The Vatican Museums are one of Rome’s top attractions (even though Vatican City is technically its own country and therefore not in Rome). But this popularity means that the museums can be claustrophobically crowded so ticking the Sistine Chapel off your bucket list may feel like joining a herd of cattle. The solution? Visit the Vatican at night.
From April through October, the Vatican has special openings on Friday evenings. Whereas 35,000 tickets can be sold during the day, the Vatican at night only allows 8,000 people to visit.
You can feel the difference (and enjoy the breathing room) as soon as you step through the doors.
It has been years since I visited the Vatican museums quite simply because I cannot stomach the crowds. I completely understand why the Vatican is a must-see but I felt that I had seen it and that was that.
That is a shame because the museums have some of the most important collections in the world, so visiting the Vatican at night was the perfect way to re-experience them.
And for that I owe a huge thanks to Joanne, who runs the blog TravelAngel, and you probably know her as SwissGuardWife on Instagram. She organized the evening and had us over for aperitivo in the barracks (because she lives IN Vatican City) before we went into the museums.
I totally learned how to visit the Vatican at night from these ladies! And the good news is – anyone can do it!
To visit the Vatican at night, you simply need to book tickets via the museum website.
These tickets are automatically “skip the line” Vatican tickets because you must select a Friday between April and October, and then pick the timeslot when you would like to enter the museums. (There is about a 30 minute grace period if you are running a bit late).
The plus side of visiting the Vatican museums on Friday nights is definitely the opportunity to see the most famous pieces and rooms with fewer people jostling for position.
I can promise you that the Tapestry Gallery almost never looks like this. No crowds.
Do what is the downside of visiting the Vatican Museums on a Friday night?
Well – you might spot a figure in the back of this photo. It is Vatican guard gesturing for us to hurry up because the Sistine Chapel is about to close.
If you visit the Vatican at night, you will have far far less time to see everything.
So if you want to see the Maps Room like this, then you might be walking through so quickly that you do not really have time to take in the intricate ceiling and the gorgeous maps themselves.
The best way to see the Vatican as empty as possible is to stick around as late as possible. If you go at 7 pm? It is still going to be pretty busy. Linger until 10 pm? You might have to place to yourself – but not have much time to enjoy it.
On Friday nights, the Sistine Chapel closes at 10:30 pm.
We literally waited and admired Michelangelo’s frescoes until we were ushered out.
I can’t promise that you will get the same photo op, but I can say that you will be happy to go at night if avoiding the crowds is your top priority.
We were the last ones out and the museum doors were locked behind us.
Where to Get Tickets to See the Vatican at Night
If you book the tickets via the Vatican website, the total cost is €21 if you opt to go without signing up for a guided tour.
I often get messages about their website not working or tickets being sold out. In that case, you can also check Tiqets, where the cost is €27. (That is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a commission if you choose to purchase that way, but you are under no obligation to do so).
In either case, be sure you are looking at a Friday date in order to see the evening times available.
And regardless of when you visit, remember that there is a dress code. Here is what to wear to the Vatican.