A day in Vatican City!

June 21, 2017

No trip to Rome is completed without visiting the Catholic Capital. I spent three glorious days in Rome; glorious because it all involves food, arts and museums which are the three things that I really like (minus the extra waistline of course).

Measuring just over 110 acres and a population of a thousand people, the Vatican City is indeed the smallest country in the world. I would advise on spending a full day in Vatican City, simply because there’s so much to see. If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s writings (especially Angels and Demons) then the Vatican is one not to be missed!

Quick word of advice: Don’t try to overkill the Vatican with the rest of Rome. Give it a full day, period. It is a separate country after all. Also, wear something appropriate! Short skirts, tops and hot pants are no-go. They will make you purchase an overpriced scarf to cover up. Even if it’s summer, wear thin leggings!


HOW TO GET THERE

Take the red Metropolitana line (line A) to Ottaviano-San Pietro. Similarly you can hop off at Cipro-Musei Vaticani if you want to see the museum first. A standard ticket costs €1.50, and €7 for 24 hours pass (valid on all train, buses and metro). If you have the Roma Pass, transportation is included in the fee.

You can also take the bus number 60, 62 and 64. If you’re unsure, just ask your bus driver “Vaticano?” and you’re well on your way. Also, beware of pickpockets. They’re notorious in Rome!


WHAT TO DO IN VATICAN CITY

1. The St. Peter’s Basilica

Ahh the St. Peter’s Basilica. This prominent building of the Vatican City is also the main burial site for St. Peter. Although I am no Catholic myself, this renowned Rennaissance architecture is a major site for pilgrimage, as well as for liturgical functions.

It’s best to visit the St. Peter’s Basilica early in the morning, to beat the afternoon crowd. Entrance to the Basilica is free! I visited Rome in the middle of December, and despite it being a low season the crowd was untolerable. I can’t imagine how pack it is during the summer, especially with the hot Roman weather.

This was my first time to a Basilica and I was absolutely blown away by the details! The interiors were lavishly decorated with marbles, architectural sculptures and paintings. Daily mass are also carried within the Basilica (although mostly in Italian). You can also go for confessions at the Basilica, just be sure notify the attendants.

If you wish to see the Pope you will need to check the Papal Calendar for Audiences and Masses at the St. Peter’s Square. Tickets are always required for these events, and they’re free! More information on the Papal Calendar and tickets can be found here. Who knows, you might be able to shake hands with the Pope on your next visit!

Did you know you can climb up the dome (cupola) for an extra fee? At the entrance of the Basilica, search for a sign on the far right that leads you to a kiosk for the elevator. The elevator costs you €7 to the roof, while the stairs costs you €5. If you take the elevator you will need to climb another 230 steps to the top of the dome. Why pay more when you still have to climb to the end? Take the stairs instead and pay less. Exercise!

We saw the Swiss Guards on the way out of St. Peter’s Basilica, only to be mildly disappointed by the heavy cloak masking their flamboyant uniforms (it was winter). On contrary to popular beliefs, the Swiss Guards uniform was not design by Michelangelo.

Having read about them in books and historical articles, I was naturally very excited to spot the Swiss Guards. Although small in numbers, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is one of the oldest standing military units of the world. They may look harmless, but these elite forces are known to be ultra deadly. During the Sack of Rome in 1527, the front steps of the Basilica was a massacre between the Swiss Guards and the Imperial troops, long enough for the Pope to make his escape to Castel Sant’Angelo. 150 out of the 189 Swiss Guards died, but the dedication for the Pope is admirable. Also, they’re not Italians. They’s Swiss. And yes, they’re very easy on the eyes 😉

2. Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum)

The Musei Vaticani is one of my favourite museum of all times (second to the Louvre! I could spent hours there!). It’s best to book your tickets online (link here) and skip the massive queue! A standard ticket costs €16, and €8 for students under 25 years old. There is an additional cost of €4 for an online fee.

Unfortunately, the Roma Pass doesn’t work for the Vatican Museum. You will need to book a separate ticket in order to enter. I got mine for €12 with an ISIC card (international student identity card). Please note that the last entry to the Sistine Chapel is at 4pm, and the Museum closes at 6pm. There is also a cafe here where you can grab a quick bite, slightly overpriced but better than the touristic restaurants nearby.

You can opt for audio guides for €7, which is what I did. A friend recently went to Rome and raved about guided tour, which takes 2 – 3 hours and costs about €32. If you’re a museum enthusiast you might want to consider the tour. There is also a combined tour of both the St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum for €37.

I really love the spiral staircase leading to the Museum. You could almost imagine Taylor Swift singing Love Story spiralling down the stairs!

Highlight for Musei Vaticani is of course the Sistine Chapel. This is also a major site for the Papal Conclave (the selection of the pope). You can find famous paintings from Michelangelo here, like the Creation of Adam on the ceiling frescos. It shows God breathing life (more like touching fingertips) with Adam.

Pictures are not allowed, but here’s a stock photo for you. There were guards all around the Sistine Chapel hissing “no photos!” to stubborn visitors. Also, that is just rude. Respect the rules please.

