Thursday, June 20, 2024

Early Entry Vatican Breakfast – A Unique Rome Experience

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Vatican Breakfast

Looking for the the best way to see the Vatican? Here’s an experience that’s off the Roman rails. Have you heard of the Vatican early entry breakfast?

It used to be offered through the Vatican Museums site but that seems to have just changed but it’s still available through tour companies. You’ll get skip-the-line tickets, early Vatican access and discover a unique thing to do in Rome.

The Vatican and St Peter's Square with no crowds
St Peter’s Square with no crowds – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


Early Morning Vatican Tour

Although you do have to get up awfully early.

At 5:30 a.m. my husband, Mark, turned over in his sleep and yanked the sheet tucked under my neck so hard I woke up wondering why someone was trying to strangle me.

My eyes opened to slits. “We could have slept until 6:15.”

“You’re the one who wants to go.”

It wasn’t our best moment. It was our last day in Rome, we were sightsee-ed out and we were going to the Vatican for breakfast.

Early Access to the Vatican

Yet I felt a little thrill because we were going to see the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel without the crowds.

Our Vatican Museum early entrance breakfast meant we’d be there before other early access tours, and nearly two hours before the museum was open to the public. 

(At the time we didn’t realize that once we’d had breakfast we still couldn’t enter the museums until 8:30 a.m.)

Visiting the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica
St Peter’s Basilica – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


A One of a Kind Experience in Rome

It had taken a long time to convince Mark that early morning was the best way to see the Vatican.

“What if it’s one of those unmissable morning experiences like Angkor Wat at sunrise?” I’d asked. “You have to admit it’s unique. It probably even trumps the skeleton chandeliers in the Capuchin Crypt.”

Vatican City Without the Crowds

The best part would be seeing the Vatican without hordes of tourists.

The last time I’d gone to the Vatican City Museums I’d waited in line for two hours, then shuffled down the long corridors in the midst of a thrum of people.

It wasn’t a heavenly experience. It was more like being in a magnificent metro at rush hour.

“Full English breakfast,” I reminded Mark, as food is usually the most direct route to his heart.

Evidently his heart wasn’t awake yet because he groaned and went into the shower.

“We’ll be the first ones in,” I shouted through the door.

Angels at St Peter's Basilica
Angels at St Peter’s Basilica – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


What Is Early Entrance Breakfast at the Vatican?

A Vatican Museum breakfast includes entry and a buffet breakfast served in either the Restaurant Area or the Pinecone Courtyard of the Vatican Museums. It depends on the season.

And you NEED to book early, though you didn’t used to.

Once you’ve eaten your substantial hot breakfast, away you go into the Vatican Museums and towards the Sistine Chapel and you’re alone (almost) in the Vatican. Can you imagine it?

Booking Early Entry Vatican Breakfast Tours

Whether you want breakfast or not is up to you. Note: For the breakfast tours you should book up to two months in advance. It’s easier to find bookings for simple early access tours without the meal.

    • Vatican Museums Early Entry Tour with Breakfast – From $140. Check availability here.
    • Early Morning Access Vatican Skip-the-line Museum and Sistine Chapel Tour Without Breakfast from $115. Check availability here.


New! Ultra Elite Way to See the Vatican – 6:00 a.m. Key Master’s Tour

The Key Master Tour is so popular and so special I could only find a couple of spaces left for the summer.

Picture it: You head into the Vatican with the Clavigero, the guardian of the Vatican keys, as he unlocks the gallery doors.

All is still. The art is breathtaking. Nothing but the click of the Clavigero’s footsteps as he goes from door to door.

Then you’re in the Sistine Chapel: Empty, except for a very few. 

Wow – I thought the Vatican breakfast was fabulously personal, this would be beyond. 

Prices are from $785 a person, and there is very limited availability – though it’s worth checking for last minute cancellations.

Get more info on the Key Master’s Tour at GetYourGuide.

Getting to Vatican City Early from Central Rome

Vatican City is on the west side of the Tiber River, across from the historical centre of Rome.

When I’d envisioned our lavish Vatican breakfast surrounded by 14th-century altarpieces and plush velvet curtains, I’d also pictured us strolling hand-in-hand through a delicate rose sunrise to the Vatican entrance.

We would cross the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Bridge of Angels, much as the medieval pilgrims used to do.

Instead we were tired and cranky so we got a cab.

