Because this is something you want to get right the first time, consider these to be must-see.

Bramante Staircase (Scala Del Bramante) – This staircase was originally built in 1505 and was in a double-helix design. It was designed to allow people and pack animals to ascend and descend without interruption. The modern staircase is also a double-helix and was built in 1932. This is a must see not only for its beauty, but it is very popular on social media, so you need to take a snap as well!

Raphael’s Rooms (Stanze di Raphaello) – These rooms are on the way to the Sistine Chapel and easy to miss, so keep an eye out for them as you approach the end of the museum. You will need to turn away from the Sistine Chapel, which feels unnatural on the best of days. There is a lot of great Raphael work in these rooms, but probably the most well-known is the “School of Athens”.

Sistine Chapel – Even if you skip everything else in these museums, the Sistine Chapel should not be missed. Michelangelo, one of the most famous Renaissance artists in the world, dedicated almost ten years of his life to the paintings that cover the ceiling and the wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The frescoes on the ceiling, collectively known as the Sistine Ceiling, were painted by Michelangelo in the years from 1508 to 1512. They depict incidents and personages from the Old Testament. The Last Judgment fresco on the west wall was painted by Michelangelo from 1534 to 1541. It is my favorite part of the entire museum and I recently heard a funny story if it is true. The colors on the ceiling are beautiful, but not nearly as bold as the colors on the Last Judgment fresco. The reason for this, I heard, was the paint on the ceilings were paid for by Michelangelo, and so he used the cheapest paint available. The paint for Last Judgment was paid for by the church, so he used the most expensive paint available, thus the bold colors. Kind of funny if it’s true.

The Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel Recent History

There has been some recent history with the Sistine Chapel that I find interesting because it isn’t so well known and is worthy of discussion. Recently, Jason Momoa was in Rome filming the 10th installment of The Fast and The Furious. He caused a bit of an uproar online when he posted pictures from his visit to the Sistine Chapel. He quickly apologized for any disrespect and moved on, so good for him.

vatican museums and sistine chapel -  Long Lines

Lines, Lines Everywhere – Buy Tickets Online

However, this got me thinking about the outrage expressed. It’s true that visitors are typically forbidden from taking photos or videos in the chapel. There were complaints about his disrespect for such a holy place and outrage that he had offended Catholics. There are a couple of reasons why I think the whole storm was manufactured online outrage and not a real concern:

  • First, people think the rule about not photos or videos is in place to protect the art, but it’s actually not. The strict ban was actually enforced because the Nippon Television Network Corporation of Japan owned the copyright on the interior. It was a deal that was necessary when the company paid $4.2 million for restoration work back in the 1980s.

  • In 2014, The Vatican rented out the Sistine Chapel for a corporate event, marking the first time in history it has done so. A group of 40 people, on a tour of Rome arranged by automaker Porsche, paid around $6k each for the tour and the privilege to have a “magnificent concert in the stylish setting of the Sistine Chapel arranged exclusively for the participants,” according to Porsche’s website.

Renting The Vatican Museums

The Vatican insisted that it did not actually rent out the chapel and the funds raised by not renting it will go directly to charities of the Pope’s choosing. Given that the Church itself is a charity, by US standards, the Pope will have a lot from which to choose.

vatican museums and sistine chapel - Tickets Online

Buying Ahead of Time Will Save You Time

Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel Hours

The opening hours from Monday to Saturday are from 9:00am to 6:00pm, with no entry after 4:00pm. During the tourist season, from April through October, the museums stay open until 10:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

On every last Sunday of the month, assuming it isn’t a holiday, there is free entry from 9:00am until 2:00pm.

In addition to most Sundays, the museums are closed on the following holidays in 2022:

  • January 1st and 6th
  • February 11th
  • March 19th
  • April 18th
  • June 29th
  • August 15th
  • November 1st
  • December 8th and 26th

Tickets For The Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel

Full entry to the Vatican Museums costs 17€, but there are a lot of discounts available for children, Pilgrims and students (secular and religious). There is free entry available:

  • On the last Sunday of every month without a holiday
  • Children under 6 y/o
  • Museum Directors
  • Disabled visitors with a certified invalidity of more than 74% (from the Vatican Museum site)
  • Card holders from the International Council of Museums
  • University teachers in Archaeology, Art History, Architecture and Ethnology.

Recommendations For Vatican Tours

First and foremost, buy your tickets ahead of time as the lines during the season can be incredible. Also, plan ahead of time how committed you are to seeing the entirety of the museums. This is a very big place and a guided tour can last more than 4 hours. If you want to see it all, hire a guide and wear comfortable shoes. If you only want to see the highlights, plan what is important to you and breeze quickly through the rest. Make sure to leave some time and energy to enjoy the Sistine Chapel. It is definitely worth the price of admission, but sadly you can not take any pictures.

More Information On Rome Museums

If you enjoyed this description of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, here are some other sites and museums that you might find interesting as well:

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