If you’re looking for history, art, and culture, Rome is the perfect place for a vacation. And what better way to experience the city than by visiting world-class museums? In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the best museums in Rome, from ancient ruins to modern art. So whether you’re a History buff or an art lover, there’s something for everyone in Rome’s museums!
Want to jump around the list? Click on the links below.
MAXXI – National Museum of 21st Century Art
The first museum on our list is pretty divisive – as is the case with most modern and contemporary art exhibits. The MAXXI National Museum was founded in 2010, and it is one of the most important museums of its kind in Europe.
The museum’s collection includes works by some of the world’s most famous contemporary artists, such as Anselm Kiefer and Daniel Buren.
The MAXXI also has a strong commitment to education and public outreach, and it offers a variety of programs and events for visitors of all ages. If you’re interested in contemporary art, the MAXXI Museum is a great choice.
Be sure to check out the website before visiting because the MAXXI museum hosts temporary exhibitions and fine art shows that you won’t usually get to see.
Famous Works of Art in the MAXXI Museum
- The museum itself is a fabulous example of deconstructionism by Zaha Hadid
- Sternenfall – Anselm Kiefer
- The Emancipation Approximation – Karla Walker
- Yellow Dots B – Yayoi Kusama
- North Pole Map – William Kentridge
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Museum of Roman Civilization
The Museum of Roman Civilization, or Museo della Civiltà Romana, is one of Rome’s least visited museums due to how far it is from the city center. It houses an outstanding collection of artifacts from the Roman Empire, ranging from everyday objects to military equipment (note, these are replicas and models)
The museum is divided into sections focusing on different aspects of Roman life, from politics to religion to architecture. Each section includes interactive displays, multimedia presentations, and artifacts that bring the era to life.
The highlight of the museum is the scale model of what ancient Rome looked like. It provides a detailed look at how people lived during this period, making it an invaluable source of information for anyone interested in Roman history.
Fun Fact: The Museum of Roman Civilizations was featured in the 2015 James Bond film Spectre and was used a cemetery for a high-ranking member of the titular terror group.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a privately owned palace in the heart of Rome near the Panethon and Trevi Fountain. The palace dates back to the 15th century and is still a private residence of a single family that owns the art galleries you tour.
It’s a reminder that the age of the aristocrats still exists – although not as apparent as it once was.
The palace holds one of the most impressive privately held collections of art you’ll find in the world. With more than 500 paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerist eras, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is one of the best museums in Rome.
Famous Works of Art in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
- The Repentant St Mary Magdalene – Domenico Fetti
- Rest on the Flight into Egypt – Caravaggio
- Saint Jerome – José de Ribera
- Battle in the Bay of Naples – Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- Portrait of Pope Innocent X – Diego Velazquez
- Portrait of Andrea Navagero and Agostino Beazzano – Raphael
- Judith with the Head of Holofernes – Titian
- Venus and Mars with Cupid – Paris Bordone
The Vatican Museums are one of the world’s largest and most visited tourist attractions and by far the best museum in Rome. Every year, millions flock to see the iconic Sistine Chapel and the vast array of art and artifacts on display.
Founded in the early 16th century, the museums have been a source of wonder and controversy. For centuries, the collections were open only to a select few, but now they are available for all to see. And yet, despite this increased accessibility, the Vatican Museums remain shrouded in mystery.
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What is it about these museums that continue to captivate visitors from all corners of the globe? Perhaps it is the sense of history that pervades every room or the knowledge that you are seeing works of art that popes and kings have treasured. Whatever the reason, the Vatican Museums continue to exert a powerful hold over those who visit them.
With over 9 miles of art-filled corridors, the Vatican Museums are a must-see. Highlights include the Sistine Chapel, with its world-famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and the Raphael Rooms, where you can see some of the artist’s best-known works.
Famous Works of Art in the Vatican Museums
- Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo
- Gallery of the Maps – Ignazio Danti
- School of Athens – Raphael
- St. Peter’s Basilica – Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno, and Bernini
- The Borgia Apartments – Bernardino di Betto
- Laocoön and His Sons – Agesander of Rhodes, Athanadoros, Polydoros, Athenodoros of Rhodes, Polydorus of Rhodes
- Apollo Belvedere – Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli
- Belvedere Torso
- The Transfiguration – Raphael
- St. Matthew – Guido Reni
- Modern Bramante Staircase – Giuseppe Momo
- Garden of Eden – Wenzel Peter
The Capitoline Museums are a fascinating collection of art and artifacts from the Capitoline hill in Rome.
