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.
These gardens are so worth visiting! It's never crowded, as they only accept a few reservations every day. And, be prepared for views of Saint Peter's Basilica unlike any other!
To visit the gardens at the Vatican, here's what you need to know:
On your visit to these gardens, you will see beautifully curated mini-gardens . . .
. . . fountains and sculptures . . .
. . . a harmonious balance of trees, bushes, and flowers along delightful shaded walkways . . .
. . . stunning views of St. Peter's dome from almost every angle . . .
. . . and important holy sites, such as the Grotta di Lourdes, a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France.
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.
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 (I say "should" because this shortcut is supposed to be used exclusively for tour groups. Once in a while, the guards get serious about it and try to stop people not with a group from using it).
Even if entry to Saint Peter's Basilica is already free, if you were to enter from the front, you'd have to contend with huge lines and security.
But by going in from the Vatican Museums (after visiting the gardens), you will zip right in with no line.
This is always available when you visit St. Peter's basilica, but I'm just saying that with your Vatican Gardens entry, you automatically have access to the rest of the Vatican with no waiting in line.
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.
You can visit either of the gardens, right at the Vatican, or at Castel Gandolfo, or, you can see them both in one day (see below for how to book.)
Just the guided walking tour of the gardens will take 1.5-2 hours.
Then, your ticket allows entry to the Vatican Museums. If you can take the shortcut exit from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica, you'll get that too. The Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica typically take about 3 hours total. So count on a 5 hour visit all together.
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) and St. Peter's Basilica (1 hour.) So if you visit everything, count on about 4 hours.
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.
When you book a visit to the Vatican Gardens, you will automatically get entry to the Vatican Museums. So plan for at least a 4-hour visit. Assuming you can easily take the shortcut to St. Peter's Basilica, to the right when leaving the Sistine Chapel, you should plan for an additional hour at least.
And, if you decide to climb St. Peter's dome, you'll need yet another hour.
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 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 will find very limited availability.
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!
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.
Whether you book a walking or bus tour of the Vatican Gardens, your ticket allows you entry into the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and, if you are allowed to take the shortcut to the right, fast-track entry into Saint Peter's Basilica.
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.
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. (The tour suggested above is in US$. To book a tour in other currencies, go here.)
Yes it's possible for those with mobility problems or who are in a wheelchair to visit these wonderful gardens.
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.
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.
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 must more.
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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