The Vatican Museums at Night

I remember the first time I visited the Vatican Museums: it was hot (think August 2003, one of the hottest summers in Europe) and it was so crowded I felt like leaving the place without even seeing it. So it is no wonder that I wanted to find an alternative to avoid the crowds and have a more enjoyable time on our visit and that is how I discovered the night tours.


The experience

The night tours allow you to visit the Vatican Museums after the day crowds are gone and help you optimize your sightseeing day. We booked the 7:30pm tour and arrived there about 15 minutes before.

On our way to the Vatican Museums
On our way to the Vatican Museums

And we had to wait – yes, they followed the rule of allowing you in only at the time of your booking.

Once we were allowed in, it was an experience a lot better than the one we had in 2003. It didn’t feel as crowded and the map had an easy to follow path that would lead you to the Sistine Chapel.

Inside courtyard at the Vatican Museums
Inside courtyard at the Vatican Museums

The Gallery of Maps (commissioned in 1580) was one of my family’s favorite; my daughter was really impressed and I think we spent most of our time in the Vatican Museums there.

View of the hallway at the Gallery of Maps
View of the hallway at the Gallery of Maps

But the highlight for me was the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Consecrated in 1483, it is a masterpiece that will leave anyone in awe. Sure I’ve seen many paintings in ceilings, but there is just something about this place that leaves me speechless (and that is something difficult to achieve, since I talk a lot! 🙂 ). This visit was so different than the first one: the sun was setting and the lighting was perfect. Plus, there were very few people; so few that there were seats available everywhere and you could just stand and admire it all without being elbowed by people. It was so peaceful that sometimes I go back to the 30 minutes I spent there with my daughter just admiring it all, while the rest of our group was still making their way there. The security guards were making sure nobody was taking pictures and I didn’t even try to take one, all I wanted was to take it all in, in awe.

It was also a great time to go there, because it was day 2 of our 5 days in Italy and we still had fresh minds to appreciate art properly without finding it looked the same as something we saw a day before (we like art, but there is only so much one can take in in Italy!).

View from a window a stumbled upon!
View from a window a stumbled upon!

By the time the tour was done (which was not guided) for us, it was about 9:30-10pm and we walked back to our hotel near Termini Station, stopping at a restaurant on the way back for a late dinner.


The experience, with kids

My daughter is a great travel companion (proud mom! 🙂 ) and she enjoyed the visit to the Vatican Museums. The Gallery of Maps was one of her favorite places and she loved the gift shop (who doesn’t, right?). I wouldn’t recommend the visit for families with children under 5 years old, since it could get a little boring for the little ones and stressful for parents.

One of my daughter's favorites at the Gallery of Maps
One of my daughter’s favorites at the Gallery of Maps


Buying your ticket

The night tours of the Vatican Museum are available from May to October and tickets can be bought online ate the Vatican’s Official Website (right now they are not yet available online, but they should be back up in April). We did it that way and the process was seamless.

The Spiral Staircase
The Spiral Staircase


Our hotel

We found a very good rate and booked our stay in Rome at UNA Hotel Roma and we totally recommend it. The staff was amazing, the rooms were great (tiny, but great) and the buffet breakfast (included in our rate) was just fantastic! We hope to stay there again in our next visit to Rome.


In a nutshell

If planning a visit to the Vatican Museums, choose the night tour – you will enjoy it a lot more than a day visit and will not be annoyed by the crowds.

St. Peter's Basilica after the tour, on our way back to the hotel
St. Peter’s Basilica after the tour, on our way back to the hotel

Happy travels!

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