Tips for Thought

Handy Tips for Visiting the Vatican in 2023

Note: As of the publication of this article, mourners all over the world will have bid their last farewells as the former Pope is finally laid to rest.

The world lost Pope Benedict XVI on December 31, 2022. As the former Pope of the Catholic Church, he has written countless books regarding the faith. He remains one of most influential theological leaders in recent history.

His death sparked an immediate outpour of mourners who wished to pay their respects. His wake at the Saint Peter’s Basilica was on January 2–4, where on January 5, he will be laid to rest.

Suppose you wish to pay respects to the late Pope or visit the historical state. In that case, you should visit the Vatican. Here are some handy Vatican city visiting tips 2023:

Some Background Info:

Vatican City, or Vatican City State, is an independent city-state that is the most popular tourist destination in Rome, Italy. In 1929, it gained independence with the Lateran Treaty, where its full ownership and sovereign authority fell under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.

The Pope is the bishop of Rome, head of the Catholic Church, and Vatican City ruler. Aside from leading the church, the Pope leads annual events like the Christmas Mass and the Way of the Cross on Good Friday. He also meets with more than 5,000 bishops worldwide, not including world leaders.

When is the best time to visit Vatican City?

Within the year, the best time to visit Vatican City would be from April to October. As for the week, the best time to visit the Vatican Museum would be Tuesday and Thursday because it has relatively fewer tourists. While visitors can enter the city and Peter’s Square for free, you must pay an entry fee to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

On Saturdays, the museum gets a maximum number of visitors from Italy and different parts of Europe—making it one of the busiest times of the week. The Vatican Museum is usually closed on Sundays except for the final Sunday of each month. On this day, visitors can have access to the museums for free.

The Pope leads an audience at St. Peter’s Basilica every Wednesday except for July. During the summer, the gathering is in St. Peter’s Square, near the basilica. Many people visiting the papal gathering also visit museums after mass. If you want to participate in the gathering, dress appropriately, and bring sunblock and bottled water.

The winter months have few tourists. However, with the passing of the former Pope, hopeful travelers can expect more visits from mourners and other devoted Catholics to pay respects to the former Pope.

What are some travel tips for first-time visitors?

Much like traveling to any place in the world, visitors must:

  • Book their flights, tours, and accommodations ahead;
  • Prepare any essential traveling documents;
  • Buy travel insurance;
  • Pack weather-appropriate clothing (Check the seasonal guide of Rome, Italy, on the month you will be visiting); and
  • Pack devices and chargers

Is there a dress code in Vatican City?

However, the Holy See also has rules, including a dress code. Travelers must follow the Vatican city dress code to pay respects to the state and culture. Some dress code tips include wearing clothes covering knees and shoulders, offensive tattoos, or religious symbols.

Ideally, one should wear long trousers and long-sleeve shirts, although this may be waived during hot seasons. It is imperative to wear modest clothing to pay respect at the holy place.

As such, avoid sleeveless tops, shorts or skirts above the knee, and low-cut shirts. This rule applies to see-through clothing, shirts with offensive slogans or imagery, and ripped jeans. However, for a quick fix, women can layer with a light cardigan over sleeveless tops to stay modest.

While not expressly forbidden, try to avoid wearing flip-flops or casual sandals that expose your toes. Men must also take their hats off before entering certain places. Guards who feel you did not meet the dress code have the right to deny you entry into the city and its attractions. For a general rule of thumb, dress like you’re going to church!

What are the places of interest for Vatican City?

Some places of interest in Vatican City include:

  • The Vatican Museums
  • The Sistine Chapel
  • Vatican Gardens
  • Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis
  • Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo; and
  • The Excavations of St. John

If you are considering including these places in your itinerary, consider booking a tour with an expert tour guide. You can also opt for private tours for a more intimate look at these places of interest.

Where to stay during your visit to Vatican City:

Vatican City is only accessible via Italy, meaning tourists must visit the Schengen Area first.

Additionally, there are no hotels or accommodations for tourists in Vatican City, so travelers will have to look for places outside the state during their stay.

Takeaway:

Vatican City is a beautiful state worth visiting. However, if you are visiting within the month, expect a surge of travelers hoping to pay their final respects to the former Pope. Stay safe!