The Vatican is one of the most famous religious sites in the world. It is the home of the Pope, after all. But it is also home to many more attractions.
When you visit the Vatican, you enter a world that contains some of the most infamous and beautiful works of art in history. You engage with architecture that stimulates the senses. You join a throng of more than five million people who visit each year.
These are only a few of the reasons to consider the Vatican when planning your next vacation. If you are visiting Rome, the Vatican is not even a new destination. It is a part of the city you are visiting!
We have collected even more support for our love of the Vatican below. Read these reasons for visiting the Vatican, and by the time you’re done, you’ll have some new things to add to your travel itinerary.
9 Reasons You Should Visit the Vatican on Your Next Vacation
It is impossible to reduce the Vatican to a list of its sights. Such a holy place is about more than a checklist. It is about the experiences you can have while you are there.
That is why we have taken an expansive view with this list. We have listed attractions as well as justifications for your trip.
Keep your list of travel hacks close-by as you read. When you finish this article, you may want to leave on vacation as soon as possible.
1. The Sistine Chapel Lives up to the Hype
You have heard the hype about Michelangelo’s masterpiece, but it can’t be as good as everyone says it is, right? Wrong.
Despite all the images you have seen of the Sistine Chapel in movies and on television, the long wait to get in, and the size of the crowd, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most breathtaking sites on the planet. If you are an art lover, it is an unmissable piece of history. As a member of the human race, you owe yourself this vital experience.
2. Attend a Papal Mass
The Vatican is not only where the Pope rests when he is not traveling. He holds mass in St. Peter’s Square and inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Not all visitors to the Vatican are Catholic, but the ones who are will find these masses powerful.
3. The Swiss Guard Is the Most Stylish Army Around
The Swiss Guard is well known as the world’s smallest and oldest private army. On their own, these things are not particularly impressive attributes for an army to have.
On the other hand, their fashion is on point.
Their uniforms are flashy and colorful in a way that belies the Guard’s purpose. They almost look like medieval minstrels. In a place that can be quite serious, the uniforms of the Swiss Guard are a welcome dash of whimsy.
4. The Vatican’s Museums Are World-Class
The Sistine Chapel is not the only artistic draw the Vatican has to offer. Other wings of the Vatican Museums include pieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, Giotto, and Perugino.
With art and artifacts dating back 3,000 years, there are items of interest to every visitor to the Vatican Museums.
5. You Will Be Standing in the World’s Smallest Country
This is less an attraction than a cool fact. The Vatican is the world’s smallest recognized independent state.
With just over 100 acres in the country’s possession, the Vatican is only one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City. Knowing this during your visit gives a surreal perspective that only adds to the mystique of the Vatican.
6. Quite a Bit of It Is Free
Don’t get us wrong. There are plenty of ways to spend money in the Vatican. If you want to know the best Vatican tours to take, you can check out this blog for a helpful rundown.
Fortunately, paid tours are not the only way to explore the Vatican, since there are plenty of free attractions, if you plan your visit right.
Entering St. Peter’s Square is an exercise in experiencing your own smallness, and you can get in without a ticket. Likewise, the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica is open to the public free of charge.
If you want to get especially advanced with your low-budget exploring, you can visit on the last Sunday of the month. That is when the Vatican Museums have free entry.
7. You Can Visit Tombs Underneath
The Vatican is plenty brilliant above ground, but there is fascinating history below the surface too. That is where you will find the Tomb of St. Peter and the Necropolis, a 4th century burial ground not discovered until the middle of the 20th century.
8. Climb to the Top of the Most Famous Church in the World
As beautiful as it is to walk around outside in St. Peter’s Square and inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the real treat is walking on the dome of the church itself. You can take an elevator up to the top for an incredible view of the tiny country and the huge Italian capital that surrounds it. You can also take the 551 stairs.
9. Escape the Crowds by Going to the Gardens
Saying you will escape the crowds might be an exaggeration, but the Vatican Gardens is one of the least frequented attractions in the independent state. It costs money to visit them, but the peaceful atmosphere inside is worth it. Popes and bishops have enjoyed this atmosphere for centuries.
The Vatican Gardens are as much a feast for the soul as the Vatican Museums are a feast for the eyes.
Hallelujah and Amen!
We hope this litany of reasons to visit the Vatican has sparked your interest in this holy destination. Whether you are an art lover, a history buff, or a religious pilgrim, the Vatican has something to offer you.
While you are there, you might as well explore your surroundings, and we don’t just mean Rome. Check out our guides to European travel for other vacation ideas.