Most people visit Vatican City during the summer, when they’ll certainly stand a good chance of experiencing sunny days. Summer also means high prices and big crowds, so if you’d rather enjoy the big attractions without huge crowds and without spending a fortune, consider going in the winter months. There are a few things to keep in mind, however, when you visit Vatican City in winter.
Winter is Cheaper
Winter is the slower tourist season in Italy, so everything from accommodation to meals to airfare will be cheaper. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be staying within the walls of Vatican City (and you certainly can’t fly there directly!), you’ll pay less for a flight to Rome and for a hotel anywhere in the city during the winter than you will in the summer. That translates to more money in your pocket to spend on souvenirs – or on hot roasted chestnuts to keep your hands warm.
Winter is Less Crowded
Most visitors flock to Vatican City in the summer, so the winter months can deliver a welcome respite from the crowds. Lines into big-name sights like Vatican Museum tours won’t be very long (if there’s a line at all), and those choice hotels and restaurants you normally can’t get into without a reservation made months ahead of time will have space available. All of this can make Rome and Vatican City much more enjoyable.
It’s Going to Be Cold
There’s no denying it, the weather could be downright cold at the Vatican in winter. Snow is still not necessarily a given in Rome, but some years have been witness to snow covering all the monuments for part of the winter. You should be prepared with appropriate winter clothing so you don’t get cold and wet, and you should also plan to pop into cafes now and then throughout the day to warm up with a coffee or cocktail.
Double-Check Open Hours
Vatican City doesn’t shut down for the winter, but things like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums will have different (shorter) open hours in winter than they do in summer. Check the official websites to find out exactly what the open hours are when you’ll be there so you don’t accidentally show up right at closing time and miss out altogether.
The Holidays Are Still Busy
While most of winter is the low season in Vatican City, the holidays are not. Christmas is a big deal on the Italian calendar, and especially so on the Vatican’s calendar. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day include special masses in St. Peter’s Basilica (for which you must book tickets months in advance if you want a seat inside) and St. Peter’s Square, and throughout December there are Christmas markets, Nativity scenes, and Christmas trees all over Rome. It’s a beautiful sight, but winter holidays in Vatican City mean higher prices and bigger crowds, so plan accordingly.