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Vatican City: All You Need to Know

Everything you need to know before visiting Vatican City

Vatican St. Peter's Basilica

The Vatican City is the most sacred place in Christendom which houses the Apostolic Palace, better known as the Papal Palace. It is the home of the Pope, the center of authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican is the smallest state in Europe which is located at the heart of Rome, Italy. It became an independent state in 1929. Nonetheless, the Vatican is still open to the public and can be visited by tourists from all over the world.

Much like the rest of Rome, The Vatican is a major tourist destination. It is crowded by thousands of people daily, by tourists and devotees of the Roman Catholic Church. Some people who visit take a chance to try and get a glimpse of the Pope or to attend a blessed Papal Mass.

In spite of being a small state, there are numerous attractions to visit at The Vatican.

St Peter's Square view
St. Peter’s Square from above

St. Peter’s Square

The Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter’s Square is located at the feet of the St. Peter’s Basilica inside the Vatican. It is one of the most famous courtyards in the world. The public is allowed to attend papal masses and have the opportunity for papal audience at the St. Peter’s Square. Find yourself surrounded by hundreds of columns and pillars with stunning architectural details.

In the center of St. Peter’s Square is an obelisk and two fountains which stand out amid the sea of people. The obelisk is a historic structure in the middle of the square. It was brought all the way from Egypt to Rome in the late 1500’s. The best way to arrive at the St. Peter’s Square is through the Via della Concilliazone, a long street that begins at Castel Sant’Angelo.

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican
The majestic St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is the main church inside the Vatican. It is one of the largest churches in the world, and the Catholic Church’s holiest pilgrimage site. It represents the Christendom’s strong presence in the world. The Pope presides liturgies in this basilica year-round. The visiting public and locals may attend masses inside the Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica is well-known for its majestic dome and its impressive works of art. It is home to the famous “The Pieta” created by Michaelangelo. These two elements alone makes the experience inside the St. Peter’s Basilica unforgettable. To top things off, you may climb to the top of the dome and feast your eyes on the stunning views of the St. Peter’s Square.

Vatican Museum
Visit the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are one of the most popular attractions in Rome. Through different generations, Popes have enlarged the collection of art in the museums which now makes it one of the largest museums in the world. There are 17 interior museums, categorizing each section by pieces curated by each Pope, periods in history, or pertinent items from worldly civilizations.

Admission to the Vatican Museum is free on the last Sunday of each month. However, the lines are incredibly long and proves to be way too time-consuming. If you don’t have much time to go around, it is best to go on weekday afternoons as there aren’t much visitors.

There are numerous English-speaking guided tours of the Vatican Museums to choose from. Tour groups can help you maximise the experience and still give you enough time to enjoy the rest of Rome.

The Vatican Museums also form the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel Vatican
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is widely known as the greatest treasure of the Vatican. Traditionally, Popes are crowned amid the grand walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Apart from being a grand place of worship, the Sistine Chapel also boasts of the architectural beauty that can be seen on its frescoes. The frescoes create can awe-inspiring experience as it completely covers the walls and ceilings of the Sistine Chapel.

It perfectly captures the essence of the Vatican which marries such great value for art and religion. Michaelangelo created the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel’s interiors, which depicts the Bible in his work. 

The most famous image in the Sistine Chapel is the “Creation of Adam” which is painted in the central area of the vault. It represents the Genesis chapter of the Bible in which God created man and gave him life.

Frescoes in St Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica’s frescoes

Relish an environment overflowing of culture, art, and history in the Vatican. It is worth spending an entire day on to fully explore everything that it has to offer. The Vatican Museums alone can already take half of your day, going around to appreciate the art. For the Sistine Chapel, it could take an hour to take it all in and absorb the works of the great Michaelangelo. It is not everyday that you are surrounded by the art of one of history’s greatest painters. Feast your eyes on every corner of the Vatican and enjoy every second of your tour!

And since you’re in Vatican city already – here’s all the things you need to do in ROME!

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