Visiting the Vatican Gardens: all you need to know

by marta
Vatican gardens with St Peter dome in background

All you need to know to plan a visit to the Vatican Gardens: where to get tickets, admission rules, tips and photos of these marvelous gardens in the heart of Rome. Giardini Vaticani review and info.

The Vatican is one of the most interesting and beautiful attractions in Rome and one of the most popular.

St Peter’s Basilica, Saint Peter’s Square and the Vatican Museums are usually the part of Vatican city that gets the most attention however, they are not the only one worth a visit.

Another wonderful part of the Vatican is the Vatican Gardens: they are just at the back of the basilica and are one of the most beautiful landscapes gardens you can see in Rome!

The first time I saw them was from above, when I climbed to the top of St peter’s dome: the view over their Italian style layout is out of this work beautiful!

However, I recently booked a guided tour to see them properly and it was a wonderful experience.

Now, I highly recommend you add a visit to the gardens to your day at the Vatican.

In this article, you will find all you need to for a perfect day there and my review of the official Vatican Gardens tour.

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Where are the Vatican Gardens and how to get there

The Vatican Gardens extend to the back of St Peter’s basilica, along the slopes of Colle Vaticano (The Vatican hill)

Access is from Piazza Sant’Uffizio, which is immediately to the left of Piazza San Pietro looking towards the church.

The entrance is well marked by local signage that leads you under the columns and into the main gate.

You can reach the gardens by car, bus, tram and metro.

Bus 46, 64, 916 and 982 are the closest bus stops. Metro stop Ottaviano (Metro line A) is about 15 minutes walk from here and Piazza Risorgimento with tram line 19 is about 7 minutes’ walk.

Both these walk can be worth it, if you have the time since they lead you under the Passetto and across the main Saint Peter’s square to get you to your destination!

Need to know for 2020 visits: access to the gardens is subject to health and safety regulations that are strictly enforced. Wearing marks is compulsory and there are temperature checks upon entry. Hand gel is available at check-in.

Find all info on how to use public transport in Rome here.

Vatican gardens tickets

Tickets to the Vatican gardens are available on the official Vatican website or from selected providers and come in two different types: visit to the Vatican Gardens by eco bus or guided tour.

Statue of Mary of Fatima in Vatican Gardens

Visiting the Vatican Gardens by eco bus (small good tour with audio guide)

These tickets are for a bus tour of the gardens with an audio guide.

Entrance is limited to 12 people at a time and this guaranteed social distancing on the bus.

Please note that children under 6 years of age are not allowed to participate in this tour.

The eco bus has open sides, perfect for air circulation and photo-taking, and has individual headsets that tell the story of the garden in several languages (Italian, English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Russian at the time of writing).

The audio guide focuses on some architectural aspects of the gardens and highlights how different Popes had special connections with certain areas over others.

This is a nice way to showcase how these pristine gardens are also very much a real place with real (albeit extraordinary) inhabitants.

The bus goes slowly up and down the main garden paths and has regular stops at the most significant garden attractions and to allow for photos.

Passengers cannot step off the bus but the open sides and the generous stops give enough time for proper photo taking.

This is the tour we took and it was ideal for us as we went in August when the sun was so strong, you really did not want to find yourself walking under the sun, especially in gardens this big!

I really enjoyed not having to walk although next time I think I will prefer being on my own feet.

Some areas of the garden, such as the rock garden, were so interesting I would have loved to see them from a little closer.

You can buy tickets for this bus tours here (this is my tour provider of choice in Rome)

or you can get official tickets for this tour from the Vatican itself here

Vatican Garden group tour

The other type of tour is a guided walking tour and it is excellent if you want to also visit the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel as well as entrance to them is included in the cost of the ticket.

This solution offers a longer visit than the one by bus and requires a good bit of walking so it is important to have comfortable shoes – there is no hiking or hard terrain to negotiate but you will be on your feet for about 2 hours so comfort is important!

Need to know: The visit to the gardens is guided but the one to the museums is not.

If you choose this option, you will be able to access the museums and the Sistine Chapel but the tour will be on your own.

If you prefer a guided tour, it is advisable to book it separately, leaving some time to allow you to walk from one to the other (I recommend at least half an hour, to be on the safe side).

