Planning Your Visit to the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is one of Italy's top tourist destinations, noted for its magnificent ceilings depicting well-known religious scenery, such as one famous scene, The Creation of Adam. Completed by Renaissance painter Michelangelo in 1512, the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel draw in millions of visitors from around the globe each year. In fact, Vatican City officials have recently been forced to limit their annual visitation numbers to 6 million visitors. Like other painted masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, exposure to natural elements like carbon dioxide from breathing, can damage priceless works of art. If you're one of those fortunate 6 million planning a visit to the Sistine Chapel to see the breathtaking views, here are some considerations and helpful tips.

To Tour or Not to Tour?

Several options exist for visiting the Sistine Chapel, including self-guided tours, group tours, private tours, family tours, and guided tours. With all of these options available, it can be difficult to decide which type of visit will work best for you. Consider first whether or not you like to move at your own pace or if you'd rather be guided from site to site. Then take into account if you prefer to discover and learn by your own devices, or if you'd rather have a private guide lead you through the chapel. No matter how you decide to visit the Sistine Chapel, there is an option available for you. For more practical information about the tours such as hours and reservation times, visit the chapel’s website.

Best Time to Visit

As in many other western European countries, the best times of year to visit are during the fall, winter, and early spring months when tourist crowds have thinned out after summer vacation and during colder months. January and February are particularly good times to visit if you really want to skip lines. Mondays tend to be the busiest day of the week for a visit since the museums are closed on Sundays, so make sure to plan yours between Tuesday and Saturday. Wednesdays may be the best day to visit since the pope makes a live appearance that day each week. Early afternoon around 1:00 p.m. is the best time to enter, but make sure to make it in before 3:00 p.m. as the last crowds are let in around this time.

So Many Museums, So Little Time

Founded in the early 1500s by Pope Julius II, the same man who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, the museums of the Vatican are home to major Renaissance artwork in 54 distinct galleries, most notably, the Sistine Chapel. However, there are many other must-see areas as well, including the Borgia Apartments, Cappella Nicolina, Raphael Rooms, the Gallery of Maps, and the Greek and Roman Antiquities section. In these rooms, you can see Egyptian frescoes, 5th century Greek sculptures, and some of Raphael's famous paintings in Pope Julius II's four apartments.