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Perhaps the greatest collection of exhibits in the entire world, the jaw-dropping Vatican Museums combine sublime Renaissance masterpieces with time-honored Roman relics.
The Vatican Museums collection was created by Pope Julius II in 1506 — the same year the foundation stone was laid for St. Peter’s Basilica — to display the masterpieces acquired by the Catholic Church over the previous centuries. These works, which include paintings, sculpture and historical artifacts, now attract more than 5 million visitors each year.
There are many smaller collections that make up the Vatican Museums collection, with each boasting spectacular works of art, but there are a few particular highlights visitors should prioritize. The Pinacoteca Vaticana art gallery contains renowned paintings and altarpieces by Old Masters including Giotto, Raphael and da Vinci as well as Caravaggio's signature work The Entombment of Christ. The Museo Pio-Clementino is home to examples of Greek and Roman sculpture. There are also sprawling collections of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, contemporary religious art and decorative Italian maps through the ages.
Most notably, there are a series of rooms dedicated to the Renaissance master Raphael. Originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II, but now existing as a shrine to the great artist. The four rooms here have some of Raphael’s greatest surviving frescoes and other works, including The School of Athens, Adam and Eve and The Parnassus.
However, perhaps the most famous room isn’t actually in the museum’s collection, but en route to it. The Sistine Chapel was designed and painted by the finest group of interior decorators ever assembled. The walls are covered in stunning frescoes by Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and other great Renaissance artists, while the ceiling has what is considered Michelangelo’s greatest work, The Creation of Adam and Eve.
The Vatican Museum is in central Rome and is open Monday to Saturday, and is also open the last Sunday of each month when entry is free. It is closed for several holidays throughout the year. Check the museum’s website for details.
You can walk there from the city center; the most direct route is to cross the Tiber and walk straight up Via della Conciliazione. The Metro train station Ottaviano is a short walk away along Via Ottaviano.
You won't believe how much there is to do at Vatican Museums. Here are some ideas to get you started:
For more things to do, examine our Vatican City things to do page.
Located in Rome City Centre, this guesthouse is steps from Via del Babuino, Via del Corso, and Piazza del Popolo. Piazza di Spagna and Villa Borghese are also within 10 minutes. Flaminio - Piazza del Popolo Station is 5 minutes by foot and Spagna Station is 8 minutes.
This romantic hotel is located in Rome (Vatican), close to Vatican Gardens, Vatican Museums, and Sistine Chapel. Also nearby are St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's Square. Rome Appiano Station is only a 5-minute walk and Cipro Station is 15 minutes.
Located in Rome City Centre, this guesthouse is within a 5-minute walk of Villa Borghese, Via del Corso, and Piazza del Popolo. National Gallery of Modern Art and Piazza di Spagna are also within 15 minutes. Flaminio - Piazza del Popolo Station and Rome Piazzale Flaminio Station are within a 2-minute walk.
Located in Repubblica, this family-friendly Rome hotel is steps from Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Via Nazionale, and Via XX Settembre. Via Veneto and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore are also within 10 minutes. Repubblica - Opera House Station is only a 2-minute walk and Barberini Station is 8 minutes.
Located in the center of Rome, this family-friendly hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Vatican Museums and Vatican Gardens. St. Peter's Square and Monte Mario are also within 15 minutes. Cipro Station is 6 minutes by foot and Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 8 minutes.
Located in Vatican, this family-friendly Rome hotel is within a 10-minute walk of St. Peter's Square, St. Peter's Basilica, and Sistine Chapel. Castel Sant'Angelo and Vatican Museums are also within 1 mi (2 km). Rome S. Pietro Station and Rome San Pietro Station are within a 5-minute walk.
Located in Vatican, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Via Cola di Rienzo and Castel Sant'Angelo. St. Peter's Square and Vatican Museums are also within 15 minutes. Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 7 minutes by foot and Lepanto Station is 13 minutes.
Located in Vatican, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Vatican Museums and Vatican Gardens. St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica are also within 15 minutes. Ottaviano - San Pietro - Musei Vaticani Station is 6 minutes by foot and Cipro Station is 7 minutes.