I also love Michelango’s fresco of The Last Judgement, covering the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. If you’re familiar with the book of Revelation (in the bible), the Last Judgement depicts the second coming of Christ, and a composition of hell as described by Dante. It’s mind blowing really, it was also my favourite part of the Sistine Chapel after straining my neck trying to observe the ceiling.

On the last Sunday of the month the entrance to the Vatican Museum is free. However don’t get too excited as crowd can be massive, and opening hours are limited till 2pm.

There’s also no air conditioning in the Museum, so if you’re here for the summer, well…best of luck to you.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stroll around the Museum’s garden!

3. Castel Sant’Angelo (St. Angelo’s Castle)

A short distance away from the Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress located on the right bank of the Tiber river. During the Sack of Rome in 1527, Pope Clement VII had taken refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo shortly after his flee from the Vatican City. In Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, this is also the Illuminati’s hideout.

Tickets costs €10.50 for adults, and €7 for children/teenagers aged 6- 17 years. If you have the Roma pass, you can also use it here.

The Castel Sant’Angelo is a very complex fortress, and I love exploring the inner walls! Here you can find painted walls, staircases, courtyards, small museums and countless hallways. There is also a quaint little cafe on one of the levels for a quick break.

I would definitely recommend in visiting the St. Peter’s Basilica first, spending 2 – 4 hours in Musei Vaticani next, and saving Castel Sant’Angelo for the later. Because this, my dear friend has the BEST sunset view in Rome!

It was an accident really. I was already planning to catch the sunset elsewhere (at Giardino degli Aranci to be exact; the Orange Garden). But for some reason we decided to stop by Castel Sant’Angelo – and hey no regrets! The golden light hitting the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was just breathtaking. It was a perfect way to end the day.

4. Ponte Sant’Angelo (St. Angelo’s Bridge)

Just opposite Castel Sant’Angelo lies the Sant’Angelo’s Bridge. Ten Baroque angel statues represents the pain and suffering of Jesus Christ. If you observe carefully there is actually an angel holding the cross, and another with the crown of thorns.

The bridge is mostly a pedestrian walk, but from here on you’re free to venture off to the rest of Rome! Not too far away from the bridge is the Piazza Novano, and you can make you way to the Pantheon and subsequently to the Trevi Fountain from here.

Or do like what we did; hunt for gelatos and cheap pizzas! I will write about Rome on a budget soon (and get this Rome chapter out of my head for good) so watch this space! Hope this helps in planning your trip to Rome, and till next time!

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A day in Vatican City | The Jaren Wanders

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By Alyssa J

Alyssa J is an aspiring traveller and a wanderlust writer, aiming to inspire and to share the little joys of the world. Follow on her journeys on The Jaren Wanders.

33 Comments

  1. Reply

    Alyse - The Invisible Tourist

    This is a very comprehensive guide to an incredible little country! I don’t think many people realise Vatican City is its own country. I completely agree with you about people taking photos inside the Sistine Chapel, rules are rules so it’s disrespectful. As awe-inspiring as it is, it’s a shame the atmosphere can be ruined by the guards hissing “Silenzio! Put-a the camera in-a the bag!” You can get a better shot of the ceiling by purchasing some postcards anyway. Great article!

    1. Reply

      Alyssa J

      Thank you! I was shocked that it was a country too – I honestly thought it was a part of Rome (that is, until I googled haha). But yes, I agree on rude tourists trying to take a sneak pic! In fact you can easily find free stock photos everywhere on the internet…there’s no need for a photo.

  2. Reply

    Liz

    Vatican city is so beautiful and interesting to visit. Your photos are gorgeous!

  3. Reply

    Alison

    This is a fab overview of the highlights in Vatican City… You’ve definitely convinced me to spend at least a day here – and also to go in low season, lol. It would be a shame to feel rushed. Beautiful photos, by the way!

    1. Reply

      Alyssa J

      Thank you! 🙂 The Vatican definitely deserves a highlight on it’s own – it is a separate country after all 🙂 I can’t imagine summer in Rome though. The crowd, the heat…it could be too much!

  4. Reply

    alexisrae13

    I seriously loved Rome, even though I wasn’t able to get to Vatican city on that trip. Your pictures are so beautiful!

    1. Reply

      Alyssa J

      Thank you so much! I love Rome too! It’s definitely one of my favourite city in Italy. Shame that you didn’t went to Vatican, maybe next time? 😉

  5. Reply

    Zara

    I’ve never been to Rome but it’s way up there on my bucket list. Thanks for the guide, definitely use this when we finally get to Rome.

  6. Reply

    Evelina

    Uah, I’ve seen that staircase so many times on photos. Seriously thinking to visit Rome and Vatican city really soon. Thanks for the wonderful itinerary!

  7. Reply

    The Wild Wayfarer

    Wow, your photographs are SO stunning of here! I went there last year and absolutely loved it. There is just beauty on everything you look at!

    1. Reply

      Alyssa J

      Thank you so much!! ☺️☺️☺️ you just made me blush ahahahaha. I love Rome! It’s so magical!

