Vatican City attractions
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A visit to Rome would be wasted if you didn’t take time out to see the awe-inspiring Vatican City attractions. As the heart of the Catholic faith, many have endured pilgrimages to reach this holy place starting with the ancient Romans and persisting all the way to the present day. As home to some of the most famous landmarks and attractions in the world, you can see the best of them for free with the Rome and Vatican pass package and learn more from our guide to the Vatican city below.
One of the most important sites of pilgrimage in the world, St Peter’s Basilica is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and justifies the Vatican City tickets price for the millions of tourists who flock to its doors. Enjoy a free audio guide and skip the long lines at St Peter’s Basilica to fast-track your way into one of the Catholic faith’s most important sites. Dating back to the 16th century, it is an impressive building and perhaps one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in the world. With names like Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno, and Bernini involved in its construction, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most impressive attractions in the city.
From the huge square to its iconic dome, the true treasures of the Basilica lie within its walls: gleaming gold décor, mosaics, statues, and sculptures galore. See if you can spot Bramante’s bronze Baldacchino, which takes prime position at the head of the church.
Underground, you can also explore the crypts which house the tombs of the former Popes. For unparalleled views over the city, climb up to the top of the Dome to really appreciate the vast expanse of this amazing site.
Many popes have found peace of mind and solitude at the Vatican Gardens, an oasis of calm amidst the city with an unbeatable view of St Peter’s Basilica wherever you tread. In recent years, savvy tourists have been allowed beyond its walls to explore its numerous green pockets which include exotic plants, miniature succulent plots and no end of breathtaking sculptural fountains poised making for a picturesque experience.
Not just anybody can wander in, however, as only a select number of visitors are permitted a day. You’ll need to make a reservation on a Vatican Gardens tour or on an inclusive Vatican tours package to see the site.
The Sistine Chapel is considered one of the finest works of High Renaissance art for the sheer scale and the skill of the frescoes, predominantly painted by Michelangelo in the early 16th century. The chapel itself dates back to the late 1400s which was built by Pope Sixtus IV. The later decorations were commissioned by Pope Julius II.
Perhaps the most famous of the frescoes is The Last Judgement, but central to the ceiling are the nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. It wasn’t just Michelangelo that deserves all the credit, other leading painters and contemporaries such as Botticelli and Ghirlandaio also contributed to the painting of this impressive chapel. The building measures an impressive 40.9 meters long so it puts it into perspective – if you want to be awed then visit the Sistine Chapel to appreciate the magnitude of one of Rome’s most impressive works of art.
The Vatican Museums are home to over 9 miles of art, sculpture, tapestries and more. The estimated worth of the art in the Vatican Museums is over €15 billion so you’re promised a wide range of world class collections. The collections were built up over the centuries by the Popes who lived in the city and date back to Ancient Egyptian pieces, to the 20th century – most notably some of the finest masterpieces from the Renaissance years.
There are 54 rooms, from the Gallery of Statues, the Gallery of the Busts, to the Rotonda, and finally, the Sistine Chapel which is at the end of the tour. These Museums are not to be rushed and a thorough visit can take over 4 hours. Join one of the many Vatican tours and learn about Papal history along the way, not to mention the history behind some of the most famous works on display.
Garden of Eden Painting - Vatican
This stunning painting is one of the Vatican’s most iconic, barring of course Michelangelo’s frescoes stretching across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Lovingly crafted by Wenzel Peter, this masterpiece named Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden has to be seen to be believed as both its gigantic size and attention to naturalistic detail make it one of the most exciting pieces in the Vatican Museums’ collection. Situated in the Pinacoteca Art Gallery in Room XVI, it takes up an entire wall and awes everyone who passes.
St John in the Lateran and Cloister is in fact the official seat of the Pope. It’s older and – officially – more important than St Peter’s Basilica and is one of the oldest churches in Western Europe. It’s hugely significant in religious history and dating back to 324 AD has a wealth of history to tell. Within, the building is a fine example of Cosmatesque and Baroque architecture and design, with grand gold decorations and sculptures down its long nave.
St John in the Lateran is also famous for its peaceful Cloister, which was built in the 13th century and is now a site of meditative prayer for many locals and visitors. Many pilgrims also flock to the Holy Steps, the Scala Sancta, which can be found in an early Papal chapel named the Lateran Palace.