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Vatican City
Travel Guide

Rome which includes heritage architecture and signage

Whether or not you are Catholic, visit this fascinating city-state to learn about its historical importance and appreciate its art and architecture.

The Vatican City is the Pope’s residence, the Roman Catholic Church headquarters and a city-state with enthralling history and beautiful art. Stand in its famous square and venture inside the basilica and museums to view some of the world’s most acclaimed artworks.

Visit the world’s smallest country, at only 109 acres (44 hectares). Although religious structures have been on the grounds since the 300s, the Holy See became the sovereign city-state of the Vatican City only in 1929.

Colonnaded Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square) has hosted hundreds of thousands of people on special occasions where the Pope makes an appearance. Notice the tall Egyptian obelisk at its center and the two 17th-century fountains. The Papal Swiss Guards in red, orange and blue uniforms have a brief midday change-of-guard ceremony.

Beyond the square, Renaissance-style St. Peter’s Basilica features tall columns and a large dome. Look up toward statues of Christ and the apostles at the top of the structure and to the balcony where the Pope sometimes appears. Inside, look for La Pietà, Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the crucified Christ in his mother’s arms.

Enter the Vatican Museums and view impressive frescoes on the walls and ceiling. Michelangelo spent years creating artworks here including the Last Judgment, an immense, detailed fresco of the second coming of Christ. Gaze up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where The Creation of Adam shows the familiar scene of near-touching hands of God and Adam.

Climb to the top of the Cupola di San Pietro to view the Vatican gardens and much of Rome from the roof. Purchase Vatican City stamps and mail postcards from bright yellow Vatican Poste mailboxes.

See Vatican City on a tour of Rome. The city-state is west of the Tiber River, about a 30-minute walk from the Pantheon. Visit the square and basilica for free. Avoid long lines for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel by pre-purchasing tickets online. Select from many tour options offering access to additional areas.

Vatican City