One of the most visited attractions in Rome, the Sistine Chapel is often crowded, with people turning out in droves to see the magnificent frescoes of Michelangelo’s ceiling.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting that crown jewel of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel.
What should you expect when visiting the Sistine Chapel?
For security purposes, you’ll be checked with a metal detector upon arrival and required to leave anything inadmissible—luggage, backpacks, knives, scissors, umbrellas, tripods, and other camera stands—in the free cloakroom.
Inside the Sistine Chapel, visitors are expected to be quiet and respectful. Eating, drinking, and photography are not permitted.
What’s the best time to visit the Sistine Chapel?
The Sistine Chapel is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 9:00am to 6:00pm, with final entry at 4:00pm. On the last Sunday of the month, it’s open from 9:00am to 2:00pm, with final entry at 12:30pm.
As with many highly popular attractions, the best times to visit the Sistine Chapel are early in the morning or shortly before closing, when the crowds either haven’t yet descended or have begun to thin out. Weekdays are less busy than weekends. Just keep in mind that you’ll be asked to leave 30 minutes before closing time and plan accordingly.
If you’re an early bird, consider taking the Key Master’s Tour, which accompanies the Vatican’s real-life Key Master as they open the museums for the day. On this small-group tour, you’ll watch the lights go on in the Sistine Chapel—a spine-tingling sight—and have the rest of the premises to yourselves for two hours.
Beginning in the Raphael Rooms before proceeding on to the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica (by secret passage, no less!), and the galleries of the Vatican Museums, the Pristine Sistine tour is perfect for the first-time visitor. Another small-group tour, it’s led by an expert art historian guide and includes skip-the-line access at St. Peter’s Basilica.
If an aperitivo is more your speed, the Inside the Vatican After Hours tour might be a better option. You’ll skip the line outside and make your way through the main galleries, including the Raphael Rooms, the Octagonal courtyard, and the Gallery of Maps. Then as the rest of the museums’ visitors trickle out the door, you’ll head to the Sistine Chapel, where you can take in Michelangelo’s masterpiece with room to breathe.
When is the Sistine Chapel less crowded?
Vatican City may be its own separate entity, but its tides of visitors are synced to Rome’s. If you visit during the Eternal City’s busy season, expect to wait on line to enter, and to jostle for elbow room once you’re inside the Sistine Chapel.
For a less crowded experience, avoid major holidays, like Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s, and stick to the wetter, cooler months; peak season in Rome tends to be between early spring and early fall.
How much does it cost to visit the Sistine Chapel?
A full-entry ticket to the Vatican Museums—which includes entrance to the Sistine Chapel—costs €17; skip the line tickets are an extra €4. Ticket prices are reduced to €8 for students ages 25 and under, children ages 6 to 18, and priests and other religious figures. Sistine Chapel tickets are available on the Vatican Museums’ official website.
Is the Sistine Chapel ever free to visit?
Yes! The Vatican Museums—and by extension the Sistine Chapel—are free on the last Sunday of the month, as long as that date doesn’t conflict with a holiday closure. Children under age six get free admission anytime, as do disabled visitors and their companions.
What should you wear when visiting the Sistine Chapel?
Whether you’re taking a guided tour or visiting the Sistine Chapel on your own, you can be turned away at the door if you’re wearing anything deemed inappropriate. That includes hats, sleeveless or low-cut tops, and hemlines that fall above the knee, so stick with modest clothing.
If you have tattoos, you might want to cover up before entering the sacred space. Anything that might “offend Catholic morality, the Catholic religion and common decency” is strictly forbidden.
What is the best way to see the Sistine Chapel?
While it’s possible to visit the Sistine Chapel solo, taking a guided tour will help you discover the nuances and hidden details of Michelangelo’s famous masterpiece located inside.
For a deep-dive into Vatican City and its major sites under the tutelage of an expert Walks of Italy tour guide, our Complete Vatican Tour will make you an expert in no time. In addition to skipping the line at the Vatican Museums and heading through the galleries on a route specifically designed to hit the highlights, you’ll visit the Sistine Chapel in a group no larger than 20 people.
If you’d rather balance your time at the Sistine Chapel with seeing Rome’s other famous sites, the City Experiences Rome in A Day Tour visits the Vatican, the Colosseum, and Rome’s historic center. This full-day excursion offers express entrance to the Colosseum, skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums, stops at the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona, and, of course, time admiring the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
How long does it take to visit the Sistine Chapel?
You can spend as little as half an hour or half a day at the Sistine Chapel—once you’re inside, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want. You can visit both the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s without paying extra, and you’ll probably want to see the highlights of the Vatican Museums’ collections while you’re there too. Sistine Chapel tours are a good way to fit it all in.
If you have a solid chunk of time to spend, the City Experience’s Vatican Highlights Tour includes skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums and a ride in the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome elevator, plus a climb to the cupola if you’re so inclined. You’ll see Bernini’s Baldachin and Michelangelo’s Pieta before making your way to the tour’s final stop: the Sistine Chapel.