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?

Offered through the Vatican Museums itself, or available through tour companies, you’ll get skip-the-line tickets, early Vatican access and discover a unique thing to do in Rome.

St Peter’s Square with no crowds

Early Morning Vatican Tour

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.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“5:30 a.m.” 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.

Surely it’s the best way to visit the Vatican, I thought, yet few people seem to know about it.

St Peter’s Basilica

A One of a Kind Experience in Rome

It had taken a week to convince Mark it was the best way to see the Vatican, and we’d only booked the night before.

“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, because 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.

Read my article about more fun and unusual things to do in Rome

Angels at St Peter’s Basilica

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, depending on the season. It starts at 7:15 a.m., though you should be there by 7.

Once you’ve eaten your substantial hot breakfast with up to 30 other people, away you go into the Vatican Museums and towards the Sistine Chapel an hour before it’s open to the public.

Alone (almost) in the Vatican. Can you imagine it?

Booking Early Entry Vatican Breakfast Tours

You can book a Vatican breakfast through the official Vatican website, but we found it confusing. (I have more info on how to do it at the end of this article.) The good thing about booking on the official website was that we were able to book the night before, when it was too late to go through a travel agency.

If you prefer the ease of booking your Vatican breakfast tickets through a tour company, the ones I found were:

    • Vatican Museums Early Entry Tour with Buffet Breakfast – Semi Private Tour from $98. Check availability here.
    • Vatican Museums: Private Guided Tour with Breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard from $110. If you want to see the Sistine Chapel before you eat, this is an option. Check availability here.
    • Rome: Vatican Skip-the-line Museum and Sistine Chapel Tour with Breakfast from $82. Check availability here.



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 just 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.

Breakfast Buffet at the Vatican

The Vatican Breakfast Early Entry Experience

Outside we waited in a misty rain with about 20 other people. Promptly at 7:15 we were let in. As there is no one else at the Vatican at this time, security was a breeze, even for the sleepiest of tourists.

The Restaurant Area

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, 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 plain 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

Tour Guide or Audio Headset?

We would have booked the Vatican tour with breakfast that includes a guide, but it was full, so we’d opted for headsets. The good thing about 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. 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.

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 8 a.m. struck 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.

Vatican City without the Crowds

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


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: And 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 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.

While you’re having breakfast are other tour groups lining up and getting in front of you?

  • There are a few early Vatican entry tours gathering but we were still the first in. Ha.

Do you go through security before or after breakfast?

  • Before.

Do you have to wait in line to get your audioguide headset after the breakfast?

  • A table is set up at the breakfast to give out headsets to those who have reserved them. It took a couple of minutes to get them, no more. You do not have to wait in line for the headsets with anyone who is not doing the Vatican Breakfast.

How do you return your headset? Do you have to go all the way back to the Vatican entrance from the Sistine Chapel to deposit it?

  • No. There is a place to leave your headsets at the Sistine Chapel.

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

  • Yes. We were early so there was no lineup.

Which is better, booking on the Vatican website directly or going through a tour company?

  • Doing a Vatican breakfast tour with a private company is probably easier and you’ll have their guide. I would have booked through a tour company if it had been possible at 10 p.m. the night before. But. If you’re booking last minute you’ll likely have to go direct to the Vatican website to book.

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

  • Yes. This entails a lot of walking, however, 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. I don’t know if you can get fast-tracked into St Peter’s or not.

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.

How to Book the Vatican Breakfast Through the Vatican Website

Booking Breakfast in Vatican City tickets on the website isn’t the easiest thing to do. The good thing is that you can do it at the last minute. Also, they’ve recently updated their website, so it should be easier now.

First you need to visit the official Vatican Museums ticket website. Have your passport info handy, including the expiry date.

When we booked, there was a form we needed to fill out. That took us to another form where we filled out our credit card info. Then – at least in our case – we sat and stewed because our card wouldn’t go through.

Why? We got a fraud alert.

Apparently getting a fraud alert when you try to book a Vatican Ticket on your credit card is common. Somewhere, someone in the credit card universe has decided the Vatican isn’t trustworthy.

I tried twice on my card then used Mark’s card (oh, lucky him). He got a fraud alert by text and was able to confirm that the Vatican Breakfast tickets were a valid charge.

I filled out the form again and it went through. Within minutes we got our vouchers and our Vatican tour with breakfast and headsets was confirmed. We asked the hotel to print them off for us. We took the paper vouchers with us to gain entry.

My advice is to either book when you’re still at home, so you can deal with any issues easier or sign up for credit card text alerts like Mark did.

Also, many of the breakfast at Vatican tickets sell out quickly, especially the cheaper ones, so book as far in advance as you can. Unless you’re us, and don’t decide to do it until the night before.

The Cheapest Way to Do a Breakfast at the Vatican with Early Entrance

There are various Vatican tours with breakfast offered through the Vatican itself. Honestly, pricing is confusing, as it says different amounts in different places, but this the best info I have. 

Breakfast at the Vatican Museums – Admission ticket and Breakfast at the Museums. This is the cheapest option and it’s the one we did. A reasonable 78 Euros for 2. Audioguide is extra.

Deluxe Early Entry Vatican Tours Through the Vatican Website

Also through the Vatican website are some luxury Vatican breakfast guided tours.

The Prime Experience – Vatican Museums. This includes a one-hour guided tour before breakfast. Up to 25 people. 109 Euros.

According to the website visitors “will have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious American Breakfast – at a table- in the magnificent setting of the Vatican Museums.” I’m assuming it’s a step up from the buffet in the cafeteria, so if someone signs up please let me know.

The Prime Experience – VIP – Vatican Museums. This one is also a guided tour before you eat. It’s a pricy 410 Euros for 2 people, 393 Euros for 1. As above, dinner is “at a table.”

Breakfast at the Museums – Exclusive Guided Tour of the Museums and Breakfast. This Vatican tour has breakfast first and costs 348 Euros for 2.

Booking Entry Vatican Breakfast Tour Tickets Through a Tour Company

As I mentioned earlier, booking through a tour company may be simpler. Some options to book your breakfast Vatican tour are:

  • Vatican Museums Early Entry Tour with Buffet Breakfast – Semi Private Tour from $98. Check availability here.
  • Vatican Museums: Private Guided Tour with Breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard from $110. This Breakfast at the Vatican excursion does a tour before breakfast. Check availability here.
  • Rome: Vatican Skip-the-line Museum and Sistine Chapel Tour with Breakfast from $82. 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?

Whether you book a Vatican Breakfast tour through a private company or book it independently like we did, it’s bound to be an interesting experience. While the cafeteria isn’t glamorous, there is still something special about being at the Vatican early. I think only a private tour in the evening would top it.

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.


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