Lonely Planet Writer

How to see the Sistine Chapel without the crowds

Exploring one of the world’s most famous museums is an awe-inspiring adventure, but more often than not, you’ll be sharing the experience with crowds of fellow travellers. But a new early morning tour at the Vatican Museums will let you explore the home of some of the world’s most famous works of art, without all the crowds.

The monumental double spiral staircase designed by Bramante for the Vatican Museums. Image by ©Giorgio Art/Shutterstock

The museums have announced a new exclusive tour – geared towards early birds with its 6 am start – that allows visitors to travel through the buildings with a very special staffer. The “clavigero”, or key keeper, will pass through the halls performing the “solemn rite” of opening the doors and turning on the lights. Using ancient irons keys, the key keeper opens door after door, leading from “the monumental entrance to the sacred door to the Sistine Chapel,” and will now be taking some lucky guests will be along for the experience.

Inside the Vatican Museum, one of the largest museums in the world. Image by ©Brian Kinney/Shutterstock

The private “out of hours” guided tour, called Good Morning Vatican Museums, will see travellers enter spots like the Atrium of the Four Fates, the Simonetti Staircase, the Pio Clementino Museum, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Gallery of the Tapestries, the Raphael Rooms, and more. Of course, as the Sistine Chapel is the highlight of many visits to the museums, the visitors will also head there to open to the doors, switch on the lights, a take a moment of contemplation and reflection – without the crowds that so often fill the stunning chamber. After that, guests will get to start their day right breakfast in the Courtyard of the Pinecone, which can be followed by a guided tour of the museums.

Visitors in Stanza della segnatura (Room of the Signatura) decorated by Raphael’s frescoes in Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello) of Vatican museums. Image by ©vvoe/Shutterstock

The intimate experience is limited to a maximum of 20 people and the tours run for one hour on Monday through Saturday. More information about the tours can be found on the official website.