Vatican Chapel of Nicholas V

Beato Angelico freosced the Capella Niccolinia, or Chapel of Nicholas V, in the Vatican
The Cappella Niccolina in the Vatican Museums. (Photo by Sailko)

The Vatican's Cappella Niccolina (Chapel of Nicholas V) was frescoed by Fra' Angelico

Beato Angelico freosced the Capella Niccolinia, or Chapel of Nicholas V, in the Vatican
Beato Angelico frescoed the Cappella Niccolina, or Chapel of Nicholas V, in the Vatican.
After visiting the Raphael Rooms' Sala di Constantino, you pop out into the Sala dei Chiaroscuro, with a 16th-century wooden ceiling bearing the Medici arms and a little doorway in the corner many people miss and most tour groups skip. Their loss.

Through this doorway is the Vatican's most gorgeous hidden corner, the closet-size Cappella Niccolina, or Chapel of Nicholas V (1447–49), colorfully frescoed floor-to-ceiling with gentle, early Renaissance Tuscan genius by that devout little monk of a painter, Fra' Angelico.

Sadly, for some reason (crowd control, I imagine) authorities have recently begun putting a bar across the doorway so you can't actually enter the room.

The best you can do on a regular visit is sort of lean over the bar and crane your neck for a peek at these glorious frescoes.

Luckily, there is now a way to get in: Book a VIP tour of the Vatican that usually includes a visit inside the chapel (among other normally off-limits sectors, like the Bramante Staircase), plus the tour's real selling point: a private, after-hours viewing of the Sistine Chapel with no crowds).

This special-access tour is far from cheap, but most folks willing to pay the big bucks find it extremely worthwhile.

Tips & links

Details
ADDRESS

Viale Vaticano (on the north side of the Vatican City walls, between where Via Santamaura and the Via Tunisi staircase hit Viale Vaticano; about a 5–10 minute walk around the walls from St. Peter's).
tel. +39-06-6988-4676 or +39-06-6988-3145
www.museivaticani.va or www.vatican.va

OPEN

Mon–Sat 9am–6pm (last entry: 4pm)
* May 2–July 25 and Sept 5–Oct 31 also open Fridays 7–11pm with advance booking (» more)
* Open the last Sun of each month 9:30am–2pm—and it's free!... and terribly crowded
* For other closed dates, see "tips" below

ADMISSION

€16
Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 49; 490, 492, 496; 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990
Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani (A)
See "Tips" for more info

TOURS
How long does The Chapel of Nicholas V take?

Planning your day: You peek, you keep going. It takes all of 5 minutes—but expect to spend all day at the Vatican.

» Rome itineraries

Book ahead

You can book Vatican entry tickets ahead of time to help avoid the lines, which can last for up to an hour or so in the summer. However, this adds a €4 fee to the already steep admission of €16 at www.vatican.va. Or you can do it online via one of our partners:

Reserve a Vatican tour
Admission quirks: When the Vatican is free, closed, crowded, open late, etc.

Vatican Museum free days

The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of each month, when they stay open until 2pm (last entry: 12:30pm). This, however, is no secret, so they are also intensely crowded.

On any other Sunday, however, the Vatican Museum are closed—and if that final Sunday of the month happens falls on a church holiday (see below), they also remain closed.

The Vatican is also free on Sept. 27 (World Tourism Day)..

Vatican most crowded on Sun and Wed

The Vatican Museums are most crowded on Sundays (because they're free) and many Wednesdays (because in the morning St. Peter's itself is often closed for the papal audience in the piazza, so everyone who doesn't have tickets walks around the walls to kill time inside the museums, and by afternoon all the audience-goers join them).

Open late on summer Fridays

The Vatican has been experimenting with reopening the museums on Friday evenings in spring and early summer then again in fall allowing a limited number of visitors—upon advance booking only—to wander the mooonlit galleries without the crowds.

More info: www.vatican.va.

To book: Viator.com

Vatican closed on church holidays

The Vatican Museums are closed on all church holidays: Jan. 1, Jan. 6, Feb. 11, Mar. 19, Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1, June 29 (Feast of St. Peter and Paul—major Roman holiday), Aug. 14–15 (everything is closed in Rome on Aug. 15; head to Santa Maria Maggiore for mass with a "snowfall" of rose petals), Nov. 1, Dec. 25 (Merry Christmas!), and Dec. 26 (Santo Stefano—huge in Italy).

