As the tourist season comes into full swing in Rome, one of the most popular attractions not only for Catholics but many non-Catholics as well is the Sistine Chapel. Actually part of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel can be so crowded during the height of the season (an estimated 20,000 visitors per day) that you cannot really have quiet time to enjoy it. When you are packed in like sardines it is hard to enjoy the beauty of the artwork. And some tourists just cannot be quiet while the guards saying “silencio” are equally distracting. Unfortunately, such crowds also attract pickpockets which can really ruin your visit. You either worry about getting pick-pocketed or actually do become a victim. It is not all that likely, but it does happen.
If you are an independent traveler you might want to consider a private guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. These tours are not cheap—about $300 per person–so they will not fit everyone’s budget. Those who can afford one may find it worth the expense as you will probably be in a small group of 10-15 people. These tours, as mentioned above, include the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel. You will normally have about 30 minutes in the Sistine Chapel without the crowds and noise.
Most Catholic tour groups will include a visit to the Museums and Sistine Chapel during regular hours; however if you have planned to make the Sistine Chapel one of the highlights of your trip to Rome then you can probably take a private tour since most of these tours are after-hours when the daytime activities of the tour group are finished.
Be sure to check around since there are several companies offering these tours and you want to be sure that you choose the right one. Some of these “private” tours offered are during regular hours and although they are much less expensive (about $90 per person), they are not private in the sense that you avoid the huge crowds. You do, however, have your own private guide and usually a group of about 15-20 people. For independent travelers who don’t want the after-hours private tour this is a good alternative.