Vatican travel guide: tips, highlights, history

Vatican travel guide: tips, highlights, history

The Vatican City is one of the most popular places around the world, with over 7.6 million visitors each year. The city is known for its ancient culture, architecture and evocative history. The city is a holy place and is often referred to as the Holy See.

1.History of the Vatican City

The Vatican City, the center of the Catholic faith, is the home of the Pope. The Vatican City is a city that was automatically granted statehood by becoming the smallest in the world . It is amazing how this small country is filled with so much historical significance, power, art and beauty. It is surrounded on all sides by Rome and is located west of the Tiber River.

On an area of only about 0.50 square kilometers there are only 800 inhabitants. The Vatican was officially founded on February 11, 1929 and has long been a land of strength, faith and neoclassical charm. It consists of many famous landmarks such as St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Gardens.

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1.History of the Vatican City

There are several speculations about how Michelangelo initially refused to create his most famous work of art, The Last Judgment. What is even more interesting is that Michelangelo depicted himself in the fresco. Today, the Vatican has become a popular pilgrimage destination as well as a full-fledged commercial city. Although it is a small state, this has not stopped it from having a GDP per capita of over twenty thousand dollars, making the Vatican the 18th richest country in the world. Such a strong history and the current status of the Vatican is what sets it apart from any other place on earth.

2. Why visit the Vatican City?

The art and architecture of the city needs no introduction . The monuments, landmarks, and paintings were created by some of the best artists the world has seen. The Vatican Library and the Sistine Chapel are a symbol of the Roman Renaissance.

The Holy See is the last absolute monarchy and governing body of the Catholic Church, which is recognized as a judicial authority under international law. The Vatican is home not only to spectacular art and architecture, but also to Pope Francis I. Tourists who come to the Vatican have the unique opportunity to see the Pope himself in a mass audience before the public, which takes place every Wednesday and Sunday.

3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

It is worth getting acquainted with the list of the best sights of the Vatican, which is a must-visit for every tourist:

– Vatican Museum; – St. Peter’s Basilica; – Sistine Chapel; – Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian Museums; – Vatican Gardens; – Papal Palace Castel Gandolfo; – Vatican Necropolis and Treasury; – Vatican Grottoes; – Castel Sant’Angelo.

3.1 The Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum consists of 54 galleries, including the Sistine Chapel, which in turn is one of the largest museums in the world and has the ability to display over 20,000 exhibits in numerous rooms and corridors. One thing that any tourist who decides to visit the museum should not forget is a good pair of walking shoes, as every piece of art is housed in the seven-kilometer-long museum grounds.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.2 St. Peter’s Basilica. Widely known as one of the greatest churches of Christianity, St. Peter’s Basilica has become a haven for the body of the saint. St. Peter, also known as “St. Simon,” was one of the chief apostles of Jesus and the first bishop of Rome (the Pope). The church was first built by Emperor Constantine I in 319 AD. The reconstruction of the present church began on April 18, 1506, by Pope Julius II. The Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the world and is under the sovereign jurisdiction of the Vatican.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.3 Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is a marvel to behold in the literal sense of the word. The first thing a tourist will notice upon entering the Sistine Chapel is its phenomenal ceiling. It is located in the Apostolic Palace, also referred to as the official residence of the Pope. The famous “Last Judgment” frescoes within the Chapel were painted by Michelangelo, and no one has surpassed them since. The frescoes are a narrative of the Old Testament and are divided into three scenes-the creation of heaven and earth, the creation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. And, finally, the story of Noah and the great flood.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.4 Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian Museums. The Gregorian Etruscan Museums are devoted to Etruscan antiquities, holding rare artifacts discovered in excavations conducted in prominent cities of ancient Etruria, as well as other works collected over the centuries in the Vatican. The Egyptian Museum, sheds light on Rome with Egyptian influences, as well as introducing the world to the cultural history of the pharaohs and the magnificent setting of the Villa Hadrian in Tivoli.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.5 Vatican Gardens. The Vatican Gardens are a series of parks covering nearly half of its entire territory. Covering an area of more than twenty hectares, the gardens are decorated with medieval fortifications, monuments and buildings that were erected back in the 9th century. Tourists can find here luxurious fountains, incredible winding paths, vibrant flowers and magnificent oaks. Tourists can also enjoy the amazing sculptures and artificial grottos that were dedicated to the Madonna.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.6 The Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo. Since 1596 the Vatican has owned the Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo, known as the Apostolic Palace. It was renamed after it was confiscated from the Savelli family because of debts to the Church. Until October 2016, it was the summer residence and resting place of the Pope for centuries. Pope Francis opened the doors of the palace to the general public for a visit to the garden in the spring of 2014 and to the Apostolic Palace in October 2016. The palace is 43.3 km from the Vatican.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.7. the Vatican Necropolis and Treasury. The Vatican Necropolis is located 10 meters below St. Peter’s Basilica, below the level of the Vatican Grottoes. The word “Necropolis”, in Greek, means city of the dead. After careful excavation and reconstruction, the site has been turned into a museum to provide information about its history and past life. The Necropolis is rumored to contain the tomb of the apostle himself and is also the burial place of ancient pagans and Christians.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.8 Vatican Grottoes. Grottos are caves that are natural or artificial, used for burial. The Vatican Grottoes are a huge underground cemetery beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. It contains the bodies of several popes and Saints who founded the religion of Christianity. These grottos date back to the 10th century.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

