Vatican Tours: A Guide to Your Options

September 21, 2012 by

Sightseeing, Things to Do, Top Attractions, Tours & Activities, Travel Tips

Vatican City

Vatican City

For a tiny city-state, Vatican City sure has a lot of amazing things to see and do. This is but one reason why booking a guided tour for your day at the Vatican is a good idea – but which tour to book?

As is almost always the case, Vatican tours vary in duration: what’s covered, how big the groups are, and (of course) the price. Only you can determine the best Vatican City tour for you based on those criteria, but here’s an overview of what you should look for when considering your tour options at the Vatican.

How long are Vatican tours?

Tours in Vatican City range from a few hours to a full day, so you can fit a tour into just about any schedule. Most tours in Vatican City are between 3-4 hours long, although the full day tour is 8.5 hours long. (Don’t worry, there’s a break in the middle so you can rest and get some lunch.) Many tours have options for morning, afternoon or evening departures, so check that if you really want to plan out your day. A full day is recommended to see everything on most must-see lists in Vatican City.

What’s included?

Tours in Vatican City can include any combination of the following: the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens. Some private tours include things like the VIP Access Tours of the Vatican’s “Secret Rooms” as well as small-group viewings of the ordinarily-very-crowded Sistine Chapel. There are also tours of Rome that also include stops in Vatican City. You can even book tickets for a Papal Audience in advance, which can be coupled with a brief guided tour of Vatican City.

Do I get to bypass any lines?

Extremely long lines at the Vatican Museums are common, especially in summer, and any tour that allows you to avoid waiting in those lines is worth its weight in gold. In fact, if you find a tour that doesn’t let you skip the line, bypass that tour and keep looking. The same isn’t true of St. Peter’s Basilica, however – there are rarely lines to get into the church, so don’t worry about Basilica tours mentioning bypassing the lines.

How big is the tour group?

“Small group tour” means different things to different companies, so read the details of a tour to find out how many people they’re talking about. In some cases, it may be 20-25 people – in others, it may be less than 10. Even if it’s not a hands-on lesson, having a small group can make a positive difference in your experience on a tour, so that’s something to look for. Just keep in mind that smaller groups sometimes mean higher prices.

How much is the tour?

Vatican City tours range in price from about $40 per person for a half-day tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica to up to $270 per person for the VIP Access Vatican City tour, and you’ll find tours at many prices in between those two. In other words, even serious budget travelers can likely find a great tour that won’t drain their bank accounts.

- Jessica Spiegel

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