The Country Within a City
Vatican City (Rome, Italy)
Entrance from €15
For a county that has no airport, no roads open to the public or a public train, it may come as a surprise that the Vatican City plays host to 5 million tourists each year; with up to 20,000 visitors a day in queues north of four hours for a three hour visit.
Entry to the Vatican City can be done in a number of ways, each with varying levels of expense and certainty.
The first is by queuing up as general admission; an option which does not guarantee you entry to both St Peter’s Basilica as well as the Vatican Museum; or either on busier days. Your second choice is to pay for a tour guide (Price around €20-30 per person) who can pre-book a time slot for your admission ahead of your arrival. Now whilst this option may seem like a huge saving over the next option; it does come with a warning.
As your tour largely follows the general admission, it is only valid during open hours (9am-4pm) and with a three hour tour time, if you can’t get in before 1pm, there is a chance you may be expected to leave prematurely should your progress through the Vatican be slow.
The final option is therefore the recommended option; booking a skip the line tour.
Priced somewhat higher than the tour before with tickets starting at €40* per person on the Vatican’s official website and reaching up to €84pp on the day from a third party tour operator, the price you pay up front not only gives you access to the country within a country but allows you to stay should your tour take longer than 4pm.
*For some reason the Vatican proudfully charges €300pp for a wheelchair access private tour, so for our wheelchair reliant readers, this review is subject to your own discretion and personal finances.
Once you have gained entry into Vatican City,
The biggest worry inducing headache should be over as you can either mindlessly meander the grounds or listen and follow your tour guide with intent.
These two approaches do come with drastic differences in how you spend time here.
You see, whilst Vatican City is best known for being home to the Pope and the works of Michelangelo, it is far more than just a stately home for the Catholic church's most important person.
Encompassed on this 0.17 square mile estate-cum-country-cum-city state; are thousands of ancient documents, paintings, sculptures, tapestries & other historical tales for you to peruse and enjoy; much of which is too big to fit into the frame of your shot.
And suddenly ‘the Vatican’ makes sense as a visitable destination for the non-catholic; though much of these historical gems will be missed should your visit go without a guide.
Of course, your four-or-so hour visit has some standout moments; the Sistine Chapel being one of them as well as the Basilica. However, because the Vatican has so many monumental gems, some outstanding features easily get overlooked; the Papal grounds/garden being one of them as well as the view through a window over Rome.
Yet whilst I strongly encourage you to take a guided tour, there is one thing a guide does not allow you to do: stop and eat.
Whilst this may be a small price to pay for an excellent afternoon, for those hoping to dig into their packed lunch or give the Café a try, I would strongly recommend having lunch first and leaving everything but the water bottle back at the Hotel.
- Incredible sights to see & experience.
- A great way to spend a full day.
- With a tour guide, you won't miss anything.
- You can take part in learning about a rich history.
- Vastly different price points make it difficult to budget for.
- The cheapest way to get in means queuing up several hours before the gates open.
- Not many opportunities to stop and eat or drink at.
- Exceptionally busy - if you don't like crowded places this is a hard no.
- You'll have to put up with tour guides trying to solicit your attention at the road side.
- Advanced booking is highly recommended.