The Vatican Museums

Two purposes serve the Vatican Museums: They are also known as the Papal Palaces. For centuries, they were home to popes who designed and decorated apartments to fit their tastes. They also house some of the most important and beautiful art in the world.

The Vatican Museums’ art collection covers 9 miles. It includes Greek and Roman sculptures, masterworks by Raphael and Perugino, as well as medieval maps and tapestries.

Pope Francis chose a humble home in the Vatican Hotel. However, his predecessors made the Vatican Museums an exceptional mix of architectural excellence and a history-spanning art collection. It is an impressive and large complex that blurs the lines between private residences and public galleries.

To see the best of the collection, take a tour with our expert guide through the Vatican Museums. Learn the story behind the art and admire the Sistine Chapel. Explore courtyards filled to the utmost classical sculptures.

Visiting Vatican Museums : What to See

The Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel in Vatican is perhaps the most famous single room in the world. This is largely due to the stunning frescoes by Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Michelangelo’s work actually consists of two distinct frescoes. The ceiling features scenes from the Old Testament and the altar wall holds his thrilling Last Judgement . He painted both of these in the 1500s with a 23-year gap between the ceilings and The Last Supper.

Although he considered himself more of an artist than a painter, he refused the pope’s request to paint the chapel. He nevertheless created some of the most iconic and widely reproduced images in art history such as The Creation of Adam .

The “Sixteenth Chapel” is often mistakenly called this. It was constructed in 1481 under the orders of Pope Sixtus IV. The Sistine Chapel attracts many visitors each day, but it is still used for mass and, perhaps more importantly, papal conclaves.

These are when the College of Cardinals meets to elect a new pope after the resignation or death of the incumbent. The Sistine Chapel is the most beautiful room in Italy. It offers a unique experience of utterly breathtaking grandeur and enveloping intimacy.

The Raphael Rooms

1508 saw Pope Julius II decide to brighten up his papal apartments using a bit of paint. The rest is history. He called upon a young Urbino painter by the name Raphael.

Along with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, the frescoes that the soon-to be master painted kicked off the High Renaissance period of unparalleled artistic exuberance. Raphael was able to complete the papal apartment project, outliving Pope Julius II, and even Raphael. Therefore, all the frescoes in Sala di Constantino were actually created by Raphael’s assistants.

Visitors flock to the Stanza della Segnatura where they can see the masterpieces of Pope Julius. They also stop by the Scuola di Ateni or School of Athens for a look at this incredible fresco, which combines the best minds of antiquity in one scene. There is no better representation anywhere of Renaissance ideals and form than this.

They are second only to the Sistine Chapel in popularity due to their beauty. Keep an eye out for similarities in the paintings when you visit. Raphael was a prolific painter and he included many of his contemporaries in the School Of Athens,paying special homage to Michelangelo, his sometimes hero, and sometime rival.

Gallery of the Maps

The Gallery of the Maps, one of the most impressive of the Vatican’s long galleries, is lined with frescoes. They are all inspired by the 16th-century priest and polymath Ignazio Dianti.

Danti was an accomplished artist and mathematician, as well as a respected scientist. Danti began a monumental cartographic project that was larger than any European attempt when Pope Gregory XIII called him to Rome to oversee fresco painting in a new gallery.

He and his team of artists created 40 frescoes from maps that showed every corner of Italy from an aerial view. They are beautiful in execution, and almost unbelievable in their scope.

You’ll be amazed at the similarities and differences between maps from the 16th century and the 21st-century when you visit the Vatican Museums today. For example, Danti’s paintings do not include Pompeii. Don’t forget about looking up! The ceiling is home to the stunning work of a group painters who used mannerist techniques to give plaster a radiant glow.

Laoco o N and His Sons

The often mispronounced Hellenistic statue (for record, it’s Layo-kuwon), is one of the most stunning and controversial antiquities in Italy. It is still a matter of debate as to who sculpted it and where. However, this statue depicting a Trojan priest being attacked by serpents was found in the Palace of Emperor Titus. The statue was then lost and buried in a vineyard for many years.

Laoco and were discovered. It was instantly recognized as a masterpiece in both its portrayal of the body, and unbridled anguish. It is most likely a replica of a bronze statue, although that is still a subject of debate. It is impossible to gaze upon the statue and not feel the thrill of knowing something so real was made by humans over 2,000 years ago.

The Apollo Belvedere and Belvedere Torso

It would be difficult to find two statues with more influence on Western art than those of the Apollo Belvedere or the Belvedere Turso, both located in the Vatican Museums.

The Apollo Belvedere statue is one of the most significant you have never seen. The 4th century BC marble statue representing Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, was idolized to the point that it became a fetish by those who created Art History in 18th century.

The Belvedere Torso is a more robust option for those who want something more solid. While the Apollo is gentle and boyish, the torso and torso are rugged and muscular.

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It is a first-century sculpture, possibly of Hercules. It was celebrated upon its rediscovery because of its exquisitely rendered musculature (think Arnold Schwarzenegger), but it is made from marble. Michelangelo was said to be so impressed by the torso, that he used it as a basis for some characters in the Sistine Chapel.

Pay attention to how the Belvedere Torso is posed. The same pose is repeated in Renaissance art. One of those odd twists of randomness that seems to occur quite often with antiquities is that both statues have “Belvedere” in their names. This is because they were originally displayed in the Belvedere Courtyard. Apollo is still there, but the Torso was moved inside.

The Borgia Apartments

Pope Alexander VI (AKA Rodrigo de Borgia), like his successor Julius II, commissioned Pinturicchio to beautify his apartment at the Vatican.

Pinturicchio created a series of complex works that celebrated the Borgia origins with rich iconography and detailed detail in just two years. One of his paintings, The Resurrection (), features what is believed to be the first known European depiction Native Americans. It was painted just two years after Christopher Columbus’ tragic voyage.

Pinturicchio’s masterpieces, which are located alongside the Raphael Rooms or Sistine Chapels, are often overlooked by visitors. However, those who know how to take advantage of them can enjoy some Renaissance’s most beautiful frescos in relative peace.

The Niccoline Chapel

This is literally the Vatican’s hidden jewel. It is hidden behind lock and key in an old section of the Apostolic Palace. It was originally built to be a chapel for Pope Nicholas V. Now it’s adorned with frescoes from Fra Angelico, a less well-known, but equally talented, painter.

Guido di Pietro was born Guido di Pietro. He was a Dominican friar, an illuminator (basically, an illustrator of Bibles when illustrating required wildly intricate borders, lots of gold leaf), before he became a painter.

He was invited to Rome in 1445 to paint scenes at the Vatican. His reputation for being a master of perspective painting led to him being called. The Capella Niccolina contains scenes from the lives and times of St. Stephen, and St. Lawrence. Its small size and beautiful art make it one the most moving spaces in the Vatican.

The Niccoline Chapel can only be accessed by special access tours. It is not open for the general public.

The Pinacoteca Art Gallery

The Pinacoteca Art Gallery, a gallery within a gallery is the modern wing of Vatican Museums. It houses an impressive collection, including paintings and works from the early Renaissance to the present day. Although it is compact in size, it can be easily visited even though it is covered on only a few tours.

The only work of Leonardo da Vinci found in the Vatican Museums is a sketch called St. Jerome in the Wilderness; many works by Raphael, including the breathtaking Transfiguration; Caravaggio’s Entombment; as well as paintings by Veronese and Bellini, Titian and Correggio.

Nero’s Bathtub

Nero’s bathtub, valued at EUR2 billion by some, is one of the most valuable works in the Vatican Museums. It measures 25 feet in diameter and is made of deep red/purple porphyry marble. It was found only from one source in Egypt, and there have never been any other deposits.

Porphyry was a highly sought-after decorative material in the Age of Nero. Porphyry weighed a ton and was difficult to transport from Egypt to Rome by water. This made its ownership the ultimate symbol of wealth.

The steel and stone used to make Ancient Romans’ wares began to crumble, but porphyry marble was strong enough that it could withstand the elements and time. It was the ultimate symbol for Ancient Roman wealth, power, and skill.

Today, the Vatican houses 80% of the world’s porphyry stock. Nero’s Bathtub, the Vatican’s most famous piece of art is the Vatican’s.

The Egyptian Museum

The Vatican Museums’ Egyptian Museum is an wing that very few people ever visit. It is well worth a visit. These rooms are decorated in Egyptian style and house a collection mummy cases, sarcophagi and Ancient Egyptian jewelry. They also have Egyptian-style statues from Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, and a variety of authentic Ancient Egyptian statues that date back to the 21st Century BC.

