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What is Vatican City?

Vatican City, nestled within Rome's historic center, is the world's smallest sovereign state, governed by the Holy See, and serves as an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state led by the Pope.

The history of Vatican City's independence dates back to the Lateran Treaty when it became a separate entity from Italy. Today, it thrives on various sources of income, with tourism being one of the most vital contributors to its economy. The Vatican Museums alone attracted 4.3 million people in 2007. The Vatican is also home to St. Peter's Basilica, an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of faith. For those seeking a deeper connection to their faith or a chance to immerse themselves in art and history, a visit to Vatican City is an unforgettable experience.

Quick facts about Vatican City

Vatican City

Why Visit Vatican City in Rome?

Vatican City

Vatican City Map

Interesting facts about Vatican City

Vatican City Geography


The Vatican City is located near the Tiber's right bank, on a small slope that was once part of the ancient Vatican Hill, on which some villas were built prior to Christ's birth. The state's territory, which covers 44 hectares, is partially besieged by the walls and continues up to a strip of travertine on St. Peter's Square that connects the external ends of the colonnade to the ground, marking the state border at the edge of the square, which is usually open to the public.

Vatican City Population


There are 825 people of the state, although only 246 (including 104 Swiss Guards members) dwell within the walls. Approximately half of the citizens live outside of the country, primarily for reasons of service. Vatican citizenship is not based on birth or blood but granted only to those who reside and work for the Vatican office. Cardinals who live in Vatican City or Rome, as well as diplomats of the Holy See, are also considered citizens. Citizenship is lost when the term of office comes to an end. Children cannot inherit it from their parents. The Vatican allows keeping dual citizenship.

Vatican City, Religion


Its entire population comprises of Christians. Catholicism is the official religion of the Vatican City. The Vatican City is the center of the Roman Catholic Church and the seat of the Pope. The pope is not only the Bishop of Rome, and head of the Roman Catholic Church, but also head of the Vatican City State. Catholics believe that the Pope is the successor to Saint Peter, who is believed to have been appointed by Jesus as the first head of his church.

Vatican City, Culture


Home to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world and the Vatican Museums that holds some of the most famous art in the world, it is of no doubt that the Vatican City is a place of great cultural significance. The Vatican Library holds a collection of great historic, scientific and cultural value. In 1984, the Vatican was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the only country to have made it to the list. The Vatican is also considered to be the de facto custodian of the Latin language. By virtue of being a theocracy, religion is an integral part of the country.

Vatican City newspaper

Vatican City newspaper

Established in 1861, L'Osservatore Romano is the official newspaper of the Holy See, offering unique insights into the Vatican's perspective on global issues, religious matters, and papal pronouncements. Read by a largely Catholic audience, it exists in both print and digital formats. However, it's also widely read by diplomats, scholars, and anyone interested in understanding the Vatican's stance on various issues.

Vatican City Guards

Vatican City Guards

Also known as the Swiss Guard, they are the world's oldest continuously operating military unit, steeped in rich history and tradition. Their iconic yellow, red, and blue uniforms (rumored to be designed by Michelangelo but not confirmed), are instantly recognizable and a major tourist attraction. Established in 1506, they swear an oath of loyalty to the Pope, becoming his personal protectors and defenders of the Vatican City.

Vatican Laws

Vatican Laws

Vatican City's legal system is multifaceted, comprising the Fundamental Law, akin to a constitution; Canon Law, governing Church affairs; Curia Law, for administrative bodies; and Civil and Penal Law, covering secular legal matters. This framework allows it to function as both a sovereign state and the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church, addressing secular and religious matters within its unique dual jurisdiction.

Vatican City Language


Italian is the official language of Vatican City; it is the language used in official documents and for administrative and diplomatic affairs. Earlier, during the Roman Empire and the era of Papal States, Latin was the main language spoken in the area of the present Vatican City. While Italian is the lingua franca, the Holy See uses Latin as its official language. French is also sometimes used as a diplomatic language. In the Swiss Guard, Swiss German is used for giving commands, but the individual guards take their oath of loyalty in their own languages.

Vatican Climate


The Vatican has a temperate Mediterranean climate, just like Rome. It has mild, rainy winters from September to May and hot, dry summers in the months of May to August. It is these dry summers that used to drive the Popes to the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during summers.

Best Time to Visit

September to October would be the best months to visit the Vatican. The temperature would be cool and pleasant.

Vatican City Flag


Yes, Vatican City has its own flag. The papal or Vatican City flag is a two-part yellow (towards the shaft) and white cloth with the decussate keys loaded in the middle and the Triregno atop; the shaft is topped with a spear ornamented with a cockade in the same colors as the flag and trimmed with gold. In ancient times, the Papal State's flag was yellow and crimson, the Senate's and Roman people's customary colors.

