Vatican City is one of Rome’s most popular destinations and is busy almost year-round.
- Vatican museums are closed on Sundays, with the exception of the last Sunday of each month, when entry is free for all, between 09:00 and 2:30.
- Saturdays at the Vatican are absolutely jam-packed with tourists and weekend visitors.
- Papal audiences are held on Wednesdays on St. Peter’s Square.
- Afternoons tend to be the quietest portion of the day, even during peak season.
Queueing times vary, but lines for the Vatican Museums tend to be at their longest in the mornings, just after opening time.
- Vatican organizes private Vatican museums tours in the morning. The tour will offer you an unforgettable experience as the crowds are sparse. Highly recommended especially to those who want to admire the art at leisure.
It is important to remember that the Vatican is almost always busy and there isn't really an "off-season" when the crowds stop coming. The least crowded time of year is in the cooler months like January and February, and the end of November and beginning of December.
Which day of the week?
Mondays and Wednesdays are generally the busiest days to visit the Vatican, especially on Wednesday when the Pope gives his general address to the crowds in Saint Peter's Square. It is also extremely busy on the last Sunday of each month when the museum is open for free.
If you have a flexible itinerary Tuesday and Thursday would probably be the least crowded during the day. You could also consider booking a tour of the museum on a Friday night if you are visiting between May and October.
What time of day?
In general, people plan their visit by going through the Vatican Museum in the morning, and then move on to the Basilica straight afterwards. If you have a flexible itinerary you should consider going to the museum in the afternoon instead when there is usually much shorter waiting times and most of tour companies have already come and gone (although you cannot always guarantee this).
If you visit in the museums in the afternoon, you will need to be there by 3pm to be able to see the Sistine Chapel before closing time. The Basilica closes at 7pm (6:30pm from October to March), so if you arrive early enough at the museum you should still have time to go through and then visit Saint Peter's afterwards.
If you want to avoid lines altogether at the museum you can book a guided tour, book a ticket online in advance, or buy the OMNIA Vatican and Rome Pass that lets you skip the line. You can also book tours for the Vatican Museum before it opens - you will not have the whole place to yourself, but you will not be shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people like you will be during the day.
The best days to visit the Vatican are those in the middle of the week. The ideal would be to arrive in the morning in such a way as to have time to visit with order: the Basilica of San Pietro with the Dome, the Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican Museums and Gardens are open every day except Sundays. Every fourth Sunday of the month admission is free until lunchtime. Booking online is the best thing.
On Sunday at St. Peter's Square the Pope celebrates mass during the morning that the faithful follow from the square to visit the Church of San Pietro.