Touring the Vatican at Night

The Vatican simply needs to be seen to be believed.

Did you know the Vatican is not a city, it’s a country? Viale Vaticano is not Italian, it’s a whole other country. The smallest country in the world.

It’s actually like a world within a world. Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park.

Touring the Vatican at Night - The vatican

I believe they call it an ecclesiastical, one of the last six remaining absolute monarchies that are ruled entirely and completely by the Pope, Bishop of Rome.

The Catholic Popes have been living in this City since 1279 when Pope Nicholas III moved his residence to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed this area with walls. They survive financially through postage stamps, tourist mementos, fees to the museum, and book sales.

Within the walled city are the majestic St Peters Basilica, the extraordinary Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums showcasing a selection of the world’s most valuable and famous art.

Can you go to the Vatican at night?

Touring the Vatican at night is certainly possible.

A Vatican night tour is available each week on a Friday night from April to October.

Why tour the Vatican at night?

The top reason for a Vatican night tour? There are 35,000 tickets for the Vatican sold during the day, but only 8,000 people can visit the city at night.

Touring the Vatican at Night

What are the hours of the Vatican?

The Vatican museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the last entry at 4:00 p.m.

But a Vatican tour guide can get you in earlier or later. This Vatican tour is a skip-the-line one. 

Is it better to visit the Vatican in the morning or afternoon?

The light is so much better in the afternoon, but if I had to pick I’d do a Friday evening Vatican tour aiming at sunset.

Touring the Vatican at Night

Do you have to cover your knees in the Vatican?

The Vatican has strict dress code requirements. No shorts of any kind. For women, knees, shoulders and upper arms must be covered. For men, no shorts or cut-off trousers/pants and again shoulders and upper arms must be covered.

Can I wear ripped jeans to the Vatican? Your knees need to be covered at the Vatican so any slits in skirts or dresses or ripped jeans will break the Vatican dress code rules and you will be turned away at the Vatican Museums entrance.

Also, note, that large bags, purses, backpacks, umbrellas (especially those with hooks) and any sharp objects will need to be deposited at the entrance, camera bags are ok.

Can you walk around Vatican City at night?

You won’t be able to see the Sistine Chapel at night without paying for a ticket or private tour, however, you can walk around Vatican City and St Peters Square at any time.

Is St Peter‘s Basilica open at night?

Peter’s Basilica is open from April to September 07:00 AM to 07:00 PM and from October to March 7:00 AM – 06:30 PM. Check out the underground grottoes tour while there! 

Touring the Vatican at Night - St Peter

Is the Vatican free to enter?

You can enter and explore Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square for free. But there is a fee to enter the Sistine Chapel. You can get your Vatican ticket and tours here.

However, entrance inside the Vatican Museum is free every last Sunday of the Month from 09:00 am to 2:00 pm. Expect long queues.

Is St Peter‘s Basilica free?

A visit to St Peter‘s Basilica is free, but you should expect queues of around two hours. To avoid standing for long hours in line get a special skip-the-line ticket with the audio guide here or book a small group tour here.

Touring the Vatican at Night

Do you have to pay for the Vatican Gardens?

As of 2022, the Gardens can only be visited by buying a ticket. The ticket includes entry to the Sistine Chapel.

Is the Vatican Library free?

The Vatican Library is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science, and theology. It is open to anyone who can document their qualifications and research needs.

Touring the Vatican at Night - Vatican Library

What do you get on a Guided Tour?

As I mentioned in my tips for the Colosseum and ancient Rome, guides are your best bet for beating the long tourist queues, and our Vatican night tour was no different. I happily bypassed the folks with their Vatican museums tickets eagerly waiting for the opportunity to enter.

Our expert guide carried an art book that she flicked through highlighting to us pieces we would find inside, detailing their significance, illuminating meanings, and describing characters with meticulous and loving detail. After this, we entered the museum.


You can spend hours and hours in the Eternal City gazing wide-eyed at art, sculptures, and even the wallpaper.

The highlight of the Vatican evening tour was, of course, the Sistine Chapel tour. A hallowed hall – no talking and no cameras – just Michelangelo’s masterpiece in which time seemed to stand still.

I lay on one of the benches to better look up at the colorful fresco. I felt a deep sense of the artist’s infectious passion just by looking at the intricate details. The sheer size of the piece is mind-blowing.

Touring the Vatican at Night - Sistine Chapel

The first frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ were painted within the Chapel in 1482. It wasn’t until 1508 that Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling. He painted from 1508 and 1512 and then returned between 1535 and 1541 to complete the rest. That’s a 33-year dedication.

Did you know that an argument arose after the painting was finished about the fact that all the characters in the fresco were naked? So another painter was hired to “finish” the painting by putting clothes on the art. This man earned the nickname “Il Braghettone” (“the breeches painter”).

Just some of the fascinating details revealed by our Vatican tour guide.


What is the best part about the Vatican?

The Sistine Chapel, unquestionably, is the pinnacle of the tour (and possibly any visit to Rome) so make sure you save enough time to soak in its splendor. Also high recommendation for the Raphael Rooms.

And brand new do not miss the Matisse room. You’ll need to walk from the Borgia Apartment towards The Sistine Chapel. There you will see a collection of works by Van Gogh, Chagall, Matisse, and others. This room houses some of the French artists’ most precious collections of works.


What didn’t you like about visiting the Vatican?

To be honest, I found the Vatican museum’s night tour slightly overwhelming, and an information overload.

But I know my partner was super jealous and I had to rehash all the city wonders to him when I returned to London. I also know my creative-minded brother and sister would have adored this private Vatican night tour.

Touring the Vatican at night

Do I have to do a tour?

Perhaps you’ve been to the Vatican before unguided or perhaps you’re after a more in-depth experience. Perhaps you’re an art lover or are interested in the fascinating and revealing stories behind the art. Whatever tickles your fancy, a Vatican guide can cure that itch with an evening walking tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican.

I have done the Vatican without a tour guide and with one. My preference would be with a guide to skip the queues and gain expert knowledge and understanding.

Check out a complete range of Vatican City tickets here.


What else should I do after a Vatican visit?

After your Vatican museums tour makes sure you check out a Rome food tour at night and all the other popular Italian icons like the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Duomo, Trevi Fountain, and Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Also, check out a day trip from the Vatican to any number of Italian locations found in our 18-day Mediterranean Coast road trip.



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