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Visiting the Vatican with Kids

View of St Peters Square

Panoramic view of St Peters Square

For most visitors to Rome, a trip to the Vatican Museums is an absolute must. But, with over 4 miles worth of museum containing some of the most awe-inspiring and precious works of Western art (and crowds to match), this can be a daunting experience for any age—especially for kids. With the help of the art historians who lead our Vatican Tour for Kids through the museums, here's a quick list of Context practical tips to make your family visit as enjoyable and stress-free as possible: 

1) Time your visit 

We're surely not the first to tell you, but crowds in the Vatican museums can be suffocating—particularly in the summer months when tourists flock to Rome. Try and get to the museums either in the early morning or in the evening hours, when they're less crowded. Mondays, Fridays, and free Sundays (the last Sunday of each month) also tend to be particularly busy, so it's best to avoid those days if possible and experience the museums con calma. (For the most recent opening hours, it's best to check directly with the Vatican).  

2) Take a pair of binoculars

One of the tricks our experts often have up their sleeves is simple: a pair of binoculars. Giving your kids the opportunity to look at the ceilings, walls, and some of the larger works of art in detail is a fantastic way to keep them engaged and to have some fun inside the Vatican halls—if ever there were a place for a good game of "I Spy", this is it. (Or, try our particular art historical twist on it, "count the putti" ... whoever spots the most of these mischievous-looking cupids earns a gelato, naturally). 

3) Take a water bottle or plastic cups to fill up at the Cortile Pinacoteca

It’s not possible to take water inside the museums, but we recommend taking a moment's respite outdoors in the Cortile Pinacoteca, where you can fill your water bottle up directly from the fountain (we've found that this is a real surprise and delight for any kid companions). Otherwise, water can be purchased from the cafe located at the Atrio dei Quattro Cancelli or at Caffe Sistina on the stairs leading to the entrance of the Sistine Chapel.

4) Bring snacks

The Vatican doesn’t allow food inside the museums, but we always recommend keeping some snacks in your bag in case your kids’ energy starts to wane. Once you've filled up your water bottle, take a short break to refresh and refuel.

5) Book a tour

This isn't just a self-serving marketing trick: please, we implore you, see the museums with a guide. After over 15 years of touring in the Vatican, we know firsthand that wading your way through the Vatican crowds on your own, kids in tow, is a short path to a long tantrum. Our Vatican with Kids tour is led specifically by scholars and specialists with experience teaching children, though there are a host of other well-reputed companies who also offer tours of the museums. Trust us, you're going to want some help navigating.

With a little bit of thoughtful planning, visiting the Vatican Museums is a unique way of introducing your kids to some of the most important artists in the world. Here's to getting the most out of this unparalleled artistic and architectural treasure—for all ages. 

Planning a family trip to Rome? Take a peek at our other tips for Touring the Colosseum with Kids.

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