There are some basic things to know before you visit the Vatican:

  • It gets very, very busy so be prepared to get there early and wait in long lines. If you decided to do a tour get one that skips the lines.
  • The points of interest within Vatican City are St. Peter’s square, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.
  • You can pretty much take pictures everywhere apart from in the Sistine Chapel – where silence is expected to be observed.
  • Vatican City’s economy is supported by the sale of tourist items and fees for admission.
  • There is a dress code for entering the Basilica and the museums. Wear long pants or ladies medium length skirts/dresses and cover your shoulders.

A couple of other things to beware of are:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica is closed on Wednesday mornings for papal audiences. To catch a glimpse of the Pope be there at noon on Sundays or go to the Wednesday service. Be sure to get a ticket at least one day before. Papal appearances may vary during the winter and summer months. In fact, when we visited in July, there were no Papal audiences scheduled.
  • The Vatican museums are closed on Sundays and holidays. It is open and free on the last Sunday of the month.
  • You do not need to be part of a guided tour to enter the museums or St. Peter’s Basilica. However, expect to wait long hours during busy tourism months.