The Vatican City

Do I Need a Passport to Visit the Vatican City?

The Vatican City has an open border with Italy, and visitors do not need to show a passport to enter the Vatican City. So technically, you do not need a passport to visit the Vatican City. That being said, the Vatican City can only be accessed through Rome, Italy, so tourists will need to make sure they have the proper documentation to enter Italy. This proper documentation will likely be a passport unless the visitor is from an EU country.

Assuming you are already in Rome, there is no reason not to visit, especially since you do not need to show your passport to enter the grounds of the Vatican City. As the smallest country in the world in both land area and population,  the Vatican serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and is the main attraction of the Vatican City. The original St. Peter’s Basilica was built during the 4th Century AD. The present version of the Basilica was completed in 1626.

The photo to the right shows St. Peter’s Square, the gateway to St. Peter’s Basilica. During my visit, I walked right into St. Peter’s Square without having to show my passport. Entering the Vatican City is no different than entering any neighborhood in Rome.

St Peter's Square - The Vatican City
St Peter's Square

Do You Need a Passport to Visit the Vatican City?
Your FAQs Answered- Table of Contents

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How Long is Needed to Visit the Vatican Museum?

The Vatican Museum contains artwork that has been collected by the various Popes throughout the Vatican’s history. How long is needed to visit the Vatican Museum? I would say that you should plan on spending at least two hours visiting the Vatican Museum. If you want to go into the Sistine Chapel, you may want to add an additional hour.

Entrance to the Vatican Museum
Entrance to the Vatican Museum

How Much Does it Cost to Enter the Vatican Museum?

Despite not needing a passport to enter the Vatican, you do need a ticket to enter the Vatican Museum. The cost of a full entry ticket for the Vatican Museum is €20. There is also an option to skip the line for an additional €5. The skip-the-line full-entry ticket to the Vatican Museum must be purchased online.

How Long is the Wait to Enter the Vatican Museum?

During my visit, the wait to enter the Vatican Museum was over an hour and thirty minutes. The line to enter the Vatican Museum wrapped most of the way around the walls of the Vatican City. As I waited in line, there were quite a few tour guides who approached and offered to help me skip the line. I would use caution when agreeing to a tour while waiting in line to enter the Vatican Museum.

The Line to Enter the Vatican Museum Stretched Around the Walls of the Vatican City
The Line to Enter the Vatican Museum Stretched Around the Walls of the Vatican City

What is Inside the Vatican Museum?

My trip to Rome and the Vatican City was one of my first international trips, and I was not well prepared. Before visiting the Vatican Museum, I had not researched what I would see.  I walked reasonably quickly through the various halls, looking at the paintings, sculptures, and artifacts.  

Inside the Vatican Museum
Inside the Museum
Ceiling of the Vatican Museum
Halls of the Vatican Museum

I was really impressed with the ceiling inside the halls of the Vatican Museum. In addition to the ceilings, there were many stunning wall-sized paintings throughout the museum.

Ceiling Inside the Vatican Museum
Ceiling Inside the Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum Mural
Wall Sized Paintings

After walking through the halls of the Vatican Museum, I found myself in the Vatican Gardens.

The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens

Once again, I did not have much of a plan. I wandered around the Vatican Gardens trying to take in as much as I could.

St. Peter's Basilica from the Gardens
St. Peter's Basilica from the Gardens
Looking Towards the Vatican Museum from the Vatican Gardens
Looking Back Towards the Museum

Are Photos Allowed Inside the Sistine Chapel?

One highlight of my visit to the Vatican Museum was the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside the Sistine Chapel. For those wanting to visit the Sistine Chapel, you must purchase a ticket to the Vatican Museum to gain entry to the Sistine Chapel.

How to Get Inside St. Peter's Basicila

Following my time inside the museum, I had to leave the walls of the Vatican and return to Rome.  To get inside St. Peter’s Basilica, I had to walk around the walls of the Vatican City until I arrived at a second checkpoint. There was no passport or ID check at this checkpoint. It was simply a security checkpoint to allow visitors access to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The line to get inside St. Peter’s Basilica took over an hour, but while I was waiting, I was able to take pictures of St. Peter’s Square.

There is a dress code for entering St. Peter’s Basilica. Both women and men are required to have their shoulders and knees covered. While women are allowed to wear hats inside, men must take their hats off before entering St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica Seen from St. Peter's Square
St Peter's Square

Who are the Statues on the Facade of St. Peter's Basilica?

One of the highlights of waiting in line was to be able to look at the statues on the Facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Many people ask who are the statues on the Facade of St. Peter’s Basilica.  These statues include Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, St. Andrew, St. Matthew, and others.  While I waited in line, I took out my zoom lens and tried to get the best pictures of the facade.

The Facade of St. Peter's Basilica
The Facade of St. Peter's Basilica
The Facade of St. Peter's Basilica - From Left to Right: John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, St. Andrew, St. John the Evangelist
From Left to Right: John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, St. Andrew, St. John the Evangelist

How to Spot the Swiss Guards Inside the Vatican City

As I got closer to the security checkpoint, I was able to get a good view of the Swiss Guards.  The Swiss guards serve as the de facto military of the Vatican.  They are easily recognizable by their Red, Blue, and Gold striped uniforms.  Anyone visiting the Vatican City will be able to spot at least a few Swiss Guards.

