Vatican City with Children – Strollers, tickets and crowds

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Since my last post (which was almost 2 years ago to the day!) we have welcomed a new addition to the family. And so it was that my most pressing concern when visiting Vatican City was how accessible it was for younger children and babies. Tripadvisor was fairly evenly split between those who advocated throwing yourself into the experience and preached just how family-friendly the place was and those who described the whole experience as a journey through Dante’s nine circles of hell. One poor lady asked if she should take a stroller and was told that she should take a good look at herself in the mirror and stop being so selfish.

When doing my research prior to our trip I only wanted to know three things. Should we/could we take a stroller/buggy/pushchair? Do my children need a ticket (free or otherwise!)? And how crowded should I expect it to be. Here then are some essentials when visiting Vatican City with a baby (plus a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old!).

Child-friendly specifics – Can you take a stroller? Does my child need a ticket? How crowded is it?

Saint Peter’s Square 

A baby carrier is a more practical way to enjoy your time in Vatican City

Stroller Friendly? Yes

Undeniably, yes, you can take a stroller. St. Peter’s Square is huge and well paved and will pose no obstacle to travelling with a buggy. Indeed, if you’re queueing for Saint Peter’s Basilica, then a stroller is ideal as the line snakes all the way along the colonnade from the security check near the basilica to the entrance to the square itself. If it’s a stroller with sun protection/a shade then even better.

Saint Peter’s Square also gets hot. With little shade, a stroller would be a welcome respite from wearing a sweaty baby or being strapped to a sweaty parent.

Children’s tickets – No tickets needed for anybody – Enter from all sides without having to pass through any security.

Crowded? We passed through several times between 10am and 3pm and although there were a lot of people there it was never too crowded.

Top Tip – I may get on somebody’s bad side with this but my top tip for Saint Peter’s Square is to buy water from the guys peddling it around the square instead of from the shops or ‘ice cream stands’. I know this seems counter intuitive – guys trying to force water on you as you queue don’t inspire much confidence – but all of the bottles (at least to my eyes) seemed to be the same wherever they were on sale. The only difference was the price. We originally bypassed the guys selling in the square at 1 Euro a bottle and went to an ice cream stand. Here they were 2.50 for the same bottle. The shops were slightly cheaper at 1.50.

Saint Peter’s Basilica 

Crowded but still manageable with small children

Stroller friendly? Maybe

Strollers are supposed to be checked in at the bag check after security, prior to entering the basilica. However, like most places in Italy, rules here are flexible and their implementation decided by the mood of the guard on the day. With that said, we did not take a stroller into Saint Peter’s Basilica. However, I have read many posts on other blogs of people taking their strollers inside.

The basilica itself is huge and would certainly accommodate a stroller if you kept to the central passageway and did not want to detour to see the tombs on either side. That’s not to say that it isn’t crowded – it is – however when we went at midday, there would still have been little obstacle to using a stroller inside. The entrance into the basilica is another story – crowded, very hurried and with steps.

We were glad we brought a carrier.

It should go without saying that we would not recommend attempting to climb the dome with a stroller. I did a lot of reading prior to our visit and we opted to skip the dome completely, even with our youngest in a carrier.

Children’s tickets – No tickets needed for anybody – enter through security checkpoints on the right side of the basilica entrance. The line snakes from the barriers along the colonnade along the right side of Saint Peters Square but moves very quickly. We joined right at the back by the entrance to the square and were still inside the basilica within 20 minutes.

Crowded? The entrance was a squeeze as all visitors pass through a single doorway. Inside was fine with lots of space to wander despite being busy.

The Vatican Museum

Busy, Busy – The Vatican Museum is beautiful but hard to navigate!

Stroller Friendly? No

This one is a contentious issue on many travel forums but I’m going to side with those who say that they would not recommend taking a stroller to the Vatican Museum.

We visited on a Friday at 12:30pm and the place was absolutely jam-packed with other tourists. The whole experience from entry to exit was similar to leaving a football stadium or concert venue at the end of an event (slow shuffle forwards, pay attention to the direction you’re headed rather than your surroundings and just give yourself over to the movement of the crowd until you are out the other side!). We tried to leave the conveyor belt of tourists just once in the Egyptian section to look at one of the exhibits and quickly realised it would be a battle to rejoin the throng of people snaking from entrance to exit.

Steps could also be an issue, especially on the approach to the Sistine Chapel which is reached via a narrow set of twisting passages and stairways – especially with the aforementioned crowds.

There is a place to check-in strollers and so this would be a good idea.

Children’s tickets – Children 6 – 18 years require a ticket at a cost of €8.00. Adults are €17.00. Children younger than 6 do not require any kind of ticket (which is different to many Italian attractions where a ‘free entrance ticket’ is required for younger visitors). A processing fee of €4.00 is added to online orders. This is worth it as it allows you to skip the line by using the ‘pre-purchased’ tickets line and simply collect your tickets from a machine on the museum’s first floor before entering. Tickets can be purchased here

Crowded? Oh boy! As above, the Vatican Museum is very crowded! I had read previously about people booking night-
time tours to reduce the number of people sharing their visit. I can’t attest to whether this would actually work but based on our hurried and frustrating plod – I would be reluctant to return under the same conditions.

Where to eat?

A special mention to La Locanda di Pietro – a clean, modern and reasonably priced restaurant just a few minutes walk from the museum. We stumbled across this place entirely by accident and ventured inside because it was the only place that didnt have either a person directly outside the museum offering coupons and directions to ‘the best pasta in Rome!’  or somebody on the street trying to force us inside.

Delicious food, friendly staff and they couldnt do enough to help us with the children. Indeed, our youngest was actually verging on becoming irritable from receiving too much attention.

Yelp link featured here without incentive – just a top recommendation for a bite to eat with small children after the museum! Location below.

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