3.9 The Castle of the Holy Angel. The Castel Sant’Angelo is located in Adriano Park and is connected to the Vatican by an ancient passage. It is also called the Mausoleum of Hadrian. What makes this spiral building so special? That it served as a fortress for the popes and their treasury when they were under siege. The passageway connecting the Vatican to this building is hidden and has been unknown to the public for several years. It is called the Passetto di Borgo and is 800 meters long.

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3. Sightseeing at the Vatican

4. Vatican Restaurants

Trip to Vatican City can be classified as active recreation, because here tourists have to travel a lot on foot. Because of this, due to the high activity, tourists will often visit the feeling of hunger. On the territory of the Vatican, fortunately for tourists, there is a huge variety of places where you can try dishes of the Roman and Italian cuisine.

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4. Vatican Restaurants

Some establishments are famous for the fact that the food there is cooked by purebred Romans . One such establishment was a cute little cafe called Forno Feliziani. Others are famous for their unconventional food presentation. Thus La Locanda, a restaurant of Italian-Roman cuisine, serves its dishes in the best Roman and Italian traditions. Serving a dish corresponds to the cuisine a client chooses: Italian or Roman. For example, almost all Roman dishes are served in a pan.

Vatican City Guide

The Vatican City is the smallest sovereign state in the world. It is a walled enclave located entirely in Rome, the capital of Italy. Many travelers come here as religious pilgrims, but it is not necessary to adhere to the Catholic faith to appreciate a city full of artistic treasures. What will be remembered by Russian tourists vacation in Vatican 2022 – attractions and prices?


Originally the land that now occupies the Vatican City was the site of the circus of the Roman Emperor Nero. The obelisk in the center of Vatican Square (the only remnant of the circus) comes from the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis, located near Cairo, but was moved by the Roman Emperor Caligula and placed where it is today. It was in Nero’s circus that many Christians were martyred. It is believed that St. Peter was also crucified here.

In 326, Emperor Constantine built a basilica over the tomb of St. Peter. Subsequent excavations organized by Pope Pius between 1939 and 1941 did find a tomb. Once the basilica was built, all the surrounding areas began to be built up with buildings related to the activities of the church.

For more than 1,000 years, from Charlemagne’s Frankish empire to 1870, much of Italy was under the direct or indirect rule of a pope who simultaneously wielded enormous power throughout Europe. The popes were often deeply involved in European political problems. The spiritual domination of the popes ended only in the 16th century, during the Reformation. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 recognized the existence of the Catholic state within its present borders, and this is where the modern history of the Vatican begins. The population of the dwarf state is mostly religious ministers, nuns, and the Swiss Guard.

Swiss Guard.

Geography and Climate

The Vatican City is located within the city limits of Rome, occupying an area west of the Tiber River, and is separated by a wall. It includes St. Peter’s Cathedral, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican City and the Vatican Gardens.

The climate in this part of Italy is mild in winter (average temperature +12℃) and hot in summer – often the weather is very warm and dry with temperatures above 30℃.

Since the main purpose of visiting the Vatican is sightseeing, the best time to visit is April, May, September, October when the season is low, there are fewer crowds of tourists and the days are long and sunny without the exhausting heat of July and August.

The queue at the Vatican Museums

How to get there

From Moscow and other Russian cities, tourists need to get to Rome, which is not a problem. Rome destination is served by many airlines. The round-trip ticket price ranges from 15 thousand rubles and more. There are direct and change flights from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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There is no public transport in the Vatican itself, so there is no question of how to move within the borders of the mini-state – it can be bypassed on foot without spending much time.

