One of the biggest tourist attractions of Rome is visiting the Vatican City and seeing Pope Francis.
There are three main parts of the Vatican when discussing visiting the city. There is Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and Pope Francis of course.
I was lucky enough to visit the Vatican City multiple times and I found out some very useful things to avoid the large groups of tourists that go through the Vatican every single day.
Visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica
If you want to just visit the Basilica itself it is completely free and open to the public.
You can walk around Saint Peter’s Square beforehand, where most of Pope Francis’ masses and canonizations are held. You can also go into the Upper Church of the Basilica, where many former Popes are buried, including Saint John Paul II, and you can see where it is believed that Saint Peter is buried. In the Upper Church, there is also a tradition where you can rub the foot of the statue of Saint Peter.
Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica tourists can also climb the Dome (which is supposed to have AMAZING views, but it is a very hard climb). If you don’t feeling like fighting your way to the top of the Basilica you can also go down below to the Crypt and find where all of the Popes have been buried and are not on display upstairs.
The artwork inside of Saint Peter’s Basilica is absolutely breathtaking and you can also see Michelangelo’s Pieta. A fun fact about the artwork on the walls in the Basilica: it is all mosaic copies of the originals. If you want to know more secrets and fun facts about the Vatican check out the book at the link below:
There are plenty of places to pray inside of the Basilica and countless beautiful artwork and history in every crevice of the Upper Church.
The Vatican Museum
If you are interested in seeing the Vatican’s art collection or the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum is the place to go.
If you want to make your life easier to go through the museum there are a couple of different ways in which you can do so.
When I went to the museums with my parents, we had a tour guide with us so all of the art was explained to us in detail and we were able to skip the long lines and avoid the large groups of tourists. The only drawback of having a tour guide is that you are constantly moving because you are paying them for their time, but a tour guide is very useful to help you get around the Vatican Museum.
If you don’t feel like paying for a tour guide, but still want to know more about what you are looking at check out this link below:
The first time I went to the Vatican Museum was during special opening hours. During certain times of the year, the Vatican Museum opens for late hours on Friday nights. A group of my friends and I went on a Friday night to the late hours and the museum was practically empty. If you really want to enjoy the Sistine Chapel without being pushed around try to go to the night hours.
The Vatican art collection is very vast so plan to spend most of your day there or go for multiple visits if you really want to experience the Vatican’s art collection.
If you want to check out other museums after your visit, I suggest reading my post Museums…Museums EVERYWHERE.
There are a couple different ways that you can see Pope Francis during your trip.
Pope Francis holds audiences and masses in Saint Peter’s Square throughout the year, which you usually need a ticket for, but they are pretty easy to come by if you ask around. The audiences are usually less crowded so if you want a front row seat to seeing Pope Francis, attending an audience might be your best idea.
You can also go to one of the canonization masses that are held. While the canonization masses are not constant there is usually one every few months. I was fortunate enough to attend Mother Teresa’s canonization (which was total chaos). It is a really amazing experience though to see a saint become canonized and it is another opportunity to see Pope Francis.
Keep in mind that you will most likely need tickets for all these events (especially the canonization masses). There will also be large groups of tourists so you will want to get there earlier so you can have a seat closer to where Pope Francis will be driving around with his Pope Mobile.
And don’t forget during all of this to be AWARE of your belongings because there are many cases of pickpocketing in the Vatican City.