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Visiting the Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are some of the most beautiful, and most exclusive, gardens in Rome.

To visit them, you need to plan ahead. Here's how.

st peter's basilica from the gardens at the vaticanThe gardens at the Vatican offer stunning views of St. Peter's Basilica


The Vatican Gardens - Everything You Need to Know

If you're wondering whether you should try to fit in a visit to the Vatican Gardens, or are even wondering what they are, let me tell you - they are so worth visiting!

It's never crowded, as they only accept a few reservations every day they are open. And be prepared for views of Saint Peter's Basilica unlike any other.

at the gardens behind the vatican, you can see stunning views of st peter's domeYou can only get views like this of St. Peter's dome from the Vatican Gardens. It's even better in person, trust me!

To visit the gardens at the Vatican, here's what you need to know:

What's included in a visit to the gardens at the Vatican

Gardens, Fountains, Views, Sacred Sites

fountain in the gardens at the vaticanI think one of my favorite places in the gardens is this sweet fountain...
fountain in gardens at vatican, with turtleand I love the turtles who live in the fountain and come over for a hello!

On your visit to these gardens, you will see beautifully curated mini-gardens . . .

cactus garden behind the VaticanI am always charmed by this sweet cactus garden, so well-curated, at the Vatican Gardens
mini-garden of herbs and bush speciesThis olive tree is part of a small curated tree collection in the gardens at the Vatican
papyrus plant in vatican gardenThe papyrus is just one of the curious plants in the Vatican gardens

 . . . fountains and sculptures . . .

fountain in garden at vaticanThis soothing fountain is just one beautiful thing you'll see in the gardens here
trellis and fountain in gardens at vaticanEverywhere you look while you stroll through these gardens is a feast for the senses

 . . . a harmonious balance of trees, bushes, and flowers along delightful shaded walkways . . .

walkway among the trees in vatican gardenThis bucolic walkway feels so special and hushed...it's hard to believe there is so much hustle and bustle in the rest of Vatican City just below.

 . . . stunning views of St. Peter's dome from almost every angle . . .

view of st. peter's dome from the garden walkwaySt Peter's dome is always awe-inspiring. From these gardens, you will see it from so many different angles, and up so close!

 . . . and important holy sites, such as the Grotta di Lourdes, a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France.

replica of grotta di lourdes in vatican gardenThis replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France is one of so many special holy things you will see in the gardens at the Vatican

Special thanks for this special visit to my friend Joanne, who is married to a Swiss Guard.

She writes a wonderful blog, Travel Angel, which includes some fascinating and unique points of view considering she is the only Australian citizen to live in Vatican City!

Book your Vatican Gardens tickets now

Vatican Museums

When you book your tour of the Vatican Gardens, your ticket will allow you entry to the Vatican Museums, which includes the Sistine Chapel.

creation of adam by michelangelo, ceiling of sistine chapelNot only do you get to visit the exquisite gardens at the Vatican but you also get skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel!

Of course this is one fantastic way to skip the line at the Vatican Museums, as you not only get exclusive entry with no waiting, but you will have seen the special gardens that most visitors never get to see.

vatican museums as seen from the gardensIncluded in your ticket to the gardens is skip-the line entry to the Vatican Museums, seen here.

Some very important things to note about your Vatican Gardens ticket and entry to the Vatican Museums:

  • This ticket may not be used for entry to the Vatican Museums on Friday nights. If you want to visit the Vatican Museums on a Friday night, plan for it as a separate visit from the day-time visit to the Vatican Gardens.
  • The Vatican Gardens visit includes a tour, but when you enter the Vatican Museums, there is no tour included for the Museums. So if you want a tour of the Museums also, your choices are to a) get the audioguide, b) book a guide through the Vatican Museums separately, c) book your visit to the Gardens and the Museums through a tour company.
  • I get asked this all the time, so here is the definitive answer: Once you visit the Vatican Gardens, you then have to go right into the Vatican Museums. You cannot leave and have lunch and come back. Think of the gardens and the museums as being one entity. There is no re-entry.
  • The Vatican Gardens tours are always in the morning/late morning. So your visit to the Vatican Museums will be sometime around noon/1pm. If you want to visit the Vatican Museums right when they open at 8:30am, or, later in the day, you will need to purchase separate tickets to the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Gardens.

