What is the Vatican Wait Time? | With Tips to Beat the Crowds
The Vatican, its museums, and in particular the Sistine Chapel are some of the most popular attractions in Rome receiving around 5 million visits every year and some 20,000 per day in the height of summer! The wait times for the Vatican can, therefore, be very long, particularly during peak times in the summer season. Read on to discover more about how long the wait times for the Vatican and the museums are, and how to avoid the crowds and queues…
What Is The Vatican Wait Time?
The wait times for the Vatican can vary dramatically depending on what time of year you visit and whether you have purchased your ticket in advance. If you visit the Vatican in summer, you should be prepared for long queues which can take up to 2 hours to get you to the front.
However, if you visit during the off-peak months, then you may well be able to walk straight up and buy a ticket.
Even when you do get inside the Vatican museum, it can take almost an hour to walk through the crowded halls (in summer) to reach the Sistine Chapel – and that’s without really stopping to look at anything. So you’ll want to give yourself a good few hours to enjoy your visit. If you’re an art buff, then you may want to spend more like 4 or 5 hours admiring the works in the 54 galleries inside the museum!
If you’re short on time, it is highly recommended that you follow the tips below to avoid the queues and make the most of your trip to the Vatican.
How Can I Avoid Long Queues at the Vatican?
Buy Your Ticket Online
The best way to save yourself time waiting in line at the Vatican is to buy your tickets online in advance. Tickets purchased directly from the Vatican Museum website are both the cheapest and most reliable and offer both standard and reduced tickets. There is a €4 service fee for booking online, but once you see the length of the normal ticket queue, you’ll be happy you paid a little extra to skip the line!
You can even purchase your ticket and audio guide together online, again saving you time once you reach the museum.
As the Vatican museum is so large and full of art and artefacts, you’ll be glad you spent the time organising your trip in advance. You then would have saved time and make the most of your visit while actually in Rome!
It’s important to note that the queuing system for the Vatican may seem a little chaotic, but if you have purchased your ticket, you are entitled to skip the queue and head straight to the front. Look out for the ticket office that says ‘Advanced Sales’ and they will be able to exchange your ticket receipt for an actual museum pass. There shouldn’t be much of a queue at the ‘Advanced Sales’ office, and as everyone already has their receipts printed and ready, it’s a reasonably quick process!
Book a Guided Tour
Another way you can save time when visiting the Vatican is to join a guided tour. Tours like the Skip-the-Queue Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Tour give you priority access to the Vatican museum through the Official Vatican Partner entrance. Meaning, you jump right to the front of the queue and into the museum in just minutes.
Having a guide explain the history, hidden meanings, and interesting facts can greatly magnify what you get from your visit.
These tours are run in English, Spanish, German, French and Italian, so there are plenty of options for those seeking a skip-the-line guided tour.
Most other walking tours offered around the Vatican will also provide priority access as part of the tour, but it is worth double-checking as you don’t want to pay for a tour and then spend half the time waiting in line!
When Should I Visit the Vatican to Avoid Long Wait Times?
Coachloads of tourists flock to the Vatican from 9 am each morning throughout the summer and therefore mid-morning is one of the busiest times you can arrive! Not only will the queues into the Vatican museum be long, but there will also be loads of people milling around each piece of art inside the museum.
After 1-2 hours in the museum, these visitors will be arriving at the Sistine Chapel, which will be full to the brim with tourists!
If you can, visit later in the afternoon (last entrance 4 pm) or plan to be there well before the museum opens (around 1.5h prior) so you can be at the front of the queue when the doors open at 9 am.
Visit In Low Season
If you desperately want to avoid the crowds and long queues at the Vatican, then visiting in the low season is your only option. The Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica will all be busy throughout the day during summer, so visiting in months like November and March are much better times to explore.
Don't Visit on One of the Free Days
The last Sunday of the month is the only Sunday that the Vatican museums are open and they are also the only time that entrance is free.
The museum is therefore usually very busy particularly among backpackers who are short on money but not time! Therefore, unless you don’t mind waiting in line these days are best avoided.
Don't Visit on Monday Mornings
As mentioned above, the Vatican is closed on Sundays (apart from the last Sunday of the month) so Monday mornings can be a particularly busy time to visit.
If people didn’t realise that the Vatican was closed but had planned on visiting on Sunday, they are likely to head straight back to the Vatican on Monday morning to squeeze in a visit before leaving Rome! This is, therefore, one of the worst times to visit, although the Monday after the free Sunday is usually reasonably quiet, so could be an excellent time to go.
Head Into The Museum When The Pope Is Talking
If you’re not too fussed about hearing the Pope talk or taking a photo of His Holiness, then the times when the Pope is speaking to the crowds can be a fantastic time to get into the Vatican museum without crowds!
The Pope (if he is around) usually comes out to speak to pilgrims on Wednesday mornings, and you can use this time (generally between 10am-11am) to avoid the queues.
Other Important Things To Note When Visiting The Vatican
Entrance To St Peter's Basilica Is Free
Most people plan to visit both the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Basilica in one go when visiting Vatican City but it is important to note that you only have to pay for entrance to the Vatican museum and not the church.
There may be hustlers hanging around the square outside St Peter’s Basilica offering you’ cheap tickets’ to the church, but this is a scam, and you’ll wind up paying for something that is actually free!
Politely decline these offers and head over to the Basilica to gain free access directly at the church entrance.
You'll Need To Dress Appropriately
There is nothing worse than waiting in line for a sight or attraction only to be told when you get to the front you can’t come in for some reason on another. This is something that happens quite regularly at the Vatican and St Peters Basilica as there is a strict dress code and luggage allowance required for entry.
Both men and women are required to cover their knees and shoulders for the duration of their visit to the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens.
Full-length trousers or skirts are therefore required, and low-cut and sleeveless tops are not permitted. Miniskirts and hats are also forbidden, and it is important to note that using a scarf to cover shoulders will not be considered enough.
Luggage, food and drink and items such as umbrellas, knives, tripods, and video cameras must all be left in the cloakroom (free of charge) and must be collected at the end of your visit.
So, there you have it, you now know all about the wait times for the Vatican museum, how to avoid the queues, crowds and scams and the best ways to buy tickets in advance. Have you been to the Vatican? Let us know your thoughts below!
For other things to do in Italy have a look at our bucket list guide. 14 Best Places to Visit in Italy
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