Vatican Highlights Tour with Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's Basilica
Get a taste of the Vatican's top sights an hour before the general public
If you want to experience some of Rome’s best sites in a short amount of time, our Vatican Highlights Tour is the best Rome tour for you. Visit the best galleries, tour St. Peter's Basilica and see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in 2.5 hours.
What you will see on this tour
- Skip the Line Vatican Tickets
- Vatican Museums Tour
- Gallery of Candelabra
- Gallery of Tapestries
- Gallery of Maps
- Sistine Chapel Tour
- Michelangelo's Masterpieces
- St. Peter's Basilica
- La Pietà by Michelangelo
- Baldacchino by Bernini
- Papal Tombs
- Laocoön and His Sons
- Nero's Bath
- Continue Exploring the Vatican State
This Vatican highlights tour meets at 7:30 a.m. for access to the Vatican Museums at 8 a.m., when doors open for "privileged entrance" groups. The general public must wait until 9 a.m. to enter the Vatican Museums, making this an opportunity you don’t want to miss! You’ll skip the long general admission line and visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica in only 2.5 hours, leaving you plenty of time to explore the rest of Rome. If you're looking for a longer, more comprehensive Vatican tour, consider taking our Privileged Entrance Vatican Tour with Sistine Chapel or our Detailed Itinerary Vatican in a Day Tour. This 2.5-hour tour includes:
- Skip the line Vatican tickets
- Meet at 7:30 am for entrance just after 8:00 am
- Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
- English-speaking guide with expertise in art history
- A guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica (except on Wednesdays)
Short delays at the security check may occur during the busiest months, June and July. We have a team of experts at the Vatican every morning to help our groups avoid delays as much as possible.
The Best Vatican Galleries
Explore one of our favorite collections, the Gallery of the Maps, as well as the Gallery of the Tapestries and Gallery of the Candelabra. Based on topographical maps of Italy painted by Dominican Italian friar Ignazio Danti, the Gallery of Maps is a beautiful and informative experience. Predating a unified Italy by about 300 years, the Gallery of Maps portrays the estimated length and breadth of the peninsula during the late 1500s.
The Sistine Chapel’s Ceiling
The sheer scale of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and awe-inspiring quality of the artistic work is a jaw-dropping combination. As you stand beneath the frescoes, it’s impossible not to appreciate how difficult it must have been for Michelangelo to spend years painting this masterpiece while standing upright on wooden scaffolds. As the chapel is inside of the Vatican Museums, entrance is included in your Vatican tour. Since the Sistine Chapel is a place of worship, visitors are not allowed to speak once inside. Our guide cannot explain the frescoes to the group once inside the Sistine Chapel. We will provide you with a map/handout for reference prior to entering.
The Sistine Chapel is a sacred place, so both men and women must cover their knees and shoulders. Otherwise, you may be refused entry to a portion of your Vatican tour. We understand the summers in Rome are hot - a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.
St. Peter's Basilica and the Papal Tombs
Except on Wednesdays
Skip the long lines to enter the jaw-dropping St. Peter's Basilica directly through the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, you’ll admire masterpieces that include the Baldacchino, La Pieta, the statue of St. Peter and more. Your tour will also take you underneath the basilica to visit the burial place of many special popes, as well as Queen Christina, a Swedish Queen with a peculiar history.
Important: If you wish to stay in the Vatican Museums toward the end of your tour, you must forgo the guided visit of St. Peter’s Basilica. If you choose to do this, you’ll lose the chance to skip the line to St Peter’s with our guide, who takes you through a special door in the Sistine Chapel. If you decide to leave the tour early, remember to return your headset to the tour guide. Instead, if you follow our guide to St Peter’s and would like to stay in the basilica longer, or would like to climb St. Peter's Dome on your own, do not leave with your guide to take photos in the piazza once the tour is over. The regular security line is long and re-entry on your own is not recommended.
Emperor Nero’s Bathtub
As Papal Mass occurs on Wednesday mornings - St. Peter’s Basilica is closed until the afternoon. If your Vatican Express Tour occurs on a Wednesday, St. Peter’s Basilica is substituted for a visit to a collection of the most important Greco-Roman artwork, the Pio-Clementino Museum. Visit three of the world’s most iconic statues: the Belvedere Torso, the Apollo Belvedere and Laocoön and His Sons. Learn the stories behind the statues, before visiting Nero’s massive 25-ft red marble bathtub. This large tub is made from a precious red marble so rare that it cannot be replicated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where to meet?
Between Hotel Alimandi and Caffé Vaticano, at the top of the big staircase (Viale Vaticano, 100). A representative will be there holding a sign with our company name on it.
What to bring?
Entrance into any religious site requires a strict dress code. Knees and shoulders MUST be covered for both men and women. We understand the summers in Rome are hot - a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. Also, comfortable shoes are always recommended for walking tours. We kindly ask that you leave any large backpacks or tripods at your accommodation as they are not permitted inside the museums.
Q: Is there a dress code to enter the religious sites on this tour?
A: We ask both men and women to cover knees and shoulders, otherwise you may be refused entry to religious sites and miss out on a portion of your tour. We understand the summers in Rome can be hot, so a great alternative is to bring a shawl/scarf/sweater with you. That way, you can cover your knees and shoulders when necessary.
Q: Does this tour always include St. Peter's Basilica?
A: St. Peter's Basilica is closed on Wednesday's in the morning due to the papal audience. We still run the tour because it might be your only day in Rome! Instead, we visit some of the most iconic statues in the world and Emperor Nero's enormous marble bathtub.
Q: Does the tour go inside at 7:30 am without waiting in any lines?
A: As an accredited tour operator we do not have to wait in the regular ticket line, but we still have to wait in a security line. For this reason, we leave the meeting point as early as possible and get in the security line reserved for tour operators. The doors open for us at 8 am, an hour before the general public.
Q: What are the chances my tour will be canceled or the Vatican will close something.
A: We run the tour rain or shine all year round. Although it is rare, sometimes part of the Vatican City closes for special religious events. If an area normally covered on a tour is closed, our guide will still provide explanations of the closed areas from outside. Plus, we will show you an extra site or gallery to compensate.
Q: I have some doubts about my mobility. Is this tour right for me?
A: If you have any doubts about your mobility, we strongly suggest you take a Private Vatican Tour.
See what people are saying
55 total reviewsLeave a review
Elaine is the best!!
Elaine is a fabulous guide - I highly recommend her tour!
Kathy & Greg A.
Skip the Line Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St Peter’s Basilica
We took this tour on June 18, 2019. Our tour guide was Marco. He was very engaging, informative and knowledgeable! We thoroughly enjoyed this tour from start to finish! No wonder people spend a lifetime studying these places! So beautiful! Highly recommend!
Our guide was Alecia, she was very well informed, had humor, English was excellent and she added a lot to our tour with her expertise in art history. Definitely would recommend this tour to anyone.