The Vatican City, also known as the Holy See, while small, is jammed packed with excellent things to see. The major attractions here are the Vatican grounds and Museum as well as St. Peter's Basilica and the St. Peter's Square. When visiting Rome its advisable to allocate at least 1/2 to 3/4 of a day for this area.
Here are a few tips for how to best visit the Vatican City.
First, know how to visit the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Over the years, we have found that it is best to visit the Vatican first, entering as early as possible in the morning to avoid the queue and crowds and to then make you way to St. Peter's Basilica. There is an approximately twenty minute walk between the two attractions. By visiting St. Peter's Basilica second, you will find yourself closer to the historic city centre upon finishing the attractions, this can be a life saver for your feet if you planning to walk into the historic center after your visits, as so many choose to do.
Second, note that while there are some Free Days to visit the Vatican Museum, it can be extremely busy on these days. During a visit six years ago, we tried to visit on a Free Visit Day, showing up before opening, we found ourselves already behind a massive queue, this resulted in a very long and slow visit to the museum, compared to other trips when we've gone on normal days.
Third, don't take a backpack with you into the Vatican. You will need to check this in upon entering the museum. This can be frustrating and a waste of your time upon entering and when you leave the museum.
Fourth, don't jump at the first chance to buy a Vatican Museum guidebook upon entering. Many of the rooms, like the wonderful Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) each have information display cards in various languages. This is generally good enough for most visitors. Also, there are many small kiosk setups throughout the museum selling the same guidebooks. Thus, if you decide later that you want one, no problem, you buy it later on.
Fifth, do make sure you've a St. Peter's Basilica guidebook with you. There are many things to see in St. Peter's Basilica as well as on the Square but there is little guidance about the attractions once you step into the Basilica and the Square grounds. Without a guidebook, you will miss important attractions at these two attractions
Sixth, wear good walking shoes. Odds are you are going to be at the museum at least 2-3 hours and will be visiting St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum together . This means, you've a lot of walking on the day and there are not many places to take a seat and rest in either attraction or in between so be kind to your feet and wear your most comfortable walking shoes.
Seventh, eat a decent breakfast before making the early morning trip as the Vatican Museum cafe leaves much to be desired and the restaurant scene around the Holy See is not Rome's best. Because, it takes some time to visit both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica, you very well likely might not be having lunch until the early afternoon. So make sure you get plenty during your breakfast to tide you over for a while.
Overall, the Vatican City (Holy See) is a collection of excellent attractions, making up a must-see area of Rome for all first-time visitors and is often an area of high priority for repeat visitors to the city. We make it a priority to spend at least a 1/2 to 3/4 of a day in the Vatican City during our trips to Rome. Longer visits of a full day would be easily justifiable if you have sufficient time in Rome.