St Peter's Square in Vatican City
Photo by Karel Macalik  –  Link

Vatican City


  Italian, Latin Currency:  Euro

Don't be misled by its name; Vatican City is in fact a country - the smallest in the world, with an area of just 0.44 square kilometres (44 hectares) and a population of between 800 and 1,000. This independent city state within the Italian capital Rome is famously the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, ruled over by the Pope.

While Vatican City State is recognised as a national territory, the Holy See (the office of the Pope) is responsible for conducting its diplomatic relations. Vatican City is protected by the Pontifical Swiss Guard, a small army of about 130 soldiers who act as the official personal escorts to the Pope. You can't miss them: they wear distinctive yellow, blue and red striped uniforms topped with red feathered caps as they patrol the grounds.

Despite its size, it's worth dedicating an entire day to visiting Vatican City and all the incredible sights within, from the grand Renaissance-era St Peter's Basilica to the world-famous Sistine Chapel. If the weather permits, you'll also want to spend some time admiring the Gardens of Vatican City (aka the Vatican Gardens), a gorgeous sprawling park filled with monuments, fountains and shaded walkways.

Does it cost money?

There's no charge to enter Vatican City, St Peter's Square or St Peter's Basilica, but you will need to buy tickets for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.

Getting to Vatican City

The Vatican is an easy walk or bus ride away from Rome city centre. Hop on the 64 or 40 bus from Termini station for a direct route. You can also get the 62 from Repubblica, or the 81 from various landmarks including the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia.

If you'd rather explore Rome on foot, there are plenty of walking routes to Vatican City, which is on the other side of the River Tiber from the Pantheon and the Colosseum. And no need to bring your passport along; it's not required to enter Vatican City.

Travel tip: While you don't need a passport to enter Vatican City, you do need to respect the dress code - especially in the Sistine Chapel. That means wearing clothes that cover the knees and shoulders.