The museum was founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, and it has been expanded and renovated over the years. Today, the Capitoline Museums are home to an impressive collection of Roman sculptures, as well as Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan art. The museum also houses a library, a restaurant, and a bookshop.
Visitors can explore the Capitoline hill, home to the ruins of the ancient Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, or take a stroll through the gardens.
Famous Works of Art in the Capitoline Museums
- Cordonata Capitolina
- Piazza Campidoglio – Michelangelo
- The Dying Gaul – Epigonus
- Colossus of Constantine – Maxentius
- Eros Thanatos
- Bust of Augustus – Polykleitos
- Bust of Alexander – Helios
- Commodus as Hercules
- Heracles Fighting – Alessandro Algardi
- Torso of Triton
- Young Hercules with snakes – Alessandro Algardi
- Capitoline She-wolf (featuring Romulus and Remus)
- Medusa – Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- Halls of the Horti Lamiani
- Cupid and Psyche – Antonio Canova
- Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
Address: Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 481 4591
Admission Cost: €12, €2 for EU citizens between 18-25, Free for anyone under 18
The Palazzo Barberini is one of Rome’s best-known Baroque palaces. It was built in the 17th century by the Barberini family, one of the most powerful families in Rome.
The palace is home to an impressive art collection, which includes works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. The Palazzo Barberini is also notable for its beautiful architecture, and its grandiose features are sure to impress.
If you’re interested in Baroque art and architecture, the Palazzo Barberini offers the highest quality.
Famous Works of Art in the Palazzo Barberini
- Judith Beheading Holofernes – Caravaggio
- Allegory of Divine Providence – Pietro da Cortona
- La Fornarina – Raphael
- Portrait of Henry VIII – Hans Holbein the Younger
- Narcissus – Caravaggio
- Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery – Tintoretto
National Roman Museums
If you’re looking to get a sense of what life was like in ancient Rome, there’s no better place to start than the National Museum of Rome. The Museo Nazionale Romano is divided into four main collections, all found in different parts of the city.
With four main branches – the Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, the Crypta Balbi, and the Baths of Diocletian – the museum offers a comprehensive overview of Roman culture and history.
From Everyday Life to Imperial Splendour, the exhibitions cover every aspect of Roman society, providing a fascinating insight into one of the world’s most legendary civilizations. And with over 10,000 artifacts on display, there’s plenty to see and learn about.
As each part of the museum is a separate building found throughout Rome, you’ll have to journey around the city to see everything Museo Nazionale Romano has to offer.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
The Palazzo Massimo is part of the National Roman Museum and houses one of the best collections of ancient art in Europe.
The museum’s galleries are home to some of the city’s most iconic pieces, including Roman sculptures, paintings, frescoes, and mosaics. The collection spans over 3,500 years from Etruscan times to late antiquity.
From wall paintings to marble busts, the artworks on display provide a captivating insight into Ancient Roman life and culture.
Famous Works of Art Inside Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
- Frescoes of Villa Farnesina
- Portonaccio Sarcophagus
- Collection of Ancient Coins
- Sleeping Hermaphroditus
- Via Cassia Mummy
- Ludovisi Hermes
- Tiber Apollo
- Discobolus of Casteloporziano
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If you plan on visiting Rome’s many museums, you might need to call an Uber. But it’s not as easy as you’d expect.
Address: Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 684851
Admission Cost: €12, €2 for EU citizens between 18-25, Free for anyone under 18
Palazzo Altemps is another part of the National Roman Museum, and it’s home to an impressive collection of sculptures from the ancient world.
The museum houses works by some of the best-known Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman sculptors, including Praxiteles, Lysippos, Polykleitos, and Apollonios. The collection includes statues of gods and heroes, as well as portraiture and religious pieces.
The Palazzo Altemps has some of the best classical sculptures in the city – surpassed only by the Vatican Museums.
