How To Visit Vatican City

Explore the world's smallest country in the heart of Rome, Vatican City.
Written By: Andrea Spallanzani
Reviewed by: Rick Orford
How & Why We Created This Article

This article has been written, reviewed, and fact-checked by Rick and I. We live in Italy and travel throughout the country to help you make the best choices for your trip. We wrote this piece because we want to ensure you have the best trip possible on your next trip to Italy. Portions of this article have been written using assistive AI tools to help with tasks like research, spell-checking, grammar, and translation.

Last Updated March 22, 2024

In this article, you'll learn how:

  • Vatican City is the smallest independent country in the world. It is in Rome and has its own post office, train station, and currency.
  • To visit Vatican City, you can walk from various locations in Rome, take the metro, a bus, or a taxi.
  • The main attractions in Vatican City that are open to the public are Saint Peter's Square, Saint Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museums, which have the Sistine Chapel.

Are you looking to visit Vatican City but don’t know how to get there? We wrote this article because even though we’ve visited the Vatican city several times, we realize that time is usually short, and we want you to make the most of your trip.

In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about Vatican City, the smallest country in the world.

What is Vatican City? 

Vatican City is an independent country that was founded in 1929. The head of state is the Pope. It is located in Rome, on the west bank of the river Tiber. Also, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. It is only 856m long (or 946 yards) and 741 meters wide (781 yards). To put dimensions into perspective, Central Park in New York City is almost seven times bigger!

Almost all of the country is surrounded by ancient walls. 

Vatican City has its own post office, train station, radio, and its own bank. The total population is just 618 people and is visited by over 5 million tourists every year! Vatican City also has its own police and army – the Famous Swiss guards. 

The currency in Vatican City is the Euro. The official language is Italian, but at the Vatican Museums, all the signs are in many different languages.

LocationRome, Italy
Official LanguageItalian
PopulationApproximately 618 people
Head of StatePope
Size856 meters long, 741 meters wide
Transportation Options– Walking from various locations in Rome- Metro (Ottaviano station)- Bus (Routes 81 and 64)- Taxi (subject to traffic conditions)
Must-Visit Landmarks– Saint Peter’s Square- Saint Peter’s Basilica- Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
Dress Code for BasilicaModest attire, covering shoulders and knees
Vatican Museums TicketsPurchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines
Recommended Visit TimeSeveral hours to explore all public landmarks
Passport RequirementsNo passport is required to enter the Vatican City
Guided ToursConsider guided tours for a deeper experience and historical insights

How to get to the Vatican City

To get to Vatican City, you have to go to Rome first. From Rome city center you have a few options to get to the Vatican city, the first one is walking. You can walk from the Pantheon to Vatican city in only 20 minutes. From the Colosseum, you can walk to the Vatican in 45 minutes. From the Spanish Steps, it is about a 30-minute walk. And, from the Trevi fountain, it is also a 30 minutes walk. If you’re staying in Rome, the Vatican is very accessible. 

The second option is by Metro. On line A, the closest metro station to the Vatican is the Ottaviano station. And from Ottaviano station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Vatican. From Termini train station, it takes about 20 minutes by subway to get to Ottaviano. While from the Spanish Steps, it takes about 17 minutes by subway to get to Ottaviano. 

If you prefer, you can also take a bus. From the Colosseum, there is also a bus number 81 that takes you to the Vatican City in about 50 minutes, while from the Termini Station, the bus to the Vatican City is number 64, which takes you to the Vatican City in about 40 minutes. 

Lastly, you can take a taxi, there are over 7,800 taxis in Rome so it shouldn’t be an issue, however, it might take some time during rush hours because of traffic. 

What can I see In Vatican City?

What can you see at the Vatican City? Well, most of the country is closed to the public.

There are only three areas that are open to the public:

  • Saint Peter’s Square
  • Saint Peter’s Basilica
  • The Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel and the Paul the Sixth auditorium.

All the other areas are accessible by invitation or special permit, and they are guarded, so you can not walk into them freely.

Saint Peter’s Square

The most famous Vatican Landmarks to visit are Saint Peter’s Square and Saint Peter’s Basilica. Once in the square, you can cross the border (actually, you can take the famous photo with one foot in Italy and one in the Vatican like I am doing in the photo below) and visit the Basilica.