The Egyptian antiquities are not included in group tours because they are so unique to the rest. They are nevertheless a wonderful example of the variety found in the Vatican Museum’s art collections.

The Room of the Animals

The Hall of the Animals is a great place for children and animal lovers. It was established under Pope Pius VI as “stone zoo”. It features a variety of amazing stone sculptures most of which were made in the 1700s.

Continue reading: A Guide for Visiting Vatican Museums

Tips for Visiting Vatican Museums

Opening Times

Current measures are in place to ensure that visitors can enjoy the museum in the most secure and pleasant conditions. These conditions prevail over ordinary ones. Online booking is required for entry to the Vatican Museums.

Until June 30, 2021

Monday through Thursday, 8.30am to 6.30pm. Last entry at 4.30pm

Friday and Saturday 8.30am-8.00pm, with the last entry at 6.00pm

Starting July 1, 2021

Monday through Thursday, 8.30am to 6.30pm. Last entry at 4.30pm

Friday and Saturday: 8.30 am to 10.30 pm, last entry at 8.30pm

Museum visitors are asked to leave the halls at least 30 minutes prior to closing.


The extraordinary openings on Sundays are suspended

Closed Sundays: December 25th and 26th (Christmas and St. Stephen’s Day); January 1, 6, February 11, 22, March 19, 28, June 29 (the Feasts Saint Peter and Paul); August 15, November 1; December 8.

For more information about holiday closings, visit the Vatican website .

Rules to visit the Vatican Museums

You should be familiar with the rules of Vatican II before you attempt to visit.

  • You are prohibited from bringing food or drink into the Vatican Museums. However, you can leave them in the Cloakroom and pick them up at the end. All food and drink left behind will be disposed off at the end each day.
  • The Vatican Museums prohibit the entry of bags, backpacks, suitcases or containers larger than 40x35x15 cm. You can’t also bring medium-sized umbrellas, umbrellas with spiked tips or camera tripods into the Vatican Museums. These items can all be left in the cloakroom.
  • Visitors to the Vatican Museums must not carry firearms. They cannot be checked in the Cloakroom. To protect the artwork, knives, scissors, and other cutting tools can be used but must not be carried in the Cloakroom.
  • All touching or altering of artwork in the Vatican Museums is prohibited. They are constantly under surveillance. Also, no laser pointers.
  • For groups of 11 or more, all tour groups must wear headsets. It is forbidden to use microphones or voice amplifiers.
  • The Vatican has a strict dress code. Both men and women must wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. Visitors may be able to wear a little less, but it is best not. Hats are not permitted.
  • Speaking inside the Sistine Chapel is strictly forbidden due to its sacred nature.
  • Flash photography is strictly prohibited, as well as selfie sticks. Visitors are permitted to take non-flash photos in all Vatican Museums, except the Sistine Chapel. You can be arrested by the Vatican Security if you break any of these rules.
  • You must get permission from the Vatican Management before you can draw in museums.
  • The use of a mobile phone is permitted everywhere except the Sistine Chapel.

Continue reading: What Are the Biggest Mistakes While Visiting Vatican


Adults EUR17; Senior/Child EUR8. To receive a discounted ticket fare, you will need valid ID at ticket purchase or collection (in any cast of tickets or tours).

The Best Time to Visit the Vatican Museums

Normal year May through September is considered high season in Rome. Easter, for a few short days, is the busiest day of the year. You can expect to see shoulder-to-shoulder if you visit the Vatican Museums in these months.

How to get there

You can reach the Vatican Museums best by taking a taxi or using the metro.

You should inform your taxi driver that you will be going to the Vatican Museums (“Musei Vaticani”) and not the Basilica of St. Peter (“Basilica Papale di San Pietro di Vaticano”) , which is about a 15-minute walk away.

Metro A Line to Ottaviano stops if you are traveling by metro. Turn left down Via Candia, then turn right at Via Tunisi. You’ll find a set of steps at the end of the street. You’ll reach the top of the steps and will be able to see the Vatican Museums.

The church is not accessible from the Museums unless you’re on a guided tour which includes St. Peter’s Basilica. To visit it, you’ll need to exit the Museums and turn right. Follow the wall to St. Peter’s entrance. It takes about 15 minutes to reach the entrance.

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