A tour of the Vatican is an incredible experience that should not be missed. From the world-famous art collection to the breathtaking architecture, there is so much to see and learn about at the Vatican.
A Quick History of the Vatican
The history of the Vatican started in the 4th century when a basilica was constructed over St. Peter’s grave. It was then that people came from afar to visit the Saint’s grave. For a short time, between 1309 and 1377 the papal court was moved to France and the area was shortly abandoned. However, in 1377 the Church returned to the area, and it was then that many of the famous Vatican sights were constructed like the Sistine Chapel and the new St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1929 the Vatican became its own sovereign state and dismissed itself from Italy’s dependency. Vatican City is the smallest nation-state at less than half a square kilometer.
Famous Landmarks in Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica
The St. Peter’s Basilica that we know today was built in the 16th century. It is known to be the burial site for St. Peter, who was one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles and said to be named the first Pope.
Dome of St. Peter
Within St. Peter’s Basilica is the Cupola di San Pietro, or Dome of St. Peter. Visitors can make their way up to the dome via stairs or elevator to get an amazing 360-degree view of Vatican City.
The Pietà is a famous sculpture within St. Peter’s Basilica. The sculpture was created by Michelangelo Buonarroti, who also designed the dome. The sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary holding the limp body of Jesus after he was taken down from the cross.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is situated in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica. From the square, visitors can view the impressive 284 columns and the 140 statues of saints above the columns.
The Vatican Museum houses some of the world’s most famous pieces of art. The museum opened in 1503 when Pope Julius II gave his private collection for the public to view. Since then, many other popes and private families have contributed to the collection of artworks found in the Vatican Museum. Within the museum, there are over fifteen smaller museum collections. These include the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Gallery of the Chandeliers, the Gallery of Maps, the Egyptian Museum, the Raphael Rooms, and so many more.
The Vatican Gardens make up one-third of Vatican City. These spectacular gardens were drawn up by Donato Bramante, who was one of the designers for St. Peter’s Basilica. The gardens include English, French, and Italian Renaissance styles. Some of the most famous landmarks around the gardens include the Lourdes Grotto, the Papal Coat of Arms, the 12th century Gardener’s Lodge, the 16th century Stain John’s Tower, and the Palazza di Leone XIII. Only a select few are allowed in the gardens on any given day. The only way to visit is to book a tour. That is where City Experiences comes in!
The Sistine Chapel was built between 1473 and 1481 and is most famous for its frescoes painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The main subjects of the paintings are divided into three sections: The Creations of the Heavens and Earth, The Creations of Adam and Eve, and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, with the most famous probably being The Creation of Adam and The Deluge.
What are the Best Vatican Tours by City Experiences?
Both the The Complete Vatican Tour with Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel and the Pristine Sistine Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour take visitors on a tour of the Vatican Museum and all of the must-see sights. Each group visits the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, Gallery of Maps, Gallery of Tapestries, Belvedere Courtyard, and so much more. The Pristine Sistine Early Entrance tour is a bit more intimate, granting visitors access into the museum before it opens its door
St. Peter’s Basilica from Top to Bottom with Dome Climb and Crypt is another must do Vatican Tour. Visitors will be in awe as they climb up to St. Peter’s Basilica dome to get one of the best views of Rome. The tour starts early, so crowds are minimal as visitors get a guided tour of the church, dome, and the Papal Crypt.
If you want more of an all-inclusive tour of the Vatican, then the Vatican Highlights Tour with St. Peter’s Dome Climb is the perfect option. Guests can visit St. Peter’s Dome, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel.
For more of a unique Vatican tour, visitors can join the Vatican Museums Night Tour with Sistine Chapel or Inside the Vatican After Hours: Sistine Chapel, Museums, and Aperitivo. Each of these Vatican tours take guests inside the Vatican after hours when the crowds are smaller.
For the ultimate experience, join the Key Master’s Tour: Open the Sistine Chapel. Live like the Pope and join the Vatican’s Key Master while they open the museum for the day. Get full access to the Vatican Museum for two hours before it opens to the public. Guests on this tour will be able to view the galleries with a tour guide and a small group. Visitors will be able to follow behind the Key Master as they unlock and tour on the lights to the different galleries. This is a once in a lifetime experience to, quite literally, turn on the lights to the Sistine Chapel! Guests will be able to step inside a dark Sistine Chapel and watch Michelangelo’s masterpiece come to life with the flick of a light. Guests will also be able to visit the Raphael Rooms, which have frescoes that are normally only seen by art historians. A few other sites that guests will visit and learn about are the Belvedere Courtyard, the Octagonal Courtyard, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Gallery of Maps, and the Gallery of Tapestries. At the end of the tour guests can continue exploring on their own for as long as they would like.
How Long Does it Take to Tour Vatican City?
The Vatican City can easily be explored in one full day. Booking a Vatican tour early will ensure guests that they can get into each of the main attractions, including the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel.