What should you wear to the Vatican City?

With mass tourism industry, the Vatican City welcomes over five million people into its gates each year. But unfortunately, some are turned away due to what they were wearing!

Don’t be one of these people, instead, come prepared for your visit and be respectful. As with many other churches throughout Italy, there is a dress code that must be adhered to upon entry, and the Vatican is no different. The absolute minimum requirement for both males and females visiting the Vatican City is to cover both your knees and shoulders. Preferably you should wear long trousers and long-sleeve shirts, but in the summer months when temperatures can reach over 30 degrees Celcius many visitors forget this requirement.

Why is there a dress code in Vatican City?

The Vatican is an independent city-state and the centre of the Roman Catholic Church. It is under the power of the Pope and is his permanent dwelling when he is not travelling. As a religious state, also known as the Holy See, the Vatican has rules when it comes to dress in the city. As a religious institution, they promote a modest attire and the covering of skin, not unlike other religions. If you do not comply with the dress code the guards have the right to refuse you entry into the city and its attractions. However, if you want a way to skip around the dress-code, or you’ve left your more modest clothing at home, you can purchase plastic cloaks that wrap around you to cover your knees and shoulders. A quick, short-term solution that you can ditch at the end of the day when you’re done using it.

The Dress Code in the Vatican City

Dress Code in the Vatican City

The dress code applies for both the Vatican Museums as well as to St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. Its basic code is for both men and women both need to cover their knees and upper arms. They prohibit wearing shorts or skirts above the knee, sleeveless tops, and low-cut shirts. Men must take their hats off before entering whereas women may continue wearing theirs. Although this is sometimes harder to follow during the summer months, without following these guidelines, you will either be turned away or suggested to buy a shawl to cover up (which is bumped up in price.)

Therefore, your best bet is to follow the rules and where the appropriate clothing. Pants are your best bet, but long shorts or skirts below the knee are also allowed. Tops must cover your shoulders, so just skip out on the singlet for that day. Before lining up in the never-ending lines, make sure you’ve got this covered, as the guards will give you a once over, so there is no way to slip in unnoticed. Although this may seem difficult and overbearing, this hassle will shrink in size once you get a look at some of the most breathtaking sights you will ever visit.

General Tips and Tricks 

Avoid queues – The Vatican City is a popular place for tourists and therefore always quite busy. Although, not idea, you can’t blame the other fellow tourists for wanting to explore this magnificent city. Don’t let the queues put you off however, they tend to look longer than they are, and actually move quite quickly. Either way though, no one likes to wait, so we recommend booking all your tickets in advance.

Visit in the off-season – The biggest crowds in the Vatican City are around June-September time, during the European summer holidays. Whereas November – February is the least crowded season. When it comes to what day to visit, Tuesdays and Thursdays are generally the best days, because the Pope holds an audience on Wednesday. As a weekend, Saturday is very busy, so best to avoid going on this day if you can. To see more advice regarding when to go, read our article: The Best Time to Visit the Vatican.

Save yourself time – After visiting the Vatican Museums, you can save yourself a lot of time by going right into St. Peter’s Basilica without waiting in any lines. Once you have seen the Sistine Chapel, you’ll find yourself in an anteroom just before the exit. But rather than taking the left exit route, turn right instead and take the secret passageway to the Basilica. The walk takes about 10 minutes (half the time than if you’d turned left) and means you don’t have to go through security again.

Using public transport – If you’ve been staying in Rome, you’ve probably been using public transport or walking to get around. To get the Vatican there are several options. Firstly, we should mention that the entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano, an easy place to get off at if you’re going by taxi. If you’re travelling by metro however you can get off at either Ottaviano or Cipro, both these stops are about a 10-minute walk from the city.

What not to miss in the Vatican?

Once you get past the guards, your adventure begins! Stroll through the Vatican museums, spotting famous masterpieces from the Renaissance era. Head on over to the Sistine Chapel, where the crick in your neck will be well worth the jaw-dropping view of the Chapel’s ceiling. And last, visit St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world.

Visit our Vatican City and Sistine Chapel Tour to learn more about what this area has to offer!

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