The Bramante Staircase, designed by Donato Bramante in 1505, is an innovative double-helix spiral lined with Doric columns that connects the Vatican’s Belvedere Palace to the city of Rome below. It was commissioned by Pope Julius II and inspired Giuseppe Momo’s impressive 1930s staircase at the Vatican Museums exit.
Many visitors mistake Giuseppe Momo's 1930s staircase for the historic Bramante Staircase, but the original was built more than 400 years earlier and is closed to the general public. Only private groups led by an official Vatican-approved tour guide are authorized to visit the elegant Renaissance staircase.
Some small-group guided tours of the Vatican Museums—among the most popular attractions in Italy—include access to the Bramante Staircase. Book in advance to avoid long ticket and entry lines. Extended tours generally also include stops in the Painting Gallery (Pinacoteca), Gallery of Tapestries, Gallery of Maps, Gallery of the Candelabra, the Sistine Chapel with its frescoes by Michelangelo, and the Raphael Rooms before moving on the St. Peter's Basilica.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is a security check at the entrance to the Vatican Museums, so items like pocket knives, corkscrews, and umbrellas must be left at the coat check.
- If your Vatican tour includes entry to the Sistine Chapel, be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- Vatican tours generally require quite a bit of walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- The Bramante Staircase is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The Vatican Museums are located adjacent St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. The closest metro station is Ottaviano on Line A.
When to Get There
The museums are most crowded at midday, so opt for a morning (or early-access) tour or plan a visit in the offseason winter months if you prefer a quieter experience.
Visiting the Vatican’s Painting Gallery
Most Vatican Museum tours include a stop in the Painting Gallery, a highlight of the museum complex. Here you can view one of the world's best collections of works by Italian masters such as Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio.