The Vatican Museums, located inside the Vatican City of Rome, were established around 1506 by Pope Julius II and are often considered to be among the world's finest and best-known museums. The museum complex houses artifacts amassed by the Popes from all over the world, including works from the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods. You will have access to some of the most private areas of the Palazzi Vaticani, including the Galleria degli Arazzi, the Sistine Chapel, the Stanze di Raffaello, and the Borgia apartment, as well as the public areas like the Pinacoteca Vaticana, which houses work by Giotto, Leonardo, Raffaello, and Caravaggio.
It is not just the museum's great collections of art that make the Vatican Museum one of Rome's most important buildings; the museum itself has significant Papal overtones and a long history. Estimates put its entire value at around €15 billion, which is hardly a little sum, so you can imagine the lavishness of its interiors. If you want to see everything in the Vatican Museum, plan on spending at least four hours strolling around the building. Did you know that it has an astounding 9 kilometers of art? There's a lot to see, including a beautifully maintained courtyard and 24 distinct museums showing everything from ancient art to sculpture, bronze statues, and mosaics. Vox City offers a self-guided audio tour so visitors can see the Vatican Museums at their own pace. See the history of the Vatican's most important holy site on this guided tour of the city's historic core.
You can experience the best of what the Vatican Museum tour has to offer without feeling overwhelmed if you stick to our suggested itinerary of only these top attractions.
In 1832, Giuseppe Momo created a spectacular spiral staircase for the Vatican Museum, which greets visitors as soon as they enter the building. Momo's stairwell is now well-known not just for its residence, but also for its massive size, making it among the most photographed stairs in the world. The iron engravings on the two staircases that make up the Snail Staircase resemble a double helix, a forerunner to the double helix that would become the universally acknowledged symbol for DNA.
As soon as you enter the Vatican Museum and see the four Raphael Rooms, you will be in awe. Famous for beautiful murals by Michelangelo and Raphael, the public portion of the papal apartments connects the museum to the Papal Palace. You must see the four incredible stanze (the Sala di Costantino, the Stanza di Eliodoro, the Stanza della Segnatura, and the Stanza dell'Incendio del Borgo) that overlook the Belvedere courtyard and contain some of the Renaissance's finest works. Nothing about these rooms could be considered standard.
The Gregorian Egyptian Museum was established in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI to contain relics from ancient Egypt that had been transported to Rome and the Villa Adriana in Tivoli during the Imperial Period. This portion, spread across nine rooms, features several statues, clay figures, and bronze artifacts. This is an area in the Vatican Museum you shouldn't miss if you are captivated by ancient Egypt.
The History Museum is one of the newest sections of the Vatican Museum, opening in 1973. It includes a collection of portraiture of Popes spanning the sixteenth century to the present day. You can also view papabili, or papal vehicles, ranging from early carts as well as carriages to the modern white minivans with motors.
The Sistine Chapel, a standalone landmark of the Vatican museum tour established in the late 1400s and among the most renowned churches in the world, stands out from the rest of the Vatican Museum. The ceiling is adorned with Leonardo da Vinci's masterwork, The Last Judgment, and there are also extensive murals by Botticelli that are rarely seen. Look up at the ceiling and spend a moment absorbing the incredible detail of the fresco that serves as its centerpiece.
While seeing the Vatican Museums, don't miss the Gallery of Maps, one of the most imaginative and thought-provoking exhibits. Artists from Italy and Flanders worked under the leadership of mathematician, astronomer, and cosmographer Ignazio Danti to create the stunning murals that grace the Gallery's walls. Construction on the building began in 1580 and was completed in 1585. Towards the conclusion of the gallery are murals depicting the major Italian ports of the 16th century, and above each location are depictions of the major religious events that occurred there.
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The Borgia Apartment, where Pope Alexander VI lived, features an elaborate ornamental scheme and was painted by the Umbrian artisan Pinturicchio or Pintoricchio between 1492 and 1494. Part of the Vatican Museum's Contemporary Art Collection is displayed in the Borgia Apartment, which once filled the entire first floor of the Apostolic Palace with six rooms of monumental importance.
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The nine ceremonial sedans of Popes and Princes of the Holy Roman Church, such as Cardinal Lucien Louis Bonaparte's, which was a present from his cousin Napoleon, are displayed alongside the spectacular Grand Gala Sedan, erected in Rome in 1826 by Leo XII. In addition to the carriages, the Carriage Pavilion features two vintage touring sedans and even a collection of vehicles donated to recent popes by industrial leaders around the world.
The Vatican Gardens can be visited in addition to the Vatican Museums tour. An urban park that serves as a haven of calm and serenity in the middle of chaotic Vatican City. The current size of the Vatican Gardens is estimated to be about 23 hectares, stretching from the south to the northwest of the City. The interiors are sectioned off into different zones and feature structures like houses, fountains, statues, and temples, many of which were created by illustrious names like Donato Bramante & Pirro Ligorio.
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Take a look at the new throne that sits atop the Vatican museum's red marble podium and marvel. The throne's red marble is thought to signify royalty, and its other characteristics, such as the mosaics and frescoes that adorned its ancestral homeland, Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (the main ecclesiastical residence of the Bishop in Rome), include two engraved lions that served as armrests and a brilliant mosaic that cast sunlight's rays lauding whoever sat in the throne.
As you might have guessed, the Gallery of Statues is exactly what it claims it is. The Pio Clementino Museum's Gallery of Busts is located at the end of a lengthy corridor adorned with sculptures. The walls of this room were once covered in frescoes depicting landscapes & cities with amorous cupids inside the lunettes, but now the marble arts are on display here instead.
The Pinanoteca may be found in a building designed by Luca Beltrami and located in the Giardino Quadrato, a public garden that dates back to the nineteenth century. Over the decades, the Pinanoteca has accumulated over 460 works of art, which are displayed across eighteen rooms thanks to grants and purchases. The collection features work by some of history's most revered creators.
Before its transfer in 1932, the Pinacoteca Vaticana was housed in the Borgia Apartment. From Raphael's "Oddi Altarpiece" and "Transfiguration" to Leonardo da Vinci's "St. Jerome in the Wilderness," it presently holds a variety of magnificent masterpieces. Every fan of the Renaissance should not leave the Vatican museum without seeing this masterpiece.
A self-guided audio tour, provided by Vox City, is yet another option for exploring the Vatican Museums.
This tour enables you to explore the past of this significant holy site situated in the center of Vatican City. Almost 70,000 works of art are displayed throughout 42,000 square feet at the museums, which are home to some of the world's most renowned Roman sculptures as well as Renaissance works. It also houses the Sistine Chapel, which was embellished by Michelangelo and draws in millions of tourists annually, thus ranking this the third most popular museum in the world.
With this Vox City app, you can explore the Vatican Museums at your own pace with a recorded guide. It's not necessary to schedule a meeting with a representative; just download our app and get started whenever and wherever you like.