With Amelie, we wanted to book our tickets for the Vatican ten days before our trip to Rome. A very bad idea since all the single tickets were sold out. So, we settled on a tour with a French-speaking guide.
We are not usually fond of guided tours, but after our visit, we are convinced that this is the best way to really discover the Vatican.
How do I book a guided tour of the Vatican?
We booked our guided tour on the official Vatican website: museivaticani.va.
The tickets we bought were the “classic” guided tours: “Guided Tours for Individuals – Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel”.
In fact, there are also tickets with VIP experiences: reduced groups, entry before the opening to the rest of the public…
We chose the guided tour in French since it was available for our day. It is also possible to take tours in English, Italian or Spanish.
What is the price of a visit to the Vatican with a guide?
The price of a visit to the Vatican with a guide was €34/person.
This amount includes the non-optional rental of earphones (€1.50), the entrance to the Vatican (€17 ), the guide (€11.50 ), the reservation fee (€4).
Check out the current price on GetyourGuide.
How long does the guided tour of the Vatican last?
The planned time is 2 hours. Our guided tour lasted a little bit less, around 1h45.
You must arrive at least 15 minutes early to collect your ticket and pass through security.
Once the guided tour is over, you are free to move around the Vatican Museums for the rest of the day.
What is it like to arrive at the Vatican?
Our visit was scheduled for 9a.m. We arrived at 8:30. There are two lines before the entrance to the Vatican Museums: one for individuals, one for people going on guided tours. You must go to the second one, even if you are not in a group and don’t know your guide yet.
We waited for 10 minutes at this point before the staff let our line in. Then, you go through a security check like at the airport: your backpack is scanned and you pass through a metal detector.
Then you have a few directions, but you must go up the stairs. The second floor (or half floor because it is not very high) is the place for guided tours.
You give your “voucher” to the ticket office, the person looks for your name and gives you your tickets and another ticket to give to the guide.
On this ticket, you have the rallying point of your group. They are all around the ticket office. Go there 5 minutes before your guided tour departure time. Someone will take it, validate it, give you an earpiece and you wait for your guide.
The Vatican guided tour: the route taken
Our guide was Italian but spoke very good French. Our group consisted of about 20 people.
The guided tour of the Vatican began with the end. Indeed, on an interactive terminal, the guide explained to us the history and the paintings of the Sistine Chapel, the last thing you will see during your visit. It works like this because you have to stay silent in the chapel and the guide only accompanies you inside.
It’s interesting to listen to, but the speech may seem a bit long if you are not an art or history lover.
Once you have seen all the photos of the frescoes on the terminal, you set off. The guide holds a flag. Ours had tied a scarf around it to make it even more noticeable, but not all guides do this. It was very useful because she held it high and it made it possible to reach her more quickly, without losing sight of her for a long time.
Don’t forget that you are not going to be alone in the Vatican. To tell the truth, it was even very (too?) crowded, and we met several times people who had lost their guide…
The guided tour includes:
- The Pio-Clementino museum
- The Candelabra Gallery
- The Gallery of the Geographic Maps
- The Gallery of Tapestries
- Raphael’s rooms
- The Sistine Chapel.
The guide goes ahead of you in all the rooms and galleries, except the Sistine Chapel. Each time, the process is the same. She enters, tries to find a free space for the group to gather and explains the paintings, sculptures, mosaics…
As you are wearing an earpiece, you can hear her explanations despite the hubbub. A lot of information is given. You will surely do as we did and retain a small part of it, but without a guide, we would have missed a lot of things, especially with the crowd that stands at each place.
It is therefore very important to us to have a guide at the Vatican. We feel the same way about other visits like the Colosseum (which we unfortunately did without a guide). The tourist places in Rome are not generous with indications and often, you arrive in front of something beautiful, interesting but with no explanation. The guide is there to fill this gap.
Concerning the things you see during the visit of the Vatican, it is complicated to describe all of them because they are so numerous.
I loved Raphael rooms and the Candelabra Gallery, less the Gallery of Tapestries which, in order not to damage the works, is darker.
The Sistine Chapel, I was more mixed. You have all the information given by the guide two hours before your entry in the chapel. You get there after a dense and tiring visit (because you are constantly walking in the crowd). Then, once inside, the walls, the ceilings are magnificent, but you are parked like cattle, in the middle to observe, on the sides to advance.
It is thus difficult, despite the silence requested at the microphone and not respected, to have the necessary calm to observe each fresco by taking into account the indications of the guide. In conclusion, the chapel is a magnificent place in which, selfishly, we wish there were fewer tourists!
Here are some photos, among the hundred taken, of our visit:
The advantages of a guided Tour of the Vatican
- The Vatican, of course! You see centuries of art, history and works by the greatest artists of our civilization to discover.
- The guide is… indispensable! Without him (or her), you will miss a lot.
- The price is very reasonable for a guided tour.
The limits of a guided tour of the Vatican
- A very big crowd: noise, lack of space…
- The guided tour is only in a part of the Vatican museums.
- With your earpiece on, you listen to the guide, but can’t interact with him.
The rest of the tour is done without a guide: take your time
Your estimated 2-hour tour ends with your exit from the Sistine Chapel.
Once the tour was over, we stopped at a small pizzeria. Then, don’t do what we did. Make a list of everything you want to see and go looking for them. By going too fast, we missed the Etruscan Museum and the Egyptian museum.
On the other hand, we visited the Carriage Pavilion, the ethnological missionary Museum and the philatelic and numismatic museum, before exiting through a magnificent spiral staircase.