The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel in Rome are some of the most visited sites in Italy.
The opening hours of the museums are shorter for independent travelers than for those that take guided Vatican tours. As such, there are often very long lines to get into the Vatican Museums. Even in the off-season and during the winter months, lines and queues for the Vatican can be two to three hours long.
Many people visiting Rome think that the best way to avoid long lines at the Vatican is to arrive very early. This is not always the case, though. Lines can still be two hours long or more, and sometimes the museum closes its doors on people who have been waiting in line for hours.
One of the best ways to avoid long lines at the Vatican is to arrive at lunchtime. Most people that visited the Vatican in the morning will have gone by then, and tour groups are all off at lunch. Even in the peak of the summer season in Rome there are often very short queues for the Vatican at 12:30. It is not unheard of to have 10 minute waits during this time.
Another way to avoid long lines is to buy tickets online in advance. If you do, you can enter when your ticket is valid and not worry about waiting in the ticket queues. There is a 4 euro surcharge per ticket, though.
A third way to avoid long lines at the Vatican is to go with a guided tour. You can find tour leaders near the group entrance to the Vatican. They will charge you a fee and then you will meet them at an appointed time and will be able to use the group entrance, which usually has shorter queues than the individual entrance to the Vatican.