While the most well-known occupant of the Vatican City is the Pope, whose predecessors have lived in the Vatican Palace since 1377, the site is also home to an eye-popping array of exquisite artworks and antiquities. The Pope and his household reside in a small area of the palace and the remainder forms the Vatican Museums.
With an exhaustive collection of priceless artifacts and artworks over an area of 5.5 hectares, it's impossible to cover the Vatican Museums in one visit. Even the highlights are too numerous to list but there are some must-see attractions that should make it onto every visitor itinerary. These include the Pinocoteca, Museo Pio-Clementino, Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) and the Sistine Chapel, of course. The Pinocoteca (picture gallery) contains 460 world-famous paintings of almost exclusively religious subjects displayed in chronological order from the 12th to the 19th century by such masters as Giotto, Raphael, Caravaggio and Leonardo. The Museo Pio-Clementino houses classical sculptures, some of which were in the original collection of Pope Julius II, and includes the Hall of Animals and Cabinet of Masks.
Rivalling the Sistine Chapel for breathtaking beauty and popularity are the Raphael Rooms, four rooms on the second level of the Vatican Palace where Pope Julius II resided. Raphael and his students completed the frescoes between 1508 and 1524 and the paintings are considered to epitomise the Italian High Renaissance. The walls and ceiling of the Room of Constantine contain intricate images of the first Christian emperor's life, as well as figures of great Popes, while the Room of Heliodorus features larger historical scenes from the Old Testament. The Room of the Segnatura contains Raphael's most famous works and was painted almost entirely by the master himself. The fourth room, Room of the Fire in the Borgo, was the final one painted in Raphael's lifetime for Pope Leo X.
Entry to the Vatican Museums is combined with admission to the Sistine Chapel for €16 for adults and €8 for kids aged six to 18 years. The closest metro station is Ottaviano and then it's a 25-minute walk around St Peter’s Basilica before entering Vatican City via Via Paolo IV.