Vatican Museum | Tips for Survival

The Vatican Museum houses some absolutely amazing pieces of art, pieces that we all have learned about in art classes growing up. As a student in a Catholic school all my life, I feel like I learned more about the Vatican and the Museum than most people probably did! But either way, we all learn about the famous Sistine Chapel and we all want to marvel at it. 


The Sistine Chapel is glorious. But there are many other famous works of art including many of Raphael's works; The School of Athens, La Disputa and The Liberation of St. Peter. I was also surprised to find a section of more modern artists' works...many who are very famous! There are also many gorgeous tapestries throughout. And the ceilings, let's not forget all of the intricate and shiny ceilings throughout. Get ready to have some neck cramps!

The Museum is lavish and over the top. Formerly the papal palaces, the museum definitely has a feel of the opulence that once was. It can be exhausting and thrilling if you are an art lover. But if you aren't a big art buff, here are some tips to help you survive this massive museum!


My Tips for Surviving the Vatican Museum

1. Have an idea about what you want to see
I would not advise you to just waltz into the Vatican Museum only knowing that you are there to see the Sistine Chapel. There are so many marvelous works of art housed here. So take so time before your trip or on your flight over to do some reading about the artwork. I recommend a guide book, such as Rick Steves' or even just take a gander on the web! But having an appreciation for the works before you enter is always a good idea. Or else they all look the same!


2. Choose a time
Another one of those 'do you not know what the internet is' moments. Book your tickets in advance. When you do this, yes you have to chose your entry time. And yes, you have to be there at that time! (Trust me, I missed our time and lost out on my tickets!) But by doing this, you skip a portion of the line and if you choose an early morning time or late afternoon time during the weekdays, you may not be shoulder to shoulder with everyone else inside the museum. We chose the 2:30pm time slot on a Saturday, which I believe is the last entry and while there were still people inside, it wasn't horrible like some stories I have heard!



3. Have a Map
Or an audioguide. Get a feel for the layout before you enter...this goes along with knowing about the works. The museum is huge I tell ya! You will want to know which rooms are where. Although there are signs, you can get excited in the commotion and wind up in the wrong spot.




4. Take a Break in the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel has to be the most amazing place that you can take a break in any museum. The guards make sure everyone stays silent and no one is allowed to take pictures. So what you have is a room full of quiet people and no cameras in the way. Just everyone sitting in awe of what could possibly be the greatest work of art by any one person. This room is incredible. Have a guide (Rick Steves again for the win) or some sort of information on what each of the sections of the ceiling represents. And the Last Judgement wall is pretty intense. It's is good to have an understanding of who all of the characters are upon the wall. Best break spot in the art world! (and unfortunately, I don't have a photo....I'm not a rule breaker!)



5. Don't Schedule other major sites on the day of your tour
My suggestion is to not do St. Peter's and the Vatican in one day. Or with any other site. It is a lot of walking and a lot of art. It can exhaust you if you are not prepared! Unfortunately, we were forced to take our tour immediately after having seen the Colosseum. While we were up for the challenge, it lessened the experience. We love to take our time and this was not entirely possible for us. 


The School of Athens, Raphael





To visit the Vatican, where the Pope resides and runs the Church, is a honor and a privilege. One that I feel so blessed to have had! While the Museum itself can be overwhelming, these tips can help ease the stress and help you enjoy your time while visiting!

To Buy Tickets:

Have you been to the Vatican Museum? Do you have any other tips that I missed?

We Took the Road Less Traveled
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37 comments

  1. Those ceilings!!! I've been to Rome twice and still haven't done the Vatican Museums because I got scared of all the crowds and there is so much else to see... A survival guide is a great idea :) I know I'll be back.

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  2. I think the best tip is have an idea of what to see! When I went I was soooo overwhelmed. Next time I'll definitely pick out a few key pieces beforehand so I can enjoy them more.

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  3. I love the Vatican! It was so amazing to me how around every corner is something famous and so old. www.eatallovertheworld.weebly.com

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  4. Great tips! They are really similar to what I'd give people about going to the Louvre. xx

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  5. Have you been to the Basilica? I enjoyed it much more, but seeing the Sistine Chapel was really the highlight of the museum for me...just incredible!

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  6. It really was overwhelming to me as well! We didn't do the whole musuem....I really just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel!

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  7. It really was a gorgeous museum! So many massive old works!

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  8. Exactly! I felt the exact same way about the Louvre....

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  9. Great tips! I especially like the one about not scheduling anything else the same day. That's how I would do it, too! I am so overwhelmed at the thought of going to Rome. It's such an important city with so many key things I don't want to miss that it actually makes me want to wait awhile before we take that one on! We plan to go to Italy next summer, but maybe to an area a little more laid back! :)

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  10. Yeah Rome is overwhelming...but not like Paris. Or it least it wasn't to me! We did it in two days and while it's not on my list of places to return, I am so glad we went! I wouldn't count it out completely! But I'm with you on laid back....I'm thinking Florence, Venice and Cinque Terre next summer :)

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  11. Great tips! I went a few years ago and booked the first entrance time. I would recommend it - it wasn't crowded (though as time passed, it filled up), but in the beginning we were the first to walk into some of the rooms. And at least if you're slow like me, budget enough time to see the museum. I seriously spend 4 hours in there! What a gorgeous, fascinating place :-)

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  12. Oh that had to be so amazing to be the first ones in there! I like to wander slowly and unfortunately it just didn't work out that way for us here. But I'm just happy I got to go :)

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  13. The ceilings are breathtaking! Would love to visit Italy one day!

