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The Best Time to Visit the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica in 2024

Are you planning a trip to Rome and want to know the best time to visit the Vatican? As one of the top attractions in Rome, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica draw huge crowds all year long. With clever planning though, you can beat the queues and have an amazing experience at this incredible Vatican City site.

This guide will outline the best times to visit Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica in 2024 based on opening hours, crowds, events, and more. Read on for tips on getting Vatican Museum tickets, seeing the Sistine Chapel without crowds, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, and avoiding long lines at this popular attraction in Rome.

Best Time to Visit the Vatican Museums

When Are the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica Open in 2024?

First, it's important to know the opening hours and days of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican Museums are open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, with the last entry at 4pm. The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays except for the last Sunday of every month when they are open from 9am to 2pm, with last entry at 12:30pm.

St. Peter's Basilica is open daily from 7am to 7pm in summer and 7am to 6pm in winter. It is sometimes closed on Wednesdays for Papal audiences.

So what does this mean for visiting in 2024? Here are the key points:

  • The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, except the last Sunday of each month

  • St. Peter's Basilica is open every day but sometimes closes on Wednesdays

  • Opening hours vary between summer and winter months

When Are the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica Busiest?

As one of the most popular attractions in Rome, the Vatican gets very busy, especially during peak seasons:

  • Spring (late March to May) when the weather improves

  • Summer (June to August) when many tourists visit Rome

  • Fall (September to November) for pleasant weather

Times to avoid if you don't want to face massive crowds:

  • Mondays - the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, so Mondays are very busy

  • Mid-late morning - crowds pile in after opening time

  • Afternoons - peak time for tour groups

The busiest months tend to be April, July, August, and September. However, there are still ways to avoid the crowds if you plan carefully.

10 Tips for Visiting the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's Basilica in 2024

Follow these top tips for an enjoyable, stress-free visit to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica when planning your 2024 trip to Rome:

1. Visit on a Wednesday

St. Peter's Basilica is usually open on Wednesdays but the Vatican Museums are closed, so the basilica is significantly less crowded on Wednesdays. Try to visit the basilica on a Wednesday morning to avoid the masses. If it's randomly closed for a Papal audience, come back another day.

2. Get Vatican Museum Tickets in Advance

Booking Vatican Museum entry tickets online in advance lets you skip the notoriously long ticket queues. Select a preferred entry time to avoid peak hours. Offseason you can get entry tickets on the day but it's risky in peak season.

3. Visit the Vatican Museums Early

Get to the Vatican Museums 30-60 minutes before opening time to be among the first inside. Head straight for the Sistine Chapel to view Michelangelo's masterpiece before the crowds pile in. Early morning is also a good time for St. Peter's Basilica to avoid mid-late morning tour groups.

4. Visit on the Last Sunday of the Month

The Vatican Museums are open on the last Sunday of each month from 9am to 2pm, with last entry at 12:30pm. It's often less busy on these Sundays so can be a good time to visit, especially if you combine it with an early morning visit to St. Peter's Basilica.

5. Visit in the Evening

The Vatican Museums are open until 6pm in summer (4pm last entry). Late afternoon/evening is nowhere near as busy as the middle of the day so can be a magical time to visit, especially on summer evenings when it's later.

6. Book a Small Group Vatican Tour

Joining a small group Vatican tour means you skip the ticket queues and head in with an expert guide who can steer you around crowds and give unique insights into the history and art. Early morning and after hour tours are best for avoiding crowds.

7. Avoid Mondays After Sundays Vatican Is Closed

As mentioned before, visiting the Vatican Museums on a Monday will be very busy as they are closed on Sundays. Try to avoid Mondays, especially in peak season.

8. Visit in the Off Season

The winter months of November to mid March (outside of Christmas/New Year's), plus early May are less crowded times to visit the Vatican. You'll avoid the summer tourists and school groups. The downside is weather isn't as good and days are shorter.

9. Consider Seeing the Vatican Gardens

If you want a more peaceful Vatican experience, book a guided tour of the stunning Vatican Gardens. Tours are limited to small groups and take you away from the crowds into the private gardens.

10. Dress Appropriately to Avoid Turning Back

There is a Vatican dress code to enter St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Cover knees and shoulders or risk being turned away, especially in summer.

Beating the Crowds to See the Sistine Chapel & Vatican Highlights

The Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo's famous painted ceiling attracts huge crowds. Here are some ways to view this masterpiece without craning your neck over seas of people:

  • Get Sistine Chapel tickets for early morning right after opening

  • Smaller late afternoon crowds also make Sistine Chapel viewing nicer

  • Book a Vatican tour that takes you through a special entrance directly into the Sistine Chapel before it gets busy

  • Marvel at a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling at St. Peter's Basilica, minus the crowds

Other crowd tricks:

  • See the Laocoön statue before 10am or after 3pm

  • Visit the Raphael Rooms late afternoon when it's less congested

  • Gaze up at the Cappella Niccolina ceiling frescoes early morning or late afternoons after the tour groups have left

Final Tips for Saving Time & Skipping The Queues

  • Book skip-the-line Vatican Museum tickets online - choose your entry time and gain access faster

  • Arrive 60-90 minutes before opening to be first in when gates open

  • Avoid the long security lines by entering via the VIA della Traspontina gate

Plan Your Best 2024 Vatican Visit

The Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica are must-see highlights of Rome that do get very busy. However, with savvy timing and pre-planning, you can enjoy both even at the height of peak season.

Get your entry tickets booked, go early morning or late afternoon, dress appropriately, and join a small group tour if you can. Follow these tips and have an awe-inspiring visit to one of the world's most incredible collections of art and architecture.

The key is knowing the opening days and times, booking tickets ahead of time, and choosing off-peak days and hours to visit. Know when the big crowds and tour groups arrive, and be there before they are! With preparation, you can truly make the most of your Vatican visit.


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