Completed by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1541, these breathtaking works depict several scenes from the Bible, and are regarded as some of the most impressive paintings in all of human history.
Given that, you’d be crazy to miss the Sistine Chapel on your Rome trip. So, how can you find it?
Getting to the Sistine Chapel by train
You can’t really miss the Sistine Chapel, being just metres off the spectacular St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) within Vatican City, the microstate at the heart of the Italian capital.
This area is on the western banks of the Tiber, a short distance from the river and close to other draws like Castel Sant’Angelo and Parco del Gianicolo. St Peter’s Square has its own train station, San Pietro. These trains are geared up for commuters and run in a loop around Rome from Roma Termini station. From San Pietro, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the Sistine Chapel. The train time from Rome to Vatican City is around 11 minutes.
Which station is nearest to the Sistine Chapel?
Another efficient way to get to the Sistine Chapel is by using the Rome Metro. Head for the Ottaviano stop, which is on Line A (the orange line). It’s then just an 11-minute walk directly south to reach St Peter’s Square and the entrance to the Vatican Museums attraction, which includes the Chapel.
Incidentally, the Ottaviano transport interchange is where you’ll also find the nearest tram stop to the Sistine Chapel, which is served by number 19 tram services. There are also buses stopping here, including the number 32, 590 and 982 services.
You have several bus stops even closer to the Chapel, with one along the riverfront being called at by 34, 40, 46, 62 and 64 route buses, while another stop is a couple of hundred metres north of St Peter’s Square and is served by 23, 982 and n3s bus lines.
No matter which way you choose to travel, you’ll absolutely love to hear that Rome’s transport is both affordable and integrated. With the same operator running each of these networks, you’re able to switch between metro, trams and buses using the very same ticket.
What to see at the Sistine Chapel
Though its exterior is unremarkable, it’s the interior of the Sistine Chapel which makes this structure one of the most famous on the planet.
It stands at 40.23 metres long, 13.4 metres wide and 20.7 metres tall. Fascinatingly, this is claimed to be an exact recreation of the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple, which stood in Jerusalem until the year 70 A.D.
When you visit the Sistine Chapel, you’ll find the works of painter Michelangelo which adorn the ceiling and some walls are the real draw.
Michelangelo’s intricate ceiling took around four years to finish and depicts nine scenes from the Bible’s book of Genesis. Among the most famous of these works are “The Creation of Adam” and “The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise”. Surrounding these incredible works are depictions of prophets and pagan sibyls and several male nudes.
The Last Judgement
Adorning the enormous wall behind the altar is the second work of Michelangelo’s, known as “The Last Judgement”. Painted some 20 years after the ceiling, this artwork depicts the second coming of Christ, who is tasked with judging all of mankind. This vast painting shows those judged to be blessed and destined for Heaven on the left-hand side, while those condemned and sent towards Hell are shown on the right. Among the figures hidden within the work are Eve and several Catholic saints.
The hidden works
There has been much speculation that Michelangelo worked secretive shapes and elements into both the ceiling and The Last Judgement. One such suggestion is that the flying seat shape and depiction of God in “The Creation of Adam” is intended to be an accurate reflection of the human brain. Similarly, “The Separation of Light From Darkness” is said to contain a human brain stem, with various kidney-like depictions scattered throughout his ceiling pieces.
This would be unsurprising if true, given Michelangelo’s fascination with human anatomy. After all, the main body of his work covered sculptural recreations of humans. It’s even said Michelangelo’s frustration with the Catholic Church led him to hide two miserable-looking self-portraits within his “The Last Judgement” piece.
Sistine Chapel History and Facts
The story of the Sistine Chapel begins way back in 1477. Pope Sixtus IV had decided that an existing chapel within the Vatican was insufficiently grand and beautiful, and therefore ordered a new one to be built on its very foundations. Designed by architect Giovanni dei Dolci, this reimagined structure would eventually complete in 1451, taking the name of the Pope who had commissioned it – the Sistine Chapel.
Originally, the intricate interior of the Chapel displayed the works of painters such as Botticelli and Rosselli, with a vast ceiling that depicted blue sky and the stars. But unusually, such spectacular work was not to last very long.
By 1503, a new Pope had been selected, and Julius II decided to leave his own mark on the Sistine Chapel. He requested one of the most famous artists in the world at the time, Michelangelo, to repaint the Chapel’s ceiling in an even more dramatic and intricate design.
Michelangelo initially refused, considering himself more of a sculptor and not especially talented in the art of painting. But when the Pope continued to make demands at Michelangelo, he was left with little choice.
An enormous undertaking
Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo worked tirelessly to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The project caused him unbelievable physical strain, so much so that it’s said his eyesight was left permanently damaged by the end.
Many would argue, however, that the finished project was well worth it. Michelangelo’s spectacular frescoed ceiling depicts nine scenes from Genesis and is widely considered one of the finest works of art in human history.
A second request
Luckily for us, the Sistine Chapel ceiling wasn’t the only time Michelangelo would work his magic at the Vatican. Some 20 years later, Pope Clement VII would call Michelangelo back to the Sistine Chapel to paint “The Last Judgement”, an enormous fresco adorning the wall behind the altar. This piece took Michelangelo even longer than the ceiling, painted over five years from 1536 and 1541.