How to get to the Vatican while in Rome:

  1. Bus. Rome’s city bus network is extremely extensive and covers all neighborhoods. It is easy to get to the Vatican by bus from anywhere in Rome. The most popular routes are: No. 64 connects to Termini Station, Piazza Venezia and Piazza Argentina; No. 60 to the Spanish Steps, Piazza Venezia and Argentina; and No. 40 is an express bus with few stops (Termini Station, Piazza Venezia and Argentina). Bus #62 and #40 stop between Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza San Pietro, while bus #64 stops a little further south. Tickets cost 1 euro.
  2. Streetcar No. 8 goes to the neighborhood of Trastevere next to the Vatican, but there you have to walk along the river before reaching the Vatican.
  3. The subway in Rome is not the most convenient way to get around. Its development is hampered by constant excavations. That’s why there are only two lines. The A line leads to the Vatican, to the stop Ottaviano or Cipro, the first closer to St. Peter’s Basilica, the second closer to the Vatican Museums. Both are a 10-minute walk from their targets.
  4. Cabs are available at parking lots or by phone call. You have to pay 3 euros for boarding or 3.5 when you call, the further calculation of the trip is strictly on the meter. The fare rises gradually depending on the distance from 1.1 to 1.6 euros per kilometer.

You can buy general tickets that connect all types of public transport at metro stops and tobacconist’s kiosks. The cost of the different types of tickets:

  • Single – 1 euro is valid for 75 minutes (during this time you can transfer with one ticket to bus, metro and streetcar);
  • BIG – 4 euro, valid for 24 hours after purchase;
  • BTI – 11 euro, valid for 3 days;
  • CIS – 16 euro, valid 7 days.


Holidays in the Vatican correspond to the holy days of the Catholic Church.

  1. One of the secular holidays is New Year’s Day on January 1 at the same time as the Day of Our Lady of Mary.
  2. May 1 is also celebrated as a holy day, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. It was introduced as a religious holiday when all countries were already celebrating May Day as a day of workers’ solidarity.
  3. The most important holidays are Easter and Christmas. The first one is always celebrated on December 25, the second one on one of the days from March 22 to April 25.

Vatican Museums and other public places are closed during holy days, what tourists should know.

Christmas in the Vatican


Mobile communications in Italy are characterized by higher rates. Those who come there for 1-2 weeks definitely should not buy a SIM card of local operators. When staying in buildings of religious purpose is not allowed to use mobile phones. Wi Fi is only available there for police officers.

From Rome it is possible to call from public phones, cards for them are sold in kiosks selling tobacco at a price of 5 to 20 euros. The rate per minute varies throughout the day. After 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., calls are cheapest.

In Rome, there are many points of access to Wi Fi, including in restaurants, near the main sights. Be aware that not all hotels can connect to Wi Fi for free. The cost of connection can be up to 5 euros per day.

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In Vatican there will be found where to go and what to see, especially lovers of art and history of the Catholic religion. In fact, the whole city consists of museums. Offers of guides in Russian language should not be ignored as it will help to get your bearings in the masterpieces of the city.

The cost of admission ticket to the Vatican Museums is 17 euros. If you buy online in advance – extra fee 4 Euros, but will not have to stand in a long queue at the entrance. On Sunday, the museums are closed.

