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Vatican City

Art and architectural wonders in the world's smallest country and the home of the pope
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Unknown
Length: 0.6 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview :  Vatican City is not only a city, but also the world’s smallest country and home to the Vatican. Also known as the Holy See, the... more »

Tips:  The Vatican is often crowded with both pilgrims and tourists, so you will have to get in line to get into St. Peter's Basilica and the... more »

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Points of Interest

Built in A.D. 139 as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, this castle was transformed into a fortress by the popes during the 14th century.

You can expect a visit to the castle, including the ancient apartments of the popes (16th century) and the view from the balcony, to last about one hour.

The Romans built the first bridge in front of... More

2. The Flight of the Pope (the passetto de Borgo)

Have a look on the left of the castle Sant'Angelo in front of you. The wall with several arches that you see about 50 meters above the ground is an emergency exit for the pope in case of attack on the apostolic palace. This passage on top of the wall was built by Léon IV (847-855) and renovated by Alexandre VI in 1227. It links the apostolic... More

3. St. Peter’s Square

Stop on the white flagstone and look at the columns surrounding the square and you should see that the columns are perfectly aligned. St. Peter's Square was designed by Bernini to look like two giant opened arms welcoming pilgrims to the home of their religion.

The obelisk at the center of the square was once located in the center of the Circus... More

4. The Bronze Door

This huge bronze door has been the official entrance to the apostolic palace since 1663, and is permanently watched by three Swiss guards. The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded in 1506 and in the 18th century several Swiss soldiers were recruited from various European courts to form the close quarters guards of the kings. Michelangelo designed... More

You are now standing in front of the world's biggest church: St. Peter's Basilica. Every Sunday about 150,000 Christians meet in the piazza in front of the church to listen to the pope's homily.

The construction of this basilica started in 1506 and ended in 1626 under several famous architects: Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.

St. Peter's... More

6. Swiss Guards

This is one of the five official entrance doors of the Vatican and a nice place to watch the Swiss Guards in their unique uniforms.

7. Saint Anne Door

Here is the entrance used by all those who live in the Vatican and the only door where the Swiss pontifical guards do not wear the famous uniforms designed by Michelangelo.

The Vatican Museum should not be missed on a visit to Vatican City. It is home to many famous paintings, frescos and other artworks, including the Sistine Chapel. You can avoid lines by arriving 1-2 hours before closing, but doing so limits your time there. An average visit lasts about 1-2 hours.

9. Leonardo da Vinci's Portrait of 'St. Jerome in the Wilderness'

Do not miss this famous painting in the Pinacoteca Vaticana depicting St. Jerome during his retreat into the Syrian Desert. The background is a distant landscape of a lake surrounded by mountains, evocative of another Da Vinci masterpiece, the "Mona Lisa" or "Gioconda."

Be sure to also see "The Entombment of Christ" by Caravaggio (1603). The... More

10. Map Gallery

Some 40 maps representing the Italian regions and the papal properties at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) are frescoed on the walls here.

The Sistine Chapel is world famous for its frescoes by Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling between 1508 and 1512. The ceiling, and especially "The Last Judgment" (1535-1541), is widely considered Michelangelo's crowning achievement in painting.

"The Last Judgment" is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse: the souls of... More

12. Borgia Apartments

The paintings and frescoes in the Borgia Apartments were created between 1492 and 1494.

13. Raphael's Rooms

The four Stanze di Raffaello were reception rooms of the papal apartments:

1. Hall of Constantine: dedicated to the victory of Christianity over paganism, its frescoes represent the life of the Roman Emperor Constantine.

2. Room of Heliodorus: The Deliverance of St. Peter, which describes in three episodes how St. Peter was liberated from prison... More