A trip to Italy isn’t always easy on the wallet, but thankfully most cities have at least a few attractions that are totally free. It’s not often that those attractions are also the most popular sights in a city, but in the case of Vatican City that’s exactly the case. One of Vatican City’s free attractions isn’t usually free, so that one takes some advance planning, but otherwise this list of free things to do in Vatican City is applicable no matter when you visit.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Yes, you read that right – St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City’s main attraction and the biggest church in Christendom, is 100% free to enter at all times. There can be a line to get in (especially during the summer), you’ll need to go through a metal detector before entering (try to leave day bags at the hotel), and anyone who’s dressed inappropriately will be denied entry – but once you get past that, no cash is required. Note that if you want to climb up into the dome, that’s a separate entry with a fee.
Vatican Museums (Last Sunday of Every Month)
The next-biggest attracation in Vatican City is its immense museum. Most of the time there’s a fee to get in (it’s well worth the admission price), but on the last Sunday of each month they open the Vatican Museum doors to everyone without charging a cent. Granted, this means the crowds in the museums are often much bigger than usual, but if you’re really on a budget and you happen to be in town on the last Sunday of the month it’s worth checking out.
St. Peter’s Square
Every piazza in Italy is free to enter, and St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City is no exception. This huge piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica is a grand space that’s excellent for people-watching and sightseeing (there are several points of interest in the square), and it happens to be where the audience gathers for the Pope’s weekly address. Which brings us to…
Pope’s Weekly Address
The Pope will deliver mass to the audience gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a weekly basis, usually from the steps of the basilica and usually on Wednesdays at 10am. He will also address the crowd from the balcony of his private apartments overlooking the square on Sundays at noon (except in the summer when he’s often at his summer estate). For some of these public addresses, there are (free) tickets required, but that’s for specific seating areas in the square. Standing in the open areas is free of charge and requires no ticket. Also note that the Pope travels frequently, so this information is only pertinent if he’s not on the road somewhere.
Vatican Post Office
Technically, in order to make a stop at the Vatican post office worthwhile you will have to spend a little money – namely, you’ll need to buy a stamp. But if you’re planning to mail some postcards home anyway, this is the place to do it. The Vatican’s post office is far more reliable than the ones in Rome, so whether you’re sending postcards or shipping home a few bulky purchases, make a point to do so from Vatican City.