The Sistine Chapel today
Since shortly after its completion some 500 years ago, the Sistine Chapel has been the place where the College of Cardinals gather to elect a new pope, and it remains to be today. Its famous chimney is still used to indicate the group’s voting status, with black smoke indicating that no candidate has yet received a two-thirds majority, while white smoke is used to reveal a new pope has finally been selected.
The Chapel underwent major restoration work between 1980 and 1994, and today it remains in a near-perfect and intact state, allowing us to marvel at some of the greatest artwork man has ever undertaken.
Restaurants, Bars, and Stores near the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is located within Vatican City, a tiny microstate at the heart of Rome and the global centre of the Catholic Church. As such, the Chapel’s immediate surroundings are reserved for buildings of religious and administrative importance, so you won’t find somewhere to stop for a coffee or invest in some new threads here. But thankfully, you won’t exactly have to travel far to do exactly that, with plenty of excellent eateries, watering holes and boutiques to be found just outside the city’s walls.
The best restaurants near the Sistine Chapel
Being at the bustling heart of the Italian capital, you have excellent restaurant picks in practically every direction from the Sistine Chapel.
- Bacio di Puglia – an excellent option for a speedy lunch or afternoon snack, with fresh pizza and pastries served from the counter
- Panino Divino – a small lunchtime spot serving up some of the freshest and best-looking paninis in all of the city
- Beef Bazaar – a stylish dinner spot pairing quality cuts of beef with an excellent wine list
- Passaguai – a small and super traditional Roman restaurant offering fantastic local meats and a tranquil street seating area
- Makasar Bistrot – a superb spot for antipasti with freshly cooked bread, continental meats, regional cheeses and the most delicious olives
- Calabascio – all your usual Italian favourites and a few surprises, served up in a clean and contemporary setting
The best bars near the Sistine Chapel
If you’re exploring the sights of the Vatican by evening, when night rolls in and its domes and towers are beautifully illuminated, what better way to unwind afterwards than with a local glass of red? If that idea’s gone down well, you’ll be pleased to know you’ve got bar options near the Sistine Chapel to suit all styles and budgets.
- Bukowski’s Bar – a charming little bistro-style bar with a homely feel and a fantastic selection of local cocktails
- Fonclea – a fusing of British and Italian pub cultures, serving up a selection of international beers alongside regular live music
- Wine Bar De' Penitenzieri – A cosy bar with entire walls lined by wine bottles, offered up alongside fresh and delicious snacks
- Enoteca Costantini – a spectacular cellar-styled wine bar with one of the city’s finest collections of vintage and local spirits
- Chiosco delle bancarelle Biblio Bar – a small hut bar that offers a selection of bottled beers, set to a beautiful al fresco seating area with views over the Tiber.
Shopping near the Sistine Chapel
The area that immediately surrounds the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican isn’t really known for its retail scene, however you’ll find a few good stores along nearby Via Cola di Rienzo, including big names like Calvin Klein Jeans, Subdued, Nike, Kiko Milano and Tiffany & Co. Further down the street is a cluster of top shoe shops, with Guja Calzature and Lonigro Calzature being some of the locals’ favourites.
Otherwise, to experience Rome’s biggest and best stores, you’ll need to walk around 1.5 kilometres east of the Chapel, crossing the River Tiber to reach the area between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna. Here, you’ll find international fashion superstars like Hermes Longchamp, Chanel and Michael Kors.
Opening Times and Prices
The Vatican Museums tour – of which the Sistine Chapel is part – is open from Monday to Saturday each week, closing on a Sunday. The site is also closed during 2020 on the 11th and 29th June, 14th and 15th August, 8th December, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Other than those exclusions, the site is open each day from 10:00 onwards. Between Monday and Thursday, closure is at 20:00 with final entry at 18:00, while on Friday and Saturday closing time is 22:00 and last entry is at 20:00.
To enter the Sistine Chapel, you’ll need to purchase a Vatican Museums admission ticket. This grants you access to many other parts of the Vatican City complex on the same day, including several exhibits and Raphael’s Rooms too. To avoid disappointment or waiting in long queues, you’ll want to book your tickets in advance of your trip, and will need to pick a time slot at 15-minute intervals as to when you plan to arrive at the Vatican Museums.
Tickets to enter the museums cost €17.00, however, children aged between 6 and 18, as well as students up to the age of 25, can enter for a reduced fee of €8.00. Children under six go free, but you’ll still need to ensure they’re included in the group number on your ticket.
For a more intimate and educational experience, there are a plethora of extra access and guided Sistine Chapel tour options, at various price points and which can be booked online.
As one of the most famous buildings in human history, tick another site of your bucket list with a trip to the spectacular Sistine Chapel.
Taking the train to Rome?
You can easily reach Rome by train from any major city in Italy thanks to the frequent high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. The most popular routes are from Venice to Rome (3h 15m), Milan to Rome (3h 10m), Florence to Rome (1h 18m) and Naples to Rome (1h 08m).
And if you're travelling onwards from Rome, why not continue by train? The capital has links to Venice, Florence, Milan, Verona and Genoa - to name but a few places you can reach by rail from Rome!
Need more information about travelling to Rome by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Rome.