No trip to Rome is complete without venturing across the border to explore the magnificence of the Vatican City. The Vatican Museums stretch an incredible 4.5 miles in length. Make sure you don’t miss any of the best bits with this guide to the top 7 sights to see on your tour of the Vatican.
The Pinecone Courtyard
Designed by world-famous architect Donato Bramante, the Pinecone Courtyard is a must-see on any tour of the Vatican. The Courtyard is named after the giant bronze pinecone statue that adorns the front wall of the courtyard. This impressive pinecone statue, which stands almost 4 metres tall, was created during Ancient Roman times, when it was used as a water fountain and stood outside the Pantheon in Rome’s city centre. The courtyard and pinecone are not to be missed on your visit to the Vatican, offering visitors a fascinating insight into the glory of Ancient Rome and the power of the Catholic Church. Make your Vatican experience even more memorable with a buffet breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard on our VIP Vatican Breakfast tour.
The Vatican Gardens
The Gardens are one of the Vatican’s hidden gems. Less chaotic but equally as beautiful as the museums, the Vatican gardens invite travellers to explore another side to the Vatican City. Covering over half of the Vatican State and adorned with over 100 water fountains, these breath-taking gardens boast stunning views of St. Peter’s Basilica and offer a completely different experience to a traditional Vatican tour. Access to the gardens is limited to specific tour groups. Join us on our Complete Vatican VIP Experience: Museums, Sistine Chapel, Breakfast and Gardens or our Complete Full Day Papal Experience to explore these magnificent gardens with an expert guide.
Gallery of Maps
Words can’t describe the beauty of the Gallery of Maps, but we’ll try anyway! This golden corridor is adorned by 40 frescoes of maps, detailing the Italian regions that existed during the time of Pope Gregory XIII. The Gallery of Maps offers visitors a history lesson and a geography class all in one place and must-see on any Vatican tour. This picture-perfect corridor is a great place to take some photos on your way to the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel is at the top of most visitors’ itinerary to the Vatican. And it’s easy to see why. Adorned floor to ceiling with stunning frescos depicting biblical scenes from the Last Judgement to Noah’s Ark, the Sistine Chapel is a place of worship for devote Christian and art lovers alike. Taking photos in the Chapel is prohibited but that’s ok, photos will fade but your memories of Michelangelo’s miraculous works of art will stay with you for a lifetime. Speaking is also forbidden in the Chapel but if you take a Sistine Chapel tour with City Wonders your expert guide will tell you everything you need to know about this world-famous chapel, and the artist who created it, before you enter. During busy times the Chapel can get a little crowded but with our exclusive Vatican partnership you can experience it without the crowds on our Sistine Chapel Tour Before Opening Hours.
The world-famous Bramante Staircase was built in 1505 to a design by Donato Bramante. Its innovative double-helix spiral shape connects the Vatican’s Belvedere Palace to the city of Rome below. The stairwell which was commissioned by Pope Julius II inspired Giuseppe Momo’s equally impressive 1930s staircase, located at the exit of the Vatican museums. Even today many visitors to the Vatican museums get these two staircases mixed-up! The original stairwell was built to so that the Pope’s horse and carriage could carry him upstairs to his private quarters but these days the spiral incline is a favorite spot to enjoy some insta-worthy views of Rome’s cityscape. This magnificent staircase is usually closed to the public but guests on our Extended Vatican Museums tour are invited to slip behind the velvet ropes to visit the much-coveted helical Bramante Staircase.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is a must-see for any tour of the Vatican. Towering an incredible 448 feet tall, the Basilica’s dome is so high that you could stand the Statue of Liberty, torch and all, inside it! Bejewelled with dazzling mosaics, so intricate that you would be forgiven for thinking that they are paintings, and a bronze canopy designed by Bernini, standing 10 storeys tall, the Basilica is a fete of architectural genius and artistic wonder. The church’s structure, its dome and its artwork will leave you awe-struck. The Basilica stretches an incredible 480 feet in length so even on the Vatican’s busiest days it doesn’t feel overcrowded. Don’t forget to rub the feet of the statue of St. Peter on your visit to the Basilica for good luck on your onward journey.
St. Peter’s Square
If your own feet aren’t too tired after all that sightseeing, we recommend climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome to appreciate the geometry and beauty of St. Peter’s Square from above. 551 steps in total, climbing the dome is no easy task but you can save your feet a little if you opt to get the elevator the first 320 steps and climb the remainder. During busy spells the lines for the elevator can be very long so if you have the energy the stairs might end up being the faster option. We promise the view from the top will be worth every step. Offering one of the best viewpoints of the city of Rome and the most stunning panoramas of St. Peter’s Square, we highly recommend climbing the dome on your visit to the Vatican.
To make the most of your visit the Vatican join one of our top-rated Vatican tours and explore these magnificent museums with an expert guide.