The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a world-renowned treasure trove of art and artifacts, showcasing the rich history of the Roman Catholic Church and its influence on the world. Founded in the early 16th century, the collections of the museums include over 70,000 works of art, including sculptures, paintings, tapestries and maps.

The main highlight of the Vatican Museums is arguably the Sistine Chapel, famous for its ceiling painted by Michelangelo, depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis. Similarly impressive are the famous Raphael Rooms, which house some of the Renaissance master's most famous works.

The Vatican Museums offer a unique window into the history of art, religion and the Western world. A visit to the museums is a must for anyone interested in these subjects or simply looking to experience some of the world's most breathtaking and iconic works of art.

What are the Vatican Musems? 

The Vatican Museums are a series of 26 museums in the Vatican City, which house one of the world's largest and most important collections of art, sculptures, maps, tapestries and other cultural artifacts.

Among the many highlights of the Vatican Museums are the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling painted by Michelangelo and the four Raphael Rooms.

When were the Vatican Museums built?

The Vatican Museums were officially established in 1506 in order to display the works of art from the Catholic Church’s collection. The history of the Vatican Museums, however, started earlier, when the Vatican Library was founded and the new St. Peter's Basilica commissioned.

Over the years many well-renowned artists contributed to the museums. As the Vatican collections grew, the museums expanded with new galleries and buildings, with a total of 26 museums as of 1973. These days it is possible to admire 20,000 works of art at the Vatican Museums, from antiquity, to the Renaissance and modern times.

What makes the Vatican Museums so special?

The Vatican Museums house one of the largest and most important art collections in the world, including works by some of the most renowned artists in history, such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.

Additionally, the museums are located within the walls of the smallest sovereign state in the world, Vatican City, and center of the Roman Catholic Church. As such, the Vatican Museums are not only a unique cultural destination, but also a religious and historical one.

The Sistine Chapel

No visit to the Vatican Museums is complete without viewing the world-famous frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. Commissioned by Pope Julius II and named after Pope Sixtus IV, Michelangelo painted nine scenes from the Book of Genesis that have inspired and captivated the imagination across the world.

The most recognizable section of the painted ceiling is the “Creation of Adam”, which depicts God reaching out and giving life to Adam. This fresco by the great master of Italian art is arguably one of his most influential and recognizable works, along with the “Final Judgment” on the altar wall.

Beyond its historical and artistic significance though, the Sistine Chapel also functions as a Papal conclave, where the new Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals. As one of the greatest masterpieces of Western art, millions of visitors travel to the Vatican each year to marvel at the Sistine Chapel.

Gallery of Maps

In an era of GPS navigation, it is easy to forget about the intricate beauty of maps from the past. The Gallery of Maps is home to 40 large fresco maps of Italy with an extraordinary level of detail that were created in the 16th century. Aside from their artistic merit, the maps are a true historical treasure that showcase the cartographic knowledge of the era and will amaze history buffs and art lovers alike.

The Raphael Rooms

On the second floor of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican are the Stanze of Raphael, four rooms decorated by Raphael and his assistants. The ornate frescoes, which depict scenes from the lives of Saints and classical mythology, stand out for their intricate detail, vibrant colors and masterful composition. Along with the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms are considered masterpieces of High Renaissance art.

Pio-Clementine Museum

Established in the late 1700s, the Pio-Clementine Museum was created to house the pontifical collections of sculptures, which grew significantly following excavations and donations. Among the prized items in the Pio-Clementine Museum galleries are the Laocoön Group, the Apollo Belvedere and the Faun of Praxiteles. To this day, the museum’s mission is to safeguard, study and present these treasures from antiquity.

Gregorian Egyptian Museum

A true hidden gem inside the Vatican Museums, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum was established by Pope Gregory XVI to tell the story of one of the world's oldest civilizations. From decorated sarcophagi and mummies, to ancient hieroglyphic papyri and intricately crafted jewelry, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum is steeped in pharaonic mystery and beauty that captivates visitors from across the world.

Sala Rotonda

One of the most impressive galleries to be found in the Pio-Clementine Museum is the Sala Rotonda, also known as the Round Hall. Drawing heavy inspiration from the Pantheon, the oval-shaped room is a prime example of neoclassical architecture. Within the Sala Rotonoda, visitors can marvel at the intricate mosaics and colossal sculptures, including a gilded bronze statue of Hercules and the Braschi Antinous.

