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The Museums of Rome's Vatican City





 The Vatican - The Museums

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The Vatican Museums

The Sistine Hall, formerly part of the Vatican Library, on the way to the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums, which include a variety of collections, are perhaps best known for housing one of the finest assemblages of art in the world. The Vatican is renowned for its collection of paintings by the best of the Italian masters from the Renaissance.  

Many of  significant works in the "collection" are in the form of frescos, which are paintings made on a thin layer of fresh plaster.  As a consequence, some of the Vatican Museum's art collections are visible in formal museum settings, while the frescos decorate the Papal Palaces, Papal Apartments, chapels and halls.

The Museums is large and its collections are extensive.  We recommend that you consider taking a tour, as the importance and themes of much of what you will see may not be familiar to you at first sight.  If you prefer, you can rent an audio guide at the entrance to the Museums that will provide information about the major attractions.


We urge you to do a little homework and decide what you want to see at the Vatican Museums before your visit. From the comfort of your home, you can take one of several, detailed online tours courtesy of the official Vatican website.

              View of the Vatican Museums from the dome atop St. Peters.

Although many combine a visit to the Museums with an exploration of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza San Pietro, doing so makes for a lot of walking. The “new” entrance to the Museums is at the north end of the Vatican and cannot be reached directly from St. Peter’s.  Instead, you must exit the St. Peter's Square and follow the Vatican Walls for what is a relatively long walk to the north.

Many visitors prefer to tour the Vatican Museums as a separate exploration, since there are so many unique treasures in the Museum complex.   If you make this choice you can take  the underground, buses or a taxi to reach the entrance from your hotel.

The circular staircase descends to the Vatican MuseumsDo yourself a favor and buy your tickets in advance, if you have not arranged a tour. You can do so from the Vatican website or from resellers and tour companies.  Buying your ticket in advance means that you will not have to wait in line to buy tickets, which can take quite a bit of time.  See this page at the Vatican’s website for information on visiting the Vatican Museums. 

During their over five-hundred years of existence, the Vatican Museums have grown, mutated, merged and, then, been reformulated.  Today’s incarnation includes a modest collection of museums, but the majority of visits are focused on the frescoes and other artistic efforts that can be found in the Vatican Palaces, which include Michelangelo’s triumph, the Sistine Chapel,  Raphael’s Rooms (Raphael's Stanze) and the glorious Borgia Apartments.  Other popular attractions include the Pinocoteca (paintings), the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, the Gregorian Etruscan Museum and the Classical Antiquities Museum with its exotic sculptures.

The  Laocoon Group in the Vatican Museums is a very important work of art, influencing artists for centuries after its 6th century creation.For the curious, there are mini-museums focused on Christianity, the Vatican, Ceramics, Tapestry, Ethnography, Missionary work and other subjects.   Almost everywhere you look, there is something unique, beautiful or just plain interesting that demands your attention, so choose wisely, by preparing before you visit.  In the next page of our guide to the Vatican Museums we provide  a taste of what you will see during your visit, but leave other discoveries  to you. 

We recommend visiting  the Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms, The Pinacoteca, The Gregorian Egyptian Museum, The Gregorian Etruscan Museum, and the Map Room. You can find photographs and descriptions of these treasures on the next page of our Guide to the Vatican Museums.

NextHighlights of the Vatican Museums

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Vatican Museum Highlights

Sistine Chapel

Egyptian Museumm
Etruscan Museum
Hall of Maps
















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Vatican Museum Highlights

Sistine Chapel

Egyptian Museumm
Etruscan Museum
Hall of Maps

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