The Vatican Museums are among the most important museums in the world. They opened their premises for public visits in the 16th century, thanks to the idea of Pope Julius II. The famous Museums welcome more than 6 million tourists each year. There, you can see a huge collection of works of art, gathered by the various popes over the centuries. It includes some of the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The museums have approximately 70,000 exhibits, while 20,000 of them are on display. There are various routes to explore the Museums, which end with the magnificent Sistine Chapel.
What to see?
It is a wonderful gallery with 460 works by some of the greatest artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Rafaello, Caravaggio, and others. The Pinacoteca has 18 halls, arranged in chronological order – from the Middle Ages to 1800th. Many people do not pay enough attention to it, because the Museum is in the opposite direction of the Sistine Chapel. However, I advise you not to miss the chance to visit it. It is on the right side, after the escalator.
The Pio Clement Museum
It is the largest complex in the Vatican Museums. There, you can see the greatest masterpieces of Greek and Roman sculpture. The Pio Clement consists of 12 halls. The most iconic of them is the Animal Gallery, the Muses Gallery, the Greek Cross Hall, and the Rotonda Hall.
The Gregorian Egyptian Museum
As you might guess from its name, the Museum contains monuments and artifacts from ancient Egypt. It has nine halls, and two of them have relics from Mesopotamia and Assyria. The most impressive among the artifacts are the mummies and painted chest of maple trees, dating from 930-800 BC.
The Map Gallery
This is one of the most impressive places in the Vatican Museums. Even if you are not a history or geography fan, the displayed topographic maps on the walls will delight you. They show how people looked at the world and its regions, through different eras. Of course, there is a special place in them for Italy. The gallery is over 120 meters long.
Everyone will admire a visit to Rafael’s Rooms. They were a part of the Pope Julius II’s suite, who commissioned Raphael to create the frescos. The most popular of them is “The Expulsion of Heliodor from the Temple.” Rafaello worked there from 1508 until his death in 1520.
The Sistine Chapel
This can be the highlight of your tour in the Vatican Museums. The great artist Michelangelo Buonarotti has painted murals for 10 years, which have become true masterpieces. Whether you are a religious believer or art fan, the Sistine Chapel will amaze you with its colossal size and realistic drawing. Curiously, its size is in line with the Solomon Temple in Jerusalem, described in the Old Testament. Its name comes from Pope Sixtus IV, who began drawing it. The Sistine Chapel has opened in 1483 and became the official seat of the Conclave. It is the place where the Cardinals choose the new pope.
The most impressive and popular murals are “The Creation of Adam”, painted on an 1100 m2 ceiling and “The Last Judgment”, located on the wall behind the altar. The mural received a lot of admiration, but also a lot of criticism for the naked images that seemed obscene to medieval viewers. Therefore, some painters tried to design it with accordance to their taste, covering the naked parts of the bodies with fig leaves.
You can enjoy its beauty in silence and without taking pictures. You cannot talk or use a camera in the Sistine Chapel.
The Spiral Staircase
It is a double-spiral staircase. On one side it climbs, it goes down on the other. After you descend on it, just look up and you will feel amazed at the view. The Staircase is located at the end of the tour and it takes you out of the Museums.
Restaurants and Shops
The route of the Vatican Museums is 7 km long. There are several cafes and restaurants along the way, where you can relax and enjoy tasty bites. They offer anything from aromatic Italian coffee to refreshing drinks. You can enjoy there a delicious breakfast or mouthwatering evening aperitif, a pizza or healthy lunch. The famous food places include a self-service restaurant; pizzeria; bistro La Pigna, and few cafeterias: Le Carrozze, Il Forno and Centrale. All of them are a great choice for tourists in the Vatican.
Along the route, you will find many bookstores. They offer an exclusive blend of classic literature and fiction, reproductions of sculptures, paintings, ceramics, religious art, as well as children’s books and toys. The bookstores are accessible for disabled people with wheelchairs, except for the shop located on the steps leading to St. Peter’s Basilica.
What do you need to know before visiting the Vatican Museums?
- You must wear proper clothes. Tourists with short skirts and dresses, short pants, sleeveless clothes, and hats are not welcome there.
- You cannot enter the premises carrying bulky bags and backpacks.
- Before entering, you must leave your entire luggage, as well as knives, scissors, and other metal tools at a free checkroom.
- You cannot premises with Pets, except for guide dogs with muzzles.
- You can only take pictures for personal use in all the Museums, except the Sistine Chapel. The use of flash is prohibited everywhere.
- You cannot use a selfie stick in the Museums.
- During your visit to the Sistine Chapel, it is advisable to keep absolute silence, because of its sanctity.
- Get ready for huge crowds of people – if you have a chance to enter, without waiting on in a line, you will have to wait at the exits until you can leave. Beware of possible pickpockets.
- You cannot throw away paper, cans, bottles, etc. in the Vatican Museums. There are specially designed containers located only in off-route areas, where you can dispose of the trash.
- The Museums has changing rooms and breastfeeding rooms, as well as a children’s menu and baby chairs at the dining areas. They are especially for mothers and their kids.
- Individual – include the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, the Museums and the Basilica of Sts. Peter or Museums + Breakfast.
- Pilgrims – such tours are with discounts when presenting the necessary documents
- Group – including the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, the museums and the Basilica of Sts. Peter or the museums + breakfast. The group offers are with discounts.
- Families – for two parents and at least two children. Kids up to 5 years of age enter free. The ticket for the second and each subsequent child is free.
- For people with disabilities – special tours for people with hearing or visual difficulties
- For groups and families
- For pilgrims
- For children between 6 and 18 years old
- For school and college students
- For students in the Seminary and other religious schools
- Last Sunday of the month and on the World Tourism Day (the 27th of September)
- Children under 6 years of age
- Disabled with over 74% of disabilities with one accompanying
Access for people with disabilities
People with disabilities, along with their accompanying, do not wait in line but receive direct access. Therefore, the disabled must present all the necessary documents at the entrance of the Museums.