When I went to visit the Sistine Chapel for the first time, I don’t think I was prepared for how much I would have to take in.
My senses were completely overloaded, and a feeling of true awe washed over me. I wish I could bottle that feeling. It was wonderful.
I feel very lucky that I've been able to visit the Sistine Chapel many times since then.
And every time, I feel the same way. I step inside, my eyes try to take it all in, and I let the overwhelming power of the art, the artists, and the history envelope me.
If you’re planning to visit the Sistine Chapel, here’s everything you need to know:
The Sistine Chapel is inside the Vatican Museums in Vatican City.
It’s the last thing you visit in the museums. You can easily visit the Sistine Chapel by purchasing a ticket to the Vatican Museums.
Tickets to the Vatican Museums (where the Sistine Chapel is) are 17€ per person over 18, 8€ for anyone 6-18, and free for children 5 and younger.
Tickets are also free for the disabled and their caregiver.
No, you cannot use the Roma Pass to visit the Sistine Chapel.
The Roma Pass does not include anything in Vatican City. You could use the Omnia Pass or the Turbo Pass.
Neither of these are money-savers, but rather time-saving convenience passes. Read more about them here.
No, it’s not possible to just visit the Sistine Chapel without visiting the Vatican Museums.
You can, however, take the shortest route possible from the entry of the Vatican Museums if you like.
Come up the escalator. Skip the following:
Go straight up two sets of stairs. Walk through:
Skip the Raphael rooms, and go directly to the Sistine Chapel.
This will take less than half an hour of walking if you don’t stop to look at anything.
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most popular sites in Rome, and it has visitors every day it’s open, throughout the year.
It can be notoriously crowded in there, to the point where you don’t even want to be there, and can’t deal with the crowds. I have heard so many visitors say they just wanted to get out.
And more likely than not, they missed a lot of the beauty of it, in part because they didn’t feel good, and in part because the crowds make it hard to take it all in.
But there are times when it’s less crowded, believe it or not. Here’s when you can try to visit the Sistine Chapel without (so many) people:
If you are visiting the Vatican Museums on your own, when you get to the Sistine Chapel, try to find a seat, and then sit down and try to block out everyone and everything and just take it all in.
You may want to try to then find a seat on the opposite side so you can see all the paintings on both sides.
The only limits as to how long you can spend in the Sistine Chapel are:
Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the most important churches in the Catholic world.
Saint Peter’s is one of four major basilicas, also sometimes referred to as papal basilicas, as they are under the direct jurisdiction of the pope.
You can easily visit Saint Peter’s Basilica by entering from the front in Saint Peter’s Square.
You can also attend mass there if you like. And, you can even attend mass with the pope if you book in advance. All this is free.
The Sistine Chapel is a working chapel and is actually the pope’s private chapel.
It also happens to be one of the most popular tourist draws in Rome. You can easily visit the Sistine Chapel by going inside the Vatican Museums. Usually you need to pay for this although there are free dates (see above.)
Unlike Saint Peter’s Basilica, you cannot (easily) attend any liturgical services inside the Sistine Chapel. This is reserved for the pope, some clergy, and residents of Vatican City and their family.
The bottom line is that it’s free and relatively easy to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica and to attend services there, while it’s not free to visit the Sistine Chapel, and it’s relatively difficult to attend any services there.
In the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel the back wall with his Last Judgement.
Where Saint Peter’s Basilica is concerned, Michelangelo was the chief architect of its current form, most notedly of the dome.
He also sculpted the Pietà when he was a young man, and you can see this stunning work of art immediately on the right-hand side of the basilica when you enter.
Many other artists were involved with both the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica, but it’s Michelangelo who is most famously associated with them both.
One of the things that strikes me the most when I visit both of these holy places is the overwhelming presence of Michelangelo. At least, it’s how I feel, and it’s one reason he is my favorite artist of all.
Click here to visit my page all about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.
When the pope is elected, he takes on a papal name. So for example, Pope Francis’ actual name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
In the Renaissance, many popes came from noble families. Two popes came from the della Rovere noble family, Pope Sixtus IV, and Pope Julius II.
The Sistine Chapel is named for Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned its construction as his private chapel. Pope Sixtus IV's nephew Pope Julius II is the one who later had Michelangelo paint the ceiling.
Yes, Michelangelo laid on his back to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – in the 1965 movie called “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo.
I loved the book this movie was based on by the way.
But the truth is that NO, Michelangelo did not lie on his back to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
It’s much more complicated than this.
Find out more over here.
The Sistine Chapel is a working chapel. Besides being a place for visitors, it's the Pope's private chapel. There are many liturgical celebrations there throughout the year. In fact, the Sistine Chapel has a choir box and they have their own choir.
The Sistine Chapel is also where the conclave is held when it's time to select a new pope. The word "conclave" comes from "con clave", which means "with a key".
The cardinals lock themselves into the Sistine Chapel until a new pope is chosen.
This is a funny topic. I think I have heard just about every answer to this question, but I believe I know the real answer.
These are not the correct answers to this question:
I have had the great fortune to be inside the Sistine Chapel on several occasions where I was not only allowed but also encouraged to take all the photos and video I wanted. That’s why I have these images on the website. I did not take them clandestinely, nor would I have.
On those occasions, we were inside the Sistine Chapel for a special reason.
Once I was graciously invited by a friend to attend Vespers there, and we all had time before and after services to take photos and video.
On a few other occasions I have been alone (with a small group) inside the Sistine Chapel, and then we were allowed plenty of time for photo- and video-taking.
This leads me to believe that the reason they don’t allow you to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel is crowd control. They would never get people out if people could take photos. It’s already a limited space as it is, and it easily fills up to the brim during peak season. Imagine if all those people were snapping away, taking pictures of the art, themselves, and each other. They would not be able to get people IN and it would cause a huge bottleneck and fire hazard.
This is just my opinion, but I believe it makes sense.
Yes, you can visit the Sistine Chapel (and much but not all of the Vatican Museums) in a wheelchair. They also have a few wheelchairs at the Vatican Museums if you need one.
You cannot specifically take a tour of JUST the Sistine Chapel.
You need to book a tour of the Vatican Museums. I have a whole page about the different types of Vatican Museums tours here.
I think the price of this type of tour is reasonable considering what you get.
It’s not super expensive like the exclusive after-hours tours, and it’s also not exclusive. But you do get to see the Sistine Chapel without huge crowds and as a bonus, you get to finish your Vatican visit relatively early in the day.
Is it worth getting up that early? I have done it and it’s definitely worth it, at least in my opinion.
Bottom line – if seeing the Sistine Chapel without the crowds is important to you, then bite the bullet and set your alarm.