The Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums website

Opening hours Open 9:00–18:00 Monday to Saturday, last entrance 16:00. Closed Sundays, except morning of the last Sunday of each month.

Ticket prices €15 (€8.00 concessions). Free entry on the last Sunday of the month

The collection of art on display in the Vatican Museums has been gathered together over the last 500 years, beginning with Pope Julius' acquisition in 1506 of the statue of Laocoön and his Sons, which had been unearthed in a vineyard in Rome. The collection has grown considerably since then, and has become one of the key parts of a visit to Rome - if you have the time.

Things to see

The various galleries and exhibitions that make up the Vatican Museums cover several millennia of art, from Egyptian and Etruscan sculptures to twentieth- and twenty-first century works including modern art by Carlo Levi, amongst many others.

Raphael Rooms

The School of Athens in the Vatican Museums The School of Athens: part of the Raphael Rooms

This suite of four rooms was commissioned from Raphael by Pope Julius II in the early sixteenth century. Although they follow Raphael's designs, the frescoes had not all be finished at the time of his death, and his students completed some of the work.

Perhaps the most famous work is The School of Athens, which features a collection of philosophers in various poses. The figure in the middle, with his head in his hand, is Michelangelo. Not in the original designs for the fresco, Raphael added him after seeing his work in the Sistine Chapel,

The Sistine Chapel

Although the Sistine Chapel is most famous for its ceiling, which was painted by Michelangelo between 1508-1512, this is far from being the only notable work in the chapel. Other artists who contributed panels to the walls include Pietro Perugino and Sandro Botticelli, whose biblical scenes in the chapel include Scenes from the Life of Moses and The Temptation of Christ.

Sadly, the Sistine Chapel is a victim of its own success: it can be extremely crowded, and the combination of the crowds and the security guards (who make their way around the room, shushing people and stopping them from sitting down or taking photographs) can make it hard to really appreciate the art,

Visiting the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are easily reached on foot from St Peter's Square. From the Square, follow the walls of the Vatican round to the north (heading anti-clockwise) until you hit the back of the queue. If you come by Metro, take Linea A to Cipro - Museo Vaticano. From there it's a two-minute walk to the entrance. The queue itself can be extremely long, and waits of more than an hour are not uncommon.