Travel To Do: Happy Hour at the Vatican

When you hear the words Happy Hour, we bet the Vatican is the last place you would think to go for that traditional end-of-day celebration. We know Pope Francis is not your traditional Pope, but we still have a hard time imagining him hopping behind the mic and dropping a beat. But that’s what we like about Francis; you just never know.

The Vatican After Dark

In an effort to make Vatican Museum tours more accessible, and to give repeat visitors a reason to return, extended summer hours were introduced a few years ago. This offers a few perks: Much of the complex is not air conditioned, so cooler evening hours are a good time to visit. While still crowded, many day-trippers and cruisers have departed the Eternal City by the time night tours begin. Seeing the Vatican at night, leaves your day free to explore the rest of Rome, and you get to see the glories of the Vatican in a whole new light (or lack thereof).

That’s why this experience is on our Travel To Do List. While we would gladly take more Vatican Museum tours, having a unique experience like this can make a visit extra special. As with all good things, a bit of extra preparation is involved. You have to be at the right place – Musei Vaticani – at the right time – un venerdì sera durante l’estate. (Sorry, we got a little excited there.) Extended hours are offered only on Friday nights from the middle of Aprile through the end of Ottobre (April to October). The Musei Vaticani stays open until 11pm on those evenings, but St. Peter’s Basilica closes at the normal time.

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While it’s almost never empty, can you imagine standing in the Sistine Chapel, late at night when the crowds have thinned? Photo: Musei Vaticani)

The Travel To Do List

To Do Lists. Everybody has one – or many – to keep tabs on everything from daily chores to life plans. Different than a Bucket List. There’s a verb in there, implying these are things you must do. Bucket Lists are where travel dreams gather dust, waiting for someday. To Do Lists demand action. It’s not just a list of dream destinations, it’s a list of places you’re going, things you’re doing.

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Not Your Normal Vatican Museum Tours

For most of us, being at the Vatican after dark is not normal in the first place. But there are a few other differences to daytime Vatican Museum tours. Not every section or collection that you can see during the day is open at night. (In some cases, this is due to lighting.) However, many of the more popular areas are accessible, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and the Borgia Apartment. On the other hand, the Rooms of St. Pius V are only open during the evening hours. These rooms feature a collection of Medieval and Renaissance ceramics and miniature mosaics.

Since it’s a night time tour, a little night music seems in order, too. We’re pretty sure you won’t find Pope Francis behind a turntable, but yes, there will be music! Musical programs, mostly classical, are presented in various galleries and halls throughout the museums, starting at 8:30 each Friday evening. The magic combination of art, music, and moonlight at the Vatican is sure to be a unique experience and memory.

A Vatican Happy Hour

You read that right. Happy hour. At the Vatican. We told you these are not the normal Vatican Museum tours!

Now, don’t expect to be tossing back a cold one with Il Papa, but you can enjoy Happy Hour at the Vatican every Friday in July and August. Before visiting the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums, ticketed guests gather in the impressive Pinecone Courtyard for aperitifs. Starting at 7:30, a buffet allows guests to grab a bite or two as the sun goes down. A tasty start to what should be a filling evening of history, art, and entertainment.

If you’re not a night owl, you might prefer Breakfast at the Museums. There are three options for Vatican Museum tours that start with that most important of meals. Instead of staying for extra hours after the museums close, you will get in at 7am, two hours before opening time. Just like Happy Hour, a breakfast buffet is served in the Pinecone Courtyard.

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When you book a Breakfast or Happy Hour tour of the Vatican, you’ll be dining at Cafe-Bistrot La Pigna in the Pinecone Courtyard.

[Tweet “You may not be drinking with the Pope, but you can still catch Happy Hour at the Vatican!”]

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Vatican Museum Tours – Ticket Info

As mentioned, extended hours and Vatican After Dark tours are only available on Fridays from the middle of April to the end of October. Additionally, Happy Hour at the Vatican is limited to July and August, so plan your visit accordingly. Night hours are 7:00pm to 11:00pm.

Tickets are available directly from the Vatican Museums, so you can skip the line. That’s a great thing, since lines for Vatican Museum tours are frequently two hours or longer. Unless you happen to be on a pilgrimage, there are two ticket prices:

  • Full Ticket for adults
  • Reduced Ticket for children 6 to 18, and students up to 25 years of age with an International Student Card

Some tickets are available only on-line, and there is an additional €4 per ticket online fee. You can book your Vatican Museum tours directly with Musei Vaticani online, though many tour operators also offer tickets and guided tours.

  • Regular Admission: Full Ticket €16 – Reduced Ticket €8
  • Admission Ticket & Happy Hour: Full Ticket €35 – Reduced Ticket €27
  • Admission Ticket & Guided Tour (does not include Happy Hour): Full Ticket €32 – Reduced Ticket €24.

