What to see in the Vatican Museums: timetables, prices and advice

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Founded by Pope Julius II in the sixteenth century, the Vatican Museums are the most visited in Italy, with over 18 million visitors every year, it is one of the largest collections of works of art in the world. With its 70.000 objects exhibited in an area of ​​approximately 42.000 square meters, they need careful planning so as not to lose anything. So here it is what to see in the Vatican Museums some useful tips for visiting them.


  1. What to see and how to visit the Vatican Museums
  2. Museums
  3. Galleries of the Vatican Palaces
  4. The Chapels of the Vatican Palaces
  5. Halls and Rooms of the Vatican Palaces
  6. Sistine Chapel
  7. Raphael rooms
  8. Pio Clementino Museum
  9. Gregorian Egyptian Museum
  10. picture gallery
  11. Contemporary Art Collection
  12. Ethnological Museum
  13. Chapel of San Pietro Martire
  14. The Gallery of Geographical Maps
  15. The helical staircase
  16. Hours and prices
  17. Online tickets and guided tours
  18. User questions and comments

What to see and how to visit the Vatican Museums

Composed of masterpieces spread over 7 km, the Vatican Museums are composed, as the name suggests, by a set of buildings divided in turn between museums and Vatican palaces. Inside they house numerous works of inestimable value, belonging to different historical periods: from the medieval period, such as the Stefaneschi Polyptych by Giotto, to the Renaissance period, such as the Deposition by Caravaggio.


  • Vatican picture gallery
  • Modern religious art collection
  • Pio-Clementino Museum
  • Missionary-ethnological museum
  • Egyptian Gregorian Museum
  • Gregorian Etruscan Museum
  • Pious Christian Museum
  • Gregorian Profane Museum
  • Philatelic and numismatic museum
  • Museums of the Vatican Apostolic Library
  • Chiaramonti Museum

Galleries of the Vatican Palaces

  • Galleria lapidaria
  • New Arm Gallery
  • Gallery of the Candelabra
  • Gallery of the Tapestries
  • Gallery of maps

The Chapels of the Vatican Palaces

  • Sistine Chapel
  • Niccolina Chapel
  • Urban VII's Chapel

Halls and Rooms of the Vatican Palaces

  • Room of the Brig
  • Apartment of St. Pius V
  • Sobieski room
  • Hall of the Immaculate Conception
  • Raphael rooms
  • Loggia of Raphael
  • Room of the Chiaroscuri
  • Borgia apartment
  • Rooms of the Greek Originals

Here are the 10 things to see absolutely.

1 - Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel needs no introduction. It takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere (pontiff from 1471 to 1484) who had the ancient Magna Chapel restored between 1477 and 1480. Frescoed by Michelangelo Buonarroti in almost 10 years of life, it is one of the absolute masterpieces of art of all time. In addition to Michelangelo's marvelous frescoes depicting the Creation of Adam and the Last Judgment, we also find works by Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli.

2 - Raphael's Rooms

The four rooms known as Raphael's were part of the private apartment of Pope Julius II della Rovere. The pictorial decoration was made by Raphael and his pupils between 1508 and 1524. The most famous is the Stanza della Segnatura, where it was in the private library of Julius II. Here are the frescoes dedicated to the four main disciplines of knowledge: the Disputation of the Sacrament (Theology), the School of Athens (Philosophy), Parnassus (Poetry) and Virtue and Law (Jurisprudence). In the Stanza di Eliodoro, created by Raphael between 1511 and 1514, the spiritual and temporal power of the Church is exalted. Two other rooms follow, the room of the Fire in the Borgo and the Sala di Costantino where the intervention of Raphael's students is more marked.

3 - Pio Clementino Museum

Original nucleus of the Vatican Museums, it takes its name from Clemente XIV Ganganelli (1769-1774) and Pio VI Braschi (1775-1799) who in the eighteenth century decided to transform the papal collection into a museum with an organic structure. Consisting of 12 rooms, it houses important sculptures from the Greek and Roman times. Among these is the Roman copy of a Greek bronze statue, the work of Lysippus, and considered the first all-round sculpture of Greek art. The famous Laocoon Group is located in the Octagonal Courtyard.

4 - Gregorian Egyptian Museum

Founded in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI, it extends over nine rooms, with a large hemicycle that opens towards the terrace of the "Nicchione della Pigna", where some sculptures are placed. The collection is particularly interesting for its relationship with the territory: it is in fact rich in material from Roman Egypt and Egyptizing Rome. In the last three rooms of the itinerary there are finds from the Ancient Near East.

