Best time to visit Rome

Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) in Rome

Over the centuries, Popes have gathered the world's most outstanding collection of art treasures

Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani)
Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani)
Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani)

Vatican Museums are a series of Christian and art museums within the Vatican City. Over the centuries, the Popes gathered an immense collection of 70,000 works of art, and 20,000 of them are available for public observation. It's a place to discover some of the world's most prominent masterpieces of Renaissance art along with classical sculptures.

The museums were founded back in the early 16th century. The founder was Pope Julius II who brought the first marble statue to the public display. It was the statue of Laocoön and His Sons, depicting a Trojan priest with two sons being attacked by giant serpents. The Pope spotted the statue on January 14th in 1506 in one of the Roman vineyards—near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and immediately decided to buy it from the vineyard's owner. A month later it was exposed for the public in the Vatican. That's how it started.

Today, Vatican Museums consist of 54 galleries making it one of the world's largest museums. Some of the most brilliant ones are the Sistine Chapel, ornated by Michelangelo, and Stanze di Raffaello, featuring the art of Raphael.

Vatican Museums are one of the unmissable attractions on a trip to Rome. In 2017 for instance, they were visited by 6 million people and became the renowned as the world's 4th most visited art museum. Needless to say, it's always crowded, but particularly between March and mid-November. If you come during the peak season, make sure to buy your tickets online not to wait in the queues, or book a tour. The low season, late November through February, is much better (excluding Christmas and New Year's).

The attraction is open daily Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm with the last entry at 4 pm. Note that visitors are asked to leave 30 minutes before the closing time. Museums don't operate on Sundays, apart from the last Sunday of each month when they offer free entrance. Free Sundays are the most crowded. Moreover, the hours are limited to 9 am and 2 pm with the last admission at 12:30 pm. Saturdays are also crowded, as all the weekenders head to the Vatican. Therefore, it's better to choose a weekday. The best time to visit Vatican Museums is in afternoon, around 3 pm, when the crowds thin out. Also, note that on Wednesday, Vatican Museums may be closed till noon due to Papal Audience.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Vatican Museums?

The Vatican Museums are crowded from March to mid-November; therefore, late November through February is the best time to visit. Visiting during the low season ensures better weather and fewer crowds. It is better to choose a weekday to avoid weekenders and the last Sunday of each month when free entry is offered since it is the most crowded. Show more

Where can I buy tickets to Vatican Museums to avoid the queue?

To avoid queuing, it is recommended to purchase tickets online from the Vatican Museums' official website or a dependable tour agency. Buying online tickets will save time since lining up isn't required. However, note that on free Sundays, visitors will need to acquire tickets on-site, arriving early to line up at the front. Show more

What is the history behind the statue of Laocoön and His Sons?

Pope Julius II discovered the statue of Laocoön and His Sons in 1506 in one of the Roman vineyards close to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. It's believed to have been sculpted in the 1st century BC and is considered a masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture. The Pope acquired the sculpture and established the Vatican's art collection by putting it on public display. Show more

What are the most renowned galleries in Vatican Museums?

The Vatican Museums consist of 54 galleries with the Sistine Chapel and Stanze di Raffaello being the most famous. The Sistine Chapel features Michelangelo's artwork, while the Stanze di Raffaello showcases Raphael's art. The Pinacoteca, exhibiting Renaissance and medieval art, is also significant. The Gallery of Maps, which contains topographic maps of Italy created in the 16th century, is another gallery worth visiting. Show more

How can I avoid the crowds while visiting Vatican Museums?

Visiting Vatican Museums in the late afternoon at around 3 pm is the best way to reduce the crowds. It is also recommended to visit on a weekday instead of weekends and to avoid the most crowded days, such as the last Sunday of each month when free entry is offered. Furthermore, purchasing tickets online or via a reliable tour agency saves time and avoids lining up on-site. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) (Map)

Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin