Vatican City

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What is the Vatican City?

Vatican City – everyone’s heard about it, but what is it exactly? Is it a part of Rome, is it independent, are only priests allowed in? There are a lot of mysteries and misconceptions surrounding Vatican City, so here are 5 fascinating facts.

  • The Smallest Country in the World

    1. The Smallest Country in the World

    With a tiny population of 842 and an area of 110 acres (roughly an eighth of New York’s Central Park), Vatican City is the world's smallest independent nation-state.

  • An Economy without Trade or Taxes

    2. An Economy without Trade or Taxes

    As a completely non-commercial economy, all of Vatican City’s money comes from donations, museum admission fees and the sale of postage stamps, books and tourist souvenirs.

  • A Veritable Culture Treasure Trove

    3. A Veritable Culture Treasure Trove

    Featuring the world-famous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City is a highly popular tourist destination, attracting over 4 million visitors yearly.

  • The Pope Has a Secret Escape Tunnel

    4. The Pope Has a Secret Escape Tunnel

    In 1277, a secret passageway was built between the Vatican City and the nearby fortified castle Castel Sant’Angelo, providing an escape route for the pope if the city was attacked.

  • Those are Not Harlequins

    5. Those are Not Harlequins

    The colorfully dressed men standing in front of the city’s entrances are the famous Swiss Guards. Former mercenaries, they are now the permanent de facto army of Vatican City.

Planning Your Visit

  • Best Time of Year to Visit

    Although Vatican City is extremely popular with tourists all year around, if you’re looking for a quieter visit, your best bet is during the low season between November and February.

  • Give Yourself Enough Time

    There is so much to see in Vatican City, make sure you’re not pressed for time. Importantly, if you want to see the Sistine Chapel, it’s essential that you enter the Vatican Museums before 3:00 PM so you can reach the chapel before it closes.

  • Book a Tour?

    Although there is more than enough to take in as an individual visitor, those who want to learn about Vatican City’s rich history would benefit from one of the many excellent tours offered. There are public as well as private tours. Note that latter need to be booked well in advance.

  • See the Pope

    You’re unlikely to run into the pope on your visit to Vatican City. However, every Wednesday the pope holds a public audience on St. Peter’s Square in the summer and in the Audience Hall during winter. The audience starts at 10:30 AM, but most visitors arrive earlier to secure a good seat. Security opens between 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM.

Good to know

  • When should I visit?
    365 days a year!
  • Is it expensive?
    Free to look at from the outside. Admission tickets vary.
  • Will I need a guide?
    Not compulsory, but recommended.
  • How to get there
    Taxi, bus, metro, tram or by foot from Rome. Look here for more detailed directions.
  • Additional information

    • Large bags are not allowed in the museums, so pack light!

    • There is often no air conditioning in the museums so make sure to dress accordingly and bring a bottle of water.

Other Sightseeing Options in Vatican City

Want to discover all there is to do in Vatican City? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Vatican City

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 126,675 reviews

Really glad I booked this tour! Our tour guide was amazing, she was so informative and it was fruitful listening to her. She’s a great storyteller! The company was also amazing at working with me to get an extra ticket last minute bc I accidentally only bought 1 when I needed 2

Ana was my tour guide, she was so lovely and helpful, did everything to explain such a vast topic and make everyone feel at ease. Would highly recommend this tour.

I am happy we got the guided tour tickets. Our guide was great and funny and gave us so much information about everything we saw.

Velmi milá průvodkyně, zajistila vstupenky, vše zajistila, doprovodila nás až k turniketům.

Great tour. Julius was very knowledgeable and nice. Would certainly recommend.