You might consider adding an audioguide for €7. If you’re visiting with younger children (5 to 12), the Vatican Museums offer a Family Tour package for just them. That includes a special audio guide, coloring book, and itinerary geared for adventurous young visitors. The Family Tour is an add-on at €5 per child.

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Among highlights of the Vatican Museums is the Stanza della Segnatura, or Raphael Rooms, where the School of Athens and other works can be seen. (Photo: Musei Vaticani)

What’s on Your Travel To Do List?

Happy Hour at the Vatican Museums is high on our To Do list for future travels. Does it make your list, too? What else is on your Travel To Do List? We’d love to hear about it in the comments, below!

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Want to add the Vatican After Dark to your own Travel To Do List? You can Pin this for later, and share it with your friends!

In Rome, TravelLatte stayed at the Hotel Indigo Rome St. George, and you can too! A 5-Star boutique hotel ideally situated within walking distance to most landmarks, and less than two kilometers from Vatican City.


42 comments on “Travel To Do: Happy Hour at the Vatican

    • Us too! I mean, even if it’s just to say we went to Happy Hour at the Vatican…totally worth it. 😉 Okay, plus we’d love to see the Raphael Rooms again. And the Sistine Chapel, and… Thanks for reading, Shona!

  1. I’ve been to the Vatican several times, but would love the opportunity to visit at night. That must be a very unique experience!

    • Hi guys – we think so, too! I can just imagine the quiet beauty of the Sistine Chapel or Rafael Rooms with chamber music and night lighting. (Not to mention smaller crowds and cooler temperatures!) Having the buffet – either breakfast or happy hour hors d’oeuvres – would be nice, too. If nothing else, it lets you save some time! Thanks for reading!

  2. When we visited the Vatican three years ago, it was just a normal day tour. I do remember it being rather warm in there, so the cooler temps of a night visit would be a plus. Hearing music would be a bonus, too. My cousin is headed to Rome in a few weeks, so I’ll have to pass along your post to him.

    • Hi Michelle – If your cousin goes, he’ll have to fill us all in on how the tour was! 😉 We visited on an early July morning, so it wasn’t too hot at first, but warmed up quickly. We think the music would really add to the atmosphere, too. One day, we’ll have to make it back! As always, thanks for reading!

  3. Haha! Never would have thought of going for Happy Hour at the Vatican! Such a pretty setting to be in. Breakfast sounds nice as well. We will keep this in mind.

    • Who knew, right? The grandeur of the Pinecone Courtyard is a great setting for breakfast – or Happy Hour – and we’d really enjoy that. It would really make for special memories. Thanks for your comment, guys!

    • The Vatican is amazing, Edith. We’re sure you’d love it – from the amazing Basilica to the treasures of the Vatican Museum. We hope you get there soon! Thanks for your comment, guys!

  4. Wow! We’ve never been to Italy, but this seems like it would be an amazing way to tour the Vatican. I don’t love crowds of tourists anyway, so the trade-off of missing the closed rooms would probably be worth it to me! Thanks for alerting us to the evening tour for our ‘one day’ trip to Italy! #feetdotravel

    • Hi Laura – We don’t like big crowds either, and the thought of being at the Vatican Museum during the cooler evening hours has a lot of appeal! Glad we could put this on your To Do list, too! 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  5. Wonderful! Wish they had this option when I visited the Vatican. Those extra hours give the traveler more activities to see during the day. Great information and pinned this for my next visit to Rome 🙂 #feetdotravel

    • Thanks, Stephanie! This wasn’t an option when we went, either, so we’re right there with you, saving this one for next time. Can’t think of many better places to get in some extra hours!

  6. This is great! We loved visiting the Vatican. We were there in late November a few years ago and there were still large crowds. I will definitely keep this in mind if we visit during that time frame. I love the idea of visiting all these attractions when most of the crowds have disappeared.

    • Hi Mary – we agree! Much nicer when the crowds are thinner. We missed both the breakfast and Happy Hour tours on our last visit, but even then we had smaller crowds by going before the doors opened to the public. That’s definitely the way to “do” the Vatican Museum! Thanks so much for your comment!

  7. Didn’t know about this happy hour existed! We’ll be going to Rome this July but already booked our tickets for a day ticket. Would have been good to experience the beauty of Vatican Museum in a cool evening

    • Hi Erica – We think any trip to the Vatican Museum is a good one, but you’re right – a cool evening would be nice. Enjoy your trip, and thanks for your comment!

    • We didn’t know about it either, but we’re with you – we are totally booking this tour next time we’re in Italy! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Karina!