5 - Picture gallery

It is located in the building built by the architect Luca Beltrami on the initiative of Pius XI. Arranged in eighteen rooms, organized chronologically, the building it houses about 460 masterpieces by the greatest artists in the history of Italian painting, including Giotto, Beato Angelico, Melozzo da Forlì, Perugino, Raphael, Leonardo, Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio and Crespi.

6 - Collection of Contemporary Art

Wanted by Pope Paul VI to reconnect the dialogue between the Church and contemporary culture, the collection covers a chronological span that goes from the end of the th century to the late th century. Among the 8.000 works divided into 9 rooms, including paintings, sculptures and graphics, many important names stand out including Van Gogh, Bacon, Chagall, Carrà, de Chirico, Manzù, Capogrossi, Fontana, Burri and Matisse.

7 - Ethnological Museum

It was born following the Vatican Exhibition organized by Pius IX in 1925. The collection is very varied, in fact it includes about 80.000 objects, from prehistoric finds from all over the world and dating back over two million years ago, to the gifts given to the current Pontiff; from the testimonies of the great Asian spiritual traditions, to those of pre-Columbian civilizations and Islam; from the productions of the African peoples to those of the inhabitants of Oceania and Australia, passing through those of the indigenous peoples of America. Currently the museum is divided into 2 distinct paths: the first, with works visible to the public and the second open only to those who request it.

8 - Chapel of San Pietro Martire

It was built between 1566 and 1570 by the will of St. Pius V. The stuccoes and frescoes that decorate it tell the stories of the homonymous saint and were made by Giorgio Vasari and the pupil Jacopo Zucchi. To the left of the altar are kept, in a glass case, the precious relics of the Sancta Sanctorum recovered in 1905 from a box belonging to Pope Leo III.

9 - The Gallery of Geographical Maps

120 meters long by 6 meters wide, it was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII. Forty geographical maps of the various regions of Italy are frescoed on the walls, each with a map of the main cities. At the end you have the perspective views of Venice, Ancona, Genoa and Civitavecchia, the main italian ports of the sixteenth century. On the ceiling there are paintings depicting some miraculous episodes placed in conjunction with the Italian region where they occurred.

10 - The helical staircase

A spectacular double-spiral helical spiral staircase, designed in 1932 by Giuseppe Momo. Its peculiar shape does not allow those who go down to meet those who go up and vice versa. It is said that the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright took inspiration from it to build that of the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Hours and prices

The ticket also includes a visit to the Sistine Chapel.

  • from 9:00 to 18:00 (last entry at 16:00). The Museums are closed on Sundays, with the exception of the last of each month, as long as it does not coincide with Easter, 8, 25 and 26 December, 1 and 6 January, 11 February, 19 March, 5 and 6 April, 1 May, June 29, August 15
  • € 17,00; if you book online you have a supplement of € 4,00 but you skip the long queues at the entrance
  • Reductions: the reduced ticket costs € 8,00. We recommend that you see all the possible reductions directly on the official website.
  • Free: the last Sunday of each month

Online tickets and guided tours

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Get up early: the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 8:00 am;
  2. Priority ticket: buy the ticket online with a supplement of € 4,00 to avoid the endless queues (buy priority entrance)
  3. Watch out for restrictions: dressing must be appropriate to the place and the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the Sistine Chapel.
  4. Minimum time: we recommend at least a full day to fully admire all the works present

Where is it and how to get there

  • On foot: from the center they can be reached in about 50 minutes, covering 5 km - Get directions
  • By bus: with bus n. 49 you arrive in front of the entrance to the Museums; with buses n. 32, 81, 982, you arrive at the terminus in Piazza del Risorgimento, a 5-minute walk from the Museum entrance; with buses n. 492, 990, go down to Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni and the entrance is a 5 minute walk
  • By metro: Line A, Cipro - Vatican Museums stop

Historical notes and curiosities

Pope Julius II della Rovere (1503-1513) created the first nucleus of the Vatican Museums in 1506 when, on the advice of Michelangelo Buonarroti and Giuliano da Sangallo, he bought the famous Laooconte Group, recently found in a vineyard in Rome. The statue was housed in the Courtyard of the Statues, today the Octagonal Courtyard, which became the home of an extraordinary collection of ancient sculptures. The goal was to revive the Rome of the Caesars in the Rome of the Popes.

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