  8. Reply

    kathaisa11

    Your photos arso amazing, honestly, so great!! It looks and sounds like a trip you wull never forget 🙂

  9. Reply

    Lara @ Find Your World Girl

    This article is great!! I’ve always wanted to see Vatican City but it was such a mystery- now I know how to do it! Thanks for the awesome advice 🙂

  10. Reply

    Julz

    wow thanks for all the info!!! – I just can’t wait we have 6 nights in Rome and I am over the moon about going. Mission for today is actually to find my outfit for the Vatican visit. I really like the tone of your pictures.

  11. Reply

    rhiannontravels

    These photos are beautiful! I’ve always wanted to visit Vatican City, it looks so stunning! Rome is definitely pretty high on my bucket list 🙂

  12. Reply

    Kristine Li

    Lovely post! Definitely brought me back to my time at Vatican City a decade ago, feeling amazed at St Peter’s and also seeing Sistine Chapel, a dream! The queue was also a super long winding queue back then, haha! Thanks for this awesome post. Made me wanna head back to Italy and experience it again!

  13. Reply

    Jurga

    At first I was wondering how in the world did you fill the whole day in the Vatican city, and that in winter when there are no crowds…. 🙂 But indeed, if you spend 4 hours at the museum, climb to the top of St. Peter’s, and add St. Angelo’s Castle to it, I guess a short winter day is quickly over.
    I have only been to Vatican in spring and autumn, and the crowds were terrifying. But despite that we never needed a whole day for it, I guess it’s because the days are longer and nobody in his right mind would spend so much time in an overcrowded and hot museum. 🙂 So we never took the time to properly explore it… After reading this, I think that winter is a much better time for a city trip to Rome.

  14. Reply

    Laura Harris

    It looks like a fascinating place, I didn’t know about the Swiss Guards! And I do love everything historical 😀 How was the weather in December?

  15. Reply

    beachbumadventure

    You are definitely giving me Italy envy! Can’t wait to go back there and check out Rome and the Vatican!

  16. Reply

    Corinne L Simpson

    Ah, this takes me back! I went here four years ago and I’d love to go back one day. I only had two days in Rome so I only spent a short time in Vatican City, so a lot of my memories are a blur. Reading this post actually helped bring them back to me, so thank you!

  17. Reply

    ilive4travel

    I loved Rome and visited the Vatican City. I too when to St Peter’s and climbed to the top, can’t even remember an option for a lift!! I have to say the rooms you visit before the Sistine Chapel are amazing too and I by the time I got there I was kind of like oh a bigger room with just as impressive paintings!!

  18. Reply

    Ruth

    I feel like you. There is a lot to see in the Vatican and I do not think it should be rushed. The Museum alone takes hours. So, go there, spend a decent amount of time moving around and enjoy! #WeekendWanderlust

  19. Reply

    Esther

    Oh I loved Vatican city. My husband and me spent our honeymoon in Rome and spent almost a day in the Vatican as well. The art was just mind blowing!! Found you through #weekendwanderlust

  20. Reply

    Elaine Masters

    Rome is glorious. I just returned from staying near the Vatican and we spent a day in the museums, Sistine Chapel and the Basilica. Wish I’d known about the cupola dome view!

  21. Reply

    Rhonda Albom

    We stopped in Rome as a cruise port, and had the see it all in a day. You are right, Vatican City is worthy of its own time, but we didn’t have it. We did hire a guide with passes that let us cut the queue everywhere, but we still missed the castle and bridge that you show here. Too bad. So much to see and do. Thanks for this.

  22. Reply

    Connie S Reed

    Thank you for the great information. Vatican City is on my bucket list, and after reading your post, I’m moving it up in priority.

  23. Reply

    RobRob @TravelLatte(.net)

    I will never think about the Vatican Museum without thinking about Taylor Swift now! But you’re right…I can totally see that. 🙂 Loved your article, and wanted to chime in about the guided tours. We did that also, and it cost a bit more but we took the option to get into the Sistine Chapel before the museum opens to the public. It was amazing to be in there with just about 20 people – compared to the massive crowds later in the day. That was our “splurge” in Rome, and it was totally worth it! Now we want to go back!!

  24. Reply

    Elsa

    Vey nice and informative article ! Your pictures are awesome.

  25. Reply

    Ztie shr

    I am envy how u travel the world. Haha especially this! I’m always in love with buildings and architecture and this here miss is one hell of a beautiful city and they have the best architecture. Lucky u to witness them with your own eyes! 😍😍

  26. Reply

    CYRIL DASON

    I always wanted to visit the holy city, and your pictures just make me want to go there even more. Tunggu anak besar, and budget steady sikit lah kot… nice photos by the way… Made me lagi mok g..

  27. Reply

    veyroniqa

    I was planning to skip Rome when visiting Italy but your breathtaking pictures have changed my mind. Guess it’s time to revisit my itinerary x’D

  28. Reply

    Ntgravity

    Wow… Yeah… when i read ‘Vatican’ it’s reminds me Sherlock Holmes or Dan Brown’s series.. Love those photos! Super nice make me want to go there now… hahaha

  29. Reply

    KibinTravel

    Definitely one of my travel bucket list. Nicely done and thanks for the travel tips

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