Sistine Chapel


  1. St. Peter’s Cathedral is the center of world Christianity, the largest church in existence. The cathedral was created by the best architects at the time on the burial site of St. Peter the Apostle. The concept of the building was conceived by the architect Bramante. Later, Carlo Moderno expanded the building into a Latin cross and completed the façade that appears before the eyes of visitors today. The first impression upon entering the cathedral is the grandeur of the space. Walking through the right aisle one can see the chapel with funerary monuments, including the tomb of Pope John Paul II. The highest church dome in the world rises to a height of 136.57 meters to the top of the outer cross. Its inner diameter is 41.47 meters. It is recommended to climb the dome to view interesting details. Entrance to the cathedral is free. Fees are charged only for climbing the dome and entering the treasury.
  2. Vatican Museums. This is one of the world’s most important art collections, including the Sistine Chapel, the pinnacle of human artistic genius painted by Michelangelo. The museum spaces are intertwined during the visit and bring together art collections from Egyptian art to the 20th century. The Vatican Pinacoteca houses works by Giotto and Fra Angelico, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and other famous masters. The Sistine Chapel is the main attraction of the Vatican Museums. It is also the place where history breathes, since it is the site of conclaves, where popes have been elected over the centuries. It is where the smoke from the deliberations comes out.
  3. The Vatican Gardens are a true oasis where the visitor gets after the hustle and bustle of a museum. The green space will attract the person who loves nature and walking, and wants to delve into the history and reality of the Vatican. It is a peaceful, quiet place that surprises with harmony and perfection. The space occupies a large part of the Vatican Hill – 32 hectares. The tourist will see a complex landscape of forests, medieval monuments, sculptures, flowerbeds. A paid visit is possible only with a guide.
  4. Castel Sant’Angelo, one of Rome’s greatest monuments, is located at the gates of the Vatican. For centuries it was a defensive fortress, a prison, a Renaissance residence, and now a museum and venue for cultural events. The most interesting thing for the visitor are the views of the city. Inside, it is especially recommended to visit the military museum and the beautiful papal rooms. Admission costs 10.50 euros.

Where to stay

In the Vatican itself, there are no hotels available for everyone to stay in. But Rome offers a choice of hotels and hostels with the widest range of prices. The question of where best to stay is determined by the purpose of the visit – the Vatican.

The Borgo district, which surrounds St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums, can be too crowded with tourists.

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But the Prati neighborhood to the east is an entirely different story. Built relatively late in the city’s history, it has wide streets and straight roads. Because of the smaller number of souvenir stores and restaurants, hotel prices are very attractive and it is very convenient to get to the Vatican. A good hotel can be rented for 50 euros a day.

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If tourists want to explore other attractions of Rome, it is better to settle in the historic center or in the Trastevere area, where you will find something to do and lovers of nightlife. Nearby is one of Rome’s best nightclubs, and there are restaurants and bars that stay open all night long.


The Vatican City exists off of, among other things, the financial support of Catholics around the world. Profits from souvenirs, publications and stamps, as well as from the sale of entrance tickets to museums, go to the church.

Other than souvenir stores, there are no others here.

Such purchases are certainly valuable for the Catholic faithful; others can choose something to remember that does not contradict their religious beliefs.

Souvenir Shop at the Vatican

What to bring with you:

  1. Religious items include crucifixes and crosses, angel figurines and Christmas sets.
  2. Religious paintings, ceramics, mosaics and busts of popes are popular.
  3. There is a bookstore where one can find bibles, literature about popes, souvenir editions about Vatican Museums, also in Russian.
  4. There are unique souvenirs – empty bottles in the shape of Saint Mary, which you can buy and fill with holy water.

Many tourists visit the Vatican post office, near the Information Office, to send postcards using Vatican stamps.

If you want to do some shopping outside of the religious theme, you have to go to the Roman stores, of which there are many in the neighborhood.


The small country has no cuisine of its own worth discussing. But Rome’s historic Borgo district is a stone’s throw from the Vatican walls, where you can experience great Italian food. The Vatican is surrounded by inexpensive restaurants and cafes of Italian cuisine, where lunch costs from 15 euros.

What to try in Rome:

  • Saltimbocca alla Romana – veal medallions wrapped in slices of ham with sage are an Italian classic;
  • Baccalà – fried slices of cod;
  • pizza is best tried in small restaurants with ovens for cooking directly in the hall and paper instead of tablecloths on the tables. Here it is guaranteed that the pizza is baked, not reheated frozen;
  • Suppli al telefono – a cheap snack, deep-fried rice balls with mozzarella in the center.

What to take with you

  1. Maps of Rome, possibly downloaded on special smartphone apps.
  2. Necessary medicines, which you will not always be able to buy in Rome because you do not know the alternative trade names.
  3. The Vatican has a very strict dress code. It is not allowed to visit religious institutions with uncovered shoulders, in shorts, short skirts, It is necessary to have the appropriate clothing, especially if it is planned to visit the city in the hot season.


  1. In Rome, there are many pickpocket thieves, you should watch your belongings, do not carry documents, as well as large sums of money. For documents it is better to prepare photocopies in advance, and place the originals in the hotel safe.
  2. In Vatican they pay special attention to security. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. Any disrespectful behavior draws close attention.

Even as the smallest country, the Vatican has its place on the world map, attracting many religious pilgrims and tourists who love art and history.

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