The Basilica is free to enter, and you can visit it alone. It’s so huge that it can hold up to 60,000 standing people. Also, the crypt, or Vatican Grotto, where the tombs of the last popes are, is free. If you want to visit the treasure or climb to the top of the dome, you must buy the tickets.

Climbing the dome costs 10 euros – taking the elevator and climbing 320 steps. Or you can pay 8 euros and climb all 551 steps.

For the treasure, the ticket costs 6 euros.

The treasure is a collection of precious artifacts made of gold or silver, most of them with precious stones.

Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

The second Vatican Landmark that is open to the public in Vatican City, is the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums are not free, you will need a ticket to get in.

The Vatican Museums are among the most famous museums in the world, and they are visited by millions of tourists each year. So as you can imagine they are really busy! For this reason, we strongly recommend you buy your tickets in advance to skip the very, very long lines at the entrance.

According to our research, the Vatican Museums hold an expansive collection of approximately 70,000 pieces, comprised of eminent Roman sculptures and Renaissance masterpieces accumulated by the Catholic Church and papacy through the ages. Out of these, a subset of 20,000 works are exhibited publicly.

The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on the north side of Vatican City, on Viale Vaticano. Two metro stations close to the Vatican Museums entrance are approximately the same distance from the ticket office; these are Ottaviano and Cipro, both on Line A. 

The museums are massive, and they can be overwhelming. It is almost impossible to see everything. For this reason, we recommend you take a guided tour to see the most important areas. One thing to know is that the Museums do not have AC so in the middle of summer they can be really hot. I recall visiting here in 2016, and feeling faint due to the heat. Now, I always travel with water!

For this reason it would be better to plan a visit either early in the morning or at night.

To visit the Sistine Chapel, you have to go through the Vatican Museums, and the visit of the Chapel is included in the same ticket. Once you arrive at the chapel, you must remember that taking photos is not permitted. Also, the chapel is usually packed with tourists admiring Michelangelo’s masterpiece. For this reason, you won’t have a huge amount of time inside. 

Rick getting inside the Sistine Chapel

From the Vatican Museums, you can have a glimpse of the Vatican gardens. These beautiful gardens are close to the public.

Paul The Sixth Audience Hall

The last place in Vatican City you can visit is the Paul the Six Audience Hall, but you can only visit this during a Papal audience. These are held every Wednesday when the Pope is in town.

In Saint Peter’s Square, you can visit the post office and send your friends or family a postcard with the Vatican Stamp. 

Also, almost every Sunday at noon, the Pope does the blessing from the window in Saint Peter’s square. So if you want to see the Pope, this is a great opportunity.

How Long Does It Take to Visit Vatican City?

You will need several hours to visit all the Vatican Landmarks accessible to the public. First, to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, you will have to consider that you have to go through the metal detector and the security check, the line to do this step can be long. Once inside the Basilica, you will need at least one hour to see all the incredible artifacts, such as the Michelangelo Pieta or the Bernini Altar. Also, if you want to climb the dome, you will need another hour or more to climb all the stairs.

You will need several hours to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. The first thing to consider is to buy the ticket in advance. You can buy your ticket at the door, but the line to do so can be incredibly long, and you can waste more than an hour just waiting in line. Once inside the museums, you will have to plan at least 3 to four hours for your visit. 

If you are visiting Rome in one day, you won’t have enough time to visit the Vatican Museums. 

What do I Need to Visit Vatican City?

First, you do not need a passport to visit Vatican City. There are no border checks to enter Vatican City.

To visit Saint Peter’s Basilica, you must consider the dress code. It is mandatory to wear clothes that cover the shoulders and knees. So no tank top or skimpy shorts. Also, you will need to go through the security check and metal detector so you might experience some very long lines for these, especially in peak season. 

If this is your first time in Vatican City, you might consider a guided tour of the Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine chapel. Doing this, you will have a much better understanding of the masterpieces. Also, the guide will tell you all about the history of what you are seeing.

We hope you enjoyed this article about Vatican City; we hope it will inspire you to visit the smallest country in the world during your stay in Rome.