Attached to the Holy See, the Vatican Museums hold collections of art and artifacts from a number of different cultures.
The signature attraction, and one of the western world’s most renowned works of art, is Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
The museum’s rooms also offer both beauty and insight into the history of the Christian church.
It can get crowded though.
So if you’re short on time, it’s best to join a tour and get priority access – skip the line tickets!
What to see at Vatican Museums
When the College of Cardinals meet to elect a new pope, they do so in the company by a surpassing work of Michelangelo.
The artist’s ceiling frescoes depict Biblical scenes and are some of the best-known artistic images in the world.
These four areas served as Pope Julius II’s apartments.
They were designed by Rafael shortly before the artist’s death in 1520 and executed by his apprentices.
The Pinacoteca contains paintings covering the 12th to the 19th centuries.
It contains works from many of the greatest artists of those eras, including Giotto, Rafael, and Caravaggio.
Gregorian Egyptian Museum
The popes viewed Egypt as an important area in Christian history and preserved many significant works of Egyptian antiquity here.
There are a number of galleries showing ancient Greek and Roman statues.
However, The Galleria Lapidaria is most impressive showing walls full of inscriptions.
Gallery of Maps
This long gallery features 40 maps painted on its walls.
The frescoes were created between 1580 and 1585 based on the work of geographer Ignazio Danti.
When entering the Sistine Chapel, remove your hat and remain silent.
Do not wear shorts, miniskirts, or sleeveless shirts.
The Vatican allows taking photos without a flash in most parts of the museum.
However, photography is prohibited in the Sistine Chapel.
If you get hungry, you can choose from a cafe in the Cortile della Pigna, or three different restaurants at the end of the tour.
Gift shop stands are scattered throughout the museum.
So have a look at all the stands before deciding on souvenirs to buy.
How to get to Vatican Museums
Look for the stop Viale Vaticano/Musei Vaticani.
It is serviced by Line 49.
This stop gets you closest to the entrance, but several other stops served by other lines, including 32, 81, 982, 492, 990, and tram 19, can get you into the vicinity of the Vatican as well.
Use Metro Line A to the stop Cipro (Musei Vaticani).
You will need to walk a couple of blocks east to reach the museum.
A cab can let you off next to the museum entrance along Viale Vaticano.
The Rome tourist bus’s 110 route stops near St. Peter’s Square on the Via della Conciliazione, about a kilometer southeast of the museum entrance.
If you prefer to save yourself from the hassle of finding public transport, join a guided tour for a better experience.
Pope Sixtus IV created the Sistine Chapel in the late 15th century and Julius II dubbed Michelangelo to paint it in the early 16th.
Julius II also had Rafael decorate a series of apartments now called the Rafael Rooms and put the first sculptures on display.
Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI in the 18th century took the first major steps toward directing the museums toward their modern form.
Other pontiffs had new sections created. Gregory XVI added the Etruscan Museum (1837), the Egyptian Museum (1839), and the Lateran Profane Museum (1844).
Exhibit areas continued to be added, including the Vatican Pinacoteca and the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Religious Art in the 20th century.