Vatican Currency


The Vatican is a sovereign state with its own currency. By virtue of the monetary arrangement with the Italian government, Vatican coins are legal money in Italy and all other countries. Despite not being a member of the European Union or the Eurozone, Italy and the Vatican City struck a deal in 2000 that permitted the Vatican to use the euro as its official currency. The Vatican Euro, on the other hand, was designed with an image of the Pope on the back to differentiate itself as an autonomous city-state.

Pontification Hymn of Vatican City

The State of the Vatican City, as a sovereign authority under public law with global recognition, has its own official hymn, which has been the Pontifical March created by the famed French musician and passionate Catholic Charles Gounod since October 16, 1949, by order of Pius XII.

Vatican City Anthem

Previous National Anthem: Since 1857, the official Vatican anthem has been performed by Vittorino Hallmayer, director of the Band of the XXXVII Infantry Regiment "Conte Kinsky" of the Austrian army in the Papal States stationed in Rome. And it was this melody that echoed through the streets of the city shortly after the 1929 reconciliation.

Current Pontifical Hymn: The Pontifical Hymn of Gounod, which was officially authorized on the eve of the Holy Year of 1950, is considerably different from the one written in the style of the time by Hallmayer, with its bright and vigorous pace like a waltz. Pius XII opted to replace the official song of the time with the never-forgotten Pontifical March of Gounod, whose religious tone was more appropriate for the times.


What is the Holy See?

What is the Holy See?

The Holy See is the name given to the Roman Catholic Church's government, which is led by the pope, who is also the bishop of Rome. As a result, the Holy See's jurisdiction extends to all Catholics worldwide. It has been based in Vatican City since 1929 when it was founded as an autonomous state to allow the pope to exercise its universal authority. Although the Holy See and Vatican City, the independent territory over which the Holy See has sovereign authority, are intimately linked, the two entities are separate and distinct.

Government of Vatican City

Government of Vatican City

The Supreme Pontiff and, in his name, the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, which also perpetuates the basic norms, issue the clauses. Both are issued in a special addendum to the Holy See's Official Bulletin, Acta Apostolicae Sedis. The Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, who bears the title of 'President of the Governorate' in this position, has executive authority. The Governorate's organization is based on the President's Directorates and Central Offices. The Pontifical Commission and the President of the Governorate might enlist the help of the General Councilor and the State Councilors in creating legislation and other matters of key significance.

Vatican City wealth: Economy

The Vatican City State economy is supported by the sale of stamps, coins, souvenirs, entrance fee to the Vatican Museums and publications sales. Other industries in Vatican include printing, the production of mosaics, and staff uniform manufacturing. There is a pharmacy in Vatican.

The Institute for Works of Religion or Vatican Bank, is a financial agency in the Vatican. It has multilingual ATMs and is the only one in the world to offer instructions in Latin.

Who lives in Vatican City?

Vatican City has approximately 800 citizens who are primarily clergy (priests, bishops, cardinals) involved in the Holy See's operations. The population also comprises the Swiss Guards protecting the Pope and Vatican.

Can you live in Vatican City? Living in Vatican City as a regular citizen is not possible in the traditional sense. Vatican citizenship is not based on factors like birthplace or ethnicity. It's granted based on specific roles, responsibilities, and residency within the city, and it's usually temporary. Moreover, nearly all residents and citizens are Catholic due to the Vatican's religious purpose.

Things To Do In Vatican City

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Vatican Gardens
Vatican Observatory

Vatican Observatory

Established in 1891 and supported by the Holy See, the Vatican Observatory primarily focuses on scientific research while contributing to public outreach and fostering dialogue between faith and science.

Redemptions Mater Chapel, Vatican City

Redemptions Mater Chapel

The chapel, historically known as the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, is located just outside the papal quarters and is designated for the Pope's exclusive use, is noteworthy for its varied mosaics that resemble early Byzantine religious artwork.

St Peter's Square

St Peter's Square

St Peter's Square serves as a ceremonial forecourt to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest Christian church. At the centre of the grand elliptical square, stands a towering pink granite obelisk, towering over 25 meters tall. Originally erected in Egypt around 1500 BC, it is one of the oldest standing obelisks in the world.

The Obelisk

The Obelisk

A towering pink granite obelisk stands over 25 meters tall at the center of the square. Originally erected in Egypt around 1500 BC, it is one of the oldest standing obelisks in the world. Holds symbolic significance in both ancient Egyptian and Christian traditions, often representing the sun god or Christ's light.

Where does Vatican City get its name from?

