I have some tips to those planning their trip to the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel so you can avoid making the same mistake that we did. Granted, we went on a Saturday, but after talking to a local about it, he recommended paying extra for the private tour in the mornings.
1) DO NOT under any circumstance go without a ticket!
You’ll see the huge line wrapped around the side of the building no matter what time of day you go and will thank me later. The wait was estimated at about 3-4 hours at 11AM! It’s important to note that even if you do buy a ticket and are given a reservation time, you may have to wait in a short line inside to actually buy your ticket (based on your reservation time).But I’m not done yet, because you need to take the most important advice in the world (read below)
2) DO NOT go during normal business hours (especially on a Saturday like we did)
Huh? Anyone who has been to Times Square in New York knows how crowded, chaotic and maddening the tourist crowds can be. But unlike Times Square where you can quickly go see it and escape, you’ll want to spend a few hours at the Vatican. And if you want to see the Sistine Chapel, you WILL be spending a few hours at the Vatican because like IKEA, you have to go through the entire museum just to see the chapel. Jeremy and I assumed that since this was the Vatican that they would limit the lines, that people would be respectful and there wouldn’t be a selfie-stick anywhere in sight. It was the exact opposite! We had a ticket with a reservation at 11:30AM and it was like going to Times Square, it was wall-to-wall people, 100’s of tour groups each with 30 people (the ones who claim you “skip the lines”) and unfortunately a lack of respect for the rules. Being shoulder-to-shoulder with so many people in both galleries and hallways made it tough to move throughout the exhibits and sadly, very tough to enjoy the Vatican. The worst were the tourists who had to get a selfie with everything, and were very unaware of where their selfie-sticks were pointing. In the end, it was so miserable that we walked as quickly through the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel as quickly as possible, and even that took us over 5 in-a-half hours.
3) Pay the extra money for a private morning tour
We wish we had done this! This was what a local recommended, and we most definitely wish we had. Again it’s a little more expensive, but actually being able to enjoy the museum without a selfie stick threatening to poke your eye out and behind shoulder-to-shoulder to people in the Sistine Chapel is entirely worth it.
The Vatican doesn’t always sell early admission, tickets, so here are a few resources below depending on what time of year you’re traveling.
Early Entrance to the Museums and Breakfast
- April 13 – October 24 (7:00AM)
- October 26 – December 28 (7:15AM)
- $65 euro (directly through the Vatican website)
Early Entrance to the Museum and Breakfast for the World Tourism Day
- September 27, 2016 (7:00AM)
- $49 euro (directly through the Vatican website)
Private Guided Tour
- If a private tour is more your thing, this company does 8AM entrances
4) Don’t do this as part of a full-day tour
You’ll spend most of your day at the Vatican if you do this, and you’ll miss out on all of the other amazing sites in Rome. Take a half-day and pay the extra money for early entrance into the Vatican.