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Pristine Sistine Early Entrance Small Group Vatican Tour

7397 reviews

4 hours

Max 14

Why take this tour?

Step inside the Sistine Chapel an hour before it opens to the public on this special access Vatican tour. Stare up at Michelangelo’s frescoes without the normal crowds, then embark on a full tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, using a restricted access door to gain direct access between the sites (skipping even more lines!)

Take a walk through the empty Vatican Museums

These days, if you want to see Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, you usually have to share the experience with hundreds of others, standing elbow-to-elbow in what is a surprisingly small room. But not on this tour.

Our Pristine Sistine tour enters the Vatican Museums a full hour before the general public is allowed inside. While the Museums are still closed you'll pass through all the most important rooms; from the Gallery of the Maps to the Gallery of Tapestries and even the phenomenal Raphael Rooms. Soak it all up; when you return, these galleries will be packed full of people - this kind of peace is a rarity at the Vatican Museums.

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These days, if you want to see Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, you usually have to share the experience with hundreds of others, standing elbow-to-elbow in what is a surprisingly small room. But not on this tour.

Our Pristine Sistine tour enters the Vatican Museums a full hour before the general public is allowed inside. While the Museums are still closed you'll pass through all the most important rooms; from the Gallery of the Maps to the Gallery of Tapestries and even the phenomenal Raphael Rooms. Soak it all up; when you return, these galleries will be packed full of people - this kind of peace is a rarity at the Vatican Museums.

*N.b.: For our clients who want a little more time in bed, we also offer a slightly cheaper option that gets you into the Vatican 30 minutes before general opening, instead of one hour. The crowds are slightly larger but it's also €3 cheaper. If you would prefer this option, please select the "8:00 AM start time" option in the booking menu. *

The exact timing of our Pristine Sistine tour will vary from day to day. On some days, we'll have time to pause along the way to the Sistine Chapel to see an important work or marvel at a fresco. On other days we'll go straight there to get you inside as quickly as possible and double back to these rooms later. The aim is always the same: To get you into the Sistine Chapel at the quietest time of the morning, and always before the 9am crowds descend.

Your guide will give you a full rundown of the Sistine Chapel masterpieces before you enter even the Museums, giving you a special handout to help you pick out the most wonderful details once you are inside. Speaking inside the chapel is forbidden but more than that, this is supposed to be a peaceful experience, so you'll get the most from your time if you spend it just staring at the art. Have questions about the details? No worries, you'll pass through with your guide for a second time later (when it will be a lot busier), so there will be plenty of time to ask.

After 20 minutes inside the chapel, just as the crowds are beginning to arrive, you'll be whisked away for a full tour of the Vatican Museums. You'll stop off at all the Museums highlights you passed earlier and a few extras, including the Belvedere Courtyard, where you'll find classical Greek and Roman works. Keep an eye out for The Belvedere Torso in particular; you might recognise it from the Sistine Chapel.

Finally, you'll take a special-access passage via the Sistine Chapel to skip the entrance lines at St. Peter's Basilica and walk right into Christendom's most awe-inspiring basilica. Here your expert guide will treat you to a full tour that includes Michelangelo's emotional Pietá, Bernini's enormous baldachin altarpiece, and a vast array of stories and anecdotes, telling the nearly unbelievable tale of how this incredible structure was built.

Entering before the crowds with an expert art historian guide, our Pristine Sistine Chapel Tour (the original Walks tour) offers you the most personal and intimate experience with the Vatican Museums.