At that time of morning taking a taxi to St Peter’s Square is fast, but you can also take the metro to Cipro – Musei Vaticani, about a 10-minute walk to the Vatican entrance.

Vatican breakfast buffet
Breakfast Buffet at the Vatican – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


The Vatican Breakfast Early Entry Experience

The Restaurant Area

When we went we were led to the Restaurant Area. Seriously, that’s what it’s called.

The Restaurant Area had two long tables and a side wall buffet, not a masterpiece in sight. I couldn’t help thinking the decor wasn’t much more elaborate than its name.

The Pine Cone Courtyard Vatican Breakfast

If you visit between April and November you eat outside in the Pinecone Courtyard, the Cortile della Pigna, which has a much better ring to it than the Restaurant Area.

Plus it has a colossal bronze Pine Cone cast in the 1st or 2nd century AD.

With 1400 rooms in the Vatican they couldn’t have found something more ornate than the Breakfast Area, I wondered?

While I didn’t expect to be eating scrambled eggs by candlelight under Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, what about the Gallery of Tapestries or the Hall of Animals? A little alcove with a Caravaggio?

“Bacon!” I said, trying to divert Mark’s attention away from the bleak surroundings in case he threw me an I-told-you-so look.

What Is the Vatican Breakfast Buffet like?

Admittedly, the buffet was good. Bacon, sausages, fresh fruit, pancakes, toast, pastries, coffee, cappuccino, tea.

The caffeine hit woke me up and I tried to strike up a conversation with the people around us. After all, this was a unique shared experience. The Vatican is the heart of Christianity – a wellspring of spirituality, history and art.

No one seemed interested so I ate another croissant.

It didn’t matter. As soon as I saw the headsets being handed out my sense of shared community evaporated in my desire to be first to the Sistine Chapel.

Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums
Gallery of Maps – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


Tour Guide or Audio Headset? 

I recommend going for a guide.

When we went we had the option of a tour or an audioguide, and we opted for an audioguide.

The good thing about getting an audioguide is that you can wander through the Vatican any way you like. The bad thing? It’s harder to follow than an actual guide.

It took only a minute to get the headsets then we waited at the entryway like racehorses poised to charge down the track. Other early access tours were trickling in, and I didn’t want them getting ahead of us.

“The thing to do is get to the Sistine Chapel as fast as you can,” I told Mark under my breath. “I read it on the Internet. Don’t get sidetracked or we’ll be sharing the Sistine Chapel with a million other tourists.”

How Big is the Vatican?

Mark turned away but I’m pretty sure he was rolling his eyes. The distance from the Vatican Museums entrance to the Sistine Chapel is about 500 metres if you go direct, but there are some 7.5 km (4.5 miles) of galleries and corridors in total.

So Many Masterpieces

Dating back to 1503, the museums hold a jaw-dropping collection of Renaissance paintings, antiquities, priceless tapestries and religious and secular art.

There’s even a marble chariot. The chances of getting sidetracked are high.

But I was on a mission and as soon as we were allowed in I was ready to sprint.

It worked. Mark and I were the first ones into the Vatican Museums.

It was a split second moment of triumph because we were quickly overtaken by a tour leader holding a flag.

“Hurry!” I said to Mark over my shoulder as I hurtled down the Gallery of Maps, a long hallway that connects the Papal Palace to the Sistine Chapel.

Sixteenth-century frescoes showing the regions of Italy whizzed by my sight and I was barely aware of the elaborate ceiling paintings overhead.

“Why?” he said.

I stopped, nearly causing a pileup of Sistine Chapel-bound tourists behind me.

Beautiful hallways in the Vatican
Vatican City without the Crowds – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


Top Things to See at the Vatican Palace

Sistine Chapel

Much as I hated to admit it, Mark had a point. Why was I hurrying?

While the Sistine Chapel is the number one draw in a Vatican tour, it’s at the far end of the tour route, and you’ll be passing room after room of masterpieces.

Vatican Masterpieces

What about Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ, Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness, the Belvedere Torso and the ancient Greek masterpiece Laocoon and his Sons?

What about the Stefaneschi Triptych by Giotto and the Porphyry Basin Nero used to bathe in? We were passing them by in our flight.

“You’re right,” I said.

The Raphael Rooms

We veered off the papal highway and that’s how we ended up in the Raphael Rooms completely alone.

Painted in the early 1500s, this suite of four rooms are dripping in frescoes by Raphael and his workshop.

