Visiting Vatican City on one of the top rated Vatican tours is the best way to skip lines, save time and see all the main highlights in just half a day! Vatican City is the smallest country in Europe and in the world (it’s tiny – the total area of 0,44 km²) yet it is home to some incredible sights. This article will help you book the best small group Vatican tours, the best guided Vatican tours as well as inform you about the correct dress code for Vatican tours.

Best Top Ranked Vatican Tours

What Should I See In Vatican City?

Vatican City is a small area of Rome that is also a country! It is a city-state surrounded by Rome and it is the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Yes I know it sounds strange to have a state within a city, but this map might help. 

Vatican City on the Map of Rome

Vatican City on the Map of Rome

The 4 Must-see Attractions In Vatican City

The Vatican Museums

These are the public museums of the Vatican with one of the world’s greatest art collections. This includes ancient sculptures, important masterpieces of Renaissance art, Egyptian mummies, modern paintings and tapestries.

Here are the main areas most visitors get to see: Gallery of the Chandeliers, Gallery of Maps, Gallery of Tapestries, Raphael Room. There are also two palaces and Vatican Gardens that some tours include.

You must enter the Vatican Museums to reach the Sistine Chapel which is definitely the highlight for most of the 6 million people that visit the museums manually.

Hot Tip: While you can purchase the ticket online and enter without a tour, you will most likely be lost among the treasures and will miss out on things. Trust me, book one of the guided tours of the top rated Vatican tours listed below to avoid disappointment.

Sistine Chapel

The two most famous frescoes in the world, both painted by Michelangelo can be found here in the Sistine Chapel.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is the first masterpiece, pained by young Michealngeloe at the start of the 16th century. There are nine panels depicting stories from the book of Genesis, the most famous image shows a bearded God pointing his finger at Adam. Honestly, you will have a sore neck from just looking up and admiring more than 300 figures.

The second famous fresco in Sistine Chapel is the Last Judgment painted by Michaelangelo later on.

Sistine Chapel also serves an important religious function as the place where the priests meet to form a “conclave” to elect a new pope.

Vatican City Sistine Chapel

Top Rated Vatican Tours will include the entry to Sistine Chapel

Piazza San Marco

The main square of Vatican City – St Peters Square is an architectural masterpiece designed by Bernini. It is the place where the pope holds weekly mass and pilgrims come from around the world. There are two semicircular colonnades that create the illusion of two outstretched arms welcoming you into the square and the focal point is the biggest church in the world St Peters Basilica. There are 144statues of Saints on top of the colonnades. 

You can enter the square for free and anytime. 

St Peters’ Basilica 

Largest and most spectacular church stands on the original place of St Peters crucifixion. The basilica itself is simply breathtaking, but make sure you don’t miss the three highlights” Pieta by Michelangelo, Bernini’s famous baldachin (stands over the main altar) and the Dome which you can climb up to for epic views. You can walk up the 551 steps to the top of the dome or take a small elevator halfway and then follow on foot for the last 320 steps.

Entry to the basilica is free but a strict dress code applies. The line to enter from the square is always huge so I recommend entering from the Vatican Museums via the shortcut – this can only be done when you are part of one of the recommended top rated Vatican Tours I have listed below.

To enter the dome you must get a ticket or join a tour.

Why Should You Join One of the Top Rated Vatican Tours?

There are two great reasons to join one of the top rated Vatican Tours.

Skip the Line Vatican Museums

Firstly, it will help you to skip the line for the Vatican. The guided tours use a different entrance than the standard one, so you won’t be standing on the streets for 2 hours waiting to get in!

Get a Better and Comprehensive Experience

Secondly, visiting the Vatican Museums along with the highlight: Sistine Chapel might feel overwhelming when you visit on your own. With the help of your guide on one of my recommended Vatican Tours, you will get a great explanation about things you are seeing and why there are special. The tours are designed to maximise your time here but there is also another bonus:

Enter St Peters Basilica Through the Shortcut From Vatican Museums

When you visit one of the best-guided tours in the Vatican, you will get to exit from the Vatican Museum directly into the St Peters basilica! This saves you exiting the museum, walking around to the entrance of the basilica, and then standing in a line to get in again! 

If you do end up not joining a tour of Vatican Museum, you can book a ticket to skip the line (trust me the line can be 2-3 hours long in the main season) and then pay an extra 7 Euro for the audio guide.

Vatican Museums - Top Rated Vatican Tours

Top Rated Vatican Tours – Inside the Vatican Museums

Top Rated Vatican Tours to see the best of Vatican!

Entire Vatican Tour & St. Peter’s with Dome Climb – From €99

If you are after the most comprehensive guided tour of the Vatican then this is the one for you. It is number one of the top rated Vatican tours on my list because it includes everything: 

  • Guided tour of St Peters Basilica and climb to Michealngelos’ Dome
  • Have a fully guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Benefit from access to the Papal Crypts and Catacombs
  • Get into the Vatican Museums fast with a priority access ticket
  • Enjoy an immersive Sistine Chapel experience

You will meet your guide in St Peters Square – a quick ascension by elevator later will carry you up to the top of the dome from fantastic views of Rome. You will then tour the entirety of St. Peter’s Basilica – this in itself is rare as most other Rome tour operators do not include it in their Vatican tours. Take a break before making the short walk to the comfortable customer centre ahead of your second tour to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

Genuine skip-the-line access means that you will be fast-tracked to enter the Vatican Museums. 

CLICK HERE to reserve your ticket for this tour.

Top Rated Vatican Tours Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of Sistine Chapel – Top Rated Vatican Tours

The Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St Peters Basilica Tour (Without the Dome) – From €69

This is the second most inclusive option of the top rated Vatican tours currently on offer. Skip the ticket line to enter Vatican Museum, see the highlights such as Raphael Rooms, Map Rooms, the sculpture of Hermes including the Sistine Chapel! After exiting the Sistine Chapel, step into St Peter’s Basilica without having to wait in the ticket line.

Then take a tour of St Peter’s Basilica: a millennium of art, history, and faith. 

This was my most recommended tour for the Vatican when I used to work as a tour guide myself. It simply includes all the main highlights and once you finish the tour you can choose to walk up the dome of St Peters ( this is not included in the tour and a ticket is required) as well or move on to other parts of Rome.

CLICK HERE to reserve your ticket for this tour.

Vatican Museums Hallway - Vatican Tours

Top Rated Vatican Tours – Vatican Museums offer one of the largest collections of art in the world. Your guided tour will help you skip the line and see all the highlights.

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Tour – From €37.50

This is the perfect and best-guided tour of the Vatican Museums. When you book you have an option to book small guided Vatican tours for up to 10 or 20 people or 30 to get a better price. You can also choose the length – 2, 3 or 4 hours depending on your plans, interest or fitness level. This is why I think it is the best tour of the top rated Vatican tours listed here.

What you get to see on this Guided Vatican Tour:

  • Skip the ticket lines at the Vatican Museums
  • Admire Michelangelo’s frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling
  • Learn the fascinating history and facts about these sites from your licensed guide
  • Discover the peaceful courtyards of the Vatican
  • See the Raphael Rooms and learn about the School of Athens
  • See Rotunda, the Gallery of Tapestries, and the Gallery of Maps
  • St Peters Square

CLICK HERE to reserve your ticket for this tour.

St Peters Basilica - Top Rated Vatican Tours

Top Rated Vatican Tours – Inside the St Peters Basilica. A strict dress code applies in the Vatican. Your knees and shoulders should be covered.

St. Peter’s Basilica Dome to Underground Grottoes Tour – From €44

To explore and learn more about St Peter Basilica join this guided tour. You will join your guide in St Peters Square so you can book this tour after your tour of Vatican Museums.

Discover the splendours of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica with a professional guide. Visit the Dome for panoramic views of Rome, then go underground to admire the historic grottoes.

What you get to see on this guided tour with headsets:

  • Climb to the top of the Dome to admire panoramic views of Rome
  • Admire the Basilica’s array of impressive marble, ceilings, and mosaics
  • Visit St. Peter’s Tomb and touch the original 4th-century Basilica walls
  • Explore the underground grottoes and marvel at the ancient frescoes
  • Choose between a small group or a private tour

Please note the climb to the top of the dome is not suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia.

CLICK HERE to reserve your ticket for this tour.

Top Rated Vatican Tours - view from the cupola

Top Rated Vatican Tours – You can choose a guided tour that includes the climb to the dome of St Peters (cupola).

Important – Dress Code for Vatican Tours!

Visiting the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel or St Peters Basilica means you have to adhere to a dress code on your Vatican tour (but even if you go independently). The basic dress code for Vatican tours is for both men and women, both need to cover their knees and upper arms.

I always travel with a light sarong for this reason. It’s light to carry and handy to wrap around your waist or cover up when entering churches.

You will also go through airport-like security to enter all sights so make sure you follow these rules: 

Not allowed:

  • Shorts
  • Short skirts
  • Sleeveless shirts
  • Transparent clothes
  • Swiss army knives or any knives
  • Umbrellas, selfie sticks are also forbidden 

While there is no dress code for shoes, I highly recommend wearing the most comfortable shoes. For me in the summer months is a pair of Birkenstocks as they are nicer than flip flops and offer great support for endless walking around the Vatican.

For clothes, when you look at the locals you will find that they are dressed in light linen, as they are airy and also look good. Get that Italian look of light pants and linen shirt or dress for women and you will be set for exploring more than just Vatican and Rome. 

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Essential Items for exploring Rome & Vatican City

Rome Pocket Guide Universal Travel Adaptor Italian Phrasebook

Swiss guards in Vatican

Don’t forget that when the Pope holds mass in St Peters Square on Wednesday, St Peters basilica will be closed! But you can see the pope! 

More Useful Travel Tips for Italy

If you are looking for some amazing food in Rome when visiting the Vatican, check out our post about food in Rome you need to try – 10 AMAZING dishes.

And for the best way to see Rome, don’t miss our super detailed and comprehensive blog post: 3 days in Rome Itinerary – The Perfect Itinerary. 

If you’re planning on travelling to Florence, then our 2-day Florence itinerary is ideal; and you need to know about these 5 places to eat the best pizza in Florence. We highly recommend you try and visit Bologna too! What a city! Don’t miss 12 Amazing Things to Do in Bologna.

We adore the country, we’ve even made a shortlist of the 15 Best Places to Visit in Italy to help you plan your visit.

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🎒 LuggageOsprey Farpoint 40L Backpack or Samsonite Luggage Range (we love this Stack’d Carry-On Spinner Suitcase).

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