Now 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.
Included in your ticket to the gardens is skip-the line entry to the Vatican Museums, seen here.
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.
Saint Peter's Basilica
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).
After your visit to the gardens at the Vatican, you have skip-the-line access to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's basilica
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.
Getting into Saint Peter's Basilica
You might be able to take the shortcut into the basilica from the Sistine Chapel, but you also might be stopped. It happens rarely but it happens more in high season, when they are trying to control the flow.
If you want to be sure to now have to wait in line for St. Peter's basilica, you can either book a tour of the museums (separately from the Gardens), or, you can simply book priority skip-the-line entry to the basilica.
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.
The 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 (see below for how to book.)
How Long Does it take to Tour the Gardens at the Vatican?
When 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. 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.
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) and St. Peter's Basilica (1 hour.) So if you visit everything, count on about 4 hours.
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 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.
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, 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.
Taking a small group tour of the Vatican Museums can make your visit go so much more smoothly!
A 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.
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