Interrail Journals #5: One Day In Vatican City

Last Updated on April 30, 2023 by Goya

Join us to find out how to spend one day in Vatican City, with all the do’s and don’ts!

Guess who made the rookie mistake of waiting till the day before to book a ticket for the Vatican Museums only to notice it was completely sold out? Yup, that would be us. Turns out the road from Rome to Vatican City is paved with tears of hopeful tourists 🙂

Fortunately, there were still some tickets available for Breakfast at the Museum, so here we were at 8:30 in the morning, having breakfast in Cortile della Pigna or the Pinecone Courtyard in Vatican City.


Early Morning Vatican Tour with Breakfast

This exclusive tour offers an opportunity to enter the Vatican Museums before the regular opening time, giving you a unique and practically deserted experience. With the ticket comes also American breakfast served in the Vatican Museums cafeteria in the stunning surroundings of the famous Cortile della Pigna.

As of July 2017, the breakfast, early and skip-the-line entry into the museums come just under €70 for one adult (€35) and one student (€35), plus an audioguide (€7):

While the breakfast itself was nothing to write home about, we were happy to be inside the walls of the Vatican before the museum opened.

Update: As of Apr-2023, the ticket prices are €40 for a full-price ticket, and €31 for a reduced ticket. The additional (optional) audioguide in Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese or Russian still comes at €7; while the (optional) audioguide for children between 6 and 12 years of age comes at €5.

Visiting the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museum is a marvellous maze of lavishly decorated halls and galleries. With its impressive 7 km of exhibitions, it is safe to say that you are not likely to see, and most importantly appreciate, it all during a single visit.

So, checking in advance to see what you would really like to see is highly recommended.

Breakfast at the Vatican City [as part of Early Morning Vatican Tour with Breakfast]
Breakfast at the Vatican City

But so is following your eyes and letting them guide you to little pockets of heaven… Like this little windy corner overlooking the Vatican Palace grounds:

As we get closer to the Sistine Chapel, the corridors seem to get smaller, and the rooms busier and hotter. The fans and occasional open windows provide very little relief. In some rooms, like the Tapestry Gallery (Galleria degli Arazzi), you are practically herded by the museum security to keep it moving.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. This is exactly what to expect visiting Italy, and the Vatican Museums on a Saturday no less, in the height of summer and busy season. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that if you want to enjoy the museums at your own pace, with less crowd and heat, perhaps coming on a weekday (except for Mondays when other museums are closed) or during autumn/winter months might be better.

The Bramante Staircase, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932
It is speculated this was the inspiration for F.L. Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York

Time for Lunch: Restaurants Near Vatican City

After feasting our eyes on the mesmerising work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (where it is forbidden to talk or take pictures, so I will have to point you to Google Images instead), we leave the Vatican Museums full-on art, but hungry for some carbs.

Lunch at Il Sorpasso fits the bill perfectly:

A trapizzino: A half-sandwich, half-pizza street food. A gift from the heavens!

Back to the Vatican: Afternoon at St. Peter’s Square and Basilica

After late lunch, we head back to the Vatican to visit St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro), located in the beautiful St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro).

A little warning for male visitors

I may or may not have read too much into the dress code at St. Peter’s Basilica and made my poor brother wear long trousers in 35 degrees weather, while I floated around in a linen midi dress. It turns out they are more than accommodating at the basilica. Even short shorts are okay if covered. You can borrow shawls to wrap around your hip at the entrance.
St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro)
Swiss Guards responsible for the safety of the Pope

From Vatican City Back to Rome

View of Vatican City from Rome

On our way back, we walk along the Tiber and make sure we visit Castel Sant’Angelo and take an obligatory tourist picture on St. Angelo Bridge (Ponte Sant’Angelo):

Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant’Angelo

Then back to our hotel, through cute little streets such as this:

One Day in Vatican City & Back to Rome [Mapped]

If you would like to follow in our footsteps:


Dinner at Hip Monti District

After a refreshing shower and a little rest, we head back out. We don’t have any plans for the night, so we start walking towards Trevi and then head to the hip Monti district until something catches our eye.

Piazza del Quirinale
Piazza del Quirinale
Palazzo del Quirinale
Palazzo del Quirinale: One of the three current official residences of the President of the Italian Republic.

Trattoria Monti and particularly Ai Tre Scalini both look wonderful. But with no reservation, it looks like we might need to wait a while. My brother tells me he will simply die if he doesn’t eat this very second (story of my life and this whole trip! :)). So we start looking for an alternative…

And we don’t stop until the sweet, sweet sound of music coming from Il Girasole stops us in our tracks:

Finish with Ice Cream at Gelateria La Romana

We enjoy the no-fuss food and atmosphere in Il Girasole and end the night with some delicious ice cream from Gelateria La Romana before our busy day ahead wandering around in Rome:

Gelateria La Romana, a Roman institution since 1947

If you would like to follow in our footsteps:

FAQs | One Day in Vatican City

What Is the Best Day of the Week to Visit the Vatican City?

The best day of the week to visit Vatican City is on a weekday, preferably Tuesday to Thursday, as the weekends are naturally crowded. Also, it is best to avoid days with a high volume of tourists, such as the last Sunday of the month when access to the museums is free.

Is Vatican City Free to Enter? Can You Just Walk Into Vatican City?

Technically, yes. however, while you can walk around St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica without paying, to truly experience the Vatican’s magnificence, you will have to buy a ticket to enter the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.

Is the Vatican Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Vatican City is a unique and beautiful destination that is well worth visiting. From St. Peter’s Basilica to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, the Vatican offers visitors an opportunity to see some of the most incredible art and architecture in the world. As one of the most important religious and cultural centres in the world, the Vatican City is not to be missed.

How Long Do You Need to Visit the Vatican?

You should allow at least half a day (5 hours) to visit the Vatican’s main attractions, including St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. However, if you’re interested in art and ancient history, you might want to spend even more time exploring the museums and the rest of Vatican City.

How to Go to the Vatican From Rome?

To go to the Vatican from Rome, you can take the metro line A to Ottaviano station, take a bus to Piazza del Risorgimento or simply walk from the centre of Rome. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour that includes transportation to the Vatican from your hotel or a central meeting point in Rome.


One Day In Vatican City / Vatican City Itinerary Pin
One Day In Vatican City / Vatican City Itinerary Pin

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