The Pinacoteca

Located in the Square Garden in the Vatican to take advantage of the natural light and relative isolation from the hustle and bustle of Rome, the Pinacoteca is a must-visit destination for art lovers. From Raphael, Caravaggio and Leonardo Da Vinci, to Fra Angelico, da Forli and Giotto, the Pinacoteca art gallery also offers a fascinating insight into the history and evolution of art, between the 12th and 19th centuries.

A map of the Vatican Museums’ layout is available here. The map will help you find the location of all of the museum collections and galleries, which are color-coded according to different art periods or themes.

As soon as you enter the Vatican Museums, you can head to your left to the Gregorian Egyptian Museum and the Pio-Clementine Museum. The New Wing and Profane Museum are located at the bottom of the Pigna Courtyard. On the western side of the Vatican Museums, after entering, you will find the Gregorian Profane Museum and the Pinacoteca. The Sistine Chapel can be found on the southern end of the Vatican Museums, near the Borgia Apartment and Raphael Rooms.

You can also find elevators, toilets, first aid and dining areas, as well as other facilities and services, on the map.

Opening hours

Monday to Saturday: 9 AM to 6 PM

Last entrance 2 hours before closing time.

Last Sundays of each month: 9 AM to 2 PM with free access

Last entrance 1.5 hours before closing time.

Visit duration

Guided tours of the Vatican Museums typically last about 3 hours, including a visit to the iconic Sistine Chapel.

Without a guide, it usually takes at least 2 hours to cover the main highlights. For a more comfortable and relaxed experience though, allow 3 to 4 hours.


The Vatican Museums are located inside the Vatican City, which sits on a hill in the northwestern part of Rome and bordered by the Tiber River to the west.

The enclave is recognizable by its famous basilica, St. Peter's Basilica, and its imposing walls. It is easily accessible by car, public transportation (bus, metro, train and tram) and on foot from the center of Rome.

Google maps directions


The Vatican Museums can be directly accessed from the city of Rome via the entrance located across the street from Caffè Vaticano.

If you are already visiting the Vatican, it’s only a 15 to 20-minute walk from St. Peter’s Square to the Vatican Museums. Make your way to the street then follow the Vatican wall on your left until you reach the entrance.


Tours in the Vatican Museums involve a lot of walking, so there are several areas where visitors can rest and take a break. The designated rest areas with seating can be found in the Courtyard of the Cuirasses, Courtyard of the Pinacoteca, Square Garden and Courtyard of the Pinecone.

Visitors with families and strollers are welcome at the Vatican Museums. Staff will assist in showing the easiest route and provide access to elevators for convenient museum navigation. Throughout the tour, there are designated areas with baby changing facilities and a nursing room, while some of the dining areas can provide highchairs.


The Vatican Museums often host special events, exhibitions, and cultural programs, such as concerts, lectures, and guided tours, which offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the art, history, and culture of the Vatican. These events may require an additional ticket, so check with the official Vatican Museums website for further information about what is on offer.


Visitors are not allowed to consume drinks or food in the exhibition areas and galleries, however the Vatican Museums offer a range of dining options.

These include vending machines, cafeterias, pizzerias, a bistrot and a self-service restaurant. The vending machines, cafeterias and pizzerias offer snacks, drinks and light meals, while the bistrot and restaurant offer a more formal dining experience.

On the menu you will find a selection of Italian and international favorites, including the national dish of Vatican City - fettuccine alla papalina, a dish inspired by the more well-now pasta alla carbonara.

If you opt to eat on the move, it is important to dispose of any waste properly. For safety reasons, waste containers are only located in designated areas outside the main itinerary, namely near the main entrance, courtyards, refreshment areas and restrooms.

The Vatican hill is located in central Rome, making it easy to visit several other attractions in the city.

Among the highlights that every visitor should consider are the emblematic Colosseum amphitheater, the impeccably preserved Pantheon, the Fontana di Trevi, the Borghese Gallery and the towering Castel Sant’Angelo.

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the iconic Spanish Steps - connecting Piazza di Spagna to the church of Trinità dei Monti, this grand staircase consisting of 138 steps offers a breathtaking view of Rome. During the warmer months, the Spanish Steps come alive with street artists and vendors.

Make sure to stop at one of Rome’s famed squares, such as Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia and Campo de' Fiori, to catch your breath, grab a snack or drink and soak in the atmosphere.

If you wish, you can join a Squares and Fountains walking tour to admire the most remarkable public architectural works and learn more about their rich history.

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