The smallest independent nation in the world, Vatican City lies in the heart of Rome and is the Roman Catholic Church’s headquarters. This city-state may be tiny, but there are several phenomenal Vatican City tourist attractions. In fact, few other places on Earth have more cultural highlights in such a small area than the Vatican.
With You Local – Rome you or your customers can visit some of the top attractions in Vatican City on fun guided tours.
The 5 Best Vatican City Tourist Attractions
The Vatican Museums
Without question among the world’s greatest museums, the Vatican Museums are both art and Christian museums. You don’t have to be Christian or even religious to admire the splendor housed in these museums or the other Vatican City tourist attractions, though.
Their collection includes no fewer than 70,000 works of art, of which roughly 20,000 are on display. This vast collection was amassed by the popes across the centuries.
Absolute highlights include important Renaissance paintings from renowned artists like Raphael, da Vinci, Caravaggio and Titian. Other highlights are famous Roman sculptures, the iconic spiral Bramante Staircase, the glorious Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel (see below).
The world-famous Sistine Chapel lies on the visitor’s route through the Vatican Museums. It’s a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the pope. This historic chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who ordered its restoration in the late-15th century.
However, the Sistine Chapel is now most known for Michelangelo’s numerous 16th-century frescoes, including most notably the Last Judgment and the magnificent Sistine Chapel ceiling. Visitors to the Sistine Chapel will be surrounded on all sides by breathtaking works of art. Of all the Vatican City tourist attractions, this is arguably the most impressive.
If you’re looking for a great Vatican Sistine Chapel tour, all three of You Local – Rome’s guided Vatican City tours include skip-the-line tickets to the Sistine Chapel.
St. Peter’s Basilica & Square
The heart of Vatican City is the St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. The basilica is a massive masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, designed mainly by Michelangelo, Bramante, Bernini and Maderno. It’s the world’s largest church and one of the holiest places of the Catholic Church and Christianity in general.
St. Peter’s is said to be the final resting place of St. Peter, Jesus’ chief apostle and Rome’s very first bishop. Large enough to hold 20,000 people, the marble-and-gold St. Peter’s Basilica is famous for its bronze altar canopy by Bernini and the marble Pieta Sculpture by Michelangelo. Additionally, visitors can climb to the dome’s top and enjoy amazing views across Rome.
Outside the basilica, St. Peter’s Square is the main public area in Vatican City. This is where enormous crowds gather to see the pope on special occasions, while the colorful Swiss Guard is another of the many Vatican City tourist attractions.
Located deep underneath the Vatican, the Vatican Catacombs, also known as the Vatican Necropolis, is one of the least-known Vatican City tourist attractions. They’re located between 5 and 12 meters below St. Peter’s Basilica and encompass an ancient burial site. This is said to be the very place where St. Peter himself was buried. Guided Vatican Catacombs tours can be arranged with the Vatican Excavations Office.
Besides the Vatican Necropolis, there are numerous other sites that encompass the Catacombs of Rome. On You Local – Rome’s Underground Rome Tour, visitors can explore some of the city’s most iconic catacombs, including the famous Capuchin Crypt, also known as the Bone Chapels.
Gardens of Vatican City
Occupying the entire western part of the Vatican, the verdant Gardens of Vatican City are a collection of urban parks and gardens officially owned by the pope. A few buildings like the Governor’s Palace and Radio Vatican dot the gardens, as well as several sculptures and fountains.
The Gardens of Vatican City are one of the top Vatican City tourist attractions. Note, however, that they can only be visited on a guided tour. There is no free public access.
The Vatican is a major highlight of a visit to Rome, an inextricable part of the Eternal City. If you don’t have the time to check off all five of these Vatican City tourist attractions, you should focus on the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. They’re among those places everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
For more information about our Vatican City tours, please take a look at this overview.