Last entry: 4pm

Note that the Vatican Museums close surprisingly early (last entry at 4pm, doors close 6pm).

So see the Museums first, then walk around the walls to visit St. Peter's.

Dress code?

Recently, the Vatican (or at least some guards) seems to have decided that you must dress "appropriately" to visit any part of Vatican City—including the museums—and not just St. Peter's, where a dress code has long applied.

Err on the side of caution and make sure you arrive with no bare shoulders, knees or midriffs.

That means: no shorts, no miniskirts, no sleeveless shirts or blouses, no tank-tops. Also, no hats.

(If it's hot and you want to wear a tank top around town that day, just bring a light shawl to cover your shoulders while inside; » more on packing the right items for an Italy trip.)

Also, you cannot bring into the museum any bag or backpack larger than 40cm x 35cm x 15cm (roughly 16" x 14" x 6")—there is a cloackroom where you can leave it.

How to get to the Vatican Museums

Cipro-Musei Vaticani is the closest Metro stop (on the A line, about 5 blocks northwest of the entrance; just follow the crowds).

Otherwise, bus 49 stops right in front of the museum entrance (you can catch it from Piazza Cavour, or anywhere along Via Cescenzio, which starts at the northwestern tip of the piazza, near Castel Sant'Angelo).

You can also take bus 490, 492, 496, N1 to Via Candia (two blocks north of the entrance), or one of many bus lines to Piazza del Risorgimento, tucked into a inside corner of the Vatican walls a short walk east of the musuems entrance: 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990, N11.

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Cappella Niccolina
ADDRESS

Viale Vaticano (on the north side of the Vatican City walls, between where Via Santamaura and the Via Tunisi staircase hit Viale Vaticano; about a 5–10 minute walk around the walls from St. Peter's).
tel. +39-06-6988-4676 or +39-06-6988-3145
www.museivaticani.va or www.vatican.va

OPEN

Mon–Sat 9am–6pm (last entry: 4pm)
* May 2–July 25 and Sept 5–Oct 31 also open Fridays 7–11pm with advance booking (» more)
* Open the last Sun of each month 9:30am–2pm—and it's free!... and terribly crowded
* For other closed dates, see "tips" below

ADMISSION

€16
Roma Pass: No

TRANSPORT

Bus: 49; 490, 492, 496; 23, 32, 81,Tram 19, 271, 492, 590, 982, 990
Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani (A)
See "Tips" for more info

TOURS


Useful links
SIGHTS

Tourist info: Turismoroma.it

Activities & tours: ContextTravel.com, Viator.com, SelectItaly.com, City-Discovery.com, Localguiding.com, Italy.artviva.com

Other useful sites: 060608.it, Vatican.va, Coopculture.it, Archeoroma.beniculturali.it, Museiincomuneroma.it, Comune.roma.it, Sovraintendenzaroma.it

LODGING
TRANSPORT

Public transport: Agenziamobilita.roma.it (all transit and driving/parking info); Atac.roma.it (bus & Metro/subway)

plane

Rome airports: Adr.it

Airport transfers: Trenitalia.com (express train: €14); Viator.com (private car: €14–€16.50); Terravision.eu (bus: €4), Cotralspa.it or Sitbusshuttle.com (bus: €5); Taxi: €45–€55

Airfares: Momondo.com, AutoEurope.comVayama.com, CheapOair.com, Cheapflights.comDoHop.com, CheapTickets.com, Priceline.com

train

Trains: Raileurope.com, Trenitalia.com, Seat61.com

automobile

Driving/parking: Sabait.it (Villa Borghese garage; €18/day), Atac.roma.it (outlying commuter parking lots; from €5 per day), Agenziamobilita.roma.it (more on the ZTL)

Car rentals:Autoeurope.com, Momondo.com, RentalCars.com, CheapOair.com, AutoSlash.com

ship

Cruise terminal: Port-of-rome.org (Civitavecchia)

Transport airport—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Cotralspa.it (bus: 60–80 min, €4.30), Trenitalia.com (train, changing at a Rome station: 90–120 min. €11–€29),

Transport Rome hotels—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Trenitalia.com (train: 60–80 min, €5–€15)

Shortcuts to popular planning sections:

Airfares, Cars, Trains, Tours, Packages, Cruises, Lodging, Itineraries, Info, Packing, Prep, Comm

Local info
National tourism authority: italia.it
Cultural patrimony: culturaitalia.it
Historic & cultural sites: beniculturali.it
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