Vatican City is small in size and population, but this tiny city is full of inspiring sites and imposing monuments. For many travelers, a trip to the world's smallest state is a spiritual experience. For others, it's a chance to marvel at the art and history it hosts. Vatican City is home to a stunning array of museums and historic buildings, and it would take several days to explore all of the incredible sites.
Stop to marvel at the grand exterior of Saint Peter's Basilica before taking a tour of its ornately decorated interior, which features statues, monuments, and ornaments designed by Michelangelo and other renowned Italian architects. Ascend to the top of the dome to enjoy breathtaking views of Rome.
This world-renowned site is something that cannot be done justice through books or TV documentaries. Visitors to the Sistine Chapel have the exclusive privilege of seeing the stunning frescoes first-hand. The Sistine Chapel contains the works of some of the most important painters of the 16th century, like Michelangelo, whose designs depict the Creation as it was described in Genesis. Marvel at the meticulous detail, bright colors, and dramatic presentation of the biblical scenes.
Visit the heart of Vatican City and enjoy the view of the fantastic architecture. Saint Peter's Square leads up to the Basilica, and as such, it's often overlooked. Pause for a moment to admire the fountains, the obelisk, and the colonnades. This vast and iconic square can accommodate up to 400,000 people, and often does, as it is where the Pope holds his audiences.
Venture underground to the Vatican Necropolis, home of Saint Peter's Tomb. The Necropolis was originally a cemetery holding Saint Peter and other Christians killed by Emperor Nero. Visiting this former cemetery is a thought-provoking and oddly eerie experience, and a chance to feel connected to some incredibly significant historical events.
Each Wednesday, the Pope holds an audience with the public and performs short readings and teachings, before leading the Lord's Prayer. He also delivers a speech at noon on Sundays, from his window at the papal residence. For Catholics, this is an important religious moment. For those who are not religious or who are of other faiths, the opportunity to listen and observe is a special one. See the huge gatherings and feel the infectious warmth and enthusiasm of people coming together for this observance.
Take a few moments to explore the Vatican Gardens for an alternative view of the Vatican City. Man-made works of art are incredible, but the tranquility of the gardens is a welcome respite after the hustle and bustle of the museums and the square. These carefully manicured lawns and sculpted trees form a frame around historical sculptures and Renaissance fountains.
Enjoy a whistle-stop tour of history from the second century onwards. The Mausoleum of Hadrian, or Castel Sant'Angelo, serves as a museum today but has been a fortress, a tomb, and a papal residence. Marvel at the collection of ancient weapons, see the prison cells which once held important historical figures, view a former papal residence, and enjoy some incredible views of Rome while savoring a coffee on the upper terrace.
Surround yourself with hundreds of years' worth of collective knowledge as you explore the Vatican Library. This vast library has the highest value collection in the world, including handwritten books and manuscripts from the 15th century, as well as ancient scrolls and papyri. The books aren't the only attraction, though. From the moment you enter the expansive hall, it's clear from the ornate decorations that you are observing a true national treasure.
The Canadians have Mounties, the British have the Royal Guard, and the Vatican has the Swiss Guard. It's forbidden to take photographs in many of the sites within Vatican City, but visitors are welcome to take a picture with a Swiss Guard. Pause for a moment and admire their iconic uniform and traditional halberd. The force has been guarding the Vatican for hundreds of years. Its guards are highly trained in the use of firearms and martial arts, and
Marvel at the incredible collection of religious and artistic artifacts collected by the Popes over many centuries. The Vatican Museum is packed full of curiosities and important historical pieces. There are around 20,000 works on display, including some of the most important Renaissance artworks in the world. A visit to the Vatican Museums is a condensed education in art and religion and provides privileged access to works that most will only ever see in documentaries or books.