The Vatican City is the world's smallest sovereign state and is situated entirely within the city of Rome. Many visitors come for religious reasons, but you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate this extraordinary destination.
Famed sights include the colossal monument to Catholicism that is St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace, where the Pope resides. Inside his lavish abode lies the legendary Sistine Chapel, which lays claim to the most famous ceiling in the world. Crane your head to marvel at Michelangelo’s magnum opus, The Last Judgement.
Crowds can make a visit to Vatican City a bit of a trial – it’s busy throughout the year and at most times of day – but putting up with swathes of tourists seems like a small price to pay to bask in the state’s assorted treasures. Join the queues and follow the masses through the Vatican Museums to see an astonishing collection of paintings by the likes of Raphael and Giotto in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. You’ll also find extraordinary artefacts from classical antiquity, as well as museums dedicated to older finds from the Etruscans and Egyptians.
As leader of the Papal States for more than 1,000 years until Italian Unification in the 19th century, the Vatican has a long and uneven history. But the new Argentinian pope, formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has breathed new life into the old office since his appointment in 2013. As a result, visitors from far and wide have been flocking in ever-greater numbers to catch a glimpse of the new Roman Catholic leader and the city he lives in.
Pope Francis is known to give a general audience on Wednesdays, either in Audience Hall or St Peter’s Square. On Sundays, he usually gives a midday blessing from the window of his office, which overlooks the square.