Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

In my Uni days, in Art History subject, Renaissance was a major topic and 3  primary names taught were Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael and a masterpiece of Michelangelo was the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. So to visit Sistine Chapel was a dream for me! When I stood in front of the Museum with my backpack, it was a dream come true!!!
I had already booked the ticket for 2 PM and I had my bus at 5.15 PM. After reading a couple of blogs about the practical information there, I was really unsure if I'd be able to make it to the bus on time, so I went there to the entrance by 1 PM and thankfully I was let in. The guards didn't bother much about keeping the exact time and that was a blessing in disguise for me. Read on more about this time issue in the tips section below. There were several very long queues at the entrance, however I was let in as I had a reservation already.

So well, as soon as I entered, very close to the ticket counter (yes, the reservation has to be exchanged for a different ticket here), is one of my favorite Roman sculptures 'Laocoon and his Sons' made between 200 BCE to 70 CE. Just beside it is 'Apollo Belvedere', again a Roman sculpture of 120-140 CE. Beside it is the heavily damaged 'Belvedere Torso' of early 2nd C BCE.
Opposite to this is a passage that leads to where audio guides were distributed and then the long walk began towards Sistine. Soon an open courtyard is there where there's a fountain with some intriguing sculptures can be seen.

Beyond this courtyard, the first Museum I went to was Museo Chiaramonti which is where all the spectacular Classical Roman marble sculptures are in display incl this majestic Emperor Tiberius of 37 CE

Further ahead was the Museo Pio Clementino where there are more sculptures and there's an open octagonal courtyard as well. This place also houses several sarcophagi. 

Beyond this, within the same Museum, is a circular hall will larger than life sized bronze and marble sculptures along the wall incl Statue of Claudius, Galba, Hera Barbeni and more in marble, Hercules of the Theatre of Pompey in bronze and huge mosaic work on the floor. 

Further ahead after a couple of turns towards Sistine is Galleria dei Arrazi which is a gallery full of tapestries. Then came this room which was air conditioned called the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche, which is essentially the room of Maps. But almost no one bothered to look at the maps, coz everyone was looking up. The ceiling was just jewel like with every inch filled with paintings and gilded with gold as well. That's the first pic of this post.

Then came Stanze di Raffaello. What would happen if a person who loved chocolate brownie is given Sizzling Chocolate Brownie topped with Chocolate icecream??? The reason I went there was for Angelo's Sistine Chapel and I had forgotten that I'll also get to see Raphael's School of Athens, another painting I totally adore!!! This was a series of 4 rooms all painted on all 4 walls and ceiling by Raphael in 1509-1511. I was just in Cloud 9! I was there in that room for quite some time before moving on.

Soon after that, after a couple more rooms, came my destination - Sistine Chapel. The whole room was filled with people! My claustrophobia did peep its head up but I tried my best to just overcome my fears and enjoy what I came to enjoy. The wall of the room were covered with curtains....... Or where they??? Well, they're painted curtains!!! Above them were a frieze of paintings and then there was the glorious ceiling, all painted by Michelangelo in 1508-1512. To see the lifeless body of Adam and the velocity of God moving while passing on 'life' to Adam, to see it in all its original glory...... that's one feel that I can't explain in words. After being mesmerizing and frozen in its beauty for quite a bit, I looked for the exit.
Well, there are 2 exits at the Sistine Chapel - right and left. The left exit is the actual exit which leads to few more galleries (almost equal to number visited on the way up) and the final Bramante Staircase. Well, there are 2 Bramante Staircases - the original built in 1505 which is not open to public but only to Pope and his Cardinals, the new one built in 1932, a double helix structure which is the final exit from Sistine Chapel. 
However while going through several blogs before I actually ventured to Vatican, I came across this one super tip - get out of Sistine through Right exit. That Right exit is only meant for groups but I squeezed myself in and got out through that. That directly leads to the side entrance of St.Peter's Basilica!!!! Read more about this Exit issue in the Tips section below.
I entered the Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel by 1 PM and after somewhat seeing half of the galleries (as I totally missed all the galleries in the return from Sistine to main Exit) and spending some decent amount of time in Raphael Rooms & Sistine Chapel I exited by 4 PM after which I visited the St.Peter's Basilica, it was perfect timing to reach the bus stand. Had I gone by 2 PM... God save me!!!!!!!!!

To Get There:
Nearest Metro Station: Vatican
Nearest Bus stop: San Marco Rettorato
Entry Ticket: €16.00
Plus €4.00 as reservation charges if booked online
Plus €7.00 optional if you require audio guide
Admission is free on last Sunday of every month from 9:00AM to 12:30PM
Closed on all other Sundays.
Timings on Mon-Sat: 9:00AM to 6:00PM (last entry 4:00PM)

Here are some tips:
There are way too many sites that sell tickets for entry and I had a tough time to figure out which is real and which is fake, so let me make your life easier - Official Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel Tickets by Musei Vaticani, the official site.
Photography is not allowed inside Sistine Chapel. Its is however allowed in all other places in Vatican Museum.
Is it possible to get the ticket only for Sistine Chapel and skip Vatican Museum? - NO! For everyone to understand, though its called Museums as plural, the layout is something like a single museum with several galleries and the end of which is Sistine Chapel. So the entrance has to be through the common Museum Entrance. And then to reach the other end where the Sistine Chapel is, you have to pass through the whole Museum (or rather all Museums in their terminology)! Even if you rush through the whole thing without seeing anything at all, it takes 2 hrs to reach Sistine! Yes, its that big and with the perpetual crowd, it isn't possible to run to Sistine. There's a moderate speed in which the crowd moves, and you have no choice than to move with it. In simple terms, if you have a bus/train to catch in 2 hrs, forget getting inside Vatican Museums, unless you plan to miss your bus/train. If you pause at some places and see the Museums & Sistine somewhat it takes 3 hrs... If you're planning your itinerary in Rome & Vatican, just set aside 3 hrs for this place 'minimum'! 
If you're pressed for time, get out of Sistine Chapel through Right Exit which leads directly to the side entrance of St.Peter's Basilica. However this exit is only meant for groups with guides. Random checks are done time to time by the guards to check the guides and count the people that guide brought in. Try to blend in with a group. But there's every chance that a guard might get a doubt and might stop you and send you to Left Exit!!! Luck, plays a role there!!!!! 

