My wife and I were recently in Rome and did a walking tour of Vatican City. It was basically just the Vatican museums, the Sistene Chapel, the catacombs, St. Peter’s Basilica, and briefly around some of the outside.
My wife had done some research and read some reviews about 7 Hills Tours. They seemed to offer the same value of a tour for less price (though we didn’t actually do another tour, so we don’t know).
We made a reservation through the 7 Hills Tours website. We didn’t have to pay ahead of time, just made a reservation and got a confirmation email. We showed up that day and had no problems finding our guide (they meet along an easy to find point of the Vatican wall).
FYI: We showed up early (they say you should be there at 8:45AM but the tour doesn’t start until 9:15AM), so he takes you to a nice little cafe so you don’t have to stand around and wait for everyone. Good chance for a capuccino and some breakfast if you want.
The guide was super-friendly and spoke excellent English. His name was Andrea. Great sense of humour and seemed genuinely concerned about giving us the best tour possible. For example, he ran ahead at one point to secure a demo location where we would be able to actually sit on a bench. He was also upset that a hall of statues was closed so got us to bend the rope a bit to peer around the corner and get a glimpse. He also didn’t rush anything. Our tour was supposed to be 3 hours long, but we did get a good 4 hours worth.
It started with a brief intro outside the city walls and then you proceed through security and into the gift shop. If you are not in a group, there is a much longer line-up outside just to get in, by the way. Inside the gift shop he gets organized, collects the payment (was 39 euro/adult…I believe the actual entrance fee is around 15 euro so they are charging an extra 24 for the guide), and then issues headsets that made it very easy to hear him even if you aren’t standing close.
St. Peter’s Basilica
He also had a lot of tips for things outside the tour. For example, if you were planning on ascending to the top of the Dome on St. Peter’s Basilica, he will tell you when the line will be smallest (i.e. late afternoon) and will answer all your questions.
We had a group of 18 and he told us they don’t go over 25. Compared to the other groups we saw around the Vatican this was very good. Most groups were way bigger, which makes it a lot slower to move around.
The money was well worth it. We were not disappointed in the least. Andrea did an amazing job and if you want to get more out of your Vatican experience, I highly recommend you spend the money to avoid the lines and just learn a lot more. Bottom line, I would recommend 7 Hills Tours
Vatican and Fountains at Night