Vatican tour tops list of world's best 'travel experiences'

NEW YORK — And the winner is … the Vatican!

TripAdvisor named a tour of the Holy See’s famous museums at the top of its top 10 experiences around the globe in its second-annual Travelers’ Choice Awards for Experiences, beating out second-place Chicago for their architectural river cruises.

The list, which spotlights the top tours for travelers from various operators, was put together using an algorithm that took into account online reviews and popularity over the last year in terms of bookings.

The Vatican is not only home to Pope Francis and the Catholic church, but a plethora of art dating back to the Italian Renaissance. The tour includes visits to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica and leaves at the time of day (morning and evenings are the busiest times) when you can explore them with fewer crowds.

The Vatican says that an estimated five million people visit there annually, with Christimas and Easter the busiest times of year.

“We know experiences are the best part of any trip, so over the last year we’ve doubled the bookable experiences offered to more than 200,000 — giving travelers even more of what they want and love,” said TripAdvisor spokeswoman Hayley Coleman. “This year’s winners — like a Balinese jungle swing, a Harry Potter walking tour, or even faster than ‘skip-the-line’ Vatican access — are an incredible sampling of the kaleidoscope of experiences travelers can book on our site.”

The Sistine Chapel, with its magnificent frescoes, features Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment and is home to the papal conclave, where cardinals gather and elect a new pontiff.


The Vatican tour was the only one to crack the the Top 10 list to feature a religious site.

Below is the complete list:

  1. Faster Than Skip-the-Line: Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica Tour — Rome

  2. Chicago Architecture River Cruise — Chicago

  3. Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour — Florence

  4. Snorkelling Silfra Tour with Pick up — Reykjavik, Iceland

  5. Red Rock Canyon Electric Bike Tour — Las Vegas

  6. Private Guided Tour on a Vintage Sidecar from 1 Hour to 7 Hour — Paris

  7. 1-Hour Canal Tour starting at Anne Frank House Amsterdam — Amsterdam

  8. Best of Ubud Tour with Jungle Swing — Ubud, Indonesia

  9. Xi'an Evening Food Tour by TukTuk — Xi’an, China

  10. Kaituna River White Water — Okere Falls, New Zealand

A separate list TripAdvisor compiled for sites in the United Kingdom, which includes the Harry Potter tour, did not feature any religious sites.

The Vatican is an independent city-state located within Rome. Vatican City was once the center of power for the Papal States, which made up much of central Italy. The Vatican’s current size — with a population of just 1,000 and covering about 109 acres — came into existence in 1929 as a result of the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy.