Discover the masterpieces of the Vatican on this tour designed for visitors short on time
duration 3.5 hours
group size Max. 16
Boasting some of the greatest artworks ever created, the Vatican Museums can be a daunting place to visit - and you can easily spend a day trying to see it all. But if you’re short on time in the Eternal City or just want to see the highlights, then our carefully crafted Essential Sistine Chapel and Vatican tour is for you. See why the frescoes that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are often considered the greatest masterpieces of Western art, and admire the work of his most illustrious rival in Raphael’s iconic School of Athens. Discover how the two artists drew inspiration from recently unearthed masterpieces of ancient art like the Laocoon and Belvedere Torso, and skip the lines at enormous St. Peter’s Basilica – the mother church of the Catholic faith and home to Michelangelo’s incredible moving Pietà sculpture, as well as Bernini’s jaw-dropping baldachin.
This specially optimised itinerary is designed to allow you to get the best out of your visit to the Vatican Museums in a limited time-frame, taking in the remarkable Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and St. Peter’s basilica amongst other highlights in the company of one of our expert guides. As with all our Vatican tours, you’ll enjoy skip the lines access to the all the sites, meaning you’ll spend your precious time in the company of Michelangelo and Raphael rather than kicking your heels in the queues outside!
The highlight of our tour will of course be our visit to the Sistine Chapel, where you’ll get the chance to gaze up at Michelangelo’s ceiling as your guide explains the secrets behind Michelangelo’s masterful paintings. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel contains hundreds of figures, including Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah, saints, prophets, sibyls, and the decorative nude figures known as “ignudi”. The sheer size of the fresco can make it overwhelming to look at, and it’s difficult to know where to begin. That’s why the expertise of our guides is so indispensible – they’ll reveal the meaning of Michelangelo’s masterwork, and explain the full significance of the massive scenes taken from the Old Testament Book of Genesis.
Years later Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel to decorate the altar wall with the fresco of the Last Judgement – a powerful apocalyptic vision of the End of Days. As you study the painting alongside your guide on our Sistine Chapel tour, you’ll discover why it was initially so controversial, and gain a deeper appreciation of Michelangelo’s unique genius.
Close to the Sistine Chapel is the suite of private papal apartments known as the Raphael Rooms. These exquisitely decorated rooms contain some of the finest examples of Raphael’s work, including the “School of Athens” - a group portrait of antiquity's most famous philosophers, many of them in the guises of Raphael’s contemporaries.
On your visit to the Raphael Rooms, your guide will explain why a young painter from Urbino was chosen for such a prestigious commission, earning the admiration and envy of his peers. Often overlooked by visitors who are in a hurry to get to the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms deserve more than a brief pit-stop - your guide will ensure that you have plenty of time to admire Raphael’s works at your leisure.
Your visit to the Vatican Museums is a great opportunity to discover its remarkable collections of ancient sculpture, including the legendary Laocoon and Apollo Belvedere. These classical artworks had a profound impact on the artists of the Renaissance, and their muscular anatomies and psychological intensity strongly influenced the work of Michelangelo and Raphael. Accompanied by an expert art historian, you’ll learn all about these ancient masterpieces and gain a greater appreciation of Greek and Roman art.
On our tour you’ll also get to walk through the famous Gallery of Maps, admire the Pinecone Courtyard and visit the Belvedere Courtyard. Although it’s impossible to see the entire extent of the Vatican’s enormous collection in a few hours, our Essential Vatican Museums group tour allows you to get the most out of your visit, taking you to see a series of unmissable highlights.
After exiting the Sistine Chapel, we'll enter St Peter’s Basilica directly, without having to wait in line. Built on the site of St Peter’s tomb, St Peter’s Basilica is the very heart of the Christian faith. The basilica has been enriched over the centuries by the hands of countless artists and architects - as you admire masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s spectacular baldachin, you’ll quickly realise that you don’t need to be a believer to find visiting the basilica an awe-inspiring experience.
During your St Peter’s Basilica tour, your guide will tell you the fascinating history of the basilica and put it in the context of Christian history, from its origins as a burial ground to its current state of splendour and international importance. To learn more about the rise of Christianity in Rome, delve into the Catacombs deep beneath the modern city and find out where this story began 2,000 years ago on our Underground Rome tour.
The Basilica of St. Peter's may be subject to unscheduled closings and late openings for religious ceremonies. We do not provide refunds for last-minute closures of St. Peter's Basilica while your guide will still give you a introduction to the Basilica, should you wish to return in your own time during your visit of Rome.
Please note that to obtain a student discount, valid student ID must be shown on the day of your tour. If a student does not have valid student ID, he/she may be charged a new full ticket price by the Museums, which must be paid by you on the day of the tour.
meeting pointNear the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Full details, including a map and photo, will be issued on booking.
5.0 (144 reviews)
The tour was great. Our tour guide Gracelyn made everyone feel welcomed on the tour and she let us know important information about each room, the art, statues, St. Peter%u2019s square, St Peters Basilica, and the history of Rome. It was a great experience.
John was an excellent guide. He had a great knowledge of the Vatican and was very informative. Without an excellent guide, the Vatican would be overwhelming but he was able to focus us on the most important sites.