Swiss Guard at the Vatican City
Swiss Guard

How to Visit the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica

Once I entered St. Peter’s Basilica, the first thing I wanted to do was climb to the top of the dome. St. Peter’s Basilica is open from 7 am to 7 pm with the exception of Wednesdays when the grounds are closed except for people with tickets to the papal audience. The Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica closes at 7 pm from April to September and 6 pm from October to March. Since I was visiting during March, I went right to the top of the dome to make sure I could take in the fantastic view of St. Peter’s Square and the suburbs of Rome. 

To get to the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, simply follow the signs. As I walked up the stairs to the dome, there were stops along the way where I could see the entire worship level of the Basilica from various viewpoints. 

Inside St. Peter's Basilica
Looking Down from the Dome
The Dome of St. Peter's Basilica - The Vatican City
Looking Up Towards the Dome

As I continued walking to the top of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, I did have to walk up quite a few steps, and there were a few tight fits.  When I made it to the top, I was able to get a bird’s eye view of the entire Vatican City.  If you plan on visiting the Vatican City, be sure to take in the view from the top of the dome.

St. Peter's Square Seen from the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Square Seen from the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Looking Towards Rome from the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Looking Out Towards Rome

What is There to See Inside St. Peter's Basilica?

Once I had taken in the views from the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, I returned down the stairs to the worship level of the Basilica.  

Inside St. Peter's Basilica
Looking Towards the Entrance from the Center
Below the Dome - St. Peter's Basilica
The Area Below the Dome

The main level of St. Peter’s Basilica featured amazing artwork, altars, and statues. 

St. Peter's Baldachin
St. Peter's Baldachin
Amazing Sculptures on Top of St. Peter's Baldachin
Amazing Sculptures on Top of St. Peter's Baldachin

It was a surreal feeling to be in the world’s largest and best-known church.  Just remember that for many people, a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica is a religious experience. Since there were people actively worshipping, I kept my distance and made sure I was extremely respectful.

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica - The Vatican City
Dome from the Center of the Worship Level
The Apse of St. Peter's Basilica
The Apse of St. Peter's Basilica

Does the Vatican City Have its Own Flag?

After I had walked around the worship level of St. Peter’s Basilica, I decided that I had seen the main sights of the Vatican City.  On my way out, I walked past another Swiss Guard.  The lighting was better than earlier in the day when I was waiting in line, so I took a few additional pictures outside St. Peter’s Square.  

I walked back into Rome and visited a few stores. One of the purchases I made was a tiny flag pin of the Vatican City flag. Despite being the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City still has its own flag.

Flag of the Vatican City
Flag of the Vatican City
Swiss Guard - The Vatican City
Another Swiss Guard
St. Peter's Square
Another View of St. Peter's Square

How to Take a Guided Tour of the Vatican City Tours and Papal Audience Tickets

Anyone outside the Vatican City Museum or St. Peter’s Square offering you a guided tour probably isn’t a licensed tour guide, and I would be extremely untrusting of anyone who claims they can help you “skip the line.” During my visit, I did not take a tour of the Vatican but did see some tours that caught my eye. For those interesting in being led by a guide, I have linked the tours below.  In addition, I have linked a ticket to be in the Papal Audience.

I am an affiliate partner of Viator.  If you book a tour using one of the links below I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider booking using one of my links.

Prices are accurate as of June 2024.

papal-audience-with-pope-francis-in-vatican-city-in-rome-213132"
Papal Audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City - $38.36

Experience an emotional and intense moment with this once-in-a-lifetime chance to join Pope Francis during his papal audience in the Vatican City.
You will experience great emotions and reflections with people from all around the world. At the Pontifical State’s discretion, the papal audience will be celebrated either in the glorious surroundings of the Piazza San Pietro, or in the beautiful Nervi Hall, decorated by a massive wood sculpture.

vatican-city-walking-tour-in-rome-in-rome-525044
Vatican City Walking Tour in Rome - $76.10

Our most popular tour of Rome includes the top attractions of the Vatican such as the Vatican museum, the Sistine chapel and the Saint Peter's Basilica. And you’ll have more time to enjoy your visit when you skip the line with our Fast Track entry.

Vatican City Tour
Vatican City Tour: Vatican Museums Sistine Chapel and Vatican Basilica - $49.30

First, enjoy the luxury of skip-the-line tickets and bypass the stressful queues. Enter the Vatican and start your tour with a visit to the Vatican Museum, a true spectacle for everyone who visits. Your tour itinerary through the museum is specialized to focus on the most important parts of the site.

Next, you will visit the Sistine Chapel. Once inside you will get to marvel at this glorious place, not to mention, see in the flesh, Michelangelo's masterpiece depicting the last judgement, on the ceiling. This is a true sight to behold.

Finish your tour in front of the Basilica of St. Peter, the biggest church in the world. Our guide will give You an introduction about the Basilica and you are free to stay inside all the time you want.

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