Famous Works of Art Inside Palazzo Altemps
- Throne with the Birth of Venus
- Ludovisi Dionysus
- Ludovisi Throne
- Ludovisi Gaul – Epigonus
- Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus
- The Courtyard
Pro Tip: If you plan to visit the Palazzo Massimo and Palazzo Altemps, you can buy a combined ticket that gives you access to these two (plus two additional national Roman museum sites) for €12. The combined ticket is valid for one week from the day of purchase.
Borghese Gallery and Museum
Address: Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 841 3979
Admission Cost: €13, €2 for EU citizens between 18-25, Free for anyone under 18
Rome has more than its share of great museums, and the Borghese Gallery is one of the finest. It’s a small museum by Roman standards, but it’s packed with masterpieces.
The Borghese family was among the wealthiest and most powerful families in Rome, and they also happened to be avid art collectors. They commissioned some of the greatest artists of their day to create one-of-a-kind pieces that are on display in the gallery.
As a result, the Borghese Gallery contains an astonishing collection of famous paintings, sculptures, and other works of art. The art gallery is especially strong on Italian Renaissance art, but it also has an excellent selection of Roman sculptures.
Be sure to visit the neighboring Villa Borghese Gardens. It’s just a short two-minute walk from the gallery. The Sarcophagus of the Spouses is the highlight; the rest of the gardens are equally beautiful.
The best part, Villa Borghese Gardens are hardly ever crowded, so you’ll have a moment of reprieve before diving back into the more well-known Roman attractions.
Famous Works of Art Inside Borghese Art Gallery and Museum
- The Rape of Proserpina – Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- Apollo and Daphne – Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- David – Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- Sacred and Profane Love – Titian
- Danaë – Antonio da Correggio
- Susanna and the Elders – Peter Paul Rubens
- The Last Supper – Jacopo Bassano
Trajan’s Market is different than the other museums on the list. It doesn’t feature a lot of traditional paintings or sculptures, but it is one of the most impressive ancient ruins in Rome and has a fantastic selection of ancient art.
Located in the heart of the city, the market was built by Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd century AD. The market was designed to provide a space for Roman citizens to buy and sell goods, and it included shops, office buildings, and a large central courtyard. Today, the site is a popular archaeological musuem that offers a fascinating glimpse into Roman life.
The market is particularly noteworthy for its innovative design, which used a series of ramps and staircases to connect the different levels of the complex. It is also an important example of Trajan’s commitment to public works and urban development.
After exploring the market, head to the Museum of the Imperial Forums found on the grounds. The museum holds sculptures, background information, and reconstructions of the imperial forums (Forum of Augustus, Forum of Caesar, Forum of Nerva, Forum of Trajan and the Temple of Peace).
In addition to its historical significance, Trajan’s Market is simply a beautiful and enjoyable place to explore. While popular, you can move around the grounds without the massive crowds you’d expect from a museum located in the heart of Rome.
Castel Sant’Angelo is one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, and you’ve likely seen it in photos even if you didn’t know what it was.
Constructed in the 2nd century as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian, it has since been used as a fortification, a palace, and a papal residence during times of invasion (complete with a secret passage way that runs from Vatican City to the Castel Sant’Angelo). Today, it is a popular tourist destination, and its rich history is on display for all to see.
The castle’s imposing mass looms over the banks of the Tiber River, and its thick walls have withstood the ravages of time. Inside, visitors can explore the sprawling halls and rooms that have housed some of Rome’s most famous residents.
Be sure to visit the bridge in front of Sant’Angelo Castel for some great views of the Vatican City and various angelic sculptures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Museums Free in Rome?
The vast majority of museums in Rome are free or heavily discounted for EU citizens and children. For non-EU citizens, there are a few select museums that offer free admission, but most museums charge an entry fee.
What Is the Most Visited Museum in Rome?
The best-known and most visited museum in Italy is the Vatican Museums. With over 5 million visitors per year, it is one of the most popular museums in the world.
If you’re looking for a little culture during your next trip to Rome, visit one of these world-renowned museums. From the Vatican Museums housing some of the most celebrated art in history to the Borghese Gallery’s collection of Bernini sculptures, there’s something here for everyone. What’s more, many of these museums are within walking distance of each other, making it easy to hit multiple spots in one day. So put on your walking shoes and explore some of Rome’s best museums!
Do you have a favorite museum in Rome? Let us know in the comments below what makes your list of best museums in Rome!