On the north side of Vatican City are the Vatican Museums, which is where we walked to next after our arrival at St Peter’s Square. Being the most powerful institution in Europe for many centuries, the Catholic Church acquired an extensive collection of art and antiquities from across the continent and even from other parts of the world, and much of that collection is now on display in the Vatican Museums. Visiting the Vatican Museums also grants you access to the Sistine Chapel at the end of the tour route, which makes for a good climax to your visit.

Like the Louvre in Paris, there’s a ton of stuff to see in the Vatican Museums, so you’ll likely want to spend at least two hours there. Unlike the Louvre, however, the Vatican Museums have a lot of bottlenecks so be prepared for some sections of the museums to get packed with visitors. Crowds and wait times at the entrance seem to be at their worst during the morning hours so if you don’t have an advanced reservation for the museums I’d suggest showing up at or after 1:00pm when the line to get inside starts to shorten dramatically. Arriving before noon is normally suicide, particularly during peak tourism season. When my parents and I visited the Vatican Museums last November we arrived at around 1:20pm and walked right in.

Today’s photo comes from one of my favorite parts of the Vatican Museums, the Gallery of Maps, which is a bit over halfway through the tour route of the Vatican Museums. As you can guess by the name, the Gallery of Maps is lined with maps of various parts of Italy. It took from 1580 to 1583 for all of the maps to be drawn out and in addition to the maps the hallway has an ornate ceiling and decorated walls.