The Lateran Treaty, signed on February 11, 1929, established the modern city-state of Vatican City, which was named after Vatican Hill, the state's geopolitical setting. The name "Vatican" comes from an Etruscan settlement called Vatica or Vaticum, which was located in the broad area known to the Romans as Ager Vaticanus, or "Vatican territory".

Vatican City history

Vatican City History

Early History

1 AD - 5 AD

Until the 1st century AD, the toponym Ager Vaticanus was used. After that, another toponym, Vaticanus, appeared, signifying a considerably smaller area: the Vatican hill, today's St. Peter's Square, and probably today's Via Della Conciliazione.

Vatican City History

Papal States

756 - 1870

Popes progressively gained a secular role as administrators of Rome's vicinity. They ruled the Papal States, a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula, from 756 until 1870. The popes did not live at the Vatican for most of their reign. For nearly a thousand years, they lived in the Lateran Palace on the opposite side of Rome.

Vatican City History

Roman Question and the Lateran Treaty

1870 - 1929

The "Roman Question" related to the Pope's status between 1861 and 1929. The Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy was signed on February 11, 1929. The treaty established the separate state of Vatican City and confirmed the special status of Catholic Christianity in Italy.

Vatican City History

World War II

1939 - 1945

Under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, the Holy See, which administered Vatican City, followed a policy of neutrality during World War II. Despite the fact that German troops held Rome following the Armistice of Cassibile in September 1943 and the Allies from 1944, they both treated Vatican City as neutral territory.

Vatican City History

Post-war History


During the war, Pius XII refrained from appointing cardinals. There were numerous significant openings by the end of World War II, including Cardinal Secretary of State, Camerlengo, Chancellor, and Prefect for the Congregation for the Religious. Pius XII appointed 32 cardinals in early 1946, after announcing his intentions in his Christmas letter the year before.

Planning a Visit to the Vatican?

  • Don’t forget to visit the Vatican Necropolis and Vatican Gardens as they are often the most exclusive experiences in Vatican City.
  • Plan to spend at least two to three hours at the Vatican Museums if you want to cover the important artworks on display.
  • Pick a guided tour if you want to know the intricate details about the architecture and artworks at the museums or at St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Purchase skip-the-line tickets if you want to be time-efficient.
  • Reach the Vatican City early if you want to visit the attractions when the crowd is low.
  • Inquire about the alternative opening times during holidays and weekends.
  • Stick to the dress code when visiting Vatican City. You may be asked to leave if your attire is deemed to be inappropriate.
  • Take the weather into consideration before planning your trip as most of the Vatican City museums are not air-conditioned.

Frequently asked questions about Vatican City

What is the Vatican City?

The Roman Catholic Church is headquartered in Vatican City, a city-state bordered by Rome, Italy. It is the seat of the Pope as well as a treasure trove of legendary art and architecture.

Is Vatican City a country?

Located in the heart of Rome, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world with its own independent government.

Do I need to buy entrance tickets to enter the Vatican?

No, you don’t need tickets to enter Vatican City. However, you will need tickets to enter the various attractions within Vatican City. You can buy tickets to Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica here.

Where is Vatican City located?

The Vatican City is located in the heart of Rome along the river Tiber.

Does Vatican City have its own government?

Yes, Vatican City has its own government known as the Holy See. The Vatican City State is an ecclesiastical state ruled by the Pope.

Do I need a passport to visit Vatican City?

You do not need a passport to enter Vatican City. Vatican City has no separate border policy from Rome.

What currency do I need to carry with me when visiting Vatican City?

You need to carry Euros when you visit Vatican City.

How big is Vatican City?

The size of Vatican City is 44 hectares or 0.44 square kilometers.

Does Vatican City have its own flag?

Yes, Vatican City has its own flag. It is two-part yellow and white with the decussate keys in the middle and the Triregno atop; the shaft is topped with a spear ornamented with a cockade in the same colors as the flag and trimmed with gold.

What can I see inside Vatican City?

The top places to see at Vatican City include St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, Vatican Gardens, Vatican Palaces, Castel Gandolfo, and Redemptions Mater Chapel.

How old is Vatican City?

Vatican City became a recognized sovereign state in its current form in 1929, with the signing of the Lateran Treaties between the Holy See and Italy. However, the site of Vatican City has been associated with the Catholic Church for centuries. The construction of St. Peter's Basilica, a key landmark, began in the 4th century AD, marking the presence of the Church there for nearly 1,700 years.

Does the Pope live in Vatican City?

Yes, the Pope does live in Vatican City. The Pope's official residence is the Apostolic Palace, within the Vatican City walls. This grand palace features numerous apartments, offices and other facilities. However, the current pope, Pope Francis chose to reside in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican guesthouse instead of the traditional papal apartments.