Visiting the Vatican – skipping lines and saving time

When in Rome, probably no one would miss to pay a visit to Vatican city. The world’s smallest (only 0.44 km2) independent state is visited every year by more than 5 million tourists from all over the world. In the summer, the Vatican Museums receive over 20,000 people daily. That is why it does matter how much time we spend queueing at the different sights. This is how we saved hours for ourselves:


1. Saint Peter’s Square

Unless you approach the Vatican from the entrance to the Vatican Museums, this huge square will be the first and probably the last stop of your visit. From here, the walk to the Vatican Museums is about 1 km and takes around 15 minutes.


2. Vatican Museums

In case you want to see the Vatican Museums, you should definitely start the visit there. And it’s also highly recommended to purchase tickets online in advance, as with the pre-purchased tickets you do not have to stand in the queue for hours before you may enter. We bought our tickets on the official Vatican website ( The price was 17 Eur + 4 Eur handling charges. The tickets are for a certain time slot, but they did let us in earlier (maybe we were lucky that day).

If you are visiting the Vatican Museums, definitely go inside the St. Peter’s Basilica after the museums. There is actually a shorter “secret” way from the museums to the church (don’t listen to the guides who will tell you differently).

Most probably the Sistine Chapel does not have to be introduced to anyone, I think it’s a miracle of art. I’m not at all an art expert, nor a huge art lover (I do appreciate great art though) or museum visitor in general but these beautiful and detailed frescos took my breath away. Looking at the ceiling I was thinking to myself that no wonder that from all the great artists who worked on the frescos, Michelangelo was the greatest of all and even to day he is one of the most famous painters even to those who are not super into the world of art.

Ok, that’s all about the Chapel itself, check it out yourself. Now, let’s go back to the exit. This amazing Chapel can be accessed from the side of the “The Last Judgment” (a huge wall painting with blue background). At the other end of the Chapel is the exit – and there are 2 doors. The door to the left takes you back through the museum – that’s NOT the way you should look for! The door to the right is the one that you should exit through, this one leads directly to the basilica. Although it’s written on the door that it’s only for “guided tours”, don’t let that disturb you, just walk through. Be confident!

So go through this exits, walk down a corridor and you’ll find yourself right next to the Basilica. As you went through the security check in the museums and you did not exist since then, you don’t have to queue for another security check before you enter the holy church. You don’t only save time this way, but also about a 1,5 km extra walk.


3. The Cupola of the Saint Peter’s Dome

After you exist the museums next to the Basilica, you can decide if you want to climb up to the dome’s cupola or you skip. If you want to skip the cupola then head straight to the Basilica. If you want to take up the challenge and climb (and I personally suggest in case you are not claustrophobic and your legs and heart can take the effort), at the bottom of the stairway turn right and you’ll find yourself on the way to the cashier’s window where you can buy the tickets to go up. There are two options for the tickets:

  1. All way up to the top you take the stairs – there are about 550 of them and this costs 8 Eur/person
  2. Approximately up to half way you can take an elevator and then you climb the rest of the way up for 10 Eur/person

Yes, the prices may be high, but the sight of St. Peter’s Square in front of you will compensate you for everything.


4. Saint Peter’s Basilica

The way from the cupola leads straight into the Basilica. This way again, you can escape any lines and there is nothing else left than to admire this magnificent building which brings millions of pilgrims each year to this holy place.


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