  • Sites Visited
  • Sistine Chapel
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • St. Peter’s Square
  • Raphael Rooms
  • Belvedere Courtyard
  • Pinecone Courtyard
  • Gallery of the Candelabra
  • Gallery of the Maps
  • Gallery of the Tapestries
  • Tour Includes
  • Skip the Line Vatican Museum tickets
  • Skip the Line Access to St Peter's Basilica
  • Headsets
  • Expert tour guide
  • Small groups of 14 or fewer
Visitors look at the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo's Final Judgement in the Sistine Chapel
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Latest Reviews

What a wonderful morning we had. Maria Grazia, our tour guide, was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She shared her extensive wealth of information in a clear and organized manner. I was impressed that someone who was so experienced could still make everything feel so fresh and new as if she was experiencing it with us for the first time!!! We had enough time to enjoy some of the most special locations during the tour. It was so comprehensive yet not rushed. The Vatican tour is so special and I was sooo glad to have had such an excellent guide to experience it with. Also, the meeting place was clear and easy to find and it was a small group. I was quite impressed with this tour company and luckily took one of their tours when we were in Florence, also.


FAQ

I've heard the Vatican has a strict dress code. What should I wear?
It does, but it isn't anything too formal. The big rule is to make sure your shoulders and knees are covered - that applies to both men and women. Also remember that shorts of any length are not allowed at all in St. Peter's Basilica so if you are visiting both the Vatican Musuems and the Basilica, wear trousers or a long skirt. Occasionally visitors get away with wearing a bit less but it’s best not to risk it. Hats are also not allowed. Walks cannot be held responsible for guests who are refused entrance due to inappropriate dress so please remember to cover up.
I'd like to climb to the top of the Dome of St. Peter's. Anything I should know?
The St. Peter's Dome climb requires separate tickets, but there are two ways to do it. If you you pay €7 you can take the elevator up part of the way then climb a further 320 steps. Alternately, you can pay €5 and climb the entire 551 steps. Either way the view from the top is worth it.
I want to take a selfie in the Raphael Rooms, can I bring my selfie stick?
No. Selfie sticks are strictly forbidden inside the Vatican Museums, along with flash photography. However, visitors are allowed to take non-flash photographs anywhere besides the Sistine Chapel.
Can I use a wheelchair on this tour?
Yes, but we require advance notice in order to accommodate wheelchairs on this tour. After booking, please contact us so that we can organize a private tour for you. If we cannot find a guide to lead you that day we'll offer you the same tour on the next avaialbe date or give you credit for another tour anywhere else in the world.
Why can't I take photos inside the Sistine Chapel?
When the chapel was restored in 1990 the biggest donors to the project (donating a whopping $4.2 million) were a Japanese television network. In return, they recieved exclusive rights to photograph and film inside and quickly banned any professional photographers from taking pictures. Although they didn't mind if tourists took photos, the Vatican guards decided to enforce the rule on everyone because it was impractical to differentiate between a normal visitor and who was a professional photographer. The Japanese network's exclusive contract has expired now but the rule persists. If you try to take any images in the Chapel Vatican, security is authorized to make you delete them.
IMPORTANT: Can I bring a bag into the Vatican Museums?
Yes, as long as it's within a certain size. You cannot bring any bag, backpack suitcase or container larger that 40cm x 35cm x 15cm into the Vatican Museums. In fact, size limits apply to all items; because of the sheer number of people that visit the Museums, space is at a premium. You can’t enter with medium to large umbrellas, any umbrellas with spiked tips, camera tripods, signage (apart from signs used by certified guides) or walking sticks – except those required by disabled visitors. All of these items can be left in the cloakroom, which is located at the entrance to the Museums. This means that you will need to walk 15 - 20 minutes back here after you finish your tour at St Peter's Basilica. On our afternoon tours you may need to leave the tour early to collect your bag before the cloakroom closes.
What items can I NOT take into the Vatican Museums
Knives, scissors, and other cutting tools must also be deposited in the cloakroom as a precaution against harming the artwork inside. No hammers, either, as one was once used to smash Michelangelo's Pietá. This probably goes without saying, but firearms are also strictly prohibited for visitors within the Vatican Museums and you can't check them in the cloakroom.
I am in a wheelchair/have a mobility impairment. Can I take this tour?
The Vatican Museums are equipped with elevators for wheelchair access, but they are not located on the group tour route. If you have a mobility impairment and/or use wheelchair please contact our customer service department and we will be happy to design a private tour for you. info@walksofitaly.com. We can then work out a suitable alternative.