You can find official tickets for the group guided tour of the Vatican Gardens here

What else can you see with the Vatican Gardens

Both tickets to the Vatican Gardens are compatible with then visiting the basilica.

Access to the basilica is separate from that of the gardens and the museums and it is free: you can easily walk in after your garden your (line permitting) and enjoy it in your own time.

I highly recommend visit gardens and basilica on the same day.

Both can be enjoyed as stand alone attractions but you see an incredible continuity in style and architectural flow if you immerse yourself in both, one after the other!

ST Peter basilica with fountain in front

If you want to spend a day at the Vatican, including the gardens, consider this:

Access to the basilica is free and straight forward but does require waiting in line.

Even on a quiet day, security and temperature checks mean there will be some waiting. Add extra time if you plan on climbing the dome.

Access to the museums is by time slot and punctuality is a must. Leave some time between the garden visit and the one to the museums to allow for easy moving from one to the other.

The main Saint Peter square, the beautiful monuments to refugees, the colonnade, Passetto and the Swiss Guards are all just outside the gardens and need no planning.

You can find my full guide to visiting the Vatican and recommended things to see here.

Other Vatican tickets

For your convenience, this is an overview of other Vatican tickets you may want to consider for your day at the Vatican:

These are all offered by GetYourGuide which is my go-to platform for booking tickets and especially tours.

Vatican Gardens highlights

The Vatican gardens are wonderful and varied but some areas did stand out more than others for me.

Marian gardens and Lourde’s grotto

One of our first stops during the bus tour was at Lourde’s grotto, a small grotto reminiscent of the one in Lourdes.

The grotto has a statue of Mary and is a quiet place intended for Popes to come and pray.

Lourdes Grotto in Vatican Gardens

The grotto was inaugurated in 1905 and it is said to have been one of the favorite places of Giovanni Paolo II and Benedetto XVI.

Just beside the grotto lies another wonderful stretch of garden, the so-called French-style garden.

This is laid out with pristine lawns with beautiful trees and flowerbeds to the sides, a combination that makes it look serene and welcoming.

The French garden is dotted by several sculptures and statues notable are that dedicated to the Virgin of Fatima and the fountain of the frogs

 The rock garden

Another lovely part of the Vatican gardens is the rock garden.

It runs parallel to one of the main [aths (also passed by the eco bus) and has lovely details: the light rock hosts many typed of plant and cacti and while it is unobtrusive and even easy to miss, it is delicate and worth seeking out.

The Italian garden

The Italian style garden in the Vatican garden was created in 1929.

It follows the traditional Italian style layout of geometric hedged and paths framed by pine trees, cypresses and other native trees and it is one of the most impressive in terms of visual impact.

Fun fact: this is also the one you most easily spot from the top of the dome!

Italian gardens in Vatican Gardens with traditional geometrical hedges

Heliport and train station 

If you are visiting the gardens of Vatican City with kids, they are sure two like the transport options avaible to the Pope: the heliport and the train station!

They are both inside the gardens and they are fun to see.

Torre di San Giovanni (Tower)

Beside the heliport you will also find the tower of San Giovanni.

The tower is ancient but it was restored in 1962 and it is in such a lovely part of the Vatican Gardens Giovanni XXIII adopted it as its summer residence.

The views of St Peter’s Dome

The gardens are a wonderful vantage point to see the dome of St Peter’s basilica.

From the main square, you can see the dome but the size of the basilica facade doesn’t allow to appreciate its magnitude and magnificence – from a certain distance, the dome disappears altogether if you are looking at it from Piazza San Pietro!

From the gardens, you can see it in all its splendor and you will be spoilt for choice for photo ops!

Practical tips for visiting the Vatican Gardens

The best time to go: you can visit the gardens all year round but the mid season, autumn and spring, are the best.

In summer, especially on a very hot day, I highly recommend you opt for the bus tour as the heat can be intense

What to wear: masks are currently compulsory and good walking shoes are necessary for the walking tour (you can find my recommended shoes for a trip to Rome here).

No special shoes to gear are needed for the bus tour.

Like always in the Vatican, it is better to opt for conservative clothing (no short skirts or shorts, cover shoulders).

You can find all my tips on what to wear in Rome here.

Make sure you bring your camera as the photo ops are great!

I hope you enjoyed this guide and it helped you plan your day visiting the Vatican Gardens. Happy travel planning!

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