Known to most as the centre of Catholicism and home of the Pope, Vatican City, which spans an area of approximately 44 hectares (100 acres) is the world's smallest independent sovereign state. But this tiny country is brimming with enough artwork and history to rival any other country in Europe.
The enormous enclosed open space of St Peter's Square, featuring the biggest church in the world at one end, and a gigantic Egyptian obelisk in the centre, is the main gathering point for visitors. The architecture is sublime with just about every important Renaissance and Baroque architect and artist having a hand in the design of St Peter's Basilica, from Bramante and Raphael to Baldassare Peruzzi and Michelangelo, who is usually attributed with the dome. One of the greatest art galleries in the world, the Vatican Museum, complete with its world-famous spiral staircase, draws thousands of visitors, as do the colourful and almost clown-like uniforms of the Swiss Papal Guards. But nothing draws more tourists than the addressing of the people by the Pope.
There is more to the tiny Vatican state than meets the eye though, and aside from the exquisite palaces, museums and administrative buildings, Vatican City boasts mundane things like a prison, a supermarket, a printing press (which produces the daily ) and a post office, which is rumoured to be the best in the world.
The Pope has total legislative, executive and judicial power over Vatican City which is unique in its non-commercial economy, financially supported by the devout Roman Catholics of the world. The official currency of the Vatican is the Euro although the extremely rare Vatican Euro is also in circulation. Vatican City has its own bank and ATMs are available. Visitors to Vatican City should carry their personal belongings closely and remain vigilant as petty crime, such as pick pocketing, is sadly quite common. Vatican City offers no lodgings or accommodations; most visitors who want to be close by opt to stay in the neighbouring Vaticano suburb of Rome. Getting around Vatican City by foot is easy enough, although not all areas are open for tourists.
With fascinating buildings, palaces, museums, sculptures and architecture to enjoy, Vatican City is a must for culture vultures and anyone wanting a glimpse into the workings of a diminutive, but powerful country, not to mention the power base of one of the most powerful religious denominations in the world.
Vatican City has not established an official language. Italian, German, French and English are all widely spoken and understood.
Electrical current is 220 - 240 volts, 50Hz. Rounded two-pin or three-pin plugs are standard.
US nationals: US nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay for entry into Vatican City. No visa is needed for stays up to 90 days.
UK nationals: British nationals do not require a visa to enter the Vatican City, but those with endorsements other than 'British Citizen', 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), or an Identity Card issued by the Gibraltar Authorities are allowed up to 90 days stay in the country without a visa.
UK nationals: All passports must be valid: passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom) or an Identity Card issued by Gibraltar must be valid for duration of stay. Passports with all other endorsements must be valid for three months beyond period of intended stay.
CA nationals: Canadian nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay for entry into Vatican City. No visa is needed for stays up to 90 days.
AU nationals: Australian nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days.
ZA nationals: South African nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay and a visa for entry into the Vatican City.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid on arrival for entry into Vatican City. A visa is not required.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90 days.
Since the Vatican City is only accessibe through Italy, visitors must hold a Schengen Visa. Visitors may be refused entry either for public security, tranquillity, order, or health reasons. They may be refused entry if they do not have visible means of support (unless a sponsor can guarantee their support at the airport upon arrival) and/or return or onward tickets and other documents required for their next destination. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Passports and/or passport replacing documents issued more than 10 years prior to date of travel are not accepted. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Vatican City is a Roman Catholic state, and visitors should respect local religious traditions. Modest dress is required (no sleeveless shirts and short pants or skirts), and people are expected to remain quiet in sacred areas.
Italian Embassy, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for the Vatican): +1 202 612 4400.
Italian Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for the Vatican): +44 (0)20 7312 2200.
Italian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada (also responsible for the Vatican): +1 613 232 2401.
Italian Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for the Vatican): +61 (0)2 6273 3333.
Italian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa (also responsible for the Vatican): +27 (0)12 423 0000.
Italian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland (also responsible for the Vatican): +353 (0)1 660 1744.
New Zealand Embassy, Rome (also responsible for the Vatican): +39 06 853 7501.
U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, Rome, Italy:(+39) 06 4674 1
British Embassy to the Holy See, Rome, Italy: +39 06 4220 4000
Canadian Embassy to the Holy See, Rome, Italy: +39 06 6830 7316
Australian Embassy to Holy See, Rome, Italy: 349 00186
Embassy of Ireland Holy See, Rome, Italy: 0039 06 6828151
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