Saint Peter's Basilica

I used to advise this, but no longer:

When you are in the Sistine Chapel, you should be able to go through the right-hand exit and take the short-cut into Saint Peter's Basilica with no waiting.

Now they are very strict about taking the shortcut from the Sistine Chapel into Saint Peter's Basilica. You must show proof you are on a tour.

On recent visits, I've tried to take the shortcut without being on a tour, and have been told no every time.

st peters basilica central naveAfter your visit to the gardens at the Vatican, you have skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums. But this does NOT include skip-the-line entry to St. Peter's Basilica.

Entry to Saint Peter's Basilica is free, but if you are not on a tour, you will have to leave the Vatican Museums and go into the basilica from the front. This means waiting in line and going through security again. 

So if you want to visit Saint Peter's Basilica after visiting the gardens, without being on a tour, you can leave the museums, go have lunch, and come back and wait in line to get in (or purchase a skip the line ticket if you prefer.)

Once inside Saint Peter's Basilica, you can climb the dome and/or visit the grottos just below the altar where many popes are entombed.

Finally, you COULD visit Saint Peter's Basilica BEFORE visiting the Vatican Gardens if you come to the basilica at 7 am, as I advise. This is a great way to avoid any lines and crowds. Just be sure to give yourself about 20 minutes' time to leave the basilica and make it to the entrance of the Vatican Museums in time for your visit to the Vatican Gardens.

Saint Peter's Square at 7 am. This is a great time to visit the basilica any time. And it's also a good time to visit it if you have a visit to the Vatican Gardens booked later that morning.

Option for Barberini Gardens

There are actually two "Vatican Gardens." The gardens right behind St. Peter's Basilica, are the most famous and most popular.

There are also the gardens at the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, just half hour outside Rome. There, you can visit the Pontifical Palace, and see the pope's private  Barberini gardens, which were opened to the public only in 2014 by Pope Francis. 

pope's barberini gardens at castel gandolfoThe Pope's Barberini gardens at Castel Gandolfo, also worth a visit! Photo credit: viator

You can visit either of the gardens, right at the Vatican, or at Castel Gandolfo, or, you can see them both in one day.

The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.

How long does it take to tour the gardens at the Vatican?

view of vatican gardens from st peters domeWhen you climb the dome to St. Peter's basilica, you can see the gardens below. They are vast, taking up about more than half of the city-state!

Walking Tour of the Vatican Gardens

Just the guided walking tour of the gardens will take 1.5-2 hours.

Then, your ticket allows entry to the Vatican Museums. Normally this visit takes around 2 hours.

If you are on a tour, and it includes St. Peter's Basilica, add about an hour. So count on a 5 hour visit all together if you are on a tour.

Bus Tour of the Vatican Gardens

The bus tour of the gardens is 45 minutes.

It does not stop and you cannot get off. This is a shorter tour, but can be ideal for anyone with walking issues.

Then, add the option of the Vatican Museums (about 2 hours) so count on at least 3 hours.

Book your Vatican Gardens bus tour here.

You are not obliged to go through the Vatican Museums or to visit Saint Peter's Basilica.

If you have limited time, and/or have already visited those sites, you may simply leave after your garden tour.

All Day tour including the Papal Gardens at Castel Gandolfo

If you choose to include a visit to the Papal Gardens at Castel Gandolfo, it is an all day visit beginning at the Vatican at 8am, and ending back at the Vatican at about 6pm. 

train to castel gandolfo from vaticanTrain between Vatican and Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. Photo credit: vatican.va
pope's barberini gardensThe Barberini gardens at the Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. Photo credit: vatican.va

You can also book a tour of JUST the gardens at the Pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. This makes for a fascinating and unusual day trip out of Rome.

A guided tour of the Apostilic Palace, the Barberini gardens, and lunch on the Pope's farm are all included!

How to plan all your Vatican visits

When you book  a visit to the Vatican Gardens, you will automatically get entry to the Vatican Museums. So plan for at least a 3-4 hour visit.

