These days, if you want to see Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, you usually have to share the experience with hundreds of others, standing elbow-to-elbow in what is a surprisingly small room. But not on this tour.
Our Pristine Sistine tour enters the Vatican Museums a full hour before the general public is allowed inside. While the Museums are still closed you'll pass through all the most important rooms; from the Gallery of the Maps to the Gallery of Tapestries and even the phenomenal Raphael Rooms.[readmore]Soak it all up; when you return, these galleries will be packed full of people - this kind of peace is a rarity at the Vatican Museums. The exact timing of our Pristine Sistine tour will vary from day to day. On some days, we'll have time to pause along the way to the Sistine Chapel to see an important work or marvel at a fresco. On other days we'll go straight there to get you inside as quickly as possible and double back to these rooms later. The aim is always the same: to get you into the Sistine Chapel at the quietest time of the morning, and always before the 9:00 crowds descend.
Your guide will give you a full run-down of the Sistine Chapel masterpieces before you enter even the Museums, giving you a special handout to help you pick out the most wonderful details once you are inside. Speaking inside the chapel is forbidden but more than that, this is supposed to be a peaceful experience, so you'll get the most from your time if you spend it just staring at the art. Have questions about the details? No worries, you'll pass through with your guide for a second time later (when it will be a lot busier), so there will be plenty of time to ask.
After 20 minutes inside the chapel, just as the crowds are beginning to arrive, you'll be whisked away for a full tour of the Vatican Museums. You'll stop off at all the Museums' highlights you passed earlier and a few extras, including the Belvedere Courtyard, where you'll find classical Greek and Roman works. Keep an eye out for The Belvedere Torso in particular; you might recognise it from the Sistine Chapel.
Finally, you'll take a special-access passage via the Sistine Chapel to skip the entrance lines at St. Peter's Basilica and walk right into Christendom's most awe-inspiring basilica. Here your expert guide will treat you to a full tour that includes Michelangelo's emotional Pietá, Bernini's enormous baldachin altarpiece, and a vast array of stories and anecdotes, telling the nearly unbelievable tale of how this incredible structure was built.Read more
Please be at the meeting point 15 minutes before departure
Only very small backpacks and handbags may be taken inside the Vatican
Shoulders and knees have to be covered inside the Vatican
This tour costs less on Wednesdays because it does not enter St. Peter's Basilica. Instead, we spend more time in the Vatican Museums