The World’s Smallest Army (and Practical Tourist Attraction)

Last Updated on January 16, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow

st. peter's basilica dome

As the smallest country in the world, it makes sense that the Vatican City also has the world’s smallest army. The Swiss Guard protects the Pope, his residence, and the College of Cardinals when there is no Pope. And while the Vatican City has never had an independent army, the Swiss Guard has de facto filled that role. The Swiss Guard had a more ceremonial role in the past. But since the assassination attempt of John Paul II in 1981, training in unarmed combat and smaller arms plays a bigger role for the Swiss Guard. All recruits must be single male Swiss nationals of the Catholic faith, between 19 and 30 years old, and at least 1.74 m (5 ft 8.5 in) tall.

st. peter's square vatican city
swiss guard the world's smallest army

To get a glimpse of members of the Swiss Guard, check out the entrances to the Vatican City. You really can’t miss them in their colorful uniforms. Note that they’re also multilingual, so don’t hesitate to ask one of them for directions in German, English, or Italian. This might make them one of the most practical tourist attractions in the world. The colors of the uniform depend on where they are stationed. Guards who are posted at the entrance to an office building wear a blue uniform.

Obviously, the Swiss Guard is not the main attraction in Vatican City. There’s so much to see in this tiny country. The Pope, St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museum are all major reasons for people to visit. But I still think that the world’s smallest army is worth seeing. If only to take a picture or two.

world's smallest army pin lemons and luggage

For those who are already in the Vatican City, I think the uniforms of the Swiss Guard that are reminiscent of the Renaissance add a nice pop of color. A trip to the Vatican City can often be exhausting with all the people, the impressive basilica, and the breathtaking art. On my trips to the tiniest country in the world, I felt like the Swiss Guard brightened up the atmosphere. Check out my photos from Rome, and for more activities in Rome check out my tips for fun things to do in Rome and my vegan guide to Rome.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Rania Kalogirou
    February 29, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    I had never seen photos from their uniforms before, they are actually pretty awesome!

    • Reply
      Nina | Lemons and Luggage
      March 1, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks Rania!

  • Reply
    February 29, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    I love reading about this kind of stuff. You don’t always think about everything that’s going on behind the scenes of even the smallest operations, down to the color of what a guard is wearing!

    • Reply
      Nina | Lemons and Luggage
      March 1, 2020 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Agnes!

    Leave a Reply

    I accept the Privacy Policy

    The following GDPR rules must be read and accepted:
    This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.