Vatican City – Things to do in the UNESCO micro state
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. Additionally, the whole of Vatican City is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s home to the Pope and many significant religious monuments. Things to see in Vatican City are;
- Sistine Chapel
- The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
- St Peter’s Basilica
- St. Peter’s Square
- Vatican Museums
- Aspostolic Palace
- Gardens of Vatican City
The Sistine Chapel is located in the Apostolic Palace which is the official residence of the Pope. It’s the site of the Papal conclave which is the process of selecting the next Pope. The Sistine Chapel is an incredibly popular tourist attraction, consequently it’s likely to be completely full of tourists. The good news is that the famous frescoes are painted on the walls and ceiling, as a result tourists will not block your view. The frescoes on the chapel’s ceiling were painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 and is considered by many as the greatest artwork in the world.
Once inside the Sistine Chapel, as well as admiring the frescoes of Michelangelo you must also appreciate that you’re stood in the Popes palace.
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The Last Judgement is another masterpiece by Michelangelo, as is the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512. However it wasn’t until 1535 that he started work on The Last Judgement. The Last Judgement is painted on the wall opposite the altar. He worked on it from 1535 to 1541. Other frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and Sandro Botticelli. Famous murals include The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ.
Another piece of famous artwork by Michelangelo is Pieta (The Pity). This is also located in Vatican City, inside St Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. The second largest is in Aparecida, Brazil and the third largest is the Duomo of Milan. Fourth largest is the Seville Cathedral. The sculpture of Pieta, another masterpiece of Michelangelo, is located in St Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo was also one of the designers of the church. Both St Peter (one of Jesus’s apostles) and the first Pope are buried here. The church was completed in 1626 after 120 years of construction. To conclude, it’s called St Peter’s Basilica because St Peter is buried inside.
St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square is a huge square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Apostolic Palace. It’s named after St Peter who is buried in the Basilica. Additionally, there is a monument in the center of the square which is an ancient Egyptian obelisk. It was originally located in Heliopolis (modern day Cairo) and is the largest surviving monument from Heliopolis. The square is surrounded by colonnades and is in fact elliptical in shape.
One of the most Instagram worthy locations in Vatican City is the Bramante Staircase. In fact there are 2 sets of Bramante Staircases with the original staircase built in 1505. More recently, the second Bramante Staircase was built in 1912. This is a double helix staircase which means there are 2 separate staircases in one space. Consequently, those coming up the stairs will not meet those coming down. In the photograph above, all the tourists are walking downstairs. The staircase for walking upstairs is empty.
There are over 54 galleries which make up the Vatican museums. There are 4 rooms decorated by famous Italian artist Raphael. These are known as the Raphael rooms. Another interesting part of the museum is the Gallery of Maps. This is a long hallway decorated with painted maps. In addition, throughout the museum there are several sculptures and artwork by several artists.
The Apostolic Palace is the home of the Pope and is also known as the Vatican Palace. To look at it’s not the most grand palace you’ll see! When you visit the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms you’ll be inside the palace. You can go home and tell your friends you’ve been in the Popes palace.
Gardens of Vatican City
If you require a little fresh air whilst exploring the museums, you can take a walk in the Vatican gardens. Additionally, you may also explore the Belvedere Courtyard. In the Belvedere Courtyard you get a wonderful view of the Villa Belvedere in which many of the galleries are located. There’s a 1st century bronze pine cone and an interesting sphere located in the courtyard. It’s not quite as Instagram worthy as the Bramante Staircase but Instagram worthy nonetheless.
Enjoy your day trip to Vatican City
Vatican City has lots of tourists. In fact it has tens of thousands of tourists daily. To enjoy your day you will have to be patient. You need to accept there will be an incredible amount of people – often in your way. If you are ready for this and accept it’s out of your control – then you’ll have a good day. You may need to wait a few moments for tourists to move on before you can take the perfect picture.