The rooms were originally part of the apartments of Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope who, in addition to being known to engage in warfare in the name of the church, kickstarted the Vatican Museums by donating his collection.

It’s a miracle, I thought, looking around The Room of the Fire of the Borgo. It’s just us and the frescoes.

For the first time since we’d been in the Vatican, history seemed to come alive, shades of the Renaissance seeping out of the stone archways and intricately-tiled floors.

Saint Peter’s Basilica

After you see the Sistine Chapel and leave the palace there are other top sights to see in the Vatican City.

Saint Peter’s Basilica, of course. A standard Vatican breakfast early entry route will lead you to the basilica after you leave the Sistine Chapel – it’s almost impossible to miss.

Raphael Rooms at the Vatican
Raphael Rooms – Photo: Carol Perehudoff


Don’t Rush Through the Galleries

Once we’d decided to slow down, it was a different experience. We wandered through gallery after gallery.

At one point we got lost in a stairwell. I wasn’t even upset (hardly) that we missed the Caravaggio in the Pinacoteca, because there was so much else to see.

Breakfast at the Vatican is a unique way to experience Rome, and seeing the Sistine Chapel with only a few other tour groups is a marvellous feat, but taking it slow and enjoying the whole experience rather than beelining for one top sight is the best way to see the Vatican of all.

PS: The Sistine Chapel still wasn’t crowded when we got there.



Early Entrance Breakfast at the Vatican Reviews and Travel Tips

There are hardly any online breakfast Vatican City reviews, which is why I decided to write this post.

I had so many questions I couldn’t find answers to, so hopefully these tips for visiting the Vatican early will help you plan your trip.

Marble chariot at the Vatican
Marble Chariot in the Vatican


What You Need to Know Before Your Vatican Breakfast Tour

Where is the Vatican Museums entrance? 

  • It’s on the north side of the Vatican City on viale Vaticano. Look for the big archway.

Do you go through security before or after breakfast?

Can you go into St Peter’s Basilica after your Vatican Museum breakfast?

  • We were able to right after the Sistine Chapel. Since we were early there was no lineup.

Can you backtrack after seeing the Sistine Chapel to the museums and galleries?

  • Yes. But. This entails a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes. Then, if you want to visit St. Peter’s Basilica afterwards you would have to walk all the way back to the Sistine Chapel and you’ll be fighting crowds to get inside.

Review of the Vatican Audioguide Tour

Truthfully the audioguide was pretty dry. Like really dry. I don’t want to insult the Vatican but they should really listen to the audioguide at the Villa Borghese when they talk about Bernini in Rome, or the recorded guide of the Doria Pamphilj to get an idea of what’s entertaining.

At least the Vatican audioguide gives you an idea of what’s what. Or it would have for us if we hadn’t stopped listening to it altogether.

Booking Entry Vatican Breakfast Tour Tickets Through a Tour Company

While you used to be able to book the breakfast tour through the Vatican website it doesn’t seem possible anymore, so you’ll probably have to book through a tour company. 

  • Vatican Museums Early Entry Tour with Buffet Breakfast – Semi Private Tour from $140. Check availability here.

Conclusion: Is an Early Entrance Vatican Tour with Breakfast the Best Way to See the Vatican?

Is breakfast at the Vatican worth it? In my opinion it’s one of the best things to do in Rome.

The hot buffet is good  – and how many people can say they had breakfast in Vatican City? Or even better, a Pinecone Courtyard Vatican breakfast?

Hotels Near the Vatican

Staying near the Vatican is one way to have easy access. There are not a lot of luxury hotels in the area. Many luxury hotels in Rome are on the Via Veneto, where we stayed.

The gorgeous Hassler Roma (on my wish list) is at the top of the Spanish Steps, and another 5-star Rome hotel we enjoyed was the Rome Cavallieri – it’s not central but has a resort-like atmosphere with lovely outdoor pools.

5 Star Hotel near the Vatican – Gran Melia Rome

The closest 5-star hotel to the Vatican would be the Gran Melia Rome, a leading hotel of the world.

4 Star Hotels in the Vatican area

Starhotels Michelangelo Rome

Slightly closer would be the 4-star Starhotels Michelangelo Rome.

Best Western Plus Hotel Spring House

Closer still is the 4-star Best Western Plus Hotel Spring House.

Check out more hotels in Rome.

Vatican image of a beautiful hall

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