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Vatican Museums

A jaw-dropping Papal collection of art and artefacts.

TravelCurious Tip

Try to avoid visiting on Saturdays and Mondays when the museum is at its busiest, and buy skip-the-line tickets if you can.

Popes and pagans

The Vatican Museums are located behind St. Peter’s Square and comprise a complex of eight pontifical museums, filled with a breathtaking range of treasures. They began as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius in the early 16th century, and were among the earliest art collections to be made open to the public.

There is an abundance of ancient Roman sculpture – one of the largest collections in the world – depicting gods and Emperors (who often claimed to be gods) and many animals of religious or cult importance. It may seem strange that the Catholic Church has such a large collection of pagan icons, but many Popes have been attracted to Classical art and literature, particularly during the Renaissance.

All this, and Heaven too

The museums of course hold many ancient Christian artefacts, and there are sections dedicated to areas as diverse as Egyptian sarcophagi, Hebrew inscriptions, Chinese numismatics and Etruscan pottery. There is a bounty of paintings, statues, uniforms, frescoes, maps, mosaics (even micromosaics!) and tapestries - too much, in short, to see in one day.

Apart from all this, visitors wishing to see the spectacular Sistine Chapel can access it through the Vatican Museums. Beware, though - it gets extremely busy. You will find yourself shuffled along or slowed down with the movement of the swarming crowd. However, if you try early in the morning or later in the afternoon you will likely have a more leisurely experience.

It’s a good idea to join a tour group in order to get the most out of the galleries, as there are not many information points along the way - though there are many gift shops throughout the museum where you can buy information books and souvenirs. Refresh yourself with a cool drink in the peaceful Vatican Gardens at the end of your visit.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
St. Peter's Basilica
The most important church in the Catholic world, and without doubt the most impressive.
Sistine Chapel
The jewel in the Vatican's crown, adorned with a stunning fresco by Michelangelo.
Castel Sant'Angelo
The former tomb of the emperor Hadrian is now an imposing fortress full of Papal history.
St. Peter's Square
Designed by Bernini, St Peter's Square is a stunning colonnaded piazza leading up to St. Peter's Basilica.
St. Peter's Dome
The greatest dome in Christendom (and the largest in the world).
Lungotevere
The banks of the Tiber, or the Lungotevere, offer impressive views of Rome and are lined with drooping trees.

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  • Explore the Vatican Museums - home to some of the most renowned classical sculptures and masterpieces from the Renaissance. 
  • Enjoy a stroll through the impressive Belvedere Courtyard.
  • Marvel at some of the finest pieces of artwork at the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps.
  • Learn the history behind the impressive collection of sculptures, carvings, frescoes and paintings.
  • Skip-the-line and be mesmerized by Michelangelo’s two great frescoes at the Sistine Chapel – The Creation and the Last Judgement.
  • Immerse yourself in the hidden gems of the museums, exploring rooms which are closed to the public at all times. This includes the Room of the AnimalsGallery of Statues, and the Cabinet of Masks.
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Your comprehensive tour of Vatican Museums will whisk you through the entire complex. Begin with a stroll through the impressive Belvedere Courtyard, before exploring the many rooms and galleries of the museums. Explore the Gallery of Tapestries, the Gallery of Maps, and be mesmerised by Michelangelo’s great frescoes inside the Sistine Chapel. This VIP-style tour will also give travellers access to the hidden gems and secret rooms of the museum, which aren't typically open for public viewing. You will have exclusive access to the Room of the Animals, Gallery of Statues, and the Cabinet of the Masks. 
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