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Vatican City: 7 tips for visiting
Vatican City | Photo: Flickr, Dennis Sylvester Hurd - CC BY 2.0
The dome of St. Peter's Basilica can be entered and you have a wonderful view of St. Peter's Square and Rome from above. The first 320 steps can be skipped with an elevator (costs little money), the last 231 steps are definitely manageable on foot.
The Vatican Gardens | Photo: Flickr, tacowitte - CC BY 2.0
The Vatican Gardens are impressive, but can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Book at least one day in advance to avoid disappointment.
The Vatican is the smallest universally recognized state in the world. In addition to the flag and national anthem, it also has its own post office, pharmacy, radio station and television center. You can even find small embassies from other countries here. If you are interested, the post office and pharmacy are ideal for an investigation.
If you want to see both St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, you should first the museums and use the short corridor to St. Peter's Basilica from the exit of the museums. If you try the other way around, you may have to stand in front of the Vatican Museums for a long time.
In St. Peter's Basilica, don't miss the papal tombs in the Vatican Grottoes. Pope John Paul II is not buried here - after he was canonized in 2014, he was reburied in the chapel of St. Sebastian.
The most exclusive tour of the Vatican City takes its participants to the excavation sites of the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica to the bones of St. Peter. Only 250 guests per day can enjoy this tour, seats can be sold out months in advance. You may still be able to get tickets by emailing [email protected]
Papal general audiences begin at 10:00 a.m. when the Pope is in Rome. For good seats you have to be there earlier, some visitors are already there at 8:00 a.m. Free tickets can be booked in advance and there is a reserved area for guests with these tickets. The seats are only available to a limited extent here, so you should also be there earlier. St. Peter's Square is usually very crowded (and the Vatican Museums are usually very well attended afterwards). An audience lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, sun protection and hats are recommended in summer and warm clothing in winter.
Where does the name Vatican come from?
Vatican City is named after the Vatican Hill on which it was built. The word itself comes from the name of an ancient Etruscan settlement called Vatica, or Vaticum, what garden means. The ancient Romans called the place vaticanus ager (Vatican territory). Agrippina the Elder, Caligula's mother, built gardens here before her son later had an arena built here. Nero completed the project, that's why the track was called Circus Gai et Neronis. According to tradition, many Christian martyrs died in this arena, including Peter himself. The first cathedral was built in 326 AD. built on the site of Peter's grave. Since then the name has been Vatican closely linked to Christianity. Find out more.
Who is the Swiss Guard?
The Pontifical Swiss Guard are responsible for the security of the Pope and the palaces of the Vatican City. The men are all Catholics from Switzerland between 19 and 30 years of age who have completed their basic training in the Swiss Army. The Guard was founded in 1506 and their brightly colored uniform is evidence of what it is said to have looked like in the 16th century. The guards also traditionally wear halberds on festive occasions. The Swiss Guard's small uniform is now blue with a white collar, brown belt and black beret, and it is trained on the same weapons as the modern Swiss Army. They perform ceremonial tasks in addition to their security tasks and are meanwhile also trained against terrorist threats. Learn more.
Can you also visit the Vatican for free?
Parts of the Vatican City can be visited without tickets. St. Peter's Square, for example, is open to the public between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. and there are some architectural highlights here. You can also visit St. Peter's Basilica free of charge, but the queues can be long, especially at peak times. The papal audiences and the Angelus prayer on Sunday can also be attended without paying admission. Find out more.
Can we meet the Pope?
It is highly unlikely that you will have a private interview with Pope Francis, but it is relatively easy to see him from a distance: the general audiences always take place on Wednesdays at 10:00 and last 1.5 to 2 hours. Here the Pope preaches and blesses the congregation in St. Peter's Square. During the Angelus prayer on Sunday, the Pope and the assembled congregation pray from a balcony for about 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure that you are in the right place at the right time, both services are of course free of charge and can be attended without a ticket.
Can you only visit the Sistine Chapel?
No, entry is only possible in combination with a ticket for the Vatican Museums. Find out more.
Do we need our passports to visit the Vatican? Is there any other currency?
No, the State of Vatican City has an agreement on open borders with the Italian state, so there are no visas or border controls. Like Italy, Vatican City uses the euro.Find out more.
The gates to St. Peter's Square are open daily between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Every museum and church has its own opening times, which can vary depending on the day or season. You can find more information on the relevant websites.
No ticket is required for St. Peter's Basilica or St. Peter's Square. Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel tickets vary depending on the time of day and optional audio guide or guided tour. A ticket for the dome of St. Peter's Basilica costs € 8 when using the stairs and € 10 when using the elevator.
00120 Vatican City
00120 Vatican City
There is no security check or border control in St. Peter's Square. Bag checks and other security measures take place at the entrances to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican City can be reached by the Roman metro: take line A to the Ottaviano-S stop. Pietro. The Holy See can also be reached by tram 19 or bus routes 40, 62, 64 or 81. From other important places in Rome, such as Piazza Navona or the Spanish Steps, the Vatican is about 15 to 20 minutes away on foot.
The Vatican City is basically wheelchair friendly. St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are all wheelchair accessible. Only the tours to the necropolis and the upper part of the dome of the cathedral are not suitable for people who need a wheelchair. The Vatican Gardens are also not recommended for those as there are many slopes and difficult terrain. There are wheelchair spaces for the papal audiences, but these should be reserved in advance.
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