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  14. It's so amazing.....we are hoping to make it back to Northern Italy some time next year!

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  15. I'm pretty sure my eyeballs would explode in the Vatican museum. All of the colors, textures, and levels of relief are INSANE! I would really love to see it though. Thanks for sharing these photos! Amazing!

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  16. this is such a great idea! we went through twice the day we did the museum because I missed one of my favorite pieces just from being overwhelmed!

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  17. I LOVE all your stunning photos!!! Oh my goodness, you make me want to hop on an airplane there right now!!!

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  18. They definitely would over the Sistine Chapel! I really coupldn't believe I was actually looking at the real thing. It is truly mindblowing to think of Michelangelo painting the entire thing. Unfortunately the crowds deter you from lingering too long in the museum but it is a place I could spend all day!!

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  19. Godd for you for going twice!! What did you miss? We missed a whole heck of a lot but I still enjoyed seeing the things we did get a chance to see! Our Rome trip in general was pretty hectic!

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  20. Oh thanks! Yeah, Rome is pretty sweet! Did you decide on where you are going skiing? We extended our days so we can ski 3 days!! And then take a castle tour as well :) Oh, and I'm heading to Germany next weekend for Christmas Markets yay!!

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  21. Wow you got incredible photos!! Good advice on reading about what you want to see ahead of time...I keep forgetting to do this and I always regret it!!

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  22. Ah! Fun! Where is in Germany? Will send an email tonight about skiing! :)

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  23. everything is so elaborate and over the top, I love it! gorgeous photos and hopefully one day I'll make it to Rome to put all these tips to use :)

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  24. I love the Vatican. However I was with a tour and they RUSHED us through it and so we ran through the entire museum in 45 minutes. :(

    xox Ingrid of Style Prosciutto
    www.styleprosciutto.blogspot.com

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  25. It's hard to remember! I am always reading something on the plane, trying to cram in some last details before we arrive :)

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  26. I hope you do get to make it to Rome! While it's not a place that is on top of my 'to return' list, I am so glad we were able to visit and take in what the city offers :)

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  27. You know, I think the Vatican is the one place that I would say a tour wouldn't be a good option. I saw the tour groups in there and nobody looked like they were enjoying it haha!

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  28. Okay so your posts routinely give me chills! I would love to see this in person! These are great tips too...and I bet they hold true to most high traffic tourists spots like this! Thanks for linking up Jamie!

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  29. I'm glad you got to see it in the end! I couldn't agree more, the Sistine Chapel is a great place to finally stop and rest. I think it's really a great thing that they don't allow photography and you are required to be quiet. It really forces you to take a moment of pause and appreciate the magnitude of what's before you. Something we so often don't do.

    The only other thing I would add to this list is perhaps consider careful what you wear the day you visit the Vatican City. The dress code is specific in some areas as you well know. Cover you legs, shoulders and d├ęcolletage out of respect for the church. We went in summer and saw a load of women turned away because of their short shorts and crop tops.

    V
    Life+1

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  30. Awesome! Yes, I am always on the lookout for a goosebump inducing destination :) And you are absolutely right.....these definitely hold true for most places!

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  31. I actually was so pleased that the Sistine Chapel was a place of quiet and respect. It was really awesome even though it was super crowded. But yes, adding the dress code is a good idea!

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  32. Those ceilings are absolutely incredible. I'm hoping that I have time to visit when I next visit Italy!

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  33. These are great tips. I remember being SO overwhelmed but how much is going on in the Vatican- and every inch is ornate! A great experience though.

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  34. great tips! i visited there years ago and had no idea what i was doing ha. will definitely plan better next time!

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  35. Beautiful pictures, Jamie! Jim and I so enjoyed our trip to Italy in October and the three days in Rome were fabulous! We have some of the same pictures you posted. In fact, you would recognize the location at the Vatican of my pic used on my Christmas card. We are hoping to return someday to Italy to continue our tour southward from the Almalfi coast to Sicily.

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  36. Hey Aunt Karen! I bet you guys had such an amazing time! I can't wait to see your pictures! We will be down at Dad's from the 27th-2nd so I hope yall will be down around those times too :) I didn't think about yall going to the Vatican.....I bet we got Mama and Papa the same thing haha!!! We are hoping to go back to Italy in May and do Florence, Venice and Cinque Terre! Love you!

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  37. It happens! Sometimes I go to a place and totally miss out on the good stuff because I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to prepare for the Vatican but we still missed a good deal!

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