The Vatican Gardens cover an impressive 57 acres (23 hectares)—more than half the entire area of the Vatican City-state—and include a Renaissance layout dotted with fountains, statues, and buildings dating as far back as the sixth century. The gardens were a humble expanse of orchards and vineyards until Pope Nicholas III moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed the land with a wall in 1279.
These lovely grounds are closed to the general public and can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Join an official small-group tour to enter the gardens through the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani). Or, book a skip-the-line private tour that includes a walking tour of the Vatican Gardens to avoid the long lines. Vatican Gardens tours generally also include visits to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica, home to Michelangelo's Pieta.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Vatican Gardens tours are especially interesting for avid gardeners.
- Picking plants and flowers from the garden is strictly forbidden.
- There is a security check at the entrance to the museums, so items like pocket knives, corkscrews, and umbrellas must be left at the coat check.
- If your Vatican tour includes entrance to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- The Vatican Gardens are not wheelchair accessible and tours generally require quite a bit of walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
How to Get There
The Vatican Gardens are accessed through the Vatican Museums on Viale Vaticano in Vatican City. The closest metro station is Ottaviano on line A.
When to Get There
The gardens are most crowded at midday, so opt for a morning tour if you prefer a quieter experience. Spring and fall are considered the most beautiful seasons to view the gardens.
Vatican Gardens Highlights
In the 16th century, Pope Julius II commissioned Donato Bramante to rework the area into a Renaissance design; the architect installed a giant labyrinth, introduced Lebanese cedars, and built a fortified stone wall that’s still standing. In 1902, the Lourdes Grotto, a replica of the miraculous cave in France, was added.