A tourist’s travel to Rome is not complete without visiting the Vatican city, also known as the Holy City. With a population of around 800 people, and an area of approximately 44 hectares, it is considered to be the smallest independent state in the world, the home of Pope, and the center of Catholicism. There are plenty of good reasons to visit the Vatican, as this tiny city is full of attractions, points of interest, artworks, and history. Without further intro, here are our top reasons that bring millions of tourists to the Vatican every year, along with some tips to remember before visiting the Vatican.
1. Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica
Thousands of people come every year in the Vatican to admire the gorgeous Saint Peter’s basilica and square. The impressive basilica is one of the largest churches of Renascence architecture. Michelangelo had a significant contribution to the basilica’s painting and architecture, along with Bramante and Raphael. This is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Entry is free, but you will need an appropriate dress-code (no shorts, sleeveless tops, both men, and women should cover their arms and shoulders). St Peter’s square is simply beautiful, and you will be able to take wonderful photos here.
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2. Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel is an impressive artwork dated from 1473. This is the main location where Cardinals choose a new Pope. The chapel is best known for its amazing construction, and the beautiful walls painted by a number of impressive Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo. The painter is the author of the famous frescoes that depict stories from the Old and the New Testament, and “the Last Judgement”. Even though you are not a religious person, you will be surely impressed by the breathtaking beauty of these frescoes.
3. The Vatican Museums
Vatican hosts one of the largest museum complexes in the world, which is also part of the UNESCO heritage sites. Because of its vastness, we recommend taking a guided tour to find out the story behind the amazing places you will see. There are more than 2,000 rooms and 9 miles of art. Do not miss the Gallery of Maps and the Raphael Rooms! To avoid the crowds, you can take the 3-hour, early access tour that starts at 8 a.m. near the Vatican Museum entrance.
4. Visit the Vatican Grottoes
When you visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, do not miss the Vatican Grottoes, which are just beneath the basilica’s main floor. It is a humble, sacred place, where there are tombs of popes, saints, and kings. Visiting the Vatican Grottoes is a real pilgrimage, especially if you feel a special connection to these popes and saints of the past. Do not forget to respect the dress-code, and wear clothes that are appropriate for a holy place (long skirts and pants, long sleeves).
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5. Visit the Vatican Gardens
Vatican gardens are a true relief from the crowds of the museums, and really worth visiting. Take a guided tour, to learn more about the gardens’ history. Do not miss the beautiful sights, especially the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto. Walking through the gardens is one of the best things to do in the Vatican with your family or kids.
6. The Vatican Library
The Biblioteca Vaticana (or the Vatican Library) hosts impressive collections of old books and manuscripts, including the oldest known Bible, the first letters of Saint Peter, as well as letters between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. The library dates back to 1448 when it was established by Pope Nicholas V. It is one of the most valuable resources for researchers in the whole world. You can visit the Vatican Library individually, in a group, or you can book a private tour.
7. Visit the Vatican Necropolis
The Vatican Necropolis is one of the most amazing things to visit in one’s lifetime. Located beneath Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Necropolis is actually an ancient Roman cemetery. The relics of Saint Peter the Apostle are here, which makes the Necropolis one of the holiest places in the world. Do not forget to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate, decent clothing. Avoid this tour, however, if you are claustrophobic!
Tips for Visiting the Vatican
If you are wondering when to visit the Vatican, know that the best days of the week to visit the Vatican are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Avoid visiting the Vatican during the weekends, as it is really crowded on Saturdays, while on Sundays museums are closed. On the last Sunday of the month, entry is free, but it is a total chaos! You will also want to avoid visiting the Vatican on Monday, as this is another busy day, with lots of tourists, after the closed Sunday. Wednesday is not a good day to visit the Vatican either, as this is the day of the Papa Audiences, which bring lots of people.
If you want to get the most out of your visit and learn interesting details and facts about the history and artwork of the Vatican, our advice is to book your place to a guided tour of your points of interest. You can make all your reservations and find all the details on the Vatican Museums’ website. Making an online reservation will save you a lot of time, as the lines may be very long there, especially during the high season.
The dress code for visiting the Vatican should not worry you. The idea is to wear decent clothing, such as long, breezy skirts, dresses or trousers, paired with a long-sleeve blouse or shirt, or a jacket that you can cover your shoulders with when inside. As for footwear, you should wear comfortable shoes. Sandals are also fine, but not flip-flops.
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If you happen to travel to Rome, visiting the Vatican is a must-see attraction. This area has been the home of the Pope since the 14th century, and thousands of people come here for religious purposes. But even if you are not a religious person, the history and art of Vatican are indeed amazing. If you studied Latin in school, you will have the chance to practice it here, as it is the official language of Vatican! When you decide to visit the Vatican, do not forget to share your impressions and photos with us! What are your reasons for visiting the Vatican? Let us know in the comments!