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.


  1. I understand what it feels like to run through galleries like a madwomen, trying to take in as much as possible for I do it all the time. I promised myself that if I ever get to Europe to Louvre or vatican museum that I would spend atleast one full day there. Lets see

  2. Thanks for that wonderful post. There is some excellent information there. On our trip to Rome about 10 years ago the museum was shut! Good excuse to go back methinks.
    Great they allow you to take photographs in parts of the museum.

  3. I went to the Vatican a number of years ago on a shook trip. This reminded me of it! I remember it being a lot more dark and gloomy at the time. Looks like I need a trip back there

  4. Wow you did well! I went to Rome last month and after queueing to long for Colloseum we couldn't face queueing for this too! However, if you're into your art, this is totally the right place to be! Relieved you got your bus in time - even though I'm sure you wouldn't have wanted to leave. Such a beautiful city!

  5. We visited the Sistine Chapel on our honeymoon in 2008. It was just a few short blocks from our rental! Such a beautiful place, so wroth the visit. I would love to go back!

  6. What a wise decision to visit Sistine Chapel. When we visited Rome unfortunately we didnt have the time to visit. I would go back only to visit this place. Especially I am in love with all that art there.

  7. You are so lucky! I've been to the Vatican twice and STILL haven't seen the Sistine Chapel due to illness and then it being closed. Third time has to be the charm! The Vatican Museums also look gorgeous! I love all those statues!

  8. How cool to see all this amazing historical art in real life. I feel I never have enough time to explore and see everything that I want to see when I go to a museum. You usually need at least a full day to take it all in. Great tips about the exit and getting a ticket before hand!

  9. As ever an extremely thorough post and one that contained pretty much all the information that you would need for visiting the Sistine Chapel. Certainly, having been to the Vatican twice now, it can seem like an overwhelming experience. And sure, while it's pretty much impossible to see all the works of art on display there, this guide certainly allows you to grab at least some of the many highlights.

  10. Soooo, funny story. I accidentlly drank a little too much the night before and threw up right outside of the Vatican. YIKES. Nonetheless, what an amazing experience! The Sistine Chapel was a dream come true seeing it.

  11. I really regret not taking the time to explore the museums of the Vatican. They are so ornate and colorful, rivaling any other in the world. I must return!

  12. I visited the Sistine Chapel a couple of years ago and wish I'd read your post before going (even though you hadn't written it then!). The tip about exiting the sistine chapel from the right is super useful, I exited on the left. I didn't realise it was forbidden to take a photo in the chapel, I actually got a good fish eye shot of the whole roof of the sistine chapel, lol. I wish i had appreciated the art work and gallery like you did. Happy to know you had a good day and made your bus at 5pm!

  13. Visited Vatican 2 years ago. The place was super packed and I'm glad everything was provided including the guide because if not, I might get lost.

  14. Oh museums are the last thing I would want to visit 😂 unless it is something super interesting like the museum of raising warsaw in Poland or so. Have you been there?

  15. Glad you got to enjoy the chapel despite having claustrophobia! And I've never been there so it's quite exciting to be reading about your experience!

  16. Such a great post with lots of tips on making it through the process. I have not been on through this area because I have avoided the extensive lines. I think after reading your post I must suck it up and do it. I love the paintings on the ceiling in the room of maps and I think that is a must see. Enjoyed reading about your experience.

  17. Your tips are wonderful. Detailed description about how much ticket costs is also helpful. I had been to Vatican but for short time so could not visit do much.

  18. I loved the way you described each and every little detailing . I have never been to the rome before but would love to visit it in future. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post

  19. You've got some awesome photos! I love all of the detail that goes into the building, simply beautiful! Somewhere to add on the list when we finally make it to Rome.

  20. Never been to Vatican but the love the way how you've described everything! I felt like I was having its virtual tour through your eyes! I would love to see iconic Sistine Chapel through my eyes someday!

  21. I loved seeing the Sistine Chapel in person. It's too bad you can't take pictures there and it's so crowded, but it is really amazing. I agree that it's important to get reservations online in advance. The crowds are just awful!

  22. THe round room was my favorite in the Vatican. Those huge bronze statues there and that whole bath bowl and the magnificent roof there. Sigh! I loved it all. I would love another visit there. Your account and pics of the same has got me all nostalgic.

  23. We did a half day tour of the Vatican's on our visit to Rome. We were spellbound by the art and architecture at display in the museums. Our favorite ofcourse was the Sistine Chapel. We weren't aware of the exit leading to St.Peter's Basilica, we would definitely have given a try ;)

  24. 2 hours to reach Sistine Chapel? wow... This is a great informative post. We have not been to Rome yet but I will bookmark this for later use. Thanks for the amazing tips.

  25. I think 3 hours is not enough for me. I'd gladly enjoy a full day there! Those sculptures are stunning! I wonder how long did each of it take to finish. And the painted curtains looks interesting too. I've been wanting to visit there because of the painted ceilings, I never thought the place has a lot to offer! Thanks for the tips as well!

  26. You are a true history lover. Your each and every post has so much of history in it. I liked the tips you mentioned to distinguish the real and fake ones. These buildings have beautiful architectures.Loved your pictures.


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