A visit to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters is essential for any first-time (or fifth-time) visitor to Rome. Unfortunately, the line to get into the Vatican Museums is notoriously long-2 hours is not an unusual wait time. There are a few things you can do.
If you are willing to pay extra for a guided tour:
1. You can ask your hotel concierge to recommend a tour company and guide to take you in. For a premium you will be able to avoid the line and you'll have the added benefit of an expert's explanations of the sometimes poorly marked galleries.
2.You can fax the Vatican tour office at least two weeks ahead of time to request a guided tour. Guided tours for individuals cost 23.50 Euros and must be confirmed by fax from the Vatican to be considered valid. See the Vatican's website for instructions.
If you don't want to work with a guide, you can brave the queue. Two suggestions:
1. Arrive an hour before the opening time (10:00 most days, but check the Vatican Museums website to make sure). There will be a line and you'll have to wait for an hour, but you won't have to wait long after the museum has opened and you will have the added benefit of getting to the galleries and the Sistine Chapel before they get too crowded.
2. Visit St. Peter's first and then at around 1:00 try the Museums. Depending on the day, most of the larger groups will have finished their tours and taken off for lunch, leaving a short line for entrance and galleries less crowded.
Remember that weekends, holiday seasons (especially Christmas and Easter), and summer months are always the busiest. And try to avoid the "Free Sundays" that occur at the end of each month. Mama mia, you've never seen such crowds!