The smallest country in the world, the Vatican is one of the busiest places on Earth. From early morning until late afternoon, the place is filled with people traveling from all over the world. Some of them come to Rome with one intention – to visit the Vatican. Contrary to such travelers, we had a lot more interest in the capital of Italy and its landmarks. But the Vatican was always on top of our itinerary. We treated it like what it was, a separate country, and devoted the whole day to explore its remarkable treasures. However, here came a question: How to visit the Vatican for the first time? Did we need a guided tour or explore the city-state at our pace? We adhered to Skip-the-Line guided tour. But you can do just fine without it.
SO HOW TO VISIT THE VATICAN FOR THE FIRST TIME? DO YOU REALLY NEED A GUIDED TOUR OR
Guided Tours Tickets
Honestly, both ways of visiting the Vatican work. However, if you are looking for solid information, history, and stories behind all Vatican’s masterpieces, a guided tour comes in handy. Having said that, you might get overwhelmed with the amount of tour offers available on the streets of Rome. Based on our experience, we’d suggest never paying the initial price and instead bargaining. (The street tour prices are always higher. We were asked for 50 euros per person initially. But after some “negotiation” the price dropped to 35 euros.) The better way though is to get the tickets in advance at an authorized service center.
Best Time to Visit the Vatican without a Tour
As we mentioned before, visiting the Vatican on your own is possible. One of the main reasons that push people to get the tours is time. Waiting in a line to get to the entrance door can takes hours and hours. Instead of spending half of the say at the Vatican, we have to plan for at least one whole day. Postponing your visit to afternoon might help reduce the waiting time. If you’re not willing to take any Vatican tours, choosing the right season to visit is also crucial. Winter low season months (except between Christmas and January 6) are usually the best. And if it happened to be a rainy day, rest assure, you will find smaller crowds at the Vatican. But, unfortunately, the Gardens of Vatican City are closed when it rains.
Visit the Vatican with a Guided Tour
So, it’s your first visit of the Vatican and you decided to take a tour. Great! Advantages of the tours far exceed their prices. First of all, you skip the line. No more time wasted outside, waiting for your turn. Second, forget about the second line and tour the Vatican from the Vatican Museums all the way to St. Peter’s Basilica including the famous Sistine Chapel.
How to visit the Vatican without a Guided Tour
To Visit the Vatican solo, you either have to start your journey at the Vatican Museums or at St. Peter’s Basilica. Regardless of you start, you can go only until the Sistine Chapel. After that you have to return to where you started from and go to the other side of the Vatican. For example, if you visited the museums first, now you have to exit Vatican City, reenter the streets of Rome, and make your way to the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica. Here it’s a time to make another line and wait until you will be allowed to enter the church. On the bright side, no ticket is required to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.
Photography during the Vatican Visit
You can use camera or cellphone to memorize your visit to the Vatican. Non-professional photography is allowed everywhere except the Sistine Chapel. Inside the museums though, make sure to switch to flash-free shooting.
This is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for such a long time! I usually prefer to walk around places by myself but recently I had a guided tour of a National Trust and learnt so much that I wouldn’t have otherwise – so I’d probably consider a guided tour at the Vatican, too (especially if it cuts down on the waiting time!).
I don’t take tours often either, but was glad that we decided to stick to it in the Vatican. 🙂