The origins of these museums go back to 1503, the year in which the recently named Pope Julius II donated his private collection. Since that moment private families and other popes have enlarged the collection of the museums to the point where it has become one of the largest in the world.
At present, the Vatican Museums receive more than 6 million visitors annually, partly due to the fact that they form the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.
What museums are there in the interior?
- Pio-Clementino Museum: Created thanks to the popes Clement XIV and Pius VI, this museum holds the most important Greek works in the Vatican.
- Apartment of Pius V: The work of Pope Pius V, this museum contains Flemish tapestries from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a collection of medieval ceramics, and another of medieval miniature mosaics.
- Gallery of the Chandeliers: Roman replicas of Greek originals and enormous chandeliers from the second century A.D. decorate this elegant gallery.
- Ethnological Missionary Museum: This museum contains works of art from all the papal missions of the world, among which there are objects originating from Tibet, Indonesia, India, the Far East, Africa, and America.
- Gallery of Maps: Carried out between the years 1580 and 1585, the beautiful maps painted in fresco on the walls of this gallery represent the Italian regions and the possessions of the Church.
- Historical Museum - Carriage Pavilion: In this section, you'll find coaches, saddles, cars, and even Vatican City's first locomotive.
- Gallery of Tapestries: Exhibition of Flemish tapestries created between 1523 and 1534.
- Pio-Christian Museum: The collection of Christian antiquities is composed of statues, sarcophagi, and archaeological ruins from the sixth century.
- Pinacoteca: The eighteen rooms in the Pinacoteca building contain pictorial works dating from the Middle Ages until 1800.
- Sobieski Room and the Room of the Immaculate: In both rooms, you'll find paintings originating in the Italian "Ottocento".
- Egyptian Museum: Among other pieces acquired by the popes you can find some impressive Egyptian sculptures, besides the prized sarcophagi from the third century B.C. There are also some black basalt statues originating from the Villa Adriana, which are replicas of Egyptian models.
- Etruscan museum: This part of the museum contains elements of ceramic, bronze, and gold belonging to the Etruscan civilization.
- Chiaramonti Museum: Created thanks to Pius VII Chiaramonti, this gallery holds thousands of sculptures including portraits of emperors, images of the gods, and some funeral monuments.
- Gregorian Profane Museum: Its rooms hold Greek and Roman sculptures from the first to third centuries A.D.
- Borgia Apartment: The apartments that belonged to Pope Alexander VI Borgia today serve as exhibition rooms for the Collection of Modern Religious Art.
- Raphael Rooms: Rafael and his assistants decorated the apartments of Pope Julius II with unparalleled taste.
- Sala Della Biga: A monumental figure of marble of a chariot drawn by two horses carried out in the first century A.D. fills the space and gives the room its name.
If you want to expand your knowledge of all the museums, it's worth consulting the official website:
Skip the lines
The lines to enter the Vatican Museums are probably the longest in Rome. To avoid them, we recommend not going on the last Sundays of each month (when admission is free) or during Holy Week. We also recommend avoiding weekends, above all in high season.
In our experience, the best time to go is on weekdays at 1 pm. Most people tend to come first thing in the morning to avoid the lines, so this is often the time when you'll have to wait the longest.
The other way to avoid the lines is to book an English-speaking guided tour of the Vatican. This way you'll see the most interesting landmarks and learn about the fascinating history of the Vatican City, as you follow your guide straight in without having to queue.
Monday – Saturday: 9 am – 6 pm (Ticket office closes at 4 pm).
Sunday: Closed except the last Sunday of each month: 9 am – 2 pm. (Ticket office closes at midday, 12:30 pm).
1, 6 January: closed
22 February: closed
19, 28 February: closed
29 June: closed
15 August: closed
1 November: closed
8, 26 December: closed
Adults: € 17 (US$ 18.50).
Children (ages 6 – 18): € 8 (US$ 8.70).
Students (ages 19 – 26):€ 8 (US$ 8.70).
The entrance is free the last Sunday of every month.
Metro station: Cipro-Musei Vaticani, line A (orange).