IF YOU ARE ON A TOUR that includes Saint Peter's Basilica, you can take the shortcut to St. Peter's Basilica. This tour will take around 5 hours.

Once inside Saint Peter's Basilica, you could also decide to climb St. Peter's dome. Plan for yet another hour.

Do you want to also know how to fit in a visit to the Vatican necropolis (St. Peter's tomb), and/or the Papal Audience? Visit my page about this.

How to book a visit to the Vatican Gardens

Opening Days/hours of the Vatican Gardens

The Vatican gardens are open Monday - Saturday. They are closed Sundays and on Catholic holidays, and/or when the pope conducts mass at St. Peter's basilica, including December 8, 25 and 26, January 1 and 6, Easter Sunday, and more. To see all closing dates for a given year, check the Vatican Museums calendar online.

Although the gardens are open the same dates as the museums, visiting hours are restricted to mid-late mornings

Walking tours are not available on Wednesdays when there is a Papal audience. Bus tours are.

You can book a walking tour that begins at 9:30 or 11am. You can book a bus tour that begins somewhere from 8:15 am to 12:45 pm (last departure.) The all-day tour that includes a train visit to Castel Gandolfo must be booked for an early start at 8am.

The tours are available in different languages but the most commonly offered is in English. If you choose another language, you may find limited availability.

Book on the Vatican WebsitE 

You can easily book a tour of the Vatican Gardens on the Vatican website

Click "Guided Tours for Individuals", which takes you to the page with all the options. There you can select different garden tours. Costs vary depending on the type of tour you book.

The only downside to this is that often the website does not seem able to authorize the credit card purchase.

You can only use Visa or Mastercard, and sometimes for mysterious reasons, your card is not accepted. I think it's to do with fraud protection but it can be frustrating. On my latest try to book for my family, I had to try 3 different cards!

Book through an Authorized vendor

If you have trouble with the Vatican website, or if you'd like to use PayPal, you might want to try booking the same ticket (in various currencies) through the authorized vendor TicketBar. There is a small booking fee but the ease of use makes up for it. 

Book a Tour

Whether you book a walking or bus tour of the Vatican Gardens, your ticket allows you entry into the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

When you book the Vatican Gardens, you will either have a human guide on the walking tour, or an audio-guide on the bus tour.

After that however, you will not have a guide for the Vatican Museums, just entry.

trou group at vatican museumsTaking a small group tour of the Vatican Museums can make your visit go so much more smoothly!

So if you would like a guide (which I highly recommend), you can book a tour that includes a guided tour of the Vatican Museums.

In my opinion it is a much better way to visit the Vatican Museums, and makes for a smoother and less tiring day.

You cannot visit the Vatican Gardens without booking a tour.

If you take the shorter bus tour, there is just an audio-guide and not a human. However, you are not allowed to get off the bus.

Options to see the gardens for people in wheelchairs

Yes it's possible for those with mobility problems or who are in a wheelchair to visit these wonderful gardens.

visiting the gardens at the vatican in a wheelchairA visitor in a wheelchair enjoying the beautiful gardens at the Vatican. Photo credit: Vatican.va

However, there is no regularly scheduled tour. You need to write to the Vatican and ask for a time slot and guide. Visitors in wheelchairs may of course be accompanied on the tour by their companions and/or care-givers.

Visit the official Vatican website for more details and how to book.

Bathrooms inside the Vatican Gardens

Yes, there are bathrooms in more than one spot inside the Vatican Gardens. They are quite discretely hidden, so just ask your guide where to find them.

The bathrooms inside the Vatican Gardens are not handicapped-equipped.

Using the Omnia Pass

The Omnia Pass is a great combo pass that gives you access to the Vatican Museums, Saint Peter's basilica, and many Rome sites such as the Colosseum, Galleria Borghese and much more.

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo Buonarotti 1508 - 1512The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are free when you buy the Omnia Pass, but the Vatican Gardens are not included

However, the gardens at the Vatican are not included.

If you want to visit the Vatican Gardens, I'd suggest booking them separately (which includes the Vatican Museums), and then purchasing the Roma Pass, which has nothing to do with Vatican sites.

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