What comes to mind when you think of Vatican City? St. Peter’s Basilica… Sistine Chapel… Michaelangelo… the Pope…?
Measuring just 0.2 square miles, we often forget that it’s also the smallest country in the world! In fact, it’s 120 times smaller than Manhattan — let that sink in.
So what can we tell you about this country that isn’t already known? Tough one- given how popular a tourist attraction Vatican City is amongst Eastern and Western travelers alike. While there are a set of famous sites that need to be visited no matter how many times you’ve been there before, we found a few that even seasoned travelers are likely to have missed!
Join us on our virtual travel to Vatican City, curated with the help of travel blogs, Instagram posts, TripAdvisor reviews, Twitter posts, and YouTube videos. Continuing our New York Times’ 36 Hours-inspired virtual travel series…
36 Hours in Vatican City
6.30 AM: Museo Morning
Kickstart the day early by getting in line to visit the Vatican Museums. There are 13 of them and are considered to be some of the finest in the world. Wake up early and get to St. Peter’s Basilica to catch the sunrise, followed by a tour of the museums and the Sistine Chapel. All the sites are so rich that one visit just doesn’t cut it — so whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned one, don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in art, history, and faith.
1.00 PM: Stroll Through the Garden
Enjoy the outdoors after a morning spent inside museums. Take a stroll through the Gardens of the Vatican (tour costs approx. €31) that covers more than half of the country!
2.00 PM: Lunch & Leisure
Enjoy a glorious, laidback Italian meal and some much-needed downtime after a busy morning at La Locanda del Tempio. Get yourself a spaghetti and end with a sinful Tiramisu to charge you up for the rest of the day.
3.00 PM: Catch the Sunset
After a leisurely lunch and hopefully some rest, set off to climb up the St. Peters Dome to catch the sunrise from one of the best spots in Vatican City.
7.30 PM: Night at the Museum
Anyone who has visited Vatican City would most definitely have visited the museums, but how many people have visited it at night?
Yes! A night at the museum isn’t just for the movies- you can experience it too! Experience everything the place has to offer — minus the massive crowds. While the morning may have been hectic, take your time strolling through the arcades of your favorite spots and let the place come alive.
9.00 AM: Tryst with Books
One of the richest libraries in the world, the Vatican library is not to be missed! It has recently been digitized, but nothing like exploring it in person. The vast collection of books, stunning architecture and ancient vibe is likely to mesmerize any book lover!
10.00 AM: Meet the Pope
If you’ve been to Vatican City and not met the Pope, have you even visited the Vatican? Well, not everyone is lucky with this, but Wednesday mornings are typically when the Pope holds his ‘Papal Audience’. If this is on the agenda for you, make sure to book a ticket in advance (it’s free) and be seated well before time.
11.00 AM: Go Underground
The Vatican Necropolis lies 5–12m beneath St. Peter’s Basilica and may possibly hold the remains of St. Peter himself! It is a treasure trove of archaeological finds, and only a limited number of tourists are allowed to visit each day (tickets can be purchased directly from the Vatican Excavations Office).
1.00 PM: Gallery of Maps
Next, head to the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche to get lost in 430- year old maps that are sure to leave you speechless!
3.00 PM: Visit a Bath Chamber
Who would have thought that a bath chamber could become a tourist attraction? Probably not the Romans. The Stufetta del Bibbiena is the Vatican’s secret porn-festooned bathroom containing erotic murals by one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance — Bibbiena.
4.30 PM: Pick up the Brush at Mosaic Studio
The last 22 hours may feel like an overwhelming dose of art, history, and culture. Take a painting class as a creative outlet to all the thoughts and emotions that the tour so far is likely to have activated. Create your own Papal mosaic masterpiece at the Vatican Mosaic Studio.
6.00 PM: Dinner
Call it a night with scrumptious Italian/Mediterranean dinner at Vulio (try the craft beers) or if you’re craving something different, try some Brazilian food at A Favela — Churrascaria e Restaurante.
How to get there
The nearest airport is Rome Ciampino Airport in Italy. The most convenient way to get from Rome to Vatican City is by bus or metro (Line A).
Where to stay
It’s best to stay in Rome and visit the Vatican City. There are plenty of options in Rome for all budgets. Vatican View is a mid-range hotel that’s close to the Vatican.
When to go
The best time to visit the Vatican is May to October when the weather is pleasant (even warm) and the most popular galleries in the Museums — the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel- are open for a limited number of pre-bookings.
Although Vatican City doesn’t fall under the Schengen region, you don’t require any visa or papers to enter this country from Rome.
The euro is the official currency of the Vatican City, although the Vatican is not a member of the Eurozone or the European Union.
Given how tiny this country is, there’s no public transport, but the entire city can be crossed in under 20 minutes.
Italian, French, English, and German are the most commonly spoken languages here.
Being a religious site, visitors are advised to wear appropriate clothing (shoulders and legs covered).
Hats, food and metal tools such as knives and scissors are not allowed in the Vatican.
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