Planning to travel to Vatican City but not sure where to begin? Considering that Vatican City is the worlds smallest city, a visit to the Vatican packs quite a punch!
With many incredible sights, a proper dress code, some of the world’s most famous works of art, and massive crowds, going to visit the Vatican for the very first time can be overwhelming.
Everything that you need to know regarding touring the Vatican, from the finest way to enjoy the art museums to what to wear, is right here.
The Vatican City is the worlds smallest city and is also amongst the holiest places in Christendom, and bears witness to a long and illustrious history as well as an impressive spiritual venture. Within the borders of this small state is a one-of-a-kind selection of artistic and architectural masterpieces.
St Peter’s Basilica, with its dual colonnade and a circular piazza in front, is at its heart, surrounded by palaces and gardens. The basilica, built over St. Peter the Apostle’s tomb, is the world’s largest religious structure and the result of the consolidated genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, and Maderno.
The entire city is just over 100 acres or about 0.44 square kilometers. The entire country is tucked away inside the capital city of Rome, situated east of the Tiber River, making it the worlds smallest city in both area and population.
According to the most recent World Population Prospects estimates, it will have a population of 801 people in 2020. It is currently ranked 235th in the world and is the least populated city in Europe. Citizenship, unlike in other countries, is given to only those who live in the Vatican due to their work or office.
Citizens who live in the city of the Vatican or Rome, as well as Holy See diplomats, are considered citizens. There are no hospitals in the Vatican, so no one can be born there! Those wishing to relocate around the Vatican should have their citizenship approved by the Pope or another papal authority.
Within the city walls, the Pope’s residence is the Vatican Palace. The Holy See is the name given to the Roman Catholic Church’s government, which the pope leads as the bishop of Rome.
As a result, the Holy See’s authority extends to Catholics all over the world. It has been housed in the Vatican since 1929 when it was established as an independent state to allow the pope to exert his universal authority.
San Marino and the City of Vatican
Generally, everything within a country’s borders belongs to the same country—though not always. Italy, for example, completely encircles 2 autonomous states: the Vatican and the mountaintop Republic of San Marino.
The Vatican, a semi-walled city-state within the Italian capital city of Rome, is the capital of the Roman Catholic Church. It was formed in 1929 as a separate state from the Holy See, the church’s central government. The Holy See, or San Marino, on the other hand, rules over the Vatican. It’s complex and difficult, but the bottom line is that the city-state is a monarchy, with the Pope as its leader.
The City of Vatican from 1929 to today
Although the Vatican has been central to Catholic Church since the beginnings of Christianity in Rome, the City of the Vatican has only existed independently of the rest of Rome since the establishment of the Lateran Treaty in the year 1929.
Today, the City of the Vatican is wholly contained within the city limits of Rome. It does, however, function as a self-contained city-state with its administration, laws, government, and infrastructure.
The sitting pope—currently Pope Francis—is the Vatican’s head of state as the head of the Catholic Church. In the Papal Apartments, the Pope resides. Other residents of Vatican City include members of the Swiss Guard (the pope’s private security force) and church members.
Places to visit in Vatican City
When most visitors think of the Vatican, they think of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Still, a visit to the City of the Vatican can easily be extended beyond those popular sights.
Here are the areas of Vatican City to take into consideration when choosing your visit, ranging from the extremely popular to relatively obscure.
St. Peter’s Square
First on the list of places to visit in the worlds smallest city is St. Peter’s Square.
St. Peter’s Square is among the world’s largest and most gorgeous squares in the worlds smallest city. It is situated at the foot of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The square is spectacular in size, measuring 320 meters in length and 240 meters in width. And over 300,000 people have gathered in St. Peter’s Square for liturgies and other notable events.
The square was built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667, with the help of Pope Alexander XII.
Second, on the list of places to visit in the worlds smallest city is the Vatican Museums.
Visiting the city of Vatican, the worlds smallest city, is like visiting one massive gallery because the sidewalks are surrounded by museums containing some of the world’s most famous artworks. If you enjoy art, there is no better place on the planet to visit than Vatican City.
These museums first originated in the early 16th century. Pope Julius II established them by acquiring the Vatican’s first work of art. This was a marble sculpture called “Laocoön and His Sons,” and it depicted three intricately detailed figures fighting off writhing serpents.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel, with its majestic ceiling adorned by Michelangelo, is among the world’s most famous houses of worship. It is only accessible through the Vatican Museums and cannot be visited independently.
Clicking photographs here aren’t permitted either.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Next on the list of places to visit in the worlds smallest city is St. Peter’s Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church and a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture (Michelangelo and Bernini both contributed to its design).
It is free to visit, but you must go through a security checkpoint to enter, and the paths can be very long.
You can also climb the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (as opposed to visiting the basilica itself, climbing the dome does require a ticket—more on that below), from which you can enjoy spectacular views of St. Peter’s Square.
Next on the list of places to visit in the worlds smallest city is The Vatican Necropolis.
The Vatican Necropolis (or “scavi”) is located beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as beneath the “grotto” area that is also located beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.
This area was a cemetery in the first century, and it is the assumed burial ground of St. Peter himself, which is significant in Christian history.
Tours are needed and must be reserved in advance. If you want to tour the Vatican directly, there are instructions as to how to email them.
Alternatively, this well-reviewed tour, which is much easier to arrange, will enable you to visit the Vatican Necropolis.
Email address: email@example.com
Dress code at the museums
The dress code at St. Peter’s is strictly enforced. City dwellers are not allowed to enter with bare shoulders, short dresses or skirts that end above the knee, or any other revealing clothing. Bring a scarf or sweatshirt to drape over your shoulders if you don’t want to be denied entry.
Hotel accommodation in the Vatican
There are so many options for accommodation near the worlds smallest city that it can be challenging to decide which ones are the best! Whether you are a backpacker, a businessperson, a pilgrim, or a millionaire, there are plenty of hotels near the Vatican.
The City of London
The City of London, which has an 800-year history, combines Roman ruins with contemporary icons. Some of London’s most popular attractions, such as Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Museum of London, are located in the area, as are legendary modern buildings like “The Cheesegrater” and “The Gherkin”.
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Vatican city has rightly named the worlds smallest city. It is as beautiful as you can imagine with deep history running through its veins. There is a lot to unpack here be it the museums or the streets.
The worlds smallest city has a lot to offer, so for all the travel geeks out there, Vatican city should be on your Top 10 countries must-visit list! And that wraps our content for The guide to the worlds smallest city- Vatican City.