The best time to visit the Vatican City: our tips on to avoid the queue
Millions of people stream into the Vatican every year, drawn by the wonderful art in the Vatican Museums, the stunning St Peter’s Square and Basilica and the chance of catching a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the Pope himself.
It’s to be expected therefore that in the peak summer season it is sometimes possible to experience queues of up to 2 hours at the Vatican, but if you pick your visit slot and season wisely you can minimise the impact of the lines.
The Vatican is stuffed with wonderful attractions and as a result it’s always busy in the Vatican City – but read on to discover the best time to visit the Vatican City, as well as information on Vatican opening times and other useful hints…..
Best Time to visit the Vatican
Our list of tips on when to visit the Vatican to avoid the crowds:
Visit on a Tuesday or Thursday
o Wednesdays are crowded with those wishing to grab an audience with the Pope who then set out to explore the museums.
o HOWEVER if you are not interested in seeing the Pope then Wednesday’s are actually the perfect time to visit the Vatican Museums in the morning whilst the crowds are trying to catch a glimpse of the pontiff.
o Fridays and Mondays are more likely to be crowded with those in Rome on a long weekend still exploring the sights
o Weekends, if your schedule allows for it, are best avoided. On Sundays, the museums are closed, apart from the last Sunday in the month when they are open for free and are absolutely stuffed with visitors!
Visit in the afternoon
o A large number of tour buses and groups descend on the Vatican in the morning at around 9am and head straight for the Vatican Museum queues. It’s not uncommon for five or six buses with 50+ tourists each to spill into the queue before your eyes
o Queues for the Vatican Museums, although still long, are much more manageable in the afternoon as the tours head on to other attractions in Rome later in the day
o St Peter’s Basilica is noticeably lighter on crowds late in the day, and its vast space means that there is plenty of room to explore its’ gorgeous surroundings
Best Season to visit the Vatican
Avoid summer if you can
o Hot temperatures of Rome in summer make queuing particularly uncomfortable, especially if you are travelling with children or elderly relatives
o Summer tourists from all over Europe descend at popular attractions in Rome and the Vatican with their children during the school holidays
o Prices for hotels are at their peak and demand is high resulting in limited choice
Likewise, avoid Christmas
o Despite being a magical time in the Vatican, Jesus’ birthday and the period immediately after is a prime time to visit the Vatican for the faithful, so avoid if possible
Visit in the Vatican’s off season
o October and November are great months to visit the Vatican
o Temperatures are cool and hotel prices are lower than in the summer months
o Crowds are less dense during this period
The Vatican’s most important events for visitors
o A lovely time to visit the Vatican, if a little crowded.
o Re-enactments and cross processions
o Pope addresses crowd in Saint Peter’s Basilica (broadcast also in Saint Peter’s Square)
o Singing groups perform in Saint Peter’s Basilica every summer. Enjoy this experience in one of the most stunning choral venues in the world!
Christmas and New Year
o Midnight Mass held on Christmas Eve is a spectacular experience
o Christmas day mass held by the Pope (broadcast also in Saint Peter’s Square)
o Festive decorations in Saint Peter’s Square including a Christmas tree and nativity scene
o New Year’s Day mass held by the Pope (broadcast also in Saint Peter’s Square)
Vatican Opening Hours
Check out our comprehensive list of Vatican Opening Times in order to help you plan your trip!
o The museums are closed every Sunday, apart from the last Sunday in the month when they are open free to the public between the hours of 9am and 2pm
o Open Monday until Saturday 9am-6pm
o Located within the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel maintains the same opening hours as the museum exhibitions. Sundays closed, with free access on the last Sunday of the month
Saint Peter’s Basilica
o Open daily, even during Sunday Museum closures
o April to September open 7am to 7pm
o October to March open 7am to 6pm
Special Vatican Opening Times
Does queuing get you down? Never fear, there are a few options available for those with limited time or patience for hour long queues!
Special Night Openings
From April until October the Vatican Museums are opened at night on Fridays from 7pm until 11pm. A great way to visit the museums under a unique atmosphere, the crowds are dispersed and you can enjoy a side of the Vatican rarely seen by the masses of tour bus visitors that arrive during the day!
Early Morning Visits
A number of tour companies offer special skip the line queues for the Vatican and guarantee early morning entry before the swarms of tourists arrive. This early entry is only for those with a pre-booked guided tour, so book online before you travel in order to skip the queues and the crowds in the Vatican Museums.
Conclusion on the best time to visit the Vatican
We hope you enjoy your visit to the Vatican City. With the use of these helpful hints and tips we are sure you will be able to pass through the attractions in comfort and with minimal fuss!
Our ultimate recommendation – book your skip the line tickets before you travel for greater peace of mind and to ensure you are not wasting half your day in a queue unnecessarily!