  8. I know there are churches in Belgium where you’re able to grab a beer, but this certainly takes it to another level. What a fantastic way to draw people back for a repeat visit. And yeh, definitely pre-arrange tickets as those Vatican lines, even in winter, are a nightmare! Great find guys!

    • Brilliant, isn’t it? Although, I think it’s more about the tapas and extra hours, it’s still great marketing, and a unique experience. It sure drew us in, and moved up our plans to return. You’re so right about the lines, though. We will never go without pre-booking, to the Vatican or any other major attraction! Thanks for reading, David!

  9. What a great idea. I have been to the Vatican museums but would go again for this. There really is so much to see and I hope these extended hours help a little bit with the crowds! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Anisa, you would love it! So much history and culture – just amazing. Even more when you consider that only a small portion of the Vatican’s “riches” are on display! It’s mind-boggling. We really like the idea of going after dark – partly because of the crowds, but also for the different atmosphere. Hopefully, you get there soon!

  10. Admittedly, the title of your post got me intrigued! I have heard about Vatican tours after dark but never knew that they have happy hour drinks! Very interesting indeed, and this is something that I got to try if I return to Rome (between April-Oct of course) some day – for bragging rights, LOL!! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Ha! When we saw the tour option in their listing, it had the same effect on us. Good marketing! It’s not really your typical “half-priced drinks” sort of happy hour, but it’s still a fun idea. Definitely something we’re going to try on our next trip to Rome. In fact, we’re reconsidering when to go after discovering this! You’re right – it’s all about the bragging rights! 🙂 Thanks for reading, Kat!

  11. Only you can come up with such a good title for a post. Love it! There are not enough hours on the day when you are traveling. I am a big advocate of extended hours in museums. In that way, you are not in a rush trying to get in and out before 5 or 6 (this happened recently in Munich). So, I would like to visit the Vatican during happy hour ;0)

    • Hehehe – I think the idea of calling it Happy Hour is genius! The Vatican’s marketing department gets a gold star for that one. You are so right about extended hours being great – for travelers and everyone! I think the atmosphere of the Vatican after dark would make it special, too. We can’t wait to go find out! As always, thanks for your comment, Ruth!

  12. Firstly, we need to make a Travel To Do list, great idea! Happy hour at the Vatican sounds just like our cup of tea (or latte) especially as you can sightsee during the day and as you say would make the visiting the Vatican extra special. This is a great tip which I’ll definitely remember for visiting Rome. Thanks!

    • Hi Garth (and Phil!) – We’re glad you like the Trave To Do list! We just found that, while there are some big dreams for trips we want to take “one day,” there are a lot of things that we can do one the way to that one day. We really love the idea of being able to visit the Vatican later in the day. There’s so much to see and do in Rome, those “extra hours” are really helpful. Thanks again for stopping by, gents!

  13. I never heard about these early morning or late evening options for the Vatican Museum. What a great thing to know! I would almost think the 7:00 am start would be even better than a late evening one, notwithstanding apertifs are likely unavailable. Not many tourists want to start that early!

    • Hi Nicole, thanks for reading! We were in Rome a few years ago, and there were early hours then, but they seemed to only be available to a few tour operators. Now you can choose breakfast for that early morning start, or the aperitifs in the evening. Either one would be great, but we like the idea saying, “Yeah, we’re going to Happy Hour at the Vatican!” 🙂

  14. We were in Rome once over Christmas. Surprisingly it was a great time to visit the Vatican. Being the middle of winter the lines were short and there were very few crowds. We got to just sit and soak in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which was a wonderful experience.

    • That’s really good to know! We figured the Vatican would be packed around Christmas, and we can’t think of a better time to go. (At least, for Catholics.) We’re going to have to add that to our Travel To Do list, too! Thanks for the info, Lyn!

    • Hi Lolo – Isn’t that great? Our last trip to Rome was in July, but they must not have been doing the Happy Hour yet. Or maybe it was a well kept secret then. We are certainly ready to take advantage of it now, though! 🙂

  15. Lots of useful information, Rob. I haven’t been in Rome in a long time and reading your post made me want to go again. You can never get bored of this great city. The first time we went to the Vatican, in 1989, there were no lines whatsoever to visit it. Those times are gone now… #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Hi Anda – We decided Rome is the Eternal City because you could spend an eternity exploring it all, and never get bored. We feel the need to visit again too, even moreso while writing this. Definitely one of our favorite destinations. As always, thanks for your comment!

  16. I didn’t have a clue that you could do this. Who knew?! Thanks for sharing so I could learn about this. Bookmarking for when I finally make it to the Vatican.

    • Us either!! Like you said, Who knew? We hope you make it to the Vatican – so much to see, and these extra hours really help. Thanks for reading, Jill!

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