The heart of Roman Catholicism and the home of the leader of the Christian world lies within a mere 110 acres just across the Tiber River in Rome. Technically an independent state, Vatican City is a UNESCO-certified center so packed with art and history that you will probably need to allot separate visits to truly take in the full scope of whats on tap.
There are three main sights that the typical itineraries usually revolve around: the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican Museums display a huge collection of art that factors among the most significant in history, especially in the realm of classical sculpture and Renaissance art. There are literally dozens of galleries to see that highlight various eras and styles, from the Greek and Roman displays of the Museo Pio-Clementino to the aptly named Raphael Rooms to the Vatican Historical Museum, where you'll encounter an array of papal paraphernalia and the official portraits of each pope. Although visited less often by guided tours, the Pinacoteca Vaticana houses works from numerous Italian masters, while an attraction like the Carriage Pavilion is a unique look at past papal modes of transportation. The official museum website has much more on what you'll find there; just give yourself a half day (guided if you want further insight into the relics and artwork) through these vaunted halls.
Quite possibly the most famous landmark in Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is renowned not only for the most famous painting on Earth (Michelangelo's Creation of Adam), but the intricately done frescos by Botticelli, Perugini, and other Renaissance artists that line the walls. The official chapel of the Apostolic Palace (the Pope's residence), it still serves as host to the papal functions like the selection of a new pope.
Lastly is St. Peter's Basilica , one of the most renowned churches in the Western world. Located on St. Peter's Square, this truly massive structure serves as one of the great destinations of Christian pilgrimage and is named after the Apostle whose tomb is directly below the basilica. Known for its iconic dome and the artistry of its interior, St. Peter's is yet another reason why the Vatican is revered for its place in the annals of art and history.
If you're looking to catch a glimpse of the Pope himself, he gives “general audience” on Wednesdays in either St. Peter's Square or in Audience Hall, while he will often give his Sunday blessing from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square around noon. Be aware that the Vatican will undoubtedly be quite busy no matter what time of year you visit, so it may be best to purchase tickets or book tours online to avoid long waits. Visitthe official Vatican website for more ticket purchasing and further details.