Weve found at least 18 good reasons to visit Vatican City, from its ancient history and religious and artistic significance to its stunning beauty and those jazzy Swiss Guards.
1. Its the global heart of the Catholic faith - no matter what your religious beliefs, that makes it a very important place.
2. The Pope lives here much of the year. Vatican City has been the main papal residence since 1378.
3. You can see Pope Francis I (Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio) at his general audience to the masses every Wednesday (book your free tickets in advance) or during his weekly Sunday blessing.
4. The spectacular St Peters Square, gateway to Vatican City. Gawp at the Egyptian obelisk and imposing colonnade created using 284 columns and 88 pillars, symbolising the gathering of Christianity.
5. You could be one of the more than five million visitors that pass through its ornate walls every year.
6. Its free to enter St Peters Square and the main lower area of St Peters Basilica.
7. Vatican City has been the worlds smallest independent recognised state since 1929, with around 800 people living within 44 hectares.
8. Michelangelo - Wikipedia says: Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Say no more!
9. Vatican City is home to the smallest and oldest standing army, the Swiss Guards, who have protected the Pope since 1506. They also wear a very snazzy striped costume.
10. Basilica of St Peter - one of the largest Renaissance churches in the world was built above St Peters tomb, with a suitably impressive dome painted by Michelangelo. Check out the view from the top!
11. The Vatican museums - 1400 rooms containing art and artefacts from 3,000 years of Roman life. Areas included in most guided tours are the Pio-Clementino (classic antiquities); Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian museums; the Raphael Rooms; the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of Maps and Gallery of Tapestries. Youll see artwork by Giotto, Beato Angelico, Melozzo da Forli, Perugino, Caravaggio and Raphael.
12. The Vatican museums are free on the last Sunday of each month.
13. The breathtaking Sistine Chapel - built between 1473 and 1481 as the Popes private chapel and venue for papal elections. A group of Renaissance painters including Botticelli, Perugino and Pinturicchio created a series of frescoes which they finished in 1482. During the early 1500s, Michelangelo painted the ceiling which featured the legendary The Creation of Adam, and later in the century returned to produce The Last Judgement on the altar wall.
14. You can book tickets online in advance for the museums and Sistine Chapel to avoid the massive queues, inevitable all year round.
15. Theres fabulous people-watching to be done - cardinals, priests, the Pope, nuns, tourists, Swiss Guards!
16. Castel SantAngelo - originally the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian but extended by various popes and now a museum. It features heavily in the Dan Brown novel and movie, Angels and Demons.
17. Scavi Excavation Tour - its possible to explore the Tomb of St Peter and the Necropolis (a 4th century burial ground discovered in the 1940s) below the Basilica. Youll need to contact the Vatican directly to arrange a tour, well in advance of your visit ([email protected]), as entry is strictly limited.
18. Its in Rome - one of the most beautiful, bustling and historic cities in the world.