One of the most highly trafficked tourist destinations in Rome, attracting more than 20,000 tourists a day in summertime, go ahead and budget for a Vatican splurge. Instead of throwing elbows in the Sistine Chapel, throw some money at the problem with pre-booked Vatican tours. You’ll consider it the best splurge of your trip. That said, prepare yourself now — before you click those juicy tour links below — for the high price tag. As the old saying goes: If you have to ask what it costs, then it’s probably too much.
1. Go Early
One way to see the Vatican without the crowds is to book Vatican tours before it actually opens to the public.
With the Waking up the Vatican guided tour, you’ll get a VIP tour before the doors officially open. The tour takes you through the Vatican with a small group, led by an official Vatican key-keeper who is literally turning on the lights with you. You’ll see the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and the Gallery of the Maps before the crowds come pouring in.
If you prefer a more private experience, you can book the Early Entry with Breakfast option. This tour starts with an American-style buffet breakfast at the Courtyard of the Pine Cone. Then, you will be free to tour the Vatican without a guide before it officially opens to the public.
2. Go Late
Another way to avoid the crowds is to visit the Vatican after hours.
Vatican Night Tours allow you to visit the museums and Sistine Chapel after closing time with a small group, led by a guide. This tour also includes Raphael’s Rooms, the Galleries of the Tapestries and the Candelabra and the Hall of Maps.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Vatican Night Openings. This allows you to visit with a group after closing time on select dates. This is a unique tour experience because, in addition to the tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel, you’ll be treated to a concert!
3. Go Rogue
There are other Vatican tour options that allow you to see things that aren’t part of a typical tour.
For example, the Hidden Museums tour showcases sights such as the Niccoline Chapel and Bramante Staircase that are usually closed to the public. This is a guided tour, so you’ll learn a lot about the Vatican while touring these restricted areas.
You could also book the Vatican Off-Limits tour. This tour is similar to the after-hours options, with one important addition: 30 minutes in the Sistine Chapel with just your tour group, and no one else. This is a great opportunity to view one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations without the crowds.