No matter where you go in Rome or the Vatican, you’re not far from a Michelangelo masterpiece. Although the Pietà, Moses and Piazza del Campidoglio are worth your time, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes remain his most iconic works.
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Named after Pope Sixtus IV, the Sistine Chapel is now a part of the Vatican Museums. And it continues to serve as the pope’s private chapel. Amazingly, Michelangelo reluctantly accepted the frescoes commission because he felt his best work came as a sculptor. Luckily for the history of Western art, the Renaissance genius completed these Biblical frescoes between 1508-1512. Even today, the roughly five million annual tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel stand in awe under Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes and before his 1541 altar fresco The Last Judgment.
The Late Bird Sees the Finest Frescoes
Tourist crowds inundate the Sistine Chapel. In fact, once you get inside this chapel, it’s often difficult to fully enjoy Michelangelo’s masterwork. Why? Because you’ll be crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the chapel with other tourists. There is, however, one easy way you can enhance your Sistine Chapel experience for no added fee.
Everyone says the “early bird catches the worm,” but why not consider visiting the Sistine Chapel near closing time? One of the greatest benefits of visiting the Sistine Chapel late in the day is that you’ll get to see the frescoes without artificial lighting. That’s right, employees turn off the lights in the Sistine Chapel before closing. The frescoes practically jump off the ceiling. They appear quasi-3d! In other words, you’ll see the frescoes as they were intended to be seen. Relish these 10 minutes before museum staff kicks you out.
How To Visit The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is usually open Mondays through Saturdays from 9AM to 6PM (ticket counter closes at 4PM) and on the last Sunday of every month from 9AM to 2PM (ticket counter closes at 12:30PM). Please note, the Sistine Chapel closes on many important Catholic holidays. So always check the calendar online before visiting.
There are many different tickets you could purchase for the Vatican Museums. But the standard price for a non-EU resident at the door is €17 per person. Unfortunately, you can’t use a Roma Pass to enter the Vatican Museums. If you’re really cheap, keep in mind that the Vatican Museums are open for free on the last Sunday of every month…but you’d better be prepared to wait in a humungous line. Whichever ticket you choose, definitely book in advance. Read more about how to do that here.
The closest metro stop to the Sistine Chapel is the Cipro-Musei Vaticani. From this station, follow Via Cipro to Via Frà Albenzio and take a right onto Via Vittor Pisani. Take another right on Via Angelo Emo and a left on Via Vittor Pisani and stay on this road until you reach Viale Vaticano. Take a left on Viale Vaticano and you’ll soon reach the Vatican Museums. This walk is only about 10 minutes.