Rome is one of the best cities in the world to view the master collections of great artists. The eternal city has more museums and artifacts than one could view in a decade but one of the best calls to see some of the highlights is to get to the Vatican Museums.
Here are some basic ideas that will help you understand and navigate the Vatican Museums most effectively:
Size: Understand it is a humungous collection, it is said that spending even a moment in front of each individual piece in this museum would take one several years to see everything. So make a list before you go or decide on your guide map what intrigues you more.
Time: Also unless it is low periods of the year (such as November or February) expect a lengthy line that extends out the door and around the block. For any high season visit simply go to the official page where you can pre-book tickets to enter at a designated date and time. There will still be something of a line but nothing like the one for buying tickets on the spot.
Guides: Many tourists are drawn in by guides in the street who offer no wait times and a guided tour of the museums. The quality of these personalized tours can vary and the price will be considerable, it depends on how much you really feel you need a guide, the museum is well marked and explained.
Hours: Entrance hours are 9am till 6pm (last ticket sold at 4pm). The Museum is open Monday to Saturday regularly. The last Sunday of every month (unless it is a major holiday) there is free entrance to the museums between 9am and 12:30pm. A special ticket for a night tour is now offered on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m., May through October, but it needs to be reserved well in advance. Fees are 16 Euros for a standard entry, 8 Euros reduced fare for university students, clergy, religious and children from 6 to 18 years old. A 4 Euro ticket exists for primary, middle and high school groups.
What’s inside? There are many exhibitions arranged according to artistic style and time period. Starting with the earliest one can explore the Pio-Clementino wing which showcases classic antiquities. There are also halls dedicated to the Etruscans and Egyptians, civilizations which predate and influenced ancient Rome. All along the corridors and hallways one has merely to look around for fantastic frescoes and detailed artistry that adorns the palaces. The Raphael Rooms pay homage to Renaissance paintings, while the Gallery of Maps and the Gallery of Tapestries celebrate the icons of the age of exploration and significant historic moments preserved in parchment and fabric. The sistine chapel is the grand finale of course.
Insider Tip: Remember the best time to visit the museums is during the Italian lunch hours between 1 and 4pm. Crowds die down and one must enter the museum by 3pm in order to reach the Sistine Chapel before it closes.