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.
At the time of this writing in early 2022, some of the Vatican Museum tours on this page may be suspended and unavailable until further notice.
If you see a tour you want to take and it's not available, but you are planning to visit Rome in 2022 or beyond, please continue to check back closer to your travel dates as these Vatican Museum tours will likely return.
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.
Click here to view a map of Vatican City (it opens in a new window.)
It’s the last thing you visit in the museums.
You can visit the Sistine Chapel by purchasing a ticket to the Vatican Museums.
As the Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, it's open every day Monday-Saturday from 9am-6pm. Last entry to the museums is at 4pm.
The museums are also open the last Sunday of every month for free, from 9am-2pm. Last entry is 12pm - expect crowds!
For the warmer months, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are open on Friday and Saturday nights from 7–10:30pm. Last entry is 8:30pm.
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. There are other passes that can be used - 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 museums.
Go up the escalator. Skip the Pinacoteca, Pinecone Courtyard and Octagonal Courtyard.
Go straight up two sets of stairs. Walk through the Candelabra room, Tapestries gallery and the Maps hall.
Skip the Raphael rooms, and go directly to the Sistine Chapel.
This will take less than half an hour if you don’t stop to look at anything.
How to see JUST the Sistine Chapel (sort of), without massive crowds
This is what tour companies offer with their "pre-opening, visit the Sistine Chapel before the crowds come" tours.
They beeline to the Sistine Chapel so you can enjoy it before the doors open to the public.
Then, the tour guide will do a loop back to the exit/entrance of the museums before doing a normal tour through the museums so you don't miss out.
But, you can sign up for one of these early morning tours, and simply leave after you've visited the Sistine Chapel.
You can sign up for this Pristine Sistine tour with Walks of Italy.
It's a superb tour, even if you only visit the Sistine Chapel and leave the tour early.
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most popular sites in Rome, so 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.
The most amazing way I've ever visited the Sistine Chapel is with the Vatican Museums clavigero - the key master who opens the museums at 6 AM and turns on all the lights.
You can book this tour, too!
Click here to book a tour with the Vatican Museums key master and turn on the lights in the Sistine Chapel!
And more likely than not, they missed a lot of the beauty because they didn’t feel good, and the crowds can 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:
My Zen Bubble
Maybe you won't have the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel without the crowds.
I have visited it many times with large crowds. This is what I do.
Throughout my visit to the Vatican Museums on a crowded day, I accept from the beginning that it's crowded. Very crowded. Once I accept it and let it go, it doesn't bother me any more.
Then, I decide what art I want to enjoy and I do my best to see it and get close to it.
I find some art without crowds. This is ALWAYS possible, even on crowded days.
There are many rooms in the Vatican Museums that have less visitors, like the Etruscan collection, Pinacoteca and New Wing.
I get into my Zen Bubble.
I just decide I am alone with the art. I decide not to let the crowds irritate me, I close off my senses to everything except the art and what's happening inside my heart and mind.
And when it comes time to visit the Sistine Chapel, I keep the zen bubble around me. Michelangelo is there. I can feel him. I want to get close to him. I do not let the crowds take away anything from me.
Mind over matter.
If you are visiting alone, when you get to the Sistine Chapel, try to find a seat, 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:
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, Castel Sant'Angelo, 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.
St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most important churches in the Catholic world.
It was built on the site of Saint Peter’s tomb (which you can visit if you book in advance.)
You can easily visit Saint Peter’s Basilica by entering from Saint Peter’s Square.
You can also attend mass there, even mass with the pope if you book in advance. All this is free.
The Sistine Chapel is a working chapel.
You will need to visit the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel, usually you need to pay for this, although there are some 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, residents of Vatican City and their family.
Michelangelo had a huge part in the architecture of the basilica and the Sistine Chapel, designing both structural elements and artistic features that make both these places unique.
Many other artists were involved with both the Sistine Chapel and St 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 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 for more!
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.
One of my favorite books about Michelangelo is Irving Stone's "The Agony and the Ecstasy".
It's not 100% biographical but almost. And it's a fun, fascinating, and easy read.
Disclosure : If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!
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.
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.
Ready to plan your trip?
The Sistine Chapel is a place for visitors and the Pope's private chapel.
There are many liturgical celebrations held here throughout the year.
In fact, the Sistine Chapel has a choir box with 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've heard just about every answer to this question, but I believe I know the truth.
These are incorrect answers:
I have had the great fortune to visit the Sistine Chapel on several occasions where I was not only allowed, but 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 photos and videos.
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, 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 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.
One of the best early-morning tours to visit the Sistine Chapel before regular opening hours is Pristine Sistine with Walks of Italy.
Get your free Rome trip planner!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
Please come over to the private Romewise Facebook group and join in the conversation.
You will often find me there, happy to answer your questions / comments!
You will also meet other Rome lovers and experts, too.
What are you waiting for?